Enormous review post

New comics received on April 14:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #31 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This issue’s cover contains the hidden message “BYE ERICA WE LOVE YOU,” and the story inside is a fitting end to Erica’s run, as well as one of the best issues of the whole series. Doreen and Nancy are hit by a weapon that causes them to move extremely fast, so they live out their entire lives over the course of a weekend. Stuck in a frozen, silent world, they labor to build a time machine before they die of old age. This issue is amazingly poignant. It shows us the strength of Doreen’s bond with her best friend, and it’s very sad when they have to wipe out their memories and return to their younger bodies. Also, you get the sense that Ryan North has thought deeply about this issue’s premise and has explored all of its logical consequences. Ryan seems like a lighthearted humorist, but he’s also just as much of a logical, exact thinker as Jason Shiga or Randall Munroe. A disturbing implication of this issue is that the Flash should age really fast, since he spends most of his life traveling at superspeed (though I guess there are some official explanations for why this doesn’t happen).

EXILES #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. I never read the previous Exiles series, except for some issues from very late in the run that I received for free. Luckily this issue does not require knowledge of other Exiles comics. In this new series, Blink, the main protagonist of the previous Exiles series, has to assemble a team of superheroes from various realities in order to defeat a universe-destroying monster. This issue only introduces two of the other team members, but the best character so far is the elderly, battle-hardened Kamala Khan. In general this issue is a promising debut, with strong artwork. I like how Rodriguez’s version of Blink looks like a black woman with pink skin, whereas most other artists’ takes on this character are totally de-ethnicized.

DODGE CITY #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. Like all Boom! Box comics, this comic is fun and exciting. But so far, Dodge City is inferior to Fence or Slam! because of its lack of clarity. After two issues, I still don’t know who these characters are, or how old they are, or what kind of dodgeball league they’re playing in, or why they play dodgeball. This comic doesn’t even explain the rules of dodgeball, and I could use an explanation because I haven’t played dodgeball since junior high.

ETERNITY GIRL #2 (DC, 2018) – “Signal,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. Another issue that alternates between Caroline’s real life and her dreams about a bizarre Kirbyesque world. For me the most interesting thing about this issue is the scene where Dani takes Caroline to a comedy show, and then Caroline gets mad at Dani, saying “I can’t believe you thought I’d be into this.” This scene tests the reader’s sympathy for Caroline, because Dani was just trying to help Caroline, at her own expense, and she doesn’t deserve this vitriol. But this seems like a common scenario with depressed people: ironically, their very depression makes it difficult for them to help themselves or even accept help from others. So this series is quite a realistic and unflattering depiction of depression. Also, Sonny Liew’s artwork is spectacular.

DEAD DUCK AND ZOMBIE CHICK: RISING FROM THE GRAVE #1 (Source Point, 2016) – “The Demon Tuber of Queen Street” and other stories, [W/A] Jay Fosgitt. This issue reprints several of Fosgitt’s early works. The stories in this issue are a bit confusing and disjointed and contain some mildly sexist humor, but Fosgitt’s artwork and design are brilliant. This comic isn’t quite as good as Bodie Troll, but it is an important step in his artistic development.

GIDEON FALLS #2 (Image, 2018) – “All the Little Sinners Say Hallelujah,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue makes it easier to understand what’s going on: the insane dude, Norton, is collecting pieces of the black barn that the priest thinks he saw. But it’s not yet clear what the black barn is, or why only these two people can see it. A weird thing about this issue is that the reader is supposed to sympathize with Norton because he’s the protagonist, even though everyone thinks he’s crazy. Yet Norton’s therapist and all the other characters in the story are perfectly justified in thinking Norton is crazy. They don’t get to see the evidence of Norton’s sanity that the reader sees, and Norton acts exactly like a crazy person would act. So this comic is an interesting example of how works of fiction create a bias in favor of whichever character happens to be the protagonist.

SWORD OF AGES #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Nightmares” etc., [W/A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This continues to be one of the best-drawn comics of the year. It’s a rare example of an American comic whose art is at the level of a European comic. However, this comic’s plot is difficult to follow and also somewhat unoriginal.

SEA OF THIEVES #2 (Titan, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Rhoald Marcellus. I forgot to order the first issue of this video game adaptation, because I didn’t realize it was written by Jeremy. As a result, I didn’t understand the plot of this comic, which is about a bunch of opposing groups of pirates. And it suffers from the obvious comparison to Raven, because the characters aren’t as interesting.

BLOODSHOT: REBORN #0 (Valiant, 2015) – “Colorado,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mico Suayan. Someone told me on Facebook that this series was good, and it’s written by Jeff Lemire, so I thought it was worth trying. In this $1 jumping-on-point issue, Bloodshot, a Punisher-esque killing machine with regenerative powers, is trying to live a normal life. But his mind keeps messing with him, and someone who looks like him is going on a killing spree. I usually don’t read comics that resemble Punisher, but this comic is effectively written and shows deep insight into Bloodshot’s personality, making me want to read more of the series.

BLOODSHOT: SALVATION #8 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Renato Guedes. This is the latest issue. It has more of a fantasy element than Bloodshot: Reborn #0, as Bloodshot fights to save his dying daughter from hell. The image of a powerful warrior carrying a baby reminds me of Lone Wolf & Cub. I don’t completely understand what’s happening in this issue, but it’s exciting.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Doom’s Day,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Valerio Schiti. Ben, Johnny and Rachna try to rally the heroes of Earth-Whatever against Doom/Galactus. This was an average issue with no particularly spectacular moments.

On Sunday, April 15, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Convention. As usual I bought a lot of stuff. As I was running out of energy to buy more comics, I discovered a booth I hadn’t seen before, which had about ten 25-cent boxes full of indie comics from the ’80s and ’90s. Those are exactly the kind of comics I’m most interested in right now, and I love hunting through quarter boxes, so I wondered if maybe someone was setting a trap for me.

Some comics I bought at this show:

CATWOMAN #1 (DC, 2002) – “Anodyne, Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Darwyn Cooke. This is the only issue of this run I was missing. It’s not Darwyn’s absolute best work, but it’s still bravura display of storytelling, and an effective introduction to the series. For me the highlight of the issue was Selina’s cat rubbing her under the chin. Every Catwoman comic should have scenes of Selina interacting with her cats.

JUDGMENT DAY AFTERMATH #1 (Awesome, 1998) – “Trial by Tempest” and other segments, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Gil Kane. I didn’t even know this comic existed, and it was a delightful discovery, especially given that it’s the only collaboration between these two Hall of Fame creators. This comic was meant as an introduction to the new Awesome universe. It consists of a series of segments featuring various superheroes, together with a framing sequence starring a character named the Imagineer who is obviously Gil himself. Despite low production values and glaring lettering errors, this comic is a joyful celebration of Silver Age superheroes. Even at the end of his life, Gil was as brilliant an artist as ever, though his style is not suited for computer coloring. The most interesting of the segments is the one that stars Glory; it includes a visit to the “realm of moonlight and imagination,” which seems like a prototype for the Immateria in Promethea.

BLACK PANTHER #10 (Marvel, 1999) – “Enemy of the State Book Two,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mike Manley. I bought a bunch of Black Panther comics at the convention. I was surprised at how cheap they were because I expected that every Black Panther comic would go way up in price. This issue is most notable for revealing Hunter’s origin. The plot of “Enemy of the State” makes a lot more sense now that I’ve seen the movie.

VOID INDIGO #1 (Marvel/Epic, 1984) – “Killing to be Clever,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Val Mayerik. This comic is about ancient superhuman beings who are resurrected in modern-day California. It’s a sequel to an earlier graphic novel. It was intended as an ongoing series, but was cancelled after just two issues because of poor reviews and excessive violence. According to the Slings & Arrows Guide, it was better than any of Gerber’s subsequent works, and I can believe that. This comic’s plot is hard to follow, especially if one hasn’t read the graphic novel, but it’s exciting and bizarre, and highly reminiscent of Gerber’s cosmic stories from the ’70s. The violence is nothing special by contemporary standards. This issue includes a reference to Zhered-Na, a character from Man-Thing, although the story doesn’t appear to be set in the Marvel Universe.

SPIDER-WOMAN #40 (Marvel, 1981) – “Flying Tiger – Kills!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Spider-Woman battles a villain called the Flying Tiger, suffers serious injuries, and starts training in martial arts to recuperate. This comic isn’t as good as Claremont’s Ms. Marvel, let alone his X-Men, but it is interesting; it has a complicated plot and interesting characters, and has nothing to do with Spider-Man except its name.

USAGI YOJIMBO #9 (Mirage, 1994) – “Slavers,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi meets a young boy whose fellow villagers have all been enslaved by bandits. Usagi sends the boy to get help, while disguising himself as a bandit so he can infiltrate the slavers. But Usagi’s scheme goes wrong and the slavers discover he’s a samurai, while also claiming to have found and killed the boy. To be continued. This story was so thrilling that after reading it, I rushed to my boxes to check if I had issue 10. It turns out I don’t, so I will have to wait to find out what happens next.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #3 (Epic, 1993) – “The Garage Hermetic,” [W/A] Moebius. This is a comic-book-format reprint of one of Moebius’s most famous albums, which was itself assembled from chapters published in Métal Hurlant. On its own it makes basically no narrative sense, and this is not just because I missed the first two issues, but also because Moebius seems to have been making stuff up as he went along. The “plot summary” of one of the chapters even makes fun of the comic’s illogical nature: “Our story: Lewis Carnelian had a garage in which he parked all his vehicles. But… but this garage was airtight! Alas!” (Incidentally, Lewis Carnelian was originally named Jerry Cornelius, but was renamed because Moebius mistakenly thought Michael Moorcock disapproved of his use of the name.) What makes this comic a major classic is the artwork, which is at least as good as the art in The Incal. It reveals a visual imagination equal to Kirby’s, and somehow manages to look both slick and dingy at once. This comic needs to be reprinted ASAP. I wish Dark Horse would get around to publishing Moebius’s major works like The Airtight Garage and Arzach, instead of wasting time on minor late works like The Art of Edena and Inside Moebius.

WONDER WOMAN #227 (DC, 1977) – “My World… in Ashes!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Delbo. This is an underrated classic. It’s easily one of the best pre-Crisis Wonder Woman stories I’ve read, although that’s not saying much, because pre-Crisis Wonder Woman was usually quite bad. This issue’s plot is that Hephaestus is plotting to destroy Carnegie Hall during a concert by Julie Gabriel, a famous diva who’s notorious for stage fright and moodiness. Wonder Woman defeats Hephaestus, but at the cost of the life of Julie Garland, who burns to death while singing her signature song, “Confetti.” Julie Gabriel is a fascinating character, with a psychological depth that was rare in Wonder Woman comics at the time. All she knows how to do is sing, but her psychological problems make it increasingly hard for her to do even that. But Julie Gabriel became even more fascinating when, thanks to Google research, I realized she was based on Judy Garland – which shows how old this comic is, because readers in 1977 would have instantly realized who Julie Garland was. With that context, this comic becomes a beautiful tribute to Judy Garland’s brilliant career and her tragic death. The image of Julie dying even as she sings her greatest song is very striking. I especially like the lyrics of “Confetti,” which Martin seems to have written himself: “Snow used to fall when the world was a ball / but it broke and the snow was confetti.”

MY LOVE #12 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Look of Love!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Enrique Monserratt, plus other stories. At the show, I found this in a 50-cent box along with some other interesting old comics, but most of the best stuff in that booth was gone before I got there. This issue only has one new story, but it’s fascinating because of Monserratt’s artwork. I hadn’t heard of this artist before, but apparently he was a Spanish artist who worked with Josep Toutain’s agency. His design sense is brilliant, especially his fashions. This issue also includes some reprinted stories with art by Matt Baker and Jay Scott Pike. However, the writing in this comic is uniformly terrible, although the Jay Scott Pike story is at least unusual because it doesn’t have a happy ending.

CALEXIT #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – “Moments Like This Never Last,” [W] Matteo Pizzolo, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. This comic got some positive buzz, and I probably should have been ordering it, although this issue is the most recent yet. Calexit is about a near-future dystopian America in which California secedes and descends into civil war. This comic is very long and is disturbing to read because of extreme violence, but it’s quite politically astute and well-drawn, and it contains some powerful scenes. Early in the comic, a man is stabbed to death with a pool cue. And it gets worse; later, a dying pregnant woman is refused an ambulance, and two characters trying to flee down the coast are beaten by militarized police wearing face shields. Again, this is quite tough to read, but seems very realistic. I will plan on ordering any future issues of this series if I see them in Previews.

BATGIRL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Beyond Burnside, Epilogue,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. At the convention, I was able to get most of the issues of this series that I skipped when they came out. This issue, while on her flight back to Gotham, Batgirl discovers that one of her fellow passengers is Poison Ivy, and they team up to defeat one of Ivy’s plants which has gone out of control. This was an okay issue, but not nearly as good as the three that followed it (see below).

BLUE DEVIL #1 (DC, 1984) – “How to Trap a Demon,” [W] Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Paris Cullins. This series has the same writers as Amethyst, and I heard that it was comparable in quality to that series. This issue is a pretty basic origin story, in which a Hollywood stuntman encounters a demon who imprisons him in a devil suit. It’s not all that promising, but I’d be willing to read more Blue Devil comics.

THE JAM #1 (Slave Labor, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. A confusingly plotted but effectively drawn debut issue in which an eccentric superhero prevents a suicide attempt. I don’t quite get the point of this series yet, but the Slings & Arrows Guide praises it highly, and I’d like to read more of it.

MICKEY MOUSE #249 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Land of Long Ago, Part II,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. The conclusion of a lost-world story in which Mickey, Goofy, and a certain Professor Dustibones are trapped on an island of cavemen and dinosaurs. It has Gottfredson’s usual combination of humor, suspense, and intricate plotting. These Gladstone Mickey reprints are a cheap way to obtain some amazing comics.

BLOODSHOT REBORN #10 (Valiant, 2016) – “The Analog Man, Part 1,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Lewis Larosa. The bulk of this issue takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where an elderly Bloodshot is the guardian of a small town located just outside a giant walled city. Needing to get water for his town, he encounters a giant army of Shadowmen, and then Ninjak. There’s also a brief present-day sequence involving Bloodshot and his girlfriend Magic. This issue is an intriguing start to a new story arc.

THE JACKAROO #3 (Eternity, 1990) – “Down & Out in Dugga Dugga,” [W/A] Gary Chaloner. I bought this mostly because it’s an example of Australian comics, but it turns out to be very good. It’s an adventure story set mostly in rural Australia. Chaloner has a very distinctive and slick style, and his writing has a notably Australian feel to it. The backup story, with art by Jason Paulos, is not as attractively drawn. I believe Jason Paulos used to collaborate with an old Internet friend of mine, Paul Newell.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 1999) – “Caged,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Joe Jusko. T’Challa and Everett Ross are kidnapped by henchmen of Kraven. After they escape, T’Challa discovers that it was White Wolf/Hunter who hired Kraven. Nakia and Okoye have a brief conversation about Nakia’s unrequited passion for T’Challa, and the Busiek/Pérez version of the Avengers appear at the end of the issue. This issue was much easier to understand than most of Priest’s Black Panther comics.

BATGIRL #7 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin, Part 1,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Batgirl deals with gentrification, begins her new MALS program, and meets a potential love interest, Ethan, who happens to be the son of the Penguin. Also, Ethan is the creator of an app called Safestreets that hipsters can use to have homeless people kidnapped. This issue is very cleverly written and offers some insightful commentary on the issue of gentrification. By the way, the other day I was walking around NoDa, which is basically Charlotte’s version of Burnside, and I realized that I hate neighborhoods like that; they’re so phony and insincere.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #1 (Dark Horse, 201) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. As noted in my review of #3, I should have ordered this comic when it came out, but I didn’t know the art was by Paul Grist. This issue depicts Hellboy’s early years from the perspective of the Visitor, an alien who was assigned to monitor Hellboy, but realized that Hellboy could be a force for good. It’s an intriguing story, and Grist’s artwork is beautiful, as usual.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #60 (DC, 1994) – “End of an Era, Part Three: Infinite Possibilities,” [W] Tom McCraw & Mark Waid, [A] Stuart Immonen. This is one of the last issues of v4 I was missing; I’ve assembled an almost complete run of v4 without realizing it. This issue is part of the “End of an Era” crossover that led to the reboot of the franchise. It contains a lot of pointless fight scenes and bad retcons, but it does contain a few cute scenes, including a two-page splash depicting all the surviving members of both Legions. I believe this issue is the final appearance of Catspaw and the Infinite Man.

THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #26 (Archie, 1963) – “Reel Adventure” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling & Dexter Taylor. I bought this issue from the same dealer who sold me a few other issues of Little Archie. It includes three Bob Bolling stories of more than one page. In “A Reel Adventure,” Little Archie accidentally films two criminals committing a crime, and they chase him to get the camera back. This story includes a funny exchange: “I always went to the toy department as a kid.” “It’s hard to imagine you as a kid, Sharkey.” “Well, you gotta start stealing somewhere.” In “Made for Trouble,” Little Archie meets a demon who offers to let Archie battle his entire lifetime of troubles; if Little Archie wins, he’ll never have any troubles again. But the fight is a draw, so the demon promises that Little Archie won’t have any more troubles than anyone else. This story is the highlight of the issue. “Daddy’s Diet” is a rare Polly Cooper appearance, in which Polly tries to force her dad to stick to his diet.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY #2 (Marvel, 1976) – “Vira the She-Demon!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This issue is a self-contained story that follows the same plot structure as the book and movie it’s based on. The title character is a warlike cavewoman who encounters the Monolith, which inspires her to set herself up as a goddess. Vira’s story occupies half the issue. It ends with a brilliant segue, probably inspired by the famous bone-to-spaceship transition in the 2001 film, in which a panel depicting Vira sitting in a cave is followed by a panel depicting a female astronaut, Vera Gentry, sitting in a spaceship. (See http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/kirby/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2017/05/k009.jpg.) There follows a sequence in which Vera encounters another monolith and becomes a Star Child.

SHE WOLF #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. This miniseries, about a girl who turns into a werewolf, appears to be an homage to ’70s and ’80s horror films. However, its plot is so compressed and abbreviated that it’s difficult to figure out what’s going on. As a result this issue is inferior to any other Tommaso comic I’ve read, though his artwork and design are as fascinating as usual.

DOMINO #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Lottery,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. I’ve been kind of unimpressed with Gail’s comics lately, but this debut issue is cute, sexy and exciting, and it also has an adorable dog in it. I plan to continue reading this series.

IRON MAN #88 (Marvel, 1976) – “Fear Wears Two Faces!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. This is an early appearance of the Blood Brothers, Thanos’s henchmen, and thus a minor chapter of the ongoing Thanos saga. It also includes subplots involving Pepper and Happy and Roxanne Gilbert. It’s an okay issue but not great.

STARSLAYER #16 (First, 1984) – “S.A.M.,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. The Starslayer story in this issue is only notable for Truman’s artwork. The plot is basically that Torin Mac Quillon acts like the jerk he is, and gets jealous of Tam for being attracted to someone else. It’s no wonder that Mike Grell abandoned Starslayer so quickly, because it wasn’t that great of a series. This issue is much more important for including an early Grimjack story, in which Grimjack is forced to kill a vampire who he used to regard as a little brother. This story deals with Grimjack’s origins on a Celtic-themed fantasy world. This aspect of his character was rarely mentioned later.

FBP #3 (DC, 2013) – “Paradigm Shift, Part Three,” [W] Simon Oliver, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The premise of this series is not clear from this issue, but as I learned from reading issue 1 (see below), it takes place on a world where the laws of physics change without notice. This present issue doesn’t do anything all that interesting with this premise, and it’s mostly notable for Robbi Rodriguez’s art. However, FBP seems to have been much less suited to Robbi’s talents than Spider-Gwen, and it doesn’t really provide him with an opportunity to demonstrate what he can do.

SPIDER-WOMAN #44 (Marvel, 1982) – “Vengeance!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. This issue’s splash page feels like a ripoff of Frank Miller’s Daredevil. This issue explains the mystery behind the Viper’s obsession with Jessica Drew, by revealing that Viper is Jessica’s mother! That piece of continuity was retconned away less than a year later (https://www.cbr.com/the-abandoned-an-forsaked-is-the-viper-spider-womans-mom-or-what/). A subplot in this issue involves Jessica’s rivalry with Morgan le Fey.

INCREDIBLE HULK #192 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Lurker Beneath Loch Fear!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk finds himself in Scotland and gets involved in a plot to kill the monster beneath Loch Ness, I mean Fear. Half the fun of this story is that it’s full of Scottish stereotypes, and all the characters except Bruce speak in exaggerated Scottish accents.

ANGEL AND THE APE #3 (DC, 1991) – “Family Feud,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Angel and the Ape team up with the Inferior Five to battle Gorilla Grodd. It turns out that Grodd is Sam Simeon’s grandfather, and Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five is Angel’s sister. The climactic fight scene in this issue employs a bizarre panel structure in which Grodd’s origin story occupies a giant panel in the center, and the fight scene is depicted in a ring of panels around the outside. This comic is reasonably fun, and I wouldn’t mind reading the rest of this miniseries, but it’s not as well-crafted as Bob Oksner’s original series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #30 (DC, 1991) – “Welcome to the War!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. This is kind of like a Legion try-out issue, except that almost no one gets rejected. It introduces several notable characters, including Ig’nea, Bertron Diib and Amon Hakk. The narration, which consists of excerpts from a manual for L.E.G.I.O.N. trainees, is quite funny. This issue also includes a poignant moment where Lyrissa Mallor visits her mother’s statue, and a fight scene where Phase beats up Lobo.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #117 (Fawcett, 1973) – “The Menace of the Seas” and other stories, uncredited. This giant-sized issue consists of a number of cute, funny and well-crafted stories. My favorite is “Something Fishy,” in which Dennis takes a nap at the beach and dreams about encountering various sea creatures.

NEW MUTANTS #40 (Marvel, 1986) – “Avengers Assemble!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jackson Guice. The conclusion to a three-part story in which the New Mutants transfer to the Massachusetts Academy and experience a series of nightmares. The explanation for the odd story title is that while trying to locate his missing students, Magneto gets in a fight with the Avengers. Unfortunately, the kids’ recovery from their mental illness is dealt with in just three panels, although there is one very poignant panel where Rahne sits on Magneto’s lap and asks to be returned to her mother.

SUPERMAN #5 (DC, 1987) – “The Mummy Strikes,” [W/A] John Byrne. Because of my disdain for Byrne, I haven’t been actively collecting this run of Superman stories. But in 1987, John could still draw quite well, and this is a very attractive issue. The most interesting thing in it is the silent opening sequence, which turns out to be a dream Superman is having about Wonder Woman. In the main plot, Superman follows Lois to a fictional South American country, where he battles a giant robot wrapped in mummy bandages.

FBP #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Paradigm Shift, Part One,” as above. As noted previously, this issue explains this series’ plot. It’s set in a world where the laws of physics change randomly, resulting in things like localized gravity failures, and the protagonist is a member of an agency that enforces the laws of physics. Unfortunately, Simon Oliver is not capable of exploiting the full potential of this premise, and much of the issue consists of dialogue scenes, which are not what Robbi is best at. Robbi does do a good job of depicting the action sequences and the violations of normal physics.

SUICIDE SQUAD #11 (DC, 1987) – “Blood & Snow, Part One,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Mari McCabe, a.k.a. Vixen, has retired as a superhero to become a model, but while she’s on a photoshoot, her coworkers are murdered by a Colombian drug lord. The Suicide Squad team up with Vixen and Speedy on a somewhat morally problematic mission to assassinate the drug lord. This issue is full of fun moments. Besides the just-summarized sequence with Vixen, there’s also a scene where the Mirror Master robs a bank, but surprisingly starts speaking in an Australian accent, and then you realize it’s Captain Boomerang using the Mirror Master’s equipment.

ACTION COMICS #424 (DC, 1973) – “Gorilla Grodd’s Grandstand Play!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. An excellent issue. When Gorilla City’s existence is inadvertently revealed to the world, Solovar visits New York to make a speech at the United Nations. And of course Grodd shows up to spoil everything. This issue’s premise – a gorilla speaking at the United Nations – is inherently very funny, and Elliot wisely allows the humor of this premise to reveal itself, rather than hitting the reader over the head with how funny it is. And there are some awesome fight scenes between Superman and the super-gorillas. There’s also a surprisingly poignant moment where Lois thinks Superman is dead and collapses into Clark’s arms. But then Clark says they’re reporters and they have a job to do, and Lois agrees, and Clark looks at the reader with a sad half-smile (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh0n61dn2ly/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). At the end of the story, Lois rejects the idea of a romance with Clark, and Clark looks sad for three whole panels, then laughs his head off – but I’m not sure what he’s laughing at. This issue also includes an okay Green Arrow backup story, also written by Elliot.

New comics received on April 21:

MS. MARVEL #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “Something New, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. What an amazing comic book. It’s funny and heartwarming, and the whole time I was reading it, I was going AWWW. The issue begins with the birth of Kamala’s nephew, Malik Theodore. Then Kamala has her first kiss, with Red Dagger – and then realizes that Bruno is watching. A flashback depicts Bruno and his Wakandan friend Kwazi enduring the hell-on-earth that is Newark Airport. Then Kamala visits her sheikh, who gives her some very wise advice. In the midst of all the relationship drama, here’s also a very funny sequence in which Kwazi behaves just like a typical American visitor to a developing country (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh1_ds3FAuR/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). This was one of the most emotionally affecting comics I’ve read lately, and I can’t wait for the next issue.

ANTAR: THE BLACK KNIGHT #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Eric Battle. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is only the second Nnedi Okorafor work I’ve read, after Who Fears Death. I loved that book, though, and I’ve been excited to read her comics. This new series is an adaptation of the Sirat Antar, an Arabian oral epic based on the life of the pre-Islamic Arab warrior poet Antar ibn Shaddad. This first issue depicts Antar’s birth, to an Arab magnate and an Ethiopian slave woman, and his tortured childhood. It ends with him killing a lion that’s just killed his best friend. This is a very emotionally charged story, which Eric Battle illustrates effectively. My main criticism is that this comic doesn’t provide very much background. I love the idea of a comic adaptation of a non-Western mythical/romantic tradition. But while Antar is (I assume) a household name in the Muslim world, his story is basically unknown in America – there isn’t even an English translation of the Sirat Antar. I am not saying that Antar’s story doesn’t matter, or that American readers shouldn’t be expected to do some research and learn more about him. I just think that some more explanation of this story’s cultural context and significance would help it reach a wider audience.

FENCE #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Seiji finally loses a match. Nicholas regains some of his lost confidence. This was a good issue, as usual, but was somewhat overshadowed by Ms. Marvel #29.

MISTER MIRACLE #8 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another bizarre and perfect blend of domesticity and epic cosmic warfare. A beautiful, adorable depiction of Scott and Barda’s first year of parenthood is juxtaposed with a succession of horrific battle scenes. The issue ends with Jacob (who I hadn’t realized was named after Jack Kirby) saying his first word.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #65 (IDW, 2018) – “Queen for One Less Day,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Andy Price. Like Death or Haroun al-Rashid, Queen Celestia spends one day a year in the form of an ordinary pony, so that she can observe her subjects more closely. While Celestia is observing this tradition, an evil old hag pony steals the amulet containing her powers, and she has to enlist Twilight and Starlight’s aid to get it back. This is a terrific issue, with some of Andy’s best artwork in a while, which is unsurprising since Celestia is his pet character. And it effectively delivers a lesson about teacher-student relationships.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is disappointing because it teases the reader with the prospect of a solution to the series’ central mystery, only to yank that solution away. Back at Black Hammer Farm, Lucy announces that she knows where they are and how they can get home. But before she can say anything, she’s yanked away to an even weirder place: a bar full of monsters. So instead of answers, we only get more questions.

ASSASSINISTAS #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Thing That Grew Inside Me!!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. The big revelation this issue is that the villain is not Rosalyn but her daughter. Beto’s artwork in this series has been as excellent as usual, but Tini Howard is also an impressive talent. She writes great dialogue and she does a great job of fleshing out the characters, although some of that is probably due to Beto’s skill at depicting emotions. I’d read a Tini Howard comic even if it wasn’t drawn by Beto.

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #3 (DC, 2018) – “Crusader,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. Bruce learns that the Commissioner Gordon character is evil, and that his world is so corrupt and apathetic that even Batman can’t help much. This series is one of the grimmest, darkest things Kurt has written, whereas Superman: Secret Identity is one of the warmest and sunniest, and I think this is deliberate. The difference between the two series mirrors the difference between Superman and Batman.

USAGI YOJIMBO: THE HIDDEN #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida collect more clues. It becomes clear that the Kirishitans are at the heart of the mystery, and that Ishida’s supervisor dislikes him. Because this issue is part two of seven, it doesn’t advance the plot much.

SUPER SONS #15 (DC, 2018) – “End of Innocence, Part One,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. A below-average issue which consists mostly of a fight between the two boys and Kid Amazo.

LUCY DREAMING #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. We get a pseudoscientific explanation of Lucy’s powers, and Lucy projects herself into another dream world, which is an obvious parody of The Hunger Games. At the end, Lucy meets a mysterious boy who must be important somehow. “This machine caused your brain to warp into the body of a living myth” is a terrible line, but otherwise this was a good issue.

DESCENDER #29 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 1 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The war continues. The old Descender dude gets Tim to summon the Descenders, but they refuse to help. Telsa’s dad reveals that the GC has their own Harvester, but only Tim can operate it. Obviously the only way to save the universe is for Tim and Andy to act together, but how?

SUPERB #9 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Everything We Hold Dear,” [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Alitha Martinez. Another issue that advances the plot very little. I really like the ideas behind this series, and I enjoy the characterization, but the plot has been moving at a glacial pace.

MY LITTLE PONY LEGENDS OF MAGIC ANNUAL 2018 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. The Pillars of Equestria travel to another dimension to rescue Celestia and Luna, who have been abducted by a villain who turns out to be Stygian’s alternate self. This issue was an exciting adventure story with some fun interactions between the team members, but it was not spectacular, and the twist ending was predictable.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #2 – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. See the review of #1 above. This issue, the Visitor witnesses another of Hellboy’s early adventures, and forms a relationship with a woman named Ruby. I guess she’s the Kathy Sutton to his Red Tornado.

GREEN LANTERN #96 (DC, 1977) – “How Can an Immortal… Die?”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Katma Tui travels to Earth to enlist Hal Jordan’s aid against a monster that’s enslaved the Guardians and the other Green Lanterns. The main plot of this issue is less interesting than the scenes back on Earth, with Ollie, Carol and Dinah trying to revive Katma. These scenes have some sexist moments, such as Dinah feeling jealous that Ollie is paying so much attention to Katma. But this issue does have one panel in which three different women all have lines of dialogue, which is unusual in a ’70s DC comic.

ACTION COMICS #1000 (DC, 2018) – “From the City That Has Everything,” [W/A] Dan Jurgens, plus many other stories. This was rather disappointing. The gold standard of anniversary issues is Superman #400, and Action Comics #1000 tries to achieve that same level of quality and talent, but fails. The Dan Jurgens story that begins the issue really grates on my nerves. I just can’t accept that Clark is as impatient as this story indicates, or that so much assistance from other superheroes was necessary just to get Clark to attend a ceremony. Most of the other stories in the issue are just average. It is nice that this issue includes a posthumous Curt Swan story, although it appears to be an old unfinished inventory story, with a pinup added as the last page. By far the highlight of the issue is Paul Dini and José Luis García López’s “Actionland,” starring Mr. Mxyzptlk and his rarely seen girlfriend Gspie. As for the preview of Bendis’s Superman, I have made no secret of my feelings about Bendis, so I will decline comment on this story.

KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #11 (Marvel, 1982) – “Children of the Damned,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Brent Anderson. One of Jones’s weirder Ka-Zar stories. Kevin, Shanna and a winged green dude named Buth travel through an amusement-park version of Dante’s Inferno. And we learn that before Dante wrote the Divine Comedy, he chased Belasco all the way to the Savage Land to rescue Beatrice. That seems rather improbable. As usual with this series, this issue has some excellent dialogue and characterization.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #127 (DC, 1976) – “The Command is Chaos!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Dillin. The JLA battles a villain called Simon Elis, a.k.a. the Anarchist, who is siphoning power from Green Lantern’s ring. This was a very lackluster issue.

BATMAN FAMILY #7 (DC, 1976) – “13 Points to a Dead End!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. A fairly entertaining Batgirl/Robin team-up, in which Sportsmaster and Huntress force Dick and Babs to compete against each other in various sports. Dick and Babs’s interactions are the highlight of the issue. There’s also a reprint of “The Amazing Doctor Double X!” from Detective Comics #261.

HELLBOY IN HELL #4 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Mignola. This issue has good art, but I didn’t understand a word of the story. It appears to be some kind of crossover with another Mignola series, Witchfinder.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Wide Awake in a Dream,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. There’s a mysterious dance epidemic in Wigan. That one purple-haired girl, Nat, is pissed at Feargal. Also, this issue prominently features the “three for a girl, four for a boy” rhyme, which is used for counting magpies, and some giant magpie creatures are looking for Feargal.

CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #13 (Vertigo, 2003) – “Fleshback ’32: Arrivederci, Roma,” [W] Robert Rodi, [A] Amanda Conner. I don’t know anything about this issue, and I bought it because of who drew it. This issue is a flashback sequence in which a female African-American secret agent travels to Italy to stop an anarchist bombing plot. I don’t know what this comic is about or how this flashback story fits into its overall narrative, but Amanda’s art is fantastic, and she makes full use of her talent for cheesecake artwork. There’s one sequence where a woman (not the secret agent) spends three pages posing nude, and then later there’s a catfight between three women. And yet this is all depicted in a very tasteful, non-exploitative way. It turns out Amanda also drew three other issues of this title, and I will have to track them down.

BATGIRL #8 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin Part 2,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. This issue confusingly begins with Babs and Ethan trying to stop Two-Face from bombing a bus, but it turns out this is an escape room that they’ve visited for their first date. After a scene where Babs meets an adorable little hacker girl, she discovers another app that Ethan has created: Walkhome, a version of Uber that allows people to hire bodyguards. And it turns out one of the bodyguards is an old supervillain, Magpie (which is an odd coincidence since I just read another comic about magpies). This is a really fun issue, and its only flaw is the scene where Batgirl stops Magpie from beating up a creepy sexual harasser, because that guy really deserved to get beaten. This last-mentioned character is also a good example of a very realistic portrayal of sexual harassment.

DEFENDERS #2 (Marvel, 2001) – “The Curse,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [W/A] Erk Larsen. This series has a somewhat poor reputation, but this issue, in which the classic Defenders team reunites to battle Pluto, is not bad. It has some nice Simonson-esque artwork and some cute characterization. This comic’s main flaw is that it tries too hard to imitate the original Defenders series.

BATGIRL #9 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin, Part 3,” as above. Batgirl meets the tiny hacker again and teaches her about data mining. Alyssa and Jo are having further relationship problems. Babs tries to write a paper for her library science class, but is too preoccupied – this sequence feels especially realistic. At the end of the issue, Babs finally infiltrates the company that’s making all the suspicious apps, and finds the Penguin there. This is an excellent and very underrated series – it’s one of the best DC comics of the past couple years, and Hope Larson has quietly developed into one of the top writers in the industry.

NAZA #3 (Dell, 1964) – “Ambush!”, [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. This caveman comic has a fairly intricate plot but a total lack of characterization or humor. It doesn’t compare favorably to Anthro, which came out just four years later.

STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Chewbacca, Part II,” [W] Gerry Duggan, [A] Phil Noto. Part of a story in which Chewbacca helps a young girl rescue her people from slavers. This comic is competently written and drawn, but not extraordinary, and as a more-or-less silent protagonist, Chewbacca is inferior to Groot.

INCREDIBLE HULK #222 (Marvel, 1978) – “Feeding Billy,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Alfredo Alcala. The Hulk encounters two innocent little children who introduce him to their little brother, Billy. It turns out Billy is a giant cannibalistic monster who’s already eaten their parents. While trying to kill and eat the Hulk, Billy buries himself in an avalanche. This story reminds me somehow of Theodore Sturgeon’s “Baby is Three,” probably because of the monstrous infant. Disturbingly, the fate of Billy’s two orphaned siblings is left unresolved. Len should have ended the story by having Bruce take the kids to the police or something.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. In the previous issue, a king named Cuffi set himself up as a god. Groo overthrows Cuffi and replaces him with his brother Saffi, who turns out to be equally bad. Meanwhile, Cuffi finds some other gullible people and sets himself up as their god. This is an okay Groo comic, but very similar to every other Groo comic.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – as above. I actually mistook this for issue 3, so the story confused me until I realized I’d skipped an issue. But it doesn’t really matter because the conclusion to the story is quite predictable. Both kings get dethroned and Cuffi loses his status as a god. The best moment in the issue is that Groo discovers an echo that repeats everything he says. So he says “Groo is the handsomest, smartest, and bravest hero in the world”… and the echo is silent.

MISTY #2 (Marvel, 1986) – “Ms. Heaventeen is Ms. Understood,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. The first story in this issue is a bunch of high school friendship drama. The backup series is a parody of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” framed as a story that the protagonist tells to some kids. This comic is reminiscent of Bill Woggon’s Katy Keene, in that all the characters’ clothes have notes explaining who designed them. However, the designers mostly seem to be Trina’s friends (e.g. Barb Rausch, Gilbert Hernandez and Sharon Rudahl) rather than readers of the comic. Overall, this comic was okay but not great. On Twitter, Kurt Busiek described Misty and Angel Love as “two good books aimed at audience that largely weren’t looking at comic books or going to comics shops” (https://twitter.com/KurtBusiek/status/957394674779488256), but I think Misty is worse than Angel Love.

New comics received on Friday, April 27:

SAGA #51 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. The big event this issue is that Doff is murdered by that mole-headed woman, who is one of the worst villains in a series that’s full of awful villains. However, The Will escapes from her control – that’s the meaning of the empty manacles on the last page, as I just realized when examining the comic again. Also, Marco starts writing a manuscript, and Hazel encounters a mustached kingfish.

LUMBERJANES #49 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Due to rain, the Lumberjanes are trapped in the mess hall and are forbidden to go outside. Ripley, April and Mal obey the letter of the law, if not its spirit, by exploring a mysterious secret tunnel below the kitchen. Meanwhile, Molly and Jo play a board game with super-complicated rules. This story arc has a much better premise than the last one. I’m very curious to see where that tunnel goes. I’m a bit surprised that Mal joined Ripley and April in doing irresponsible stuff, but it’ll be interesting to see Mal and Molly separated from each other.

THE MIGHTY THOR #706 (Marvel, 2018) – “At the Gates of Valhalla,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. A strong conclusion to the finest Thor storyline since “The Surtur Saga.” Jane is dead and about to enter into Valhalla, but Odin and Thor team up to resuscitate her. Jane’s resurrection is heartwarming, and also surprising – I was sure she was dead for good. But Jane’s superhero career is over. The final page – with Jane leaning on a cane as she looks at the sky and imagines herself as Thor – is a sublime moment, because it reminds the reader what a great hero Jane-as-Thor was. As just mentioned, the Jane Foster Saga was the best run of Thor comics in thirty years.

ABBOTT #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. I thought this was an ongoing series and I’m disappointed that it’s just a miniseries, because it’s been amazing. Elena’s been fired and her friends are all abandoning her or dying, but she’s finally found the source of her problems: Philip Howard Bellcamp (note the similarity of the name to Howard Philip Lovecraft). This issue contains a couple moments that illustrate Saladin’s sensitivity to racial issues. First, Elena visits the police station, and the duty officer assumes she’s there to bail out her son or boyfriend. And then she visits the hall of records, where an older black woman welcomes her as “our very own Brenda Starr” and reminiscences about how she wanted to be a journalist too, but when she was Elena’s age it was impossible.

THE TERRIFICS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics, Conclusion,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. I forgot to order issue 2. This issue, the Terrifics battle the War Wheel while also wrestling with their own problems. Tinya, excuse me, Linnya can’t turn solid, Rex and Sapphire’s relationship is suffering thanks to Simon Stagg’s meddling, and Mr. Terrific is hiding in his lab. The one weak link in this series is Plastic Man, who Jeff Lemire incorrectly portrays as a joker, rather than a serious man in an absurd world. This is the same mistake made by every Plastic Man writer except Jack Cole and Kyle Baker. Though on the other hand, the “hardball special” panel, where Plas uses his eyes as a slingshot, is brilliant.

KILL OR BE KILLED #18 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sadly, it turns out that the dead copycat killer was not Mason, but a new character: Buck Thomson, a racist alt-righter Iraq vet. This issue is an effective depiction of white male terrorism, though that’s not its primary purpose. Now that Buck is dead, the police assume the killings are over, but Detective Sharpe realizes Dylan wasn’t the killer and figures out Dylan’s actual identity. The letter column mentions that there are metatextual references in this issue. I assume this means that Detective Sharpe is investigating Dylan in the same way that Lois Lane investigates Superman. Also, apparently the fact that Dylan has to kill someone every month is a reference to the monthly publication schedule of superhero comic books.

EXILES #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue introduces the remaining team members, Valkyrie and Wolvie. Valkyrie is an excellent character, but Wolvie is the high point of the series so far. Wolvie’s happy friendly world is hilarious, and I assume Magneto stealing the pies is a reference to Luthor stealing forty cakes. I look forward to seeing how he interacts with Marvel’s grimmer worlds. As Rob Barrett pointed out on my Facebook wall, Javer Rodriguez’s art in this series is excellent.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #303 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part Three,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. Norman Osborn kidnaps Aunt May and throws her off the Brooklyn Bridge, but the older Peter saves her – by making a web net for her to fall into, rather than grabbing her by the foot. I guess it’s firmly established in canon now that Gwen died because Peter’s webbing snapped her neck. But the issue ends with the younger Peter throwing his costume in the trash and walking away. This issue is an effective tribute to old Spider-Man comics, while also adding some new stuff.

MARVEL RISING #0 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Marco Failla. I wonder why this wasn’t an FCBD title. I gave up on Devin Grayson after her disastrous 1999-2000 Titans series, but this is a very fun story and a good introduction to a new title. And it offers the unique pleasure of seeing Doreen Green team up with Kamala Khan.

BATGIRL #22 (DC, 2018) – “Strange Loop, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Minkyu Jung. Babs is shot while saving a woman from her murderous ex-husband (an even worse character than the creep from issue 8), but recovers and defeats him. Then Babs encounters two characters from this series’ first storyline. At the end of the issue, Babs learns that she actually hasn’t recovered from being shot, and the events since then have all been happening in her mind. I was under the impression that Hope Larson was leaving after the next issue, because #24 was solicited as being written by Shawn Aldridge, but I guess that issue is just a fill-in.

BABYTEETH #10 (Aftershock, 2010) – “Son of a Bitch,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. We’ve finally reached the flashforward in issue 1, where Sadie says that when her son is old enough to understand her message, she’ll be gone. This statement turns out to be misleading, because as we learn in this issue, Clark is immortal and ages very slowly. So Sadie will die before Clark grows up. Also, Heather grabs Clark and travels through a portal into “the Red Realm,” and the old assassin dude sacrifices himself so Sadie and her dad can escape.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2=Fantastic Three, Part Six of Six: World’s Greatest Comic Magazine,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Devil Dinosaur defeats the Super-Skrull by stepping on him, and with that, this overly long storyline is finally over. I expect the next one will be better.

DAYGLOAYHOLE #1 (Silver Sprocket, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ben Passmore. This comic is exciting, but also confusing and difficult. It takes place in a postapocalyptic world and has two protagonists, an old bearded poet-wanderer and a younger adventurer type. It also contains a lot of fourth-wall breaking. I’m not sure yet what this comic is about, but its art is excellent and it clearly has high artistic aspirations, so I plan to continue reading it.

LOCKJAW #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Funny Business,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. Lockjaw and D-Man find themselves on Spider-Ham’s Earth, where they battle the Wrecking Zoo and then meet Doc Jaw, Lockjaw’s hyperintelligent sibling. Sleepwalker shows up on the last page. This was another fun issue.

ARCHIE #30 (Archie, 2018) – “It’s the Final Countdown,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. It’s finally time for the prom or the spring dance or whatever, and there’s all kinds of drama. The high point of the issue is Moose’s disastrous date with Janet. I really like Waid’s version of Moose, although for that matter, I like his versions of all the characters. The issue ends with the Blossoms’ dad arriving at the prom.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #9 (DC, 2018) – “The Arrival of Animan!”, [W] Rob Williams, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Dorno, of the Herculoids, encounters an alien resembling Metroid, who makes Dorno’s parents disappear and then turns him into an adult. This was a competently written issue, but rather trite. Neither Williams nor Lopresti are at the same level of talent as the other creators who have worked on this series.

SPIDER-GWEN #31 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Part 2: The Bridge,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Groot cereal is a highlight of this issue. The main scene is that Gwen visits the Brooklyn Bridge, which is the central location in the life of all Gwens. This series is definitely approaching a conclusion, but I’ve gotten kind of lost and there’s all kinds of stuff in this issue that I don’t understand.

DOOM PATROL #11 (DC, 2018) – “At the Bottom of Everything,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. This issue does not benefit from having been published after another long hiatus. It introduces some new concepts, including the Eonymous – the gods who are going to destroy the world if they’re not distracted by entertainment – and a new Elasti-Girl. It’s also full of metatextual commentary. But it doesn’t explain what happened to Terry and Casey’s baby. This issue reminds me of a Grant Morrison comic, and not necessarily in a good way: it has all kinds of great concepts, but is well nigh impossible to understand.

IMAGE FIRSTS: REDNECK #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. I started buying this series because I was enjoying Babyteeth, but I never got around to actually reading it until now. So this $1 reprint is a good excuse to get caught up on it. This issue introduces a family of vampires who live in rural Texas. Their uneasy relationship with the local humans soon erupts into violence. This comic is an innovative blend of Southern Bastards and a vampire story, but what especially impresses me about it is the art. Lisandro Estherren’s art is European-influenced and reminiscent of Eduardo Risso’s art, which is natural since Estherren is from Argentina.

REDNECK #6 (Image, 2017) – as above. The first storyline concludes with all the characters either dead or transformed into vampires or both. The surviving members of the protagonists’ family all get in a boat and sail away on an underground river. I think the next issue is #9.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Tim Smith 3. I have the trade paperback or one-shot that comes before this comic, but I have not read it yet. This series appears to take place in the same world as Black, but this issue is mostly a fight between two superpowered characters, and it’s not clear to me who the characters are or why they’re fighting. I don’t understand this comic, and I’m not sure I’d enjoy it anymore if I did understand it. I’m giving this series one more issue to impress me before I drop it.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #28 (DC, 1991) – “Mommy’s Boy,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Alan Grant. This may well be the best issue of L.E.G.I.O.N. because of its sheer strangeness. As Stealth tries to give birth to her and Vril Dox’s baby, we learn about Stealth’s race through a series of flashbacks and quotations from their scriptures. It turns out the members of Stealth’s species are all female. They mate with males of other species, kill them, and give birth to offspring that resemble the fathers. Stealth is an outcast even among these creatures because of her mutant powers. The fascinating and disturbing thing about this comic is how it presents Stealth’s people from their own bizarre perspective, and almost makes the reader believe that males are a necessary evil, 28 is the sacred number, etc. This comic is an effective depiction of “a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man.”

TRUE BELIEVERS: CAROL DANVERS #1 (Marvel, 1968/2018) – “Where Stalks the Sentry!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. A reprint of the main story Marvel Super-Heroes #13, Carol Danvers’s first appearance and Mar-Vell’s second. This reprint is not a full facsimile edition of MSH #13, since that also included some Golden Age reprints, but it will have to do, since MSH #13 is probably outside my price range. In this early appearance, Mar-Vell is a very different character than he would be even a few years later. He’s just an elite Kree soldier with no powers other than his equipment, and Rick Jones is nowhere to be seen. Also, he has to take medicine every hour to survive on Earth, so he has an even more severe weakness than Aquaman. This issue, he poses as deceased NASA scientist Walter Lawson (remember that name) so he can infiltrate Cape Canaveral, where he meets Carol Danvers and battles a Kree Sentry. Carol only appears on two pages of this issue, and there’s nothing to distinguish her from any other Silver Age Marvel supporting character. Also, Mar-Vell thinks of her as a “girl.” Carol did go on to become a recurring character in Mar-Vell’s solo series, and I’d like to collect more of that series and learn more about her early evolution.

QUANTUM & WOODY #15 (Acclaim, 1998) – “Magnum Force, Round 2: Peace,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. A hilarious comic. The plot of this issue is just that Quantum and Woody have been kidnapped, apparently by a villain called WarLocke, and are trying to escape. But the issue is full of witty dialogue and humor, including a running joke where Woody accuses people of being gay.

THE AUTHORITY #4 (WildStorm, 1999) – “The Circle Four of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. A page from this issue is included on Vulture’s list of the 100 pages that shaped comics. The page is the one where the Authority’s ship crashes into Gamorra Tower, and it’s included as an example of the widescreen style. After reading this issue, I think that “widescreen comics” are overrated, and that the term itself is just a synonym for the style of Bryan Hitch (and I guess also Frank Quitely and John Cassaday). This issue consists of an extended fight between the Authority and Kaizen Gamorra, and it’s reasonably well executed, but I still don’t understand what was so great about this series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #4 (DC, 1989) – “The Godfather Pulls the Strings,” [W] Keith Giffen & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. A funny and exciting issue with excellent characterization. After successfully defeating the Computer Tyrants of Colu, Vril Dox tries to rebuild the planet’s society from scratch, while his teammates stand around with nothing to do. Then Lobo arrives on Colu looking for Garryn Bek, who killed one of Lobo’s pet dolphins. The best moment in the issue is when Lobo introduces himself to Bek, and Bek faints.

WEIRD WAR TALES #27 (DC, 1974) – “Survival of the Fittest,” [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Frank Robbins. This issue’s first story is about a Nazi submarine captain who sinks a ship full of refugees, then gets stuck in a time loop where he keeps getting reincarnated as a passenger on the ship. This story gave me a new appreciation for Robbins, because I found myself focusing on his excellent storytelling and settings, instead of his characters’ ugly faces. This issue also includes a very well-drawn story by Alfredo Alcala, and a rare example of DC comics work by Paul Kirchner.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #1 (Marvel, 2009) – “Just One Little Thing,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Jay Anacleto. Here’s an example of the depth of Kurt Busiek’s research and knowledge: Page 2 of this issue depicts a newspaper article about Reed Richards’s rocket flight. That article quotes “rocketry expert Walter Lawson, Ph.D.” That character was only ever mentioned in one previous Marvel comic: Marvel Super Heroes #13, discussed above. I wouldn’t even have gotten this reference if I hadn’t just read a reprint of that issue. The rest of the issue isn’t quite as impressive as that, though. An aging Phil Sheldon has a series of flashbacks to his early career, and then he visits the doctor and learns he has lung cancer.

SCUD THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN #12 (Fireman, 1996) – “Race of Doom,” [W/A] Rob Schrab. This was one of the first independent comics I ever read. I read my friend Danny Dikel’s copy of it shortly after it came out. But I never owned my own copy until much more recently, so it was nice to revisit this issue. This series has not necessarily aged well, because it’s rather sexist and testosterone-filled, and Rob Schrab was clearly more interested in movies than comics. But what still impresses me about this issue is Rob Schrab’s creativity and restless energy. In this issue, Scud accidentally enters the “Mr. Tough Guy” competition, which is eventually won by his future lover Sussudio. Scud has to defeat a bunch of bizarre creatures in a series of equally bizarre competitions, like anti-gravity bullfighting and lava hockey. My two favorite moments from this issue are the sight of Scud in a hockey uniform, and the revelation that Scud’s opponent Patriot is also a disposable assassin, and for some reason his primary target is a plant.

SUPERMAN #283 (DC, 1975) – “Superman’s Mystery Masquerade!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. This feels like one of those comics where the cover was designed first and then the story was written to match the cover. This issue’s cover is brilliant – it shows Superman transforming into his secret identity, which is not Clark Kent but “Chris Delbart, the wolf of Wall Street.” But the interior of the comic does not live up to the cover. It turns out Superman is just posing as Chris Delbart in order to fool some mad scientist. The backup story, “One of Our Imps is Missing” by Maggin and Swan, is much better, even though it’s just an average Mr. Mxyzptlk story.

ANIMOSITY #11 (Aftershock, 2017) – “The Sting,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael Delatorre. This issue, Jessie finally manages to free the bees. I’m going to quit ordering this series because I’m no longer enjoying it.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #1 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Brave New World,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. This issue begins with a page where some mayflies are discussing their history, which is very short, since their species only lives for 35 minutes. This scene is a powerful depiction of animal intelligence, which makes it disappointing that the rest of the issue isn’t nearly as good. This series takes place in a city where a wolf named Wintermute keeps a fragile peace between humans and animals. The problem with this series, as with Animosity in general, is that the animals act too much like humans with animal bodies. If Bennett would write the animals as less similar to humans, then this comic would be better able to achieve its potential.

On May 5, I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find for FCBD, and then I had some new comics waiting for me at home:

RED SONJA/TARZAN #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. I only heard about this comic after it had already come out, so I bought it at Heroes. In this comic, Red Sonja and Tarzan both encounter a villain named Eson Duul in their respective eras, and then he somehow uses time travel powers to bring them together. This comic shows an effective understanding of both its protagonists, but what’s most memorable about it is Esan Duul. This villain is a terrifying combination of the things Tarzan and Red Sonja hate most, civilization and male sexual violence. This comic could have been called “Red Sonja and Tarzan vs. Toxic Colonial Masculinity.”

CODA #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This comic book is very long, and I’d have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been exhausted when I read it, but it’s quite good – yet another exciting debut issue from a brilliant, versatile writer. Coda takes place in a Tolkienesque fantasy world which has just suffered a catastrophe that killed all the elves. The technology in this world is powered by a substance called akker, and the adventurer protagonist needs as much of it as he can to revive his dead (?) wife. This comic is full of fascinating ideas – the hero rides a five-horned demon unicorn, and the issue begins with him exploring the skeleton of a dead dragon, which is just barely alive enough to curse at him while he’s doing it. Coda also includes a lot of parodies of standard fantasy cliches. I think this series’ s worldbuilding might be more interesting than its plot, but I look forward to reading more of it.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPARKS #1 (Graphix, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Nina Matsumoto. The first chapter of a graphic novel about a heroic dog who is actually two cats in a dog suit. This comic is intended for a very young audience, but is quite funny and is drawn in an attractive style.

DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Doctor Star is summoned by the Star Sheriff Squadron, the Black Hammer version of the Green Lantern Corps. Max Fiumara draws the Green Lantern Corps better than most actual Green Lantern artists do. His Star Sheriffs include a bewildering variety of creatures, such as a giant manta ray, an even bigger snake, two little frog dudes joined at the arm, and a dwarf with a waist-length beard. I actually had a dream about this last character. But while the Star Sheriffs revere Jimmy as a hero, his wife and son justifiably hate him for abandoning them for 18 years. I still don’t see the connection between Doctor Star and the main Black Hammer title, but maybe there isn’t any. Black Hammer is Jeff Lemire’s version of Astro City: a ready-made superhero universe which includes all the classic Marvel and DC characters, but is not creator-owned or shackled to Marvel or DC continuity.

GIANT DAYS #38 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Julia Madrigal. This issue has a new artist, and her style was quite jarring at first, but she has a fairly similar sensibility to Lissa Tremain and Max Sarin. This issue, Daisy starts her new job as an RA and then resolves a pointless fight between Susan and McGraw.

SEX CRIMINALS #28 (Image, 2018) – “Would You Like Some Help with That,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Each issue of Sex Criminals has been more difficult than the last, and finally, here’s an issue that just went completely over my head. The key example of this is the scene with the two balding men. I know one of these men is the one who’s obsessed with anime, but I’m not sure which one, or who the other one is. Though there are some brilliant moments in this issue, like the “Clitty” mascot character. I need to find time to reread this series starting with the most recent issue that I fully understood.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. Rogue and Gambit defeat Lavish, who turns out to have been yet another golem. At the end of the issue, it looks like Gambit is about to propose to Rogue, but instead he asks her how she feels about cats, which is also a very important question. This was a really entertaining series and an effective piece of ’90s nostalgia. I wish it was an ongoing.

RELAY #0 (AfterShock, 2018) – “The Farmer and the First World,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy Clarke. A science fiction comic about a race (possibly consisting of humans) that tries to impose a common culture on every planet in the universe. There are some intriguing ideas in this comic, but it didn’t make me want to read more of this series.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. The best issue yet. It’s a silent story where all the word balloons are pictures. I’ve read other comics with this gimmick before, but in this issue the gimmick is justified by the storyline: Luvander meets a man whose voice has been stolen by a mermaid, and she travels under the sea to get his voice back. Silent stories are a severe test of a creative team’s visual storytelling skills, and Girner and Galaad pass that test: they succeed in making the story intelligible without words. I especially like how the mermaid’s word balloons are just pictures of dark water.

ADVENTURE TIME WITH FIONNA AND CAKE 2018 FCBD SPECIAL (Boom!, 2018) – “What’s the Punchline,” [W] Kiernan Sjursen-Lien, [A] C. Larsen. Fionna and Cake, the gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake, are taking some punch to Prince Gumball’s punch parade, but they keep encountering people who want their punch. This issue is fun, but nothing spectacular.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. This is the last issue, which surprised me because the previous miniseries was four issues. The two Zodiac Starforces defeat the Fire Prince in an epic battle, but two of them are dragged through a dimensional portal along with him, and the series ends on a cliffhanger. I hope there will be a sequel.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2018 (AVENGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA) #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Sara Pichelli. This FCBD issue begins with a preview of the new Avengers title. It’s set in 1,000,000 BCE and stars a team of prehistoric Avengers, including Odin, Phoenix, Agamotto, and a caveman Hulk. This story is pretty fun. The backup story, a preview of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Captain America, is not as promising.

AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Final Host,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Steve Rogers, Thor Odinson and Tony Stark form a new Avengers team to combat the imminent arrival of the Final Celestial Host. This is an exciting issue, a rare example of a Marvel flagship title that may actually be worth reading.

YUPPIES FROM HELL #1 (Marvel, 1989) – “First Date/Last Date” and other stories, [W/A] Barbara Slate. One of the most obscure Marvel comics of the ’80s, Yuppies from Hell is another work of the underrated and forgotten Barbara Slate. This first issue is a collection of interrelated short black-and-white strips about yuppies in late-’80s New York. Not all the jokes are equally funny, but this comic shows a keen understanding of money and gender politics, and a lot of its jokes are still applicable to hipsters today. Yuppies from Hell appeals to sort of the same audience as Cathy, but is better crafted (which isn’t saying much).

HATE #26 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “Let’s Start a Crackhouse!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. Stinky is back in town, and he, Buddy’s brother Butch, and their ex-con friend Jimmy want to use Buddy’s home as a crack house. Buddy is not happy about it. This issue is excellent, but the next one was even better. This issue also includes some short backup features, which are a mixed bag. Among them are a one-pager by Jaime Hernandez and a three-pager by Gilbert Hernandez.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #5 (DC, 2018) – “Opening Night,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. Snagglepuss testifies before the HUAC and refuses to name names. Meanwhile, Huckleberry Hound hangs himself. This is another fantastic issue, whose strong points include Snagglepuss’s poetic dialogue and Russell’s depiction of the paranoid, oppressive atmosphere of 50s America.

DEATHSTROKE #31 (DC, 2018) – “The Falling Stars, Part 2 of 6,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Carlo Pagulayan & Roberto Viacara. This comic shows that Priest has still got it. Deathstroke #31 has all his trademarks – it’s structured as a series of vignettes with their own titles, and it has a convoluted plot and snappy dialogue. I’m glad I ordered this.

HATE #27 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “Buddy Cleans House,” [W/A] Peter Bagge with Jim Blanchard. One of Bagge’s finest single issues, Hate #27 begins with perhaps the most shocking scene he’s ever drawn. Jimmy and Stinky are hanging out at the beach, shooting at beer bottles and complaining about Buddy, when Stinky says “Just wait ’til you get a load of this” – and shoots himself in the head! A low-key, funny scene turns (literally) deadly serious, with no warning and in the space of one panel. The rest of the issue is almost as good. Buddy gets increasingly pissed at Butch, Jimmy and Stinky’s childish antics and petty crimes, until he erupts in suppressed rage, as depicted in a single panel that fills a half page. It’s a turning point in Buddy’s life: he realizes he’s outgrown all this twentysomething drama, and he decides to buy out Jay’s share of the business, sell his monster truck, and start acting like an adult. The issue ends with Buddy visiting Stinky’s grave. Overall, this issue is an important moment in Buddy’s life and Bagge’s career, and it reminds me that Peter Bagge is not just a great humorist, but a great cartoonist, period. The best of the backup stories this issue is Bagge and Crumb’s “Caffy,” a parody of Cathy, although unfortunately it’s grossly sexist.

THE WORLD BELOW: DEEPER AND STRANGER #3 (Dark Horse, 2000) – “The Brain!”, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. On another trip underground, the protagonists encounter a giant alien brain that’s controlling a bunch of other creatures. Then they meet some deformed humans. This issue is an excellent showcase of Chadwick’s art, which usually takes a back seat to his writing. It’s kind of an ascended version of Cave Carson. It also has a powerfully written flashback scene in which a lunatic tries to shoot up an abortion clinic.

ARCHIE #15 (Archie, 2017) – “Don’t Be Absurd,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Joe Eisma. Due to the stress of planning his anniversary party, Archie has gone insane and switched personalities with Jughead. Meanwhile, Cheryl Blossom decides to move to Riverdale. This was an average issue.

ARCHIE #16 (Archie, 2017) – “You’ve Invented Yelp,” as above. This issue is a spotlight on Dilton Doiley. He invents an app that can be used to rate anything, but predictably, everyone in town starts using it to post negative reviews of people they dislike. This story also establishes that Dilton has a crush on Betty, which becomes relevant later.

RIVERDALE FCBD EDITION (Archie, 2018) – “Chock’lit Shop of Horrors,” [W] Ross Maxwell & Will Ewing, [A] Joe Eisma. Pop tells Betty a series of ghost stories, ending with a story about his encounter with a mysterious stranger, who predictably turns out to be the devil. This is an odd choice for an FCBD comic because it’s more suited for October than May.

THE WEAVERS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dylan Burnett. I already reviewed issue 2 of this series. This first issue explains the premise: The protagonist is the newest member of a mob. It turns out that each member of this organization is possessed by a superpowered spider, and when one of them dies, its spider is transferred to someone else, which is what happened to the protagonist. This comic is a blend of film noir and supernatural horror. It’s not Spurrier’s best miniseries, but not his worst either (that would be Motherlands).

SCION #1 (CrossGen, 2000) – untitled, [W] Ron Marz, [A] Jim Cheung. I liked this more than I expected to, given that I dislike Ron Marz’s writing. This comic’s setting is mostly an epic fantasy milieu but with some technology. Its protagonist, Ethan, turns 21 and goes to fight in a tournament, only to discover that he’s a sigil-bearer. Ethan is a very appealing protagonist, and Jim Cheung is good at both worldbuilding and emotion.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #17 (DC, 1991) – “The Last Battle,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Tom Bierbaum, Mary Bierbaum & Al Gordon. The Legion fights a desperate battle against the Khunds and their leader Glorith. Mysa Nal saves the day. This issue has some very exciting fight scenes, and one epic moment when Vi bursts out of Laurel’s earring, but it could have been better.

GRIP: THE STRANGE WORLD OF MEN #3 (DC, 2002) – “Gripping Romantic Western Mystery,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Along with Blubber, this is one of the weirdest things Beto has ever written. It’s full of body horror and violence. And unlike Blubber it has a plot and characters, although the plot is so weird and convoluted that I can’t summarize it.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #1 (IDW, 2009) – “Intermission,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I read the first trade paperback of this series and enjoyed it, but somehow I never got around to reading any more of it. In this issue, the ghostly villain, Luke, encounters an old high school teacher who knew him when he was alive. The teacher’s life and his grief for his dead wife are depicted in great detail, and then Luke murders him. Joe Hill’s characterization and dialogue are quite powerful. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is not as spectacular as his art in Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland or Sword of Ages, but this issue does include one spectacular two-page spread depicting a performance of The Tempest.

And now I am FINALLY done with my current stack of reviews, until tomorrow when my new comics are supposed to come…

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Two weeks worth of reviews

I’ve already written some other reviews besides these, and I have even more reviews to post, but I’ll just post these now.

4-2-18

One comic I forgot to review before:

THE ONE #1 (Epic, 1985) – “The Big Sleep,” [W/A] Rick Veitch. I read this but I don’t remember much of anything about it.

4-26-18

Another 100-plus comics to review, and I expect to read even more before I finish writing this round of reviews. The following comics were left over from the week of March 23:

SPIDER-GWEN #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Part 1: Counting Sheep,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This series is ending soon, and I don’t really mind; I think it’s worn out its welcome. This issue, Gwen visits another Gwen from a different universe. This issue has some funny interactions between two Watchers, and Robbi makes a sincere effort to draw like John Romita, but I can’t remember much about this issue at all.

KILL OR BE KILLED #17 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan arranges a fatal accident for Perry the orderly, who’s been molesting Dylan’s fellow mental patients. Also, a newspaper headline says that the copycat masked killer was killed by police, but we have to wait until next issue to find out how, or whether the person killed was Mason.

HERO CATS #21 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Warm Hearts on a Cold Day,” [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. Another cute story, in which the cats stop an alien invasion in the midst of a snowstorm. It turns out that the invasion was accidentally caused by two alien spouses trying to reunite. The female alien is much bigger than the male, which reminds me of Lindsey and Bud from Gunnerkrigg Court. Kyle’s editorial on the last page reveals that this is the final issue. I enjoyed this series, but I won’t miss it all that much; it was fun and cute, but never quite   lived up to its potential.

New comics received on March 30:

SAGA #50 (Image, 2018) – America’s preeminent comic book is back, but this issue was a little disappointing because it was so low-key. I’ve come to expect something shocking in every issue. This issue did include about five pages of oral sex, but for Saga, that hardly qualifies as shocking. The major plot developments this issue involve Upsher and Doff.

LUMBERJANES #48 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself” (part 3), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This is confusingly billed as part of “Zoo It Yourself” but is really a standalone issue, and it’s the first issue of Lumberjanes where the five Roanokes are not the main characters. Instead, this issue focuses on the Zodiacs, who are putting out the camp newspaper, except the horoscopes are disturbingly accurate. I enjoyed this issue more than the last two, and it was nice getting to spend some time with the background characters, although we still don’t know much about the other Zodiacs besides Barney, Diane and Hes. The highlight of the issue is the kitten dressed like a reporter. As an overall comment, I’ve basically accepted that the Lumberjanes’ summer camp session is never going to end. But it would be kind of cool if the series would jump ahead in time a year or two, to when the characters are all a bit older. I’m also curious to learn more about the world outside the camp.

MANIFEST DESTINY #34 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Pryor has taken over the camp. Sacagawea escapes due to unexpected interference from Charbonneau, but Lewis and Clark’s attempts to take back the camp end in failure, and the Spanish ghost dude leaves them and decides to haunt Pryor instead. Things are looking grim.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #12 (IDW, 2018) – “Finale,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The highlight of this issue is the right-hand page where Somnambula says that Stygian’s element is friendship, “and friendship… friendship is…” and then the page ends, and on the next left-hand page she says “…well, it’s not nothing!” Jeremy described this as “maybe my favorite comics form gag I’ve ever done… I won’t ruin it, but I love the fun things you can do with a build up and a page turn in comics” (https://twitter.com/jrome58/status/979029687933349888). I probably need to mention this page in my upcoming conference paper on Legends of Magic. The rest of the story underscores the point of this: Stygian and his friends almost discovered the Elements of Harmony and the magic of friendship, but not quite. This series is over now, but I’m glad we’re getting Ponyville Mysteries next, because one pony comic per month is not enough.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2 = Fantastic Three, Part 5: The Four Corners of the Multiverse,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. A bunch of confusing stuff happens, including a fight with a villain called Cellar Dweller, master of the monsters under the bed. Then Lunella summons Devil Dinosaur from the past to become the fourth member of the team. Which means Brandon was straight-up lying when he said that Devil would never reappear in this comic, but oh well. I’m glad this storyline is ending soon because it’s been way too confusing.

ABBOTT #3 (Boom!, 2018) – “Lean Times on the Factory Line,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. This series has gotten better with each issue, and this is the best yet. As a frequent visitor to Detroit, I loved the scene at National Coney Island. I’ve never been there, but I eat coney islands every time I’m in Detroit, and this scene gave me a lot of nostalgia. It even gave me an idea for the paper on Omaha the Cat Dancer that I’m supposed to be writing: maybe comics are better than prose at evoking nostalgia for particular places. I really need to show this comic to my parents and some other relatives, because I’m very curious about how this comic would look to someone who grew up in Detroit. Anyway, lots of other stuff happens in this issue, and it ends with Abbott and her editor getting fired. I initially thought the fantasy aspects of this comic were kind of unnecessary, but in this issue the magic feels a lot more important.

LOCKJAW #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Call of the Wild,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. I just realized how appropriate the writer’s surname is. This issue, Lockjaw and D-Man team up with Ka-Zar and fight some wolves, who are led by another of Lockjaw’s siblings. And it turns out that Spider-Ham and another unseen character are spying on Lockjaw. I was going to say it’s curious that Ka-Zar’s wife and child are nowhere to be seen, but this series is not really in continuity.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #302 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part Two,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. I barely remember this at all. The issue ends with the Green Goblin invading Peter’s home and kidnapping Aunt May.

BATGIRL #21 (DC, 2018) – “Father Knows Best,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Scott Godlewski. A very cute story in which Batgirl teams up with Commissioner Gordon against a sentient cosmetics monster. However, again, I can barely remember anything about this issue. The scene at the end where Babs and Gordon meet for breakfast is heartwarming, and I like how it’s implied but not confirmed that Gordon knows his daughter’s secret identity, but I had to flip through the issue again to remind myself of these things.

BLACK MAGICK #11 (Image, 2018) – “Awakening II,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Rowan saves the baby, but loses her partner’s trust. This is another issue I don’t remember very well.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #699 (Marvel, 2018) – “Out of Time,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Cap defeats King Baby and is elected the new president. Chris Samnee’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, but the writing mostly leaves me cold. Other than a couple great issues, I haven’t really been able to get into this Captain America run, especially since it’s ending soon.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #4 (IDW, 2018) – “Tasty,” [W] Sina Grace, [A] Hannah Templer, and “Jemojis,” [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Abby Boeh. IDW’s final Jem comic (until further notice?) is a reasonable sendoff. The first story is about the Misfits appearing on a magazine cover, and the second story is about a Jem-based emoji app. I still hope Kelly Thompson somehow gets to write more Jem comics, because she left sone significant loose ends, especially Jem and Rico’s relationship.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #231 (Marvel, 1978) – “Aftermath!”, [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Sal Buscema. Cap and the Falcon part ways, then Cap encounters Peggy Carter, who tells him about the National Front – which, I now realize, is clearly based on the KKK. There’s a disturbing scene in which the Grand Director publicly burns a cross. Sadly, this issue is perhaps more relevant now than when it came out. See the review of Kill or Be Killed #18 below for another example of a comic about white male terrorism. Roger McKenzie was a fairly good Cap writer, though his Cap run is largely forgotten because of the Roger Stern-John Byrne run that came after it.

GROO THE WANDERER #43 (Marvel/Epic, 1988) – “Slave!”, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier. Granny Groo sells Groo as a slave in order to get rid of him. Groo misunderstands and thinks that she wants him to fake illness, so she can take him back and then sell him to someone else – because when he was a child, she previously tried to do exactly that. If that sounds confusing, it’s because I can’t think of a simpler way to explain this issue’s plot. It’s a pretty average Groo comic.

HATE #8 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Follow That Dream!” part one, [W/A] Peter Bagge. The first part of a story whose conclusion I read earlier in March. Buddy becomes the manager of a band, consisting of four hairy dudes named Kurt, Kurt, Greg and Kurt. After one of the Kurts quits, Leonard replaces him as the lead singer. The band members are happy as long as they have beer, so Buddy embezzles all their money. This issue is a hilarious satire of the grunge music scene, and is based on insider knowledge of that scene, since Bagge published it in 1992 while living in Seattle.

Y: THE LAST MAN #49 (Vertigo, 2006) – “Motherland, Chapter One,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. I couldn’t really follow this issue’s plot, since it’s from long after I stopped reading this series. At least there’s some good dialogue. On the week of March 30th I was suffering from comics reader’s block  and was also very tired, and I’m very tired again now as I write these reviews, so I have very little to say about some of these comics.

BLACK PANTHER #171 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 12,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. The penultimate chapter of the most long-winded Marvel storyline since “The Kang Dynasty.” This issue is mostly a long fight scene in which T’Challa finally defeats Klaw, except it turns out the real villain is the Adversary from Claremont’s X-Men.

MOTHERLANDS #3 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Meat is Murder,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. This is perhaps my least favorite Spurrier title. The story isn’t nearly as exciting as that of Angelic or Spire, and the artwork is undistinguished. I’m pretty sure Rachael Stott was not Spurrier’s original choice of artist. This issue, there’s some more family drama that I don’t remember very well.

USAVENGERS #12 (Marvel, 2017) – “Maybe We Should All Be Praying for Time,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Diaz. I only ordered this because Squirrel Girl is in it, but it turns out this  storyline is pretty hilarious. This storyline has the same premise as the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action,” except the alien society is based on Archie comics rather than gangster films. As a result, this comic is a very funny Archie parody. Unfortunately this issue is hard to follow on its own; I should have read issue 11 first. See below.

HATE #10 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “The Nut,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy gets his crazy ex-girlfriend Lisa a job at the bookstore where he works. Lisa proceeds to cause all sorts of insane drama. This was a laugh-out-loud funny comic, but not as inspired as “Follow That Dream.”

USAVENGERS #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Hey, Bugface, Where Are You?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Diaz. Again, I wish I’d read this issue first, so I wouldn’t have spoiled the revelation that the Archie-esque characters are actually Skrulls. But the premise of this story is awesome, and Ewing executes it perfectly. One of my favorite things about this comic is that it’s full of subtle puns that depend upon a deep knowledge of Archie comics. For example, the Veronica character calls the Archie character “Ritchiecakes” (Archiekins), and the Reggie character is named Gerry Mays, after Willie Mays, who was a contemporary of Mickey Mantle.

KID LOBOTOMY #6 (IDW, 2018) – “Uncommon Lobotomies: Part 6 of A Lad Insane,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. I was surprised to realize that this was the final issue, but I’m not all that disappointed. Like many previous Peter Milligan comics, this series has gotten more incomprehensible with every issue. This issue mostly went right over my head.

THUNDERBOLTS #18 (Marvel, 1998) – “Career Opportunities,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts are offered employment by the new Masters of Evil. This issue includes some strong characterization, but I’ve never really been able to get into Thunderbolts, and I think the reason is that I don’t connect with any of the characters except perhaps Jolt. All of them are deeply damaged, and some of them, especially Moonstone, are just evil. This makes for storylines which are interesting on an intellectual but not an emotional level, and as a result, Thunderbolts is not my favorite Busiek comic.

THE WORLD OF KRYPTON #1 (DC, 2018/1987) – “The World of Krypton,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Mike Mignola. This freebie is a reprint of the 1987 comic of the same name, with a new cover. It’s much better than I expected. Mignola’s art in this issue is not bad, though it’s closer to P. Craig Russell’s art than to Mignola’s mature style, and Byrne’s writing is not bad either. I would get the other issues of this miniseries if I found them in a 50-cent box.

HELLBLAZER #59 (DC, 1992) – “Fallen Women,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] William Simpson. A demoness named Chantinelle escapes hell and warns Constantine that the First of the Fallen is coming for him. This issue is most interesting for revealing the origin of the First of the Fallen: he was already in hell when Lucifer arrived there.

ADAM-12 #5 (Gold Key, 1974) – “But Not in Real Life” and “Satan’s Children,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. This mediocre comic is an adaptation of a mediocre cop show. The first of this issue’s two stories is completely forgettable. The second story is sort of intriguing, though, because it appears to be inspired by contemporary moral panics about Satanism. The Satanists in the story mention the spirit Haristum and the Clavicle of Solomon, which are actual Satanist concepts, so the writer must have done some research.

From April 5 to 8, I was in Gainesville for the UF Comics Conference, where I had the great honor of giving a keynote address. I may post the transcript of my lecture on this blog later. It was an awesome experience. My lecture got a very warm reception, and I heard some excellent papers, met some old friends and mentors, and made some new friends. Gainesville has changed a lot since my grad school days – there’s all sorts of new development along 13th Street and University Avenue, and even the old businesses that are still there may not last much longer. After the conference was over, I went to 2nd & Charles and bought some comics, including the following. (Incidentally, 2nd & Charles is just down the street from where Hoyt’s Cosmos of Comics , I have a recurring dream where I’m visiting a bookstore that’s somewhere far to the north of my house. I think this dream is inspired by Hoyt’s or by the old location of Dreamhaven Books.)

BLACK HAMMER #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Curse of Zafram!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is a spotlight on Golden Gail, and it reveals that her powers are the reverse of Captain Marvel’s. She changes into a nine-year-old girl rather than an adult, so as her human identity grows older, her superhero identity remains stuck in childhood. Which also explains why Gail hates Black Hammer Farm so much: she’s stuck in her child’s body, so she has to attend elementary school despite being 55 years old. So this issue is rather depressing.

ATOMIC ROBO #1 (Red 5, 2007) – “The Will to Power,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This issue introduces Robo as well as his archenemy, the Nazi scientist Helsingard. It’s a strong introduction to Robo’s character and to Clevinger and Wegener’s unusual style of humor. However, this issue is mostly a long fight scene and has much less narrative complexity than later Atomic Robo stories.

KIM & KIM #4 (Black Mask, 2016) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. To avoid being evicted for nonpayment of rent, Kim and Kim accept a contract on a man named Merrill Frank. But Merrill Frank is killed by other mercenaries, and one of the Kims’ fathers pays the rent instead. This issue is a good example of how the Kims are not really heroes, but loveable screw-ups who can barely do anything right – which makes this comic a very realistic depiction of early adulthood.

BLACK HAMMER #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Warlord of Mars,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Most of this issue is a flashback to the origin of Mark Markz, the Barbalien (a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter). We see that he’s a lonely outsider in two ways, as a Martian and as a gay man. There’s a heartbreaking scene where Mark, in his secret identity as a cop, shows tenderness to his partner and is brutally rejected. Also, Mark and Gail have a conversation in which Gail mistakenly thinks Mark is expressing his love for her, rather than the young pastor. And now that I’ve read this issue, my Black Hammer collection is complete.

New comics received on March 9, after returning from Gainesville:

RUNAWAYS #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Best Friends Forever,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Julie Power is back! Although it’s really sad when Karolina stands her up at the airport. But Molly’s reaction to meeting Julie is incredible. Also, Abbie gives Molly a cupcake of eternal youth, and Doom invades the Runaways’ hideout, demanding Victor’s head back. This issue didn’t have any great Old Lace moments.

ISOLA #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. An epic fantasy series about a woman warrior and her animal companion, a queen trapped in the form of a tiger. Karl Kerschl’s art is fantastic, and this series’s premise is very promising, though we don’t know much yet about just what’s going on here. When Rook addresses the tiger as “your majesty,” I can just imagine my cat saying “Finally, someone who treats cats with the respect we deserve.”

GIANT DAYS #37 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy’s homophobic grandmother throws her out, forcing Daisy to find somewhere else to live. After viewing several hilariously awful apartments, one of which is haunted, Daisy decides to become a residential mentor – what we in America would call an RA. A highlight of the issue is the scene where the accommodations officer “reminds” Daisy that she already applied to be an RM and her paperwork was “lost.” Also, at the end of the issue, Daisy’s grandma realizes she was wrong and apologizes.

MECH CADET YU #8 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Stanford and friends attack the alien vessel, but their attempt to destroy it fails because of Cadet Park’s interference. At the end of the issue, the cavalry arrives: Chief Max and all the other service robots. This issue includes the best line in the entire series: “If someone tells you there’s only one possible way to do something…. and that one possible way benefits them… maybe think twice.” This issue also further demonstrates that janitors, mechanics, etc. are just as vitally important as people with more glamorous jobs.

SEX CRIMINALS #23 (Image, 2018) – “My Epiphany,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. To be honest, I didn’t understand anything that happened in this issue. I’m not sure what Susie’s epiphany was, or which characters are on which side. A recap (a real one, not the joke recap on the inside front cover) would have helped a lot.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #35 (Image, 2018) – “1-2-3-4!” etc., [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. With this issue, this series’s confusing storyline finally begins to make sense. We begin with a flashback that happens right after the 1923 special issue, in which the Shirley Temple character kills Ananke. Which leads to a shocking revelation: the present Ananke is the same individual as the 1923 Minerva. Meaning that the present Minerva will be the next Ananke… I’m not sure if this is a universal pattern, but now I want to look at the other two flashback issues again. Oh, also it turns out that Baal, who seemed like the best of the gods, has been sacrificing children. This was a fun issue.

MOTOR CRUSH #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart, [W/A] Babs Tarr. The season-ending race is invaded by gangsters. Domino saves the day and leads her protégé Ya-Ya to victory, but is publicly unmasked. Lola decides to leave her new girlfriend for Domino, which is probably a bad decision, but it’s heartwarming, I guess. And then at the end of the issue, Decimus shows Domino a room full of clones that look just like her. This was an effective conclusion to the second story arc.

ASTRO CITY #51 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Down in the Depths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. This issue contains probably the most shocking panel Kurt has ever written. In a flashback, a woman named Rose Wilkerson describes how she and her son were kidnapped by a giant spider-thing. The flashback ends with her saying “I held his hand the whole time,” and on the next page, she reveals her missing hand. Wow. After that, the rest of the issue is a letdown. Rose confronts Michael with evidence that his wife never existed, and Michael tells her his story (at excessive length), but it’s not clear whether she and the other support group members are willing to buy it. By the way, Michael reminds me a lot of Mr. Rogers.

SNOTGIRL #10 (Image, 2018) – “Weekend, Part 2: We’ve Only Just Begun,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Last issue ended with a girl falling to her death. This issue, the protagonists deal with the fallout (no pun intended) of that incident, as well as heading out to the desert and taking mushrooms. The dialogue in this issue was excellent, but the plot was rather confusing, as usual.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #8 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Traveling on her own, Luvander teams up with some elves who are fighting in a local conflict. But it turns out the elves are a bunch of assholes who kidnap and sell slaves. I don’t know if Lu is able to carry a story all on her own; I miss Prince Aki and the other characters from the previous storyline .The best moment in this issue is the following exchange: “Just wait till I sound my battle hymn. The Baron’s men will turn and flee before we fire a single arrow!” “I don’t doubt it. I’ve heard you play.”

DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Doctor Star travels into space, where he saves some weird-looking aliens from a space dragon. But when he gets back, he discovers that eighteen years have passed on Earth while he spent mere hours in space. Again, this comic wasn’t bad, but I don’t know why it’s a Black Hammer spinoff.

BLACK BOLT #12 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt defeats the Jailer and reconciles with his wife. Crusher, Titania and Blinky live happily ever after, at least until some other writer comes along. This was an excellent series that deserved a longer run than it got, although I expect even better things from Saladin in the future.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #2 (DC, 2018) – “A Dog’s Life,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. For some reason I got this issue two months late, on the same day that I got #4. This issue, Snagglepuss hires a new stage manager named Squiddly Diddly, Lillian Hellman tells him about the existence of the blacklist, and at the end of the issue Snagglepuss is subpoenaed by the HUAC. Besides being another brilliant piece of political satire, this issue shows an effective command of 1950s English. I especially love the line “You are asking me for my pen and that I cannot give.” Unfortunately, the Sasquatch Detective backup feature is a complete waste of space.

X-MEN UNLIMITED #38 (Marvel, 2002) – “Yartzeit,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Darick Robertson. This is an excellent but rather obscure issue. I must have read about it on Scans_Daily or in the Slings & Arrows Guide or something, because otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it. On the sanniversary of Peter Rasputin’s death, Kitty Pryde mourns for him and becomes obsessed with a police officer who resembles him. After Kurt Wagner stages an intervention, Kitty realizes the cop isn’t Peter, but there’s a suggestion that he might become her love interest anyway. This character, Danny Wyzcenko, never appeared again, and this story became irrelevant anyway when Peter came back to life two years later. Still, this is a very touching story, one of the best Kitty Pryde comics not written by Claremont. I should point out that this story’s title is spelled wrong (it should be yahrzeit or yahrtzeit) and that it’s not customary to observe the yahrzeit of a non-Jew. But these are less egregious errors than Mark Guggenheim thinking that, at a Jewish wedding, the father walks the daughter down the aisle.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Perez. Rogue and Gambit battle the clones, and it turns out that each time one of them defeats a clone, they get that clone’s memories and powers. It’s confusing, but leads to some interesting scenes where each character experiences a flashback from the other’s perspective. The flashback to X-Men #30 made me groan inwardly because it’s been many years since I read that issue, and it’s kind of embarrassing in hindsight. I’m glad that Kelly got an Eisner nomination for Hawkeye; she has been an extremely underrated writer.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #3 (DC, 2018) – “Actors and Stars,” as above. SP gets involved in the love triangle between Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller. I was kind of delighted when I figured out who they were. The issue begins and ends with SP’s metatextual comments on his own plays.

ARCHIE #17 (Archie, 2017) – “Get Your Head Outta the Rainclouds,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Joe Eisma. Cheryl and Jason Blossom arrive in town and engineer an elaborate plot to meet Archie, having received a misleading account of him from Veronica, Meanwhile, Veronica uses trickery to get out of her boarding school and back to Riverdale. This issue was okay, but it was just lighthearted fun, unlike the more serious stories that followed it. Seeing the name Joe Eisma reminds me that Morning Glories has been on an indefinite hiatus for several years, not that I really care.

SUPERMAN: REBIRTH #1 (DC, 2016) – “Superman: Rebirth,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. Like Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1, this issue is a terrible starting point, requiring far too much knowledge of previous storylines and providing no explanations. Superman himself doesn’t appear in the issue at all. The issue focuses on Lana and the Superman from a different Earth, presumably the post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint Earth, as they search for the real Superman.

ARCHIE #19 (Archie, 2018) – “When All is Said and Done,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Veronica and Archie are on the outs. In order to find Veronica a boyfriend other than Archie, Mr. Lodge creates a phony achievement award competition for teenage boys, with the winner to be chosen by Veronica. Jughead engineers a plan to get Archie and Veronica back together, and in gratitude, Veronica gives Jughead the achievement award. This was a funny and touching issue, but again, it was forgettable compared to “Over the Edge.”

I HATE FAIRYLAND #18 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Duncan Dragon and Larry team up to recruit Gert to defeat Dark Cloudia. This was a very average issue.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #4 (DC, 2018) – “Doomtown,” as above. Huckleberry Hound is sleeping with a male police horse. The same horse is forced to participate in a raid on the Stonewall bar, in which Huck is caught. Meanwhile, SP introduces his wife to his boyfriend. The issue begins and ends with scenes depicting a nuclear test. This series is better than Prez, and at least as good as Flintstones; it’s a very moving depiction of love, politics, art, and queer identity. Too bad about the awful Sasquatch Detective backup.

SECOND CITY #1 (Harrier, 1986) – “Contact” and other stories, [W] Paul Duncan, [A] Phil Elliott. I bought this at 2nd & Charles because it was 25 cents and it was published by Harrier, a company that specialized in comics by British alternative cartoonists. It consists of four stories set in a city governed by clockwork. The Slings & Arrows guide gives this comic a poor review, which is unfortunately justified. Second City is similar to Mister X but worse, which and Mister X wasn’t that good to begin with. However, Phil Elliott’s art is very appealing.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Libretto,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Mat teams up with… I guess her name is Miss Bette, who wants him to recover Xavier’s manuscript in exchange for information on Xavier’s murder. And it turns out Bette is also a black woman passing as white. And then some cop steals the manuscript. At this point I’m getting curious about what exactly is in that manuscript that makes it such a hot potato. From a tweet Mat Johnson posted, I just learned that he himself is a black man who can pass for white. So perhaps the reason this comic has such power and verisimilitude is that it’s inspired by personal experience.

THE FROGMEN #9 (Dell, 1964) – “The Strange Experiment of Doctor Vogar,” [W] Don Segall, [A] Mike Sekowsky. I’m glad I own this comic because it’s old, but it’s also boring as hell. In this issue, our protagonists, two scuba divers, are kidnapped by a mad scientist who’s breeding giant undersea creatures. Don Segall is better known for writing some really weird issues of Kona, but he shows none of that brilliance here, and the only redeeming quality of this comic is Sekowsky’s depictions of undersea life.

 

Tentative Eisner votes

The Eisner nominees were released today. Here are my preliminary thoughts on how I might vote, with the caveat that there are lots of nominees I haven’t read. My comments are in parentheses.

Best Short Story
Best Single Issue/One-Shot
  • Pope Hats #5, by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse Books)

(I’m thrilled that this was nominated. I thought it was easily the best comic book of the year.)

Best Continuing Series
  • The Wicked + The Divine, by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (Image)

(I read or am reading all five of the nominees, but few if any of them are among my personal top five. I think Saga should be nominated every year.)

Best Limited Series
  • The Flintstones, by Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Rick Leonardi, and Scott Hanna (DC)

(World of Wakanda didn’t deserve to be nominated.)

Best New Series
  • Royal City, by Jeff Lemire (Image)
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Good Night, Planet, by Liniers (Toon Books)
Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12)
  • The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill (Oni)

(I didn’t read any of the nominees in either category.)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • Spinning, by Tillie Walden (First Second)

(Again I’m sorry not to see Lumberjanes nominated. Spinning is an easy winner and probably the second best book of the year.)

Best Humor Publication
  • Baking with Kafka, by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)

(Tough choice between this and Flintstones.)

Best Anthology
  • Now #1, edited by Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

(I haven’t even heard of any of the others.)

Best Reality-Based Work
  • Spinning, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
Best Graphic Album—New
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

(I haven’t read the others, but this was far and away the best comic of the year.)

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
  • Boundless, by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

(Haven’t read this yet, but it looks great.)

Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • Beowulf, adapted by Santiago García and David Rubín (Image)

(Haven’t read any of these.)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • Flight of the Raven, by Jean-Pierre Gibrat, translated by Diana Schutz and Brandon Kander (EuroComics/IDW)

(I have this but haven’t read it yet. IDW deserved more than one nomination.)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • Golden Kamuy, by Satoru Noda, translated by Eiji Yasuda (VIZ Media)

(Haven’t read any of the others. The Fantagraphics Moto Hagio books are way too expensive.)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
  • Foolish Questions and Other Odd Observations, by Rube Goldberg, edited by Peter Maresca and Paul C. Tumey (Sunday Press Books)
Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
  • The Collected Neil the Horse, by Arn Saba/Katherine Collins, edited by Andy Brown (Conundrum)

(I haven’t seen this but it deserves to be back in print.)

Best Writer
  • Jeff Lemire, Black Hammer (Dark Horse); Descender (Image)

(I was thinking Tom King instead, but I haven’t read any of his work this year other than Mister Miracle, and he’ll probably be nominated for that again next year.)

Best Writer/Artist
  • Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)
Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
  • David Rubín, Black Hammer #9 & #12, Ether, Sherlock Frankenstein #1–3 (Dark Horse); Beowulf (Image)
Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)
  • Sana Takeda, Monstress (Image)

(Jean-Pierre Gibrat is incredible, but I don’t think he should win an Eisner for a book that was originally published in 2002.)

Best Cover Artist
  • Nick Derington, Mister Miracle (DC); Doom Patrol (DC Young Animal)

(With the shift away from periodicals to graphic novels, this award should maybe be retired soon.)

Best Coloring
  • Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)
Best Lettering
  • Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)
Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
  • Hogan’s Alley, edited by Tom Heintjes

(Mostly because I know him)

Best Comics-Related Book
  • How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels, by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden (Fantagraphics)

(I really need to get this)

Best Academic/Scholarly Work
  • The Comics of Charles Schulz: The Good Grief of Modern Life, edited by Jared Gardner and Ian Gordon (University Press of Mississippi)

(I haven’t seen any of these, so I’ll go with the one that’s edited by my own editor. My own book will be eligible for this category next year.)

Best Publication Design
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics)

(X-Men: Grand Design should have been nominated.)

Best Digital Comic
  • Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain/comiXology)
Best Webcomic

Over 100 reviews

As usual I have over 100 comics to review. Let’s get started.

BLACK PANTHER #11 (Marvel, 1999) – “Enemy of the State, Book Three,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mark D. Bright. This issue is an early appearance of Nakia and Okoye, and is notable for a scene where Nakia fakes Monica Lynne’s death. There’s also a flashback where Nakia interrupts T’Challa and Monica while they’re getting romantic. Nakia as depicted in this comic is a fascinating but largely negative character, whose primary motivation is jealousy that T’Challa thinks he’s too old for her. The film’s version of Nakia seems to have little in common with the comic version but the name.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #119 (Marvel, 1985) – “Daughter of the Dragon King,” [W] Jim Owsley, [A] Mark D. Bright. This is an early work by Owsley/Priest. Most of it consists of an extended flashback to Danny’s past in K’un L’un and that of his parents. It’s difficult to understand, and not especially good.

HOOK JAW #1 (Titan, 2016) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Conor Boyle. A revival of a classic ‘70s British comic that was cancelled for excessive violence. It’s the same idea as Jaws, except that it takes place in the Indian Ocean. It’s full of funny gore and violence, and Spurrier deserves credit for depicting Somali pirates as people with realistic motivations, rather than faceless criminals.

KILL OR BE KILLED #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue introduces a policewoman named Lily who’s figured out that there’s a serial killer (Dylan) who’s been murdering evil people. But her supervisors refuse to believe her theory. Lily is an interesting character, and Brubaker effectively depicts the struggle she faces as a woman in a male-dominated profession. But I kind of sympathize with her bosses, who don’t have the benefit of knowing that Lily’s theory is correct, as the reader does. For them it could just be a crackpot theory.

BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2000) – “Smash,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Sal Velluto. Everett battles the Hulk alongside T’Challa’s new bodyguard, Queen Divine Justice, who is woke AF before that term existed. Back in Wakanda, Everett is forced to lead a ceremonial elephant hunt. Meanwhile, T’Challa encounters an old lover of his. Killmonger returns at the end of the issue. After reading this issue, I’ve now read all the Priest Black Panthers that I have, and it’ll be difficult to get more. The one unfortunate thing about the success of the movie is that old Black Panther comics are now going to go way up in value, especially the first appearances of characters like Nakia and Okoye.

New comics received on February 23:

FENCE #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. This has become one of my favorite current titles, and I may write an entire article or review essay about it. This issue, the tryouts for the team begin, but Nicholas gets his ass kicked in his first match, thanks to excessive anxiety.

SEX CRIMINALS #22 (Image, 2018) – “Follow the Honey,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This issue is full of plot developments that I don’t remember clearly. In particular, Suzie apparently makes contact with her father’s ghost. The best moment in this issue was Suzie saying that Uber and Lyft “don’t exist in this continuity.”

MULTIPLE WARHEADS: GHOST THRONE #1 (Image, 2018) – “Ghost Throne,” [W/A] Brandon Graham. A new Brandon Graham comic is always cause for celebration. This oversized issue is the conclusion to the story that ran intermittently in Island. Its plot is hard to follow, as usual with Brandon, but it’s full of gorgeous compositions, beautiful women, and cute puns and sight gags. I hope there will be more Multiple Warheads or King City soon.

LUKE CAGE #170 (Marvel, 2018) – “Danielle’s Fairy Tale,” [W] David Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. (That’s not the actual title.) David Walker’s last issue of Luke Cage is also his best,  besides the Sweet Christmas Special. David didn’t get many opportunities to write Danielle Cage, probably because Bendis had dibs on her. To help Danielle deal with bullying at preschool, Luke tells her a story, except Danielle tells most of the story herself. David clearly has firsthand experience with children this age, because Danielle’s dialogue and thought processes seem totally realistic. This comic has echoes of both X-Men #153 (with Jessica secretly listening to the fairy tale from outside the room) and Axe Cop (because of the bizarre narrative logic), and it’s incredibly fun. Danielle’s age is inconsistent between this series and Jessica Jones, but who cares.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #5 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Kiss,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. Sunshine finds herself in an undersea realm, where the queen, Pavarti (a misspelling of Parvati?), uses a scrying pool to show her a vision of her former crewmates. Sunshine watches as Raven and Ximena almost kiss, and summons a lightning bolt to break them up. Meanwhile, Zoe writes a terrible love poem for Quinn.

DESCENDER #27 (Image, 2018) – “Old Worlds 1 of 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. By the time I read #28, which I will review below, I had totally forgotten about this issue. It takes place 4000 years before the main timeline, and stars Master Professor Osris from the planet of Ostrakon, who discovers a race of intelligent machines. The significance of this will be clear next issue, but maybe the reason I couldn’t remember anything about this issue was because I couldn’t tell how it was connected to the rest of the series. I think there’s an Optimus Prime cameo appearance on the last page.

When I returned from work on Wednesday, February 28, I was very surprised to find my new comics shipment waiting for me. That’s the first time in years that I’ve gotten new comics on Wednesday – usually they show up on Friday – and I’m not sure how it happened.

SAGA #49 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. I am of course thrilled to have Saga back, but not much happened in this issue. Prince Robot considers letting Upsher and Doff reveal Hazel’s existence, and Hazel gets in a fight with Squire and Ghüs.

LUMBERJANES #47 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This was a fun issue, with lots of cute animals and a sentient tornado. But this issue felt less rich and dense than earlier issues. There weren’t as many funny jokes or sight gags, and there wasn’t much character development either. I hope the next storyline will be a bit more substantial.

RAT QUEENS #8 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. This issue didn’t make any sense at first. In one storyline, the Rat Queens invade a dungeon full of snail creatures, and Hannah engages in a level of wanton cruelty that’s disturbing even in this series. In another storyline, Hannah is sent to some kind of wizard prison. And all the Rat Queens except Betty seem to have forgotten that Violet exists. Things become a little clearer when the Cheech Wizard character shows up, and the issue ends with the line “Sometimes love isn’t enough,” which was the last line of the previous volume of the series. So it seems like the confusing nature of this story arc is deliberate, but I wish it would be explained soon.

ABBOTT #2 (Boom!, 2018) – “Do Right Woman,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. This was a bit less impressive than issue one, but still very good. Abbott travels around Detroit looking for information on the murder from last issue, and encounters various magical phenomena. The magic in this series is almost gratuitous; I feel like this comic would be good enough if it were just an investigation of racial politics in ‘70s Detroit. (Here I may be repeating something I read in someone else’s review.)

MOTOR CRUSH #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart, [W/A] Babs Tarr. I don’t remember this one very well. Domino and some friends invade a casino to rescue Domino’s dad, then Juli shows up via the pyramid and destroys the casino. This issue was just OK, I guess.

DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Star Child,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Another Black Hammer spinoff. This series’s protagonist is heavily based on James Robinson’s portrayal of Starman/Ted Knight, and is actually named James “Jimmy” Robinson. After discovering a cosmic power source, Dr. Robinson becomes so obsessed that he neglects his wife and child, and then he becomes a member of the Black Hammer version of the Justice Society. At the end of the issue, he visits his son in hospice. This was a pretty good issue, but I don’t see how it fits into the overall narrative of Black Hammer.

LOCKJAW #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Who’s a Good Boy?”, [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. I was excited when Marvel announced a Lockjaw solo title, and this debut issue did not disappoint. As expected, this issue is incredibly cute – among other things, it includes a battle between Lockjaw and D-Man and a squad of flying alien hamsters.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #11 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The Pillars arrive at Mistmane’s greenhouse, where they get in a big fight with Mistmane’s plants. Then Mistmane joins the team, and they encounter Starswirl. This was a good issue, but not spectacular.

THE MIGHTY THOR #704 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Gospel According to Jane,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. While the Mangog is beating the crap out of Asgard’s defenders, Jane reminisces about her life. Jason Aaron takes this opportunity to answer a question that’s been bothering me for a long time: What happened to Jane’s husband and son? I even asked Jason this question at Heroes Con, and I’ve forgotten what exactly he said, but he gave me the impression that he wasn’t ever going to mention these characters. Well, in this issue we learn that Keith and Jimmy were killed in a car accident. This is a shocking revelation, especially given how long it was deferred. At the end of the issue, Jane accepts the inevitability of fate and becomes Thor for the final time. This is a powerful but very dark issue, with the only comic relief coming from Thori’s obsessive pursuit of anyone with a hammer. Overall, this is an excellent chapter of the best Thor comic since the ‘80s – more on that later.

SUPER SONS #13 (DC, 2018) – “The Parent Trap! Part One,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. I can’t remember much about this issue. Damian and Jon are going to the same boarding school for some reason. Talia shows up at their school, and Damian and Jon learn that she’s accepted a contract to kill Lois.

DEPT. H #23 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. On her way to the surface, Mia thinks about all the evidence and realizes that the killer is Blake. He got rid of Hari to ensure that no one could cure the plague, because he (Blake) wants to kill half the world’s population. As usual, people who are worried about overpopulation are only willing to solve the problem by killing other people, never themselves. The issue ends with Mia struggling to reach the surface.

HEATHEN #1 (Comixology, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. I saw some positive reviews of this comic on Twitter, and remembered that I had gotten the first issue of it at NYCC – it was a free comic distributed at the Comixology booth. This series is a gender-swapped version of Siegfried, in which a female warrior tries to rescue Brunhilde from the magic fire. It feels like a very progressive and queer story, and Alterici’s art is fascinating. Her style is hard to describe, but it feels both line-drawn and painted at once. It appears that this series was initially published only on Comixology, but is now being released in print form by Vault. I ordered the latest issue, and will be looking for the others.

DEE VEE #1 (Dee Vee, 1997) – various stories, [E] Marcus Moore & Daren White. An anthology of Australian comics. The lead story is by Eddie Campbell, and I believe it was later incorporated into Alec: How to Be an Artist. Most of the other stories in the issue are quite short and insubstantial. Besides Eddie, creators represented in this issue include Pete Mullins and Bruce Mutard.

MONSTRESS #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika tries to activate the Pontus shield, but instead destroys it. Meanwhile, Kippa discovers a refugee camp full of other foxes. More on this series later.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “A Feast of Forbidden Flesh,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Diana defies her mother’s orders and leads an Amazon army to help Conan. They free the slaves, including Yanna. But it turns out Yanna is already married with children, so she and Conan don’t end up together. Then, in the present day, Diana encounters a man who looks a lot like Conan. I wonder if Gail was thinking of the “Conan the Salaryman” Twitter account here – I doubt it though. Overall, this issue is a slightly weak conclusion. I think Gail has trouble writing satisfactory conclusions, though I can’t think of any other specific examples of this problem.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Don’t Let Them Take You Alive: Teenage Kcks, Part One,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. This is the only Black Crown title whose creators are completely new to me. I took a bit of a risk by ordering it, but I trust Shelly Bond’s ability to spot talent, and it turns out that this is a pretty good comic. It stars a lonely, fatherless teenage boy who encounters the ghost of Sid Vicious. It’s a fun comic that makes good use of ‘70s nostalgia, and Simmonds’s art style is distinctive and unique.

SUPERB #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”, [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Alitha Martinez. Corinna betrays Kayla and Jonah and summons her other teammates to recapture them. This is still a funny and cute comic, but its plot has been moving very slowly. I think the last five or six issues have all taken place on the same day.

KID LOBOTOMY #5 (Black Crown, 2018) – “The Boy with Two Hearts,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This series gets more confusing with every issue. This issue, lots of confusing stuff happens, Adam Mee shoots his own hand off, Kid Lobotomy is renamed “Milligan,” and then he falls into a hole into some kind of desert filled with goblins.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #2 (Tower, 1966) – “Dynamo Battles Dynavac,” [W] Len Brown, [A] Wally Wood, plus other stories. Most of this issue’s stories revolve around the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents’ battle with the Warlord, who dies at the end of the issue, except it turns out he was just one member of an entire alien race of Warlords. Wally Wood’s amazing artwork is the primary appeal of the issue. Also, Alice and Kitten get a few chances to do useful stuff rather than just being hostages. Some of the non-Woody stories in this issue are a bit tedious.

ONI DOUBLE FEATURE #13 (Oni, 1999) – Jingle Belle in “Sanity Clauses,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Stephen DiStefano, and “The Honor Rollers, Part 2,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Tom Fowler. This is the last issue and is billed as “Dini Double Feature” on the cover. In the first story, Jing struggles to win her father’s respect, only to immediately forfeit it once she gets it. The backup story isn’t as good; it makes no sense if you haven’t read the previous issue.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2=Fantastic Three, Part 4: Three is Not Enough,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella, Ben and Johnny defeat the Super-Skrull with help from the Silver Surfer, then because of some complicated handwaving, Lunella needs to recruit a fourth member for her Fantastic Four. This storyline has been much less impressive than the previous one.

BLACK PANTHER #170 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 11,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. While the fight goes on, Changamire has a long conversation with Killmonger. Asira shows up at the end of the issue. Google indicates that this is the same character as Queen Divine Justice. I can’t remember much about this issue now, and I think Avengers of the New World has been going on way too long. Ta-Nehisi ought to end it already and move on to something else.

ROYAL CITY #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. All four Pikes go to a party where Tara has an uncomfortable conversation with her babydaddy, and Tommy loses his virginity. So I guess there are two possibilities as to which of the siblings is the parent of Patrick’s niece. Or even three, because who knows what Richie’s been up to.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #5 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo defeats Helsingard with help from his drones and ALAN. I don’t remember who ALAN is, but apparently he appeared in Ghost of Station X, and he was an evil AI created by Alan Turing. At the end of the issue, the drones introduce themselves as ALAN. The best thing about this issue may be the cover, which shows Robo’s two assistants looking in a bathroom mirror.

MOTHERLANDS #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Two,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Stephen Byrne. This is only issue 2 and it already has a guest artist, which is not a good sign. And speaking of the art, I couldn’t initially tell that the assassin at the end of the issue was supposed to be tiny in size. This issue, Tabitha and her mother continue their quest for Tabitha’s brother. This series is okay, but not as exciting as Spire or Angelic.

THE TERRIFICS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ivan Reis. This issue introduces DC’s version of the Fantastic Four, consisting of Mr. Terrific, Phantom Girl/Lady, Plastic Man, and Metamorpho. This is a very entertaining comic and a good debut issue. However, it comes with two major annoyances. First, Phantom Girl is probably my favorite Legionnaire, and I’m annoyed that the Phantom Girl in this series is Tinya Wazzo in everything but name. Why couldn’t they have just named her Tinya instead of “Linnya”? It’s not as if DC had any other plans for the original Tinya Wazzo, and there’s a long tradition of Legionnaires getting stuck in the 20th century. Second, Tom Strong appears at the end of the issue. Incorporating Tom Strong into the DC Universe is not as much of a crime as incorporating the Watchmen into the DC Universe. Tom Strong has already been written by writers other than Alan Moore, with Alan’s full support. However, Alan went to great lengths to ensure that the ABC characters wouldn’t become DC’s property, even when DC unexpectedly bought Wildstorm, and it’s very annoying that Alan wasn’t able to protect his characters from DC. Neither of these annoyances are bad enough to get me to stop reading Terrifics, but they do diminish my enjoyment of this series.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #144 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (Spending Money), [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This is one of the oldest comics I own. Just after I moved to Oxford, I bought this and two other old duck comics from a local antique store, at a very cheap price. Somehow I never got around to actually reading them, but I feel proud just to own them. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Scrooge has too much money to keep anywhere, so he hires Donald to spend the excess money. Scrooge and the nephews go out and make all sorts of wasteful purchases, but it turns out that they made all the purchases at businesses Scrooge already owns, so Scrooge ends up with more money than he started with. This story can be read as a satire or reductio ad absurdum of capitalism. Barks said that if Scrooge really existed, he would never spend any money and would steadily grow richer while everyone else grew poorer. (I don’t know the source for this quotation; I read it in Ana Merino’s El comic hispanico, where it’s quoted from Charles Bergquist’s Labor and the Course of American Democracy, but I don’t know where Bergquist got it.) This story illustrates that point. The other stories in this issue are much worse, and one of them, starring Little Hiawatha, is horribly racist.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #9 (DC, 1989) – “Second Chances,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Speaking of characters who aren’t Phantom Girl… This is a fun comic with a lot of concurrent plotlines, but is most notable for introducing Phase, who was clearly supposed to be Phantom Girl. This character was later retconned multiple times: first she was revealed to be Tinya’s cousin, Enya Wazzo, and then it turned out that Apparition was half Cargggite and Phase was one of her three bodies. This sort of convoluted continuity is why if DC ever revives the Legion, they should just restart it from scratch.

DOOM PATROL #31 (DC, 1990) – “The Word Made Flesh,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Will Magnus builds a new body for Robotman. Willoughby Kipling, a character rather similar to John Constantine, enlists the Doom Patrol to help him defeat the Cult of the Unwritten Book. This was an okay issue.

DINOSAUR REX #3 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Henry Mayo. I don’t know what I expected from this comic, but I certainly didn’t expect a P.G. Wodehouse parody with dinosaurs. It works surprisingly well, though – but I guess P.G. Wodehouse can be mashed up with just about any genre. More specifically, this issue is about a rich, airheaded dinosaur hunter with an extremely competent lizard butler. It’s a very entertaining and funny story, and it’s too bad this series has been completely forgotten. This issue also has a backup story, “The Dragons of Summer,” by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake.

FRENCH ICE #4 (Renegade, 1987) – Carmen Cru in “Sunday Afternoon” and other stories, [W/A] Jean-Marc Lelong. I buy a lot of comic books, and as a result I have a lot of unread comic books – about seven and a half long boxes of them, at the moment. My unread comics are organized in the order in which I bought them, so the comics I bought the least recently are the furthest back. French Ice #4 was at the very back of the last box. I bought several issues of this series some years ago, but never read most of them. After finally reading this issue, I understand why. This issue contains a series of stories about a hideous old crone living in some French city. Lelong’s artwork is quite realistic, but these stories all have the same joke: that Carmen Cru is an awful old battleaxe who drives all her neighbors crazy and doesn’t care. Reading several of these stories in succession is very tedious. It would have been better if this series had been an anthology, with one Carmen Cru story per issue, plus stories by other artists.

BATGIRL #20 (DC, 2018) – “Cold Snap, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Sami Basri. While trying to figure out who hacked some weather satellites, Batgirl discovers the Penguin’s plot to brainwash Gotham’s citizens into trusting him. It turns out the other villain behind the plot is the Penguin’s son, who is pissed at Batgirl for giving him a scar. This issue’s plot reminds me a bit of that of Batman Returns. The highlight of this issue is when Babs tells the mayor that “something smells fishy,” meaning it metaphorically. And the mayor replies “of course” and points to the Penguin’s penguins, who are being fed raw fish.

ARCHIE #26 (Archie, 2018) – “If I Could Reach His Face,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. Archie and Veronica have a heart-to-heart talk which ends with Veronica asking him to choose her or Betty. Meanwhile, Dilton professes his love to Betty and asks her to choose him or Archie. I know I complain about Mark Waid a lot, but the issues of Archie from #20 onward are perhaps the best-written Archie comics I’ve ever read. They’re funny and powerful at once. I should also note that this issue includes an effective critique of the sexist notion of the “friend zone.”

NOW #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – many stories, [E] Eric Reynolds. This counts as a comic book because it has an issue number and it fits inside a longbox. This anthology is a collection of a wide variety of avant-garde comics, some very abstract and others more straightforward. Highlights include: Eleanor Davis’s “Hurt or Fuck” makes little logical sense but is beautiful to look at. Dash Shaw’s “Scorpio” is a possibly autobiographical story in which a baby is born on election night in 2016, while his father is obsessively checking exit poll results. At the end, the father doesn’t have the heart to tell the mother who won. This is kind of heartbreaking. Jean-Christophe Menu’s “SOS Suitcases” feels like an account of a dream, but is beautifully drawn. Noah Van Sciver’s “Wall of Shame” was my favorite story of the issue. Noah returns to his hometown for an art show, but the trip is ruined by his brother’s boorish behavior (not his best-known brother, another one). The story is an insightful and honest account of a complicated sibling relationship. Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s “Widening Horizon” is an interesting piece of alternate history.

A1 #4 (Atomeka, 1990) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. There’s lots of interesting stuff in this issue, although it’s much more uneven than Now #1. One section of the issue is devoted to rare work by Moebius, including an autobiographical story from 1974 in which Moebius is interviewed. There’s also a new Dalgoda story by Jan Strnad and Kevin Nowlan, which was a surprise, since I had thought I’d read all of Dalgoda. This story appears to take place after Flesh & Bones. This issue includes two stories I’ve read elsewhere: “A Lot on His Plate” by John Bolton, and “Song of the Terraces” from the Bojeffries Saga. After rereading the latter, I had the refrain “Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Guardian, Sun” running through my head. Other stories in this issue feature art by Jamie Hewlett, Phil Elliott and Glenn Fabry.

THE BEEF #1 (Image, 2018) – “Mudsville,” [W] Richard Starkings & Tyler Shainline, [A] Shaky Kane. This miniseries stars a bullied young boy who grows up to work at a slaughterhouse, while still being tormented by his childhood bullies. After a lifetime of emotional abuse and of absorbing chemicals from beef, he turns into the Hulk, more or less. This issue’s plot is surprisingly effective, although the highlight is Shaky Kane’s Kirbyesque art and his impressive sense of design.

KILL OR BE KILLED #7 (Image, 2017) – “What Kira Sees,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan’s girlfriend Kira goes to a therapist and discusses her traumatic family history. Then she talks with her old, sick mother, who’s in the hospital. This issue is an effective exploration of Kira’s psychology, but I didn’t remember much about it before I looked at it again.

WEIRD SCIENCE #6 (EC, 1951/1993) – four stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This issue begins with Al Feldstein’s “Spawn of Venus.” This story is not bad, but Wally Wood did a better version of it, which went unpublished until 1969. The highlight of the issue is Kurtzman’s “Man and Superman,” which stars two brothers-in-law: Niels Urey Vannever, a nerd (probably named after Niels Bohr, Harold Urey and Vannevar Bush), and Charlemagne Farbish, a bodybuilder. Charlemagne tries to use a machine built by Niels to increase his body mass, but kills himself. While this story’s plot is kind of dumb, Kurtzman does a brilliant job of contrasting Niels and Charlemagne, while also showing that they’re both equally awful. I was reading Bridget Blodgett and Anastasia Salter’s book Toxic Geek Masculinity when I read this comic, and “Man and Superman” is a perfect demonstration of that book’s thesis that geek masculinity is potentially just as bad as normative masculinity. Of the other stories in the issue, Woody’s “The Sinking of the Titanic” is super-predictable but well-drawn, and Jack Kamen’s “Divide and Conquer” is really creepy.

KILL OR BE KILLED #12 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan tracks down Tino, a member of the Russian mob, and gets a bunch of information out of Tino before killing him. Tino tells Dylan that the mob will never stop looking for him because he killed the big boss’s cousin. This was not the most memorable issue.

KILL OR BE KILLED #13 (Image, 2017) – as above. Dylan and Kira go to Dylan’s mother’s house, where Dylan looks through his dad’s old artwork for clues about the demon that’s possessing him. Then Dylan goes off to hunt down the big boss, and that leads us to the point of the flashforward from issue 1.

THE HIGHEST HOUSE #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 1,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. I was surprised to discover that this comic is magazine-sized, and that it takes place in a medieval fantasy world, rather than present-day Earth. I expected something more like Locke & Key. This comic’s protagonist is a poor boy who is sold as a slave to the master of the namesake house. He gets trained to be a roofer, but he obviously has some kind of magic powers. I’m curious to see where this is going.

ZERO ZERO #6 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. The clear highlight of this anthology comic is Kim Deitch’s “The Strange Secret of Molly O’Dare.” This is a very typical Deitch comic. It blends fairy-tale fantasy with Hollywood nostalgia, and has a framing sequence starring Kim himself. Like much of Kim’s work, it’s also very creepy, sordid and unsettling. This story was later collected in the book Shadowland, along with the series of that name, which also stars Molly O’Dare. The other longer stories in this issue are by Bob Richard Sala and Ted Stearn. Besides Deitch, the creators represented in Zero Zero seem to have been among the lesser Fantagraphics artists, and I actively disliked the Ted Stearn story in this issue.

CHEVAL NOIR #19 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. I have a bunch of issues of this series, but I haven’t been reading them because they’re quite long. This series included a wide variety of excellent French comics plus some Anglophone material, although unfortunately it was in black and white, and some of the material in it was really meant to be seen in color. This issue includes chapters of Andreas’s Rork, Rosinski and Van Hamme’s The Great Power of the Chninkel, Cosey’s Voyage to Italy, and Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec. I’m already familiar with a couple of these, but I was really impressed by the Cosey story, and I want to read the rest of this album. However, the Rork story was confusing and abstract and difficult to understand. The low point of this issue was a chapter of Marvano’s overly literal and uninspired adaptation of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

NOW #2 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – various stories, [E] Eric Reynolds. This wasn’t as good as issue 1.  The best stories were Tommi Musturi’s “Samuel,” Susan Jonaitis and Graham Chaffee’s “Sharpshooter,” and Ariel López V’s “A Perfect Triangle,” and none of them were as good as the Van Sciver story from #1. Some of the other stories in this issue were really not to my taste. James Turek’s 30-page “Saved” makes no sense and is drawn in an ugly style. Another big chunk of the issue is taken up by Fabio Zimbres’s “The Apocalypse According to Dr. Zerg,” originally published as a minicomic in Brazil. Matt Madden translated it, and he really likes it, but I don’t share his enthusiasm. I suppose this story has an interesting message about capitalism, but it’s so crudely drawn that the message is hard to appreciate.

My next new comics shipment arrived on March 9:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #34 (Image, 2018) – “The Grace of Loving Machines,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. We begin with a flashback to 6000 years ago, when Ananke kills her own sister and collects her head, adding it to a bag of other severed heads. I guess that sort of explains why Minerva was also collecting severed heads, but I still have no idea what’s going  on here.

MECH CADET YU #7 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. It turns out that Central Command is murdering robots in order to use their hearts for a super-robot. Stanford tries to stop this evil plot, with unexpected assistance from Park. The revelation that Central Command is killing robots is disappointing, but somehow not surprising; we’ve already seen that this organization is somewhat corrupt and non-transparent.

DODGE CITY #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. This is an attractively drawn comic with a multicultural cast, including a rare example of a Sikh character. However, this comic suffers from a lack of clarity. It’s about a dodgeball team, but I can’t tell if it’s a professional or a high school team, or if the characters are adults or teens. In general, there’s not enough background on the characters. So far, this comic is very similar to Slam, but worse.

ASSASSINISTAS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Don’t Find Me – I’m Allergic to You!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. In the present day, Octavia, Dominic and Tyler’s rescue mission continues. In the flashback, we learn that Roz has a daughter, Roxana. This was another really fun issue of what has become a very entertaining series, especially compared to some of Beto’s other recent works like Blubber.

GIANT DAYS #36 (Boom!, 2018) – “Daisy Finally Comes to Her Senses,” [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. That’s not the real title. The main event of this issue is that Daisy finally breaks up with Ingrid, who outs Daisy to her grandmother in revenge. A subplot involves Esther and her Middle English class. The best moment of the issue is when Esther says “Wel oghten we to doon al oure entente,” and it’s lettered in Gothic lettering.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Esther and Prince Aki reach the treasure, but it turns out that the dude with the two dogs got there first, and that he, like Lu, is a dragon. This leads to a giant fight scene, which includes the best line in the issue: “Am I the only one here who isn’t a dragon?” Unfortunately, the storytelling in the fight scene is less clear than it could have been. At the end of the issue, Lu and her companions go their separate ways, but this isn’t the last issue. I guess the next storyline will focus on Lu alone.

BINGO LOVE (Image, 2018) – “Bingo Love,” [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. Bingo Love is of the best and most important comics of 2018. Its story and artwork are straightforward, appealing and accessible, but it explores characters and experiences that are completely invisible in most other comics. It tells the story of two black girls who fall in love as teenagers, but who are separated and forced into marriage by their families, and don’t meet again until they’ve both become grandmothers. As a queer, disabled black woman, Tee Franklin has firsthand knowledge that’s unavailable to most comic creators, who tend to be straight white non-disabled men, and she effectively conveys that knowledge. Another thing that struck me about Bingo Love is that it’s about black people, but it’s not about racism. It’s unquestionably an African-American story – it relies on cultural practices and beliefs that are specific to African-Americans. But it’s not about the African-American struggle for freedom. The oppression that the characters struggle against is black homophobia, not white racism – indeed, there are almost no white people in the book. This is important because as pointed out in Denene Millner’s NYT article “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time,” black readers need books that explore all aspects of their experience. Bingo Love shows black people leading rich emotional lives that are not defined solely by racism, and we need comics like that, as well as comics like March.

A couple minor criticisms are that Tee Franklin’s dialogue is occasionally somewhat wooden, and that one important plot point is left out; to learn James’s secret, the reader has to read Bingo Love: Secrets, which isn’t out yet. However, it’s pretty clear that James’s secret is that he too is gay – notice that he never mentions his lover’s gender. Also, this story covers a very long timeframe, and a lot of important events happen off-panel. Usually this is fine, because the main focus of the book is Hazel and Mari’s relationship, and the other aspects of their lives aren’t as important. But it does feel like handwaving when Hazel says “We eventually started family therapy. It took some time, but our family healed.” I feel like that event is important enough that it deserved more than a single dialogue box.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Cotton,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Here, on the other hand, is a black-authored comic that’s explicitly about racism – and I didn’t mean that such comics weren’t important, just that comics should depict other aspects of black life as well. This issue, Zane passes as white and infiltrates the Cotton Club to gather evidence, but he accomplishes nothing, and experiences both racism and hostility from other black people. (Though the scene where the coat check guy helps Zane escape is kind of touching.) Among the many brutal scenes in this issue, one that struck me was when the dude refuses to talk to Zane because he’s a reporter for the black press, not the “real press.” Unfortunately, that mentality is still common today.

HAWKEYE #16 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. A sweet conclusion to a series that really shouldn’t have been cancelled. Kate and Clint defeat Madame Masque, and Kate convinces Eden Blake to have a change of heart. And we learn that Kate’s mother is alive. And that’s the end. I really hope Kelly gets to tell the rest of this story somehow.

GREEN LANTERN #107 (DC, 1978) – “The Man Who Murdered Green Lantern!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Alex Saviuk. A bad fill-in story by a mediocre creative team. It guest-stars Air-Wave, who I think was Bob Rozakis’s pet character or something. There’s also a backup story starring Katma Tui. BTW, this story mentions how in Katma Tui’s first appearance, she decided to remain a Green Lantern rather than get married. Was this plot point mentioned when Katma actually did get married? I can’t remember.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. This issue begins with a flashback to the Antarctica story in X-Men #348, which I have never read – it was just after I quit reading X-Men – but now I kind of want to track it down. Then Rogue and Gambit have sex, which is rather heartwarming, since I grew up with these characters and I always assumed that their passion was hopeless. And then Rogue and Gambit fight a bunch of copies of themselves. The nice thing about this series is that it draws heavily upon the early ‘90s X-Men, but it’s better written than those X-Men comics were.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #17 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Duncan Dragon becomes a postal courier and delivers a package to a witch, who uses it to summon a demon, which I assume is Gert. This issue had some nice jokes, including the scene with the devil hanging out at the beach, but it was otherwise forgettable.

GIDEON FALLS #1 (Image, 2018) – “The Speed of Pain,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This is a new Jeff Lemire comic, so I have high expectations for it, but I’m not sure what’s going on in it. This issue has two storylines – one about a crazy man who collects nails, and another about a priest who takes over a church whose previous priest died mysteriously – and it’s not clear what these storylines have to do with each other.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Mr. Follow Follow,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Paul Renaud. T’Challa invites a bunch of foreign dignitaries to Wakanda, one of whom turns out to be the Soviet superheroine Darkstar, and she’s accompanied by the Winter Soldier. This was a pretty good issue, and it was interesting to compare the foreigners’ and the Wakandans’ reactions to each other. However, I had trouble remembering anything about this issue until I looked through it again just now.

TRUE BELIEVERS: VENOM VS. SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 1988/2018) – “Venom,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. I had never read this story before – an original copy of Amazing Spider-Man #300 is outside my price range, and somehow I’d never read it in reprinted form. This story is a classic, despite Todd’s exploitative depictions of Mary Jane. It has a lot of cute moments, like when Peter and MJ invite some friends to help them move, and one of the friends is Alfred E. Neuman. But the key themes of the story are Venom’s irrational hatred of Spider-Man and MJ’s traumatic reaction to being terrorized by Venom, and those themes come across powerfully.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #300 (Marvel, 2018) – “Showdown,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert & Juan Frigeri. This issue’s main story is essentially just a big long fight scene, which ends with Peter, Teresa and JJJ going back in time to acquire the technology they need to stop the Tinkerer’s plot. The backup story is far more memorable. The Black Cat proposes marriage to Spider-Man, but it turns out she just did it to throw off his spider-sense so she could escape from him with her loot. This scene is hilarious even if you don’t realize it’s a parody of the scene where Catwoman proposes to Batman.

NO BETTER WORDS #nn (Silver Sprocket, 2018) – “No Better Words,” [W/A] Carolyn Nowak. This small-format comic is also labeled as Silver #080. It’s a simple but very effective story about a young woman who has sex with her boyfriend for the first time. It’s a powerful, sex-positive depiction of female desire. I couldn’t remember where I’d heard of Carolyn Nowak before, but she’s drawn a bunch of Lumberjanes stories. Now I wish I’d ordered her upcoming collection Girl Town.

SHE-HULK #162 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Jen visits Flo for a therapy session. This comic reminds me of X-Factor #87 or Hulk #393, but it’s worse than either. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to Jen’s mental struggle, which is odd, since Mariko Tamaki’s depiction of Jen’s trauma has been the best thing about this series. Maybe I didn’t give this issue a fair chance.

SHE-HULK #163 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die” (again), [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. This was a better issue, and a reasonably satisfying conclusion to this run. Jen and Patsy attend a prom as guests of New York’s first mutant class president. The prom is invaded by anti-mutant terrorists. I like how this issue directly references alt-right terrorism.

CHEVAL NOIR #10 (Dark Horse, 1990) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. The highlight of this issue is a chapter of Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower, about a fat, awkward scholar who lives in an infinitely tall tower. Ever since I read a different chapter of this same album in another issue of Cheval Noir, I’ve been fascinated with Schuiten and Peeters. I wish IDW would get around to releasing a new edition of this album; they’re supposed to be publishing the entire Obscure Cities series, but only three volumes have come out so far, and no others have been solicited. The other impressive story in this issue is a chapter of Tardi and Legrand’s Roach Killer, which, like much of Tardi’s other work, is a gritty, disturbing film noir-esque mystery. This entire album is included in the Fantagraphics book New York Mon Amour. Of the other comics in this issue, Marvano’s Forever War adaptation is not good, Andreas’s Coutoo is difficult to understand, and Druillet and Lob’s Lone Sloane: Delirius is crippled by the lack of color.

MOEBIUS COMICS #5 (Caliber, 1997) – various stories. A collection of random Moebius material, including storyboards from some kind of film, and a silent story starring the characters from The World of Edena, and a Western story from the ‘50s which is one of Moebius’s earliest works. The second of these appeared in Concrete Celebrates Earth Day, so I must have read it before, but I don’t remember it. The Western story is undistinguished, but it does remind me that Moebius’s biggest influence was Jijé, probably the most important French cartoonist whose work has never appeared in English. This issue also includes two Moebius pastiches by Ladronn and Steve Leialoha.

CHEVAL NOIR #5 (Dark Horse, 1990) – as above. This issue includes chapters of three albums I’ve already read: Schuiten and Peeters’s Fever in Urbicand, Tardi’s The Demon of the Eiffel Tower, and Druillet’s Lone Sloane. Stories in this issue that are new to me include Eddie Campbell’s Eyeball Kid, Andreas’s Rork, and Cailleteau and Vatine’s Fred & Bob, which is pure crap.

JEREMIAH: THE HEIRS #2 (Malibu, 1991) – “The Heirs,” [W/A] Hermann. I read the first half of this album a while ago, and I had to reread it to remind myself what’s going on. Jeremiah is basically a post-apocalyptic Western about an itinerant gunslinger and his dumb sidekick. In this album, Jeremiah encounters some rich people who are forcing the local poor people to work for them or starve. Hermann’s action sequences are exciting, and his draftsmanship is excellent, though it reminds me a lot of Moebius. This reprint is in black and white, though, which makes the artwork difficult to parse. French comics are often difficult to read when reprinted in black and white, because they make such heavy use of color to distinguish objects from each other.

SUPERBOY #130 (DC, 1966) – “Prince Rama’s Super Stand-In!”, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] George Papp. Superboy visits a kingdom in Asia, presumably somewhere in India, whose prince is an exact double for him. This story is really dumb, and Siegel obviously knew nothing about India other than the most common stereotypes. The backup story, in which Superbaby tries to find a pet and causes all sorts of mayhem, is only a little better.

BLACK BOLT #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Midnight King Returns to Earth,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Titania chase Lash and the kidnapped Blinky to the ruined city of Orollan. Black Bolt has a partial reconciliation with Medusa. Blinky is possessed by the Jailer’s ghost. In this issue Christian Ward’s art and Saladin Ahmed’s prose style are really good, as usual. But I won’t miss this series all that much, because I know that both these creators are going on to other things.

BLACK BOLT #11 – as above. The battle continues. Inside the Jailer’s mind, Blinky encounters Black Bolt’s son, and they witness a scene from Black Bolt’s childhood. This issue is very similar to the previous issue, though that’s not a bad thing.

HATE #9 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Follow That Dream, Part 2,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy becomes the manager of Leonard/Stinky’s band, and takes advantage of his position in order to sleep with a girl and embezzle money. However, Buddy can’t stand Stinky’s music, or Stinky himself, for that matter. When the band goes on tour, tensions come to a head, and Stinky throws Buddy out of the van and abandons him in the middle of nowhere. And then the band also gets stuck in the middle of nowhere when the money runs out. This issue is a hilarious send-up of the early ‘90s alternative rock scene.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #291 (Western, 1964) – “Delivery Dilemma,” [W/A] Carl Barks, and other stories. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Scrooge signs a contract to deliver some eggs to a remote Pacific island. But it turns out the other party to the contract is the Beagle Boys, and Scrooge has to pay them his entire fortune if he can’t deliver the eggs. This leads to a thrilling chase where Scrooge does everything he can to reach the island, and the Beagle Boys do everything in their power to stop him or break the eggs. Oh, also it turns out the contract describes the eggs as rabbit eggs, which are logically impossible. This story is very similar to “The Doom Diamond” – they both include an ocean voyage to a remote island, and a technological arms race between Scrooge and the Beagle Boys. I wonder if Barks was running out of ideas. The only other interesting thing in this issue is a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry.

GIANT-SIZE CONAN #2 (Marvel, 1974) – “Conan Bound!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. In this chapter of an adaptation of The Hour of the Dragon, Conan meets his future queen, Zenobia, for the first time. This is a really impressive story, a powerful demonstration of Conan’s character and of Roy Thomas’s writing skills. Zenobia is an exciting character and you can see why Conan falls for her, even if she’s more traditionally feminine than Bêlit or Red Sonja. This story is not to be confused with Conan Annual #4, in which Conan goes back for Zenobia. Giant-Size Conan #2 also includes a reprint of “Zukala’s Daughter” from Conan #5, my least favorite issue of BWS’s run.

SELF-LOATHING COMICS #2 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “A Couple a’ Nasty, Raunchy Old Things,” [W/A] Robert Crumb & Aline Kominsky-Crumb. There is currently an ongoing debate on the comix-scholars list about Crumb’s legacy and his history of sexism and racism. This comic is one of Crumb’s less offensive works because it’s a collaboration with Aline, although it still contains some misogyny and some mild anti-Semitism. I feel like in order to enjoy Crumb, you have to make an effort to ignore or forgive his offensiveness, and it’s not fair to expect female or minority readers to make that effort. This issue also contains a bit too much obsessive navel-gazing. The value of this issue is its depiction of Bob and Aline’s relationship. It’s kind of heartwarming that they still find each other desirable after so many years of marriage. This issue also touches on their ambivalence about the fact that their daughter is growing up. Some panels in this issue are drawn by Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns and Pete Poplaski.

UNCANNY X-MEN #231 (Marvel, 1988) – “…Dressed for Dinner!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Rick Leonardi. A surprisingly enjoyable issue. Colossus visits Limbo to help out hs sister Magik, who still thinks he’s dead. Magik thinks Colossus is a demon she’s summoned and not the real thing, which makes the story extra poignant. The art is by Rick Leonardi, perhaps the most underrated Marvel artist of the ’80s and ‘90s. I don’t know why he never became a superstar; he was far more gifted than many other more famous artists.

TWISTED TALES #1 (Pacific, 1982) – variouus stories, [W] Bruce Jones. This horror anthology comic is very reminiscent of a classic EC comic. It consists of four stories with twist endings, and the first story even has Leroy lettering. My favorite is probably “A Walk in the Woods,” in which a couple gets lost in the woods and encounters situations from various fairy tales and nursery rhymes, ending with Jack and Jill. The best artwork is in Corben’s “Infected,” in which a man sleeps with a woman who has crabs, except not that kind of crabs. The story by Alfredo Alcala is disappointing because the quality of the artwork goes way down after the first page. The fourth story is about a boy who dies during a Halloween prank gone bad, and then comes back as a ghost and forces his murderers to go trick or treating with him.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #4 (Marvel, 2008) – “Deep Wounds,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. This issue continues Phil Seuling’s story into the ‘80s. Even more so than the original Marvels, this is a comic for hardcore fans. Nearly every page contains multiple references to ‘80s Marvel comics. To a reader like me, this comic offers unique pleasures, but it doesn’t offer much else besides that. A reader who didn’t get the references would miss most of the fun of this comic, and unlike the original Marvels, it’s not worth reading just for the art.

SUPERSTAR: AS SEEN ON TV #1 (Image, 2001) – “Superstar!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Stuart Immonen. This one-shot introduces a new superhero who gets his power from “bio-energy” donations from other people – so to maintain his superhero status, he has to be a celebrity, so that lots of people will give him their energy. This is a really interesting premise. However, Kurt doesn’t sufficiently explore the fascinating implications of Superstar’s powers, and Superstar himself is overshadowed by his father, a horrible sociopath who takes advantage of his son. Superstar’s relationship with his father overshadows everything else in the comic, and I kept wishing that Superstar would stop being such a doormat and that he’d just cut his dad off already. There’s also an implication that Superstar’s dad is actually bankrolling all his supervillains (which is a plot twist we’ve seen at least once in Astro City, such as in the Mock Turtle/Red Queen story), but this is never confirmed. A further question this comic raises is why it wasn’t an issue of Astro City, because it easily could have been. In a 2000 interview, Kurt was asked that exact question, and he replied:

“If I put Superstar into ASTRO CITY, he’d be an ASTRO CITY character. ASTRO CITY is a vehicle for exploring the genre and finding out what life is like within a superhero reality — it’s only secondarily about adventure and thrills. So that would change the tone of the stories I’d do right there. And if I did Superstar in ASTRO CITY, I’d only be able to tell stories about him every now and then, since he’d share the book with the rest of the cast of dozens of superheroes and millions of ordinary people.” (https://www.cbr.com/shockrockets-and-superstars-kurt-busiek-interview/)

I wonder if Kurt still stands behind that answer. I feel like Astro City is varied enough in tone that it could easily accommodate a character like Superstar. And the part about not wanting Superstar to share the spotlight with other characters is ironic, because Kurt unfortunately never published any other Superstar stories. If Superstar had been an Astro City character, Kurt would have been able to tell more stories about him, not fewer.

New comics received on March 19. This was a very short week because I didn’t get my new comics until Tuesday:

MISTER MIRACLE #7 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I’m a little annoyed that they skipped through Barda’s entire pregnancy, but the birth scene is thrilling and heartwarming, and is probably the best such scene in any comic book since Miracleman #9. As usual in this series, this issue combines cosmic characters with very mundane situations. I love the scenes with the Female Furies sitting in the waiting room. The use of the Fahren-Knife to cut the umbilical cord is a powerful scene, though I’m not sure what it means.

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” conclusion, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This was my favorite issue in a while, perhaps because there were few other new comics this week, so I was able to give this issue my full attention rather than being distracted by other stuff. Having dealt with the fake Surfer, Doreen faces the even more difficult task of getting hundreds of enemy alien races to reconcile. My favorite line in this issue is “a-whooby whooby whooby woo,” but this issue is full of great moments, such as Tippy becoming the Silver Squirrel, and Nancy being baffled by the alien bathroom. Also, Erica does a great job of drawing aliens that really look alien. I’m sorry to hear that she’s leaving this comic, but I congratulate her on an amazing run.

ETERNITY GIRL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Jumper,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. An excellent debut issue, starring a former superheroine who can’t control her powers and is losing her grip on reality, and who keeps trying to kill herself but failing. This issue is a powerful depiction of depression and the difficulty of recovering from it. My one question is why this character is called Eternity Girl and not Element Girl, because that’s more or less who she is, and it’s obvious that this comic is inspired by Sandman #20.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #301 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. This is probably Chip’s best issue yet. Peter, Teresa and JJJ’s visit to Peter’s past leads to all sorts of great moments, and Chip writes a lot of good dialogue. Especially fun moments include young Peter saying “Nice try, Mysterio”; the two Spider-Men joining forces to drive Doc Ock crazy with their banter; and the older JJJ being indistinguishable from the older JJJ.

DRY COUNTY #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Like Dark Corridor, Dry County is essentially a film noir story. In Miami, a cartoonist named Lou Rossi encounters an attractive woman who turns out to be hiding from her abusive boyfriend. This comic is another brilliant display of Tommaso’s artwork and design sense, but it’s not initially clear where its story is going. I guess the plot is that Lou will have to protect Janet from her ex-boyfriend.

ENCOUNTER #1 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Encounter!”, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco. This comic is obviously reminiscent of Aw Yeah Comics!, but it also reminds me of E-Man, because it’s about a shapeshifting alien who crashlands on Earth and is adopted by a human woman. The similarity to E-Man is a good thing, because Baltazar, Franco and Giarrusso have a cute, funny sensibility that’s similar to that of Cuti and Staton. I need to remember to keep ordering this series.

HANDS OF THE DRAGON #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Hands of the Dragon,” [W] Ed Fedory, [A] Jim Craig. Even compared to other Atlas/Seaboard comics, this comic is terrible. Like many mid-‘70s comics, it’s an attempt to catch in on the contemporary kung fu fad. But it offers nothing you wouldn’t find in any issue of Yang or Karate Kid or Iron Fist, and it’s significantly worse than any of those comics, let alone Master of Kung Fu.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Mad Company,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Valerio Schiti. Ben and Johnny visit Rachna Koul, a biologist who helps superheroes and villains with their powers. She reminds me a bit of Edna Mode, and has a nicely forceful personality. Hercules and the Mad Thinker also make guest appearances. This was an okay but not great issue.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Forward,” as above. Ben, Johnny and Rachna visit an alternate universe where Ben died fighting Galactus, and Doom stole Galactus’s power and ate the entire universe except for Earth. Again, this issue was good, but nothing spectacular.

New comics received on Friday, March 23:

MS. MARVEL #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part Four,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Naftali tracks down Kamala, who has been living at an exclusive snotty private school, and finally gives her her sandwich. Kamala teams up with Captain Marvel and the Substitute Kamalas to defeat the Inventor. The splash page where Kamala returns is an awesome moment. In general, this was a heartwarming issue, and it was the first comic in months in which Captain Marvel isn’t completely awful. This issue is also full of nice gags and visual puns. One that I noticed while flipping through it just now is the panel that depicts both sides of the private school’s wall, with light inside and darkness and graffiti outside.

RUNAWAYS #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Best Friends Forever, Part 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. If not for my intense loyalty to Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl, Runaways would be my favorite current Marvel title, and this is another excellent issue. Molly goes back to school and has a wonderful time, except there’s something weird about her new best friend, Abigail. Molly’s happiness at school is just adorable, though the best panel in the issue is the one where Old Lace gulps down the cheeseburger. Also, Nico and Karolina have a long conversation, and Julie Power appears as a voice on the telephone. I do feel like Molly should probably be a couple years older at this point, but oh well.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #6 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Heart of the Sea,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. In the undersea kingdom, Sunshine falls for a new character, Ananda. This issue effectively depicts Sunshine’s growing desire, but I’m concerned about the fact that none of the other protagonists appears in it. I almost feel as if Jeremy has stopped focusing on the main Princeless series because he was more interested in Raven, and now it seems like he’s repeating that pattern by ignoring Raven and focusing on Sunshine instead.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #64 (IDW, 2018) – “Everything Old,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Andy Price. This was a great issue. On a visit to Manhattan, Rarity is shocked to learn that ‘80s fashion is popular again, while Fluttershy learns that starting an animal shelter involves a lot of bureaucracy. As usual, each pony solves the other’s problem by accident. Andy’s artwork in this issue is some of his best in a long time. Because of this comic’s fashion theme, Andy gets lots of opportunities to display his design sense, and his nouveau-‘80s costumes look fantastic.

USAGI YOJIMBO #166 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue is also listed as Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #1 and as #232 in a series. After a lot of shorter Usagi stories, it’s finally time for a seven-part epic. Most of this issue consists of a chase sequence in which a samurai is hunted down and murdered because of an item he was carrying, only we don’t learn what it is. In the epilogue, we learn that the murder has something to do with Kirishitans, or Japanese crypto-Christians. Stan previously addressed this theme in issue #76, where Usagi helped smuggle a package that turned out to contain a cross, but “The Hidden” will address Japan’s persecution of Christians at much greater length. I wonder if Stan has a personal stake in this story – I don’t know if he himself identifies as Christian.

DEPT. H #24 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. An ambiguous conclusion. Mia makes it to the surface, where she ends up stranded on a literal desert island. At the end, a ship comes for her, but I’m not sure whose ship it is – although I guess I could look through the previous issues and check if we’ve seen it before. This was a good series, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as MIND MGMT.

BABYTEETH #9 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Fathers of Daughters,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie’s mom imprisons Sadie and her dad, just as the old assassin dude invades the compound. Heather wakes the baby, possibly at the cost of her own life, and even more mayhem ensues. I think it would actually make sense in terms of narrative logic if Heather died now, because she’s dominated the story so much that Sadie hasn’t had a chance to emerge from her shadow.

THE MIGHTY THOR #705 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sundown,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. In a flashback, we finally witness the moment when Jane lifts the hammer. There follows an epic fight scene, which ends with Jane tying the Mangog to Mjolnir and throwing them both into the sun. Of course, this also results in Jane’s inevitable but tragic death. “The Death of the Mighty Thor” isn’t over yet, but I’m already willing to declare it one of the best Thor stories ever – it’s the best run of Thor comics in thirty years, and Aaron and Dauterman are by far the best creative team on Thor since Walt Simonson left.

MONSTRESS #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. As usual, this issue’s main plot is impossible to understand. What’s really interesting about it, besides the art, is the subplots involving Kippa and Ren. Kippa wants to rescue her fellow foxes from slavery or death, but Ren’s evil cat bosses (well, that’s redundant) want him to betray Kippa and bring her to them.

SUPER SONS #14 (DC, 2018) – “The Parent Trap! Part Two: Blood Relative,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian rescue Lois from Talia. This was a fun issue, though not the best issue of this series. It sucks that Super Sons only has two more issues left, but I assume DC has some kind of plans for these characters.

INFINITY 8 #1 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Love and Mummies,” [W] Lewis Trondheim & Zep, [A] Dominique Bertail. I’m excited that Lion Forge is publishing this new series by Trondheim, and in comics format no less. It’s a fairly conventional SF adventure story, about a  space adventurer who’s fighting an invasion of alien zombies while also looking for a prospective father for her child… actually that doesn’t sound conventional at all, now that I write it out. Dominique Bertail is a gifted artist who does a fascinating job of depicting aliens, especially the captain, an indescribable giant blue thing with a smiley face. This comic does have a lot of T&A, and the protagonist feels like a man’s sexist notion of a strong female character. But characters like her are not unusual in French comics – she reminds me a bit of Barbarella or Roxana.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #8 (DC, 2018) – “First Contact,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Steve Lieber. I haven’t read #7 yet because I wasn’t especially interested in the Birdman storyline. This issue is more appealing because it’s written by Jeff Parker, and because Mightor is a more exciting character. Parker writes him as a really good kid whose family inspires him to be a hero, so he’s a lot like Johnny and Hadji. The plot, in which Mightor battles an invading alien, is negligible but entertaining.

DESCENDER #28 (Image, 2018) – “Old Worlds 2 of 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Finally the relevance of the current storyline becomes clear. Professor Osris discovers that the sentient robots are called the Descenders (hence we finally know why this comic is called Descender) and that they may have created biological life, rather than vice versa. Osris uses the knowledge he gained from the Descenders to create his own sentient robot, but it turns against him and destroys Ostrakon, then vanishes for 4000 years until Dr. Solomon and Dr. Quon find him again. And it turns out that this robot created Tim, and Tim is the only one who can stop the Descenders from returning and destroying humanity, or something like that. This series is heading for a thrilling conclusion.

LUCY DREAMING #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. This new series stars a girl in her early teens who reads too many violent young adult books, until one day she falls asleep and finds herself inside one of those books, and is unable to escape. This series reminds me of I Hate Fairyland in that it has an unpleasant young girl for a protagonist, and is rather violent and not intended for kids of the protagonist’s age. It also seems a bit mean-spirited and pessimistic, like X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever. These comments might imply that I didn’t enjoy this comic, but I actually did like it. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going or who its audience is, but I guess we’ll see.

THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #9 (Marvel, 2013) – “Godbomb, Part Three of Five: Thunder in the Blood,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Esad Ribic. Three different Thors from different stages in their lives battle Gorr the God Butcher. This is an exciting issue, and the interactions between the old, young and regular-aged Thors are a lot of fun, but this comic isn’t as good as the current Mighty Thor series.

SUPERMAN #5 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Five,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. The Superman family and the Eradicator arrive at Batman’s lunar Batcave, where they spend another whole issue fighting. The notable thing about this issue is that Lois gets a chance to do some fighting too, using one of Batman’s battlesuits. This is refreshing because my only serious problem with this comic is its depiction of Lois; too often she seems like just a wife and mom who doesn’t get to do anything proactive.

SUPERMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman” (conclusion), [W] Peter Tomasi, [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Clark and Jon finally defeat the Eradicator, Krypto comes back to life, and Clark introduces Jon to the Justice League as Superboy. There are some heartwarming scenes in this issue, but the Eradicator storyline went on too long.

SUPERB #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Another issue that doesn’t advance the plot very much. Jonah, Kayla and Abbie spend most of the issue fighting Corrina. Luckily the next issue blurb says “to be concluded next issue,” so I hope this comic’s plot will make some progress soon.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #46 (DC, 1992) – “Transitions,” [W/A] Barry Kitson. An alien possesses Captain Comet and tries to use its power to kill Lady Quark. A bunch of LEGION members fight the alien. The highlight of this issue is the scenes starring Bertron Diib, the enormous dude with a potato for a head.

ABYSS #3 (Red 5, 2008) – “Genius of Love,” [W] Kevin Rubio, [A] Lucas Marangon. I got this for free at Comic-Con. This comic isn’t as bad as I expected, but it’s not all that good either. Its plot is incomprehensible since I haven’t read the first two issues, but it appears to be a parody of DC superheroes. While it includes some funny jokes, those jokes are only funny to an audience that’s intimately familiar with superheroes, so its appeal is limited.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Turn It Up to Eleven: Teenage Kicks, Part 2,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. This issue, Sid Vicious’s ghost follows Feargal Ferguson to school, while in a subplot, an old Margaret Thatcher-esque lady exorcises the ghost of John Profumo. This comic continues to make effective use of nostalgia for punk and for the ‘60s Swinging London era, and Martin Simmonds’s art is unique and fascinating.

ARCHIE #29 (Archie, 2018) – “And the Beat Goes On,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. Mark spends this issue basically marking time until we get to the big dance. Archie runs around town looking for his stolen guitar, but it turns out it wasn’t stolen after all. Meanwhile, the Blossoms’ dad escapes from prison.

SUPERMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – “Our Town,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A truly adorable issue. The Kents go to the local fair where they play carnival games, eat junk food, and stop a robbery. Ths comic is full of small-town nostalgia, as the title indicates, but it’s so cute that I don’t mind.

KILL OR BE KILLED #14 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan successfully assassinates the Russian mob boss, so it looks like his troubles are over for now. But on the last page, he has a vision of Kira with the demon’s head. Meanwhile, Dylan’s roommate Mason is acting like a real jerk.

KILL OR BE KILLED #15 (Image, 2018) – as above. Shockingly, at the beginning of this issue Dylan is in a mental hospital. A flashback reveals how he got there. Not satisfied after Dylan killed all those mobsters, the demon kept tormenting him by telling him about all the sinners he was leaving alive. Finally, the demon provoked Dylan into beating up Mason, and Kira had Dylan committed. At the end of the issue, Dylan tries to tell his psychiatrist that he’s the vigilante killer, but the doctor doesn’t believe him, because someone else has been committing vigilante murders while Dylan’s been in the hospital. This issue makes me feel some sympathy for Dylan: he’s done some awful things, but it’s not his fault that he’s literally possessed by a demon.

DORK! #2 (Slave Labor, 1994) – various stories, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This issue mostly consists of previously published material. Disappointingly, it begins with a Murder Family story that I already read in Epic Lite #1. Next are some strips that Evan and Kyle Baker did for an alternative music magazine callled Reflex. These strips barely qualify as comics because they have far more text than artwork. Also, they’re boring; they’re mostly a series of complaints about the audiences at various punk rock concerts. The other stories in this issue are just a couple pages each at most.

SPIDER-GWEN #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This comic’s irreverent sense of humor is one of the main reasons I keep reading it, along with Robbi’s artwork. The scene with the two Watchers at the start is funny, though it would be funnier if I could remember where we’ve seen these Watchers before. This issue’s main plot is a continuation of the overly long and frustrating Matt Murdock storyline, which I’ve complained about often.

Second review post of 2018

New comics received on Monday, January 22:

FENCE #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. I was surprised when Fence was promoted to an ongoing series, because its subject matter seemed so esoteric. On the other hand, it’s very funny and well-executed, has a strong LGBTQ theme, and appeals to readers of manga, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is another good issue. It focuses mostly on the tryouts for the fencing team and the relationships among the players, but there is also a subtheme of class conflict. I like the scene where Robert complains about how many times he has to change clothes each day.

ANGELIC #5 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 5,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. This miniseries is Spurrier’s best work yet. This issue we learn what’s going on with this world: the animals were created by humans to take care of the world in the event of nuclear war, with the expectation that humans would eventually come out of cryogenic sleep and would take the world back. The dead humans in this series are pretty awful, and are matched only for their awfulness by the monkey and manatee leaders, who are perfectly fine with doing their dead creators’ will. Can Qora and Complainer change the entire world all on their own? I’m excited to find out. A highlight of this issue is the murderous teleporting cat who just wants attention.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #3 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Ballad of Katie Kling,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The fight continues. Katie beats the crap out of Dana, and meanwhile the two engineer girls sink the other ship. And Helena kills someone and is very guilty about it. This is a really fun and progressive comic, but I wish that each issue came with a list of characters. I can’t remember any of the characters’ names besides Raven and Ximena, although the artist does an excellent job of distinguishing them visually.

MIGHTY THOR #703 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Fall of Asgard,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. Much like Spider-Gwen, this series gets bleaker and more depressing with every issue. Jane finally agrees to stop being Thor and accept medical care. But meanwhile the Mangog smashes through Asgard’s defenses, easily beating the Destroyer (controlled by Frigga, which is pretty cool). I’m afraid this isn’t going to end well.

ASSASSINISTAS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. This is a fun comic, and it feels very much like a Gilbert Hernandez comic despite not being written by him. Perhaps Tini Howard’s writing is why this comic seems so fun; Gilbert’s solo work is often quite grim and ominous even when it’s funny. This issue both advances the plot, and explores the main characters’ relationships with their children. This comic bears obvious similarities to Kill Bill (I just noticed the reference to “many former assassins who hung up their guns in the past ten years in order to retire and have children”), but it’s an original story.

SUPERB #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Dressed for Success,” [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Kayla finally chooses a code name, unless she did that last issue, and she and Jonah invade the prison. Corinna, one of the teen supervillains, joins forces with them. This was an okay issue.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “Like Blood from the Sky,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Disappointingly, it turns out that Yanna is dead and Diana is not her. Or maybe we learned that last issue. Diana gives Conan one of her bracelets, and they fight to save Diana’s fellow Amazons from the evil crow women. Then Diana has to go back to Themyscira, but she leaves Conan with her lasso. I didn’t enjoy this issue much; it felt disappointing somehow.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #697 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Kraven the Hunter kidnaps Cap and forces him to play The Most Dangerous Game, while also protecting an innocent bystander who keeps trying to get himself killed. This character must be related to Mark’s version of Archie. At the end, it turns out that the bystander is working for Kraven, and Cap gets frozen in ice. Neither of the last two issues of this series has been half as good as #695, although Samnee’s art is as brilliant as ever.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #299 (Marvel, 2018) – “Most Wanted,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Spidey continues to flee from his enemies, who now include Hawkeye, while Hophni Mason turns out to be Phineas Mason inside a robot suit. Chip Zdarsky’s dialogue is getting really good; I especially like the line “Rethink your liiiiivessss…”

SUPER SONS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Finale: Last Minute Saved,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Tyler Kirkham. A bunch of crossover crap happens that I don’t care about, then Jon asks to join the Titans and is rejected. This and the previous issue demonstrate the problem with crossovers. These two issues are incomprehensible unless you read the other parts of the crossover, and they probably wouldn’t be any good even if I did read the other parts; moreover, these issues have killed the momentum of the series.

UNCANNY X-MEN #220 (Marvel, 1987) – “Unfinished Business,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This issue is a(n inferior) sequel to #186, “Lifedeath.” Returning to Eagle Plaza to look for Forge, Storm sees a bunch of videos depicting her past history with him. Then she finds Nazé, who is also looking for Forge, except I’m pretty sure Nazé is also the Adversary. This issue begins a storyline which had been set up as long ago as #187, though I’m not sure the payoff was worth it. The only other X-Man who appears is Wolverine, and he’s only on three pages.

SLASHER #3 (Floating World, 2017) – “Wandering Blade,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. The female protagonist kills a bunch of people for no clear reason, then sneaks back home. I can’t remember issue 2 very well, but even if I had remembered it, I don’t think issue 3 would have made much more sense; it seems like the senselessness of the murders is intentional.

STUMPTOWN #10 (Oni, 2016) – “The Case of the Night That Wouldn’t End,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. This is the last issue so far, which is too bad; this series was a lot more enjoyable than some other Rucka comics (cough cough Lazarus). A man hires Dex to find out if his wife is cheating, which is a very realistic touch, since actual private detectives are much more likely to investigate extramarital affairs than robberies or murders. This issue even made me wonder if there are any mystery novels about private eyes who track down cheating spouses. There’s a mostly wordless sequence stakeout sequence, which is exciting despite Justin Greenwood’s lifeless art. At the end, we learn that the wife’s apparent affair partner is actually her son by a previous relationship, and she agrees to tell her husband about her son.

SLASHER #4 (Floating World, 2017) – “2 Headed Snake,” as above. Christine somehow finds herself tied to a bed being tortured by two hicks. How this follows logically from the previous issue is unclear. They cut her hand off and throw her in a pit, where she finds Joshua’s body. Reading Leonard Pierce’s TCJ review of the comic, I realize that the two hicks actually were Joshua, or rather they were pretending to be Joshua in order to catfish Christine. This wasn’t clear from reading the comic. Then the two guys get killed in a shootout with police, and Christine gets her mask and runs away.

SLASHER #5 (Floating World, 2017) – “Mommy Mommy,” as above. Christine returns home, where she tells her brother that she can only have orgasms from violence, and then commits hara-kiri. She somehow finds herself back in the pit with Joshua’s body, and the series ends with her kissing him. This is a compelling, disturbing comic, but the storytelling was confusing and fragmentary, and I’d need to read it again to really get it.

THOR #196 (Marvel, 1972) – “Within the Realm of Kartag!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Like most of Conway’s Thor comics, this is a forgettable and overly convoluted story, though at least it has John Buscema art. The plot is that Thor and the Warriors Three are seeking the “Well at the Edge of the World” for some reason, while the Mangog is attacking Asgard.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #6 (DC, 2018) -“Son of Birdman,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. This issue’s artwork is better than the story, though the story is not terrible. Birdman learns he has a son he didn’t know about, then Mentok tries to get his son’s mother to kill him, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger.

TWO-FISTED TALES #16 (EC, 1953/1996) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. In Jack Davis’s “Signal Corps,” some Signal Corps soldiers defeat an enemy ambush, demonstrating that they’re soldiers too. John Severin’s “Outpost” takes place in modern-day Afghanistan or Pakistan and is both boring and Orientalist. “Pearl Divers!” is a rare EC story by Joe Kubert, though the plot is not great. Wally Wood’s “Atom Bomb!” is the highlight of the issue; it depicts both the human cost of the bombing of Nagasaki, and the subsequent recovery of the city. It’s not comparable to Barefoot Gen, but it’s not bad. Overall this issue was a significant drop-off in quality from earlier issues of the series.

ANIMOSITY #10 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Honeywine,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. I’m losing enthusiasm for this series and for Marguerite Bennett’s work in general. This issue, Jesse and Sandor hunt for the bees and find themselves in a human/animal colony that seems perfect, except there are no women. Jesse has a good line: “If you’re a girl, and you go into a place, and there’s no other women there, you need to be careful, or else just leave.”

MEASLES #4 (Fantagraphics, 1999) – “The New Adventures of Venus,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez, plus other work. Beto’s stories in this issue are much more heartfelt and enjoyable than most of his stories with Venus and her family. This issue also includes less interesting work by Mario Hernandez, Steven Weissman (who I’m not familiar with) and Sam Henderson.

On January 27, I went to the Charlotte Mini Con at the Grady Cole Convention Center. This was another amazing local convention. I fond some awesome stuff, and then as I was on my way out, I discovered a second dealer’s room I hadn’t known about, with two booths with dollar boxes. I’ve literally had dreams like that. When I got home, my weekly shipment of comics was waiting for me, and it was hard to decide what to read first.

PRINCELESS #4 (Action Lab, 2013) – “The Arduous Business of Getting Rescued,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] M. Goodwin. Adrienne and Bedelia escape from Bedelia’s burning shop, then Bedelia meets Sparks, and they all go off to rescue Adrienne’s next sister. This is a fun comic, and it reminds me that I miss the regular Princeless title, and that I enjoy it more than Raven. I do remember seeing a social media post from Jeremy that suggested that Princeless will be back soon, though I can’t find it now.

LUMBERJANES #46 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This was my favorite issue in several months. Emmy’s creatures are adorable, especially the perfectly normal squirrel who may or may not have hatched from an egg, and who imitates Emmy’s hand gestures. There are lots of other cute moments in the issue, and it gives me high hopes for the rest of the storyline.

DAREDEVIL #9 (Marvel, 1965) – “That He May See!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Wally Wood & Bob Powell. I now own two single-digit issues of long-running Marvel titles, the other being Iron Man #2. The highlight of this issue is Wally Wood’s spectacular visual storytelling. The writing isn’t quite the equal of the art, although the art is very good. Searching for the only doctor in the world who can cure his blindness, Matt travels to a small fictional European country that’s ruled by a supervillain dictator and has a name starting with L… except it’s Lichtenbad, not the country you were thinking of. Matt defeats the dictator in battle, but the doctor sacrifices his life to prevent nuclear war, in a scene that reminds me a lot of Spock’s death in Star Trek III, and Matt loses his chance to get his vision back. The subplot in this issue involves a love triangle between Matt, Karen and Foggy, which is surprising since in later years, the latter two were depicted as just friends.

THOR #174 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Carnage of the Crypto-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A mad scientist saps Thor’s strength and uses it to create the robotic Crypto-Man. Meanwhile, a certain Mrs. Whyte contacts Don Blake and begs him to find her missing son Jasper. It turns out, of course, that Jasper Whyte is the mad scientist, and on realizing that the Crypto-Man is a danger to his mother, he sacrifices his life to destroy it. Don Blake has to tell Mrs. Whyte that her son is dead, which is a genuinely touching moment. Other than that the best part of this issue is the Kirby art. The Crypto-Man only made a few other appearances, but one of them was notable: in Incredible Hulk #205, it killed Jarella.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #19 (Image, 2018) – “Gut Check, Part Five,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. This series has become very irregular – part one of “Gut Check” came out in November 2016. At least it’s worth waiting for, and its lateness is understandable since both its creators have so many other projects. In the midst of yet another embarrassing football game, Coach Boss and his players murder McCluskey, giving the Rebels enough motivation that they finally win a game. On his way home, Coach Boss is confronted by Roberta, but some bearded dude stops her from killing him because he wants to do it himself. I forget if we’ve seen this character before. I hope issue 20 comes out soon.

KIM & KIM #1 (Black Mask, 2016) – “This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life,” [W] Mags Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. A promising debut for one of the most exciting new writers in the industry at the moment. This issue provides a queer, I mean clear explanation of who Kim and Kim are, and is extremely fun. I especially like the montage sequence in which Kim and Kim play chess with Death, and then have tea in a Victorian tea room.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #245 (vol. 21 #5) (Dell, 1961) – “Sitting High,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. One of the highlights of Charlotte Mini Con was one particular booth that had a ton of old comics for either 50 cents or a dollar each. And I mean old comics, like ’60s Dells and Gold Keys. I bought a lot of stuff from that booth, including this issue of WDC&S, and I should maybe have bought even more. In this issue’s new Barks story, Donald and the nephews travel to a resort frequented by celebrities, and Donald does a bunch of stunts in order to get Hollywood producers to notice him. And he does get noticed and his picture appears in the paper, but they misspell his name as “Ronald Dunk.” The most memorable thing about this story is that it includes characters based on popular actors of the time, including “Snarlin’ Grando,” “Jane Girlsfield,” and “Brigitte Van Doran” (Brigitte Bardot plus Mamie Van Doren, I had to look that one up). This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Carl Fallberg and Paul Murry.

IT’S SCIENCE… WITH DR. RADIUM #1 (Slave Labor, 1987) – “Alien Terror! (oh, my!)”, [W/A] Scott Saavedra. The Slings & Arrows Guide includes reviews of multiple comics by Scott Saavedra, but I haven’t read any of his work. This issue’s cover is a parody of the cover of Mad #1, with the word “science” replacing “Melvin”. The main story is about a mad scientist and his bumbling assistant, and there’s also a backup story that parodies A Contract with God. This comic is pretty funny, and I’d like to read more comics by this author.

SEX CRIMINALS #21 (Image, 2018) – “Spaces,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Six months after their breakup, Jon and Susie are both in new and unsatisfying relationships. This point is driven home when they both show up at the same party dressed in the same ridiculous outfit. This series has gotten difficult to follow because it comes out so rarely, and I hope we get another issue sooner rather than later.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #10 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. For some reason I got this issue before issue 9, though I didn’t realize this until after I read it. This issue begins as Flash Magnus is trying to stop a war between dragons and ponies. Meadowbrook saves the day by diagnosing and curing the dragons’ illness, then they all go off to recruit Somnambula. The highlight of the issue may have been Somnambula saying “Stay on target! Stay on target!”

JIM VOL. II #4 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Woodring. This “Special All-Frank Issue” includes two stories black-and-white and one in color. In the longest story, Frank buys a top that causes the person who uses it to spin uncontrollably. He throws it away, and Manhog finds it and uses it and gets transformed into a cocoon. Then one of those giant spindle creatures finds him and adopts him, or something. I don’t know why I even bother trying to summarize Woodring comics.

ABBOTT #1 (Boom!, 2018) – “Just My Imagination,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. An important debut issue from another emerging star writer. Abbott is about a black female journalist in early 1970s Detroit, who gets involved in investigating a supernatural crime. Even without the fantasy element, this would be an awesome series because of its historical and local accuracy and its depiction of racial politics. Abbott effectively captures the spirit of the early ’70s, a time when segregation was illegal and you couldn’t say the N-word in public anymore, yet all the old racism was still buried just below the surface. (Actually that sounds like I’m describing America today.) Saladin Ahmed grew up in Detroit, and his depiction of Detroit seems extremely well researched. I’ve been to Detroit frequently, though not this part of it, and Ahmed’s depiction rang true to me. Abbott is going to be one of the best comics of 2018, and I think it may have significant appeal beyond the usual comics audience. For example, I have an uncle who works for the Detroit Free Press, and I think he and his family would enjoy this comic.

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH: HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #1 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This is still the only work of popular culture I know of in which the characters are indigenous Siberians. It’s basically just a hard-boiled detective story, and the joke is that it combines an old, clichéd genre with a setting that’s totally unfamiliar to American readers. In this issue, Muktuk goes to investigate some supernatural murders and encounters an old flame of his.

SUPERMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Three,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jiménez. Lois and Clark take an unconscious Jon to the Fortress of Solitude to heal him. On arriving there, they encounter the Eradicator. After a fight scene, the Eradicator offers to heal Jon, but it turns out he really wants to get rid of Jon’s human half, and a further fight ensues. There are some nice moments in this issue, but Superman’s rage at the Eradicator is rather disturbing. Until looking it up just now, I didn’t realize Jon was Lois and Clark’s biological child. I was confusing him with Chris Kent, who was nearly the same character, but was the son of Zod and Ursa.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #2 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 2, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue begins with a confusing flashback in which Adrienne’s father encounters a mysterious Black Knight. Not having read issue 1, I was unsure what was going on here. Then Adrienne and Bedelia arrive at the town where Adrienne’s next sister, Angelica, is held captive. Angelica seems to be something of an evil version of Rarity.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #247 (DC, 1972) – “The Vision!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. This issue’s full-length story is about a reincarnated Joan of Arc, and features spectacular Russ Heath artwork. I need to collect more of the ’70s DC comics drawn by Heath. But the real highlight of the issue is “Color Me Brave!”, Sam Glanzman’s most famous U.S.S. Stevens story. During the Pearl Harbor raid, a sailor, Mac Stringer, rescues some trapped comrades at an incredible risk to his own life. But he gets no reward for his bravery, and on the last page we learn why not: it’s because “his color is black.” I already knew the ending to this story, but it’s still an impressive piece of work, and it was brave of Glanzman to publish such a story in the rather conservative forum of a DC war title. “Color Me Brave!” is also an effective use of color for narrative purposes. Most of the story takes place underwater, so everything is colored in blue tones; therefore, we don’t realize until the last panel that Mac Stringer is black.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Undying Love of Sherlock Frankenstein,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. Lucy finally contronts Sherlock Frankenstein and learns his long and tragic history, including the fact that he’s in love with Golden Gail. Disappointingly, Lucy’s conversation with Sherlock takes up the entire issue. I thought this miniseries was going to depict how Lucy got to Black Hammer Farm, but the issue ends before that point.

MOONSTRUCK #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. Chet finally gets his horse butt back. This comic is fun, but it also seems kind of pointless; it doesn’t have a clear premise or a narrative thread. It’s not clear to me just what this comic is supposed to be about. I hope that with the next story arc, Moonstruck will develop more of an identity.

MANIFEST DESTINY #33 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Madame Boniface… by the way, I couldn’t remember this character’s name and it was difficult to look it up. Madame Boniface confronts Lewis and Clark outside the fort, and they finally explain what’s really going on. The demon – the one who possessed the old Spanish dude – wants “a child born of two people at war” as a sacrifice, and that sacrifice is Sacagawea’s baby. So the central mystery of the series is finally cleared up, although I guess we still don’t know what the demon’s agenda is, or what the sacrifice is supposed to accomplish. Then they all return to the fort and discover that Pryor has mutinied and locked them out.

JOURNEY #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Chapter 1: Chase,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. This takes place around the same time as Manifest Destiny, in a different but almost equally wild part of America. It begins with an exciting action sequence in which Wolverine MacAlistaire encounters a bear and barely escapes with his life. Then he meets two men who ask him to deliver a package to the other side of Michigan. This issue lacks the narrative complexity of later Journey stories, but it’s a good start to the series.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. I would have ordered this when it came out if I’d realized it was drawn by Paul Grist. This comic has a pretty standard Mignolaverse plot, in which the Visitor, a character very similar to the Phantom Stranger, battles a cult leader. However, Paul Grist’s dynamic storytelling and Clear Line-esque draftsmanship are brilliant.

UNCLE SCROOGE #70 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Doom Diamond,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is the only comic in my collection that includes a new full-length story written and drawn by Barks, although I have other comics with original Barks ten-pagers. I tend to assume that original Barks comics are outside my price range, but maybe not. In “The Doom Diamond,” Scrooge and the nephews sail to “South Miserystan” with a boatload full of cash, so that Scrooge can purchase the famous Zero Diamond. Scrooge builds all sort of anti-theft measures into his ship, but the Beagle Boys learn about his plans and build their own ship designed to defeat Scrooge’s. After some exciting naval battles, Scrooge makes it to South Miserystan, but the diamond turns out to be cursed. There’s a very funny scene where as soon as Scrooge touches the diamond, he stubs his toe, gets hit by a falling rock, and gets stung by a bee. Then Scrooge has to get back to Duckburg, leading to further adventures. “The Doom Diamond” is one of Barks’s last stories, but it’s very entertaining and shows little evidence of decline.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #1 (EC, 1950/1992) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This reprint begins with a tribute page honoring Bill Gaines, who had just died. In Johnny Craig’s “Murder May Boomerang,” an unnamed man’s father is menaced by an escaped convict. The man kills another man who his father identifies as the escaped convict, but it turns out that the father got the wrong guy. This story’s shock ending is not great, but the story is a realistic depiction of how an ordinary man could become a killer. In “W. Allen Wood”‘s “Death’s Double-Cross,” a woman helps her husband’s identical twin brother murder her husband. Afterward, she realizes that she doesn’t know whether her brother-in-law killed her husband, or vice versa. This is probably the best story in the issue because of how its ending leaves the reader in suspense. In Graham Ingels’s “Snapshot of Death!”, a woman is diagnosed with a terminal illness, so she hires someone to kill her. Then it turns out she was misdiagnosed. The real surprise in this story is that it ends happily, because the person who was supposed to kill her is himself killed in an accident. In most other EC stories, the woman would have been murdered. Kurtzman’s “High Tide” is another good one. Five people are alone in a boat when they discover that one of them is an escaped murderer. Thanks to their panicked efforts to figure out which of them is the murderer, they all ensure their own deaths, except the one who actually is the murderer.

MONSTRESS #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika, Ren and Kippa arrive in the land of Pontus, and lots of complicated plot stuff happens. But the clear highlight of this issue is the café and pastry shop run by cats. I find it hard to imagine cats serving anyone, but the splash page with the cat café is just adorable. I’m glad this series is back.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #8 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Lair of the Dragon,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak and some stranded Peace Corps volunteers find themselves in a lost kingdom of Arabs. The Peace Corps was still new when this story was published, and it’s also notable that one of the volunteers is black. However, the real appeal of the story is Manning’s spectacular draftsmanship and his thrilling action sequences. The Arabs in the story are depicted in a rather Orientalist way, but at least they’re not completely evil.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #3 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 3, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. Adrienne discovers that Angelina doesn’t want to be rescued, because she’s perfectly happy living in a place where everyone constantly praises her beauty. Then Adrienne fights some dude wearing a lion skin. This is a good comic, but I still don’t understand what’s going on with the Black Knight and the elves.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. The new Zodiac Starforce meets the old one, and drama ensues. This was a pretty good comic, but it was overshadowed by other better comics that I read this week.

DOOM PATROL #10 (DC, 2018) – “No Control,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. The Brotherhood of Dada storyline continues. It turns out Terry None is pregnant with Casey’s baby, which makes no sense because they’re both female, but this is Doom Patrol, it’s not supposed to make sense. I’m not sure how or if this story ties into the Milk Wars crossover.

BATGIRL #19 (DC, 2018) – “Cold Snap, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. This was a fun issue, but I can’t remember much about it now. The best part is the beginning, when Batgirl defeats some punks who are trying to run a black-owned donut shop out of business. In the main plot, Batgirl fights some hackers who have screwed with the city’s weather prediction system, and the Penguin makes a cameo appearance.

WEIRD SCIENCE #15 (East Coast Comix, 1952/1973) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This is actually “EC Classic Reprint #2,” the second in a short-lived series of EC reprints published by two fans named Ron Barlow and Bruce Hershenson. I have no idea how or if they obtained permission to do this. According to the editorial material in this issue, they intended to reprint all the EC comics, in a somewhat random order, but they only published 12 issues. This issue is printed on worse paper and has worse reproduction than the later Russ Cochran reprints. Its first story is “The Martians,” which has a dumb plot but brilliant Wally Wood art. Al Williamson’s “Captivity” has equally good or better art, which is poorly served by the ugly reproduction, but it too has a dumb plot. Jack Kamen’s “Miscalculation” is even dumber – it’s about a man who inexplicably obtains a supply of dehydrated harem girls, just add water – but at least it’s funny. Joe Orlando’s “Bum Steer!” continues the trend of silly stories with good art; it has the best Joe Orlando artwork I’ve seen, but the characters literally tell the reader the shock ending in advance.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT #1 (Gold Key, 1965) – “The Mummy’s Hand,” [W] George Evans, plus other stories. The lineup of artistic talent in this issue is amazing: George Evans, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, and even Alberto Giolitti. Unfortunately, although the art in this issue is at the same level as the art in a classic EC comic, the same cannot be said of the writing.

UNICORN ISLE #1 (WaRP, 1986) – “Unicorn Isle Betrayed: Chapter 1,” [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Romeo Tanghal. This issue is definitely the best place to start with this comic. Unicorn Isle’s plot and worldbuilding are so complicated that they don’t make sense if you start in the middle, as I did. In this issue we meet the protagonists, young twins Nils and Nola. Their mother gets killed trying to stop a plot to kidnap two sacred unicorns, and their father unfairly blames the twins for it. Nils and Nola are appealing characters, and their world is fairly original, though it suffers from “calling a rabbit a smeerp,” i.e. giving fantasy names to ordinary concepts; for example, having sex is called “cleaving.”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Our First Adventure,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] John Dell. Looking for Reed and Sue (or pretending to), Ben and Johnny visit Monster Island and fight the Mole Man and his monsters. This comic has some good dialogue and some funny moments, like the “Victor von Doof” prank, but it’s forgettable.

DEPT. H #22 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. After a lot of drama, Q stabs Raj, who totally deserved it – he’s become the prime suspect in Hari’s murder. Then everyone agrees to let Mia try for the surface. Two issues left.

POWER MAN #26 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Night Shocker!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] George Tuska. According to its splash page, this issue was an inventory story inspired by the Night Stalker TV movie. It wasn’t needed immediately, and might never have seen print because it was no longer relevant, except that the Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV show came out two years later. It’s unusual for a Marvel comic to be so honest about its influences. I’ve never seen either the Kolchak movie or TV show, so to me this is just a fun but weird story, in which Luke tracks down a man who appears to be a vampire but isn’t. This issue’s plot is rather convoluted, and it’s hard to figure out who actually committed the murders the vampire was accused of, or why.

TALES TO ASTONISH #88 (Marvel, 1967) – “A Stranger Strikes from Space!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett, and “Boomerang and the Brute!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. In the Namor story, Attuma battles a robot that fell to earth from a passing alien ship, then figures out how to control the robot, and uses it to launch an invasion of Atlantis. The aliens who built the robot were never identified and never appeared again. This story has some excellent artwork, almost as good as Everett’s late issues of Sub-Mariner. In the backup story, the Hulk almost earns an amnesty from the government, but Boomerang shows up and ruins everything. Boomerang’s costume in this issue is one of the ugliest costumes of any Silver Age Marvel character.

NEW ROMANCER #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “This Byronic Life,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Parson. It’s been a long time since I read the rest of this story, so I don’t remember what’s been going on, but this is a fun if convoluted comic. Milligan’s version of Byron is a really cute character.

NEW ROMANCER #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “My Date with Destiny,” as above. In the conclusion, Lexy and her allies defeat Casanova, and the series ends with a triple wedding. We’re led to expect that one of the couples will be Lexy and Byron, but instead it’s Lexy’s dad and Mata Hari, and the series ends with Lexy driving off into the sunset. I think this ending makes sense, but I’m kind of sad that Lexy and Byron didn’t end up together, even if he would have been an awful boyfriend.

BLACK MAGICK #10 (Image, 2018) – “Awakening II, Part 5,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Raven’s partner’s baby is born. A villain invades Raven’s house despite receiving a stern lecture from her cat. Another villain tries to kidnap the baby. This story is well done, but I’m still very confused about who the villains are or what they want.

ASTRO CITY #50 (DC, 2018) – “Aftermaths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Kurt and Brent celebrate this milestone issue with a sequel to their greatest story, “The Nearness of You.” Years after his encounter with the Hanged Man, Michael Tenicek is running a support group for other people who suffered collateral damage in superhero battles. As a hobby, he paints pictures of his wife, who was retconned out of existence. But it looks like the Hanged Man wants something else from him. We’ll have to see where this story goes, but it seems like a worthy sequel. As someone who prefers to buy single issues whenever possible, I’m sad that Astro City is going trade-only, though I see why it would make financial sense.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #62 (IDW, 2018) – “Convocation of the Creatures, Part Two,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. The best thing about this issue is the cover, a brilliant parody of Norman Rockwell’s “The Gossips.” This cover is a virtuoso display of Andy’s cartooning skill. The 15 characters on the cover all have totally different facial expressions which indicate their different personalities. The interior story is also pretty good. The assembled bureaucrats find proof that the griffons don’t actually own Equestria, but the tough part is delivering the evidence to Princess Celestia.

JLA/DOOM PATROL SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars Part One,” [W] Steve Orlando & Gerard Way, [A] Aco. I was excited about this, but it left me disappointed. I could barely understand what was happening in this story, or how it fit into the continuity of the Doom Patrol series. This comic seems to assume the reader is also reading the ongoing JLA series. I do want to point out that even though this comic isn’t drawn by Nick Derington, it looks visually similar to a regular issue of Doom Patrol, because of Tamra Bonvillain’s distinctive and appealing colors. I’d vote for her for the Eisner for best colorist.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Kaidan” and other stories, [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Alberto Ponticelli & Vanesa del Rey. An anthology of ghost stories based on the Japanese hyaku monogatari tradition, with the twist that most of the stories are about food. I like the premise of this comic, but the execution is not spectacular.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo teams up with Helsingard against… something, I guess it’s the evil computer from Ghost of Station X. Then Helsingard switches sides and joins the enemy. I don’t quite understand this part of the plot because I can’t remember who Helsingard even is. What’s more interesting is the subplot, in which Robo’s allies figure out how to manipulate their HOA’s rules so they can start construction on their base. This subplot is funny because it reminds me of all the posts I’ve seen on r/legaladvice about tyrannical HOAs. I am now convinced that when I buy a house someday, I want to be very sure it’s not in an HOA.

ANGEL LOVE #3 (DC, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Barbara Slate. On Twitter, Kurt Busiek pointed out that this series was intended for a nontraditional audience, but failed to reach that audience because it was only distributed through comic book stores. (https://twitter.com/KurtBusiek/status/957394674779488256) That explains a lot – both why this comic existed, and why it didn’t last. For my next project, I’d love to interview Barbara Slate and find out more about this comic and its intended audience. Angel Love #3 continues this series’ theme of discussing serious issues in a cartoony style, as Angel’s friend Cindy announces that she’s pregnant and considering an abortion. Cindy ultimately decides to have the baby, but not to marry the father. Also, there’s a silly subplot involving Angel’s blonde friend who wants to be an actress.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Face Off,” [W] Sarah Kuhn, [A] Siobhan Keenan, and “Stargirl,” [W/A] Sarah Winifred Searle. This issue’s first story is about a karaoke contest between the Holograms and the Misfits. It’s quite funny and cute. In the backup story, Shana’s friends help her organize a fashion show. This story has an interesting art style and includes a prominent new (?) character who’s a drag queen. Amusingly, this could easily have been a My Little Pony story instead of a Jem story, with Rarity replacing Shana, except that the plot involves Shana’s indecision between her two careers in music and fashion.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #9 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. As noted above, I received this issue after issue 9. At the end of issue 8, Meadowbrook’s home was besieged by “an army of huggably fluffy animals.” This issue, the other Pillars help Meadowbrook cure the animals of their madness, then they all head off to look for Flash Magnus.

MISTER MIRACLE #19 (DC, 1977) – “It’s All in the Mine,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. I had avoided this series in the past because it’s not by Kirby, but I believe Kirby always intended for his Fourth World characters to be used by others. This issue is mostly just a pastiche of Kirby’s Mister Miracle, rather than an original take like Tom King’s current series, but it’s not bad. Englehart and Rogers were DC’s top creative team at the time, and although this issue is not their best work, Rogers’s art is quite impressive. Englehart gets a few things wrong about the Fourth World: he suggests that only Apokolips gods can use Boom Tubes, and, more seriously, he has Metron fighting on the side of New Genesis, when Metron is supposed to be neutral.

KID LOBOTOMY #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Chambermaid’s Tale,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This issue is narrated by Ottla the chambermaid, who is based on Franz Kafka’s sister. The story isn’t bad, but I can’t remember much about it now.

STINZ VOL. 3 #6 (A Fine Line, 1998) – “A Marvelous Resistance,” [W/A] Donna Barr. In this issue Stinz tells the story of his return from the war, i.e. World War I, and in the process he clarifies a lot of things about his world that I hadn’t understood. It turns out that the war was ended by some kind of magical event that turned people into animals, except in Stinz’s case it had the opposite effect, turning him into a human. Compared to the current Moonstruck storyline, this issue is a much more “realistic” depiction of how a centaur would feel about having their horse legs replaced with human legs. Donna effectively shows Stinz’s confusion and embarrassment at having to walk on two legs. As soon as Stinz returns to his valley, though, he magically turns back into a centaur, which explains why he never wants to leave his valley again. Overall, this comic is quite long and visually dense, but excellent.

EIGHTBALL #13 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Blue Italian Shit” and other stories, [W/A] Daniel Clowes. This issue’s inside front cover is a bizarre parody of Peter Bagge’s characters Buddy Bradley, Stinky and Lisa. “Blue Italian Shit” is a rambling, emo story about growing up in the ’80s. It’s not Clowes’s best short story, but it’s moody and evocative. “Cool Your Jets” is a four-pager in which two misogynistic jerks complain about women. The second half of the issue is an installment of “Ghost World,” which I haven’t reread in many years.

HUGO #2 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – “It’s No Man’s Affair,” [W/A] Milton Knight. A series of lewd funny animal stories starring a medieval jester, drawn in a style that reminds me of Fleischer Studio cartoons. The first story is based on the medieval story of Phyllis riding Aristotle, and contains some near nudity, which is surprising since this looks like a kids’ comic. In the second story, the protagonist, Hugo, quits his job as a jester and starts drawing comics instead, until the local church shuts him down. Knight draws upon the same influences as Kim Deitch, though he’s not nearly as talented. Despite that, Knight’s stories are funny and raucous, and I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

SPIDER-GWEN #28 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This issue explains the origin of this universe’s Matt Murdock. I’m still enjoying this series enough to keep buying it, but I’ve gotten thoroughly sick of the current plotline. Matt Murdock is a frustrating villain because he can do anything he wants to Gwen, and she’s powerless against him. That makes for an unsatisfying reading experience. Also, Gwen has been fighting Matt for way too long, and I’d like to see her do something else.

OMEGA MEN #2 (DC, 2015) – “Victory is Assured,” [W] Tom King, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. I have about half of this series, but I only read the first issue, and I didn’t understand it. Somehow issue 2 is clearer. On the planet of Ogyptu, the Citadel arranges a mass public execution as punishment for an Omega Men raid. It looks like Primus and the Omega Men are going to stop the execution, but instead they use it as cover to steal a spaceship and escape the planet. This issue was brutal to read because of the Omega Men’s blatant lack of concern for the people of Ogyptu. Primus explains that saving the victims would have backfired, but he explains this in such a smug and cruel way that he completely loses my sympathy. At the end of this issue, it’s clear that the Omega Men are almost as bad as the Citadel. The truly sympathetic character in the issue is Kyle Rayner, who has to watch these awful events and is powerless to intervene.

OMEGA MEN #3 (DC, 2015) – “Save the Princess,” as above. The Omega Men recruit Kalista, a beautiful princess who’s also a complete sociopath; her hobby is killing people in single combat. After reading these two issues, I really want to read the rest of this maxi-series. I have issues 9 through 12, but I’m not sure if I should read them yet.

ARCHIE #27 (Archie, 2018) – “I Built a Speedometer,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. After a lot of relationship drama, Archie invites Betty – now able to walk again – to the spring dance, and she turns him down. Perhaps my favorite thing about this comic is the visual comedy. Audrey Mok’s depictions of Archie’s bad luck are very funny – an example is the page where Jughead steers Archie around a patch of wet cement and a barking dog.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #12 (Marvel, 1973) – “Wolf at Bay,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. This issue takes place right after Gwen Stacy’s death. Trying to get his mind off Gwen, Peter visits San Francisco, where he encounters Werewolf by Night. The main plot of this issue is boring, but the depiction of Peter’s psychology is quite good, and Ross Andru’s art is excellent. It’s kind of disturbing how on the splash page, Peter is thinking “Maybe here I can finally get my mind off Gwendy for a while,” but as he’s thinking this, he’s climbing on top of a bridge.

MOTHERLANDS #1 (DC, 2018) – “One,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. Yet another in a string of Si Spurrier miniseries with fascinating and original premises. He has a real gift for worldbuilding. Motherlands takes place in a reality where humans are in contact with other humans from alternate realities. The protagonist, Tabitha Tubach, is a multiversal bounty hunter who’s trying to escape the influence of her domineering mother. Then Tabitha has to get in touch with her mother again, because it turns out her latest target is her (Tabitha’s) estranged brother.

CHEER UP #1 (Hic & Hoc, 2015) – various stories, [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This small-format comic is a collection of blackly humorous short stories. It’s an effective demonstration of Noah’s art style and his depressing, cynical sense of humor. I need to read more of his work.

ARCHIE #21 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 2,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. This may be one of the most powerful Archie comics ever. Betty’s car crash is not directly shown. Instead, the issue depicts various characters learning that something’s happened to Betty. We don’t see Betty herself until the end of the issue, when we see her lying comatose in a hospital bed while doctors frantically try to revive her. It looks like I stopped reading this series regularly after issue 12, but I’m glad I kept ordering it anyway.

New comics received on February 9:

RUNAWAYS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home, Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. An amazing conclusion to one of the best Marvel storylines in recent memory. The Runaways fight Molly’s grandma and her horde of telepathic cats, until Nico casts a “herd cats” spell. Molly is torn between loyalty to her grandma and her friends, until it turns out that Molly’s grandma had Molly’s parents cloned. Molly is reluctantly forced to admit that her grandma has gone off the deep end, and she leaves with her teammates. While all this gloomy stuff is going on, we learn that Old Lace ate the cats. As a cat person, I think this is… hilarious, actually. Especially the panel where Old Lace coughs up a hairball. And then the Runaways decide to go home, wherever that is.

PAPER GIRLS #20 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Charlotte gets shot by people from the future. The girls figure out how to operate one of the robots, and they use it to time travel into the future. The plot developments in this comic have been so fast and relentless that I’ve never quite understood what’s going on. At some point I’d like to read the entire series in one sitting.

MECH CADET YU #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Baby Sharg invade the mech cadet academy. Showing true heroism, Stanford risks his life to save two of his comrades. At the end of the issue, the academy is demolished and the mech cadet program is terminated, but obviously that’s not the end of the series.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #4 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Stitches,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The pirates clean up after their battle, while each grieving the loss of Sunshine in their own way. It turns out that Sunshine isn’t actually dead, of course, but is in some kind of undersea kingdom. A cute moment in this issue is the conversation where Desideria says she was given something by “the girl… you know, the black one,” and Quinn needs three guesses to identify which character Desideria means. Another highlight of this issue is the editorial, where Jeremy states his commitment to his readers: “I am, after all, a straight white cis man writing a whole crew full of diverse queer women. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.” Jeremy is saying exactly the right things here, and so far he’s been practicing what he preaches.

SNOTGIRL #9 (Image, 2018) – “Weekend, Part One,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Snotgirl and the other characters go to a conference. Snotgirl has visions of the ghost of Caroline. This is a fun comic, though I always have trouble following the plot of this series. I really like the eight-panel strip at the end where Cutegirl demands the smallest possible waffle.

MOON GIRL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Fantastic Three” (part three?), [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. This is an improvement over the last two issues, though still worse than the Girl Moon storyline. Ben and Johnny rescue a cat from a tree, there’s a funny meta-joke about Johnny being replaced by Herbie the robot, and the Super-Skrull shows up at the end – it was obviously him who was impersonating the FF.

TWISTED ROMANCE #1 (Image, 2018) – “Old Flames,” [W/A] Katie Skelly, [W] Alex de Campi (I assume, it’s not clear who did what). The first issue of a weekly anthology miniseries. The main story is about an encounter between an incubus and a succubus. I don’t remember much about this story now, but it’s witty and well-drawn. I’ve had one of Katie Skelly’s books for several years but have not read it, so this story was a good introduction to her. The backup story, by Sarah Horrocks, is visually impressive but makes no narrative sense. Unfortunately this issue also includes an eight-page unillustrated text story. I didn’t like this story much, but even if it had been better than it was, I really hate it when comic books include lengthy prose stories.

GIANT DAYS #35 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Ed suffers a concussion from his fall off the wall. The girls are forced to hang out with Lottie, Esther’s friend’s little sister, who, according to Google research, also appears in some of Allison’s other comics. Thanks to Esther, Daisy realizes she doesn’t actually like Lottie. This is another fun issue, and it includes more funny jokes and gags than I can list or remember.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. Rogue and Gambit go to therapy and remember their first couple meetings, then they fight some mutant dudes. I still have slightly mixed feelings about this series, and I think it’s a little creepy how the plot seems to be forcing Rogue and Gambit into each other’s arms, although I trust Kelly to not do anything truly anti-feminist to Rogue.

ARCHIE #28 (Archie, 2018) – “Riverdale’s: The Bachelor,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. This issue’s plot is mostly just a bunch of drama and hijinks surrounding the upcoming spring dance. Also, Jason and Cheryl’s dad plans to break out of prison. This issue has a lot of excellent sight gags; I think the best is when Archie inflates some balloons and they come out as cubes and pyramids instead of ovoids. This issue includes references to two other Archie comics, Cosmo and The Shield.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1923 AD (Image, 2018) – “And Then There Was One…”, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Aud Koch. This is the best TWTD special yet, because all the characters are still alive when it begins, and we get to see how their personalities interact. Also, the creators effectively capture both the political climate and the aesthetics of the ’20s. I love how the entire issue is colored in sepia tones, like a silent film, and how the caption boxes and text segments look like silent film title cards. It is unfortunate that so much of the story is delivered through unillustrated text pages, but even that can be justified as a reference to pulp fiction. The story is a powerful depiction of how the aesthetic scene of the interwar period helped lead to World War II. On Twitter, someone named RicG and I came up with the following historical models for the gods:

Neptune = Ernest Hemingway
Minerva = Shirley Temple
Dionysus = Pablo Picasso
Baal = Ezra Pound / T.S. Eliot
Set = Virginia Woolf
Woden = Fritz Lang / Joseph Goebbels?
Lucifer = Aleister Crowley

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Dorma and Koro narrowly survive their encounter with the demon, after being subjected to Black Mercy-esque visions of their secret desires. Koro emerges as a complex character: she loves Prince Aki but resents having had to devote her life to him. Luvander and Prince Aki don’t appear in this issue, but I assume neither of them is dead.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Soaked,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. I have not read the graphic novel this is based on, and I really should have; I’m adding it to my Amazon want list now. This issue takes place in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Zane Pinchback, a light-skinned black reporter, attends a party held by rich white people who cultivate black acquaintances. One of the black celebrities at the party is murdered, and the police don’t care, so Zane, who can pass for white by putting his hat on, decides to get to the bottom of it. This is an important comic; it shows deep insight into racial issues that are just as relevant today as in the 1920s. Zane’s ability to pass as white is poignant because it lets him move in both worlds and hear things that white people only say to each other.

JOHN BOLTON’S STRANGE WINK #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – several stories, [W/A] John Bolton. A collection of short pieces by the versatile and underrated John Bolton. The first story is a very effective adaptation of Goethe’s Der Erl-King, although it’s hampered by a bad translation of the German text. “A Lot on His Plate” and “Permanent Fixture” are short stories that I assume were previously published in some British comic. The highlight of the issue is Bolton’s brilliant adaptation of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” although it too has a significant flaw, namely the decision to include Rossetti’s entire poem verbatim. I’m not reading Bolton’s story because I want to reread “Goblin Market”; I’m reading it because I want to focus on Bolton’s illustrations and his narrative decisions. It’s hard to focus on those things when I have to read every word of Rossetti’s poem.

KING MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #2 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Jeremy Treece. This issue continues the story of Mandrake and Karma’s battle with Mandrake’s ex-wife. It has excellent, snappy dialogue, but a forgettable plot.

HAWKEYE #15 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Hawkeye and Hawkeye fight a bunch of Madame Masque’s goons, then they fight more goons and kidnap Kate’s dad. The action sequences in this issue are really good, as well as the character interactions. It’s such a shame that this series was cancelled.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #16 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Gert suffers the torments of hell, including having a vision of being returned to her home. I think this is the first time we’ve seen Gert’s home or her family. With its emphasis on gluttony, this scene reminds me of the transformation of Chihiro’s parents in Spirited Away. This scene also implies that even if Gert did get to go home, she couldn’t return to her life as a normal little girl (which I guess is also a theme of Spirited Away). The issue ends with Gert being returned to Fairyland, which is her real personal hell.

BLACK PANTHER #169 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 10,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. In his base, Klaw uses a massive dose of sonic energy to attempt to revive his sister. This creates a distraction that allows Ayo to escape from him. Because Klaw’s sonic energy drowns out all other sound in the area, most of this issue consists of silent sequences, which is a nice touch. However, this current storyline has been going on way too long already, and there’s no end in sight.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Shooting Stars,” [W/A] Nicole Goux, and “Haunted,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Rachael Stott. This issue’s first story is perhaps the worst Jem story IDW has published. It may have just rubbed me the wrong way, but I thought that the plot was implausible and that almost every line of dialogue was a cliché. The story is about characters who insist on performing in public even though they’re not ready yet, and I feel that this is also what the story’s author is doing. The backup story, in which the Misfits and the Holograms team up to escape a haunted house, is better.

SWEET TOOTH #23 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species: Part Four,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This is a well-drawn and suspenseful comic, but it’s impossible to understand without having followed the entire series.

THE BACKSTAGERS: VALENTINE’S INTERMISSION #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Rian Sygh, plus backup stories. This is probably the best Backstagers story yet. It’s touching, funny, and full of both straight and queer romance. The plot of the main story is that Beckett, who hates Valentine’s Day, decides to sabotage the school’s Valentine’s Day show, but a visit to the pocket universe behind the stage causes him to change his mind. There are also some short backup stories. I’m glad to see Backstagers again, and I hope the series will return again soon.

SUPERMAN #4 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Four,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason, c[W] Peter J. Tomasi. Clark and Jon continue their fight with the Eradicator, who has somehow become a vessel for the dead souls of Krypton. This issue was not as good as later issues of this series.

POWER COMICS #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – “The All-Africa Wrestling Championship” and “The Return of Dr. Crime,” [W] Don Avenall & Norman Worker, [A] Dave Gibbons & Brian Bolland. I was reminded I had this comic after a conversation with Tayo Fatunla on Facebook. This issue is a reprint of stories which were produced in the ’70s by British artists for publication in Nigeria. The writers were veterans of the British industry, and the artists were a very young Gibbons and Bolland. The Superman-esque protagonist, Powerman, was renamed to Powerbolt for obvious reasons when the comics were reprinted in America (but the renaming was done inconsistently – there’s at least one panel where he’s called Powerman). These comics have fairly simple plots, and were clearly intended for an audience with no prior knowledge of comics. According to the inside front cover, Gibbons was instructed to put a number on each panel to indicate the reading order, even though his storytelling was already quite clear. Despite all that, these stories are exciting and vigorous, kind of like Golden Age Superman or Captain Marvel stories. And just the idea of an African Superman is quietly revolutionary. I wish there were more comics like this, by African rather than European creators.

BATMAN #409 (DC, 1987) – “Just Another Kid on Crime Alley!”, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Ross Andru. Bruce Wayne enrolls Jason Todd in a boarding school that turns out to be a school for criminals, run by an old lady named Fay Gunn (i.e. Fagan – I needed help to figure this out). Jason helps Batman bring Fay Gunn to justice, and Batman decides Jason can be the new Robin. It strains credulity that Batman didn’t already know Fay Gunn was a criminal. It’s also disturbing how according to this issue, Batman only visits Crime Alley once a year, letting the criminals dominate it the rest of the year. I was also confused as to why Jason Todd wasn’t Robin already at this point. Apparently this story was Jason Todd’s completely revised post-Crisis origin, and the earlier stories in which he appeared were no longer in continuity.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #5 (Red 5, 2009) – “From Beyond,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. An excellent Atomic Robo comic. I enjoyed it more than most of the recent issues of the series, which suggests that Atomic Robo may be declining in quality a little. Two of Robo’s assistants create a “quantum decomputer,” which Robo instantly recognizes as evil, but they turn it on anyway, and it transforms into a Lovecraftian monstrosity. Robo defeats the monster with the assistance of three of his past selves. I haven’t read every issue of this miniseries, but apparently each issue of this miniseries takes place at a different period in Robo’s life (except #2, which takes place right after #1) and depicts this same encounter from the perspective of a different one of Robo’s selves. That’s a really cool trick, comparable to the adventure where Corum, Hawkmoon, Elric and Erekosë met each other.

BATMAN #413 (DC, 1987) – “The Ghost of Masahiko Tanaka,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kieron Dwyer. The best thing about this issue is the Walt Simonson cover. In this issue, Batman and Robin battle a Japanese criminal who’s trying to steal a rare suit of Japanese armor. This issue demonstrates a basic knowledge of Japanese culture, but is nonetheless heavily based on stereotypes like samurai and ninjas, and it’s not very good either.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #38 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Pepe Larraz. I bought this when it came out, but never bothered to read it, becuase the series was already close to cancellation at that point. This is a surprisingly good issue, though, and it reminds me why Wolverine and the X-Men was my favorite X-Men comic until Grand Design. Two new students enroll at the Jean Grey School, one of whom has a squid for a head, and Broo gives them a guided tour, resulting in numerous funny moments. At the end, it turns out the students are spies working for Cyclops and Emma Frost.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Coffin for Head of State,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. I just saw the Black Panther movie, which was amazing, and this comic would be a great introduction to the comics for fans of the movie. I hope Marvel is promoting it heavily. I didn’t remember having heard of the Heart-Shaped Herb before reading this issue, and I wondered if it was introduced in this comic because it appears in the movie, but I guess it already existed in the comics. This issue, T’Challa encounters Namor for the first time as they rescue Nigandan citizens who were kidnapped by an Atlantean warlord. Evan Narcisse effectively depicts the encounter between these two characters, who are both kings, but who have sharply different personalities.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 1999) – “The Price,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mark Texeira. I read this and some of the following comics after reading Abraham Riesman’s article on Priest (http://www.vulture.com/2018/01/christopher-priest-made-black-panther-cool-then-disappeared.html). I had trouble understanding some of the earlier issues of this series, but Riesman points out that this is partly deliberate. Riesman says the following of Quantum & Woody: “Told in nonlinear fashion, it was a delightful challenge to read: Details were withheld, recollections were unreliable, and jokes often required a detailed memory of what had gone before.” That also applies to Priest’s Black Panther, and difficulty and lack of linearity seem to be his stylistic trademarks. This issue, T’Challa fights some Wakandan secret police, then beats up Mephisto with one punch.

THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #1 (Image, 2016) – “A Story of Human Sacrifice,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Tomm Coker. Thanks to Hickman fatigue, I only ordered the first issue of this series. That was a mistake, because this is a good comic. It’s a dense, complicated story about the 1929 stock market crash and the four families that run the finance industry. It looks like this series is still going on, and I ought to look for the other issues of it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE #37 (DC, 1996) – “Rejoice,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Ramon Bernado. Surprisingly, this extremely low-profile comic was my favorite of the several Priest comics I just read. I heard from Facebook friends that this series was basically a joke; the JLTF were supposed to be the JLA’s secret weapon for emergencies, but they were never needed, and they were really the team where the JLA dumped all the people they didn’t want. This final issue of the series demonstrates Priest’s skill with characterization. It’s a difficult comic to understand without having read the previous issues, and I didn’t figure out that Will and Triumph were the same person until halfway through the issue. But the interpersonal drama is very well done, and Priest effectively shows what a jerk Triumph is.

BLACK PANTHER #8 (Marvel, 1999) – “That Business with the Avengers!”, [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Joe Jusko with Amanda Conner. This issue’s first five pages are a near-verbatim retelling of Captain America #100, drawn in a Kirbyesque style. I don’t think this sequence matters to the narrative, but it’s a surprising stylistic decision. Conner’s artwork contrasts radically with Joe Jusko’s photorealistic style. This issue is also notable for the revelation that T’Challa joined the Avengers to spy on them. It includes a guest appearance by Busiek and Pérez’s version of the Avengers, which makes me feel very nostalgic.

WEAVERS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dylan Burnett. This is one of the few Spurrier comics I haven’t read. Like most of Spurrier’s comics, it has an innovative high concept, as well as excellent artwork from an artist I’m not familiar with. Either Spurrier or his editor is really good at spotting artistic talent. This particular comic is a film-noir-esque story about people infested with alien spiders that give them superpowers.

New comics received on February 16:

MS. MARVEL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. The Substitute Kamalas battles the Inventor, and they use Kamala’s signal watch to summon Captain Marvel, who hasn’t appeared in this series lately (and good riddance). Meanwhile, Naftali continues searching for Kamala. This is the third consecutive issue in which Kamala doesn’t appear. It’s a testament to Willow’s skill with characterization that she’s able to tell an interesting story starring only her supporting characters, without using her main character at all. Still, I want to see Kamala again soon.

ANGELIC #6 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 6,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Casper Wijngaard. Qora recovers Ay’s Eye by petting the cat and making him/her cough it up. I feel a bit guilty for enjoying Runaways #6, in which a number of cats get eaten by a dinosaur (and see also Babyteeth #5 below). I feel a bit less guilty now that I’ve read a comic in which a character literally saves the world by petting a cat. Anyway, Qora sends the bird on a mission to restore Ay’s Eye, which will resurrect the humans or something. But Qora pulls a sleight-of-hand trick and replaces the Eye with the EMP pulse bomb, and Ay gets destroyed, leaving the monkeys and manatees free to choose their own destiny. Sadly, the bird gets killed in the process, making Qora realize that she’s sacrificed an animal for her own benefit, just like the humans did. The final surprise is that the last page says “Angelic will return,” so this could be more than just a miniseries. Overall, this is Simon Spurrier’s best work yet, and would be a great introduction to his work for new readers. I don’t know why he’s not more popular, because he’s an awesome writer.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” part ???, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This series is starting to feel a bit repetitive, but that’s an uncharitable thing to say, because Ryan and Erica are still doing an amazing job. This issue, Loki summons a bunch of characters to fight the Silver Surfer, including Hocky Hoof Hank, the Thor who’s an actual horse. Eventually the misunderstanding about the Surfer’s identity gets resolved, but by then it’s too late, because the planet is being besieged by aliens who were robbed by the fake Surfer. Besides Hocky Hoof Hank, the best jokes in this issue are the Star Wars opening crawl, and the caption about Ulyaoth putting his reading glasses back on and returning to his book.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #63 (IDW, 2018) – “Ponies Versus Prohibition,” [W] Christina Rice, [A] Brenda Hickey. I made up that title. A new character named Temperance Flowerdew arrives in Ponyville and leads a campaign against sugar. She manages to enlist Pinkie Pie, of all ponies, to her cause. However, her campaign backfires: the other ponies open a speakeasy that serves illegal desserts, leading them to eat even more sugar than before. At the end of the issue, it turns out that Temperance hates sugar because she was deprived of it as a filly, and things go back to normal. This issue is a very funny parody of real-life prohibition, and includes some jokes that younger readers will miss; for example, the password to the speakeasy is “swordfish.” There’s also a song, with lyrics that scan perfectly.

BABYTEETH #8 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Marty and Me,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This is the second comic I’ve read this month in which a cat gets eaten by a monster, although in this case it happened before the issue began. This issue, Sadie’s mother turns out to be an awful person who drugs her own daughter. Also, the dark-haired guy in the maroon suit is Sadie’s brother. But Heather, Sadie’s dad, and the demon raccoon are going to try to rescue Sadie.

TWISTED ROMANCE #2 (Image, 2018) – “Twinkle & The Star,” [W/A] Alejandra Gutiérrez, [A] Alex de Campi. In this issue’s main story, an Indian-American, non-conventionally-attractive woman falls in love with a celebrity actor. The story powerfully demonstrates Twinkle’s low self-esteem, compared to the confidence of the people who work with, and her struggle to see herself as worthy of the star. Alejandra Gutiérrez’s art seems heavily influenced by Brandon Graham, but her style is not a carbon copy of his. My problem with this comic is the ending, where it turns out that Nick is asexual. I get that asexual representation is important, but Twinkle clearly does have sexual desire for Nick – there’s an entire page that shows her fantasizing about him – and it seems unfortunate that she should end up with a man who can’t satisfy her desires. This issue includes another prose story, but it’s much more enjoyable than the one from last issue, and I’d read it even if it wasn’t published in a comic book that I was already reading. It’s a touching portrayal of both college life and relationship angst. The backup story, by Meredith McClaren, is about a relationship between a human and an AI.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #698 (Marvel, 2018) – “Out of Time, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Having been frozen in ice again, Cap wakes up in the future. In this era the U.S. is run by a capitalist fascist dictator named King Baby, who used a nuclear war as a pretext to seize total power. And it’s only 2025, so this all happened in seven years. Gee, it’s a good thing that this is a totally fictional and implausible scenario, and that there’s no contemporary American political figure to whom the name “King Baby” could obviously refer. After two unimpressive issues, Mark has gotten back to the level of quality he achieved in #695. This issue is powerful, political and exciting, and could be a spiritual sequel to Peter B. Gillis’s What If? #44. Meanwhile, Chris Samnee continues to be one of Marvel’s two best artists.

XERO #2 (DC, 1997) – “The Rookie,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Chriscross. This partially creator-owned series stars a secret agent who specializes in cleaning up after other secret agents’ mistakes. Also, he disguises himself as a blonde white man, but in his secret identity he’s a black basketball player. There is a lot of potential here, but this comic is so confusing and convoluted that I had serious trouble following it, and that’s especially bad since this is only the second issue. I would read more of this series, but I’d want to start with #1.

MOTHER PANIC/BATMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars, Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ty Templeton. Mother Panic is the only Young Animal title I haven’t been reading, although I’m behind on Cave Carson and Shade. In this issue, Mother Panic and Batman team up to rescue some children from a creepy milk cult. I’m not sure if these Milk Wars installments are all meant to be read together, or if they’re all separate takes on the theme of milk. Either way, this is a fun and creepy comic (I have “Cushy cow Bonny, let down your milk” running through my head) and Ty Templeton’s art and John Workman’s art create a nostalgic feel.

DIRTY PLOTTE #11 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1997) – “My New York Diary, Part 2,” [W/A] Julie Doucet. I’ve read the My New York Diary graphic novel, but I read it years ago, and it was my first Doucet comic. Now that I have a bit more familiarity with her work, I can see how this story was a big advance on her previous work, in terms of its narrative scope and realism. Also, I remember Julie’s boyfriend being a real asshole, but reading this story again, I see that he was an even bigger asshole than I realized.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Mother’s Milk,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Mirka Andolfo. This has no connection to the Mother Panic-Batman issue. In this issue, Wonder Woman is the priestess of a cult of domesticity and motherhood, and her servants are several different versions of Shade, each representing a different emotion. Eventually Shade helps Diana recover her true identity. I enjoyed this issue.

ARCHIE #22 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 3,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Betty’s friends all have flashbacks to their past lives with her. There’s even one sequence that shows Little Archie’s first meeting with little Betty, which I assume is an intentional homage to Bob Bolling. At the end, Betty wakes up but can’t feel her legs. I wish I’d ordered the next two issues.

KILL OR BE KILLED #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue begins with a sequence in which Dylan kills two muggers on the subway. Thankfully, it turns out that this was just a fantasy, and Dylan proceeds to explain why it was unrealistic and racist. Having trouble finding a bad person to kill, Dylan eventually kills a Russian sex trafficker, but is then forced to kill one of his girls in self-defense. Also, Dylan’s roommates are starting to figure out who he is. These events illustrate how difficult it would be to actually maintain a secret identity in real life, or to be a professional crimefighter. Sean Phillips’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, both realistic and attractive.

VIC AND BLOOD #2 (Mad Dog, 1988) – “A Boy and His Dog” and “Run, Spot, Run,” [W] Harlan Ellison, [A] Richard Corben. Since reading the first issue of this series, I’ve read Ellison’s original story. As a result, when I read Corben’s adaptation of the second half of Ellison’s story, I was frustrated by how much was missing. Corben leaves out a lot of important points, including the ambiguity as to whether or not Quilla June had sex with Vic voluntarily, and Ira’s incestuous passion for his daughter. The adaptation reads like a summary of the high points of “A Boy and His Dog,” rather than an adaptation, although the shock ending is still quite powerful. I know it’s not possible to adapt a prose work to comics without certain sacrifices, but I think Corben could have done better. The backup story in this issue, a sequel to “A Boy and His Dog,” is better because it was intended as a comic rather than a prose story. However, it has an anticlimactic ending in which Vic gets eaten by giant spiders, and Blood goes off on his own. According to Wikipedia, Ellison wrote this story because he was sick of being asked for more stories about Vic and Blood.

ARCHIE AND FRIENDS #147 (Archie, 2010) – “Twilite, Part 2,” [W] Angelo DeCesare, [A] Bill Galvan. A dumb but funny parody of Twilight, with Veronica as Bella. I assume it’s better than actual Twilight, but I wouldn’t know. This comic is not exactly poorly crafted, but it feels much lighter and less ambitious than Waid or Zdarsky’s Archie comics.

And now, for the first time all year, I have no comics left to review.

First reviews of 2018

2-1

This is now the sixth calendar year in which I’ve worked on this project.

Comics I read before the first new comic book day of 2018:

USAGI YOJIMBO #165 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida capture the lesser criminals, but their mastermind escapes. This was not a bad conclusion, and it effectively set up the next story. I think this is the last issue with the current numbering; it looks like the next Usagi story will be a miniseries.

BATGIRL #18 (DC, 2017) – “White Elephant,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Sami Basri. Babs and her friends get together for Christmas, but Harley Quinn shows up and leads them on an adventure. There’s also a subplot about an evil dudebro venture capitalist. This was a fun issue, but I don’t remember much about it now.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #4 (DC, 2017) – “War and the Windrider,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. This issue has some fun character interactions, but it doesn’t advance the plot much. This series could maybe have been five issues instead of six.

SPIDER-GWEN #27 (Marvel, 2017) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Veronica Fish & Olivia Margraf. Another issue in which not very much happens. This issue has pages by two separate artists, but it’s hard to tell them apart.

DETECTIVE COMICS #645 (DC, 1992) – “Electric City, Part 2: Grounded!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tom Lyle. Batman and the Electrocutioner, Gotham’s version of the Punisher, race against each other to catch a serial  killer. Despite my intense dislike for Chuck Dixon, I thought this was a fairly exciting comic.

SOMERSET HOLMES #3 (Pacific, 1984) – untitled, [W] Bruce Jones & April Campbell, [A] Brent Anderson. This series, one of Bruce Jones’s numerous creator-owned titles, is a hard-boiled detective story. It’s very well-drawn, but hard to follow because it’s part 3 in an ongoing story. In my memory I confused it with Hand of Fate, which is also a detective comic by Bruce Jones, but with more of a supernatural element. This issue also includes a backup story with excellent art by Al Williamson.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #9 (DC, 1991) – “The Prophet Margin,” [W] Peter Miligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. Like many Peter Milligan comics, this comic felt very profound and complex when I was reading it, but I couldn’t remember much about it afterward. In this story Shade battles an aging hippie who wants to share his LSD addiction with the rest of the world, or something like that, and also Shade gets stuck in the body of a giant newborn baby.

MICKEY MOUSE #228 (Gladstone, 1987) – “The Captive Castaways,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. Now that I’ve read the awful pre-Gottfredson Mickey strips (see my review of The Uncensored Mouse #1 from last year), I understand what a great storyteller Gottfredson was. This issue is the conclusion to a complex and funny story in which Peg-Leg Pete becomes the captain of a pirate ship and kidnaps Minnie. But Mickey tricks Pete into making Mickey the captain, so that Mickey can perform Pete and Minnie’s wedding, and Mickey orders Pete’s men to mutiny. The plot is driven by Mickey’s brilliance and Pete’s stupidity – the fact that Pete can’t read is a significant plot point. After reading this issue, I begin to understand why Gottfredson was so great, and I want to collect more of the Gladstone reprints of his work.

TWO-FISTED TALES #8 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1994) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. The first two stories, Jack Davis’s “Mud!” and Wally Wood’s “Bunker Hill!”, have excellent artwork, but the plots aren’t that great. The highlight of this issue is “Corpse on the Imjin!”, one of Kurtzman’s most famous stories. An American soldier sits by the Imjin river watching a corpse float by, then gets attacked by a North Korean soldier. The American kills the North Korean with his bare hands, turning him into another corpse floating in the river. This story exhibits the great themes of Kurtzman’s war comics – the brutality of war and the common humanity of “us” and “them”. The story is also a masterful demonstration of cartooning, especially the page in which Kurtzman depicts the orgasmic buildup to the Korean soldier’s death, and the release of tension afterward. Severin and Elder’s “Buzz Bomb!” is another good-but-not-great story.

ASTONISHING TALES #9 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Legend of the Lizard Men!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. For unspecified reasons, the story originally intended for this issue was postponed to issue 10. This may have been related to the fact that #9 was the first issue of Astonishing Tales with only one feature instead of two. Instead, #9 consists of a fill-in story in which Ka-Zar encounters a witch who turns men into lizardmen. This story has some nice artwork, but is otherwise forgettable. This issue also includes a reprinted “story” starring Lorna the Jungle Girl, with art by Jay Scott Pike. I put “story” in quotation marks because the first four and the last two pages of this story are in fact reprinted from two different stories, both originally published in the same issue. I assume this was not intentional.

DAREDEVIL #145 (Marvel, 1977) – “Danger Rides the Bitter Wind!”, [W] Jim Shooter & Gerry Conway, [A] George Tuska. Daredevil battles the Owl, whose last adventure has left him in a wheelchair. This is a boring issue from a bad run of Daredevil comics.

NAUGHTY BITS #5 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Toadman Returns,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. Earlier in the series, Midge had an unsatisfying sexual encounter with a man named Lyle, a.k.a. Toadman. This issue, he turns out to be Midge’s new coworker. Toadman instantly starts hitting on Midge, to the point of sexually harassing her. All his Midge’s female coworkers encourage him in it, while needling Midge for refusing his advances. This is an effective depiction of how sexism and workplace harassment are perpetuated by women as well as men. In the end, Midge takes Toadman out on a date just so she can tell him to go to hell (https://www.instagram.com/p/BdjJ0eCFIf1/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). Toadman subsequently gets fired for conducting personal business on work time and for being a deadbeat dad, but his female coworkers all make excuses for him, showing that while Toadman may be gone, he’s just a symptom of a bigger problem.

THE SPIRIT #44 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “The Crime of Passion” and three other stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. This series is probably the best way to collect The Spirit, since the Archives volumes are beyond my price range, but it’s a pity that the stories are reprinted in black and white. Without color, Eisner’s artwork can be difficult to read. The four stories in this issue are all good examples of Eisner’s postwar style, but none of them particularly stand out. The last one, “Black Alley,” is marginally better than the rest.

MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #16 (Image, 2009) – “Last Night the Atomics Saved My Life!”, [W] Jamie S. Rich, [A] Joëlle Jones; and “Tweenage Wasteland!”, [W/A] Mike Allred. This issue’s main story is narrated by a groupie who falls in love with the lead singer of the Atomics. The backup story also guest-stars the Atomics. Neither story is all that great.

USAGI YOJIMBO #22 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “Blood Wings, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi defends a village from the Komori ninja. These characters are a poor fit for this series because they have superhuman abilities that correspond to the animal they’re based on – in other words, they can fly because they’re bats. The animal forms of most of the other characters in Usagi Yojimbo are purely cosmetic; for example, Usagi is effectively a human with a rabbit’s head, not a human-sized rabbit. Maybe this is why Stan has used the Komori ninja very rarely in recent years. The backup story in this issue is a little better than usual because some of the art is by Stan.

LEGEND OF OZ: THE WICKED WEST VOL. 2 #1 (Big Dog Ink, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tom Hutchison, [A] Alisson Borges. A trite and poorly drawn Oz parody. I got this for free at a convention, and I’m glad I didn’t waste any money on it.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #103 (Charlton, 1972) – “The Sniper,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. This issue’s lead story has some good art, but the writing is lifeless, and the writer makes no attempt to examine the psychology of the characters. The other stories in this issue don’t even have Glanzman artwork to recommend them.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #28 (Marvel, 2009) – “The Unspoken, Part 2,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Khoi Pham. I bought this from a 50-cent box because I like both the writers, but they both phoned it in on this issue. There are at least some rudimentary attempts at characterization, including some scenes with Stature, but it doesn’t feel like a lot of effort went into this comic.

The following comics were waiting for me when I came back from MLA:

PAPER GIRLS #19 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. An average issue. There are more scenes with Charlotte and Jahpo and giant robots, but none of it is especially striking or memorable.

RAT QUEENS #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. This issue’s main plot is about a bar that’s serving some weird mushrooms. Also, Orc Dave has somehow gotten his son killed, and Violet’s father is dead. I had trouble following this issue’s plot – in particular, I can’t remember what happened to Dave’s son. But the Cheech Wizard character shows up on the last page, suggesting that all or part of this issue was a dream sequence or a hallucination.

MISTER MIRACLE #6 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. A truly touching piece of work. Barda and Scott have a conversation about renovating their condo, all while escaping traps and battling Orion’s flunkies. It turns out the reason Barda wants to renovate the condo is because she’s pregnant. This is an adorable moment that totally changes the tone of the issue, although then there’s another jarring shift in tone when Scott reaches Orion’s throne room and finds him dead, with Darkseid standing over him.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue continues the story up to the point where X-Men was cancelled. The next miniseries, coming later this year, will start with Giant-Size X-Men #1. The stories summarized in this issue were written by multiple people and were not originally intended as a single cohesive plot. Piskor’s achievement is to combine all these different stories into a giant overarching narrative, hence the title Grand Design. He even makes it seem like the X-Men writers prior to Claremont were intentionally setting up for events in Claremont’s run, even though that is obviously not factually true. In general, this is an awesome comic; it’s probably the best Marvel comic since Vision, and the best X-Men comic in at least a decade.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The King at the End of Everything,” [W] Evan Narcisse w/ Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Paul Renaud. This is possibly even better than the regular Black Panther series. Narcisse retells Black Panther’s origin clearly and passionately, revealing lots of details that are either new or unfamiliar to me, and investing these details with strong emotion. T’Challa’s mother N’Yami is an impressive character, whose death in childbirth is surprising and saddening. This series will be the definitive Black Panther origin story.

GIANT DAYS #34 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther and Ed go on  a pub crawl, which ends with Ed falling off a roof. This was a pretty typical issue of Giant Days.

HAWKEYE #14 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Eden Vale offers to bring back Kate’s mom if Kate helps her against Clint. Kate touchingly refuses because Clint is as much her family as her mother is. Then Madame Masque and Eden Vale decide to team up. This is a pretty good issue of a series that will be sadly missed.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This is good, but it suffers from “third issue syndrome,” meaning that it continues all the existing plotlines but doesn’t resolve any of them. I don’t remember much about it.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. This is one of the few new X-Men comics I’ve bought since Wolverine and the X-Men ended. I think one of Marvel’s bigger problems at the moment is their inability to produce successful X-Men comics. This series is at least a reasonable attempt at an X-Men title that has top-tier creators and appeals to a broad audience. Rogue and Gambit were never my favorite X-Men, partly because of their accents, but I grew up reading about them in Fabian Nicieza’s X-Men and watching them on the TV cartoon, so this issue triggers some nice feelings of nostalgia, and Kelly Thompson displays her usual brilliant characterization.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Tom Spurgeon just said something nice about this comic on Twitter, and it’s definitely not the sort of comic he usually praises. This issue, the heroes finally get to the treasure, but then the prince falls off a cliff.

DOOM PATROL #61 (DC, 1992) – “…”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case & Stan Woch. The Candlemaker systematically demolishes the Doom Patrol, but Dorothy, Cliff and Rebis succeed in defeating him, only to realize that Niles Caulder’s nanomachines are an even bigger threat. This issue is an epic conclusion to one of Grant’s greatest works.

WORLDS’ FINEST #0 (DC, 2012) – “Beginnings,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Kevin Maguire. I bought this when it came out, but never read it. When Paul was writing Huntress and Power Girl in the ‘70s, they were among DC’s best female characters. But when he returned to these characters in the 2010s, the standards for female superheroes were much higher, while Paul was still the same writer he was in the ‘70s, so his Worlds’ Finest series was a failure. This issue depicts Huntress/Robin and Power Girl/Supergirl’s first team-up, and it has some nice moments. But it covers the same events as Paul’s “From Each Ending… a Beginning” in DC Super Stars #17, and that story was better.

BLACK BOLT #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Midnight King Returns to Earth,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Titania get in a fight which ends when Titania realizes her husband is dead. Carl Creel’s wake and funeral are very touching, even if it won’t be long before Carl is resurrected by some other writer. Then some evil Inhumans invade the funeral and kidnap Blinky. There’s a rumor that this series is going to end with #12, which would be a pity, but Saladin Ahmed is going to go on to bigger and better things; see my review of Abbott #1 below.

DIVA #2 (Starhead, 1994) – “Doudou, the Poilu in Strays,” [W/A] Diana Sasse, plus other stories. An anthology of comics by women, edited by Michael Dowers and with creators such as Donna Barr and Roberta Gregory. The first story in this anthology title is a translated German comic, taking place in a postapocalyptic world divided between humans, or Poilus, and centaurs, or Boches. These terms of course also refer to French and German soldiers. As Donna Barr points out in her introduction, this comic is shockingly similar to Stinz, although I assume Donna didn’t discover it until Stinz already existed. This issue also includes some intriguing but narratively weak comics by E. Fitz Smith, who is better known as a graphic designer. The highlight of the issue is the multiple stories by Roberta Gregory, including one in which Bitchy Bitch meets Bitchy Butch, and they don’t hit it off well.

FIGHTIN’ FIVE #28 (Charlton, 1964) – “Introducing the Fightin’ 5, America’s Super Squad,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Montes. Despite the issue number, this is the first appearance of these characters. As usual, Charlton continued the numbering from a cancelled title, Space War, in order to qualify for lower mailing rates. As the GCD points out, the Fightin’ 5 are very similar to the Blackhawks, except they lack individual personalities. Still, Joe Gill clearly put more effort into this comic than into the dozens of other stories he churned out every month, and the result is an exciting adventure story with lots of references to Cold War politics.

VIC & BLOOD #1 (Mad Dog, 1987) – “Eggsucker,” [W] Harlan Ellison, [A] Richard Corben. This is Corben’s adaptation of Ellison’s classic short story “A Boy and His Dog.” I’ve never read any of Ellison’s non-comics work, although I have one of his short story collections, but this comic makes me interested in reading more of his work. It stars a teenage boy and his telepathic dog, who live in a very bleak and disturbing fantasy world. Corben’s art is up to his usual high standards.

GIANT-SIZE SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “To Bestride the World!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Based on Namor and Doom’s costumes in this issue, I thought it might be the issue where Doom says “Doom toots as he pleases,” but it’s not. In this issue, Doom and Namor team up against a robot named Andro who makes androids. It’s a tiresome and overly long piece of work. The backup story, a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #8, is much better than the main story.

SUPERB #5 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Matters of Trust,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Another cute issue of an enjoyable series. The issue begins with a flashback to Jonah and Kayla’s childhoods, then Jonah and Kayla plan their assault on the facility where their parents are being held, and Jonah repeatedly insists that Kayla choose a code name.

HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “Steve McQueen Has Vanished,” [W/A] Tim Lane. This is an ambitious piece of work, with beautiful art and lavish production design. The main story focuses on Steve McQueen, who is traveling the country incognito just after becoming America’s highest-paid film star. Steve McQueen died before I was born and I know nothing about him, so this story was a fun look at some history I’m not familiar with. Tim Lane’s artwork reminds me of Drew Friedman’s because of its photorealism and its nostalgia for mid-century America, though Lane’s draftsmanship is nothing like Friedman’s. This comic could be an Eisner contender.

NOT BRAND ECCH #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “Secret Empire: Abridged,” [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Scott Koblish. This issue’s main story is a frustrating piece of trollery. In this story, Nick Spencer repeats fans’ criticisms of Secret Empire in a mocking way, without in any way addressing the concerns behind these criticisms. This is a classic example of lampshading, where a text points out its own problems and then makes no attempt to resolve those problems. This story demonstrates Spencer’s hostility to his readers and his inability to accept criticism, and it won’t win him any new fans. It’s a shame that this story draws the reader’s attention away from the other quality work in this issue, including stories by Katie Cook, Jay Fosgitt, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson.

PLANETARY #6 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “It’s a Strange World,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. I’ve bought a bunch of issues of this comic lately, and I only need #4, #9, #23 and #25 for a complete run. This issue narrates the origin of the Four, a.k.a. the Fantastic Four, the primary villains of the series.

PRYDE AND WISDOM #1 (Marvel, 1996) – “Mystery School,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Terry Dodson. This miniseries co-stars Kitty Pryde, one of my favorite Marvel characters, but it has two serious problems. The first is Terry Dodson’s barely competent artwork. He’s become something of a fan favorite, but I’m not sure why. The second problem is the other co-star, Pete Wisdom, who is a blatant Gary Stu. He’s not a totally unoriginal character, but he’s also not as interesting as Ellis thinks, and it takes some nerve for Ellis to refer to Pete and Kitty –  rather than Nightcrawler, Meggan or Captain Britain – as “the heart and soul of Excalibur. (BTW, I need to get that annual that introduces Brian and Meggan’s baby.) I have the other two issues of this miniseries, but I haven’t felt like reading them.

SUPERMAN #29 (DC, 2017) – “A Minute Longer,” [W] Keith Champagne, [A] Doug Mahnke. I only bought this comic because I didn’t realize Peter Tomasi had left the series. I only read it because I was about to go to sleep, and I wanted to read something non-challenging. This comic has one good line – “courage is fear trying to hold on a minute longer” – but otherwise it’s pointless.

AVENGERS #99 (Marvel, 1972) – “—They First Make Mad!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. I read this story many years ago when it was reprinted in one of the later issues of Kurt Busiek’s run. In this issue, an amnesiac Hercules explains how he lost his memory, and then the Avengers fight Kratos and Bia, who show up to kidnap Herc. Meanwhile, there’s an extended subplot involving a love triangle between Vision, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye. This subplot includes perhaps the worst line Roy Thomas ever wrote – “in which case, Witchie, there’s weddin’ bells in your future!” – but Wanda’s growing passion for Vizh, despite her brother’s attempts to scare her away from him, is genuinely touching. BWS’s artwork on this issue is very good, though not up to the level of his later issues of Conan.

SNOID COMICS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1980/1989) – “The Snoid Goes Bohemian” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. The various stories in this issue are more notable for their misogyny and their bizarre sexual obsessions than for their artistic quality. One of them is about the Snoid’s foot fetish. After reading a bunch of Crumb comics, I still feel like I’m not quite getting the point. What other work has he done that’s on the same level as “Uncle Bob’s Mid-Life Crisis” or “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night”? What is there to his work besides weird male power fantasies? The artistic highlight of the issue is the famous “A Short History of America,” which depicts the same piece of ground at intervals of many years, although this piece originally appeared in a non-comics publication.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #2 (Rip Off, 1972/1980) – “Shootout at the County Slammer” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Shelton. Unlike Crumb, Shelton is genuinely fun even when his work lacks philosophical depth, as it generally does. This issue begins with a ten-page story in which the Freak Brothers break into a prison. Then there are a bunch of one-page strips, as well as some short pieces by Bobby London, Ted Richards and Dave Sheridan. In one of the sequences of strips, the Freak Brothers split up and return to their family homes (they’re not actually brothers), and Fat Freddy ends up sleeping with his own sister.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #1 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. This is a thematic sequel to Flintstones, although it’s much more “realistic,” in that the only fantastic element is that some of the characters are anthropomorphic animals. I’m not familiar with Snagglepuss, but it seems like all I need to know about him is that he’s an anthropomorphic lion, like Loony Leo from Astro City. This issue is set in the ‘50s and initially seems very straightforward, but it quickly takes a surprising turn when Snagglepuss disguises himself and visits the Stonewall Inn. Meanwhile, the McCarthy hearings are in full swing, and it looks like Snagglepuss will be blackmailed into testifying. The Rosenbergs and Dorothy Parker also appear, and the latter has some very witty dialogue. Like Prez and Flintstones, this comic is a deep, complex and political work, even though – or especially because – it’s based on some very banal source material.

MICKEY MOUSE #256 (Gladstone, 1990) – “The Mystery of Tapiocus VI,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. I was disappointed to realize that this wasn’t by Gottfredson. But at least instead it’s by Scarpa, perhaps the only European Disney artist I actually like, and its cleverness and epic scope are worthy of Gottfredson or Barks. In this story, Mickey encounters an old man who behaves exactly like a six-year-old child. It turns out the old man is a king who’s been deposed and rendered amnesiac by Pete, and Mickey restores his memory and returns him to his throne.

New comics received on January 16:

RUNAWAYS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home Part V,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. I’m loving this comic so much that I read it before Ms. Marvel or Squirrel Girl. Gert is now living with Molly and her grandmother, but it becomes clear that Molly’s grandmother has ulterior motives, and Gert and Molly decide to escape and return to their former teammates. Molly’s grandmother catches them escaping, but Chase, Nico, Karolina and Victor show up in the nick of time. This comic continues the major themes of the series – nostalgia for childhood and the inability to go home again – and Rowell and Anka depict the characters’ emotions beautifully, especially Gert’s homesickness. Also, this issue is full of cats and cute cat-shaped objects. The panel with the eight unconscious cats is just amazing. Until reading this comic, I actually didn’t know that you could buy loose catnip and give it to cats, and I have now bought some for my own cat. So who says comics can’t be educational?

MS. MARVEL #26 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. The Legion of Substitute Kamalas (I just thought of that name) battles a giant robot lizard, and Zoe realizes that it must be the work of the Inventor, who returns for the first time since issue 11 of the previous volume. It turns out the Inventor has switched to kidnapping old people instead of teenagers. Also, Naftali makes another brief appearance.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” (part 2), [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Doreen and Loki defeat Dormammu by summoning squirrel ghosts, then they head to the squirrel planet and defeat the fake Galactus. But then the real Silver Surfer shows up and Doreen mistakes him for the fake one, with unfortunate results. Until I read through this issue again, I didn’t notice the visual gag on the last page, where Norrin’s body is conveniently positioned so that Doreen misreads Loki’s message. The letters page includes a letter from (a squirrel friend of) a Professor Scott who teaches at Longwood and goes to Heroes Con. I’d like to meet that person.

MECH CADET YU #5 (Boom!, 2018) – A good but not great issue. The kids are grounded and forced to work as janitors with Stanford’s mom – and by the way, this series makes the important point that janitors are just as important as anyone else. Then they clean up some alien eggs, and Skip Tanaka gives them some special training.

ROYAL CITY #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much, except that it shows us the scene where Pat quits the factory, which we’ve already seen as a flashback.

NEW SUPER-MAN #19 (DC, 2018) – “Day in the Life of a Shanghai Reporter,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Brent Peeples. I gave up on this comic months ago, but I ordered this issue because it’s written by Mariko Tamaki. This issue is not a classic, but it’s much better than Gene Luen Yang’s issues of this series. Tamaki is much better at writing periodical comics than Yang. She succeeds in making Laney Lan a unique character rather than a Lois Lane clone, and her story feels like it’s set in China rather than in America disguised as China, which was my problem with Yang’s run on this series.

STUMPTOWN #4 (Oni, 2014) – “The Case of the King of Clubs, Part 4,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. I can’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but it’s an entertaining detective story. Unfortunately, Justin Greenwood is perhaps the worst artist Rucka has ever collaborated with.

BABYTEETH #7 (Aftershock, 2018) – “The Coyote,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue begins with a flashback to an earlier Antichrist-baby incident. Then Sadie and Heather’s mom, who appeared at the end of last issue, starts trying to impose her will on her children and ex-husband, but Heather is not willing to put up with it. Heather is so much more forceful and proactive than Sadie that she’s almost the real protagonist of the series. Sadie has a meek personality and is in a near-constant state of shock, making her almost recede into the background. The issue ends with Carl the assassin deciding to switch sides and protect Sadie instead of killing her.

BATMAN #1: BATMAN DAY SPECIAL EDITION (DC, 2016) – “I Am Gotham, Part One,” [W] Tom King, [A] David Finch. This is a reprint of Batman: Rebirth #1 that was distributed for free. It consists of an extended action sequence in which Batman nearly sacrifices his life to save an airliner from crashing, but is saved at the last minute by two new characters, Gotham and Gotham Girl. It’s an okay Batman story, but it doesn’t make me want to read any more of Tom King’s Batman. The John Workman lettering is a nice touch.

ARCHIE #20 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Reggie challenges Archie to a dangerous illegal drag race. Trying to stop them, Betty gets in a near-fatal car crash. This is only an average issue, but it leads to some very interesting plot twists.

SWORD OF AGES #2 (IDW, 2018) – “The Sacred Cave” and other chapters, [W/A] Gabriel Rodríguez. This issue didn’t impress me as the last issue, because I knew what to expect, but it’s still an exciting and exquisitely drawn SF/adventure comic. It’s an attempt to create an American commercial comic with the same level of quality as French commercial comics. Rodríguez’s writing is maybe not the best, and I have trouble following the plot, but his art and visual storytelling are so good that the plot almost doesn’t matter.

THE SPIRIT #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1983) – “Hildie & Satin” and other stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. The early issues of this series were in color. This issue’s first story introduces Silk Satin’s daughter Hildie, while in the last story, Eisner gets rid of Ebony, who had become an embarrassment, by sending him to school to learn to speak proper English. The racist implications of this are unfortunate, but at least this story shows that Eisner was beginning to regret his portrayal of Ebony. What especially impresses me about all these stories is their narrative compression. Eisner succeeded in telling complete and satisfying stories in seven pages by having multiple things happen in the same panel, and by relying on the reader to supply missing information.

TWO-FISTED TALES #4 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. In Jack Davis’s “Ambush!”, eight soldiers get caught in a North Korean ambush, and only one of them survives. This story is less impressive for its shock ending, in which the surviving soldier realizes that he survived because he didn’t have his good luck charm, than for Davis’s brutal depiction of the soldiers’ deaths. For example, one of them sacrifices his life to throw back a grenade at the enemy, and the expression on his face is indescribable. Severin and Elder’s “Pigs of the Roman Empire” is an underwhelming story about an alcoholic Roman commander. In Wally Wood’s “The Murmansk Run!”, a sailor is forced to stand watch on the deck in freezing cold. Disobeying orders, he lights a can of Sterno to warm himself, but this reveals his ship’s location to an enemy sub, which sinks the ship. We hate the sailor for his selfishness and insubordination, but at the same time, we sympathize with him for the inhuman conditions in which he’s placed. Finally, Kurtzman’s “Search” is kind of predictable. Its protagonist, an American soldier who emigrated to Italy, has returned to Italy during World War II and is looking for his brother who never left. Of course the brother turns out to be dead. But at least this story is a rare and valuable example of Kurtzman artwork.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #596 (Archie, 1989) – “A Reel Experience” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling. This issue begins with another of Bolling’s excellent nature stories, in which Archie tries to catch the Perilous Pike. The next story isn’t that great, but at least it includes the line “grown-ups aren’t supposed to be happy.” There are two other stories, one in which Betty’s cat causes mayhem, and another in which Archie’s dog-washing business causes even more mayhem.

HATE #19 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “Partners,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy opens a book and record store with his partner Jay, who nearly runs the business into the ground with his drug addiction. This issue is less funny than some issues of Hate, but it’s an effective depiction of the ‘90s alternative cultural scene and the perils of small business ownership. This story takes place in Jersey and not Seattle, but when I read it, I kept visualizing Buddy’s store as the Fantagraphics store. At the end of the story, Jay overcomes his addiction, which is heartwarming if somewhat hard to believe.

INCREDIBLE HULK #169 (Marvel, 1973) – “Calamity in the Clouds!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk and the Harpy, a.k.a. Betty Ross, encounter the Bi-Beast, who makes his/their first appearance in this issue. Despite the stupid villain, this is a pretty exciting issue from a good run of Hulk comics.

HERO CATS #20 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Bot to the Future!”, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. The Hero Cats team up with a robot from the future, resulting in some Terminator jokes. This issue is another piece of good clean fun. Next issue is billed as the finale of “season one.” The series has been running since 2014, so it seems rather disingenuous to declare that the whole series so far has been one season.

STUMPTOWN #6 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe: Part One,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. Despite Greenwood’s very subpar artwork, this is an entertaining story and a funny sendup of the Pacific Northwest’s coffee culture. A coffee franchise owner named Weeks hires Dex Parios to pick up a shipment of his new civet coffee – I won’t describe what civet coffee is, but it’s pretty gross. Then Weekes’s professional rival tries to hire Dex to deliver some of the coffee to him instead. Meanwhile, Dex’s ne’er-do-well sister drops in on her unannounced and demands to stay for six weeks.

SHE-HULK #161 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Jen defeats the Leader, then visits someone named Flo for therapy. I had no recollection of who Flo was, but Google tells me that she appeared earlier in this series, and that she’s a therapist who Jen was supposed to visit but didn’t. This was a fairly unimpressive issue, and it’s further proof that Mariko Tamaki is better at characterization than superheroic action.

BLACK PANTHER #168 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 9,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse. Half of this issue is a fight scene between T’Challa and his allies and the ancient gods. The other half depicts negotiations between T’Challa’s stepmom and the Dora Milaje. This is still a good comic, but the current storyline has dragged on way too long (much like “Panther’s Rage”), and I still haven’t read issue 169.

ADVENTURE FINDERS #3 (Antarctic, 2018) – “The Village of Orphans,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. I ordered this because Espinosa’s previous work, Courageous Princess, got a positive review in the Slings & Arrows Guide. This comic is an epic fantasy narrative with a teen girl protagonist. Espinosa relies too much on standard epic fantasy cliches, he includes too many unimportant named characters, and his facial expressions are kind of ugly. But this comic is exciting enough that I enjoyed it despite all that, and I’d read more of it.

SLASHER #1 (Floating World, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Charles Forsman. I have this entire series now, and I finally decided to finish reading it. This issue introduces us to two protagonists: a disabled boy and a girl who’s obsessed with blood. The girl turns to murder and violence for unclear reasons. This is a gruesome and enigmatic but intriguing work, with a much looser art style than Forsman’s I Am Not Okay With This, which I just read.

STUMPTOWN #7 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe, Part Two,” as above. Dex delivers the first shipment of coffee, then returns home to find that her sister Fuji has been a terrible houseguest. But Fuji has weaseled her way into the good graces of Dex’s disabled brother, so it won’t be easy for Dex to get rid of her. I read r/relationships frequently, and I see so many stories about people who have awful roommates that they can’t get rid of, so Fuji’s behavior seems very realistic.

STUMPTOWN #9 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe, Part Four,” as above. I forgot to order issue 8, but I was able to understand issue 9 anyway. As if Fuji’s behavior wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that she’s been conspiring with some local louts to steal the civet coffee. In a parlor scene, Dex defeats both plots to steal the coffee. Then Fuji finally leaves town. This was a cute and entertaining story.

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.