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Month and a half of reviews

3-27 

FUTURE STATE: SWAMP THING #2 (DC, 2021) – “Obsidian Sun Part Two,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. In order to save the world and reignite the sun, Swampy has to reabsorb his plant children. This is a sad conclusion to a very intriguing and well-written miniseries. I’m sorry that Ram V’s ongoing Swamp Thing series won’t be in this same continuity. By the way, based on my understanding of South Indian names,  I’m guessing that “Ram” is his only name and V stands for Venktesan, which is not his surname, but his father’s name. 

CEREBUS #40 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “Campaign,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Astoria go looking for votes. One elderly abbess promises him 15 electoral votes if he fires Astoria. Cerebus tries to convince a little boy to shake his hand, but the boy throws mud at him. This issue is one of the best depictions of electoral politics that I’ve seen in comics. 

YASMEEN #6 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. One of Yasmeen’s classmates falsely accuses her of being affiliated with ISIS. In response, Yasmeen explains how she survived a sniper attack and returned to her father, while her friend Noor was killed. The series ends with Yasmeen recovering from her trauma and being accepted by her classmates. Yasmeen was the most underrated comic of 2020. It’s a brutal and sensitive depiction of the effect of trauma on children, and it’s also a powerful critique of Trump’s Muslim ban, because it demonstrates how the biggest victims of ISIS are other Muslims. 

FAR SECTOR #8 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo discovers the existence of a black market for human-made memes. That sets up issue 9, which I already read. Heroes didn’t put issue 8 in my file, but they were able to reorder it for me. 

2000 AD #326 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: “The Slaying of Slade Part 15,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Slade predicts that Deller will try to rob an ancient Egypt exhibit, and sets a trap for him there. Skizz: untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. The protagonists try to escape Birmingham, but Van Owen is on their trail. Dredd: “Cry of the Werewolf,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd chases an albino werewolf through the undercity. Time Twisters: “The Visitation,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Eric Bradbury. An astronaut somehow finds himself in Viking-age England. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid Vultures Part 4,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. The vid-bot sacrifices itself to save Rogue. 

CEREBUS #41 – “Heroes,” as above. After more campaigning and some scenes with the Roach and the Regency Elf, Cerebus is exhausted and wants to go to bed. But then he learns that Lord Julius has rammed through a law that eliminates some of his safe electoral districts. The campaign continues. 

JOSIE #36 (Archie, 1968) – “Sock it to Who? .. (Whom?)”, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo. Josie meets a hippie singer named Clyde Didit, who keeps trying to sing a song with the lyric “Sock it to me, baby,” but every time he sings it, someone hits him. The GCD says that Clyde was a redesigned version of a character from Archie’s Mad House. 

BARBIE FASHION #29 (Marvel, 1993) – “Itchin’ and a-Twitchin’” and “Modeling Mix-Up,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Dan Parent. Barbie and Skipper go for a walk in the woods, and Skipper gets a poison ivy rash. In the backup story, Ken mistakenly thinks he saw Barbie at the movies with another man. The letter column includes a letter from a fan who wants to know how to find back issues – which could be a sign of Barbie’s distribution problems, but on the other hand, I’ve seen similar letters in Marvel’s superhero comics. 

GENTLE BEN #2 (Dell, 1968) – “Bearnappers!”, [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] José Delbo. Two poachers steal Ben and sell him to a wild animal show. Mark recovers Ben, and the animal show owner forces the poachers to trap more animals for him, which is a good outcome for everyone but the animals, I guess. In the backup stories, Mark and Ben rescue a lost horse and help put out a swamp fire. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. In Russia, a woman uses her job as a pharmaceutical seller as cover for her quest to kill her father’s murderers. This comic is most memorable for Matt Lesniewski’s gruesome and disturbing art, with its exaggerated renderings of body parts. 

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #97 (ACG, 1961) – “What Now, Little Man?”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] John Forte. A stingy old man gets shrunk to tiny size and narrowly escapes being eaten by a cat. He returns to normal size and becomes more generous. This story’s title is a reference to a novel by Hans Fallada. “Warning of Danger,” uncredited. A precognitive Japanese man fails to predict the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. “The Case of the Curses,” [W] Hughes, [A] Forte. A series of inset stories about curses. 

2000 AD #327 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Deller robs the Egyptian exhibit. Stogie stows away inside one of the stolen items, but Deller finds him. Time Twisters: “The Startling Success of Sideways Scuttleton,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Higgins. The title character has the ability to travel between parallel realities, but he does it so many times that he can’t find his original reality anymore. Finally he reaches what looks like his home reality, but decides it’s only another alternate reality, because someone gives him a pound coin instead of a pound note. The joke here, which I didn’t understand until I looked it up, is that in April 1983 the UK replaced pound notes with pound coins. So Scuttleton actually did get back to his home world, he just din’t know it. Dredd: as above. Dredd is bitten by the werewolf, then he uses its recorded cry to summon all the other werewolves. Skizz: as above. The escape attempt continues, but Skizz’s chances of escape aren’t looking good. Skizz lies for the first time by telling Roxy that everything will be okay. Rogue Trooper: “Eye of the Traitor Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. The Traitor General murders some doctors and steals their medical robots. Rogue doesn’t appear in this story. 

2000 AD #328 – Slade: as above. Stogie escapes from Deller, but finds himself in space. Stogie is such an awful racist stereotype that he singlehandedly ruins any story in which he appears. Time Twisters: “The Absolutely True and Authentic Story Behind the Hitler Diaries,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Mike White. An MI6 agent uses a time machine to create forgeries of famous items like the Hitler diaries. This story was inspired by the Hitler diaries hoax from earlier in the same year. Dredd: as above. Prager rescues Dredd from the undercity, and he’s cured of being a werewolf. Skizz: as above. The people of Birmingham show up to prevent Van Owen from blocking Skizz’s escape, but Van Owen shoots the van’s tires out. Cornelius climbs out of the crashed van to confront Van Owen. I don’t have #329, but I’ve discovered that Skizz Book One actually has a happy ending, which I would not have expected based on the ominous ton of the later chapters. Rogue Trooper: as above. Two grave-robbers named Bland and Brass go looking for the Traitor General. 

STILLWATER #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Pérez. I still think of Chip Zdarsky as an artist, but he’s been far more prolific and perhaps more important as a writer. At the town meeting, the townspeople demand a vote of confidence in the Judge’s leadership, so the judge orders his soldiers to shoot everybody. I don’t see why the Judge’s enemies don’t just all leave the town, since they can’t die, and surely the Judge doesn’t have the manpower to stop all of them. Or will they die if they leave town? I forget. 

CEREBUS #43 – “Election Night,” as above. The issue begins with a eulogy for Gene Day. It seems like Gene Day’s death was a massive trauma for Sim, and I’d even speculate that Dave’s grief over Gene may have contributed to his mental health problems. In the story, Cerebus and Lord Julius listen to election returns while making plans for military action against each other. Finally the election ends in a dead heat. This is a thrilling story, but I’m glad I didn’t read it before the actual election. There’s a backup story by Michael T. Gilbert.

FEAR CASE #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Kindt and Jenkins’s third collaboration is about two Secret Service agents who are trying to solve the agency’s oldest cold case, just before they retire. The case is about a mysterious briefcase with the property that if anyone opens it, they die, and it goes to the person they love most; but instead, they can give it to the person they hate most. I like this series better than Crimson Flower. This issue references Philip Verge from Bang!. 

2000 AD #614 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David A. Roach. Anderson solves a hostage crisis and then heads out to a nightclub. Meanwhile, a mad scientist performs brain experiments on a man named Walther. Future Shocks: “Horn of Plenty!”, [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] John Higgins. Reprinted from #248. A space explorer discovers a device that can replicate matter perfectly, but all it’s good for is making coffee. Swifty’s Return: untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jamie Hewlett. In a sequel to “Sooner or Later,” Swifty and his pal Clinton go to a party in the 21st century, where there are doors opening to various places in the past. Milligan’s story is kind of silly, but Hewlett’s art, as usual, is incredible. Dredd: “Spock’s Mock Chocs,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Brendan McCarthy & Jamie Hewlett. Dredd apprehends a confectioner who’s been selling candy that causes insanity and death. Not a great plot, but the artwork is as incredible as you’d expect from these two creators, especially since the whole story is in color. Night Zero: untitled, [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner prepares to confront Nemo, who killed Alanna several times. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Kev Walker. A trite ecological parable. 

FUTURE STATE: IMMORTAL WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – Wonder Woman: “Future State,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jen Bartel. In the far future, Diana fights Darkseid and tries to stave off the end of the universe. This story is well-drawn and exciting, but didn’t make a huge impact on me. Nubia: “Future State,” [W] L.L. McKinney, [A] Alitha Martinez. Nubia fights a blue-skinned villain, then asks her aunt Nancy (i.e. Anansi) for help solving some mysterious thefts. I preferred this to the main story, and I wish it was an ongoing feature. I especially like Nubia’s hair. L.L. McKinney is better known as a YA novelist and as the creator of the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag. 

LASSIE #41 (Dell, 1958) – “Thundering Hoofs,” [W] unknown, [A] Bob Forgione? Lassie and Timmy help rehabilitate an injured race horse, and then rescue it when it gets lost in a swamp. The second story from Gentle Ben #2 is also about a race horse that’s lost in a swamp. In the backup story, an older boy bullies Timmy into playing in a construction site. Inevitably, the boy falls off a bridge, and Lassie has to save him and Timmy from drowning. Both boys learn a valuable lesson about safety. This story has some pretty good characterization.  

2000 AD #615 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson and her friend go to the club, but Walter shows up there too, and starts a violent rampage. One-shot: “Fast Forward,” [W] Hilary Robinson & Davy Francis, [A] John McCrea. A man travels back in time to commt a theft, but materializes in the air over a construction site, and entombs himself in cement. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton find themselves in the antebellum South, where they’re imprisoned as escaped slaves. More brilliant art. Dredd: “Crazy Barry, Little Mo Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. A judge named Barry murders a suspect under the influence of Mo, a little blue demon who Barry believes lives inside his head. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan and the New Church start arresting people they don’t like. Meanwhile, Johnny and Middenface are still in jail. I mostly like Simon Harrison’s art, but he draws some very ugly faces. 

CEREBUS #45 – “Cerebus’s Six Crises, Crisis Number One: The Bureaucratic Rebellion,” as above. This issue and all the other issues until #50 are in sideways format. “Six Crises” is the title of a memoir by Nixon. In this chapter, Cerebus, now Prime Minister, invades a foreign to solve his cash flow problems, but the other country’s treasury proves to be empty. Also, Lord Julius sends Cerebus a box of exploding cigars. There’s a Neil the Horse backup story. 

BARBIE #32 (Marvel, 1993) – “Partyland” and “The Right Red,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Ken invites Barbie to a wedding reception, but Barbie accidentally attends three other parties instead, including a bar mitzvah. In the backup story, Skipper has a friend who’s so appearance-obsessed she can barely leave the house. Barb Rausch’s art this issue is quite good. She’s mostly forgotten today, but she was a gifted artist and an important advocate of comics for girls. 

MUDMAN #4 (Image, 2012) – “The Tide Turns,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman fights a villain with water-controlling powers. As usual this issue is full of amazing visual storytelling, but its plot and characters are lacking in originality. 

SUPERFUCKERS FOREVER #1 (IDW, 2016) – “The Time Bubble,” [W/A] James Kochalka. An unfunny, offensive Legion of Super-Heroes parody that takes about five minutes to read. I’m starting to hate James Kochalka’s work. There’s a backup story by Jake Lawrence from Teen Dog. 

THE SPECTRE #11 (DC, 1993) – “The Deepest Cut,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre fights Azmodus with help from Madame Xanadu, while Amy tries to escape being murdered by the Reaver. Quite an exciting issue. 

GREEN ARROW #49 (DC, 1991) – “The Last Lion,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Dinah contemplates dating someone other than Ollie, who’s been away for a long time now. Meanwhie, Ollie is traveling in East Africa, and he meets a Maasai man who tells him about how the Maasai people are losing their culture because of modernization. Ollie accompanies the Maasai man on a traditional lion hunt. The African language depicted in this comic is Swahili, not Maasai, but otherwise Grell’s treatment of Maasai people seems fairly respectful. 

CEREBUS #48 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Cerebus’ Six Crises, Crisis Number Four: Upstairs/Downstairs,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus tries to invade New Sepra, but quickly becomes overwhelmed by events. Jaka persuades Cerebus to resign as prime minister and run off with her. Cerebus refuses and even slaps Jaka. Refusing Jaka’s offer is perhaps Cerebus’s worst mistake; later on in Church & State, he changes his mind and tries to get Jaka to run off with him, but by that time Jaka is married and pregnant. The backup story is the first appearance of Wolverine MacAlistaire. 

FAR SECTOR #10 (DC, 2021) – as above. Jo tries to shut down the meme sweatshop, but is arrested by the police, who are clearly in league with whoever’s running the sweatshop. Jo discovers that Marth is behind the sweatshop. The government interferes with the scheduled election and organizes a military coup. I bet I know what was on N.K. Jemisin’s mind when she wrote this story. The line “There are waiting lines down the block […] not all of us can afford to materialize and vote in person!” has an obvious relevance to current events, and probably future events too, given what’s going on in Georgia as I write this. 

2000 AD #616 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson and her friend Corey stop Walther’s rampage, but he’s already killed some of the people his as-yet-unnamed controller was targeting. Night Zero: as above. Tanner solves Alanna’s murder, he and the latest Alanna clone become a couple, and Tanner arranges it so the perpetually-dark Zero City can have an hour of light each day. This story was a reasonably good hybrid of hard-boiled crime fiction and SF. It and its sequels were the only comics John Brosnan wrote. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton escape the slaveholders, then travel to ancient Rome where they reenact the myth of Androcles and the lion. More great art hampered by an overly compressed plot. Dredd: as above. Barry passes a lie detector test by having Mo answer the questions for him. Weston’s art and coloring are beautiful. Future Shocks: “Still Life,” [W] David Anderson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A young man is cryogenically frozen, but in the future, he’s mistaken for a statue. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Middenface escape from jail, and we meet Feral, an albino mutant who’s a refugee from Sagan’s church. 

FUTURE STATE: SUPERMAN VS. IMPERIOUS LEX #1 (DC, 2021) – “Superman vs. Imperious Lex Part 1,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Lexor, the planet where Luthor is a hero, applies for United Planets membership. Luthor maintains his hold on Lexor’s people by employing them to build killer robots. Superman visits Lexor and tries to save his people, but they reject his help. Even then, the UP approves Lexor’s application, and Lois is chosen to lead Lexor’s UP transition team. This comic is good, if not Russell’s best. It’s great to see Lexor again, but sadly, Ardora, Luthor’s Lexorian girlfriend, does not appear; I guess she would have humanized Luthor too much. In this comic he’s an obvious stand-in for Trump. 

BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE #2 (DC, 2021) – “The Unjust Judge,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Batman fails to save an old black clergyman from a fire, and sits with him as he dies. This is a powerful story, but maybe a bit emotionally manipulative. “All Cats Are Grey,” [W/A] Sophie Campbell. In a silent story, Batman fights and then romances Catwoman, and their actions are mirrored by two cats, one black and one white. This is the best story in this series so far. Sophie Campbell draws beautiful cats, and her visual storytelling is strong enough that the lack of dialogue is no hindrance. “The Spill,” [W/A] Gabriel Hardman, [W] Corinna Bechko. Batman saves the Joker from drowning. I am so sick of reading stories about Batman’s refusal to kill the Joker. For that matter, I’m sick of the Joker. “Dual,” [W/A] Dustin Weaver. Batman has an aerial dogfight with his father’s ghost. Good art but a dumb story. “The Devil in the Detail,” [W/A] David Aja. I don’t remember what this story was about, but I like how it’s formatted like an old comic strip. 

SEA OF SORROWS #3 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. The mermaids cause more chaos. I like Alex Cormack’s art, but otherwise this comic isn’t that great, and I would give up on it except that I’ve already ordered the remaining issues. 

SHANG-CHI #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 5,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and Shi-Hua defeat Zheng Zu, but she refuses to accept his authority. Shang-Chi quits his job at the bakery and becomes the new Supreme Commander. This was the only good Shang-Chi comic not written by Doug Moench, and the first Marvel comic I’ve read that felt like an example of the wuxia genre. I’m glad it’s going to continue as an ongoing series. 

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #4 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – “Little Ones Part 2,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Castor, the dude with the glasses, murders the refugee boy and another man, but then gets shot himself. The refugee girl continues wandering. A woman who looks like Fritz or Pepo makes a cameo appearance at the end. This miniseries is perhaps Beto’s first story that’s explicitly about current American politics, and it’s not a bad first effort in that direction. 

GRAPHIC FANTASY #1 (Image, 2021) – “Revenge!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen, plus other stories. A replica edition of the fan comic that introduced Savage Dragon. I wasn’t planning to buy this because of its inflated price tag, but Heroes included it in my file. “Revenge!” introduces Paul Dragon and his motherless daughter Angel, as well as prototype versions of other Savage Dragon characters. It’s an amateurish and derivative piece of work, and it’s only of interest to people who are even bigger Savage Dragon fans than I am. This issue also includes some even worse backup stories by other artists; it’s no wonder that none of these other creators eaver turned pro. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Tell-Tale Heart,” [W] James Finn Garner, [A] Sandy Jarrell. The only notable thing about this version is that it’s in black and white, except that the victim’s blood is red. “Winston,” [W] Tyrone Finch, [A] Ryan Kelly. A man discovers that his model train village has come to life. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Tide is Turned,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Namor, Dorma and Attuma get their asses kicked by the evil Swift Tide, and then they find that the Swift Tide has massacred Attuma’s people. Attuma acquires his iconic helmet. 

GRAPHIC FANTASY #2 (Image, 2021) – “Possessed,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Thankfully this issue is by Larsen alone and doesn’t include any material by the other creators. Also it’s a bit cheaper. “Possessed” has some cute moments, but is still only interesting as a prototype for Erik’s professional work. I was going to say mature work, but Savage Dragon is anything but mature. 

MONSTRESS #31 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika leaves Ravenna and prepares to confront the Warlord. I kind of wish this series would end soon. I feel obligated to read it, but I don’t enjoy it anymore, and it’s always one of the last comics I read every week. It’s unrelentingly grim and bleak, and its plot has never made any sense. 

I BREATHED A BODY #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “An Unforeseen Innovation,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Mylo Caliban is a bratty, confrontational social media celebrity. Anne is his brand manager. Mylo kills himself on livestream, and some kind of talking fungus grows from his corpse. I somewhat regret buying this series because it’s based on the same body horror aesthetic as Lonely Receiver, and I got sick of Lonely Receiver before it ended. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #5 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto accepts the Shrouded Man’s heart and agrees to return it to him. Also, Canto breaks the curse on the hollow people. This story will continue in the next Canto miniseries. I don’t love Canto, but I’m still willing to read it. 

MAESTRO: WAR & PAX #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Veni,” [W] Peter David, [A] Javier Pina. The Maestro fights Machine Man, and we’re reintroduced to the Pantheon, who have mostly been in limbo since Incredible Hulk #425. I hadn’t planned on ordering this series, and I’ve asked for it to be dropped from my pull list. 

BARBIE FASHION #30 (Marvel, 1993) – “Lucky’s Lucky Day” and other stories, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Barbie rescues a lost dog and saves an old lady’s flower show. The letter column includes a letter from an 11-year-old girl who wants to lose weight. To their credit, the editors reply by telling the reader that it’s not healthy to try to look like Barbie. The best thing about this series is the Amanda Conner covers. 

MUDMAN #5 (Image, 2021) – “Friends and Family,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman meets a creepy old lady with an axe, and his father tears up the picture of the mysterious woman, claiming that she’s evil. Again this issue is impeded by a lack of original ideas. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #25 (Marvel, 2021) – “The New World Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. The Enchantress reveals Ove’s origin. Carol escapes from captivity and gets her powers back. I’m starting to recognize Lee Garbett’s style of art. 

My next comic store trip was on February 22. This was the trip when I had a somewhat disappointing lunch at The Diamond.  

ONCE & FUTURE #16 (Boom!, 2021) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan and Gran run from Lancelot, but encounter a dragon instead. Galahad shows up, only he’s a centaur now. There’s also a subplot with Rose and the government agent. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #4 (DC, 2021) – untitlled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. In flashback, Father massacres an innocent family of hybrids so he can get inside the vault in Alaska. The elephant hybrid is revealed as Mel’s brother Earl. Father is one of Lemire’s more disturbing villains. He’s the kind of villain who has one goal in mind – reclaiming the surface world from the hybrids – and is willing to do anything at all to achieve it. 

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Ledge,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Leonard Kirk. Jesus goes to an evangelical amusement park, but no one recognizes him. On the way back, he saves a depressed man from committing suicide. Another good issue, if very similar to a typical issue of the previous series.  

ABBOTT 1973 #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Grip of Fear,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Miss Henrietta dies. Elena’s sexist boss makes him accompany her to a fundraiser as his date, and then treats her like a waitress. Elena storms out and goes home to discover that someone has vandalized her house and kidnapped her girlfriend Amelia. Not quite as eventful as last issue, but still excellent. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #12 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Charlotte convinces the children whose minds are powering Unity to rebel against Dr. Jain. This allows the Destiny Man to reduce Dr. Jain’s power enough that she has to let the protagonists leave Unity and proceed to the next sector. Finally we hear the rest of the message to Charlotte and Daniel, and then the protagonists meet a new Uncle Sam who’s dressed as a pirate. I liked this story arc even better than the first one; it had a much more compelling plot. The series resumes in June. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “Soul-Bound,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Zé Carlos. Johnny and Sky go on a date, and Johnny discovers that Sue is spying on him, and has also spied on his dates with his previous girlfriends. This part of the issue is fun, but the rest of the issue is wasted on a dumb fight scene that’s a tie-in with King in Black. 

ORCS! #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. This issue begins with a silly and boring story about an orc heroine named Drod. Luckily it turns out that this is just an inset story which one of the characters in the frame story is telling to some children, and the rest of the issue is much better. Christine Larsen’s orcs are really entertaining; they’re raucous and rude, but well-intentioned. Also, the main plot of this issue is that the orcs fight some vicious squirrels. Christine Larsen’s last series, By Night, was disappointing, but this new series shows that she’s gifted at both writing and art. 

RADIANT BLACK #1 (Image, 2021) – “(Not So) Secret Origin,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. I first heard of Kyle Higgins because of his Twitter commentary on direct market issues. This new series looked really exciting to me, even though I’m not a fan of the Power Rangers franchise, which it’s based on. Marcelo Costa’s art and costume designs are extremely striking, but the weak link in this issue is the hero, Nathan. To quote my own Facebook post: “The protagonist of the comic is $38000 in debt and thinks he can clear his debt by becoming a crime novelist. He must have been getting very bad career advice, because I’m not a fiction writer and even I know that most published novelists can’t afford to quit their day jobs. Also, he decided to give up his writing career after he’d already found an agent to represent him — which meant he *was* making progress. It’s extremely hard for a fiction writer to get an agent.” Later we learn that the agent only wanted to see a sample chapter, and in four years he wasn’t even able to write that. Overall, Nathan seems like the kind of aimless, unmotivated twentysomething who pretends to be working toward a career, but is actually just a slacker. To be fair, some of this is intentional on Higgins’s part, and by issue 2, Nathan’s character has already evolved.  

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #114 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles find Tokka and Rahzar, but the monsters only want to see Karai, who’s back at the dojo, and they turn violent. Also, Jennika and Raphael get in a fight. And there’s a subplot about a wizard from the future named Renet. As usual Sophie Campbell shows an incredible ability to draw all sorts of different people and anthropomorphic animals. I do think this series has quite a lot of characters, and it’s often unclear who they are or why they matter. 

BIRTHRIGHT #46 (Image, 2021) – “One Month Later,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In flashback, we see the start of Mikey and Rya’s romance, and then their wedding. I don’t think any of this has been shown before. In the present, Mikey and Rya hunt down a monster left over from Lore’s invasion, then pick up the baby from daycare. This issue includes some cute moments as well as some beautifully drawn fight scenes. 

ETERNALS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal Part 2,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Ikaris fights Thanos, and then he and Druig and Sersi and Kingo Sunen try to figure out who the traitor is. There’s also a flashback sequence where Ikaris tells a boy to light a bonfire when a montser shows up, and then the bonfire is finally lit by the boy’s grandson. I thought at first that this sequence was just included to illustrate the series’ theme of immortality, but now I think that Toby Robson, the boy at the end of the issue, is a distant descendant of the boy in the bonfire story. I like how Esad Ribić letters his own sound effects.  

LAST WITCH #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “Black Annis,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse rescues Brahm from the witch, Black Annis, and returns home, only to find that her dad and the other villagers have died in a plague. The sole survivor is Nan, who’s also a witch, and she tells Saoirse that her quest is to defeat the Cailleach and the other witches. V.V. Glass’s faces are incredibly expressive, and their coloring is beautiful. They’re the best new talent of the year so far. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #3 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. In  flashback, Jacey’s father luckily dies just before he would have done whatever he was going to do to her. I’m not sure if Jacey or David was responsible. Jacey is placed with some caring foster parents, but is so traumatized that she runs away. In another flashback, we discover that David used to be an awful incel. In the present, Jacey and David prepare to assassinate the evil politician. This is a really good series, particularly because of its depiction of child abuse. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #23 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles and Kamala team up to fight one of Knull’s dragons. This is pretty much a waste of an issue; it does nothing to advance Miles’s character arc. 

CHAMPIONS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “On the Run with the X-Men,” [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. I think Bob Quinn is the same artist as Bob Q. Cyclops can’t let the Champions into Krakoa, so instead he lets them hide out on a boat. Meanwhile, Viv talks with an old lady who’s a veteran of the civil rights movement. I didn’t see Wandavision, but I don’t think Viv appeared in it. That’s too bad because this character needs more exposure. 

HOLLOW HEART #1 (Vault, 2021) – “Tether,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. El is a monster trapped inside a cyborg battlesuit. His human assistant, Mateo, decides to risk his job in order to help El escape or die. This is a powerful premise, and there’s also a subplot about Mateo’s same-sex relationship.  

SCARENTHOOD #4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Roche. The parents find an old lady who knows where the Big Boy came from, and with her help, they’re able to rescue Scooper. Cormac almost kisses Jen, one of the other parents, but then Cormac’s wife appears out of nowhere. I’d really like to see a sequel to this miniseries, especially given that I still don’t understand where Cormac’s wife was. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The highlight of this issue is that Mark tries to tell Miguel that he’s an alien, and Miguel thinks Mark is trying to say that he (Mark) has AIDS. It’s a poignant misunderstanding. The main event this issue is that Boaz finally finds Mark. 

FAMILY TREE #11 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. In the future, the army kidnaps Loretta (the mother) and uses her as bait so they can destroy Meg. The villain in this issue is reminiscent of Father from Sweet Tooth, but Family Tree is not nearly as interesting as Sweet Tooth or Gideon Falls. Partly this is because Phil Hester’s art is serviceable but not exciting. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #11 (Marvel, 2021) – “Here We Make Our Stand,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians prepare for their epic confrontation with the Olympian gods. This issue seems well-executed, but its plot is hard to understand since I haven’t read the entire series. Juann Cabal is one of a large number of Spanish artists at Marvel. Many of these artists are extremely talented but don’t seem to have much of a fan following, perhaps because they don’t go to American conventions, or because contemporary Marvel comics are so writer-driven. 

FUTURE STATE: IMMORTAL WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – as above. Superman sacrifices himself to destroy Darkseid, and Diana uses the Spectre’s power to start a new Big Bang. In the backup story, Nubia uses Oshun’s Crown to defeat Grail. I like how Future State included two different and equally interesting versions of Wonder Woman. I want to see more of this incarnation of Nubia. 

FUTURE STATE: AQUAMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Confluence Part One,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Daniel Sampere. Aqualad (Jackson) and Aqualass (Andy) get trapped in another reality. This issue has some very good art and coloring, but its story isn’t that great. 

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Night & Day, Chapter Two,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. The two Dragonflies finally meet each other, and the contrast between their personalities is brilliant. Also, Number One carries out his plot against them.  

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #5 (DC, 2021) – “The Big Lie,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The protagonists confront some ancient vampires inside the Matterhorn, and there’s a flashback explaining the origin of American vampires. I hope this is the last issue of this series that I’ll be getting. 

BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – ‘Transfer Student,” [W] Patton Oswalt, [A] Dean Kotz. This story is told from the viewpoint of two of Golden Gail’s elementary school classmates. Of course, since Gail doesn’t age, she has to keep leaving school and returning in a new identity, while her classmates get older. One of the girls eventually discovers that all the Gails are the same person, and Madame Dragonfly allows her to leave Rockwood. This comic is an obvious tribute to Ghost World, and it ends by quoting Aimee Mann’s song “Ghost World,” which was based on the comic. For a writer with limited fiction writing experience, Patton Oswalt is very good. I’m surprised to learn that the children in Rockwood can grow up; I assumed the humans in town were ageless, like the superheroes. 

SHADOW DOCTOR #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Family History,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. In 1931, Nathaniel Calloway gets a medical degree from the University of Illinois, only to discover that because he’s black, no hospital in Chicago will hire him. Nor will any bank give him a loan to open a private practice. Nathaniel is forced to apply to the only man in Chicago who will lend money to a black doctor: Al Capone. I was skeptical about this comic, but this first issue is really good. It purports to be the actual story of the author’s grandfather, and Peter Calloway tells that story very convincingly. The power of this issue comes from the matter-of-fact nature of the racism that Nathaniel faces; for example, the doorman at Capone’s hotel refuses to let him in because “we have standards to uphold.” 

PANTOMIME #4 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. Many years after #3, the kids are in college, but they still spend summers together and commit thefts. They decide to retire after one last summer of thefts. But then they discover that the Manager has tipped them off to the cops. I just bought #5 but haven’t read it yet. 

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH VOL. 4 #5 (Archie, 2021) – “Something Wicked Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina defeats Delia in a card game, then comes home to find her cousin Ambrose waiting for her with ann invitation to a witch academy. The issue ends with a next issue blurb, but it says “Next!?!?!,” so I’m not sure if there will be another issue. Archie has been publishing very few monthly comics lately. 

2000 AD #617 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. We discover that the title character of the story arc, Helios, was responsible for Walthers’s killing spree. Tales from the Doghouse: “Maeve the Many-Armed,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A story about a multi-armed SD agent in a milieu based on ancient Ireland. All these Tales from the Doghouse stories are kind of dumb, and Simon Jacob’s art is rather ugly; he uses the same type of shading as Chris Weston, but his anatomy is much worse than Weston’s. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton get back to the party. Again, this story has beautiful art but a silly plot. Dredd: as above. Barry and Mo cause some more mayhem. Dredd figures out that something is wrong with Barry. Future Shocks: “Computer Dating Agency,” [W] David Anderson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Two vampires start a dating agency. This story is mostly talking heads, which is a problem because Belardinelli was great at drawing monsters and cityscapes, but he wasn’t much good at drawing faces. Strontium Dog: as above. Jonny and Middenface are finally on their way to Milton Keynes. Feral continues his fight against the church. 

Here I again had to interrupt my reading of ‘80s 2000 ADs, because I received a shipment of much older 2000 ADs. This lot consisted of about 46 progs from #42 to #96, for a bargain price of under $100, and it even included all the banned issues, though I haven’t gotten to those yet. 

2000 AD #42 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “Luna 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd is appointed to serve as the judge-marshal of the moon colony. This is a very early story, so it heavily features Walter the Wobot, and Dredd’s character isn’t well-developed yet. Future Shocks: “Time Past,” [W] Martin Lock, [A] José Ferrer. A time traveler traps himself in the stone age. Invasion: “The Prince,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Mike Dorey. Bill Savage has to smuggle Crown Prince James out of Volgan-ruled Britain. Until I read this story, I didn’t realize the Volgans were Soviets, not aliens. Dan Dare: “Star Slayer,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare leads an uprising against the Star Slayer Empire on the planet Drone. Gibbons is the best artist in this issue. MACH 1: “Death Ray,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Lozano (Leopoldo Sanchez) & Jaime Marzal Canos. MACH 1 destroys a Soviet doomsday device. In the Warren Companion,  David Roach says that Lozano was Leopoldo Sanchez, and that he used the name of his collaborator Nydia Lozano for unknown reasons. Harlem Heroes: “Inferno,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The Harlem Heroes sports team gets some new members and prepare for an aeroball game against the Sickles. This story is a lot like Mean Arena, except that I don’t understand the rules of aeroball.  

2000 AD #43 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “Showdown on Luna 1,” as above. Dredd has a gunfight with a “robo-slinger.” This story is a silly Wild West pastiche. Invasion: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Savage and his allies fight some Volgans at a circus. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew proceed to the next world in the Star Slayer empire: Grawl, a world of giant barbarians. MACH 1: “Mach Zero,” [W] Steve McManus, [A] Ramon Sola. We’re introduced to MACH 1’s prototype, MACH Zero, who’s a lot like the Hulk. Ramon Sola’s art resembles that of Neal Adams. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Sickles jump out to a quick lead against the Heroes. 

IMMORTAL HULK #43 (Marvel, 2021) – “We’re the Good Guys,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue is infamous for a panel on page 3 that includes anti-Semitic imagery. Joe Bennett claims this was an accident, and Marvel seems to have chosen to believe him, unlike in the case of Ardian Syaf where the offensive imagery was undeniably intentional. I discussed both these incidents further in my paper at ICFA last weekend. Other than that, this issue the U-Foes finally catch up to Hulk, and Gamma Flight goes looking for Rick and the Leader. 

BLACK WIDOW #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Ties That Bind Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha manages to save her family from the fire, but she has to separate from them for their own safety. This was a powerful first story arc, and Elena Casagrande’s artwork is beautiful. 

2000 AD #45 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “22nd Century Futsie!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. A bureaucrat goes crazy from future shock, and Dredd has to save him from being assassinated by agents of CW Moonie, the crime boss of Luna-1. The Luna-1 saga was technically the first extended Dredd epic, predating The Cursed Earth, but it was mostly a series of short stories that all took place on the moon. And the Luna setting offered little narrative potential; “22nd Century Futsie,” for example, could just as easily have taken place in Mega-City One. Invasion: as above. Savage and his allies rob a bank. The muscular Rosa Volgaska takes command of the Volgans’ operations against Savage. Dan Dare: as above. We’re still on Grawl, where the Starslayer somehow causes Dare’s crew to turn against him. Future Shocks: “Killer Car,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Mike Dorey. An intelligent car turns evil and rebels against humans. Unusually, this story is set in the present day, and Tharg’s introduction even points out that this setting is unusual. I wonder if this story was originally intended for a different comic. MACH 1: as above. MACH 1 fights MACH 0. Inferno: as above. The Heroes viisit a mazelike casino to investigate a match-fixing plot. 

SAVAGE #1 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Like Bruce Jones or Mark Waid’s Ka-Zar, this series is about a Tarzan-esque character forced to live in the modern world. The twist is that Savage’s protagonist is also a YouTube star. In this issue he fights some giant monsters and then gets kidnapped by a mad scientist. I don’t remember why I ordered this comic. It’s not bad, but I mostly forgot about it by the time I read issue 2. 

2000 AD #46 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Starslayer captures Dare’s crew, but Dare remains free by switching uniforms with one of the Starslayer’s men. From #46 to #58, the cover to each issue doubled as the first page of the Dan Dare story. Future Shocks: “Time Was,” [W] Martin Lock, [A] Ramon Sola. A time traveler sends his entire street back in time. MACH 1: as above. John Probe (MACH 1) thinks he’s saved MACH 0, but his evil boss Sharpe kills MACH 0 anyway. Dredd: “Meet Mr. Moonie,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd arrests CW Moonie, who has a giant head like Hector Hammond. Invasion: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. Savage and his team escape a Volgan attack while crossing from Scotland to England. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Heroes’ target, Cullen, sends some androids to attack them. I don’t especially like “Inferno,” though it does have some good artwork. 

S.W.O.R.D. #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Everywhere Man,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti et al. Eden Fesi, AKA Manifold, talks with two older Aboriginal men and tries to recruit Snarks to fight Knull. This issue seems like a respectful depiction of Aboriginal Australian culture. I especially like it when Eden says that one of the laws of Krakoa is “respect this sacred land,” and then Baz points out that they had to make it a law. But overall, SWORD is Al Ewing’s worst  current series. 

BARBIE FASHION #33 (Marvel, 1993) – “All That Jazz” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mario Capaldi. This artist mostly worked in British girls’ comics, including Misty. His only American credits besides Barbie are Marvel’s Zorro and James Bond Jr. This issue, Barbie meets a young jazz musician who wants to be a rock musician instead. The young man’s parents are obviously based on Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan. In the backup story, Barbie collects seashells for Skipper’s sick friend. I wonder if any of Skipper’s friends appeared in more than one issue. 

MUDMAN #6 (Image, 2013) – “This is a Test,” [W/A] Paul Grist. The dude in sunglasses trains Owen to use his powers. This was the last issue, and that’s just as well, because Mudman was a boring and unoriginal series. 

LITTLE ARCHIE #24 (Archie, 1962) – “The Gentle Way” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. In the first story, Little Archie loses a judo tournament but then uses his judo skills to save his mother from being mugged. Judo must have been a fad in the early ‘60s, because it shows up in lots of comic books from that era. “One Quiet Night” is a slapstick story about Polly Cooper’s cat. The highlight of the issue is “Robots of Doom,” the first appearance of Mad Doctor Doom and Chester. It opens with a gorgeously moody establishing shot of Mad Dr. Doom’s mansion. In “The Chance of a Ghost,” Little Archie dreams he’s turned into a TV set. In “Makes the Eel Kneel,” Archie defeats an escaped criminal. This story is unusually violent for an Archie comic: the criminal shoots at Archie and actually hits him. These stories are all by Bolling, and there are two others by Dexter Taylor. 

2000 AD #47 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare captures the Dark Lord (that’s his name, not Star Slayer) and takes him aboard his ship. The Visible Man: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Carlos Trigo. Frank Hart is covered with radioiactive sludge in a traffic accident, and wakes up to discover that his skin and muscles have become transparent, leaving his skeleton and organs visible. Future Shocks: “Enemy Agent,” [W] Nick Tufnell, [A] John Cooper. A shapeshifting alien replaces the rulers of the US, USSR and UK with duplicates. Dredd: “Land Race,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. A new area of the moon is opened for development, and Dredd has to apprehend some corrupt land speculators. Walter falls in wuv with another wobot. This story is still pretty dumb, but the art is the best yet in any of these early progs, especially the opening panel depicting the vehicles assembled for the land race. Invasion: as above. Savage and his team reach Liverpool and are joined by Georgia, who claims to be from the US south but is in fact a double agent for Rosa. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats (not Heroes, oops) defeat the droids, but Cullen gets killed, so the trail of the gambling syndicate goes cold. 

STILLWATER #6 (Image, 2021) – “1999,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. In 1999, the brother of Stillwater citizen Mitch Derry is getting overly curious about Mitch’s whereabouts. The Judge sends Ted, a Stillwater resident, back into the outside world to deal with Mitch’s brother.  Ted assassinates Mitch’s brother, but is caught doing it by his old army buddy Kreegs, and has to bring Kreegs to Stillwater. We then pick the story up where we left it in issue 5.  

PENULTIMAN #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Antepenultiman puts Penultiman on trial, and it comes out that Penultiman has an inferiority complex; thanks to his upbringing, he’s only happy when he feels worse than someone else. Antepenultiman and Penultiman decide to switch identities. This series was pretty good, but it’s not my favorite Ahoy comic. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #11 (DC, 2021) – “Contest of Crowns,” [W] Grant Morrison,  [A] Liam Sharp. Hal visits Athmoora, the world where he’s a barbarian hero, and there’s also a confusing plot about the Golden Giants and Hector Hammond. This is yet another issue that’s impossible to understand, and also, Liam Sharp has jumped the Liam Shark. His computerized art looks amateurish, and he should stick to traditional art. 

CEREBUS #49 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Cerebus’s Six Crises, Crisis No. 5: The Last Stand,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus collapses into an alcoholic stupor, while Iest fails to defend itself against a barbarian invasion. At the end of the issue, Cerebus realizes that the invaders are Conniptins and not Hsiffies, but I don’t know why this matters. The orientation of the panels changes repeatedly in this issue, perhaps to make the reader share Cerebus’s state of intoxication. This issue includes the conclusion of the first Journey story. 

2000 AD #48 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Dark Lord escapes into the nuclear reactor of Dare’s ship, and summons his own fleet to attack Dare. Visible Man: as above. A doctor named Burnard wants to use Frank Hart as a test subject, but Hart escapes Burnard’s lab. Future Shocks: “Substitute,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Giorgi. An astronaut gets lost on the moon and is kidnapped and replaced by an alien. Giorgi has no other 2000 AD credits and I can’t find any information about them. Dredd: “The Oxygen Desert Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. After judging some petty disputes, Dredd goes outside the dome to apprehend a criminal named Butch Carmody, but gets stuck on the lunar surface without oxygen or transportation. Invasion: as above. Savage and his crew get on a ship headed for Canada. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats get some new cheerleaders who are secretly planning to betray them. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #426 (DC, 1987) – “From the Dregs,” [W] Marv Wolfman w/ John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. In part 18 of Legends, an amnesiac Superman finds himself on Apokolips, where he leads the Hunger Dogs in a rebellion against Darkseid. But then we learn that Superman is an agent provocateur working for Amazing Grace (a New God of Apokolips, created by Byrne for this storyline). Legends was a stupid crossover, but Ordway’s art in this issue is quite good. 

BARBIE FASHION #34 (Marvel, 1993) – “The City Kitty” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch & Kathleen Webb. Barbie rescues a stray cat. In the second story, Barbie and Ken agree to help Ken’s grandparents stay in their house rather than move to a retirement home. Barb Rausch’s art is much better than Kathleen Webb’s. 

GREEN LANTERN #149 (DC, 1982) – “Death by Fire and Ice!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Joe Staton. Hal decides to quit the Green Lantern Corps, but first he has to save Abin Sur’s homeworld of Ungara from an ice age. Meanwhile, an unnamed bald alien is hunting Hal. Arisia guest-stars in this story and has some cute moments. The backup story, by Paul Kupperberg and Don Newton, is about a Wild West sheriff who briefly becomes Earth’s first Green Lantern. The claim that this character was Earth’s first GL is contradicted by both earlier and later continuity. https://www.cbr.com/green-lantern-earth/

2000 AD #49 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew prepare for their last stand against the Starslayer fleet. Future Shocks: “Fly Guy,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] José Luis Ferrer. Fly-like aliens invade Earth, but are decoyed into being eaten by giant Venus flytraps. Visible Man: as above except [A] Montero. I believe Montero’s first name is José Pérez Montero. Frank Hart tries to cover up his transparent skin with makeup, but it wears off while he’s trying to withdraw all his money from the bank. This chapter is really stupid. Dredd: “Oxygen Desert Part 2: Down and Out!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd survives the desert but pretends to retire in shame over his failure to catch Carmody. Dredd’s retirement turns out to have been a trap which he uses to capture Carmody. Invasion: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Georgia kills Savage’s friend Silkie and frames another crewman for it. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats’ latest game continues, and the cheerleader Pearly prepares to assassinate John “Giant” Clay. 

HAHA #2 (Image, 2021) – “Rudolph on the Road to Funville,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Zoe Thorogood. In the past, a crazy woman kidnaps her own daughter and takes her to “Funville,” which proves to be a closed-down amusement park. In the present, the woman’s daughter becomes an exotic dancer. The disappointment when we reach Funville reminds me of the ending of Joyce’s “Araby.” This story is unrelated to issues 1 or 3, except that both #2 and #3 include the name J.C. Wilber. I don’t remember if #1 does as well. 

CEREBUS #52 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Writing” and two other stories, [W/A] Dave Sim. I was going to wait to read this until I finished the High Society phone book, but I haven’t had time to read that book. This issue includes three short stories. “Writing” is a collection of Cerebus’s hilarious advice on politics. In “Elfguest,” Cerebus meets thinly disguised versions of Cutter and Skywise. I remember someone saying on Facebook that Cerebus and Elfquest seemed like very different works, but they appealed to the same audience simply because they were among the few adult-oriented black and white comic books of their time. In “Insecure Sinecure,” Cerebus meets Prince Silverspoon again and cleverly gets rid of him. There’s a Cutey Bunny backup story by Joshua Quagmire. 

DEADMAN #2 (DC, 1986) – “This Mortal Coil,” [W] Andy Helfer, [A] José Luis García López. David Roach has said that this series is one of JLGL’s greatest works. JLGL’s art in this issue is indeed fantastic. The plot is pretty typical Deadman material: Boston discovers that the League of Assassins is responsible for his brother Cleveland’s death, and goes hunting for the League’s Sensei. There’s also a flashback explaining the origin of Nanda Parbat. 

OMAC #6 (DC, 1975) – “The Body Bank!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. A crime cabal is kidnapping young people in order to transplant old people’s brains into their bodies. OMAC has to stop them. This issue includes some exciting action scenes set on board a subway train. 

2000 AD #50 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Grawls, Minians and Drones – alien races  that Dare previously liberated from the Starslayer Empire – send a space fleet to rescue Dare. With the battle nearly won, Dare goes looking for the Dark Lord, but the Dark Lord finds him first and throws a deadly weapon at him. Visible Man: as above. Frank is reunited with his girlfriend, but she finds him as hideous as everyone else does. By this point, The Visible Man had become perhaps the silliest 2000 AD story I’ve read. Its premise is so absurd that I hope Mills didn’t mean for it to be taken seriously. Future Shocks: “The Guardian,” [W] Mike Cruden, [A] John Cooper. A boy’s overprotective robot babysitter leads him to his doom. This story looks like it ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s a one-parter, so I guess we have to assume the boy got killed by mutants. Dredd: “The First Lunar Olympics,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. An incident at the Lunar Olympics threatens to lead to war between Luna-1 and the “Sov-Cities.” I think this was the first story to mention the Sovs, who would later become the villains in the Apocalypse War. Bolland’s art here is incredible, as usual. Invasion: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. The royal yacht shows up alongside Savage’s ship. Savage and his allies board the yacht only to find Rosa aboard, and Georgia reveals himself as a traitor. Harlem Heroes: as above. Louis Meyer saves Giant from being assassinated by Pearly. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. Ketsuko defeats the main villainess, then tries to kill herself, but the sword won’t let her. This was an unimpressive series and I’m sorry I read the whole thing. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #5 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Separation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. I finally understand the title of this series: it’s a mashup of “commander in chief” and Crisis on Infinite Earths. The main event this issue is that America starts disintegrating from lack of empathy. As I have observed before, this series has too many high concepts and it feels disunified. I like the characterization and art, though. 

2000 AD #51 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare escapes the Star Lord’s attack, and the Star Lord is killed by his own missile. Visible Man: as above. Dr. Burnett recaptures Frank. Future Shocks: “Galactic Garbage,” [W] Richard Burton, [A] Trev Goring. A space garbageman unintentionally saves Earth from an alien invasion. Dredd: “Luna 1 War,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. The “war” between Luna-1 and the Sovs is resolved by a single combat between Dredd and a Sov champion. The next time Dredd went to war with the Sovs, the casualties would be far higher. Also, Dredd stuffs a microphone in a reporter’s mouth. Invasion: as above. Nessie sacrifices herself to defeat Rosa, and Savage gets the Prince to Canada. Savage would reappear in a prequel, “Disaster 1990,” in 1979, and then not again until 2004. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats get a new recruit, Regal Eegle. By this point I still wasn’t enjoying Inferno, though maybe that’s because it was always the last story in each prog, and by the time I got to it, I wanted to be done with the prog. 

GREEN LANTERN #112 (DC, 1979) – “Starheart Connection!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Alex Saviuk. Hal, Ollie and Alan Scott team up against a villain named Zalaz who stole Alan’s Starheart. Alan Scott has never fit comfortably into Green Lantern continuity because he was created before the Green Lantern Corps was, and his origin is difficut to reconcile with later continuity. A funny moment in this issue is that at the end, Zalaz summons a woman who’s too beautiful to look at, and she always stands with her back to the reader. 

THE FOX #3 (Archie, 2015) – “The Devil You Know,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. This issue’s cover has the blurb “ ‘Perfectly acceptable to new readers’ – Comics Alliance.” That sounds like damning with faint praise. However, this is a pretty fun issue anyway. The main interest of this issue and this entire Fox series was its depiction of the relationship between an older superhero and his newly adult son. 

CEREBUS #57 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Suddenly, Sophia,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus wakes up from a drunken stupor to discover that he is now married to Red Sophia. This happened because of Adam Weisshaupt’s scheming, and as President, Weisshaupt has the sole power to dissolve Cerebus’s marriage, so Cerebus now has to do whatever Weisshaupt wants – including write cheesy romance novels. This is a hilarious issue. The backup story is the second appearance of Valentino’s normalman. 

THE MAPMAKER #1 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ben Slabak, [A] Francesca Carita. A boring middle-grade story about pirates. This is the only issue of this series, as the story is continued in a graphic novel, but I have no desire to read that graphic novel. 

BLACK KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 1955/2021) – “Theb Menace of Modred the Evil!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Joe Maneely. Sir Percy of Scandia is the laughingstock of King Arthur’s court, a useless fop who can’t fight. But in his alternate identity as the Black Knight, he protects Arthur from Modred and Morgan Le Fay. (In later Marvel continuity, the Arthurian Modred was renamed Mordred, and the name Modred was used for an unrelated character.) Sir Percy is a sort of hybrid of Prince Valiant and Clark Kent, though his story is also an example of the Fair Unknown/Bel Inconnu trope, in which a newcomer to Arthur’s court is ridiculed at first, usually by Sir Kay, before proving himself as a hero. In the backup story, “The Crusader,” a Saracen warrior discovers himself to be half-English and joins the First Crusade. Joe Maneely’s art is so similar to that of Steve Ditko that it would be easy to confuse the two artists. Maneely draws some great action sequences, though. 

TALES FROM THE HEART #3 (Slave Labor, 1988) – “Fits & Starts,” [W] Cindy Goff & Rafael Nieves, [A] Seitu Hayden. A Peace Corps volunteer arrives in a remote village in the Central African Republic. This issue is a pretty convincing depiction of the shock of arriving in a place with no modern conveniences. 

CEREBUS #59 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Carroll E. King Reads,” etc. as above. This issue consists of a number of short vignettes. Cerebus gets an invitation to Jaka’s wedding and tears it up, and Weisshaupt talks with Bishop Powers about the selection of a new pope. At this point Cerebus seems to still be Prime Minister. Theres a backup story by Charles Treadwell, whose only other works seem to have been self-published. 

2000 AD #52 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Doppelganger,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare discovers a coffin floating in space. Inside is a second, evil Dan Dare, and the duplicate convinces Dare’s crew that he’s the real Dare. Visible Man: as above. Frank stows away aboard a spaceship so he can escape from the human race. “Visible Man” was a ridiculous storyline, and Frank Hart didn’t appear again until a one-shot strip in 2012. Colony Earth: untitled, [W/A] Jim Watson. A cod-fishing boat stumbles on an alien invasion. Jim Watson was a veteran artist of war comics and TV adaptations, but Colony Earth was his only work for 2000 AD. His draftsmanship is very realistic and thrilling, and he uses Zip-a-Tone really well, but Colony Earth’s plot is boring. Dredd: “The Face-Change Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Some criminals rob a bank disguised as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, then they disguise themselves again as the Marx Brothers. Dredd apprehends them despite their disguises. The list of names on page five includes many Easter eggs, like Morton Subotnik and Sydney Jordan. Future Shocks: “Solo Flip,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Brian Bolland. An astronaut goes crazy while in a flight simulator. Two Bolland stories in one issue is an embarrassment of riches. Harlem Heroes: as above. Regal Eegle rejoins the team, and Louis reanimates the android Pearly. 

LITTLE ARCHIE #98 (Archie, 1974) – “Hit and Run” etc., [W/A] Dexter Taylor. This issue was part of the same eBay lot as #24, reviewed above. I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. In the first story, Archie rescues Betty from being run over by an illegal street racer. In one of the backup stories, Little Archie and Betty are somehow reading a comic book about the teenage Archie. Taylor doesn’t seem to care that this is logically impossible. 

BARBIE FASHION #36 (Marvel, 1993) – “Horbsing Around” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Skipper takes horse riding lessons, but she falls off the horse and it gets lost. The stories in this series often revolve around Skipper, perhaps because of the intrinsic difficulty of telling an interesting story about Barbie.  In the backup story, Skipper’s friend Courtney deals with acne. The letter column includes a letter from an 11-year-old girl who correctly observes that the main story in issue 26 was a glamorization of homelessness. 

UFOLOGY #2 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. I’m glad there are so many James Tynion comics for me to collect. I don’t quite get what’s going on in this issue, but it seems to be about a teenage girl who’s recovering from an encounter with an alien. Matthew Fox’s art looks kind of like that of Michael Dialynas. 

IRONJAW #4 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “And Who Will Forge the Jaw of Iron?”, [W] Larry Lieber, [A] Pablo Marcos. In a flashback, we learn how Ironjaw lost his jaw and had it replaced with a metal prosthetic. In the present, Ironjaw fights a dragon. This is a pretty mediocre barbarian comic, but at least Pablo Marcos’s art is good. Ironjaw was one of a handful of Atlas/Seaboard comics that survived until issue 4. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #221 (Marvel, 1980) – “Tower of Crystal… Dreams of Glass!”, [W/A] John Byrne. The FF fight some aliens who have been buried under the North Pole for centuries. This is a simple but effective story, an interesting preview of Byrne’s run as the regular FF writer/artist. Joe Sinnott’s inking is not well suited to Byrne’s intricate linework. 

BATMAN #565 (DC, 1999) – “Mosaic Part One,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Frank Teran. A No Man’s Land chapter in which the Bat-family fights Black Mask and his zombie army. There are also a ton of subplots. Frank Teran’s art is very gloomy and scratchy, reminding me a bit of Sienkiewicz. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #62 (Marvel, 1979) – “Earth Skirmish,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Pat Broderick. Mar-Vell and Drax fight a villain named Stellarax who’s trying to take over Washington, DC. This is a fairly boring issue, and Doug Moench was unsuited to this series. This was the final issue of Captain Marvel volume 1. Mar-Vell’s story was continued in a new volume of Marvel Spotlight. 

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. Akai finally kills Frankenstein’s monster, then goes to watch a baseball game. The series ends with a speech about Chicago’s hidden history of racism. I’m very glad that Victor LaValle is going to be publishing more comics soon. 

2000 AD #53 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare kills the doppelganger after a fight involving some cargo buggies. Dare’s ship heads for the planet that the doppelganger came from. MACH 1: “Return to Sharpe,” [W] Roy Preston, [A] José Pérez Montero. Sharpe kidnaps Probe and sends him on yet another mission. Colony Earth: as above. Some scientists investigate the ruins left by the alien invaders on their first visit to Earth. Dredd: “The Killer Car,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dave Patton has a self-aware car named Elvis, but Elvis murders its owner and leads other cars on a rampage. Future Shocks: “On the Run,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Brett Ewins. A man fails to avert a prophecy of his death in a car accident. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats discover who built Pearly, then they prepare for a match against the Long Island Sharks. This issue includes a hyper-detailed blueprint of Walter, drawn by Kevin O’Neill. 

Next trip to Heroes was sometime in early March. On this trip I had a disappointing lunch at a food truck. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #15 (Boom!, 2021) – “A Game of Nowhere Part 5, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica kills the monsters, Tommy accepts the blame for the killings, and then Erica renounces the House of Slaughter and leaves town with James. I can’t wait for the next story arc. 

STRAY DOGS #1 (Image, 2021) – “Good Girl,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. This new series by two My Little Pony artists is a big surprise. It starts out as a cute story about a little dog named Sophie who gets adopted into a new home with lots of other rescue dogs. But something has traumatized Sophie so much that she hides and pees on the floor. And then we realize what’s going on: Sophie’s new master abducted her after murdering her previous owner. And he may have done the same to all the other dogs’ masters. But they don’t remember, because dogs have short memories. And in the morning, Sophie has already forgotten what her master has done. The horrific twist in this comic is all the more shocking because the art is so cute. I’m not a dog person, but Trish Forstner draws adorable dogs, and she makes them all look very different. And Tony Fleecs writes the dogs in a very believable way. My favorite of the dogs is the giant one who just sleeps all the time. 

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #1 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. A spunky little girl uses her superhuman jumping ability to chase a giant monster – and vanishes. Later, her older sister visits a refugee camp to look for her. Not much happens in this issue, and I wish we’d seen more of Jonna, but Chris Samnee’s visual storytelling is incredible. When I saw the two-page splash with Jonna leaping over the monster’s head, I thought, “Only a great artist could have drawn this.” 

MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. At the high school dance, Kamala reconciles with Zoe and then teams up with Amulet to fight Stormranger. And that’s the end of the most important Marvel series of the past decade. I really hope Marvel launches a new series with this character soon. 

BRZRKR #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. I was hesitant to buy this because it seemed super-overhyped, but I bought it anyway because it was a light week. BRZRKR is about an immortal warrior who was born 80,000 years ago and now fights for the US special forces, possibly against his will. BRZRKR has a very similar premise to The Old Guard, and so far nothing about it seems very original, but it’s good enough to keep buying for now. Ron Garney’s art is very effective. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #8 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Heather, Ruin and Jophiel visit Faerie to save it from Nuala’s rule. Nuala has turned the place into a barren wasteland. Meanwhile, Daniel is worried about having let Ruin leave the Dreaming. This issue isn’t as good as the last one becausse of the lack of Javier Rodriguez art. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #257 (Image, 2021) – “The Dragon and the Thunder God!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm fights an insane, murderous Thor. In the fight, Thor accidentally kills his own son and blames Malcolm for it. Meanwhile, Paul proposes to Alex, but it’s not clear whether he’s serious. A pretty low-key issue. 

NOCTERRA #1 (Image, 2021) – Like BRZRKR, this is a high-profile comic but I felt skeptical about it. I have mixed feelings about Scott Snyder, and Tony Daniel seems like just a typical Image artist. However, Nocterra #1 is an interesting setup at least. Nocterra is set in a dystopian future where the sun has turned dark, and anyone who’s left in the dark turns into a monster. The protagonist, Sundog, agrees to escort an old man and a child to a legendary place of perpetual sunlight. But a mysterious dark man is hunting them, claiming the old man is to blame for destroying the sun. I really like Nocterra’s premise – the idea that the characters need to be constantly well-lit is an interessting narrative constraint, and it reminds me of Zork, where you need a light source to avoid being eaten by a grue. And Tony Daniel’s art isn’t bad. 

SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 2021) – “Becoming Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. A man named Levi Kamei travels from Delhi to New York and has visions of turning into Swamp Thing. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing encounters some kind of zombie dude in the Sonoran desert. I don’t quite get what’s going on here, and I don’t enjoy this issue as much as the previous miniseries, but I’ll keep reading and see where this story goes. 

POWER PACK #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This issue is narrated by Jack, who Ryan North writes perfectly, depicting him as self-important and egotistical but secretly loving toward his siblings. This issue, the Wizard kicks the kids’ asses, and then Katie gets Wolverine to agree to be their mentor. Mr. and Mrs. Power have to pretend they don’t know who he is. My headcanon is that Jim and Margaret Power are fully aware their children are superheroes, and they have a secret agreement with all the superheroes to keep the kids safe. 

X-MEN #18 (Marvel, 2021) – “Inside the Vault,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. We finally return to the team that went inside the Vault, I forget how many issues ago. They figt a bunch of unfamiliar villains. The problem with this series is that there are so many characters, and the storyline is so epic and expansive, that each issue can only offer a tiny snapshot of all that’s going on. But at least it’s more narratively satisfying than Bendis’s Legion was. 

KAIJU SCORE #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Showdown,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Mujara defeats Ikattu, despite being a big underdog in the fight, and also kills the annoying man-bunned dude. Yay! I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so thrilled to see a character die. Marco and Michelle complete the heist successfully and then reunite for another job. This was a fun miniseries, but I still wish there had been more emphasis on the kaiju. 

CROSSOVER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. The protagonists, now including Madman, travel to the museum of crossover artifacts – which looks suspiciously like the Hall of Justice. The artifacts inside the museum include the Cosmic Cube, the Ultimate Nullifier, Captain America’s shield, etc. And also a sword called Valofax, which previously appeared in God Country. I have the first volume of that series, but I haven’t read it yet. Crossover has been better than I expected. 

SKULLDIGGER & SKELETON BOY #6 (Black Hammer, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tonci Zonjic. Skeleton Boy decides to stay with the policewoman and leave Skulldigger and Grimjim (i.e. Batman and the Joker) to their useless, never-ending struggle. This ending is a poignant comment on the repetitiveness of the Batman franchise. Tonci Zonjic’s artwork is amazing, and I love how the coloring in the closing sequence, where the boy comes home, is much brighter and cheerier than in the rest of the series. However, it’s a shame that this series had such massive delays. 

THE UNION #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Britannia Project, Part 3: There Shall Come a… Bulldog?”, [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Selwyn forcibly reunites the team, inculding a new character called the Bulldog, and they travel to North Wales to investigate a rogue superhuman. The highlight of this issue is the revelation that the team member named Snakes is literally a bunch of snakes in human clothing. 

FUTURE STATE: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #2 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part Two,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Riley Rossmo. Another incoherent, plotless mess with inconsistent characterization. Also, Riley Rossmo’s art is kind of ugly, though at least it’s distinctive. As I have often observed, Bendis is by far the worst Legion writer ever, and I can only hope that his train wreck of a run is finally over.  

HAPPY HOUR #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “In Praise of Melancholia,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim and Jerry have sex, only to realize that they have to stop, because it’s making them too happy. After being forced to participate in a drug trial, they finally get to Landor Cohen’s commune, which is just as bad as the prison they escaped from. Happy Hour is much easier to understand than most of Peter Milligan’s work. 

NUCLEAR FAMILY #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Radio Nowhere,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. Tim McClean is car salesman, recently returned from the Korean War. His biggest problem is his teenage daughter’s smoking addiction… at least until his town gets blown up by a nuclear bomb, and he emerges from his bomb shelter only to be accosted by soldiers who think he’s a communist. This series has an interesting premise, and its depiction of ‘50s small-town America feels accurate. 

FEAR CASE #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The two protagonists trace the progression of the briefcase through a series of owners. Notably, one of the case’s previous owners is a disgusting xenophobic racist, and the reader would have been happy to see him dead. 

GWENOM VS. CARNAGE #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Flaviano. An issue-long fight scene between Gwenom and Mary Jane/Carnage. This may be the final issue of Spider-Gwen or Ghost-Spider or Gwenom for now. Flaviano does a good job of imitating the style of Robbi Rodriguez. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #7 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jessica, wearing Porcupine’s costume, is kidnapped, but she escapes and hides out in the trunk of her captor’s car. There’s a clever two-page spread showing how Jess managed the escape. The car takes Jess to a village that seems to be populated solely by women and small children. This story arc is fascinating, and of course I love Rodriguez’s art. 

LO MEJOR DE KALIMAN #86 (Gaea, 1965/1989) – untitled (“La Araña Negra”), [W] Victor Fox, [A] Crisvel. I ordered this from eBay. It’s in an extremely small format and appears to be a colorized reprint of an older story. In it, Kaliman and his sidekick Solín visit Cairo where they encounter an archvillain named La Araña Negra, i.e. the Black Spider. The dialogue and artwork are rather mediocre. I got three other Kaliman comics in the same order, but I haven’t read them yet. The credits are from https://kaliman.fandom.com/wiki/La_Secta_de_la_Mano_Negra:_la_Historieta.

BATMAN #18 (DC, 2013) – “Resolve,” [W] Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV, [A] Andy Kubert & Alex Maleev. In the wake of Damian’s death, Batman goes nuts – or more nuts than usual – and drives himself into his work, until he almost gets killed trying to break up a dogfighting ring. He is saved by Harper Row, a new character who would later join the Bat-family as Bluebird. I liked this more than most of the New 52 Batman comics I’ve read. Batman, as usual, spends the issue acting like a jerk, but Harper’s concern for him is heartwarming. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #26 (Marvel, 2021) – “The New World Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Amora sacrifices her life to send Ove back in time. Then Jessica sacrifices her life to send Carol back to the present. And then Carol breaks up with Rhodey because he’s destined to have a child with another woman. This is a very stupid and anticlimactic ending —  not only did Carol fail to beat Ove, she’s also dumped her boyfriend for no good reason. I hope Kelly has a good reason for these weird plot developments. 

FUTURE STATE: SUPERMAN VS. IMPERIOUS LEX #2 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part 2,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Lois’s team discovers that Lexor has incredible mineral wealth (this reminds me of John Scalzi’s novel Fuzzy Nation), but Superman finds a way to make the same materials for free, leaving Lexor penniless. The people of Lexor still think Luthor is the best, because he flatters them instead of actually helping them – another obvious reference to Trump. Unlike most of the Future State miniseries, Superman vs. Imperious Lex is three issues, so this story isn’t over yet. 

2000 AD #54 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare lands on the planet and encounters six different versions of Bear. MACH 1: “The Dolphin Tapes,” [W] Steve McManus, [A] Jesus Redondo. John Probe is sent to foil a plot against a government-funded dolphin research project. Colony Earth: as above. The humans discover some ancient alien technology and then get attacked by an alien robot. This story has excellent art but a boring plot – for that matter, so does the Dan Dare serial in this issue. Dredd: as above. Elvis and the other cars go on a killing spree. Dredd kills the other cars with corrosive spray, but Elvis survives. Future Shocks: “Stasis,” [W] Charles Swift, [A] Jim McCarthy & Brett Ewins. A scientist creates a stasis field that stops time. Her boss turns it on, and it doesn’t work… except actually it does, because when the reader turns the page, the last four panels are all identical, all showing the boss saying that nothing’s happened. This is extremely clever. Harlem Heroes: as above. As the Hellcats are traveling to their match with the Sharks, their “hover-liner” sinks, but they escape. 

EROTIC WORLDS OF FRANK THORNE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “The Deathman’s Head,” [W/A] Frank Thorne. Frank Thorne just passsed away at a very advanced age. The main feature in this issue is a new Ghita story, which I honestly can’t remember if I’ve read or not. I have the Eros Complete Ghita volume, but I forget if “The Deadman’s Head” is in it. It’s possible that I did read it and forgot about it, because it’s very formulaic. The rest of the issue is filler material. 

TUROK, SON OF STONE #67 (Gold Key, 1969) – “Two Kinds of Terror,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Turok and Andar travel through a narrow opening and fiind themselves in a land where they’re gigantic, and everything else is small. Thanks to a magical drink, they themselves get shrunk to tiny size, and on returning to the main part of Lost Valley, they have to fight giant insects and people. This story is obviously inspired by Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland, but it’s rather boring. 

MEASLES #6 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – “Venus,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. A two-pager where Venus finds a buffalo nickel. “Hector and Dexter,” [W/A] Joost Swarte. A bunch of cartoon characters try to publish a newspaper. This series is better known as “Coton et Piston.” Swarte’s Clear Line artwork is amazing, but his story is silly. I’d like to get the Fantagraphics collection of all Swarte’s comics, but it’s not cheap. The other stories in this issue are by Mario Hernandez and Steven Weissman, and I didn’t particularly like either of them. 

BATMAN #421 (DC, 1988) – “Elmore’s Lady,” [W] Jim Starlin, [A] Dick Giordano. Batman tracks down a serial killer, but doesn’t have enough evidence to arrest him – something that never stopped Batman before. The title refers to a homeless man who finds one of the killers’ victims in a dumpster. This issue is just okay. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #8 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. We realize that all the people in Moon’s Hollow are the abused spouses and children of supervillains. Jess agrees not to reveal their existence to the world, as long as they don’t break the law. Ben Urich spikes the story he planned to write about the village. This was a really cute storyline. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #18 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights the Fiend, who unfairly blames him for the death of her daughter Debbie Harris, even though it’s clear that the Fiend was an abusive mother to begin with. There are subplots about the Vicious Circle and about William, Alex and Peter. Even this early in its run, Savage Dragon already had a very complicated plot. 

BPRD: HELL ON EARTH #103 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Abyss of Time Part 1,” [W] Mike Mignola & Scott Allie, [A] James Harren. The BPRD discovers the headquarters of an eigteenth-century secret society. Inside is an ancient sword. When one of the BPRD agents picks it up, he’s transported to prehistoric times, and finds that he’s a member of a tribe that’s at war with zombies. James Harren’s art in this issue is very good.

2000 AD #55 (IPC, 1978) –  I already reviewed this in 2013 (https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/more-reviews/#2kad55) but I didn’t understand the context, and I received another copy of it in my eBay order, so I’ll review it again. Dan Dare: as above. Dan Dare blows up the planet of doppelgangers, which is genocide, but the writer doesn’t seem to care. MACH 1: as above. John Probe goes after a kidnapped dolphin. Colony Earth: Hunter finally meets the aliens, who say that they claimed Earth as their colony, millions of years ago. Dredd: as above. Dredd sets a trap for Elvis, but it backfires. Future Shocks: “Space Bug,” [W] V. Wernham, [A] Ferrer. Some humans strike oil on an alien planet, and then some mosquito-like aliens also “strike oil” by landing on the hand of one of the humans. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats-Sharks game begins. 

CEREBUS #74 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Acquired Tastes,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus is shocked to learn that Jaka is married, but demands to see her anyway, and they spend the whole issue talking. At the end, Cerebus takes off his robe and asks Jaka to run away with him. As previously noted, this is a reversal of issue 48 where it’s Jaka asking Cerebus to run off with her. 

FUTURE STATE: AQUAMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “The Confluence Part Two,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Daniel Sampere. Six years after the last issue, Andy goes looking for a missing Jackson and rescues him from some glowing-faced villains. I wanted to like this miniseries, but this issue is confusing and only mildly fun. 

MAESTRO: WAR & PAX #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Crossing the Rubicon,” [W] Peter David, [A] Javier Pina. The Pantheon team up with Dr. Doom. There’s a backup story where Prometheus dies. I hope this is the last issue of Maestro that I’ll be getting. 

BARBIE FASHION #41 (Marvel, 1994) – “April Fools,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. Skipper tris to pull an April Fool’s prank on Barbie. There’s also a metafictional backup story where the Barbie staff is told that the series is being cancelled. It includes appearances by Barbara Slate, Hildy Mesnik, Tom DeFalco, etc. The cancellation is an April Fool’s joke, but the series really did get cancelled less than a year later. 

NEXT MEN #2 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Worldview,” [W/A] John Byrne. The Next Men escape from prison, and there are numerous references to Byrne’s collaborators like Stern and Ordway. I don’t know why I bother buying this comic, because I don’t like it all that much. 

SPACEMAN #3 (DC, 2012) – “Past 1,000,000,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. I think the premise of this series is that some children are being raised to live in space, and one of them gets kidnapped. I don’t really care about the plot because I’m only interestd in this series for the artwork, which as usual is excellent. 

SCARLET TRACES: THE GREAT GAME #2 (Dark Horse, 2006) – untitled, [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A journalist interviews a veteran of the War of the Worlds, and discovers that the British government has been misleading the people about a lot of things. This issue has a compelling plot and also the best artwork I’ve seen from D’Israeli. He draws some great steampunk architecture and technology, and his coloring is as vibrant as the coloring in French SF comics. 

MARVEL TEAM-UP #72 (Marvel, 1978) – “Crack of the Whip!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Jim Mooney. Spider-Man and Iron Man team up against Whiplash and the Wraith. This is a very generic comic, and the only interesting thing about it is its depiction of the Wraith’s relationship with his sister Jean DeWolff. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #157 (Marvel, 1975) – “And Now… the Endgame Cometh!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rich Buckler. Dr. Doom disguises a Latverian peasant named Helena as Shalla-Bal so that he can force the Silver Surfer to serve him, and he drains the Surfer’s power and transfers it to his Doomsman robot. In an epilogue, we learn that Helena really was Shalla-Bal, and Doom himself didn’t know it. This story feels like a slightly altered rehash of the first Doom-Surfer story, from exactly a hundred issues earlier. 

HEAVY METAL #3.3 (28) (HM, 1979) – There’s too much material in this issue to mention all of it. Highlights include: Corben and Strnad’s adaptation of Sindbad. Denis Sire’s “The Great Trap,” an action story drawn in a style that reminds me a bit of Kaluta. “Stingaree: Eight Belles,” a superhero story by Gray Morrow. An incoherent piece of crap by Michael Hinge and Neal Adams. “Shelter” by Chantal Montellier, whose art is like Tardi’s but less skilled. “Telefield” by Sergio Macedo. According to one letter writer in this issue, Macedo was the only good artist left at Heavy Metal at this point; I disagree. Macedo was good, but there were other good ones. A prose story by John Pocsik, better known as Corben’s collaborator Simon Revelstroke. I need to collect more Heavy Metal because it’s a convenient way to read a lot of good European comics. 

IMAGINE #4 (Star*Reach, 1982) – “A Dream of Milk & Honey,” [W] Michael T. Gilbert. An old Jewish couple, significantly named Abraham and Sarah, try to colonize an alien planet. At the end, we learn that Sarah is pregnant despite being very old. I don’t know if Gilbert is Jewish, but this story has heavy Jewish themes. “The Summoning,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Steve Ditko. Three wizards each petition a god for power, but the god gives the power to a tree instead. Levitz’s writing is underwhelming, and Ditko’s art looks exactly like it did when he was drawing Dr. Strange, which is not necessarily a good thing. “The Awakening of Tamaki,” [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Masaichi Mukaide. A young woman in feudal Japan becomes a samurai. Mukaide was one of the first Japanese cartoonists to be published in America, but he was a fan artist, not a professional mangaka. My sense was that he wasn’t good enough to break into the manga industry, and he randomly happened to get published by Star*Reach instead. There’s also a four-page story by a young Dave Sim. 

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #3 (DC, 2021) – “The Cavalry,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Olivier Coipel. A young black Batman and Robin fight some racist henchmen. John Ridley seems to be an important emerging talent. I should have been reading his Other History of the DC Universe. The next two stories are by Bilquis Evely and Bengal, neither of whom has any previoius writing experience, and it shows.  “Unquiet Night,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Kelley Jones. Zatanna helps Batman’s ghost rest in peace. The last story is by Nick Dragotta, who also has no prior writing credits. However, his story is better than Evely’s or Bengal’s because it has minimal dialogue, and Dragotta’s artwork is gorgeous; he draws beautiful robots and monsters. 

CEREBUS #75 – “Terrible Analogies,” as above. Cerebus offers to dissolve Jaka’s marriage, which he can do since he’s the Pope, but Jaka reveals that she’s pregnant. Cerebus and Jaka bid a bittersweet farewell. This is one of the most emotionally affecting issues of Cerebus. 

ANT BOY #1 (SteelDragon, 1988) – “Ant Boy and the Scientist” and other stories, [W/A] Matt Feazell. A bunch of stories about a “superhero” who was raised by ants (after they killed his parents at a picnic) and who still thinks he’s an unusually large ant. It’s a pretty funny premise. The first story in this issue is original, and the others are repritned, mostly from Captain Confederacy. Feazell’s style in these stories is far more detailed than his usual stick-figure style. SteelDragon Press was Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, and this issue includes an ad for their books and those of their associated SF writers. 

BARBIE FASHION #42 (Marvel, 1994) – “Barbie in Fashion,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. A little girl gets lost in a museum exhibit of Barbie’s old costumes, and runs into the real Barbie. Later, Barbie mentions the girl in a speech at a gala event. Unusually, this story takes up the entire issue. 

2000 AD #56 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Waterworld,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare’s ship is ensnared by a giant sea monster. Dave Gibbons’s composition and draftsmanship are amazing, but Chris Lowder’s Dan Dare stories were consistently boring. I should note that in 2000 AD’s first couple years, Dan Dare was the series’ marquee character, but he was quickly replaced in that role by Dredd. Future Shocks: “Monkey,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Carlos? Magallanes. A ripoff of “A Sound of Thunder.” The artist is credited only as “Magullanes,” an obvious misspelling. Colony Earth: as above. The aliens start freezing the oceans to create a new ice age. Dredd: as above (though this chapter is called “Elvis” instead of “The Killer Car”). Dredd finally tricks Elvis by hosting a party for him, and kills him with the corrosive spray. MACH 1: as above (the writer is credited as Oniano but the GCD says this was a pseudonym for Steve McManus). Probe discovers that the missing secret agent Robert Peel has been turned into a man-fish, and that this was the purpose of the dolphin experiments. Harlem Heroes: as above. Half the Hellcats are incapacitated by an explosion. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #5 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. Melba’s partner fights the Fraidy Cat. We learn some new information about Melba’s history with Cameron Calle. I honestly didn’t understand this issue’s plot; in particular, I don’t get who Cameron is. This is the last issue of this series that I have. 

On March 15, I received my final DCBS shipment. They were waiting to send it until all my unshipped items arrived, but I asked them to just send it and cancel all the other outstanding items. Most of the comics in this shipment were Marvel comics that I ordered before the pandemic. 

RUNAWAYS #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Pt. II,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Gib becomes a football star. Karolina has a mysterious illness. Wolverine arrives at the Hostel and tries to take Molly with him to Krakoa. Molly wears three different hats this issue (a duck hat, a panda hat and a koala hat); that may be a record. 

RUNAWAYS #34 – as above. The high point of this issue comes on page one, when Wolverine is carrying Molly on his back, and Molly jumps down and throws Wolverine over her back. Wolverine thinks Molly sent him a distress call asking him to be taken to Krakoa, but the distress call actually came from a different mutant. While looking for the mutant, the Runaways fight some monsters from the tar pits. Nico casts the spell “Get real!” and it produces surprising results. Now that Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl are gone, Runaways is my favorite Marvel title, but it’s at constant risk of cancellation. 

POWER PACK #3 (Marvel, 2021) – as above. This issue is narrated by Julie, and again, Ryan understands her perfectly. He also remembers that Julie got a new girlfriend during the brief Future Foundation series. This issue, the kids fight the Taskmaster, and then Agent Aether unmasks himself as the Wizard and drains their powers. 

THE UNION #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Flag Game,” as above. In this issue we meet Britain’s new superhero team, and then Britannia, the (never-before-mentioned) national superheroine of Britain, is killed by Knull’s symbiotes. As I’ve mentioned before, this is an obvious analogy to Brexit and its potential consequence of the dissolution of the United Kingdom. The TV commercial on the first page is drawn by Grist himself.

CHAMPIONS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. The imprisoned kids start a rebellion. The fugitive Champions hide in a kid’s treehouse, but the CRADLE troops track them down even there. The X-Men show up to save the day. Eve Ewing’s characterization is brilliant, but Outlawed is a dumb storyline and a poor use of her talents. 

AMERICA CHAVEZ: MADE IN THE USA #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kalinda Vázquez, [A] Carlos Gómez. The previous America Chavez series was a disaster. This new one is also by a writer who hasn’t written comics before, but it’s a lot better; it at least has a coherent plot, and beyond that, it feels touching and honest. In the present day, America and her girlfriend Ramone (from West Coast Avengers) fight some giant moles and save people from a burning building, and in a flashback, we see how America was adopted by the Santana family. 

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Eye of the Storm Part 5,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Robert Gill & Ario Anindito. After some fighting, Mike Nguyen gets killed by a tsunami, and Mrs. Thrasapalat becomes a delegate to Pan’s new governing council. This was a really fun series, and I hope we get to see more of Pak’s version of the Agents of Atlas.

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Cold Currents,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey w/ Jonas Scharf. Attuma’s father dies, inspiring Attuma with a lifelong hatred for Atlantis, which explains why he’s a villain in the present day. The Swift Tide invades Atlantis. Ambrose, Dorma’s fish, reappears and coughs up the Unforgotten Stone. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. This issue has no obvious connection to the last one. A thief named (I think) Brik Blok infiltrates a city called  Sky Cradle and transfers his brain into the body of a servant. His goal is to rescue a woman named El from the center of the city. Sky Cradle’s technology includes fingerprint locks and food that’s so refined, only aristocrats can taste it. Rain Like Hammers is gorgeously drawn and full of clever, whimsical ideas. But I still feel guilty about supporting Graham’s work. 

MARVEL VOICES: LEGACY #1 (Marvel, 2021) – variious stories, [E] Sarah Brunstad & Will Moss. A collection of stories celebrating Black History Month. “Good Luck Girl” is the first comic by Tochi Onyebuchi, author of the novel Riot Baby, which I’m waiting to read until it’s out in paperback. Nnedi Okorafor and Chriscross’s “A Luta Continua” is about the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria. I think I mostly learned about #EndSARS from Okorafor’s Facebook posts. 

MONSTRESS #32 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika finally confronts Tuya and the Warlord. Maika summons her grandmother’s spirit. As noted in previous reviews, reading Monstress has come to feel like a chore, but I feel obilgated to keep buying it. 

2000 AD #57 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Eagle ship is nearly crushed by water pressure. Dare encounters some aquatic humanoid creatures. MACH 1: as above. Peel sacrifices himself to save Probe’s life, and all the villains end up dead. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter fights some aliens and then investigates a crashed alien saucer. Dredd: “The Oxygen Board,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Some criminals replace the moon’s oxygen with tranquilizer gas, allowing them to commit crimes while people are asleep. Ironically, the criminals themselves suffocate because they’ve forgotten to pay their oxygen bill. Brian Bolland is my pick for the greatest artist in the history of 2000 AD, though Carlos Ezquerra was probably more influential. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats finally win their game against the Sharks. 

CEREBUS #76 – “Varying Reasons of Assorted Depths,” as above. Cerebus visits Weisshaupt, who is on his deathbed. Weisshaupt tells Cerebus that there are two more aardvarks in Estarcion, but dies without identifying them (they’re much later revealed as Cirin and Suenteus Po). In the note and letters page, Dave discusses his visit to Heroes Con. This year’s Heroes Con was just cancelled, a sad but indisputably correct decision. 

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Program,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Ryan Kelly. This issue has Maria Hill on the cover, but its protagonist is Clyde Dobronski, a rank-and-file SHIELD agent. The other focal character is Yusef Abbas, AKA the Helper, an Arab-American superhero from Toledo. In flashbacks, we see how Dobronski’s high moral standards have harmed his career. During Civil War, Dobronski is reassigned to Toledo where he guards Abbas’s cell. Abbas mounts an escape attempt, and Dobronski finally realizes that he sympathizes far more with Abbas than with his tyrannical bosses. Dobronski helps Abbas and another young superhero escape, sacrificing his career and possibly his freedom but saving his soul. This is one of Saladin’s best single issues. 

UNIVERSAL WAR ONE: REVELATION #3 (Marvel, 2009) – “The Patriarch,” [W/A] Denis Bajram. This was originally published in France as an album. It’s a science fiction story involving time travel and a corporation that runs the entire world. This is the sixth in a series of six albums, so its plot is hard to understand. However, Denis Bajram’s plot seems very complicated and clever, he draws beautiful spaceships and futuristic architecture, and his coloring is excellent. There is an English-language hardcover edition of all six albums, and I ought to get it. 

U.S.AGENT #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Election Day,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. This issue reintroduces Lemar Hoskins, formerly known as Bucky and then Battlestar. This character started out as an unintentional racist stereotype – a black man whose code name was a racial slur, and who served as a white man’s sidekick. Priest leans into this by depicting Lemar as a victim of internalized racism. And then Lemar is nearly beaten to death by the new USAgent, aka Saint, who is a much more self-confident and militant black man, but Priest implies that Saint’s attitude is no less problematic than Lemar’s. Also, there’s a plot thread about John Walker. 

ICE CREAM MAN #23 (Image, 2021) – “Late Night Splashes,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. I was reluctant to read this because it’s mostly text: the left-hand pages are mostly text, while the right-hand pages are splash pages. The comics pages show how Mack Benson, a talk show host, is critically injured by a guest’s Burmese python. The prose pages give us the background behind this tragedy, from the separate perspectives of Benson, his wife, his affair partner, his brother, and the animal trainer. This issue is an interesting experiment, and I like how the different stories gradually shed light on each other, but I don’t like it when comics include a lot of prose. 

MARVELS SNAPSHOT: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “What’s Your Story?”, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Claire Roe. Quoting myself from Facebook: “Maybe I’m just being hypercritical, but the Ms. Marvel flashback in Marvels Snapshot: Captain Marvel is a severe misreading of Ms. Marvel #1. It gives the false impression that Kamala is ashamed of her culture.” A particular problem here is that Kamala says she feels pressured to “celebrate our holidays, not theirs.” G. Willow Wilson made it clear that Kamala loves celebrating Eid – and more broadly, that Kamala is a heroine because of her culture, not despite it. So Mark doesn’t seem to understand this character at all. I also said: “I also agree with this review here: https://www.gamesradar.com/captain-marvel-marvels…/ Jenni’s problem with her parents is that they don’t support her activism, but her activism is of a kind that’s completely uncontroversial among the kind of people who would be reading this comic. Like, she supports BLM and trans rights. As a result, it feels as if she’s fighting against a strawman.” The flashbacks about Carol Danvers’s dad are better writen, and more consistent with past stories, but overall, this issue is a disappointment. And this isn’t even the first time Mark has tried to be progressive but has been offensive instead; see also Strange Fruit and Champions #10. At this point, I think he just has some fundamental blind spots. 

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #6 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. It’s been a whole year since this miniseries began, and I’ve totally lost track of its plot. The main event is that Isaac has to sacrifice his chance of returning to Earth in order to defeat his older counterpart. I wonder if this will be Mags’s last monthly comic; her latest work is in trade paperback format. 

I BREATHED A BODY #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Cooperative Resilience,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Mylo’s dead body is dissected on a livestream. Anne/Zoe becomes increasingly uncomfortable working for Mylo’s dad. This series is disgusting and disturbing, and I don’t particularly like it. I feel obliged to finish reading it now that I’ve started, but I’ll be hesitant to read Zac Thompson’s future work. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. Rodion (I only know her name from the next issue blurb) hunts down some more suspects in her father’s murder, and there are a bunch of references to Russian folklore. Lesniewski draws really ugly faces, and hair that looks tentacles. This is on purpose, but it’s creepy.  

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Adventure of the Three Narrators,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Greg Scott. A rather silly metatextual mashup of Poe and Sherlock Holmes. It’s funny because its silliness is so deadpan.  “Ms. Found in a Bottle,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. A hollow earth story, except it’s more like an onion earth composed of multiple concentric spheres. This is an interesting idea, but otherwise the story is incoherent. 

2000 AD #58 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew fight undersea monsters called Slurgs and Snappers. MACH 1: “Swamp Saga”, [W] Roy Preston, [A] John Cooper. John Probe encounters a family of homicidal maniacs in the Everglades. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter plots his assault on the saucer that’s melting the ice caps. Again, Jim Watson’s art is beautiful, but his plot is of no interest. Dredd: “Full Earth Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland & Ian Gibson. A “full earth” (like a full moon) causes a crime wave. The entire story is credited to Bolland, but it’s obvious that he only did the first two pages. The other four pages appear to be by Mike McMahon, though the 2000 AD website credits them to Ian Gibson. Future Shocks: “Juggernaut,” [W] Hunter Tremayne, [A] Garry Leach. A remote-controlled tank accidentally destroys its own controllers. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats visit the factory where Pearly was manufactured. This story has two beautiful panels, one depicting a “beehive jungle” and the other a giant garbage robot. 

CEREBUS #84 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Chariot of the Queen, Chariot of the Lovers,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus has dinner with Michelle, an old associate of Weisshaupt’s, and she gives him Weisshaupt’s final message. Much of the issue focuses on the Roach and the henchmen Fleagle and Drew. All of them are dressed like Venom and are under the impression that they’re particpating in the “Secret Sacred Wars.” This is an obvious reference to Marvel’s Secret Wars. 

THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN #4 (Image, 2010) – “Red Wraith, Red Wraith, Red Wraith,” [W] David Hine, [A] Shaky Kane. Steve has a further series of surreal, metatextual adventures. Like Hine’s earlier work Strange Embrace, Bulletproof Coffin has a complicated plot with multiple levels of narration, but Bulletproof Coffin is even harder to follow than Strange Embrace was. The main appeal of this comic is Shaky Kane’s psychedelic/Kirbyesque art. 

RED THORN #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Castles Made of Sand,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Megan Hetrick. Isla and Thorn visit Morocco and meet a mute boy who knows every language. This series has too many concepts crammed into not enough space, and it lacks a coherent focus. I wish it had just been an urban fantasy set in Scotland. 

GRIMJACK #79 (First, 1991) – “Dragons in the Blood,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Flint Henry. I know of just two comics artists who have the exact same name, but with first name and surname reversed: Flint Henry and Henry Flint. This issue is set 200 years after Grimjack’s classic period, and stars James Twilley, the reincarnation of the deceased John Gaunt. It barely feels like Grimjack, and I have little interest in collecting this era of the series, even though I love Ostrander’s writing. The letters page includes an announcement that First was cancelling all its monthly titles. 

A small eBay order of two underground comics: 

THE MAN #1 (Print Mint, 1972) – untitled, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. A series of vignettes about  a caveman, his stick, and his pet lizard. A fairly atypical work for Bodé since it includes no women or machinery. The art is cruder and more angular than his art usually was. 

NO DUCKS! #2 (Last Gasp, 1979) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. Highlights of this issue include a Star Wars parody by George Metzger, and a slapstick story about evolution by Hunt Emerson. Also Steve Leialoha’s parody of Moebius’s Airtight Garage. Other contributors include Boxell himself and Rich Larson. 

CEREBUS #85 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Missing It for the World,” [W/A] Dave Sim. On his way back to the Upper City, Cerebus meets Mick and Keef, i.e. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Mick gives Cerebus his special blend of whiskey and codeine, causing Cerebus to go nuts. This is a pretty hilarious issue. However, by this time, Dave was starting to show his bad qualities. Less and less was happening in each issue of Cerebus, the plot was becoming unfocused, and there was less humor. 

YAHOO #3 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “The Perfect Day,” [W/A] Joe Sacco. The first story in this issue is an autobiographical piece about Sacco’s annoying experiences working in a library. Then there’s a stream-of-consciousness story that appears to be about Sacco’s childhood in Malta. This story is tedious to read because each page is just a single image on the right, and a wall of text on the left. Also, one of the images is repeated on three different pages. Sacco’s style here is essentially the same as his mature style, with tons of detail and obsessive cross-hatching. It’s weird to read a Joe Sacco comic that’s not journalistic. 

2000 AD #59 (IPC, 1978) – Starting this issue the covers are just normal covers, and the Dan Dare stories no longer begin on the covers. Dan Dare: as above. Dare continues his fight with the Snappers and Slurgs. MACH 1: “Origins,” [W] Nick Landau & Roy Preston, [A] Lothano. While investigating his origin, John Probe is again kidnapped by Sharpe and meets his replacement, MACH 2. “Lothano” is otherwise unknown, but this name could be a misspelling of Lozano, i.e. Leopoldo Sanchez. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter and his allies attack the alien space station. Dredd: “Return to Mega-City,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Back on Earth, Dredd witnesses a number of crimes and ignores them all, but only because he hasn’t been sworn back in as a judge yet. After being sworn in, Dredd arrests all the criminals. Future Shocks: “Tin Can,” [W Mike Cruden, [A] José Luis Ferrer. In a postapocalyptic future, two people fight over a tin can that turns out to contain only worthless oil. Harlem Heroes: as above. The scientist who built Pearly has already been murdered, and the Hellcats have to fight the giant robot that killed him. 

JUNGLE ACTION #3 (Marvel, 1973) – Tharn: “Elephant Charge!”, [W] Don Rico, [A] Joe Maneely. Four stories reprinted from the ‘50s. The first one is an obvious Tarzan ripoff, only notable for being drawn by Maneely. The protagonist was originally named “Lo-Zar” and had blond hair, but to avoid confusion with Ka-Zar, he was renamed to Tharn and his hair was recolored red (http://www.toonopedia.com/lozar.htm). This issue also includes two jungle girl stories and a story about lions. All four stories are ’50s reprints. The other artists in the issue are Werner Roth, Jack Katz and Arthur Peddy. 

INCREDIBLE HULK #455 (Marvel, 1997) – “Waiting to X-Hale,” [W] Peter David, [A] Adam Kubert. The Hulk rampages through the X-Mansion, and there are subplots about Betty and Janis. The #440s and #450s were the low point of PAD’s run. As a kid, I dropped the series with #449, and I was right to do it. I still haven’t bothered to collect any of the issues from #450 to #465, except this one. 

FLIGHT PRIMER (Image, 2005) – “Maiden Voyage,” [W/A] Kazu Kibuishi. This FCBD comic was a preview of Flight, an anthology series that helped launch the careers of a lot of YA and middle grade cartoonists. Come to think of it, I should look at Flight for my research. In the first story, a boy and his dog build a plane, but it crashes the first time they fly it. This story includes some impressive art and coloring. There’s a backup story by Jake Parker, about a robot and a bird. 

SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #2 (Print Mint, 1970) – [E] Gary Arlington. Greg Irons’s “The Wall” is basically a prediction of Trump’s border wall. Kim Deitch’s “Hole Kloth Comics” is about androids that can impregnate women remotely. The longest story in the issue, a six-pager by Larry Welz, is a film noir parody about a narcotics agent. Other contributors to this issue are Rick Griffin, Willy Murphy, Robert Williams, Jim Osborne, Spain, Trina Robbins, R. Crumb, Dan O’Neill and S. Clay Wilson, but most of their contributions are very short. Still, that’s an impressive lineup of talent.  

CHEVAL NOIR #20 (Dark Horse, 1991) – [E] Mike Richardson. This issue begins with a chapter of Tardi’s Mummies on Parade. I have the Fantagraphics volume that contains this album, but I haven’t read it yet. The chapter from Cosey’s “Voyage to Italy” finally explains what this story is about: the little girl is a Vietnamese refugee, and Shirley is trying to keep her illegally, rather than surrender her to an aunt in a refugee camp. NBM later published this album in color under the title “In Search of Shirley.” Andreas’s “The Graveyard of Cathedrals” is poorly reproduced, but includes a stunning two-page splash depicting a literal graveyard of cathedrals. The highlight of the issue is Rosinski and Van Hamme’s “The Great Power of the Chninkel,” a fantasy story that reminds me a bit of Tolkien or Wally Wood. This issue also includes Phil Elliott’s “Post Apocalypse,” Cailleteau and Vatine’s “Fred and Bob,” and Marvano’s adaptation of The Forever War. 

CEREBUS #86 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Flying Off the Handle at Oblique Angles,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Elrod shows up and starts babbling about the Secret Sacred Wars. The Roach climbs the wall to the Upper City, and Cerebus climbs after him. Weisshaupt’s ghost appears and warns Cerebus not to let the Roach reach the gold. The Black Tower begins to grow. I didn’t quite understand this issue. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #798 (Marvel, 2018) – “Go Down Swinging Part 2: The Rope-a-Dope,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stuart Immonen. Peter tries to track down Phil Urich, who’s been kidnapped and, unknown to the reader, killed by Norman Osborn. Norman merges with Carnage and demands that Peter stop being Spider-Man, or Norman will kill everyone Peter loves. Compared to Slott’s earlier stories, this issue is just okay, and Norman Osborn is perhaps my least favorite Marvel villain. He ought to have stayed dead. 

TREASURE CHEST #18.16 (Geo. A. Pflaum, 1963) – “The Mystery of Shady Falls,” [W] Ruth Geller & Burton Geller, [A] Reed Crandall. A boring story, but with beautiful draftsmanship. There’s also a lesson on perspective by Frank Borth, a Chuck White story by Fran Matera, and a humor story by Eric St. Clair and Paul Eismann, with some truly hideous art. 

INVISIBLES #9 (DC, 1995) – “23: Things Fall Apart,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. The number 23 refers to the 23rd hexagram in the I Ching. This issue, the Invisibles are trapped in their headquarters and a lot of enemy soldiers are coming for them. They escape by faking their own deaths and then disguising themselves as the enemy. Also, Jack kills a man for the first time and is traumatized. This issue is less difficult than I expected. 

BATMAN #35 (DC, 2018) – “The Rules of Engagement, Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Joëlle Jones. Catwoman fights Talia, who believes Selina is unworthy of marrying Batman. Selina is totally overmatched, but manages to win Talia’s respect. The disturbing part is that Selina admits that she knows she’ll always come second to Batman’s war on crime. It’s a good thing she ended up not marrying him. This issue also includes some funny dialogue between Dick and Damian. 

VEIL #2 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Toni Fejzula. A black man tries to protect a mysterious teenage girl from the police, but fails. Also, a green-haired dude with glasses performs a magic ritual. The selling point of this comic is Toni Fejzula’s beautiful art, which looks more painted than drawn. 

2000 AD #61 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Nightmare Planet,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Brian Lewis. Dare lands on a weird planet where he encounters a giant version of the Mekon. Brian Lewis draws some beautifully weird creatures, but overall his art is a step down in quality from Dave Gibbons’s. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats play against the Virginia Vics. A man named Chubb resurrects a villain named Artie Gruber, who blames Giant for his death. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter destroys the alien flagship. “Even for 1978, [Colony Earth] appeared somewhat dated, leading to suspicions that it had actually been an inventory story created for an earlier title” (https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Colony_Earth). Dredd: “The Cursed Earth,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. This is a key turning point in Dredd’s history. It’s technically the second extended Dredd story, the first being “Luna,” but “Luna” was really just a collection of vignettes. “The Cursed Earth” is the first long Dredd story with a cohesive plot. It also massively expands Dredd’s universe by sending him outside Mega-City One. In chapter one, a pilot named Red informs Dredd of a plague that’s ravaging Mega-City Two. After Red himself dies of the plague, Dredd volunteers to cross the perilous Cursed Earth to bring medicine to the dying city. MACH 1: “The Final Encounter,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] José Pérez Montero. This story begins with John Probe’s funeral, and then a flashback depicts the start of his final mission. 

HEAVY METAL #1.11 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. Again I’ll just mention the highlights. Corben’s Den chapter includes a character named Uluhtc, which is almost Cthulhu backwards. Victor Mora and Luis Garcia’s “The Winter of the Last Combat” is the same story that appeared in Vampirella under the title “The Wolves at War’s End,” and that was rated by David Roach as the second best Warren story ever. It’s about a soldier who returns from the Crusades to find Europe in the grip of the Black Death. Garcia’s scratchy artwork is beautiful, and Mora’s story is compelling, but unfortunately this issue only includes half the story. Denis Sire’s “Diabolical Planet” includes some nice machinery and cheesecake art. Druillet’s “Urm” is almost too beautiful and hyperdetailed to actually read. The centerfold of the issue is a gorgeous painting by Alex Niño. Moebius’s “Free Fall” is a wordless story about a man falling. This issue also includes stories by Macedo and Montellier and a chapter of Forest’s Barbarella. 

THE WITCHING HOUR #34 (DC, 1973) – “Dracula Had a Daughter,” [W] Carl Wessler, [A] Nestor Redondo. A woman is suspected of being a vampire, but the real vampire is her uncle. Wessler’s story is stupid, but Redondo’s art is beautiful. “Over My Dead Body,” [W] Wessler, [A] Ruben Yandoc. Frank Morrow accidentally photographs an escaped criminal. Morrow’s Haitian roommate uses a voodoo doll to kill the criminal and save Morrow.  “I Died Last Night,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Rico Rival. A journalist nearly gets himself killed while trying to write an obituary. 

My next trip to Heroes was on March 25th. That day I had an excellent lunch at Lupie’s Café, but the whole day was overshadowed somewhat by the news of Marvel’s deal with Penguin Random House. I think this deal could have a lot of benefits, but my automatic reaction was to worry that it will mean the end of the direct market. That’s just how my mind works. 

ONCE & FUTURE #17 (Boom!, 2021) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Lancelot fights the dragon, and Rose gets it to befriend her. Galahad and Percival (Duncan) approach the Grail Castle, now joined by Jason Hempleworth, who we learn is an actual knight. I assume that means he’s going to be Sir Bors. (BTW, the guy who calls him “Sir Hempleworth” is mistaken; it should be “Sir Jason.”) This wasn’t the best recent issue, but I stil love this series. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #5 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and Earl start proceeding toward the exit to the overworld – which is exactly what Father wants them to do, since his goal is to have them spread the virus to the hybrids. This is a thrilling miniseries and I’m sorry it’s just six issues. Jeff Lemire may be the preeminent creator in direct market comics at the moment. 

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS  #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Stokoe. Mo, a young martial arts expert, begins a mission to defeat the five beasts that are ravaging her valley. This comic’s plot is obviously inspired by thte wuxia genre, but its visual style is only vaguely Chinese and is simliar to that of Stokoe’s other work. Of course the appeal of this comic is that it’s another masterpiece by the finest draftsman currently working in American comics. Every page of this issue is a masterpiece packed with obsessive detail and visual creativity. This comic takes a while to read, like all Stokoe’s comics, but it’s worth it. 

STRAY DOGS #2 (Image, 2021) – “Stay,” as above. Rusty restores Sophie’s memory by having her smell her old master’s scarf. Rusty and Sophie investigate the room that their master won’t let them enter. In there, Sophie finds a picture of the master of one of the other dogs. Stray Dogs is one of the most believable portrayals of dogs that I’ve seen in comic book. Tony Fleecs seems to understand dog psychology very well. This comic is also surprisingly mature, given that its creators are best known for pony comics. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “Parents’ Day,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Calvin has a nightmare about his evil foster parents, then wakes up to discover that it’s Parents’ Day. Luckily Doyle’s dad is not present. Doyle and Calvin explore the school’s treasure vault while the other kids and their parents play games. This issue has some really cute and funny moments. 

SPECTER INSPECTORS #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Library,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The protagonists visit the library, where they encounter the ghost of a librarian named Agatha Birch. Specter Inspectors is another in a long line of excellent Boom! Box titles. The comic it reminds me of most is Misfit City, because of the small-town setting and the style of art. 

ETERNALS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Part 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. The most impressive thing about this comic is the massive list of Deviant names. I’m guessing that these names were automatically generated, but they’re weird and brilliant. Also in this issue, Ikaris becomes Toby Robson’s bodyguard, and Druig discovers that the Polarian Eternals have ben murdered. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #17 (IDW, 2021) – “Tengu War! Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Sojobo are about to get killed by Guhin Tengu, but Sojobo’s wife Nozomi arrives and saves them. Usagi duels a bird tengu to prove his worthiness to fight alongside Sojobo. This issue is pretty average. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #95 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. After a very well-executed silent sequence, Pinkie and Cheese discover that the silence spell can be broken by laughter. Pinkie and Cheese talk about how their laughter is better together, a possible allusion to the child they’re going to have. This was a really cute story, and I just got the pun on “muffletta.”

SEA OF STARS #9 (Image, 2021) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. The Zzazteks offer to help Kadyn find his dad. Gil deliberately gets eaten by a giant leviathan. Kadyn uses the war club to summon his dad, but the “dad” who shows up is a monstrous dark man. I like this series a lot, but its plot has gotten hard to follow.  

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #115 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles use a video call with Karai to calm Tokka and Rahzar down. Lita challenges Bebop and Rocksteady to a battle of the bands. Koya gets sick of the Turtles’ arguing and tells them to “harness your darkness.” This is such a cute and heartwarming comic, just like Sophie Campbell’s Jem was.  

WONDER WOMAN #770 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 1,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana somehow finds herself in Valhalla, fighting alongside Norse warriors. The squirrel Ratatosk asks Diana for help restoring Yggdrasil. There’s also a Young Diana backup story by Jordie Bellaire and Paulina Ganucheau, a highly underrated artist. I was a bit uncertain about reading this series, but I enjoyed this issue. 

BIRTHRIGHT #47 (Image, 2021) – “Two Months Later,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey apprehends a mercenary who’s been selling stolen Terrenos artifacts. Mikey discovers that Brennan has been using his magic to hunt down other magicians on Earth, so his next goal is to find Brennan. Rya and the rest of the cast don’t appear, and we still haven’t seen Mikey’s parents since they got stuck in Terrenos. 

RADIANT BLACK #2 (Image, 2021) – “Better Off Red,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. This is an improvement on issue 1 because Nathan’s character actually evolves. Nathan’s dad forces Nathan to admit that he’s not making any money from his writing, and demands that Nathan get a job or move out. That’s correct parenting. Also, Nathan fights a costumed criminal who looks just like him, only red instead of black. 

ABBOTT 1973 #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “Mayors and Mafiosos,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. At my family’s Zoom seder, I got a chance to show this comic to my uncle who works as a journalist in Detroit. This issue Elena discovers that her girlfriend was kidnapped by gangsters. After fighting a spidery female magician, she asks for help from her previously unseen brother Elmer, a veteran and recovering drug addict. The issue ends with Elena and Elmer preparing to rescue Elena’s girlfriend from the gangsters’ hotel. 

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Loki tricks Thor into stealing a horn from Odin’s treasure vault. Loki blows the horn and summons the Midgard Serpent. I loved Spider-Man/Venom: Double Trouble, and this series is a logical follow-up to that one. I’m glad Marvel is still willing to publish fun and kid-friendly comics like this. 

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Dávila. Dane Whitman fights alongside the Avengers, but realizes that none of them take him seriously. Meanwhile, a history grad student visits Dane’s castle to interview him for her thesis. So far my favorite thing about this comic is the deliberately inauthentic medieval dialogue. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Gabriel Hernández Walta. Boa Boaz takes Mark back to Mars, but Mark manages to get back, only to see a policewoman shoot Miguel. This is a really trite ending – even in America, it seems hard to accept that a cop would shoot an innocent man in the back in front of a huge crowd of witnesses. Miguel survives in the end; otherwise, this comic would be an example of the “bury your gays” trope. Besides having a weak ending, Barbalien was a pretty good miniseries. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. Jacey finally infiltrates the politican’s mansionn and discovers that he’s an enormous giant, or at least that’s how she perceives him. There are flashbacks depicting the origin of Jacey and David’s friendship. I was very confused by the scene on pages 12 to 14 where David sneaks inside a white building. I couldn’t tell whether this was taking place in the past or the present, or what its significance was. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles has a new notebook – see my book Between Pen and Pixel for some comments on this style of composition book. Miles and Kamala go on a platonic date, but it’s interrupted when they have to save some slum dwellers from a collapsed buiding. Then they hunt down the building’s landlord. Back at home, Miles discovers that he’s been framed for kidnapping a scientist. I believe the scientist is Peter Parker. 

ORCS! #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs return from the squirrel woods with a bag full of acorns and angry squirrels. The acorns turn out to be full of gold, but the chief exiles the members of the adventuring party because they used the squirrels to prank him. The exiled orcs come up with a plan to prevent their exile, and as a distraction, tey ask the old lady to tell another story about Drod. Orcs is an extremely fun series. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #12 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Time of Mercy is Past,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians fight a giant battle against the Asgardian gods. After winning, they reorganize the team with new costumes and new members. Juann Cabal is one of a large number of Spanish artists who have done excellent work for Marvel. If Warren had a “Spanish invasion” in the ‘70s, Marvel has been having a second Spanish invasion for at least a decade now, and it’s gone largely unnoticed by American fans. 

CHAMPIONS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. Viv and Amadeus invade the prison for young heroes and collect some shocking footage. By putting this footage online, they successfully shame Senator Patrick into ending the worst parts of Kamala’s Law. That’s the end of Outlawed, but sadly it’s also the end of Eve Ewing’s run on this title. I’m going to continue reading it for now, but I don’t have nearly as much confidence in Danny Lore. 

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison & Alex Child, [A] Naomi Franquiz. In 1970, some girls are trying to save up eight dollars to attend a Janis Joplin concert. To get the money, they trick some boys into accompanying them on a tour of a supposedly haunted desert road. Except the road really is haunted, and the boys get eaten by a werewolf. This is an entertaining first issue, and I love Naomi Franquiz’s art. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry discovers that Honey was kidnapped by her own father, and helps rescue her. This is almost a slice-of-life comic, without much of a narrative drive, but I like it anyway. 

KARMEN #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. A woman in a skintight skeleton suit visits an apartment building and finds another woman, Catalina or Cata, lying in a bathtub. We gradually realize that Cata is dead, having committed suicide because her boyfriend left her, and the skeleton woman is taking her to the afterlife. I only bought this because it was a translation of a European comic, but I was really impressed with it. March’s draftsmanship and page layouts are beautiful, and his story is complex and intricate, demanding close reeading to figure out what’s going on. I’m excited to read more of this. 

SHADOW DOCTOR #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Ancestral Sin,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. In a flashback, we see how Nathaniel had to flee Alabama after sleeping (perhaps non-sexually) with a white woman, which would have gotten him murdered. Al Capone refuses to lend Nathaniel any money, but changes his mind after his mother says that Nathaniel reminds her of Capone’s father. But as Nathaniel is walking out of Capone’s nightclub with $1000 in his hand, the nightclub explodes. Shadow Doctor is the next These Savage Shores or Yasmeen: an important comic book which is probably going to get less attention than it deserves, because it’s from a new writer and an independent publisher. 

THE LAST WITCH #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Burning of Ballydoolin,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse fights the sea witch Bronagh and wins, but the town of Ballydoolin is burnt down in their battle. Brahm is nearly killed, but is saved by a herd of martens for some reason. A poignant moment in this issue is when Saoirse meets a little girl named Ciara in Ballydoolin, and then at the end of the issue, we don’t know if Ciara survived the fire. V.V. Glass’s art continues to be absolutely incredible. 

SAVAGE #2 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Savage escapes from the mad scientist and decides to abandon his social media career. This is far from the best comic I’m currently reading, but I like Max Bemis’s bitter, sardonic style of humor. 

IMMORTAL HULK #44 (Marvel, 2021) – “To Rule in Hell,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Gyrich begins the issue by quoting his famous line from Avengers #181: “I’m the government, mister.” The U-Foes take turns attacking the Hulk, and X-Ray succeeds in killing him. Meanwhie, the Gamma Flight members find the Rick Jones/Leader creature.  

THE GOON #13 (Albatross, 2021) – “The Diabolical Dr. Alloy Returns to Rise Again… Once More!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon’s old enemy Dr. Alloy dies. The Goon, Frankie, and Lagarto Hombre visit Dr. Alloy’s castle and find it occupied by another Dr. Alloy from another dimension. This issue is an example of Powell’s vulgar, exaggerated humor, but unlike Ryan Browne, whose work has a similar sensibility, Powell is also a brilliant artist. 

HAHA #3 (Imaghe, 2021) – “Remi Says…”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Roger Langridge. A mime is unable to make a living at his profession, so he goes to the dump to collect scrap metal. There he discovers an abandoned robot. The robot becomes part of the mime’s act, until its mad-scientist creator reclaims it. The mime is killed trying to rescue the robot. Appropriately, this is a silent issue, and as we know thanks to Fred the Clown, Langridge is a master of silent storytelling. The only connection between issues 2 and 3 is the name J.C. Wilber. 

CATWOMAN #29 (DC, 2021) – “Bad Habits,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Selina breaks into the Riddler’s apartment and finds him about to be killed by a woman in a beehive suit. I like Ram V’s take on the Riddler, but so far his Catwoman run is not as exciting as Joelle Jones’s, though I’m still willing to keep reading it. 

S.W.O.R.D. #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Krakoan Sun,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. Mostly a long fight scene between the SWORD team members and Knull. I’m not convinced that this series is worth buying. The only thing I liked about this issue was the character Think Tank and the giant robot he creates. 

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #4 (DC, 2021) – “A Night in the Life of a Bat in Gotham,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Riley Rossmo. This story is about exactly what the title says. Riley Rossmo’s art is much more appropriate here than in Future State: Legion. “Davenport House,” [W/A] Karl Kerschl. This is my favorite story in the entire series so far because it reintroduces Maps Mizoguchi, and she’s Robin now. I wish DC would bring back Gotham Academy. “The Green Deal,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Nick Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s draftsmanship here is amazing, but otherwise this is just a standard Batman/Poison Ivy story. “Checkmate,” [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Johnson’s story is nothing special, but his Paul Pope-esque artwork is impressive, and makes me want to read more of his work. “The Fool’s Journey,” [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Terry Dodson. This story is most interesting for the cameo appearance by an infant Dick Grayson, long before his parents’ deaths. Speaking of Dodson, I wonder if Adventureman is coming back. 

BITTER ROOT #11 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part One,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. I have trouble keeping up with this series’ plot because of its large cast of characters and its irregular schedule. But it’s still an extremely important comic. Memorable moments in this issue include the party in Harlem, and the scene where Johnnie-Ray’s parents learn of their son’s death.  

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. Number One monologues about how the two worlds split apart, and how he created the mirrors. Stinger is reunited with the two Dragonflies, but somehow he fails to recognize Dragonflyman. As usual this issue is very fun. 

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “The Cabin of Horrors!”, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Scott Kolins. A criminal kidnaps a young boy. The boy escapes into Madame Dragonfly’s Cabin of Horrors. The criminal follows him there and is killed by the house’s other inhabitants, while the boy turns into Kid Dragonfly. This is a gruesome, unscary and pointless horror story, and it makes me afraid that Johns’s upcoming series Geiger will be equally bad. 

PANTOMIME #5 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The word pantomime is confusing because in America it refers to silent performance, but in Britain it refers to a type of musical comedy performed at Christmastime for an audience of children. This issue, the Manager forces the kids back into slavery, and one of them, Max, seems curiously willling to collaborate with him. Kestrel gets caught by the police during a heist, and the other kids, besides Max, come up with a plan to get him out and defeat the Manager. 

HAPPY HOUR #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Swamp of Despond,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim and Jerry are tortured by happiness-sniffing Mexican coatis. Government agents make it to Landor Cohen’s commune, and they identify Kim as a double agent. Just one issue left. I was briefly worried that Ahoy was going to stop publishing comics, but they’ve just started announcing new titles again. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #6 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Confession,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The Crisis Command members finally go public with the information that this Earth is the last Earth in the multiverse. Also, we meet the Commanders in Crisis version of Aquaman. This series has the same flaw as Red Thorn – too many premises and no clear focus – but it’s better than Red Thorn. This issue has a cute cover by Joe Staton. 

WAY OUT STRIPS #2 (Tragedy Strikes, 1992) – “Sons of Sam” and other stories, [W/A] Carol Swain. Carol Swain’s comics typically make little sense on a narrative level, but they’re more about creating a mood than telling a story, kind of like some of Rick Geary’s work. I really like her smeared, smudged style of draftsmanship. 

THE BEQUEST #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Role Initiative,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Freddie E. Williams II. Part of this story is about a party in a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, but then they somehow get transported out of their own world and into present-day Chicago. Bequest has an interesting premise, but Freddie Williams’s art looks like something out of a ‘90s Image comic, and Bequest also has ugly lettering. 

GUNHAWKS #6 (Marvel, 1972) – “Death of a Gunhawk!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Dick Ayers. Gunhawks might have been Marvel’s last original Western title, besides more recent revivals like Rawhide Kid. This issue, one of the two protagonists, Kid Cassidy, is killed, and the other, Reno Jones, is unfairly blamed. The next issue was called just Reno Jones, Gunhawk, and thus became the second Marvel title to be named after a black character, after Hero for Hire. However, that was the last issue. Besides this historical footnote, “Death of a Gunhawk!” is a dumb, badly drawn story that relies on Native American stereotypes. Gunhawks #6 also includes a reprinted story with art by Ayers. 

2000 AD #62 (IPC, 1978) – “Death Planet,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Lopez (César López Vera). Some colonists leave Earth in a spaceship, but their ship crashlands on a dangerous planet. The two protagonists are Lorna Varn, the ship’s captain, and Richard Cory, the leader of the colonists, who may or may not be named after the poem. Harlem Heroes: as above. Artie Gruber comes back to life, and the Hellcats are drawn against his team, the Philadelphia Freaks. 2000 AD: “The Cursed Earth Chapter II: Into the Darkness,” as above. Dredd is given a mobile fortress for his trip through the Cursed Earth, and conscripts a criminal named Spikes Harvey Rotten to accompany him. Dan Dare: as above. Dare fights some monsters, then encounters what seems to be the boatman Charon. MACH 1: as above. John Probe rescues an alien named Frxxxszklds, aka Fred, from a UFO, but Fred contracts a deadly cold.

MINIMUM WAGE #2 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. Rob goes on a couple dates with his new girlfriend and hangs out with his friends. I assume this series must have been good at one point, but this issue is not good. Rob is a boring character – his main character traits are that he likes popular culture, and that he just got divorced. There’s no reason why the reader should care about him. And his banter with his friends is extremely annoying. 

CEREBUS #87 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Towers Analogous,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and the Roach keep climbing. The Black Tower keeps growing ominously. Much of this issue, including its cover, is a parody of The Dark Knight Returns. 

DRYAD #9 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. Again, this issue has multiple separate storylines about the parents and the kids. The main plot revolves around someone or something called the Vihiri, but other than that, Ive lost track of what’s going on in this series. 

THUN’DA TALES #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “King of the Lost Lands” and other stories, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Frank Frazetta. I always thought Al Williamson was the greatest draftsman in the history of American comic books, but I havent read much Frazetta, and he’s the one artist who could challenge Williamson for that title. This issue reprints Thun’da #1, the only comic book entirely drawn by Frazetta – the rest of Thun’da’s brief run was drawn by Bob Powell. Thun’da #1 is a treasure which is all the more precious for its uniqueness. The four stories in this issue are generic Tarzan pastiches and are full of casual racism, but Frazetta’s anatomy and compositions are magical. Every panel is like a miniature painting, and looking at these stories, I can see where Williamson and Mark Schultz and Dave Stevens got their inspiration. It’s a pity that there aren’t more Frazetta comics like this. 

THE SHADOW #9 (DC, 1975) – “The Nigt of the Falling Death!”, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Frank Robbins. The Shadow defeats some smugglers who are concealing contraband in barrels that are being sent over Niagara Falls. At the time when this story was set, Niagara Falls was America’s premier honeymoon destination, and this issue includes a scene where the Shadow and Margo Lane have a fake wedding so that they have an excuse to go there. However, when Margo makes romantic overtures to the Shadow, he stonily ignores her. Frank Robbins was no Frazetta, but he was a gifted visual storyteller. 

SECRET SIX #3 (DC, 2006) – “The Darkest House,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Brad Walker. I bought this comic years ago but never read it. I should have, because it’s good. It’s more like Suicide Squad than Secret Six, in that it stars a cast of villains with unique personalities that interact weirdly with each other. The highlight of this issue is when, after betraying the team, Rag Doll says “Mercy. I can’t see how we shall remain friends after this. I really cannot.” 

ULTRAMEGA #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. This was another heavily hyped series, mostly on the basis of James Harren’s artwork. While Ultramega’s artwork is good, it’s not good enough to justify a $7.99 price tag all by himself – whereas James Stokoe, for example, actually is that good. However, Ultramega #1 also has a surprisingly effective story. It’s a pastiche of Ultraman, but the Ultraman character and his two allies get killed fighting kaiju, and his wife drowns in the resulting flood, leaving an infant son. The story picks up some years later, now following the son, who seems to have inherited the father’s power. Ultramega #1 is an epic story, and I look forward to the next issue. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #12 (DC, 2021) – “The Intelligence Engine,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Like so many other Grant Morrison comics, this Green Lantern series was interesting at first, but descended into incoherence. Grant’s writing has reached a point where it can only be understood by Grant themself, if by anyone. I’m glad this series is over. This issue’s plot, to the extent that I can follow it, is that Hector Hammond invades Athmoora with an army of toys. 

NIGHT HUNTERS #2 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Ziritt. This issue has some brilliant draftsmanship and even more brilliant coloring, but its story is hard to folow, and is less interesting than that of issue 1. My sense is that Dave Baker’s writing is not the equal of Alexis Ziritt’s art. 

TARTARUS #10 (Image, 2021) – ‘Threading the Infinite,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. In trying to get back to Tartarus, Surka destroys all but a small supply of the Aima. The last of the Aima is now in the possession of Surka’s daughter, I think. At the end of the issue, Johnnie Christmas suggests that the series will shift to trade-paperback-only. The trend toward direct-to-trade publication is annoying to me because there are certain series I’ll read as single issues, but not as trades. Like, I bought the first volume of Spell on Whells as a miniseries, but I don’t feel motivated to buy the second volume as a trade. With the amount I spend on single issues, I’m hesitant to spend additional money on trades. But maybe this is just my own weakness. 

2000 AD #63 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The nightmare planet turns out to be ruled by superintelligent illusionists, and they make Dare forget about their existence. This chapter includes some nice quasi-abstract art. MACH 1: as above. Fred establishes relations between his planet and Earth, but Sharpe sets an ambush for Fred’s people. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth, Chapter 3: The Devil’s Lapdogs,” as above. Dredd visits a Cursed Earth village where, as punishment for stealing food, a young couple have been sentenced to be eaten by flying rats. I don’t quite get why the rats can fly. Death Planet: as above. Cory and Lorna fight some monsters. So far the most interesting thing about this story is the two protagonists’ struggles for authority. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Freaks and Hellcats prepare for their game. 

CEREBUS #88 – “Out with the In Crowd,” as above. The Roach reaches the top and attacks Thrunk futilely. Cerebus also arrives in the Upper City, and Astoria is unhappy to see him. Cerebus uses Weisshaupt’s cannons to destroy Thrunk. An awesome moment is when Cerebus demands that Thrunk admit that Cerebus is the true Tarim. When Thrunk does so, Cerebus says “Damn right” and fires the cannon. 

LUNA #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. A lot of weird stuff happens at the commune, and the protagonist discovers an old spellbook. There’s not much plot in this issue, but Maria Llovet’s art is interestingly weird. I wonder if I should be reading her other series that’s published by Ablaze. 

REDNECK #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Mostly a bunch of conversations and sex scenes, with no action or violence. Lisandro Estherren’s art in this issue is only average, not nearly at the level of other Argentine artists like Leandro Fernandez or Eduardo Risso.  

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #522 (DC, 1995) – “City of Hope,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Stuart Immonen. After being destroyed by Luthor, Metropolis is rebuilt by a team of superheroes. Guest-stars in this issue include Maxima and the Warrior version of Guy Gardner. Karl Kesel is an underrated Superman writer. 

SECRET WARS 2099 #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Most of PAD’s comics in the past decade have been kind of bad, but this one is especially bad. It has too many characters and plotlines, and none of them are of any interest.

INCREDIBLE HULK #249 (Marvel, 1979) – “Jack Frost Nipping at Your Soul!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Steve Ditko. The Hulk falls into an icy pit and finds himself in an ice kingdom ruled by Jack Frost, AKA Blizzard. This issue’s premise is coincidentally similar to that of Frozen, but otherwise it’s a boring issue. Bill Mantlo’s run was the worst era of the frist volume of Incredible Hulk. 

THE FROGMEN #8 (Dell, 1964) – “Sunken Jungle!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. The newly independent African country of Congeria builds a massive new dam, but a white man claims that the dam has flooded his valuable diamond mines. The government of Congeria hires the Frogmen to find proof that these alleged diamond mines don’t exist. Adventures ensue. This is a mildly clever story, and I’d be curious to know who wrote it. I assme it was inspired by the building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. 

WAKE VOL. 1 (NBM, 1998) – “Fire & Ash,” [W] Jean-David Morvan, [A] Philippe Buchet. I find it difficut to read BD albums because they’re intermediate in length between comic books and full-length graphic novels, so they confuse my usual reading habits. I think the best way to deal with this is just to start reading more BD albums, if I can find the time. Wake’s protagonist, Navee, is the only survivor of a spaceship crash, and has grown up on an alien planet with only her pet tiger for company. When some alien colonists invade the planet, Navee has to stop them from terraforming the planet beyond recognition. Wake is on the more lowbrow end of the French comics spectrum, but Buchet draws beautiful aliens and SF technology, and Morvan’s story is entertaining. Annoyingly, NBM chose to censor this book by drawing a black line across Navee’s bare breasts in every panel that she appears in. I understand why they had to do this, but I don’t like it. 

RED THORN #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “In His Hands,” as above. This issue introduces even more new characters into a series that already had too many of them. This is the last issue of Red Thorn that I have, and I’m not in a hurry to collect the rest of the series. 

MOWGLI’S MIRROR (Big Planet/Retrofit, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Olivier Schrauwen. This is also a Franco-Belgian comic, but it could hardly be more different from Wake. In a rewriting of Kipling’s Jungle Book, a naked human man befriends an orangutan and her newborn baby. But then “Mowgli” causes the baby’s accidental death. And after he encounters various other animals, he meets the orangutan again, but her new mate drives him away. At the end, he apparently encounters another human for the first time. Mowgli’s Mirror is a challenging meditation on the difference, if any, between humans and animals. It’s illustrated in a variety of mixed-media styles, and includes some panels that look more like abstract art than normal comics. The coloring is also very striking; the only colors used are blue and orange. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. This is a direct sequel to issue 2. Brik Blok continues his quest, and there are also some scenes with El. Graham’s art ontinues to be stunning; a highlight is the two-page splash depicting the aristocratic quuarter of the city. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – as above. Rodion finally finds the man who killed her father, but it looks like she’s going to be the killer’s next victim. Matt Lesniewski’s art continues to be really weird and distinctive. 

HEAD LOPPER #15 (Image, 2021) – “The Mines of Martan,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Head Lopper and his allies descend into the Mines of Martan, where they recover the keystone, the second object they were looking for. However, instead of returning the hammer and keystone to the king of Arnak Pluth, they decide to kill him. In exchange, Prince Tarf agrees to lead them to Mulgrid’s stair. I think the character of Christo in this issue is based on the late artist of the same name. 

TATTERED BANNERS #4 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Mad God Laughing,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. Curtis Banner finds himself in a strange w*rld where n* *ne can say the letter * and w*men carry their babies in gullet-p*uches. After some (enough of that now) futile escape attempts, Banner is forced to accept his new reality. This is a really weird comic, and I’m not sure it would be any less weird if I had read the first three issues.  But it’s intriguing. 

CEREBUS #89 – “Odd Transformations No. 3: Dead Friends,” as above. Cerebus has a dream where he sees Bran Mac Muffin, Weisshaupt and Thrunk, all now dead. Then he sees the Regency Elf, and he wakes up to find that his gold coins have merged into a sphere. This is a weird issue. 

2000 AD #64 (IPC, 1978) – MACH 1: as above. Sharpe is killed by his own men, and John Probe is himself killed saving Fred. This was John Probe’s last appearance, and his true identity was left a mystery. Dan Dare: “Ice Planet Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare’s crew is trapped on a deadly ice planet. It’s nice that Dave Gibbons is back, as Brian Lewis was no replacment for him. Dredd: as above. Dredd uses a siren to lure the rats away from Deliverance, thus becoming the Pied Piper of the Cursed Earth. Death Planet: “Night of the Animals,” as above. The colonists find a water supply, but Cory nearly drowns while digging a trench. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats-Freaks game finally starts, and Gruber prepares to assassinate Giant. 

WARLORD #45 (DC, 1981) – “Nightmare in Vista-Vision,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jennifer Morgan goes looking for her dad. Morgan saves some dwarf girls from being eaten by cyclopes, but somehow fails to think of shooting the cyclopes’ eyes out with his pistol. There’s also a an OMAC backup story by Mishkin, Cohn and LaRocque. 

THE JAM URBAN ADVENTURE #9 (Caliber, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. A man babysits his niece and tells her a story about a murder in Alphabet Town. There’s also a backup story, drawn by Luc Giard with extremely thick spotting of blacks. I don’t know what exactly The Jam is about, but this issue was cute, and I’d like to read more of this series.  

WHERE’S IT AT, SUGAR KAT? #2 (Slave Labor, 2000) – “It’s a Weird, Weird Little World!”, [W] Ian Carney, [A] Woodrow Phoenix. A supermodel fights some “body fat vampires.” This issue looks promising, but it fails to establish a consistent tone or aesthetic, and it’s tedious to read. 

DONALD DUCK #1/368 (IDW, 2015) – “Shellfish Motives Part 1,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. Donald gets a job working for Scrooge’s younger brother Gideon McDuck, a crusading journalist, and they try to solve some mysterious kidnappings of scientists. This story, originally from 1956, was Gideon’s first appearance. Barks never used him, thus Rosa didn’t either, and his existence is impossible to reconcile with Life & Times. When I saw that “Shellfish Motives” gave Scrooge a brother, my reaction was “Man, that’s such a continuity error.” However, “Shellfish Motives” is still an entertaining story, and I’m curious to see how it ends. One of the backup stories in this issue is drawn by Mau Heymans, who has an interesting style of draftsmanship. 

That’s it for now. Whew. 

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January 2021 reviews

REVIEWS OF EVERY COMIC I READ IN 2021

This project is now in its ninth year, having begun in 2013. 

2000 AD #317 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: “The Slaying of Slade, Part 6,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Slade returns to earth and witnesses his battle with the God-Droid in prog 174. He realizes that the man who sent the Teeny-Meks was there. Time Twisters: “D.R. and Quinch Have Fun on Earth!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. In their first appearance, D.R. and Quinch get revenge on their dean by manipulating the entire history of Earth, so that the continents spell out a message accusing him of embezzlement. I’ve read this story before, but it’s nice to own its original version. Dredd: “The Stupid Gun! Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The criminal with the Stupid Gun boards a train, which goes out of control. Rogue Trooper: “Bio-Wire!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue meets a soldier whose squad was wiped out by living barbed wire. Skizz: untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Van Owen and his men interrogate Skizz. Skizz’s internal monologue in this chapter is very lyrical and beautiful. 

CEREBUS #148 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Melmoth Nine,” [W/A] Dave Sim. I’m going to go back to just calling this series Cerebus. I don’t think “The Aardvark” is part of the official title. In his note, Sim discusses how he resents Oscar Wilde for his lack of productivity. In the main story, Oscar finally dies with Reggie and Robert at his side. There are letters about feminism and Quebec separatism. There’s also a terrible 24-hour “comic” that has so little artwork it’s barely a comic. 

CEREBUS #149 – “Melmoth Ten,” as above. In his note, Dave discusses how being a comics fan is like being gay, in that both groups have their own secret language, they both conceal themselves, and they’re both defined by something that they feel makes them special, but that they’re also ashamed of. This is a highly offensive comparison, but it also helps us understand how comics fans think of themselves. I need to return to this later. The main story is about Oscar’s funeral. Dave also reproduces some pages from Reginald Turner and Robert Ross’s letters, which he quoted extensively, and he includes handwritten annotations that show how he altered the quotations. That’s the end of the Oscar Wilde part of Melmoth, and I’m glad it’s over because it was rather tiresome.  

CEREBUS #150 – “Melmoth Eleven,” as above. Dave apologizes to Michael Moorcock for printing a letter falsely attributed to him. Cerebus wakes from his stupor to hear some Cirinists discussing how they executed Jaka, and kills the Cirinists in a fit of rage – finally some action! In a flashback, Cerebus is told that Cirinists are all telepathically connected. The letter column includes some rebuttals to a letter from “M’Oak.” I haven’t read this letter, but the responses indicate that M’Oak was trying to jutsify rape. The backup feature is a photocomic by Ivan Brunetti. 

2000 AD #318 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Slade revisits a robot war that his past self fought in. Rogue Trooper: “Milli-Com Memories Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. While delirious from injury, Rogue starts talking about secrets from Milil-Com that Gunnar, Helm and Bagman aren’t supposed to know. Dredd: as above. Dredd stops the tram and causes the villain to shoot himself with the Stupid Gun. Skizz: as above. Van Owen tries to teach Skizz  English. Roxy argues with her parents and is bullied at school. Time Twisters: “Going Native,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. A time-traveling modern human becomes the ancestor of the Cro-Magnon race. This is an unoriginal plot, but Alan’s prose style makes this story far better than a typical installment of Time Twisters. 

GIDEON FALLS #25 (Image, 2020) – “The End,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The final issue is extra-sized and includes a bunch of spectacular page designs. The five protagonists realize that the Black Barn was created to contain the giant spider monster, which was the product of the original Norton Sinclair’s experiments. Daniel goes back in time and destroys Norton’s machine. He wakes up seemingly happy and reunited with Clara, but then pulls out a shard of the Black Barn. This was a truly excellent series. When it started, Daniel’s facemask just seemed like a creepy affectation; the mask has a different meaning now. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Swift & Sure,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Young Namor and his allies defeat a Great Old One, but then the Swift Tide get possessed by symbiotes. Another entertaining issue.  I miss Kurt’s writing, especially Astro City.

CEREBUS #151 – “Mothers & Daughters 1,” as above. Dave discusses his upcoming US tour. “Mothers and Daughters” begins by quoting Robert Graves’s adaptation of the Song of Amergin; this poem was also the source of the poem about Eirias in Susan Cooper’s Silver on the Tree. The rest of the issue consists of a lot of scenes with little apparent connection. Cirin throws away a lot of heretical books. The Judge convinces the god of death – who appeared in this form in a very early issue – that he’s not really death, and the god vanishes. Lord Julius has problems with Cirin’s gender equality rules. The Pigts’ Cerebus idol, which was broken in another early issue, recreates itself. A lot of these scenes didn’t make any sense to me until I reread the first phone book. There are a ton of letters, and three one-page backup strips. 

CHEW #16 (Image, 2010) – “Flambé 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony and Valenzano go looking for a “voresophist” who gets smarter the more he eats. Much of the issue takes place at a derelict chicken restaurant. I wonder when Farmhand is coming back. Or Chu. 

BATMAN #519 (DC, 1995) – “Black Spider: Web of Scars,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Kelley Jones. Batman goes looking for Black Mask. Commissioner Gordon is pissed that he’s been replaced as police commissioner by his wife, so he goes around making an ass of himself. The scene on the cover, with Black Spider trying to drown Batman, does not seem to appear in the issue, and Black Spider is barely in the issue at all. Kelley Jones’s art here is too cartoony for me. 

ELRIC: SAILOR ON THE SEAS OF FATE #2 (First, 1985) – “Chapter IV,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Michael T. Gilbert & George Freeman. An adaptation of the first half of Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon and Erekosë’s battle with Agak and Gagak. This is one of my favorite Elric stories because it’s a crossover with two of Moorcock’s other series. The same story is told from Hawkmoon’s perspective in The Quest for Tanelorn, though disappointingly, it does not appear in any of the Corum books. Conversely, the Voilodion Ghagnasdiak sequence appears in the Elric book The Vanishing Tower and the Corum book The King of the Swords, but Hawkmoon isn’t present for it. Anyway, Gilbert and Freeman do an excellent job of capturing the indescribable weirdness of Agak and Gagak’s lair. 

SUPERMAN #208 (DC, 1968) – “The Case of the Collared Crime-Fighter!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Curt Swan. Some crooks make Superman wear a collar that allows them to track his movements. I just read Umberto Eco’s “The Myth of Superman” for a critical theory reading group, and Eco discusses how Superman often fights anonymous mobsters rather than addressing any real problems. The backup story is a reprint from 1959, in which Superman encounters a mayor who thinks it’s Superman’s fault that he wasn’t adopted as a child. This story is really stupid. 

MADMAN COMICS #6 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Big Guy a Go-Go,” [W/A] Mike Allred, [W] Frank Miller. Madman encounters Big Guy from Miller and Darrow’s Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. This character also crossed over with Martha Washington. I think Big Guy made more appearances in crossovers than in his own series, which only lasted two issues. This may be because first, Big Guy’s series was published in an awkward large format, and second, Geof Darrow is a rather slow artist. 

CEREBUS #152 – “Mothers & Daughters 2,” as above. Cerebus fights more Cirinists, while the local men cheer him on. There are vignettes depicting the Black Blossom Lotus, from another early issue, and two coins that revolve around each other. I don’t understand why the coins are significant. Throughout Flight, the first part of Mothers & Daughters, there are all these suggestions that some kind of giant catastrophe is coming, but these hints don’t really lead to anything, unless it’s the fall of the Black Tower in Women. The letter column includes a very offensive letter by Thom E. Lake, who expresses views that would get him labeled as an incel or MRA today. 

SWAMP THING #8 (Vertigo, 2004) – “Missing Links,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Richard Corben. A villain named Dekker tries to play The Most Dangerous Game with Swampy, while Tefe deals with bullying. This comic is worth reading mostly for Corben’s art. 

EXCALIBUR #6 (Marvel, 2020) – “Verse VI: Watch the Throne,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Marcus To. The main plot of this issue is that Betsy, the new Captain Britain, fights Morgan le Fay. This sequence is unappealing because it’s just a standard fight scene, and there’s nothing particularly British about it. All the major Captain Britain and Excalibur writers have actually been British. Come to think of it, Simon Spurrier would be a good writer for this series. Later there’s a scene where Rogue tells Gambit that she doesn’t want children. They should have talked about this before getting married. Also, near the end of Mr. and Mrs. X, it was hinted that Gambit did want kids, and Rogue seemed open to the idea. 

SUPERMAN #69 (DC, 1992) – “Killing is Serious Business!”, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Peter Krause. Some terrorists named the Sons of Liberty kidnap Lana Lang in order to coerce Pete Ross into assassinating a witness at a congressional hearing. We’re never told what the Sons of Liberty’s goals are, but a bigger problem is that Pete is so scared of them, he can’t tell Superman that Lana has been kidnapped. Like, Pete turns down multiple chances to tell Superman what’s going on. Why does Pete think Superman wouldn’t be capable of saving Lana? 

SUICIDE SQUAD #39 (DC, 1990) – “Dead Issue,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. The Suicide Squad is shut down thanks to scandalous news leaked by the Loa, a group of Haitian villains. This allows the Loa to execute their plot to turn America’s children into berserk zombies, but Waller organizes an unauthorized mission to assassinate the Loa. The mission is successful, but Waller is caught and sent to jail. An excellent issue as usual. 

LASSIE #40 (Dell, 1958) – “Heart of a Dog” and “Forest Guardian,” [W] unknown, [A] Bob Forgione? The child welfare agency wants to take Timmy away from the farm where he’s been living, but a young couple buy the farm and adopt him, and Timmy’s foster brother Jeff gives Lassie to Timmy. This parallels a similar plot development in the Lassie TV show, where Jeff was replaced by Timmy as Lassie’s human companion. Lassie is so strongly associated with Timmy in the popular imagination, that I was surprised to realize she wasn’t always Timmy’s dog. Anyway, in the comic, the unknown writer does a great job of depicting Timmy’s emotional turmoil. In the backup story, Lassie and Timmy help catch a poacher.  

YELLOW DOG #24 (Print Mint, 1973) – various stories, [E] unknown. An unimpressive underground comic. The only major artists included are Howard Cruse, who did a two-pager, and Greg Irons, who drew the back cover. Of the other artists included, the only name I recognize is Tim Boxell. 

CEREBUS #153 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Mothers & Daughters 3,” as above. Cerebus exhorts the men of Iest to fight back against the Cirinists. Some men attack the Cirinists and get slaughtered. There’s an inexplicable scene where a nude model sees a tiny Cerebus. There are a ton of letters, one of which mentions Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, and a preview of A Distant Soil. 

2000 AD #319 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade relives an episode from his service in the Great Robot War. Time Twisters: “The Impossible Murder!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A man and his brother use time machines to murder each other. Dredd: “Condo Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd investigates a series of terrorist attacks on space habitats. Skizz: as above. Cornelius Cardew reacts violently to reporters asking him about Skizz. Meanwhile, Van Owen continues to torture Skizz, and Roxy prepares a rescue mission. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals how he saved Gunnar from being rejected from active duty. 

ACTION COMICS #656 (DC, 1990) – “Going to Blaze’s Part One of Three,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Bob McLeod. Jimmy Olsen and Jerry White have been shot by gunmen. The Black Racer comes for Jimmy, and Superman follows him to Blaze’s realm. The Black Racer doesn’t really fit with the rather serious tone of this Superman run, because he’s a character who’s difficult to depict in a plausible way. 

SHANG-CHI #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi consults the spirit of his uncle Zheng Yi. There’s a running joke about Clif Bars. Again, this series feels genuinely inspired by Chinese culture, in a way that Doug Moench’s MOKF never did. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #4 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw Part 4,”  [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. The Fraidy Cat tries to enslave Melba Li. Polly Peachpit fights Charlie Chokecherry, with the landlady’s baby son trapped between them. This is an effective horror comic, but compared to Something is Killing the Children, it’s much less subtle and it relies more on actually showing the reader the monsters. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #670 (DC, 1994) – “Cold Cases,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Barry Kitson. A frozen body is found in the harbor. Of course it’s Mr. Freeze, and he revives while in the morgue. Montoya and a medical examiner are trapped in the police station with him, but Montoya helps Azrael/Batman defeat him. Mr. Freeze is depicted in this issue as a fairly generic villain. The modern depiction of this character, as a tragic figure whose goal is to resurrect his wife, was introduced in the ‘90s cartoon episode “Heart of Ice.” That came out two years before ‘Tec #670, but the new version of Mr. Freeze may not have made it into the comic yet. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #51 (DC, 1991) – “Fractured Image,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Floyd Lawton hunts down Marc Pilar, a common criminal who stole the Deadshot suit. Floyd defeats and kills Marc, but declines to take the costume back. There are also a lot of subplots. Nightshade kisses Nemesis, and the new Thinker tries to kill Waller but fails. 

LETTER 44 #11 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. The new president repeals DADT, only to get impeached. The spacecraft starts to deteroriate, and Astra becomes critically ill. Letter 44 is one of the more detailed depictions of the presidency in American comics. It would be interesting to compare it to the actual Obama and Trump administrations. 

CEREBUS #154 – “Mothers & Daughters 4,” as above except the year is 1992. Cerebus starts flying through the air, I don’t understand how or why. Normalroach, based on Valentino’s Normalman, turns into Punisheroach. The Roach character is Sim’s vehicle for making fun of other comics. There are a bunch of letters about rape, and some photos of fan/running joke Connie Lingus. 

RED THORN #2 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Glasgow Kiss Chapter Two: Rebel of the Underground,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Meghan Hetrick. This issue is radically different in tone from #1; it goes from urban fantasy to epic fantasy. Isla visits Redcap Keep, fights some redcaps, and then meets the title character himself, a naked red-haired demigod. This comic is still interesting and it shows extensive knowledge of Scottish folklore, but I liked the first issue better. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #147 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (“A Charitable Chore”), [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald volunteers to host a poor person for Thanksgiving, but inevitably, the “poor” person turns out to be Gladstone. Donald runs away to Florida to escape from Gladstone, but it doesn’t work. Several of the other stories are also Thanksgiving-themed, including the first of the two Mickey Mouse stories. The other one, “The Miracle Master” by Merrill De Maris and Bill Wright, is a redrawn version of an old daily strip sequence, according to the GCD. There’s also a Little Hiawatha strip which is appallingly racist. The back cover is a Wheaties ad depicting NFL Hall of Famer Bob Waterfield. This was so long ago that Waterfield is depicted kicking a field goal as well as throwing passes. 

CEREBUS #156 – “Mothers & Daughters 6: Mind Games V,” as above. The first four chapters of Mind Games were scattered throughout the run. Dave’s note discusses his national tour, which included a stop at the Million Year Picnic in Boston, a store I’ve visited a few times. Cerebus travels through space and has an argument with someone who claims to be Suenteus Po – a name used by many different characters in this series. There are cameo appearances by the Judge, K’cor, the Pigts, and the Regency Elf. Behind the scenes, Punisheroach battles the Cirinist army. Much of this issue made no sense to me. The backup story is a rather whiny autobiographical comic about a trip to Varanasi. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #3 (Ahoy, 2020) – “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” [W] Rachel Pollack, [A] Alan Robinson. Poe tells the story of Marie Roget to his long-suffering wife. This must be the first new comic by Rachel Pollack in quite a long time. “The Cask of Amontillado – Rediscovered!”, [W] Shaun Manning, [A] Greg Scott. In the future, after Poe’s works have been lost, his descendant tries to rewrite The Cask of Amontillado without having read the original. 

CEREBUS #157 – “Mothers & Daughters 7: Mind Game VI,” as above. Dave describes his visits to St. Louis and Los Angeles. Cerebus reaches the Eighth Sphere, where a voice tells him about his happiest moments – including his first sight of the Great Wall of Tsi, and waking up in Jaka’s arms. Cerebus has a vision of his reelection as Prime Minister, but realizes it’s fake. The voice gives a speech about desire, and then Cerebus finds himself in front of a giant chessboard. There’s another shockingly offensive letter, this one by Larry Dudock, and Dave has an equally offensive response: “I only debate feminism these days with women who can argue sequentially and rationally and who don’t change the subject when I’m winning.” What a troll. 

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #31 (Marvel, 1977) – “My Sweetheart – My Killer!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Ron Wilson. Ben fights Alicia, who’s been turned into a human spider by Hydra agents. Spider-Woman also guest-stars. The McGuffin of the plot is a hidden Nazi treasure. 

ASTONISHING TALES #15 (Marvel, 1972) – “…And Who Will Call Him Savage?”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Gil Kane. In New York, Ka-Zar fights some drug dealers and tries to prevent a sick old scientist from being kidnapped. The predictable twist is that the scientist is the mother of one of the drug dealers. This issue has excellent art, and its story isn’t terrible. 

ICE CREAM MAN #22 (Image, 2020) – “Advent Calendar,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A simple story about a pregnant teenage girl getting an abortion. The horror part is that she keeps having nightmares about talking ducks. Also, the story is structured as an Advent calendar. Each page is set on a different day, from November 30 to Christmas, and begins with a gift. As the issue goes on, the gifts get weird and creepy. 

HEART THROBS #92 (DC, 1964) – This was from an eBay lot of five old romance comics. All [W] unknown. “Don’t Speak to Me of Love!”, [A] John Rosenberger. Felice’s friend Andrea steals all her boyfriends, until finally one of them rejects Andrea’s advances. What I don’t get is why Felice feels obligated to remain friends with this toxic person. John Rosenberger is a highly underrated artist. “The Edge of Love,” [A] Win Mortimer? Kathy goes to see her boyfriend Lee, but instead falls in love with Quint. The story acknowledges that Quint’s behavior is creepy, but he gets rewarded for it. “The Nights That Never Ended!”, [A] Tony Abruzzo. Poor secretary Michele falls in love with Dean, her boss’s playboy son. Dean’s stepmother lies to Michele and tells her that Dean has been killed. Dean shows up alive the next day. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #4 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto meets two legless giants who ride in a cart. Then he meets the princess, and she tells him that to defeat the Shrouded Man, he’ll have to sacrifice himself. I don’t get how this issue connects with the previous one. 

CEREBUS #158 – “Mothers & Daughters 8,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Denver and Chicago. Behind the chessboard is Suenteus Po, who claims that there are three aardvarks: himself, Cerebus, and Cirin. Po gives a long speech about his previous incarnations. The Pigts prepare for an invasion. Cirin punishes Mrs. Copps (based on a Canadian politician) for trying to interfere with her ascension.

MONSTRESS: TALK-STORIES #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika tells a story about a time in her childhood when she went fishing with a merboy friend, just before starting her military training. This issue is cute, but through its contrast with most issues of Monstress, it reminds me how bleak and depressing this series is. 

JINNY HEX SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2020) – “A Man Walks into a Garage…”, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Gleb Melnikov. A distant descendant of Jonah Hex is persecuted by an ancient villain. This is a fun one-shot story, but it seems inconsistent with DC’s current creative direction, to the extent that DC has a direction.  

U.S.AGENT #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “American Zealot Chapter 2: Homeland,” [W] Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. In flashback, we learn how John Walker’s sister Kate seemingly died in a fire. John goes to Ephraim, WV to help Kate, now a SHIELD agent, with her mission, but the people of Ephraim mistake John for Captain America – ironically, since John started his career as a replacement for Cap. As usual with Priest, this issue is hard to follow. 

GIRLS’ ROMANCES #110 (DC, 1965) – all [W] unknown. “My Secret Love!”, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Lita and Jud are in love, but he ignores her in public. It proves to be a simple misunderstanding. “Shadow of Love!”, [A] Sekowsky. Paula’s sister Amy dies of unspecified causes. Paula visits Amy’s fiance, Nicolas, and falls in love with him. Refreshingly, Paula realizes he only wants her as a replacement for her sister, and she leaves him. “Love is a Boy Named Joey!”, [A] John Rosenberger. (This story, like the other Rosenberger story above, has also been credited to Jay Scott Pike.) Trudy and Joey become childhood best friends when Trudy nurses Joey through an illness. When they’re teenagers, Joey continues to see Trudy as a surrogate mother, so she fakes an accident so that he can save her and see himself as her protector. This is some pretty weird logic, but it works because the writer decides it does. Again, Rosenberger’s (or Pike’s) art is excellent. 

CEREBUS #159 – “Mothers & Daughters 9,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Miami and Madison. Cerebus finds himself in Imesh, where K’cor shows him a vision of a goddess. Cerebus perceives the goddess as Astoria. Back Eighth Sphere, Suenteus Po continues his story. Cirin arranges a meeting with Astoria. Punisheroach meets Elrod. The letter column includes a complaint about a store in Winnipeg. 

2000 AD #320 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Slade discovers that a scientist named Deller has cloned him without his knowledge. Deller was also responsible for the Teeny Meks that killed Slade. Time Twisters: “Ring Road,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jesus Redondo. A woman escapes from prison and is picked up by a driver. She murders the driver and starts driving along an  endless road. As she drives, time progresses from 1935 to the end of the universe, then back to 1935 again. Finally the woman, now old, stops to pick up a hitchhiker: her younger self, who is about to kill her. A nicely surreal story. Dredd: “Condo Part 2,” as above. Dredd tries to save another space condo from being destroyed, but it starts drifting into the sun. Skizz: as above. Roxy convinces Loz and Cornelius to help her rescue Skizz. Meanwhile, one of Van Owen’s goons tries to remove Skizz’s suit and is fatally electrocuted. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals that Venus Blue Genes was in love with him and not Helm. 

U.S.AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Cavalry Stayed Home,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. Sam fights some aliens alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. 3Dr. Faustus and Hydra try to mind-control the others USAvengers. Good art and coloring, but a forgettable plot. 

ACTION COMICS #506 (DC, 1980) – “The Children’s Exodus from Earth!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman tries to save some children from being abducted by Jorlan, a hairy alien Pied Piper. In a typically convoluted Batesian plot twist, we learn that Jorlan was created by a Kryptonian scientist in a failed attempt to save Krypton’s children from their planet’s destruction. 

PHANTOM FORCE #0 (Genesis West, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jack Kirby & Michael Thibodeaux. This was the final series Kirby worked on before his death. This issue has seven or eight pages by Kirby, and the rest is by Thibodeaux. Kirby’s concepts feel like rehashes of his earlier work, and overall this comic is only of interest for historical reasons. Confusingly, issue 0 was published between issues 1 and 2, published by Image, and issues 3 through 8, from Genesis West. 

COPRA #38 (Copra, 2020) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Like Eric Shanower and Thom Zahler, Michel Fiffe has moved to a trade-paperback-only model, but is still self-publishing individual issues of Copra on a limited basis. Fiffe published Copra #38 and #39 through his Etsy store, though I also saw them on the stands at Heroes. Copra #38 is a beautiful artifact, with very thick covers and paper and vibrant coloring, and it justifies its $6 cover price. The entire issue is a fight scene involving Copra and the Ochizon agents. As always, Fiffe’s artwork is brilliant, with all sorts of unusual drawing techniques. 

WONDER WOMAN #71 (DC, 1993) – “Home Again,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Paris Cullins. This is the only issue of Messner-Loebs’s Wonder Woman that I have. These comics are quite hard to find, and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is the beautiful Brian Bolland covers. The second is that DC was contractually obligated to publish a Wonder Woman comic, but no one was buying it, so each issue had a low print run. Wonder Woman #71 is the conclusion of a story where Diana saves some alien women from slavery. At the end, Diana is reunited with Julia Kapatelis, who had given up on seeing her surrogate daughter again. This issue is unexpectedly good, and I hope I can find more issues from this run. 

CEREBUS #160 – “Mothers & Daughters 10,” as above. Dave describes his trip to Kansas City and Minneapolis, where he appeared at Dreamhaven and the Comic Book College. I think I had already started visiting the Comic Book College by that time, but I was too young to read Cerebus. Dreamhaven may still have been in its old location at the time, on the other side of Uptown from where it later moved. Archbishop Posey is beaten to death in prison, and Suenteus Po reports his death to Cerebus before continuing his history. Some masked guy tries to assassinate Lord Julius, and there are various other subplots. Dave has an additional note where he discusses the Diamond Seminar, which sounds like an earlier version of ComicsPro, and also mentions Heroes Con. In the letter column, Dave expresses some more chauvinistic opinions about women. There are also some letters about the Rodney King riots. 

ACTION COMICS #473 (DC, 1977) – “The Great Phantom Peril!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The Phantom Zone villains terrorize Metropolis until Superman finds a way to send them back to the Phantom Zone. Faora – who is written as a caricature of a radical feminist – ends up trapped in the Zone with a man who thinks she’s his dead wife. A problem with this story is that at this point in continuity, Mon-El was also in the Phantom Zone, but he’s nowhere to be seen in this issue.

SAUCER COUNTRY #3 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Run Part Three,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. Professor Joshua Kidd joins the governor’s presidential campaign, and there’s a subplot about an alien abductee named Michael. This is just a very strange series. 

BATMAN #449 (DC, 1990) – “The Penguin Affair III: Winged Vengeance,” [W] Marv Wolfman & Alan Grant, [A] Mark (D.) Bright. When I read this, I didn’t realize I also had the other two parts of this story. The Penguin has kidnapped an actress, mistaking her for the character she plays. Oswald is also trying to sell his bird-controlling technology to other evil people. Batman saves the day, but the Penguin’s unwilling ally, Harold, escapes. Harold would later return and become a regular cast member. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2004) – “Terra Incognita,” [W] Peter David, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Genis travels to the far future and meets Ely, his son by Songbird. Back in the present, Marlo and Moondragon have a compromising moment. I don’t know if Mockingbird had been outed as a lesbian by this point. This comic is okay, but I’ve never liked PAD’s Captain Marvel as much as his Hulk or Young Justice. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: LORD OF NIGHTMARES #4 (Vertigo, 2012) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Just as confusing as American Vampire 1976, which I’m removing from my pull list. I ordered Scott Snyder’s new series Nocterra, and I hope I don’t regret it. 

The next comics were from my first Heroes trip of the year. From here on, all new comics are dated 2021. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. The elephant dude helps Gus II and Penny escape from prison. Father prepares for an assault on the surface world. Gus and Penny discover a lab full of other Gus clones. I wish this series was longer than six issues. 

BIG GIRLS #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Tannik tries to kill everyone, but a Jack appears and bites his head off. A preserve is created so that boys in danger of becoming Jacks can grow up in peace. This was a really good debut story. I hope there’s going to be a second story arc. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #16 (IDW, 2021) – “Tengu War! Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi offers his aid to Sojobo (the name of the tengu) against some lesser demons. So far I don’t like this story as much as the previous one, but it’s nice to revisit the more fantastic side of Usagi’s universe. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #6 (DC, 2021) – “Intermezzo, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Heather After (introduced in #2) goes out dancing, but runs into Puck, who cuts her with a cursed knife that inflicts unstoppable bleeding. After asking John Constantine for advice, Heather casts a spell to summon help, and it brings her Matthew the Raven and Goldie. Besides Christian Ward, Javier Rodriguez is the best artist currently doing monthly comics. His page layouts, draftsmanship and coloring are all amazing. A  particular highlight of this issue is the club sequence. After some research, I think the name the bouncer was going to call Heather was “sh*m*l*”. See https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2021/01/dc-pubwatch-january-2021-edition-future-state-the-flash/.

ETERNALS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Ikaris and Sprite are revived from sleep. Sprite is now female. They fight a rogue Deviant, then encounter Thanos. Kieron does a great job of imagining what it would be like to be immortal, and his Eternals feel Kirbyesque and Kieronesque at once. I love the line “Humans keep on mistaking us for gods for some reason. It annoys the gods enormously.” I also love the list of all 100 Eternals at the beginning. I assume some of these are new characters, but the new names feel consistent with the existing ones. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #93 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mary Kenney, [A] Trish Forstner. I don’t recognize either of these creators’ names. Scootaloo’s parents come back to Ponyville to hang out with their daughter, but they don’t realize that Scootaloo doesn’t like the same things they like. Trish Forstner’s art is very expressive, but this issue’s plot is nothing new. 

SEVEN SECRETS #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The fight doesn’t go well. Tajana sacrifices herself so the other seekers can escape, by going into an alternate dimension hidden inside one of the briefcases. Seven Secrets is mostly an action comic and has little substance beyond that, but it’s fun anyway. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #256 (DC, 2021) – “Jaws of Death!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. At the store I was warned that this issue has a printing error, but I bought it anyway. Malcolm comes home from the hospital, thankfully with his memory intact. Paul fights Mako, not realizing it’s a different and scarier Mako than the one he knows, and gets his arm torn off. Also, Erik addresses the widespread criticism of Savage Dragon’s pornographic tendencies by leaning into it. He has Maxine literally say “Savage Dragon is a porn comic now,” and then later there’s a rather graphic sex scene. At least it’s not quite as bad as the scenes that have caused me to stop reading the comic on at least one occasion. 

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Night & Day Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. The two Dragonflies are adjusting to their respective worlds, until they discover that they can use mirrors to get back to their home worlds, and the issue ends as they confront each other. The central joke in this comic is getting a bit old, but it’s still an entertaining comic. A funny moment this issue is when Dragonflyman survives being shot point-blank by using “ultra-sticky dragonfly paper.”  

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #22 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Natacha Bustos. Miles’s dad changes his name to “Jeff” instead of “Jefferson Davis.” I support this decision; Bendis made an inexplicable mistake by giving him that name in the first place. Jeff even gestures to this by saying that the name is tainted, and he doesn’t know what his parents were thinking. Then Miles and Starling fight a giant mummy, he tells her his secret identity, and she kisses him. 

THE LAST WITCH #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Tower in the Woods,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. I’m glad Boom! Box is launching some new titles now that Lumberjanes is done. Twelve-year-old Saoirse wants to leave her village and have adventures, but she’s stuck with an overprotective widowed father and an annoying little brother. Finally Saoirse and her brother Brahm leave their village and explore the local witch’s tower, but Brahm mysteriously vanishes. I was skeptical about McCreery’s writing because I didn’t much like Kill Shakespeare, but this issue is fairly well-written. V.V. Glass’ art, however, is phenomenal. Their characters are really cute, and they’ve mastered the Disney style. The little brother and the dying mother (in flashback) are particular highlights. Glass could probably make a lot more money in animation than in comics. 

HAPPY HOUR #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim comes back to pick Jerry up, but while driving through a small town, they get kidnapped by the “joy police.” In a subplot, we learn that Landor Cohen’s unhappiness cult is just as scary as the happiness cult. 

SHADOW SERVICE #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. The artist dude turns into a giant monster and gets shot. This is a confusing issue and I don’t remember much about it. This series has a ton of stuff all going on at once. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #10 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Think I Had This Album,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. Peter Quill comes back from wherever he’s been, just in time to help the Guardians fight Knull’s invasion. But now the Guardians have to fight some angry Olympian gods. This was just an average issue. 

INKBLOT #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. goes back to the earliest days of the Seeker and her family. The Seeker’s youngest brother, Inos, decides to keep MOW. safe or else the Seeker will dissect it. I’ve decided that MOW. is the cat’s name. 

FUTURE STATE: WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – “Hell to Pay,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. A new Wonder Woman, Yara Flor, goes to the underworld with the assistance of an indigenous Brazilian deity, who manifests as a little girl riding a wild pig. This is a pretty fun issue, especially the scene where Yara enters the gate to the underworld, which looks like an airport. (I actually miss airports.) Joëlle Jones’s art is as gorgeous as it always is. I especially like Yara’s facial expressions; she looks as if she’s constantly enthusiastic. 

MARVEL ACTION AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. Captain Marvel has to help Dr. Strange retrieve his Cloak of Levitation, which was stolen from White Rabbit. As one would expect from Katie, this is a hilarious issue. The cloak (which is sort of alive) and Carol’s cat/flerken are adorable, and there’s a perfectly timed running joke about snickerdoodle cookies. Also this story intersects with the last two issues. 

PANTOMIME #3 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The kids successfully execute a clever plot to free themselves from the Manager, and it seems like they’ve earned a happy ending. But eight years later, we see one of the kids in a police station, writing a confession. This is a really intriguing series. 

IMMORTAL HULK #42 (Marvel, 2021) – “A Game of Consequences,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] various. Jackie McGee gets some bad news from her horrible boss, and then discovers that she has a gamma mutation that causes her to Hulk out when she feels the need to know something. That’s brilliant, since she’s a journalist. Meanwhile, Gyrich hires the U-Foes. Issue 43 was not in my file when I went to pick it up. I wonder if Heroes decided not to sell it until they get the corrected copies. (Context: https://bleedingcool.com/comics/joe-bennett-apologises-over-immortal-hulk-43-anti-semitic-error/

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #4 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Manipulation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. A group of anti-empathic villains named the Extinction Society are revealed as the culprits in the death of empathy. We also learn that the world where the series is located is the world where evil is good – in other words, Earth-3. This comic’s plot feels like a metaphor about the current political crisis, but it’s too broad and unspecific a metaphor to really work. I still like this comic, but I also still think it’s overambitious. 

S.W.O.R.D. #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “In the Dark,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. A random assortment of X-Men fight the symbiotes. This was a forgettable comic and nothing about it stands out to me. I still intend to keep reading this series because it’s Al Ewing. 

FUTURE STATE: SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 2021) – “Obsidian Sun,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. In a postapocalyptic future world, Swamp Thing leads a party of other plant people in search of the last surviving humans. Before writing this review I had trouble remembering anything about this comic. However, it’s actually very intriguing. I especially like Swampy’s meditations on the process of growing his own children. 

GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #57 (DC, 1958) – all credits unknown unless specified. “Guest at His Wedding”: Russ is cruel enough to invite his ex-girlfriend Peg to his wedding. While there, Peg falls in love with another man. “Too Dangerous for Love!”: Alicia tries to set up her asshole boss Kevin and her sister Terry, but Kevin starts dating other women besides Terry. Thankfully,  Kevin ends up with neither Terry nor Alicia. In these stories it’s always an unexpected pleasure when the man is a jerk, and he doesn’t end up with the female protagonist. “Exit Happiness!”, [A] John Forte. An actress falls in love with an actor, but he’s just using her for his career. At least he repents in the end. “Picture of Heartbreak!”: Bette loves Dana, but he doesn’t know he exists. Notably, the two female characters in the story are named Bette and Veronica. 

CEREBUS #161 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1992) – “Mothers & Daughters 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. A dead guy visits Cerebus; I think this is Brad but I’m not sure. Suenteus Po continues lecturing to Cerebus. Something strange happens with the sphere Cirin is building. There’s also a preview sequence consisting of twelve pages from Bone #3. For my current research, it’s important to note that Bone was previewed in Cerebus. 

2000 AD #321 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade witnesses the childhood and adolescence of his clone Sam Scumm. Time Twisters: “I Could Do That,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike White. A scientist invents a time machine, but is plagued by future time travelers coming back in time to visit him. There’s a framing sequence where a journalist witnesses these events and sends Tharg the story we just read. Dredd: as above. The condo falls into the sun, though some of its inhabitants escape. Back on earth, Dredd proves that an architect caused the sabotage, leading to half a million deaths, because he was bitter at losing the competition to build the condos. Skizz: as above. Roxy, Loz and Cornelius get some people from the pool hall to spring Skizz. Meanwhile, Skizz tells Van Owen that his people have the power to snuff out suns. Compare Top Ten, where Smax tells Robin that the highest class of superpowered beings are the ones who can snuff or ignite suns. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals that Gunnar inadvertently caused the deaths of some “genetic rejects.” 

CROSSOVER #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. We start with an obvious reference to Watchmen. Then Ellie (short for Ellipses…) and Ava meet the Paybacks, from an earlier series by the same creators. I have an issue of that series, so I went digging for it, but I found something else I wanted to read first: 

WOLVERINE #11 (Marvel, 2014) – “Killable Part 4 of 6,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Alan Davis. Wolverine and Kitty Pryde fight some Hand ninjas in a mall somewhere in Canada. This issue has some interesting dialogue between Logan and Kitty; notably, Kitty tells Logan that she’s not his child, or a child at all. But the primary appeal of this issue is the artwork. 

THE PAYBACKS #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal. The Paybacks are a “super-repo team.” They repossess the equipment of bankrupt superheroes, and they force the superheroes to work for them until the equipment is paid for. This issue, one of the Paybacks’ targets is Doctor Blaqk, who looks suspiciously like Dr. Strange. There are some funny jokes in this issue, such as the Liefeldian character named Bloodpouch. But this series’ premise seems rather limited. As stated in Crossover #3, Paybacks was cancelled because no one read it. 

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Doc, Howard the Duck, and the rest of the team are trapped inside an old book. This results in some great page designs and metatextual jokes. Like, Howard complains about being attacked by the letter E. They escape from the book and fight a creepy monster made of hands. As always, Rodriguez’s art is incredible. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #662 (DC, 1993) – “Burning Questions,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue has a stunning cover by Sam Kieth. Batman fights the pyromaniac Firefly, while the Riddler is hunted by his former henchmen. I read this issue as a kid, but I don’t remember it well. Chuck Dixon writes the Riddler as an unimpressive character whose riddling is the result of OCD, rather than of a desire to prove his intelligence. 

THE UNION #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Britannia Project Part Two: Making Waves,” [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Issue 1 is still on order from DCBS, and it hasn’t arrived yet. The Union are a team of superheroes representing all four nations of the UK, but their leader, Britannia, has been murdered. Union Jack replaces her, and the team fights some of Knull’s symbiotes. Afterward, they try to disband, but Union Jack finds that he’s contractually obligated to serve as the team leader. This entire comic seems like a metaphor for Brexit and its potential to cause the breakup of the UK. A memorable line is when the Choir, the Welsh team member, tells Union Jack that he can’t represent her because he doesn’t know where Merthyr Tydfil is. Paul Grist is British himself, and this issue shows far more knowledge of British culture than Excalibur #6 did. 

PENULTIMAN #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Penultiman tries to make himself more positive, but only ends up damaging his reputation further. Antepenultiman builds his own robot, Preantepenultiman, to help him understand his creator better. Preantepenultiman suggests that Antepenultiman should visit Penultiman’s parents. Those names are really annoying.  

CAPTAIN AMERICA #117 FACSIMILE EDITION (Marvel, 2021) – “The Coming of… The Falcon!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. The Red Skull has used the Cosmic Cube to switch bodies with Cap. BTW, the Red Skull’s whole problem is lack of imagination: he’s had the Cosmic Cube on at least three occasions, but all he ever thinks to do with it is torment Cap. Anyway, Cap in the Skull’s body has to fight the Skull’s minions, while the Skull in Cap’s body fawns for the media. Then Cap disguises himself and meets the Falcon, whose first appearance this is. Gene Colan’s art in this issue is beautiful, especially the splash page with Cap/Skull lying on a couch talking to reporters. 

COPRA #39 (Copra, 2020) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Another issue-long fight scene. Again, Fiffe’s art is incredible, and this comic is a beautiful artifact. 

HAHA #1 (Image, 2021) – “Bartleby Rejects the Premise,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Vanesa del Rey. A clown goes to work and discovers that the amusement park is closing. His coworker robs him on his way out, and then he goes to the bank to deposit his last paycheck (which the robber missed), only for the bank to also be robbed. He tries to stop the robbery and gets shot in the head, and then things get even weirder; he stops the robbery and returns home, where he perceives his family as balloon animals. This issue is a riff on Batman: The Killing Joke, but I expect the next issue will go in a rather different direction compared to that book. Prince’s depiction of the clown’s chronic bad luck is quite compelling. 

RED THORN #3 (Vertigo, 2016) – “My Beloved Monster,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Meghan Hetrick. Thorn goes looking for a villain named Beluthacadros, while Isla goes to Glasgow in the company of two orcs. This comic suffers from a certain lack of direction. 

CEREBUS #162 – “Mothers & Daughters 12,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Indianapolis, Detroit, Toronto and Atlanta. He mentions three stories I’ve been to: The Beguiling, Oxford Comics in Atlanta, and Dave’s Comics in Detroit, which is unfortunately gone. Cerebus goes back to Earth, and Punisheroach loses his virginity to a sex worker. That’s the end of Mothers & Daughters Part 1: Flight, a confusing and aimless story. There’s a long essay, “The Last Waltz,” in which Dave calls out Gary Groth for his elitism. Dave particularly complains that Gary didn’t know whether Sandman was any good. Most of the letters are about Dave’s tour stops. 

SUPERMAN #326 (DC, 1978) – “A Million Dollars a Minute!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. Superman is mind-controlled into signing a contract that obliges him to reveal his secret identity on TV. The TV-themed villain Blackrock is responsible, or rather the TV executives who created Blackrock. Superman defeats Blackrock and ensures that the TV channel goes off the air, so that no one actually sess him unmask himself. This issue is better than the Cary Bates Superman comics I reviewed earlier. 

GEN13 BOOTLEG #1 (Image, 1996) – “Lindquist’s Fault Part 1,” [W] Mark Farmer, [A] Alan Davis. The Gen13 members travel through a dimensional portal to look for some missing children. Each of them ends up in a separate reality. The most interesting sequence is the one where Fairchild is the leader of a team of preteen superheroes. As always, Alan Davis’s art is beautiful. 

AVENGERS #288 (Marvel, 1988) – “Heavy Metal!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema. This issue features one of the worst Avengers lineups ever: Captain Marvel (Monica), She-Hulk, Namor, Black Knight and Dr. Druid. This issue, they fight Machine Man, the Super-Adaptoid, and a Kree Sentry. The only redeeming quality of this issue is Buscema’s art. 

HEAVY METAL #5.10 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. There’s way too much stuff in this issue to describe it all. Notable features include: Jim Steranko’s Outland, which indicates the direction he might have taken if he’d stayed in comics. Paul Gillon’s “Mademoiselle My Wife,” a comedy about a married couple who have never met. This seems to be based on some sort of old French play, but the twist is that the characters are robots instead of humans. Gillon’s art is a lot like Al Williamson’s. A series of “Happy Future” segments by various French creators, including a lot of artists who draw in a very similar style to Moebius. Other contributors to this issue include Segrelles, Druillet, Corben, and Jeff Jones.

STRIP #11 (Marvel UK, 1990) – [E] Dan Abnett. This series was a short-lived anthology for mature readers. This issue’s main features are a reprint of part of Marshal Law #6 (an American comic by British creators), and a translation of part of the fifth Thorgal album. I need to read Thorgal, although the Cinebook reprints are censored and the albums are published out of order. 

SKULL #4 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “The Hound,” [W/A] Jack Jackson. A very creepy adaptation of a Lovecraft story. Jaxon’s lettering is hard to read. “The Hairy Claw of Tolen,” [W/A] Charles Dallas. A horror story about a mutant child, narrated in hillbilly dialect. Dallas’s art looks a lot like Spain’s. There are also two more Lovecraft adaptations, drawn by Michael Smith and Herb Arnold. I’ve read far more comics adaptations of Lovecraft than actual works by Lovecraft. 

CEREBUS #163 – “Mothers & Daughters 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The start of Book Two: Women. Starting in this issue, there are occasional text pages in which Astoria and Cirin describe their contrasting philosophies. Cirinism and Kevilism both seem like different versions of straw feminism. Astoria prepares for her summit with Cirin, Cerebus returns to earth, and Punisheroach romances his “girlfriend.” As my Facebook friend Kian S. Bergstrom pointed out, Sim’s art was growing more and more beautiful as the series went on, at the same time that Sim himself descended into madness. 

TWISTED TALES #4 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “The Well,” [A] John Bolton. A newlywed husband climbs down a well and is killed by a monster that lives down there. His widow follows him down there and kills the monster, but only after it makes her “pregnant” with its young. “Nick of Time,” [A] Don Lomax. Two wives conspire to frame one of their husbands for murdering the other wife’s husband. Kind of confusing. “The Secret Place,” [A] Jones. A mute boy befriends a stranded alien. 

CHEVAL NOIR #35 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “In Search of Peter Pan,” [W/A] Cosey. A man takes up residence in an Alpine village that’s about to be destroyed by avalanches. The other longer story is “The Birthday” by Cossu and Jamsin, about a man who doesn’t realize he’s dead. This issue includes shorter pieces by Moebius, Rick Geary, and Phil Elliott. 

THE AUTHORITY #20 (WildStorm, 2001) – “Earth Inferno Four of Four,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Some smug asshole steals the Doctor’s powers for a day. As with every other issue of this run, Quitely’s art is beautiful art, but Millar’s writing is rage-inducingly offensive. I don’t know why I keep buying these. 

DONALD DUCK #272 (Gladstone, 1989) – “A Safe Place,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald discovers that he owns a valuable stock certificate. He puts it in a safe to protect it from robbers, but then forgets the combination to the safe, just as his offer to sell the stock is about to expire. In a backup story, Donald and Gladstone discover that they’ve both booked the same cabin for their vacation, so they have to split it down the middle. 

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #13 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Small Glass Worlds Part 1: Transparent Lies,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Tim and Molly go on a date, only to run into Auberon and Titania. Auberon claims that Tim isn’t Titania’s son. There’s a subplot about Marya. Tim and Molly’s tentative relationship may be the best thing about this series. 

AVENGERS #225 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Fall of Avalon,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Greg LaRocque. The Avengers are summoned to Avalon to battle the Fomor alongside the Black Knight. The villains in this issue are named after obscure characters from Irish mythology, but otherwise they’re just generic villains. This issue certainly does not have the same Irish mythological flavor as Sláine does. 

ZERO ZERO #21 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “The Search for Smilin’ Ed,” [W/A] Kim Deitch. In part one, Deitch unsuccessfully tries to track down a kids’ show host named Smilin’ Ed. In part two, Waldo takes over as narrator, and he gradually reveals Smilin’ Ed’s bizarre secrets. The rest of the story is serialized in issues #22 and #24-27. “The Search for Smilin’ Ed” is rather similar to Stuff of Dreams/Alias the Cat, both in its themes and its structure – specifically how it begins as a seemingly true story about Deitch himself, then gets stranger and stranger. But still, this is a major work of Deitch. It was rather hard to find until it was reprinted as a graphic novel in 2010. 

YASMEEN #5 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. In flashback, Yasmeen finally escapes from her captors. In the present, her classmate Mira makes an unsuccessful suicide attempt, and she beats up a boy who calls her an “ISIS bitch.” I didn’t completely understand this issue because I missed at least one previous issue. Still, Yasmeen may be the most underrated comic of 2020. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #54 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part II: Divine Wind,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. The Suicide Squad accepts a private contract to retrieve a cache of guns from Cambodia. While the Squad is on the mission, their client is murdered, and his successor tries to terminate the contract. This issue is good, but not especially notable. 

CEREBUS #164 – “Mothers & Daughters 14,” as above. Cerebus talks with an unnamed old man who’s being held captive by the Cirinists. The man says some grossly offensive things, like “women r*pe men’s minds the way men r*pe women’s bodies.” There’s no reason to think Sim doesn’t believe this nonsense. The Roach turns into Swoon, a parody of Sandman, and Elrod becomes his sister, a parody of Death. (There was an earlier issue where Death appeared in one panel as a joke, but I forget which one.) The Pigt men all get killed in an ill-fated invasion attempt, and the women seem to be better off without them. There’s a long-ass letter by M’Oak, thankfully not about r*pe, and also a lot of letters about direct-market matters. 

KING IN BLACK: GWENOM VS. CARNAGE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Flaviano. Gwenom returns to her home reality and fights some symbiotes. Mary Jane turns into Carnage. Not bad, but also not especially memorable. 

HEAVY METAL #6.5 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. “Freak Show” by Bruce Jones and Wrightson is unimpressive by Wrightson’s standards. Christin and Bilal’s “The Voyage of Those Forgotten,” later translated as The Cruise of Lost Souls, is an early work that’s not in Bilal’s signature painted style. Manara and Silverio Pisu’s “The Ape” is a sexy version of the Sun Wukong legend. “Right Smack in the Middle of the Cold War” has beautiful Clear Line art by Jean-Louis Floch, not to be confused with his more famous brother Jean-Claude Floc’h. Nicole Claveloux’s “The Story of the Flaxen-Haired Princess […]” is a fairy tale with beautiful art that resembles Renaissance engravings. Other artists in the issue include Caza, Corben (Den II), Jeff Jones, Moebius (The Incal), Fernando Fernandez (Zora), and Druillet (Yragael). I haven’t seen Fernandez’s work before, and it’s impressive. However, Druillet’s art is so epic and hyper-detailed as to barely be readable. 

MINIATURE JESUS #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Ted McKeever. This is much wider than a normal comic book, but the same height, and I think it will fit in a drawerbox. It consists of a confusing story about a priest who encounters a series of visions that challenge his faith. McKeever’s style of linework is very unusual and unique, but I suspect his comics are an acquired taste. 

TWISTED TALES #5 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “Terminated,” [A] Richard Corben. A leper is killed by a terrified mob, but his corpse falls into their water supply. “Scritch… Scritch… Scritch,” [A] Bill Wray. A man is driven to suicide by annoying noises no one else can hear. It turns out his dentist had hidden a radio receiver in his tooth, intending to drive the man crazy and steal his wife. “Majority of One,” [A] Val Mayerik. A werewolf is hunted by a mob. He finds refuge with a woman whose baby is also a werewolf. The mob kills all three of them. The twist ending is that the man and woman were being persecuted because they’re not full-time werewolves, and everybody else is. “Banjo Lessons,” [A] Rand Holmes. A man is on death row for murdering his three best friends. In flashbacks, we learn that all three of the friends had tortured, murdered and eaten a black dog named Banjo. We subsequently realize that the depiction of Banjo as a dog was the result of unreliable narration, and he was actually a black man. This issue begins with a long editorial by April Campbell in which she clarifies tat the story is not meant to endorse racism. This should be pretty obvious. I do think that the story sensationalizes racism, but that’s a different matter. 

DRYAD #8 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. Yale confronts his estranged brother Lou. The kids go looking for their origins and get arrested along with their new friends. I’m starting to lose track of this series’s plot.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #6 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. I don’t quite understand this comic’s plot, but it seems like a lot of macho BS, and Miller’s word balloons contain way too much text. Also, his art is entirely black and white with no shading. My impression is that Miller jumped the shark after Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.  

CEREBUS #165 – “Mothers & Daughters 15,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Portland and New York. Cirin talks with her assistants (two of whom are named after Germaine Greer and Andrea Dworkin) about Cerebus and the golden sphere. Swoon and Elrod do some target practice. There are also some letters about the love triangle between Rob Lavender, Larry Young (not sure if this is Larry Young the cartoonist) and Nicole Rodney. I don’t know if this is a running joke or what, but it seems rather creepy how all these men were discussing Nicole’s relationships in public. 

NEW MUTANTS #81 (Marvel, 1989) – “Faith,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Louis Williams. This appears to be an inventory story. It’s set between #35 and #36 (according to the GCD) and focuses on Magma’s first meeting with Hercules. Magma is initially disappointed by Herc’s lack of resemblance to her god, but after they have an adventure together, Amara learns to respect Herc. Amara is the most underdeveloped character in this series, besides maybe Karma, and this issue helps remedy her lack of characterization. 

BATMAN #448 (DC, 1990) – “The Penguin Affair I: Pawns,” [W] Marv Wolfman & Alan Grant, [A] Jim Aparo. The Penguin uses mind-controlled birds to kidnap a soap opera actress, who he mistakes for her character. We’ve already seen how this story ends. Jim Aparo’s art in this issue is far from his best. I was not able to solve the chess problem on page 18, but it looks like Batman’s solution (Rc2+) is correct. At one point in this issue, the Penguin says “Alfred Hitchcock, eat your heart out,” alluding to the obvious resemblance between The Penguin Affair and Hitchcock’s The Birds.  

IRON MAN #159 (Marvel, 1982) – “When Strikes Diablo,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Paul Smith. Stark International hires a janitor, Al Bido, only he has no references and HR has no record of hiring him. Also he’s an expert in chemical engineering. Under hypnosis, Al Bido realizes that he’s Diablo, and he fights Iron Man and loses. This is a pretty average issue, but the art is very attractive. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Paul Smith comic. 

SUPERMAN #344 (DC, 1980) – “The Monsters Are Among Us!”, [W] Paul Levitz & Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. Clark Kent attends a seance by Cassandra Craft, who previously appeared in the Phantom Stranger series. Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster appear, intent on claiming Cassandra’s soul, and Superman has to save her. This issue is confusing to a reader who hasn’t encountered Cassandra before. I didn’t even realize she was a preexisting character until after I read it. 

BEST BUY COMICS #nn (Last Gasp, 1979) – various stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb with Aline Kominsky-Crumb. This one-shot consists of stories that appeared in CoEvolution Quarterly, an environmentalist magazine that was spun off from the Whole Earth Catalog, as well as one story that was rejected from that magazine. “R. Crumb’s Modern Dance Workshop” is a typical example of Crumb’s leg and butt fetishism. “Space Day Symposium” is Crumb’s report on a private aerospace industry event. He was the furthest thing possible from the target audience for this event, and his disdain for it is very clear. “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night” may be his greatest story; it has a mature sensibility that’s lacking in most of his work. “The Nerds” is about two guys discussinng religion. There are various other short pieces, and then the rejected story is a collaboration between Robert and Aline, about their visit to the Whole Earth Jamboree. Perhaps it was rejected for its flippant attitude toward this event. 

EDDY CURRENT #3 (Mad Dog, 1987) – “8:00 AM,” [W/A] Ted McKeever. If I recall correctly, this series had a constraint where every issue covered one hour. I don’t understand this issue’s plot, but it has the same unusual style of draftsmanship as Miniature Jesus, and its plot is far more interesting. 

CHEVAL NOIR #41 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “Demon,” [W/A] Masashi Tanaka. A rather generic story about an ogre that terrorizes the Japanese court. Tanaka later became world-famous for his wordless dinosaur manga Gon. This issue also includes “Stan Pulsar” by Cailleteau and Vatine, better known for Aquablue, as well as some short pieces by Moebius, Geary, Phil Elliott and Nicole Hollander. By this point in its run, Cheval Noir had drifted away from its original focus on French comics. 

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #91 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “The Wolves of Saint August 4 of 4,” [W/A] Mike Mignola. Hellboy fights and defeats a werewolf. Mike Mignola’s art here is, of course, beautiful and deeply moody. This issue also includes Bob Schreck’s eulogy for Doug Wildey. This issue also includes a crime story by Robbie Morrison and Frank Quitely, as well as a story by Jim Alexander and Rob McCallum, who’s quite good at drawing robots. 

MUDMAN #1 (Image, 2012) – “Mudman,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This was Grist’s most recent creator-owned title. It’s set in the coastal English town of Burnbridge-on-Sea, and it stars Owen Craig, a schoolboy who discovers a suit that gives him mud powers. Grist’s draftsmanship and storytelling in this issue are brilliantly economical, but Mudman’s story didn’t grab me. 

CEREBUS #166 – “Mothers & Daughters 16,” as above except it’s now 1993. Dave discusses his visits to Cleveland and Denver. Cerebus has a lot of weird dreams. The Black Tower reappears and falls onto the Regency Hotel. The letter column includes short letters by Gary Groth and Shelton Drum, and a long one by Martin Wagner. Dave also includes the transcript of his speech to the Diamond Seminar, and there’s a four-page backup story by someone I haven’t heard of. 

FEARLESS DAWN: THE RETURN OF OLD NUMBER SEVEN! (Albatross, 2021) – “The Return of Old Number 7,” [W/A] Steve Mannion. I bought this on impulse at Heroes because I liked the art style. It’s about an adventuress and her Frankenstein-monster companion. Steve Mannion’s draftsmanship is really good; he draws cute women, scary monsters, and exciting action scenes. This comic reminds me a bit of Tank Girl, which is also published by Albatross. There are lots of other Fearless Dawn comics, but they were mostly pubilshed by even smaller companies than Albatross, and are hard to find. 

SEA OF SORROWS #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. More undersea horror and scary mermaids. Again, the best thing about this comic is Alex Cormack’s dark, creepy art.

MUDMAN #2 (Image, 2012) – “The Perfect Getaway,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Owen saves his father from crooks, and the crooks get stuck in mud. Owen meets a mysterious woman. I think the best thing about Mudman’s story is its highly distinctive setting. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #4 (DC, 2021) – “Answered Prayers,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The protagonists go looking for the text of George Washington’s pact with some kind of vampire council. We also meet Mimiteh, a Native American vampire, although she was introduced last issue. I’ve had enough of this series, and I’m not going to finish it. 

YOUNG LOVE #71 (DC, 1968) – “Tall, Dark and Married!”, [W] unknown, [A] John Rosenberger? Arlene falls in love with (and/or is sexually harassed by) her boss Neil, even though he’s married. He eventually reveals that he’s not married; he keeps a fake photo of his wife on his desk to deter “husband-hunters.” “Come to My Arms,” [W] unknown, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Adam falls in love with Joan, who’s passing through Adam’s city while looking for her lover Bill. Joan ends up with Bill and not Adam. Another example of a story that doesn’t end in a happily-ever-after, at least not for Adam. “Life and Loves of Lisa St. Claire,” [W] Jack Miller?, [A] Jay Scott Pike. Part of an ongoing story which began in issue 68. In this chapter, Lisa, a wealthy but lonely heiress, becomes the patron of a (literal) starving artist. Pike uses some unusual page layouts in this story, including a star-shaped panel. See https://www.sequentialcrush.com/blog/2012/05/recurring-characters-of-dc-romance for more on the continuing stories in DC’s romance titles. 

2000 AD #322 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam Slade and Sam Scumm become two souls in the same body. One-shot: “The Hyper-Historic Headbang!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. In 5019 AD, a heavy metal band plays a concert that involves time travel to various historical catastrophes. This story has no real plot, but Davis’s art is beautiful. Quinch makes a cameo appearance at the bottom of page two. Dredd: “Day of the Werewolf Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. A werewolf terrorizes Mega-City One. This may be the first appearance of the “total relaxation inducer” that allows Judges to get a full night’s sleep in ten minutes. Skizz: as above. Roxy and her friends execute an elaborate plot to steal Skizz back. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue wakes up, defeats some Norts, and convinces Gunnar, Helm and Bagman that his confessions about them were false, though they were in fact true. 

DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. The conspirators try to take revenge on Lord Kamimura, only to discover that he died, and his palanquin actually contains his wife and young son. I’m giving up on this series too. 

LONELY RECEIVER #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “A Life: Weave the Wind. I Have No Ghosts,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. I didn’t understand this issue at all. I liked issues 2 and 3 of this series, but the other three were incomprehensible. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace, [W] Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. Lauren overcomes her anxiety and prepares for her first solo concert. Sina Grace takes over as the artist with page 7 of this issue, and while his art isn’t spectacular, it’s a tremendous improvement over Jenny Fine’s art. On Sina’s pages, it’s actually possible to distinguish one character from another. (In comics, it’s essential that the characters don’t look too similar. They aren’t being constantly referenced by their names, as in prose fiction, so the reader needs to be able to identify them by their visual appearances.)  

CEREBUS #168 – “Mothers & Daughters 18,” as above. Dave’s note consists of technical advice about comics art. Astoria has a dream about her father and Artemis (her name for the Roach character), then wakes up to find herself in the midst of a crisis. Cirin has a dream about Swoon. There are long letters by Charles Brownstein and Jim Ottaviani, and a preview of Nabiel Kanan’s Exit. The actual Cerebus story only takes up half the issue. 

ACTION COMICS #467 (DC, 1977) – “Stop It, Superman – You’re Wrecking the World!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. Superman tries to stop a civil war in the fictional Balkan country of Borotavia. In revenge, a Borotavian scientist finds a way to steal Superman’s energy and use it to cause natural disasters. There’s a backup story in which Krypto encounters Mr. Mxyzptlk. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #6 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jessica tries to track down a villain who’s been kidnapping the children of various minor supervillains. Javier Rodriguez’s draftsmanship in this issue is excellent, but his page designs are unadventurous. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #12 (Dell, 1956) – “The Golden Fleecing,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge wants clothing made out of gold, but the only way to get it is to find the legendary Golden Fleece. To get it, Scrooge and his nephews have to travel to ancient Colchis and battle the Larkies (rather than Harpies) and a dragon. This is one of Barks’s most thrilling adventure stories. The Larkies are great villains, and the plot has an epic scope, thanks in part to its length: it takes up the entire issue. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #33 (Dell, 1961) – “Billions in the Hole,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge builds a miniaturizing machine, but then he drops his #1 Dime in an ant hole. To make things worse, the Beagle Boys steal the Atom Subtracter and use it to shrink the Money Bin, and the ants steal that too. This is another masterpiece by the finest storyteller in the history of American comics. The ducks, the Beagle Boys and the ant get into all sorts of fun adventures, and the ending is satisfying, with Scrooge admitting that he needs to spend a dime on an exterminator – but “not this dime.” I love the panel with the ants sitting at a long dining table, with leaves as plates. This issue also includes two more Barks stories: a four-page Gyro Gearloose story and a ten-page Scrooge story, “Bongo on the Congo.” The latter story takes place in Africa and includes some questionable depictions of African people, but it’s not as awful as “Voodoo Hoodoo,” since it mostly focuses on Scrooge’s efforts to get Donald interested in the family  business. This story references the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya. 

CEREBUS #169 – “Mothers & Daughters 19,” as above. Dave gives some more technical advice. Jaka dreams about reading her own story. Cirin and Astoria dream about each other. There’s a two-page text sequence in which an old woman complains about how feminism is ruining families. There are two letter columns, the normal one and another one about the Cerebus ’93 campaign. The issue also includes a preview of Understanding Comics. By this point, Dave almost seemed to be more devoted to promoting Cerebus than writing or drawing it. The promotional material was starting to crowd out the actual Cerebus content. The series was clearly heading downhill by this point, though it didn’t fall off a cliff until #186. 

GENTLE BEN #1 (Dell, 1968) – “Lost!” and other stories, [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Henry Scarpelli. I saw this on eBay at a low price and had to bid on it, because it’s such a silly premise. Gentle Ben is about a little boy and his pet… bear. Gentle Ben was not just a gag on the Simpsons (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wo3PAfV2EA) but a real TV show. In this issue’s first story, Mark Wedloe and Ben the bear go looking for a lost child in the Everglades. In the other two stories, they fight a poacher and rescue a pilot from a crash landing. So the plots are kind of similar to those of the Lassie comic, except with a bear instead of a dog. DJ Arneson’s writing is not bad at all, though. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #31 (Dell, 1960) – “All at Sea,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge sells some rubber mills and trees to a newly independent country, but they pay him in gold, and he has to collect it in person by boat. The Beagle Boys find out that Scrooge is about to transport $1 billion in gold by sea, so of course they decide to steal it. Huey, Dewey and Louie bring some rats with them on the boat, and the rats end up saving the day. This is a very clever story, though not quite as classic as the last two Barks stories that I read. This issue includes a short Gyro story and a Scrooge nine-pager, “Two-Way Luck,” in which Scrooge enters a contest to find the biggest emerald. 

CEREBUS #170 – “Mothers & Daughters 20,” as above. More dream sequences. Cirin tells General Greer that she’s been acting like a man, and General Greer agrees with her. When Cirin wakes up fully, she has General Greer executed for this treasonous act. The letter column is shorter than usual; instead, Dave includes his address to Pro Con. By this time, Dave was starting to become like Stan Lee or George R.R. Martin, in that he was more interested in promoting his brand than in doing the thing that earned him his reputation. 

THE SUPERANNUATED MAN #2 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Ted McKeever. This comic takes place in a society where humans coexist with anthropomorphic animals, but beyond that, I don’t understand its plot. It’s drawn in the same style as Miniature Jesus. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #271 (Marvel, 1990) – “Flashpoint!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Lee. The X-Men and the New Mutants battle the Genoshan Magistrates, while Moira debates the Genegineer on live TV. I read this story in trade paperback form when I was a kid. Revisiting it now, I realize how amazing Jim Lee’s art is. He draws beautiful machinery and anatomy, and he’s internalized the manga style of storytelling: he uses motion lines and diagonal panel borders, and each page has a different layout. 

2000 AD #323 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam Slade/Scumm has to serve a sentence in a “time stretcher” that artificially ages him, but intead he turns it into a time machine and travels to Brit-Cit in the future. Tharg: “The Lethal Laziness of Lobelia Loam,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Rafael Boluda. This story is uncredited, but you can tell it’s by Moore just because of the intricacy of the writing, and it’s included in collections of Moore’s Future Shocks. Tharg’s little nephews are making a big mess, so he reads them a poem about a lazy woman who throws all her trash in a time portal to March 12, 1994. When that date rolls around, the trash comes back and buries Lobelia. Dredd: as above. Dredd shoots and kills one of the werewolves. He discovers that the werewolf was Bram, a judge who was exiled to the Undercity upon retirement. Skizz: as above. Roxy and her friends rescue Skizz. This chapter is very skillfully plotted. At the end, a guard tells Van Owen that he’s going to Gretna Green to marry a stuffed animal, and it kind of makes sense in context. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid-Vultures Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue is harassed by a flying news-robot. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #27 (Image, 1996) – “Will You Marry Me?”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Rapture asks Dragon to marry her. Dragon has nightmarish visions of baby Dragons and Raptures, and finally decide to reject her proposal. His decision was the result of a reader vote, which was 266 to 258 against Dragon saying yes. Rapture then reveals that she’s pregnant. In an example of just how long this series is going on, Rapture’s just-conceived fetus is now the series’ protagonist, and is a father himself. Page 5 of this issue could have appeared in Erik’s Spider-Man run with minimal changes; it shows a red-haired woman waking up and asking “Peter, are you here?” 

WARLORD #11 (DC, 1978) – “Flashback,” [W/A] Mike Grell. As the title indicates, this issue is a flashback explaining how Morgan arrived in Skartaris. It doesn’t feel particularly new or original, and there’s a reason why not. As I learned when I checked the GCD, almost the entire issue is reprinted from First Issue Special #8, which I’ve already read. There is no indication of this in the issue itself, and readers who already owned First Issue Special #8 must have thought that Warlord #8 was a ripoff. 

MILLIE THE MODEL #128 (Marvel, 1965) – “Millie is Engaged,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg. My copy of this issue is missing two story pages, probably because those pages had fashion illustrations on their reverse sides, but I was able to find the missing pages online. Millie accepts Clicker’s marriage proposal, but is sad because she doesn’t want to give up modeling, and she thinks Clicker will want her to be a housewife. Millie tells Clicker this, and he comes up with a brilliant solution: she can marry him later, after she’s ready to give up  her career! Why couldn’t Millie have married Clicker and kept her career? Apparently because Stan Lee was unable to imagine the idea of a married woman continuing to work. Stan wrote a lot of blatantly sexist stories in the ’60s, but this one is pretty bad even for him. Other than that, it actually uses a similar style of characterization as the Marvel superhero titles. I must have known, at some level, that Stan drew upon his experience with romance comics when writing superhero comics, but that becomes especially clear from reading a comic like this one. 

MILLIE THE MODEL #163 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Model and the Mutt!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg or Sol Brodsky. There was a copy of this issue in my mother’s old bedroom at my grandparents’ house; it either belonged to my mother or one of my aunts. So I’ve read this comic before and I remember it well. Sometime between #128 and #163, Millie completely changed format and became a humor comic instead of a realistic romance comic. Millie #163 is drawn in an Archie-esque style, and it consists of several short stories, mostly about Millie’s rivalry with Chili. I just realized that those names were chosen because they rhyme. BTW, Chili’s last name is Storm, but oddly, no writer has ever established that she’s related to Sue and Johnny Storm. This issue is signed “Stan Lee & Solly B,” i.e. Sol Brodsky, but the GCD says it was drawn by Stan Goldberg. The GCD entry for Millie #158 explains: “Although the story is signed “Solly B.” Stan Goldberg has stated that he pencilled some Millie’s under Brodsky’s name when he was working for Archie.” This may have been because Stan didn’t like his artists to work for other publishers. 

CEREBUS #171 – “Mothers & Daughters 21,” as above. Dave tells a story about how Russ Heath had to draw an entire story in one weekend. I once met Russ Heath (RIP) and told him I admired his story “Give and Take,” and he told me it had taken forever to draw. Cerebus and Astoria dream about each other, then Cerebus (who’s been drinking in a tavern for the past several issues) has visions of the Regency Elf and of his younger self. A black-clad figure stalks the streets of Iest; I think this is supposed to be Death. The real one, not the one from Sandman. This issue also reprints Caliber publisher Gary Reed’s guide to self-publishing. There’s a letter claiming that Nicole Rodney’s claims about her relationship with Rob Lavender were contradictory, and Dave agrees with this. Again, it’s really creepy how all these guys were discussing Nicole and Rob’s relationship. She’d have been justified in sending Dave a cease and desist letter, though he would have used it as an excuse for further harassment. 

SHOWCASE #70 (DC, 1967) – Leave It to Binky: “Duel Shiners” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Bob Oksner. A bunch of silly teen humor stories, all reprinted from 1950s issues of Leave It to Binky. That series had ended in 1958, but after this tryout in Showcase, DC restarted the series in 1968, initially using reprinted material. Binky was then cancelled in 1971 and was revived again in 1977, but only for one issue. 

YOUNG LOVE #49 (DC, 1965) – “Give Me Something to Remember You By!”,  [W] Jack Miller, [A] John Rosenberger. Marge has a romance with Wade while on summer vacation. When the summer is over, he promises to bring her something to remember him by. Then he comes to see her in person: the “something” he brought is himself. “Your Man is Mine!”, [W] Lee Goldsmith, [A] Werner Roth. Pat’s sister Clea steals all her boyfriends. Finally Clea gets married, but her husband dies. She tries to steal Clea’s current boyfriend, but this time it doesn’t work. Compare “Don’t Speak to Me of Love!” in Heart Throbs #92. “Someone – Hear My Heart!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] John Romita. Part of an ongoing storyline about a nurse named Mary Robin. She falls in love with a surgeon, but has to decide whether she’s a nurse or a woman – as if she can’t be both. At least this story isn’t quite as bad as Millie #128. It’s weird reading a John Romita comic that wasn’t published by Marvel and that includes no action sequences. 

CEREBUS #172 – “Mothers & Daughters 22,” as above. Cirin orders Astoria to surrender. Astoria tries to organize her followers to defend themselves, but one of her own followers accuses her of betraying her own philosophy of shared decision-making. Astoria is perhaps the best character in the entire series, and the Astoria-Cirin conflict is the only part of Mothers & Daughters that’s actually interesting. I wish Dave had focused on that, instead of wasting so many pages on Swoon and Elrod and Suenteus Po and various pointless subplots. There’s a letter where John Davis from Capital Comics objects to some of Dave’s statements. 

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #24 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark: Disassembled Part 5; …..,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. An unconscious Tony has a vision where he encounters lots of dead people from his past. Pepper Potts and Maria Hill try to save Tony from being killed by the Ghost. This issue’s cover says “Eisner Award Winner: Best New Series.” A rebooted Iron Man title hardly seems like an appropriate recipient of that award, even if it was technically eligible.

Going to bed now. Will finish tomorrow. 

2000 AD #324 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade is stuck in the time machine, and even though it’s broad daylight and lots of people are passing by, not a single person will help him escape. This chapter is pretty funny. Time Twisters: “The Time Machine,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jesus Redondo. Harry Bentley uses a time machine to revisit various moments from his life. We finally learn that he’s just jumped off a bridge, and the “time machine” is his life flashing before his eyes as he drowns. Very powerful. Dredd: as above. The werewolves cause even more mayhem. Skizz: as above. Roxy reunites with Skizz and they plan to escape Birmingham, but Van Owen is still hunting for them. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid-Vultures Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. By floating above Rogue, the video robot gives away his position to the Norts.  

INCREDIBLE HULK #266 (Marvel, 1981) – “Devolution!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. The High Evolutionary wants to die, but his armor won’t let him commit suicide, so he tries to force the Hulk to kill him by turning Betty and Rick into apes. The High Evolutionary is an interesting villain because he’s not really a villain at all; he has good intentions and is kind to his creations.  

BARBIE FASHION #25 (Marvel, 1993) – “Secret Admirer” and other stories, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. I won a bunch of these on eBay. They’re all in rather low grade. Tara has a secret admirer, but it’s not who she thinks it is. In the second story, Skipper helps Kelly deal with her parents’ marital problems. The last story provides some practical advice on hair care. All the letters are from girls aged 7 to 11. 

MUDMAN #3 (Image, 2012) – “All the Things We Leave Behind,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman explores the attic where he found his costume, and discovers a floating robot that tries to kill him and his best friend. On the inside front cover, Grist explains why Jack Staff went on infinite hiatus. It’s too bad Jack Staff ended, because honestly it was better than Mudman. There’s just not enough to distinguish Mudman from any other superhero comic. 

CEREBUS #173 – “Mothers & Daughters 23,” as above. Cerebus decides he’s the champion of men against the scourge of women. As others have noted, it’s hard to reconcile Sim’s extreme misogyny with the existence of characters like Jaka and Astoria. Then he starts flying again. Astoria plans to immolate herself with her followers, but instead leaves the house alone. The Roach turns into a bunch of different parodies of ‘90s comics. There’s a preview of Teri Sue Wood’s Wandering Star, a series I want to read more of. 

2000 AD #325 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Hoagy finally rescues Sam from the chair, and Sam is reunited with Hoagy and Stogie. It is very annoying to see Stogie again, after having been free of him for five or ten progs. Future Shocks: “Eureka!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. Some space travelers go looking for aliens. The “alien” they discover is a viral idea that spreads from each of them to the people of earth. Tharg ends the story before the alien idea can infect the reader too. What a brilliant premise. Dredd: as above. Dredd goes to the Undercity to look for the source of the werewolves. In the ruins of Times Square, he discovers an albino werewolf being tortured by robots. I’m not sure if this was before or after Times Square changed from a red light district to a tourist trap. Skizz: as above. Roxy insists on seeing her parents before she leaves town. They aren’t happy with her. Cornelius Cardew has an epic moment: he throws a chair through a window, points to the stars, and says “There’s nothing more important than that! Not even pipe-fitting!” Meanwhile, Van Owen discovers people won’t defer to him in England the way they do in South Africa. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue defeats the Norts despite the vid-vulture’s interference. 

BARBIE FASHION #26 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Volunteers” and “Ski Shopping Spree,” as above. Skipper volunteers at a homeless shelter. This story’s depiction of homelessness is very sanitized; the homeless people look like regular middle-class people, and the story makes no attempt to explain why they became homeless. In the backup story, Ken tries to decide what ski clothing to buy for Barbie. The trouble with Barbie as a protagonist is that she’s not really a character. She has no backstory or motivation, she never encounters serious problems, and she’s literally perfect. That’s by design: she was created as a fashion doll, not a character in a narrative. Most issues of Barbie Fashion, including this one, contain letters about how the reader’s mother or grandmother also played with Barbie dolls. 

I went back to Heroes on Friday, February 5: 

ONCE & FUTURE #15 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Mary-Nimue-Elaine confronts Rose. Duncan and Gran figure out how Galahad was conceived: Mary trapped herself in a boiling cauldron so that Lancelot would appear and rescue her. Like everything else in Once & Future, this is an accurate description of Arthurian myth. Lancelot manifests as a suit of armor filled with water and fish, appropriately since he was raised underwater. Mary tries to shoot Rose, but she’s saved by a government agent, though this may be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. Much of the pleasure of this series comes from recognizing the Arthurian legends that Kieron is adapting; however, this may make it difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with Arthurian literature. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #28 (Marvel, 2021) – “All the Ways Your Universe Ends,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Reed sends the Griever to the end of the universe, but only after she’s subjected the FF to their most likely deaths. Reed’s most likely death is being killed by Ben. The Silver Surfer guest-stars in this issue, and I love how Silva and colorist Jesus Aburtov make his skin reflective instead of opaque. The Griever says that Ben’s four guardians are Reed, Sue, Ben, and… Dragon Man, rather than Johnny. That kind of makes sense. Jim and Margaret Power, Agatha Harkness and Jarvis could also count as Franklin’s guardians. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #5 (Image, 2021) – “The Shadow Play,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Ruby visits the Denver airport, which is the locus of an obscure conspiracy theory. Cole meets a man named Martin Barker (named after the comics historian?), who tries to convert him to the Black Hat side. According to Barker, the Department of Truth was designed to “reshape the postwar world with America as its center.” Department of Truth is probably the best new comic of 2020. 

ABBOTT 1973 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Detroit is about to elect a new mayor, while Elena Abbott has to deal with a misogynistic new newspaper owner. Here we see an example of intersectionality: Elena simultaneously faces racism from white people, and sexism from a black man. Oh, and also, Elena is being hunted by ghosts, one of which is possessing her elderly friend Henrietta. One reason I love Abbott is that it shows me a different side of Detroit than the one I know. As a kid I went to Detroit every year to visit my grandparents, but they lived in West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills, and I rarely saw other parts of the city. I didn’t even know there was a Palmer Park near downtown. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #7 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Emily wakes from a coma to find Doyle dead. In flashback, we see that Dr. Strange revived Emily by appeailng to Hoggoth, and that Hoggoth has also been consuming all the magical debt Strange has accumulated from running the school. Emily wants to get Dormammu to revive his son, but Strange forces her to accept Doyle’s death. She kisses his corpse goodbye… and he comes back to life. Awwww. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #14 (Boom!, 2021) – “A Game of Nowhere Part Four”, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica’s monster manifests its true form: a fairy growing out of a carnivorous plant. Erica, James and Bian figure out how the monsters came into existence. The townspeople try to save themselves from the Order of St. George, who are far worse than the monsters they hunt. This may be my second favorite current series after Once & Future. Too bad it’s going on hiatus. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – “Look, And You Find Them,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In flashback, we learn why Paula hates Georges. The family history here is confusing; it would have been clearer if I had read the series at one sitting. A bunch of other gods collect the newly dead god’s body. Then nine years later, we see that Georges himself has become a god – at least that’s my reading, though I didn’t get it until I reread the comic just now. This series is a great piece of science fiction, and I hope there’s more of it. 

SPECTER INSPECTORS #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “Welcome to Cape Grace,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. Recent college graduates Noa, Ko and Astrid, plus teenage Gus, have a YouTube show on paranormal phenomena. In their last episode they captured a disembodied voice on camera. For their next episode they visit Cape Grace, the most haunted town in America. While exploring a creepy old house, Astrid tells Noa that she faked the disembodied voice. Then Astrid gets possessed by a real demon, and they can’t leave Cape Grace until they learn the demon’s name. This is a really promising debut issue, and I’m excited for this series. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #94 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Pinkie Pie recruits Cheese Sandwich to help plan the Festival of the Two Sisters, but she soon becomes more interested in Cheese than her job. Just as Pinkie is about to confess her feelings to Cheese, all the sound in Ponyville disappears. I was very skeptical when I learned that Pinkie was going to marry Cheese, because she seems completely devoid of any romantic interest. But Thom succeeds in convincing me that Pinkie and Cheese are attracted to each other, and their interactions in this issue are really cute. I especially like the scene where Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy get off the train, and Pinkie ignores them because she’s waiting for Cheese. It’s worth noting that Cheese Sandwich can appear more frequently in the comic than on the show, since there’s no need to pay Weird Al Yankovic for voice acting. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #7 (DC, 2021) – “Intermezzo Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. By the time I read this, I had forgotten the plot of #6. Ruin and her friends go looking for Heather, and they run into Matthew and Goldie. There’s a beautiful page showing how one of the other characters perceives Ruin and Zophiel. Heather summons Auberon, and he tells her that Nuala dethroned him and Titania. 

I ordered a bunch more Cerebus comics, plus a few other comics: 

CEREBUS #26 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “High Society,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus arrives in Iest, the principal setting for most of the run, and discovers that everyone wants his attention because he’s an envoy of Lord Julius. Cerebus gets a free room at the Regency Hotel and makes ridiculous demands on the staff – four bottles of wine from different years “and for dessert, any fruit that’s out of season.” The staff meet his requests with no complaints. Cerebus tries to get into a bar fight, but can’t even do that because the Iest government has assigned him a security detail. This is actually the best issue of Cerebus I’ve read so far. It’s extremely funny, it has great dialogue, and it puts a spotlight on Cerebus’s irritable personality. 

CEREBUS #32 – “Alliance,” as above. Astoria offers Cerebus a business proposition, which essentially means that Astoria makes Cerebus rich, without Cerebus having to do anything. The Regency Elf gets jealous of Cerebus and Astoria’s closeness and tries to frame Cerebus for possessing illegal drugs. Astoria throws the drugs in the fire before they’re discovered, but this causes her to get high and attempt to make love to Cerebus. The Roach barges in on them. Another great issue. Cerebus and Astoria are excellent foils for each other. 

X-MEN #17 (Marvel, 2021) – “Empty Nest,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Brett Booth. A team of X-Men travel to the Shi’ar homeworld to protect Xandra from an anti-colonial conspiracy. Brett Booth’s style of art is outdated, but his art in this issue isn’t too bad. An annoying moment in this issue is when Sam says he’s “babysitting” his own child. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #113 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. A future version of Lita comes back in time and tries to get Jenny to start a band, or else there will be terrible consequences. And she calls Donatello “dad.” Also, there’s some more development of the election plotline. I actually didn’t realize that Sophie drew this issue herself. 

FUTURE STATE: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part One,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Riley Rossmo. An unspecified amount of time after the previous series, the Legion reforms after having disbanded. Unlike the other Future State titles, Future State: LSH has the same characters as the series it’s replacing. Also, it suffers from the same crippling flaws as the main Legion series, including a severe lack of plot or characterization. I shoudn’t have ordered it. 

TARTARUS #9 (Image, 2021) – “Ash and Oath,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. Hisa, who now has two sick children, visits a dying Svantoo. He reveals that Surka has been collecting Aima and could use it to cure Hisa’s kids. Hisa has to break her oath of nonviolence to protect her kids from rebels. The same rebels (I think) descend on Surka’s tower intending to destroy it. I like this storyline, but it’s hard to follow. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #8 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Dead Girl counsels Doyle on his return from death. I’m delighted to see this character again. Some of the students go on a field trip with the Guardians of the Galaxy, while the others practice the Images of Ikonn with Agatha Harkness. Something speaks to Emily from behind a door and tells her to let it out. Also, Emily has a horned, winged black cat, and it’s incredibly cute. Strange Academy is a far better teen superhero team comic than the current Legion title. Speaking of which… 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #12 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. The Legion fights Rogol Zaar, a pointless villain, as well as Mordru. They win and then have a party. And thus ends the worst Legion series ever published. Bendis’s stories were essentially plotless, and his characters were barely distinguishable from each other. Ryan Sook’s excellent artwork was wasted on Bendis’s (non-)stories. There have been other bad Legion writers in the past, but none of them can match Bendis for sustained incompetence. 

CEREBUS #33 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “Friction,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus argues with the Roach and Astoria. The Regency Elf writes graffiti accusing Cerebus of peeing in the sink. Astoria teaches Cerebus the difference between inferring and implying. This issue and #32 both contain very poorly drawn backup strips by Brent Alan Richardson. 

MARVEL ACTION CHILLERS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Marvel Action’s Tome of Iron Dracula,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky. All the heroes from the last three issues battle Dracula and the book of Shuma-Gorath. This was a super-fun series and Jeremy must have loved writing it. I’m sorry it was just four issues.  

KING IN BLACK: BLACK KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jesús Saiz. Dane Whitman teams up with Aero and Swordmaster against Knull’s dragons. This is a one-shot, but it leads into an upcoming series by the same writer. Si Spurrier writes Dane Whitman as a fundamentally flawed man, which seems like a reasonable take. I love how the story is narrated in pseudo-medieval English, and we eventually learn that Dane is writing the captions himself. Spurrier also writes Aero and Swordmaster quite well, emphasizing their cultural differences from Dane. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. This issue’s cover is a reference to The Little Prince. Colonel Weird has some more strange visions, and finally realizes that Talky Walky has been beside him unseen for the entire series. This series was really weird, but I like this conclusion. 

BARBIE FASHION #27 (Marvel, 1993) – “Role Model” and other stories, [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Anna-Maria B. Cool. Skipper’s friend Jennifer is anorexic, so Barbie teaches her how to eat a healthy diet. This story responds to a common critique of Barbie, i.e. that she gives girls an unhealthy body image. In the backup story, Barbie helps  an old woman find her aunt’s hidden treasure and keep her house. There’s another letter from a girl whose mother was also a Barbie fan. 

LUNA #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. In the late ‘60s, a young woman joins a creepy cult and has sex with its leader, who deliberately cuts her with a knife. I was skeptical about this series, but this debut issue has some excellent psychedelic art, and I’m curious to see where this plot is going. 

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. In the Old West, Roy Mason emerges from his grave as a zombie, with one hand chained to his tombstone. Roy immediately becomes embroiled in a complicated plot that combines the fantasy and Western genres. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this comic, but this debut issue is a really fun adventure story. Kate Sherron’s style resembles that of Kate Beaton or John Allison. 

CEREBUS #37 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “It’s Showtime!”, as above. Cerebus attends Petuniacon, a parody of a comic convention. No one wants to see him at first, but then he starts signing autographs and drawing trees, and suddenly everyone wants one of his sketches. The unnamed artist from #25 also shows up. I assume this character is a parody of someone, but I don’t know who. There’s a backup story by Bill (Messner-)Loebs about Benjamin Franklin in hell. It’s drawn and written in the same style as Journey. 

FUTURE STATE: WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Hell to Pay Part Two,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Yara confronts Hades and Persephone and gets their permission to try to rescue her fellow Amazon Potira. However, Potira gets stuck in the underworld and Yara can’t save her. This was a really fun two-parter, and I’d like to see more of this version of Wonder Woman. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. Eugene lives in the Elephant City, which travels through a toxic wasteland. His main pleasures are eating and watching broadcasts. Then Eugene’s boring life is interrupted when his city crashes. I feel ashamed of buying this because, while I love Brandon Graham’s art, he’s a toxic person, and his career should have been over after he released his “diss track.” I only ordered this comic because the offerings in that issue of Previews were rather slim. I do have to admit that Rain Like Hammers is a compelling piece of SF, with some fascinating art. 

INKBLOT #6 (Image, 2021) – as above. The Seeker traps MOW. (by putting out a box, then turning around), and starts experimenting on it. For perhaps the first time in the series, we get to see MOW.’s mouth. The Seeker accidentally transports herself and MOW. back to her darkest moment, when her little brother Inos died. This may have been the cutest issue yet. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #8 (DC, 2021) – “It could’ve been worse,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. The issue starts with some fight scenes, which are confusing because it’s not clear whether they’re flashbacks or present-day scenes. A Pykkt tells Batman and Mr. Terrific that Adam committed genocide against the Pykkts. This is more evidence for what I’ve suspected for a while now: that Adam and Alanna were on the wrong side of the Pykkt war. In flashback, Adam murders a Pykkt prisoner and then takes Aleea camping. I fear that this trip will end in Aleea’s death.  

KAIJU SCORE #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Chums,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. The characters figure out a way to use Mujara to steal the safe, but then Pierson, the one with the man-bun, murders Palmiero in cold blood. Then the two kaiju face off. This is a fun series, but I hate all the protagonists. In particular, Pierson is so infuriating that I can’t understand why he’s still alive, when he’s surrounded by people with guns.  

THE WOODS #14 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids are having an election, only some of them are so awful that I can’t see why anyone would want to be their leader. One of the kids, Barry, dies by either murder or suicide. I don’t really understand this issue, and I can’t keep the characters straight. I need to start rereading this series from the beginning. 

CEREBUS #38 – “Petuniacon… Day Two,” as above. Cerebus appears on a panel with Elrod, Lord Julius and K’cor, who all have hilarious and wildly contrasting personalities. All the convention attendees are obsessed with Elrod, so Cerebus challenges him to a duel. It’s a foregone conclusion that Cerebus will win, but Astoria stops the duel and tells Cerebus that she has a coalition of people who want to make Cerebus prime minister. And she explains why this would be a good thing. A key part of Cerebus’s character development is how he outgrows his initial obsession with food, women and drink and sets his sights on higher goals. This issue includes another Ben Franklin strip by Loebs. 

BARBIE FASHION #28 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Heart of Art,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Anna-Maria B. Cool. Barbie helps a friend submit some paintings to an art gallery, but throughh a mix-up, the gallery exhibits Barbie’s work instead. This issue is a mildly funny satire of the art world. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal & Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark Markz fights Boa Boaz. We meet Dr. Day (the reverse of Night Nurse), a superpowered black woman who treats AIDS patients. Mark and Miguel spend the night together. On the first page of this issue, Dr. Day calls a woman named Dolores Cooper refuses to speak to her dying gay son, but later in the issue, Mrs. Cooper calls Dr. Day back, after her son has died. This is a nicely subtle piece of plotting. 

CEREBUS #39 – “Petuniacon Day Three,” as above. Cerebus meets an old politician named Blakely, who tries to figure out what Lord Julius is doing. The Roach fights two criminals. We don’t actually get to the Petuniacon site in this issue. There’s a backup story that feels like a ripoff of Wally Wood’s fantasy comics. After reading these last six issues of Cerebus, I finally get the appeal of this series. Melmoth, Filght and Women are minor curiosities, but High Society is a masterpiece, with hilarious dialogue and characterization and fast-moving plots. For readers who started reading Cerebus with High Society or earlier, it must have been awful to watch the slow decline of the comic and of Dave’s mental health. 

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Final reviews of 2020

12-31-2020

Finally this awful year is almost over. 

LA DIABLA #1 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Some kidnappers tell contradictory stories of the origin of an antiheroine named La Diabla, and then La Diabla herself shows up and kills them and frees their victim. This is a fun comic and a good example of Powell’s style. It leads into the graphic novel Lords of Misery. 

LONELY RECEIVER #3 (Aftershock, 2020) – “A Month: Getting Lost in Your Eye,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. Catrin dates Hazel, who she thinks is Rhion. It goes well at first, but then Hazel finds out Catrin is genetically altered. A fight results, and Catrin kills Rhion. Welp. This series began as SF but is now closer to horror. 

PANTOMIME #1 (Mad Cave, 2020) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. Out of the new publisher Mad Cave’s comics, Pantomime is the only one that interests me. Pantomime may be the first comic I’ve read that lists a diversity reader in the credits. It’s about a group of kids at a school for the deaf, who discover that they can get away with stealing stuff. Unfortunately, they steal from a much more experienced criminal, and he demands that they pay him back. Chris Sebela is really good at coming up with unique premises, and Pantomime is another fascinating idea. 

2000 AD #607 (Fleetway, 1988) – Anderson: “Contact Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mark Farmer.  Anderson investigates a giant ailen spaceship. Daily Dredd: “Bride of Death Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Judge Death invades the set of a movie about his own wedding. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Steve Parkhouse & Alan McKenzie, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The dangling plot threads are wrapped up, and we learn why women aren’t allowed in space. This series returned for one more story, in progs 641-644, and then was never seen again. Dredd: “Tyger, Tyger…,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Chris Weston. A man kidnaps a dentist – actually a dental systems programmer – to treat his pet sabertooth tiger. Chaos results. Chris Weston’s art on the two color pages is gorgeous. Night Zero: untitled, [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner saves his client from some more criminals. Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. Torquemada fights Nemesis using a hedge trimmer (there were no chainsaws available). Fascinating art but a confusing story. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #91 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Zecora and friends have a bunch of adventures that (in the light of next issue) are rather similar to the events of the first episode of the TV show. Also, there’s a song, which is easily the highlight of the issue, and it ends with Zecora and her friends wearing KISS costumes and makeup. At the end of the issue, the zebras enter an old temple where they’re surprised to find the Tree of Harmony. One of the fun things about reading Andy’s comics is spotting each issue’s appearance by the Observer from Fringe. 

MARVEL ACTION: AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Career Day!”, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. Captain America and Squirrel Girl visit a kindergarten class for a career event, only to discover that one of the school’s teachers is Paste Pot Pete. This is a super fun and cute comic, and I can tell that Katie had a lot of fun writing it. 

INKBLOT #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. The cat dives into Loch Ness, swims with Nessie (who ever heard of a cat liking water?), and emerges in another world. Here, the cat and Nessie get involved in a battle between two of the divine siblings. This is another entertaining issue, albeit somewhat insubstantial.

2000 AD #609 (Fleetway, 1988) – Anderson: as above. Anderson successfully leads the aliens to Earth, and prevents Dredd from starting a  war with them. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Larry Watson, [A] José Ortiz. A man is awakened from cryogenic sleep only to discover that Earth is in the grip of nuclear winter. Hap Hazzard: “Life,” [W/A] Steve Dillon. Two young men spend four pages having a rambling conversation. There’s no actual plot. This series is more like Love & Rockets or Wired World than a typical 2000 AD comic. Dredd: “Our Man in Hondo,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Dredd investigates some crimes in future Tokyo. This series illustrates John Wagner’s worst flaw as a writer, his reliance on tired ethnic stereotypes. “Our Man in Hondo” includes a geisha, dialogue in broken English, and lettering that looks like kanji. Night Zero: as above. Tanner’s client Allana comes back to life, he saves her from another assassination attempt, but then they’re attacked by men wearing knights’ helmets. This story includes a minor character who may be transgender. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A man named Bernard Lardinelil (i.e. Belardinelli) dies of overeating, but persuades Death to spare him so that he can market unhealthy food to other people, causing even more deaths. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #23 (Marvel, 2020) – “The New World Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Ove, who’s been killing the surviving heroes, invites Carol and her allies to join him in his home. On the way there, Carol learns some more history about how this future came into existence. At the end of the issue we learn that Ove is Namor’s son, and his home is New Atlantis. 

THE WOODS #9 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids adjust to the community of New London, but they learn that they’ll effectively be prisoners there. Meanwhile, Adrian is shown some flashbacks to New London’s origins. As in Wynd, Dialynas’s worldbuilding is amazing. He’s especially good at drawing weird animals. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Night of the Jackals,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The new Jackal, Ben Reilly, fights Dr. Octopus (or a clone thereof?) and then the original Jackal. The Clone Conspiracy wasn’t Slott’s best storyline, though of course it was far better than the Clone Saga. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #613 (DC, 1990) – “Trash,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. A young boy discovers that the mob is plotting to take over his father’s trash collection company. Batman foils the plot, and the head mobster is sucked into a trash compactor, but the boy is killed. The issue ends with the boy’s essay on how the planet is filling up with trash. This is a rather poignant issue, and it reminds me of Derf Backderf’s Trashed. 

BACCHUS #14 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “King Bacchus Part 13,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. The police invade the bar, and then the whole place explodes because of a bomb in the men’s room. Bacchus is hauled off to prison. This issue also reprints two stories from Doing the Islands with Bacchus, including the “red is the cup and deep is the wine” story, which I’ve read at least twice before.  

THE HORROR OF COLLIER COUNTY #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Fran and Mel escape from a terrifying poodle, but then some zombies try to break into their house. With this issue we start to see why this series has “horror” in its title. In this issue Fran and Mel listen to the Cocteau Twins, who I just discovered myself. This issue’s front and back covers and its inside covers all double as story pages. I assume that was also the case with issues 1 and 2, but I don’t remember.  

FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS #4 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. A lot of Beto’s typical body horror, combined with attractive heroines. I didn’t understand this issue’s plot at all. I’ve read a few of the earlier issues of this series, but I don’t remember much about them. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #26 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Nocturnes, Part 1 of 2,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Roger Cruz. In 1954, a black doo-wop band is hired to perform in a small Alabama town, only to discover that this particular town has a habit of hiring black performers in order to murder them. Also, vampires. This issue’s plot is fairly gripping, but first, it feels like racism porn – like, it tries to shock the reader with how awful the South was in the old days. And it does so by inventing an atrocity that never really happened, as if the real Jim Crow South wasn’t bad enough. Second, did Snyder know about the Green Book, or the African-American press? If multiple black musicians really had gone to Midway, Alabama and not returned, the African-American musical community would have quickly learned to avoid that town. 

2000 AD #611 (Fleetway, 1989) – Zippy Couriers: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna is hired to deliver some cakes, but one of the cakes is alive, and Shauna’s sister’s boyfriend accidentally eats it. Walter the Wobot: “Eisner Block,” [W] Gary Rice, [A] Brendan McCarthy. This is reprinted from the 1981 annual. As its title indicates, it’s a tribute to The Spirt. It starts with a splash panel of a building shaped like the word Walter, and it has an Eisner-esque film noir plot: Walter gets stuck in an elevator with multiple residents of the same building, all of whom are plotting against each other. This story is a minor classic: it’s both funny, and faithful to the Eisner aesthetic. Dredd: as above. More Orientalist crap. Thankfully this is the last chapter. Night Zero: as above. Tanner and Allana descend into the sewers to meet a contact. Future Shocks: “Writers’ Block!”, [W] Mike Collins, [A] Simon Jacob. 2000 AD writer Gavin Alton (Alan Grant?) can’t think of any story ideas, but he ignores the alien invasion happening outside his window.   

BATMAN #477 (DC, 1992) – “A Gotham Tale Part 1: Gargoyles,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Batman tries to prevent the theft of St. Thomas Becket’s shrine from a Gotham museum. Instead, he gets trapped in a vault with two other people, with only enough air for two of them. To pass the time, Batman and his fellow prisoners tell each other the stories of their encounters with the Gotham Gargoyle. This is a fascinating setup, loosely based on the Canterbury Tales. Cam Kennedy’s art in this issue is not nearly as crisp or dynamic as in his 2000 AD work. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #174 (Dell, 1955) – untitled (“Ice Boat to Beaver Island”), [W/A] Carl Barks. My copy of this issue is incomplete, but the Barks and Mickey Mouse stories are intact, and those are the only ones I care about. In the Barks story, Donald has to use an ice boat to deliver mail to a remote island in a frozen lake. Thanks to the nephews’ sabotage, Donald destroys both his boat and the island’s post office. In the Mickey story, Mickey and Goofy try to defend a remote mining railroad from sabotage. This entire story arc was reprinted in the 2015 WDC&S 75th anniversary special. 

BLOODSHOT FCBD 2019 (Valiant, 2019) – “Bloodshot (2019) Prelude,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Tomás Giorello. Just some boring action sequences. This Bloodshot series seems far less interesting than the one by Jeff Lemire. This issue also includes a preview of Fallen World by Dan Abnett and Juan José Ryp. 

ACTION COMICS #438 (DC, 1974) – “A Monster Named Lois Lane!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Thanks to the combination of an alien artifact and a bad cold, Lois turns into a female Hulk. This story has pretty good art but a generic plot. There’s also an Atom backup story, by Pasko and Dillin, in which a villain traps the Atom on an answering machine tape. This is much more cleverly written than the main story.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #7 (DC, 2018) – Birdman in “The Light Ahead,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. The Dude is still one of the finest artists in the industry, and this issue is full of smooth draftsmanship, exciting action sequences, and dynamic compositions. However, its story is boring and hard to follow. 

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Big Apple Showdown: Conclusion,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mahmud Asrar. The Protectors – including Amadeus, Shang-Chi, Silk and Kamala Khan – fight a bunch of aliens. This issue is something of a prototype for the New Agents of Atlas, but otherwise it’s just average. 

AVENGERS #38 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Fly That Laid a Billion Maggots,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. This was in my pull box for some reason.  I don’t remember ordering it. It’s about a war between Khonshu and Mephisto. It has some nice moments, but I gave up on this series very early on, and this issue doesn’t make me want to start reading it again. I still think Jason Aaron’s Avengers doesn’t feel like an Avengers comic. 

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Homecoming,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Marley Zarcone. Loma finally gets rid of Megan, whoever that was, and establishes a new life on Earth. As usual with this series, Marley Zarcone’s art style is fascinating, but Cecil Castellucci’s story is boring and confusing. 

hu untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. Luiza fights some zombies and kills their creator, Vika Cox. This issue has a somewhat clever plot: Luiza defeats Cox by getting the zombies to perceive all normal humans as Cox and therefore to refrain from attacking them, except that they see Cox himself as a bunny. However, Kieron seems to have put far less effort into this comic as his other work, and Nahuel Lopez’s art is basically pornographic. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #2 (DC, 2020) – “The Stuff of Legends,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The main characters steal something or other from a train, and there are a bunch of other subplots. I honestly have no idea what’s going on in this miniseries, and I don’t think I’m going to finish reading it. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This is Martian Manhunter without the superhero elements: it’s about an alien who lives incognito in a small Washington town. I think the overall plot of this miniseries is that someone is coming from the alien’s home planet to pick him up. But this first issue has a very quiet plot, in which we’re introduced to the people of the town, and not much actually happens. I’m mostly interested in this series because it’s by two veteran British creators. Parkhouse’s art is understated but quite effective. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace & Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. The female protagonist gets a lead on a possible recording deal, but her bandmates are not interested. Meanwhile, the male protagonist gets really drunk. This series is full of entertaining relationship drama, but it’s impossible to keep all the characters straight, partly because the artist doesn’t do enough to make them look different from each other.  

PRETTY VIOLENT #11 (Image, 20200 – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Another issue full of pointless mayhem, with a plot I can’t follow. I think this is the last issue, but if there are any more issues, I won’t be buying them. 

U.S.AGENT #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “American Zealot Chapter One: Legend,” [W] Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. This issue begins in a dying West Virginia town where Virago (Amazon) has set up a hub. Then we flash back to Mount Vernon, NY, where USAgent, John Walker, is kidnapping pizza delivery drivers for some reason. In typical Priest fashion, this issue is narrated out of chronological order and its plot is tough to decipher. But it looks like Priest is using USAgent to tell a story about American nationalism and masculinity, and John Walker is well suited to this role, since he’s always been the embodiment of the ugly American. A new character in this issue is an old Japanese man named Morrie Watanabe. Dave van Domelen confirmed with Priest that this name is a reference to two Marvel veterans, Morrie Kuramoto and Irv Watanabe.

DRYAD #6 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. I missed issue 5. This issue, the twins (Grif and Rana) recover from a coma. Then their parents reveal that Grif and Rana started their lives as test subjects in a laboratory belonging to Yale’s father, until Yale and Morgan rescued/kidnapped them. Which means Yale and Morgan are adopted. 

BANG! #5 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. I missed issue 4, but it must have introduced another fictional super-spy, like the first three issues did. Now there are four different super-spies, and in this issue they confront their creator, Philip Verve (i.e. Philip K. Dick) and destroy the books in which he recorded their origins. This series was okay, but perhaps too similar to Kindt’s earlier work. 

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #9 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. Sera is reunited with her mother, and then she agrees to wield some sort of evil sword. I always have trouble understanding what’s going on in this series. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #9 (DC, 2020) – “The Wedding of the Trillenium!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal and Trilla-Tru visit a planet where two scions of two superheroic families are about to get married, like in the Twilight of the Superheroes proposal. There’s also a second plot, of unclear relation to the first, in which Hal and Star Sapphire fight a giant golden dude. This series has completely lost me, and at this point I’m just buying it out of a sense of obligation. Also, Liam Sharp’s use of computer artwork is not effective at all. This comic looks like something out of the early ‘90s. 

THE ATOMICS #4 (AAA Pop, 2000) – “Fusion,” [W/A] Mike Allred. The Atomics fight a beatnik zombie and a giant fly-headed creature. Then one of the Atomics, Zapman, reveals that he comes from 17 years in the future, and in his species, the females eat the males after mating. Then the fly-headed creature joins the Atomics. This is a pretty fun comic. 

CHASE #6 (DC, 1998) – “Girls’ Day Out,” [W] D. Curtis Johnson, [A] J.H. Williams III. This issue’s cover is an homage to Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want. Other covers based on this image are JSA #54 and Fantastic Four #564. This issue, Chase and her sister Terry hang out together, but when they get stuck in the elevator, Chase tells Terry their father’s  backstory. It seems their father was a minor superhero who was murdered by a villain. Terry is traumatized by this knowledge, but seems to forgive Chase for revealing it. I’m not surprised that this issue has spectacular art, but its story is also quite good. 

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #32 (DC, 1993) – “Ernest and Jim,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Colleen Doran. While in the Area of Madness, Slade meets Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. This issue has some kind of plot involving Slade’s relations with Meta, but it’s mostly interesting for its depiction of Hemingway and Joyce. Milligan seems quite well acquainted with both writers’ lives and works. My late grad school professor Brandon Kershner was a Joyce scholar, and I think he’d have found this comic amusing. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Moment You Know,” as #24 above. Gwen Stacy’s clone tries to convince Peter to go along with the Jackal’s plots, and she and Peter have a very difficult conversation. Then the Jackal sends a bunch of villain clones to attack Peter, and Gwen’s clone starts to degenerate. This issue is better than #24. It’s interesting seeing Peter interact with the original version of Gwen. 

BTW it’s 2021 now. Good riddance to the worst year of my life. 

Back to Heroes on November 27: 

LUMBERJANES #75 (Boom!, 2020) – “Daylight Savor Part 3,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Brooklyn Allen & Kanesha C. Bryant. The girls get everyone into the camp safely, including Jo, and Diane visits Olympus to seek divine assistance. Mal and Molly share a tender moment, but then Molly turns herself into a deer so she can protect the forest. This is the last issue of the regular series, but the story continues in the End of Summer special. A nice moment in this issue is when April tries to run outside the camp to look for Jo, and it takes all three other girls, plus a giant stone golem, to hold her back. That’s how strong April is. 

ONCE & FUTURE #13 (Boom!, 2020) – “The Parliament of Magpies,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Now that Lumberjanes is done (sob), this is my current favorite series. This issue, the heroes follow the villains’ trail to a pub called the Lancelot Arms. This turns out to be a hangout of nationalist racists, but just as they’re beating Duncan up, a green knight walks in and asks to play a game. One thing I love about this series is how it constantly surprises me by introducing new medieval texts – in this case, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  

POWER PACK #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This comic was supposed to have come out months ago, and I’m glad it finally showed up. This issue is narrated by Katie, who, as usual, is the most adorable character ever. Katie’s older siblings stop her from revealing their secret identities to their parents (oddly, this is the same premise as in the first issue of Marc Sumerak’s Power Pack revival, and North even acknowledges this). Then they fight and defeat the Bogeyman, only to be arrested by CRADLE agents. I’m a huge Power Pack fan, and Ryan North clearly loves these characters too, and understands them very well. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #14 (IDW, 2020) – “The Return Part Four,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. The cavalry finally arrives, in the form of Katsuichi and Jotaro, and with their aid, Usagi and Kenichi save the village. This is a slight anticlimax, but it’s great seeing Jotaro again. Then Usagi goes off to see his “other teacher,” but we don’t know who that is yet. Although this issue was a bit less exciting than the last three, “The Return” is my favorite Usagi story in years. 

BIG GIRLS #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. In a flashback, we learn that Joanna Gulliver, the white-haired villainess, was married to High Marshal Tannik, but he killed their son, who was turning into a Jack. In the present, Ember tries to quit, but Tannik reveals that she’s the last Big Girl. Then Joanna shows up with an entire army of Big Girls. This is a fun and exciting series, especially given Howard’s lack of prior writing experience. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #12 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. By interviewing Bian, Erica learns that James inadvertently created the first Oscuratype by pretending that it existed. But something else was also needed to create the monster, and we don’t know what that is yet. Then the other members of the Order of St. George arrive in Archer’s Peak, and that’s not a good thing. 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #11 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. Bendis is the worst Legion writer ever – far worse than Gerry Conway, who held that title until now. I have already complained that Bendis’s characterization is vapid and that his plots are totally incoherent. On top of that, he just blatantly makes things up without considering their implications. Like, this issue we learn that Colossal Boy’s people are born adult. How the hell does that work? And Triplicate Girl doesn’t dream… actually that one was established in Legionnaires #24, but that issue gives an actual reason for it. Oh, and Mon-El has three children, but their mother is nowhere to be seen, and Bendis seems to have forgotten whether Mon is dating Shadow Lass or Phantom Girl. This series is not in DC’s March solicitations, and that may be a good thing. I’d almost prefer no Legion comic at all, rather than a Legion comic that’s an aimless, plotless mess. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #26 (Marvel, 2020) – “One Stop from Everywhere,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Val goes through the dimensional portal to visit her boyfriend Arboro, only to learn that he already has a lot of other girlfriends. The Future Foundation kids return to Earth. Aliens from Franklin’s alternate dimensions start coming through the Forever Gate, fleeing from the Griever. But this issue’s most notable event is that Professor X reveals that Franklin isn’t a mutant. This is such a massive retcon that I suspect there must be some extra-textual reason behind it, perhaps related to movie rights – maybe Marvel wants to make sure that the FF are part of the MCU and not the X-Men franchise. But that’s just a guess. 

CHU #5 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 5 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. After a lot of mayhem, Tony arrests Saffron, and she’s sent to prison for three years. But while in prison she eats the exact same food as her cellmates, causing her to learn all their abilities, so now she’s an even more dangerous criminal. That’s the end of the first story arc. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #3 (Image, 2020) – “Black and White,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. This issue is about Sandy Hook truthers, some of the most vile conspiracy theorists of all. Cole and his partner investigate a woman who’s become convinced that her son didn’t die in a school shooting, but was a “crisis actor.” Cole and his partner succeed in recovering the woman’s “evidence” that her son is still alive, but it’s not clear if they did her any favors. This issue is often uncomfortably close to the current headlines (more on that in my forthcoming review of #4), but it’s one of the best new series of the year. Also, Tynion gives Martin Simmonds ample opportunities to show off his artistic brilliance. This issue includes some brilliant splash pages. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The Destiny Man’s attack on Unity continues. Ace and Valentina discover that Unity is powered by a network of children’s disembodied brains. This is a good issue, but I had forgotten about it by the time I read issue 9. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #254 (Image, 2020) – “Vicious Circle Triumphant!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dart and the Vicious Circle massacre a bunch of people, then they fight Malcolm and injure him badly. Meanwhile, Angel is marrying Frank, Amy wants to marry her tiger friend, and I don’t understand what’s going on with Paul Dragon. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark Markz, the Black Hammer version of J’onn J’onzz, is a cop in Spiral City during the 1980s AIDS crisis. Mark saves his activist friend Miguel from committing suicide, and then follows Miguel to a secret gay bar. Meanwhile, the Martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz is looking for Mark. This is, IIRC, the second Black Hammer series not written by Jeff Lemire, and so far it’s a lot better than Black Hammer ’45. 

X-MEN #15 (Marvel, 2020) – “X of Swords Chapter 20,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Apocalypse fights his wife, Annihilation, formerly known as Genesis. The Quiet Council debate whether to invade Arakko and rescue Nathan. This issue is better than the last three, but it presupposes knowledge of X of Swords’s plot. 

IMMORTAL HULK #40 (Marvel, 2020) – “So Here’s the Thing,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Henry Peter Gyrich tries to imprison the Hulk, but the Hulk escapes and falls off the Alpha Flight space station. Upon landing on Earth, he’s met by Ben Grimm, hence the story title. Not a very notable issue.

LOVE & ROCKETS #9 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – various stories, [W] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. Beto’s “Loss” starts with a flashback to Doralis’s childhood in Palomar, then we visit the present-day Doralis, who is suffering from cancer. Jaime’s “Eche Meve Dis” (eight, nine, ten) is about Tonta, the annoying girl who’s been stalking Maggie and Ray. In Beto’s “Sad Girl in Palomar”, Killer (whose real name is Doralis, a source of some confusion) visits Palomar and becomes the new owner of Luba’s hammer. Jaime’s “Animus” is a science fiction story. One thing I love about Love & Rockets is its sense of deep history. Beto’s stories in this issue include reference to other stories he published almost forty years ago. 

MARVEL ACTION: CHILLERS #2 (IDW, 2020) – “Little Red Fighting Hood,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky & Bill Underwood. Elsa Bloodstone fights Captain America, who’s been transformed into a werewolf, just like in a certain infamous ’90s storyline. There’s also a framing sequence starring Dr. Strange and Ironheart. This issue is entertaining, but it’s mostly a long fight scene. 

KAIJU SCORE #1 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Rattlesnake in the Bag,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Four criminals make a plot to steal valuable art from a south Florida museum. The twist is that the plot requires them to get a kaiju to attack south Florida. This comic is a unique blend of the thriller and kaiju genres, but the problem is that there’s too much “score” and not enough “kaiju.” I like the idea of a world where kaiju are an accepted part of life, and there are watches and warnings for kaiju attacks, just like tornadoes. But I’d like to know more about the kaiju and their effects on society, and instead, this comic mostly focuses on the criminals and their heist. Rem Broo’s art resembles that of James Stokoe, except without the obsessive linework. 

MAESTRO #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key Part Four: Minuet,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Hulk gets Vapor of the U-Foes to kill Hercules, then Hulk kills Vapor. This miniseries is just okay, and I could have skipped it. 

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #26 (DC, 2017) – “The Illusion of Death,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. Raven reveals her origin, then she, Harley, and Ivy rescue some people from a circus. Supergirl tries to stop a train from being blown up. I hate this series, and I only read this issue in order to remove it from my to-be-read boxes. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. Another patchwork of scenes from different parts of Colonel Weird’s life. I like this series’ non-chronological narrative structure; it mimics Colonel Weird’s own constant state of confusion and disorientation. 

STILLWATER #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Perez. Danny meets more of the people in town, then he exhumes his mother. This issue is much less intense than the last two. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The heroes investigate the murder of empathy. I like this series so far, but it has a lot of different premises at once, and it’s not clear which of them is the core premise. It’s about heroes who 1) all come from different worlds, where 2) each of them was President, and 3) they’re trying to restore empathy to America. I hope Orlando is able to unite all these elements into a coherent narrative. 

BLACK MAGICK #16 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I Part 005,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. The white-suited villain tries to mess with Rowan’s mind, and Rowan deliberately crashes her bike to escape her. I still can’t follow this series’ plot, but I remember thinking that Rowan’s real problem is her own self-destructive behavior. This is also the case with other Rucka protagonists, most notably Tara Chace. 

SEA OF SORROWS #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. Shortly after World War I, some suspicious characters dive into a sunken submarine looking for gold, but they encounter a creepy-looking mermaid. So far this is an interesting horror comic, and I like Cormack’s dark, gloomy renderings of underwater scenes, but I’m ambivalent on whether to continue reading this series.  

DIE #15 (Image, 2020) – “PvP,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Ash and Isabelle fight Matt, who is invading Angria. Eventually Matt decides not to kill Ash and Izzy, I’m not sure why not. Then they all prepare to descend into a dungeon that leads to the core of Die. 

SHANG-CHI #3 (Marvel, 2020) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. We start with a flashback to the Boxer Rebellion, the subject of Yang’s earlier work Boxers & Saints. Then Shang-Chi’s dad’s ghost shows him a map to Shang-Chi’s uncle’s shrine. Shang-Chi escapes the House of the Deadly Hand and looks for the shrine, but his “brothers” and “sisters” follow him. I like how this series feels like an actual example of the wuxia genre, rather than a pastiche of ‘70s American kung fu TV shows. 

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #4 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina fixes Radka and Ren, but ruins her relationship with Harvey. Sabrina, Radka and Ren go off to look for the twins’ childhood home, but they find Delia there, and she takes them captive. It was fairly obvious that Delia was going to turn evil. 

THE WALKING DEAD #157 (Image, 2016) – “The Whisperer War Part 1 of 6,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Negan comes to visit Rick, and then Rick and his allies prepare to fight the Whisperers, whoever they are. It’s really not worthwhile to read scattered issues of this series, especially not from so late in the run. Without knowledge of all 156 previous issues, TWD #157 doesn’t make sense. 

2000 AD #612 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Beyond the Void,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mick Austin. Judge Death is summoned back to life by a holy man who lives in a bricked-up cell. Future Shocks: “The Keepsake,” [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Kev Walker. A time traveler falls lin love with Lisa del Giocondo. He has to dump her to avoid changing the course of history, but he goes back in time and steals her portrtait, not realizing it’s the Mona Lisa. Tales from the Doghouse: “Chameleon,” [W] Stewart Edwards, [A] Simon Jacob. A pointless story whose twist ending is that a bounty hunter named “Billy the Kid” is a goat. I like Simon Jacob’s linework, but his anatomy is very ugly. Dredd: “Return of the Spider Woman,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. The spider woman from Prog 604 returns to Mega-City One to stalk her husband and children. Tanner finds the guy who’s targeting Allana, but then he kills Allana, though I assume she’s coming back. Walter’s Robo-Tale: “Shok!”, [W] Steve McManus, [W/A] Kevin O’Neill. In another reprint from the 1981 annual, an artist buys a deactivated war robot, but it comes to life and tries to kill her. As usual, O’Neill’s art here is amazing. Fleetway filed a successful lawsuit against the producers of the film Hardware for plagiarizing this story. 

2000 AD #613 (Fleetway, 1989) – Night Zero: as above. Tanner beats up Leroy, who I think is his client, and then he picks up another of Allana’s clones. Anderson: as above. Anderson kills the monk who summoned Judge Death, thus preventing Death from manifesting in physical form. Future Shocks: “At Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Stephen Baskerville. An actor is haunted by Rod Serling. Dredd: “That Sweet Stuff,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Vanyo. Dredd arrests a man named Billiam Wurrows for buying illegal sugar. Tales from the Doghouse: “Spud O’Riley,” as above. Another dumb story that ends with a dumb pun: “I guess Spud finally had his chips.” Zippy Couriers: “Butch,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. A client refuses to pay Shauna for a job, but gives her a talking cat instead. I’d say that’s a fair deal. 

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #5 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala saves her mother, but inevitably, Eddie gets stuck in prison instead. The issue ends with the words “End of part one.” I really hope there’s a part two, because Grumble is a fun and unique series and I love it. 

TRUE BELIEVERS: KING IN BLACK – VALKYRIE #1 (Marvel, 1970/2020) – “Come On In… The Revolution’s Fine!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema (from Avengers #83). It’s not a good sign when a reprinted comic begins with the disclaimer “This comic is presented as originally created. It contains outdated depictions.” In her first appearance, the Valkyrie convinces the female Avengers to become the Lady Liberators and help her end male supremacy. But the Valkyrie turns out to be the Enchantress in disguise, and the ladies rejoin the Avengers and defeat her. The female Avengers’ legitimate complaints (e.g. Black Widow constantly being rejected from the Avengers, or Medusa’s submissive relationship with Black Bolt) are dismissed as mere “women’s lib bull.” This story is an offensive caricature in feminism, and even in 1970, readers must have realized that. The Valkyrie in this story is an impostor, but Thomas introduced a new version of the character in Hulk #142 the following year. This issue’s main fight scene takes place in Rutland, Vermont, and there are guest appearances by Roy himself, his then-wife Jean, and Tom Fagan. 

I ordered 2000 AD #301 to #328 on eBay for $72, which works out to $2.50 per issue, a pretty good deal. They arrived on December 1. 

2000 AD #301 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: “Play It Again, Sam Part 10,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade has been hired by Iron Aggie, a robot Margaret Thatcher, to infiltrate the anti-robot Human League. (Her Home Secretary is a robot Oswald Mosley.) The Human League, in turn, sends Slade to assassinate Iron Aggie. Also, it’s National Song Year, so this story includes a song to the tune of Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. The worst part about Sam Slade is his talking cigarette Stogie, who is yet another of Wagner’s tired ethnic stereotypes. Time Twisters: “Revenge of the Guinea-Pig,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Kim Raymond. A convict is forced to serve as a test subject for an experimental “time compressor.” It causes him to live fifty years in one minute, and he uses that time to take revenge on the experimenters. Compare Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #31. Dredd: “Shanty Town Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd tries to clear out a slum on the outside of Mega-City One, but two of its inhabitants, Mad Mox and Girth, are unwilling to leave. Harry Twenty on the High Rock: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alan Davis. Harry Twenty is falsely imprisoned for twenty years (hence his surname) in an orbital prison. In this story he and some other prisoners get back to Earth and fights a mutated shark, but then Harry learns that one of his companions is an android from the prison. It’s hard to tell that Alan Davis drew this story. Rogue Trooper: “Fort Neuro Part II,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue watches a disco dance competition for some reason. This story mentions Sister Sledge and ABBA. This prog also includes some reprinted “micro-pages” from prog 1, as do the next few progs. The reader was supposed to cut out these pages and assemble them into a booklet. 

2000 AD #302 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam assassinates Iron Aggie, wrongly thinking she’s an impostor. There are two songs to the tune of “Land of Hope and Glory” and “The Wanderer.” The Pioneers: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Jesus Redondo. A pioneer from 1850 finds himself in contemporary America. This could have been labeled as a Time Twisters story, but is not, perhaps because it was a replacement for this prog’s Rogue Trooper chapter. Dredd: as above. Dredd fights Mad Mox and Girth. Harry Twenty: as above. The robot takes Harry back to prison, where he meets an old ally, Big Red One. This story looks more like Alan Davis. Time Twisters: “Dr. Dale’s Diary,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Rafael Boluda. A time-traveling scientist causes the extinction of the dinosaurs by giving them the flu. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. This is one of the launch titles from Vault’s new horror imprint, Nightfall. The protagonist, Jacey, teams up with her werewolf partner, David, to hunt down killers of children. In a flashback, we learn that Jacey was raised by a horrible abusive father who either trafficked or murdred children. And Jacey’s dad sold her brother to a certain politician who, as we learn on the last page, is now running for president. I Walk with Monsters #1 is an exciting debut issue. It’s a terrifying story of child abuse and crime, and it explores darker territory than any other Paul Cornell comic I’ve read. 

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #158 (Marvel, 1994) – ClanDestine: “Scare Tactics,” [W/A] Alan Davis. This is the first apperance of ClanDestine. In this story, the family engages in a training session, and the adults try and fail to dissuade Rory and Pandora from becoming superheroes. The other three stories in this issue are awful, although one of them is written by Chris Cooper, and another is drawn by Cary Nord. 

SHADOW SERVICE #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. Gina helps defeat the demon from last issue. Then she goes looking for Gideon Quill, who was last seen at an up-and-coming artist’s exhibit. On investigating the artist, Gina encounters more demons. There’s also a flashback in which Gina’s fellow Shadow Service member, Darryl Coyle, is cursed with insatiable hunger. I like this series, but it’s hard to remember much about it from one issue to another. 

DEADSHOT #3 (DC, 1988) – “Victims,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Deadshot’s psychiatrist tries to track down his mother. Floyd himself tries to rescue his son from kidnappers, but the boy is killed. Floyd blames his mother for this, and decides to hunt her down. I need to read this entire miniseries at one sitting. … Okay, after typing that, I went back and reread issues 1 and 2. Returning to issue 3, I see how the pedophile kidnapper Wes and his brother are doubles of Floyd and his own dead brother Edward. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. Melba Li, her partner and her imaginary friend go looking for some missing children. On the last page, we find that the children have been kidnapped by an imaginary fiend that manifests as a giant hairless cat, and it’s nursing the children like kittens. Ewww. This series is kind of halfway between Imagine Agents and Something is Killing the Children. 

ACTION COMICS #493 (DC, 1979) – “The Metropolis-UFO Connection!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Jimmy gets sick with 24-hour flu and gives Clark Kent his signal watch. Superman uses the watch to defeat an alien invasion. A rather boring issue. 

CRUDE #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Garry Brown. Piotr discovers that his son, Kiril, was a leader of Blackstone’s underground labor movement. I still don’t like this series much, and I’m not sorry I quit buying it. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #691 (DC, 1995) – “Will It Go ‘Round in Circles,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Staz Johnson. Batman and Robin defeat Spellbinder’s gang, but he himself escapes. At Neron’s prompting (this issue is an Underworld Unleashed tie-in), Spellbinder’s girlfriend murders him and assumes his identity. This is just an okay issue, but it does a good job of reviving a dumb old villain. 

CREEPY #79 (Warren, 1976): “As Ye Sow,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Luis Bermejo. A zombie woman falls in love with a human man. Her family forces them to produce babies for the family to eat. Ewww. “Kui,” [W/A] Alex Toth. An explorer and his girlfriend discover an ancient Fijian temple and get trapped inside. Not much of a plot, but Toth’s visual storytelling is incredible, as always. The splash page, depicting an ancient relief sculpture, is especially stunning. “The Super-Abnormal Phenomena Survival Kit!”, [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] John Severin. A hilarious story about survival techniques for people who encounter horror movie plots. A highlight is the panel where a one-eyed monster tells a boy “We just ate your mailman, kid.” “The Shadow of the Axe!”, [W] Dave Sim (misspelled Sims), [A] Russ Heath. A little boy discovers that his father is an axe murderer. He murders his father and escapes blame. This story is an early example of Sim’s plotting ability, and Heath’s art is some of his best. “Visitation at Pliny Marsh,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Martin Salvador. A woman kills her husband with her lover’s aid (a standard EC plot) and dump the corpse in the swamp. Many years later, an alien lands in the swamp and accidentally revives the corpse, causing the murderers to face poetic justice. “The Pit in the Living Room Floor!”, [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Joaquin Blasquez. A man finds a bottomless pit in his floor. He climbs down it only to find himself back in the living room. Blasquez’s art is a good example of the scratchy style that David Roach calls the Spanish “new look.” Overall, this comic is an incredible collection of talent on both the writing and art sides. The only reason I haven’t been reading more Warren comics is that they’re really long. 

2000 AD #303 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Oswald Modroid (Mosley) is revealed as the secret leader of the Human League, and he rounds up all the humans in Brit-Cit. song in this prog is to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.” Harry Twenty: as above. Harry leads an effort to overthrow the warden of High Rock. This series’s plot is pretty bad, but its art is starting to remind me of ClanDestine or DR & Quinch. Dredd: as above. Dredd defeats the villains and sends the people of Shanty Town to live on food farms in the Cursed Earth. Time Twisters: “I, D.H. Rosencrantz, Wrote Shakespeare!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Eric Bradbury. The title character goes back in time and discovers that Shakespeare never existed, so he “writes” Shakespeare’s plays from memory. This same plot twist appears in Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates, published the same year, in which a similar time loop is responsible for William Ashbless’s poems. Rogue Trooper: “Fort Neuro Part 12,” as in #301 above. Rogue is reunited with his two “robe-runners,” Roger and Pierre, and they   encounter a robot Napoleon. This story arc is pretty dumb. 

THE WOODS #10 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The characters from New London try to help the kids escape from being enslaved, we meet some cute dragons, and New London is attacked by an army of green-eyed people, apparently from the black city on the other side of the world. This comic is hard to summarize.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #12 (DC, 2020) – “This Sceptered Isle, Conclusion,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. The old Constantine’s plot is to steal the young Constantine’s soul while it’s still free of guilt. But this plot is foiled when the younger Constantine forces Noah to kill Tommy, and then realizes that Noah is his own illegitimate son. So Constantine’s soul is “so rotten I can’t even give it away.” The moral is that with magic “the price is always higher than the prize.” This was an incredible series, and I’m glad that Si Spurrier is now working at Marvel, since DC didn’t appreciate his talent. 

DEATH RATTLE #16 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “Bulto: Rabago’s Reign,” [W/A] Jaxon. A villain named Rabago takes over Presidio San Saba and enslaves the local Indians. This story includes some quite scary imagery. “Spacehawk,” [W/A] Basil Wolverton. In a reprinted story, Spacehawk defeats a tyrant with the aid of a friend whose brain has been implanted into a giant dinosaur. I read the Wolverton in Space collection back in high school, and I loved Wolverton’s draftsmanship, but I didn’t quite get how weird his plots are. “Annie,” [W] John Holland, [A] Ron Wilber. A boy sees the ghost of his sister, who died due to their parents’ negligence, and she convinces him to join her in death. This story isn’t up to Death Rattle’s usual standard.

STRAY BULLETS #11 (El Capitán, 1996) – “The Supportive Friend,” [W/A] David Lapham. In 1983, Beth and her friend Nina go to the beach and meet a man and woman who claim to be famous actors. Unusually, this story includes no violence. I don’t get how it fits into Beth’s life story. The difficulty with reading Stray Bullets is understanding how all the stories and characters are related, though this can also be an advantage, as with Criminal. 

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #10 (Gold Key, 1965) – “When the Rhino Charged,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak meets a white female doctor who works with some benevolent tribespeople. This tribe is attacked by a more warlike one, and Korak defeats the attackers by projecting a film of a charging rhino. This story has obvious racist implications but is exciting and well-drawn. In the backup story, “The Pit,” Korak saves a dead chief’s wives and daughters from being buried alive with him. 

SUPERBOY #163 (DC, 1970) – “Reform School Rebel!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Clark’s high school classmate is sent to a cruel reform school run by the mob. Superboy uncovers the school’s corruption. In the backup story, reprinted from 1956, Superboy convinces two stupid criminals that they’ve created a superpowered Superboy robot. 

MADMAN COMICS #4 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Waning of the Weird,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Madman investigates a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship. His archenemy Monstadt proves to be responsible. This story is less weird than a typical Madman comic, though it does get very weird at the end, when Monstadt summons a multi-eyed demon. Also, the demon says Madman is “one of the Four.” I don’t recall if we ever found out what the Four were. 

CAPTAIN AMERICA #269 (Marvel, 1982) – “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Zeck. Cap teams up with Team America, and they fight the Mad Thinker, who has created a town full of robot duplicates of famous historical geniuses. The Team America part of this issue is really, really stupid, but there’s a nice scene at the start of the issue where Cap has breakfast with his neighbors. Roger McKenzie and Roger Stern introduced Bernie Rosenthal, Anna Kappelbaum and Josh Cooper to make up for Steve Rogers’s lack of a supporting cast, and DeMatteis used these characters too, but later writers abandoned them. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #242 (Marvel, 1989) – “Burn!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. The X-Men are reunited with Jean Grey, just in time to fight N’astirh, which I’ve never known how to pronounce. This issue is full of terrific character interactions, although Inferno as a crossover was kind of dumb and was only necessary because of meddling by other writers. As I understand it, Claremont intended to write Scott and Maddie out of the series after #201, and all the hints that Maddie was a resurrected Jean Grey were supposed to be red herrings. But then Marvel decided to bring Jean back, and in X-Factor, Bob Layton had Scott leave his wife and child for her. This decision stained Scott’s character permanently. It also turned Maddie into a loose end that had to be resolved somehow, and that was the motivation behind Inferno. 

2000 AD #304 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Oswald Modroid claims that all Brit-Cit’s humans are Human League members, and sends them all to concentration camps. Kidd organizes the real Human League to resist Modroid. Songs: “Summer Holiday” and “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside.” Harry Twenty: as above. The Warden barricades himself in his office, and Harry Twenty goes outside the station to reach him. Dredd: “Prezzel Logic,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A criminal tries to manipulate Dredd into breaking his own laws. Tharg: “Tharg and the Mice!”, [W] uncredited, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg battles an infestation of mice. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights the robot Napoleon.

SUPERMAN #343 (DC, 1980) – ‘The Last Days of Metropolis!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Curt Swan. An ancient Roman magician, Moximus, predicts the destruction of Pompeii, but, like Jor-El, he is not believed. He travels into the future, where he predicts that Superman will destroy Metropolis with a rocket. This time around his prediction is misleading. The story ends with a hint that Moximus will appear again in a Batman comic, but he never did. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #538 (DC, 1984) – “Clothes Make the Cat(Man)”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. A criminal steals Cat-Man’s costume, which he thinks gives him nine lives. He proceeds to lose most of those lives fighting Batman. Moench and Colan’s Detective Comics run did not represent either creator’s best work. There’s also a backup story where Green Arrow witnesses John Lennon’s assassination, though Lennon is not named or shown. 

MS. TREE #48 (Renegade, 1988) – “Murder Cruise,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree and Mike Mist solve a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship. Ms. Tree kills one of the murderers by shoving him from the roof of a tower. This issue also includes a reprinted Johnny Dynamite strip.

FANTASTIC FOUR #198 (Marvel, 1978) – “Invasion!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Keith Pollard. Dr. Doom prepares to abdicate Latveria’s throne in favor of his son… wait, Doom has a son? Reed assists with Zorba’s rebellion against Doom. This issue caused a serious continuity problem. At the top of page 15, Doom has his mask off in the presence of Sue, Ben and Johnny. Yet in issue #236, Sue sees Doom’s unmasked face and reacts as if she’d never seen it before. In the letter column of issue 241, the editor explained that the FF just didn’t see Doom’s face in #198, “whatever may have seemed to be happening in the pictures otherwise.” See https://www.cbr.com/the-abandoned-an-forsaked-the-fantastic-four-and-dooms-true-face/

2000 AD #305 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam, Hoagy and Stogie plot to escape the concentration camp. Song parodies include “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Harry Twenty: as above. The Warden kills Big Red One and summons reinforcement spaceships from Earth. Dredd: “Trapper Hag Part One,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. An alien bounty hunter visits Mega-City One in search of some criminals who are wanted on an alien planet. Dredd tries to prevent the alien from capturing the criminals. Time Twisters: “The 200 Years’ War,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Mike White. The world has been at war for 200 years, and no one knows why. A man is sent back in time to when the war began. He accidentally triggers a nuclear exchange between the US and USSR, resulting in the same war he sought to avoid. Rogue Trooper: as above. More robot-Napoleon nonsense. “Fort Neuro” is a very tiresome story arc. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #199 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Son of Doctor Doom!”, as above. The uprising begins. Doom’s “son” is revealed to actually be his clone, who has all the FF’s powers, but is good rather than evil. Doom fights and kills his son. He blames Reed for “making” him do this, and the stage is set for an epic battle. 

TARTARUS #7 (Image, 2020) – “A Prison in Paradise,” [WJ Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. Surka and Hisa arrive in the utopian city of Auria. An old wizard, Svantoo, breaks the chain tethering Surka to Hisa. Surka causes a lot of violence, and summons the “sky raiders” who attacked Auria in the past. I really like this series, but its plot is quite hard to follow. A substance called “aima” is a major plot point in this issue, but I don’t get what that is. 

TREES #3 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. This is the first Warren Ellis comic I’ve read since the #MeToo accusations against him. I think his public persona is so deeply embedded into his writing that it’s not possible to “separate the art from the artist,” and I feel uncomfortable reading his existing work, let alone his future work. This issue of Trees has one story arc about an Italian professor, and another about a young Chinese man. Neither story has much to do with the namesake trees. 

MARSHAL LAW: SECRET TRIBUNAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. A members of the League of Heroes (Legion of Super-Heroes) is murdered by an alien, like the one from the Alien franchise. Marshal Law teams up with the Secret Tribunal, a team of Image-esque violent “heroes,” to investigate. Kevin O’Neill’s artwork and lettering in this comic are gorgeous; every page is full of chicken fat. But the parody in this comic is somewhat incoherent. Like, in the League’s boys’ dorm, there’s a sign saying HANDS ABOVE COVERS / DRY DREAMS, but the League’s space station is shaped like a penis. It’s not clear what the actual target of Mills’s satire is. And the Secret Tribunal are hard to distinguish from real Image characters. 

(Starting again on January 11, after a break for MLA and an attempted coup) 

ROYALS #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “We Could Steal Time,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Royals fight some cosmic entities called the Progenitors. I don’t quite get this comic’s plot, but its main attraction is Javier Rodriguez’s art. Some of his page layouts in this issue are breathtaking. 

YOU LOOK LIKE DEATH: TALES FROM THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Gerard Way & Shaun Simon, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. I don’t know why this was in my file – I don’t think I ordered it. This issue’s plot is incomprehensible, and I certainly don’t plan to buy any more of this minseries. I do want to read the original Umbrella Academy miniseries, but its individual issues are very expensive. 

MARVEL VOICES: INDIGENOUS VOICES #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Watcher,” [W/A] Jeffrey Veregge, etc. The best part of this one-shot is the three-page framing sequence, drawn in a Northwest Coast style. The rest of the issue is unimpressive. My favorite of the three stories is the one with Dani Moonstar and Rahne Sinclair, but only because I already love these characters. 

2000 AD #306 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam and Kidd escape the concentration camp, and Sam decides to try to resurrect Iron Aggie. The song parody is “Green Door.” Harry Twenty: as above. The inmates shoot down the invading ships and get Earth to agree to not launch any more, but there’s a nuclear-equipped satellite that’s already been launched, and Earth sends it to blow up the prison. Dredd: as above. Trapper Hag finds his target and teleports away. Dredd follows him to his spaceship. Time Twisters: “The Perfect Crime,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A time traveler steals gold from the Titanic just before it sinks, intending to avoid a time paradox. But in the process he accidentally kills his own great-grandfather and triggers the paradox he meant to prevent. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights Robo- Napoleon’s Old Guard and heads to the “Lim-ee” sector of the fort. 

2000 AD #307 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam revives Iron Aggie, who defeats Oswald Modroid and, at Sam’s request, declares an end to National Song Year. Song parodies: “Old-Fashioned Girl” and “My Way.” Time Twisters: “Rogan’s Run,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A future criminal uses a time travel device to escape to the past, where he cause the Great Fire of London, then kills Louis XVI and gets executed in his place. Dredd: as above. Dredd beats up Trapper Hag and arrests him. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue teams up with some stereotypical British soldiers, and gets his helmet back. Harry Twenty: as above. Harry saves the High Rock from being nuked. The Warden gets himself killed. The prison inmates have 20 years worth of supplies and are now free to roam around space. 

2000 AD #308 (IPC, 1983) – Now here’s the good stuff. Skizz – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. This is one of the few major Alan Moore works I haven’t read. Part one of Skizz introduces an alien space traveler who crashlands on Earth, begs his computer not to kill him, and finds himself in Birmingham. Alan’s prose style is, as usual, incredible, and he and Baikie powerfully convey Skizz’s alien perspective. Time Twisters: “The Reversible Man,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. A man lives his life in reverse, starting with his death from a heart attack, and ending with his birth. Alan used this same idea many years later in The Spirit: The New Adventures #1. Dredd: “The Prankster,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd outsmarts a malicious practical joker. Tharg: “Invasion of the Thrill-Snatchers Part 1,” [W] uncredited, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Some alien “dictators” are infested with Greater Spotted Thrill-Suckers, so they make a deal to send the thrill-suckers to Earth instead. The Thrill-Suckers land on Earth near “Jadwan House” in Kentish Town – a reference to Jadwin House, where the Marvel UK offices were located at the time. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue gets Helm and Bagman back, and his enemy, Admiral Torpitz, orders a strike. 

THE AUTHORITY #22 (Wildstorm, 2001) – “Brave New World One of Four,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Another issue full of offensive, sexist, racist, ultraviolent crap. The worst part is the villain Seth, an infuriating caricature of an American hillbilly. At least Frank Quitely’s art is good. 

MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 1978) – “The St. Valentine’s Day/Avengers Massacre!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Mooney. This was $15 with shipping, perhaps the most I’ve ever spent on any single back issue. But it was a Holy Grail of mine, a comic I’ve been seeking for years, and $15 is an extreme bargain; it was only that cheap because it’s a low-grade copy. Ms. Marvel #18 is expensive because it’s the first full appearance of Mystique. Besides that, it’s mostly a long fight scene, in which Carol and the Avengers battle a villain named Centurion. But even if the actual comic is a bit anticlimactic, Ms. Marvel #18 is perhaps the last great Bronze Age Marvel comic that I had never read, and I’m glad I finally own it. 

2000 AD #309 (IPC, 1983) – Skizz: as above. Skizz is terrified by the things he sees on Earth, including a highway and a bar fight. He finally crawls into a shed and collapses. Time Twisters: “Einstein,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Higgins. Some aliens visit a depopulated, postapocalyptic Earth and resurrect some notable humans, including two versions of Einstein. The two Einsteins deduce that they’re in an alien zoo and lead a successful revolt against the aliens. Dredd: “The Starborn Thing Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A UFO lands in the Cursed Earth and creates a magnetic field that causes the mountains to come to life. Then the UFO opens and a slimy alien creature emerges. Tharg: as above. The thrill-suckers fight the microbes on Tharg’s skin. This story is really dumb, though Belardinelli draws some beautifully weird creatures. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights some giant robots. “Fort Neuro” continues to be boring and stupid, though I like Cam Kennedy’s art. 

SLOW DEATH #2 (Last Gasp, 1970) – Like Death Rattle, this underground comic was effectively Weird Fantasy with more sex and violence. “The Sex Evulsors of Technicus,” [W/A] Dave Sheridan. Some ugly aliens use women’s orgasms as a source of energy. This story is of course completely tasteless, but Sheridan’s art is quite energetic. “The Secret,” [W/A] Jaxon. Some humans discover a planet whose original inhabitants turned into humanoid insects. This story is in the same vein as Bulto from Death Rattle. “Routine,” [W/A] Jim Osborne. Some spacemen visit a dead earth. Osborne’s art reminds me of Bodé and his lettering reminds me of Wolverton. “How Howie Made It in the Real World,” [W/A] Richard Corben. An attractive young couple visit the beach, only to discover that their handsome young bodies are just plastic shells covering their real, withered forms. RIP Richard Corben, a great and unique artist. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – “To Hell Comes a Guest,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. A sequel to the story about breakfast cereal mascots in #2 of the previous volume. This sequel is just as funny as the first story. “A Tipple of Amontillado,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Chris Giarrusso. An even grosser alternative ending to The Cask of Amontillado.  

USAGI YOJIMBO: THE WANDERER’S ROAD #1 (IDW, 2020) – “The Tower,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I wasn’t planning to buy this, because it’s a reprint series, but the store pulled it for me anyway. In a colorized reprint of Usagi Yojimbo vol. 1 #7, Usagi climbs a watchtower to rescue a tokage from an angry innkeeper, and chaos ensues. The juxtaposition between Stan’s ‘80s style and Ronda Pattison’s modern coloring is kind of strange.

ICE CREAM MAN #21 (Image, 2020) – “The Big Sweet,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A detective investigates a series of disappearances of ice cream men. As the reader already knows from page one, they’re being murdered by a cult. This issue’s panel structure and color scheme are an obvious tribute to Watchmen, and it’s full of Watchmen references – e.g. a man climbing into an apartment through the window, and an “End Is Nigh” sign.  

DETECTIVE COMICS #663 (DC, 1993) – “No Rest for the Wicked,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue has perhaps Kelley Jones’s greatest cover: a closeup of a drowning Batman with his head covered in rats. In part ten of Knightfall, Batman saves the mayor from drowning in a flooded sewer. Then he fights three minor villains and returns to the Batcave exhausted, only to find Bane there already. 

MONSTRESS: TALK-STORIES #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Kippa tells the story of the best thing she ever ate. While in a refugee camp, Kippa and her sister Perri made some delicious fried rice, only to be scolded by their mother for drawing attention from their fellow refugees. This is a powerful story, but it’s extremely bleak and depressing. Its depiction of hunger and famine is almost as harrowing as the similar scenes in Barefoot Gen. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. More of the same stuff as last issue, with no real surprises. This series isn’t as good as Girner’s earlier works. 

X-RAY ROBOT #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Allred. I still don’t know what the hell is going on in this series, but this issue has some excellent art. It also includes a brief cameo appearance by Madman. 

SLOW DEATH #3 (Last Gasp, 1971) – “Dumb Story”, [W/A] Richard Corben. Some primitive aliens lead an idyllic life of constant sex. Humans land on their planet and “civilize” them, resulting in their extinction. A grimmer version of Avatar or The Word for World is Forest. “The Harbinger,” [W/A] Jim Osborne. A wordless story about an angel, dedicated to Lynd Ward. “Gene Shuffle,” [W/A] Jaxon. In a postapocalyptic future, two mutants fall in love and have a child. Ironically, the mutants look like normal people, while all the other humans are horribly deformed. The mutant parents are relieved to discover that their son is normal, i.e. hideous, rather than mutated like them. “Heirs of Earth,” [W/A] Corben. A two-pager starring a character who looks like Den. “The Sleeping Continent,” [W/A] Larry Welz. A postapocalyptic sword-and-sorcery story. Welz used the spelling “Urth” before Gene Wolfe did. 

2000 AD #310 (IPC, 1983) – Tharg: as above. The thrill-suckers penetrate to Tharg’s brain, which is one of those stunning, indescribable scenes that Belardinelli is so good at. Time Twisters: “Chrono-Cops,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. One of Alan’s best early short works, about two cops who travel through time to solve a mystery, crossing their own timelines repeatedly. The scene of the cops meeting their past/future selves in the lobby recurs over and over, each time acquiring additional meanings. My friend Elizabeth Sandifer has published a detailed analysis of this story (https://rb.gy/jc49ef). Dredd: as above. The ailen infects Dredd, forcing him to shoot his fellow Judges. Rogue Trooper: as above. In the 19th and thankfully last part of this awful series, Rogue recaptures the fort. Skizz: as above. The series’ second protagonist, the schoolgirl Roxy, is introduced, and she finds Skizz in the shed. 

BATMAN #458 (DC, 1990) – “Night Monsters,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Harold, a mute, deformed engineering genius, is wrongly suspected of kidnapping a little girl. Batman saves Harold from an angry mob and takes him to the Batcave, where he would become the Batmobile’s full-time mechanic. This isn’t Harold’s first appearance, but it is his debut as a regular supporting cast member. He may have been introduced as a way of explaining how Batman maintained all his vehicles and gadgets, though that’s a problem that didn’t really need a solution. See https://comicsalliance.com/ask-chris-266-batman-mechanic-harold/. Also in this issue, Commissioner Gordon rekindles his old affair with Sarah Essen.  

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #4 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Opener of the Crypt!”, [W] John Jakes, [A] Frank Brunner. In a pastiche of The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor’s modern-day descendant, Paul Montré, finds Fortunato’s corpse, and Fortunato’s corpse traps Montré in the tomb his ancestor built. Brunner’s art here is very spooky. “Pawn of the Demon,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Jay Scott Pike. One of Pike’s very few later works outside the romance genre. A shipwreck victim is enslaved by telepathic ants, and turns into an ant himself. “The Demon from Beyond!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Howard Chaykin. An adventurer saves a woman from being sacrificed to a demon. 

SECRETS OF SINISTER HOUSE #14 (DC, 1973) – “The Man and the Snake,” [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An adaptation of an Ambrose Bierce story about snake charming. As usual, Alcala’s draftsmanship is incredible. “The Roommate,” [W] Fred Wolfe, [A] Mike Sekowsky. David’s girlfriend Priscilla has a roommate who, as the reader can easily tell, is a vampire (https://www.instagram.com/p/CI4iXZ_Be3Q/). The vampire kills Priscilla, but David kills her. “The Glass Nightmare,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An old man makes some beautiful snow globes. A thief murders the man and tries to steal the globes, only to find himself trapped in one of them. More gorgeous art. 

BIRTHRIGHT #23 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andres Genolet. Kylen is revealed as a villain and attacks Mastema, who is trying to free Mikey from the Nevermind. With Rya about to go into labor, Wendy has to use Rya’s sword to defend them both. On the last page, Mikey and Rya are finally reunited. 

SILVER STAR #4 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Super-Normals: Are They God’s or Satan’s Children?”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Silver Star encounters Big Masai, a black superhero with size-changing powers. This story includes some impressive depictions of New York slums, and thus it reminds me of Kirby’s classic “Street Code.” There’s also a backup story written by Richard Kyle, with impressive art by Kirby inker D. Bruce Berry. 

Next trip to Heroes: 

LUMBERJANES: END OF SUMMER #1 (Boom!, 2020) – “End of Summer Part 4,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Brooklyn Allen, Alexa Bosy & Kanesha C. Bryant. Ripley summons the Kitten Holy. The girls defeat the Grey with the power of friendship, as embodied by their badges. But summer is over now, and Molly is especially sad to return home to her awful stepmother. In a touching conclusion, the other girls give Molly a present, and she opens it to find Bubbles. So she gets to take something back from the camp to her normal life. So ends the best kids’ comic book since Bone. I’m sad this series is over, but 75 issues plus multiple spinoffs is a great run for a comic that’s not aimed at the direct market audience. I hope Ross Richie is telling the truth when he says there are further plans for this franchise. My main regret is that we never got to see the world outside the camp. If Miss Qiunzella’s is such a feminist utopia, what kind of larger society could have produced it? 

ONCE & FUTURE #14 (Boom!, 2020) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Rose beheads the Green Knight, who, predictably, picks up his head and tells Rose/Gawain to meet him in a year. A dying racist says that Elaine is looking for a cauldron, presumably the one from the Mabinogi. Elaine appears in Rose’s house and points a gun at her. This is an excellent issue, and it shows that Gillen has expert knowledge of the Gawain myth and of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I like how he emphasizes the poem’s Christmas themes. 

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Last Night on Zirconia,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. Most of this issue is a flashback to Sunstar’s origin story, which is identical to Superman’s. A hilarious moment is when Sunstar’s dad explains why the rocket is only big enough for a child: because he had to build it on a government scientist’s salary. Russell draws obvious parallels between Zirconia (Krypton)’s fate and the climate crisis. Sunstar, Sheila and Jesus only appear on the last two pages. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #2 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus II and his new friend Penny are recaptured. It becomes clear that all the characters in the series are normal humans, hiding underground from the virus that killed all the other humans. Gus’ father created him in order to send him aboveground and infect him with another virus, so a to kill the hybrids that now dominate the world. On the last page, an elephant-headed hybrid appears outside Gus’s cell. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #15 (IDW, 2020) – “Sojobo,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi visits his “other teacher”: Sojobo, the tengu from Usagi v3 #65, which happens to be the first Usagi comic I read. In a flashback, we learn how Sojobo defeated a young Usagi in a duel and claimed ownership of Usagi’s hand. Back in the present, Usagi finds Sojobo unconscious and surrounded by dead ratlike creatures. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #4 (Boom!, 2020) – “The Glorious Quest,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In order to save Malik from Paula, the Vihaan has to cut the goddess’s throat. Also, we now know that Paula blames Malik for killing her family. 

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala defeats Brett the tech bro, aka Monopoly, and convinces Dum Dum Dugan to stop hounding her. Zoe doesn’t apologize for snitching. Stormranger is coming back. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #5 (DC, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard, Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy decides there’s no real Shakespeare, because our perception of Shakespeare is always shaped by our modern circumstances. To me as a literary scholar, that seems like a very sensible claim. Morpheus forgives Ruin, and the first story arc is over. 

BIG GIRLS #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Joanna and her sons assault the city. Ember reaches out to one of the Jacks and convinces it to turn around. Meanwhile, Gulliver’s assistant Martin tries to fight Tannik, and gets turned into a big man, rather than a Jack. 

SEVEN SECRETS #5 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The entire Order retreats to a hidden mountain fortress. This proves to be a stupid decision as the Seekers follow them there and begin a siege. This series is a really exciting adventure story. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #27 (Marvel, 2020) – “Borrowed Armor,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva et al. 4 Yancy Street fills up with weird-looking aliens. Reed gives Franklin a spare suit of Iron Man armor, like when Ben Grimm lost his powers and wore a Thing suit. Reed tries to destroy the Griever by sacrificing Yancy Street, but it doesn’t work. This issue includes some good pieces of characterization: Mr. Sheckerberg complaining to Reed about all the mishegas, and Val reuniting with Bentley. 

GIGA #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] John Lê. The authorities interrogate Evan and separate him from his unlicensed AI. An investigation reveals that the dead Giga was killed by the Dusters. I didn’t understand all of this issue’s plot, but I still think this series is fascinating; it’s the one Vault comic I’m most excited about. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #6 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids follow Calvin’s trail and battle the Hollow. They manage to win, thanks to help from their instructors, but Doyle Dormammu is apparently killed. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #7 (DC, 2020) – “It Should Happen to Everybody,” [W] Tom King, [A] Doc Shaner & Mitch Gerads. In the flashback, Adam goes on some kind of weird drug trip. I don’t quite understand how this issue is related to the main plot, and this issue doesn’t tell us anything new about the Pykkts and what they want. 

PENULTIMAN #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Penultiman tries to think more positively, but he only ends up damaging his own reputation even further. I don’t know why I never got issue 2. 

SCARENTHOOD #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Nick Roche, [A] Chris O’Halloran. While taking Scooper home, Cormac gets lost in the woods and has to abandon Scooper’s stroller. He and the other adults go back for it but are chased away by a black devil dog. Cormac misses a phone call from his still-unseen wife. One thing I like about this series is its authentic-seeming depiction of small-town Ireland. 

HAPPY HOUR #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Jerry and Kim fight their way out of the asylum and steal a clown car. Jerry insists on a detour to see his dying grandmother, who, of course, is supposed to be happy she’s dying. While Jerry is with his grandmother, Kim drives off, leaving him behind. This comic is much clearer than most of Milligan’s recent work. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ultimatum Saga, Conclusion,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Marcello Ferreira. Uncle Aaron sacrifices his ilfe to defeat Ultimatum. Miles is left devastated. It’s a sad moment, even though Uncle Aaron’s story was never going to have a happy ending. 

MARVEL ACTION CHILLERS #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky & Bowen McCurdy. In the flashback sequence, Nadia van Dyne battles Venom with minimal assistance from Spider-Man. It’s great to see Jeremy writing Nadia again, and he even includes cameo appearances from some of Nadia’s fellow Agents of G.I.R.L. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #255 (Image, 2020) – “The Empty Grave,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dart is shockingly killed by the police. Given Erik’s willingness to kill off characters, I won’t be surprised if Dart actually stays dead. Paul Dragon visits Dimension X and finds Jennifer’s body, and we also see an unexplained baby Dragon. Malcolm is still in the hospital, regenerating his brain. I’m kind of worried for him. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #112 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Mona goes to a support group for mutants, but it degenerates into a brawl between supporters and opponents of Hob. A frog mutant attacks Michelangelo and poisons him. The Turtles decide to hold an election and nominate Sally for mayor. 

JUNKWAFFEL #2 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Tubs” and other stories, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. I won three issues of Junkwaffel on eBay, and I accidentally read #2 before #1. “Tubs” is about time travelers who go back in time to hunt for meat to relieve a famine. “The Rudolf” is about an unsuccessful rebellion against a dystopian future society. Both these stories look as if they’re reproduced from pencils. “Cobalt 60,” which has much better print quality, is a sort of Western story about a wandering warrior in a postapocalyptic future. Bodé only did this one story with Cobalt 60, but his son revived the character after Bodé’s death. This issue also includes some Cheech Wizard strips, reproduced sideways, and an anti-war story, War Lizard. My overall judgment on this comic is that Bodé was an incredible draftsman, but not the best writer. His comics are absurdly heavy on text, and he had trouble writing a coherent plot. 

CROSSOVER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. This comic begins with the murder of Brian K. Vaughn (sp), but otherwise it feels less like a masturbatory celebration of fandom than issue 1 did. This issue, the protagonist plots to rescue the inmates in Denver’s prison for non-super supporting cast members, and the little girl demonstrates some frightening superpowers. 

FAR SECTOR #9 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Somehow I forgot to get issue 8. This issue, Jo investigates a secret sweatshop where people are being forced to produce memes for the consumption of the @. 

2000 AD #311 (IPC, 1983) – Tharg: as above. The Thrill-Suckers put the entire world to sleep, including Tharg himself. Tharg’s bumbling assistant Burt has to wake him up. This story has some beautiful art, but all these Thrill-Suckers stories are idiotic, and I wonder if anyone actually liked them. Rogue Trooper: “Major Magnum Prologue,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue evades a homing missile attack, then learns that there’s another G.I. on Nu-Earth. Time Twisters: “Joy Riders,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Jesus Redondo. A future cop apprehends some time-traveling juvenile delinquents. Dredd: as above. The parasite forces Dredd to invade a mutant settlement. One-shot: “What a Load of Rubbish!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Eric Bradbury. People from the future use the year 1999 as a dumping ground for trash from even further in the future. Skizz: Roxy befriends Skizz, and they learn each other’s names.  

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark has a great time at the gay bar, until it’s raided by the police. Mark goes home with Miguel, but nothing happens. The next day, Miguel’s friend Rafael attacks the police. Meanwhile, the Martian bounty hunter finds Mark and fires a gun at him. This series is a powerful depiction of LGBTQ history. 

HUMAN DRAMA #1 (Print Mint, 1978) – untitled stories, [W/A] various. I bid on a bunch of cheap underground comics from the same seller, but I only won three of them, including this, which I had never heard of before. It’s a collection of untitled, unrelated stories by a wide range of talent. The most notable pieces in the issue are the ones by Spain and Greg Irons. There’s also a story by Alan Weiss, who rarely did underground comics. 

LOCKE & KEY/THE SANDMAN #0 (DC, 2020) – “Open the Moon,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez, etc. A reprint comic intended as a prequel to the Locke & Key/Sandman crossover. The first half of the issue reprints the Eisner-nominated 2011 one-shot Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys. This one-shot begins with the story “Open the Moon,” in which Chamberlin Locke takes his dying son Ian to the moon and leaves him there. This is a very sad and tender story. Much of it is drawn in a style that’s an homage to Little Nemo. There’s also “Guide to the Known Keys,” a series of vignettes describing each of the keys that had appeared up to that point. The rest of Locke & Key/Sandman #0 is a reprint of Sandman #1, which I’ve read before. 

INKBLOT #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. In a society resembling ancient Egypt, a sorcerer tries to make a bargain with a giant sphinx, but the sphinx attacks him. The cat either saves the day, or screws everything up, or both. At the end of the issue, the Seeker figures out that the cat can travel in time. Can we start calling the cat “Mow”? 

AMETHYST #6 (DC, 2020) – “Out on Top,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy defeats Dark Opal and frees her parents, at the cost of destroying all the amethyst gems. Amy’s parents turn out to be stuck-up jerks. Amy is elected princess of the houseless people. I wish this was an ongoing series, but DC clearly doesn’t care about… I’ll stop there before I get depressed.

SLOW DEATH #4 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Eyes of the Beholder,” [W/A] George Metzger. While on drugs, a man “discovers” that his political leaders are robots. He assassinates a politician, then gets trampled by a robot mob. “Ecotopia 2001,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. This story is set in an idyllic, utopian society, only it’s a utopia because everyone is immortal and the birth rate is zero. Two policemen discover some people who have been illegally reproducing, and the offenders and their children are executed. Paolo Bacigalupi’s story “Pop Squad” has a similar premise. “The Awakening,” [W/A] Richard Corben. A mostly plotless story about a man awakening from cryogenic sleep. “Mangle, Robot Mangler,” [W/A] Richard Corben. A parody of Magnus, drawn in a much cartoonier style than the previous story. “Homesick,” [W/A] Jaxon. A normal human is the supervisor of an outer space colony of mutants. When a ship finally arrives from Earth to relieve him, he learns that all the people on Earth are mutants too. This story could be set in the same universe as “Gene Shuffle” from issue 3. 

2000 AD #312 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: “The Slaying of Slade Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. An army of Teeny-Meks invades the Tower of London and steals the crown jewels. Tharg: as above. Tharg wakes up, defeats the Thrill-Suckers, and takes revenge on the dictators of Zrag. Dredd: as above. The parasite leaves Dredd’s body, and Dredd destroys it, but the story’s not over yet. Rogue Trooper: “Major Magnum Part 1,” as above. Some enemy troops are auctioning off a pistol containing the biochip of a G.I. Rogue recovers the pistol and discovers that the soldier in it is now his commanding officer. Skizz: as above. Roxy can’t find any food Skizz can eat. Meanwhile, Skizz’s presence is discoveredby a sinister government agent, Van Owen, whose speech pattern implies that he’s from South Africa. 

LONELY RECEIVER #4 (Aftershock, 2020) – “A Year: A Fertilizing Destructive Event,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. No one realizes Hazel is dead. Catrin gets a new modification that allows her to immerse her full body in cyberspace. From that point, this issue becomes illogical and impenetrable, although it includes some impressive psychedelic images. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #24 (Marvel, 2020) – “The New World Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Ove is revealed as the son of Namor and the Enchantress, and of course his utopian new Atlantis is just a façade, and he’s actually evil. Ove forces a mind-controlled Luke Cage to beat Carol senseless and tie her up. 

WONDER WOMAN #768 (DC, 2020) – “Long Live the Queen,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Rafa Sandoval. I should have told Heroes to take this series off my pull list, but it’s ending soon anyway. This issue, Diana fights Deathstroke, and Liar Liar escapes from an insane asylum. Mariko seems more interested in Liar Liar than in Diana herself. That’s a common pattern: most writers don’t know how to write Wonder Woman, so they focus on her supporting cast instead. 

On December 21 I received an order consisting of over 100 issues of Cerebus, plus some other stuff. I had decided not to buy any more single issues of Cerebus, but I changed my mind because they were so cheap. Most of the Cerebuses were under a dollar, and some of them were effectively free, insofar as they allowed me to qualify for free shipping. Also, the Cerebus phone books don’t include the covers, editorials, letter columns, and bonus features. And those paratextual materials are very important, because Cerebus’s lettercols and editorials are essentially an entire history of the comics industry in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #23 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1980) – “The Beguiling,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This story must have given its name to the legendary Toronto comic book store. Injured and caught in a snowstorm, Cerebus finds shelter in a girls’ school and protects it from some marauding soldiers, although the girls are quite good at protecting themselves. This issue includes a George Metzger-drawn ad for a Vancouver comic store. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #50 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Crisis No. 6: Denouement,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is the last chapter of High Society, which is considered Sim’s first great work. I have the High Society phone book but have not read it yet. The entire issue is formatted horizontally. Its plot is hard to understand without the context of the prior 24 issues, but what seems to happen is that Prime Minister Cerebus confronts his ally Astoria and learns that his administration’s military support has collapsed. Cerebus is forced to resign and return to his wandering life. There’s a backup story by Jim Valentino, depicting his reaction to John Lennon’s then-recent assassination. The letters page mentions Dave’s visit to a Minneapolis convention where Kara Dalkey did a radio play adaptation of Cerebus #6. 

EIGHTBALL #9 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” etc., [W/A] Daniel Clowes. An absurdist, neurotic story, probably influenced by Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown, now that I think of it. A notable moment is when some people attack the protagonist for no reason and steal his clothes, and then a policeman drives by and gives him new clothes. In an installment of “Young Dan Pussey,” Dan meets a fine artist who’s gotten rich by doing parodies of comics art – a younger and more vulgar Roy Lichtenstein. The artist’s gallery owner offers to exhibit Dan’s work too, but his offer turns out to not be serious. This story is a bitter parody of the fine art scene. There are also a few one- and two-pagers in the issue. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #61 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Stormy Weather” and other vignettes, [W/A] Dave Sim. In an early chapter of Church & State, Cerebus ponders how to deal with his poiltical rival Adam Weisshaupt. Then Weisshaupt gives Cerebus a demonstration of his new toy: a cannon. The bonus feature is a Flaming Carrot story by Bob Burden. The letters page includes a letter from Marvel’s law firm objecting to the Wolveroach character, and a confession by a fan who’s been stealing Cerebus comics from the store. The house ad on the back cover has a list of the nine different distributors that carried Cerebus at the time. 

FOUR COLOR #722 (Dell, 1956) – Johnny Mack Brown: “The Silent Men,” [W] unknown, [A] Nicholas Firfires. Johnny defeats a gang of cattle thieves. “The Good Samaritan,”  [W] unknown, [A] Nat Edson. Johnny, now wearing a different shirt, recovers some stolen money intended for the building of a schoolhouse. These stories are both quite generic, but they’re competently done. The Johnny Mack Brown character is named after a Western film star who was also a Hall of Fame college football player for Alabama. Johnny Mack Brown is not to be confused with Mack Brown, who coached Texas to the 2005 college football national championship. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #68 – “Another Thing Coming,” as above. Cerebus is now the pope, and has convinced his followers to give him all their gold. He kicks an old man off a roof, thus demonstrating that “one less mouth to feed is one less mouth to feed.” Cerebus collapses from illness, and wakes up to find Weisshaupt pointing a row of cannons at his treasure house. The backup story is “The Jade Princess” by Larry Hancock and Michael Cherkas. I haven’t read any of Cherkas’s work before, and I like his linework. The letters page includes some angry letters about #66, in which Cerebus killed a baby. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #69 – “Ignore It, It’s Just Another Reality,” as above. Finally two consecutive issues. Weisshaupt sends some men to demand Cerebus’s gold, but Cerebus convinces them to denounce Weisshaupt, declaring that anyone who follows his orders wil die. Then the men commit suicide. Weisshaupt orders the cannons to be fired, but no one is willing to obey his orders anymore, and he suffers a fatal heart attack. Cerebus has a vision of a floating light, then hears a voice summoning him to the Regency Hotel. This is a fascinating issue that provides an interesting insight into how power works. The backup story is part two of The Jade Princess. The letters include multiple guesses as to Gerhard’s last name, as well as some inside jokes about a female fan named Connie Lingus. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #72 – “Time Passes and Life Manoeuvres,” as above except it’s now 1985. Deni Loubert’s name no longer appears in this issue’s masthead. The “Notes from the Publisher” states the current story arc’s title, “Church and State,” for the first time. In the main story, Lord Julius is manipulated into becoming the new President. Meanwhile, Cerebus orders his followers to conquer the Red Marches. It seems like Cerebus is achieving his dream, where everything happens as he wants it to, but Red Sophia is skeptical. Cerebus has a vision of gold coins forming a sphere. There are more letters about Connie Lingus. 

CLONE CONSPIRACY #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Dead No More Part One: The Land of the Living,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Jim Cheung. We begin with the funeral of Jay Jameson, perhaps the first Spider-Man character to die of natural causes, although JJJ still finds a way to make Peter feel responsible for Jay’s death. Peter tries to figure out why he was suspicious about the experimental treatment that was offered Jay. This trail leads Peter to a scientific facility where he encounters Miles Warren and two people he beileved dead: Otto Octavius and Gwen Stacy. There’s also a backup story, by Slott and Ron Frenz, in which Gwen narrates her own death and her revival as a clone. Frenz’s art is nicely nostalgic because his linework resembles Gil Kane’s. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #71 – “Hovering Below the Fray,” as above. I read this out of order. In his note, Dave refuses to say anything about Deni’s departure, and also debunks a rumor about Cerebus moving to Marvel. In the story, Bishop Powers chooses Lord Julius as Weisshaupt’s successor. Cerebus’s assistant, Brad, gives Cerebus the idea of using his followers as an invasion force. Also, he describes the history of some of Cerebus’s coins. The backup story is “Demlins” by Jim Bricker, a satire on Reagan. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #80 – “Causality Casualty,” as above. Cerebus talks with Red Sophia through a hole in the wall. Then a giant two-story tall creature, resembling the Thing but claiming to be the Living Tarim, appears and demands Cerebus’s gold. As Cerebus is fleeing the creature, Brad stabs himself to death. Cerebus falls all the way to the Lower City. The letter column consists of an exchange between Dave and Neal Adams about contracts. I don’t know the context behind this discussion. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #82 – “Talking Heads,” as above. Now in some other dimension, Cerebus witnesses an argument between the wizards Thrunk and Henrot (Frank Thorne). The giant Tarim gives orders, and a man who resembles Archie Goodwin serves as his mouthpiece. Astoria talks with her ex-husband Lord Julius and explains that they divorced because he didn’t support her feminist policies – feminism will become a major concern of the series soon. Cerebus encounters a three-headed creature named “Fred, Ethel, and the little fellow with the hair,” except Fred and Ethel look like Man-Thing and Swamp Thing. Cerebus sneezes, his nose grows very long, and then he vanishes. Instead of a letter column there are some photos of Dave and Gerhard’s trip to Gainesville, Florida, long before it became a center of comics culture (Don Ault didn’t move there until 1997). 

AVENGERS #22 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Exorcism at Avengers Mountain,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Stefano Caselli. Robbie Reyes, Ghost Rider, tries to destroy his cursed car, but fails. Blade calls in Daimon Hellstrom to help Robbie exorcise the car. Daimon sends Robbie into some hell-realm where a second Ghost Rider challenges him to a race. This comic isn’t bad but it still doesn’t feel like an Avengers comic. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #95 – “Odd Transformation 4,” as above except the date is 1987. Dave’s note is about how Chaykin, Miller, Moore and Wolfman were boycotting DC due to the controversy over ratings. All of them except Moore would later work for DC again. In the story, Cerebus dreams that he’s walking through a sewer while covered in chains; this perhaps references X-Men #133 and Spider-Man #33. Then Cerebus wakes up in the prison cell where he’s just raped Astoria, and declares that he and Astoria are divorced. He falls asleep again and has a dream where he surveys an incomplete giant statue of himself, then pushes Astoria off a building, except she’s dressed like Red Sophia. 

MERMAID #nn (Alternative, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] James Kochalka. Magic Boy (Kochalka), his wife, their robot son, and their cat are vacationing at the beach. The robot sees a mermaid and runs away from his parents to work for it. The parents barely seem to care about their son’s disappearance, but they do find him again. Kochalka is good at what he does, but I don’t much like his work because it’s way too cutesy and saccharine. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #98 – “The Trial,” as above. Cerebus puts Astoria on trial before himself, Bishop Powers and Archbishop Posey. Astoria tells the story of how she killed some man – the previous pope maybe – without knowing who he was. Cerebus asks Astoria Pilate’s question: “What is truth?” Dave’s note discusses how he gave up smoking pot.

ACTION COMICS #699 (DC, 1994) – “Eye of the Hurricane,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Norman Felchle. Luthor has besieged Metropolis and gotten Lois fired for writing libelous articles. Superman chases the Parasite, who stole some of his powers, but can’t find him. The Planet staff moves to a new office and tries to figure out how the false articles were pubilshed under Lois’s name. “The Fall of Metropolis” was kind of an anticlimax; it was overshadowed by the storiees before and after it, including Reign of the Supermen and The Death of Clark Kent. Norman Felchle had a pretty short career; his last GCD credits are from 1998. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #102 – “The Final Ascension,” as above. Dave’s note mentions “Definition of mixed emotions”: his ex-wife accepting his Kirby Award. This issue describes how Cerebus climbs the Black Tower as it breaks from its moorings and rises toward the moon. The entire issue is narrated in blocks of mixed-case text, a device that Dave would rely on more and more as the series went on. The direction of reading changes with each page, forcing the reader to keep rotating the comic to keep reading. The letter column includes the most remarkable letter I’ve seen in this series: Trina Robbins’s letter in which she explains why the rape scene in #94 was not offensive and was justified by the story (though of course she doesn’t condone Cerebus’s actions). All the other letters are also from female readers, and most of them are about the rape scene or about feminism in general. In 1987, Dave still had a lot of credibility with feminist readers, and Cerebus was still unusual in having a number of complex and well-developed female characters. It was only later that Dave became infamous for his misogyny.  

DARK SHADOWS #11 (Gold Key, 1971) – “The Thirteenth Star,” [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Joe Certa. The Collins family is cursed by a golem that reappears at regular intervals to kill them. The golem reappears and steals the grave soil that the vampire Barnabas Collins needs to keep himself alive. Barnabas projects himself into the future era when the golem will appear next, so that he can follow it and find the soil. I don’t know anything about the Dark Shadows franchise, though I have a colleague who’s a big fan of it; however, this issue is an impressive piece of Gothic horror, and it’s much better than I expected. D.J. Arneson is best known for creating Lobo (the cowboy, not the alien), the first black character to star in a comic book. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #103 – “Mass with Substance,” as above. Dave’s note proposes that AIDS and lung cancer were both caused by radiation. I guess that would have sounded more plausible then than it does now. This issue is entirely wordless. Cerebus climbs the Black Tower, carrying a gold sphere, and then a statue of Weisshaupt’s head falls on his foot. 

IMMORTAL HULK #41 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Man Downstairs,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Thing beats up the Hulk, taking revenge for Hulk’s disruption of his honeymoon. But Hulk is clearly in no condition to resist, and Ben ends up treating him to hot dogs. This is a cute issue. I love the cover, with a waitress looking the Hulk straight in the eye. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #105 – “Couple Capable,” as above. Dave’s note is a story about Bob Burden. Cerebus encounters Fred-and-Ethel again, and they take his gold sphere and accuse him of throwing a baby off the roof. Cerebus corrects them: he threw the baby off the front steps, it was the old man who he threw off the roof. Nonetheless, Fred-and-Ethel traps Cerebus under their giant hand, but then a voice from off-panel says “Now then.” Instead of a letter column there’s a piece of stream-of-conscious narration written by Bob Burden.  

IT AIN’T ME BABE (Last Gasp, 1970) – This is one of the most important American comic books ever. It’s the first underground comic produced entirely by women, and all of today’s comics and graphic novels by female creators, from Fun Home to Lumberjanes, are indebted to it. Stories include: “Oma,” [W/A] Willy Mendes. A psychedelic fairy tale in which a woman defeats a giant snake and saves her baby. “Lavender,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A sorceress’s pet sphinx saves her from being deceived by a male adventurer. “Breaking Out,” [W] “The It Ain’t Me Babe Basement Collective,” [A] Carole. Supergirl, Little Lulu, Petunia Pig, Juliet Jones and other characters rebel against their male oppressors. Carole’s last name is unknown; according to Trina on Facebook, it was common at the time for women in the movement to only use their first names.  “I Remember Telluria,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A modern-day woman undergoes past-life regression and remembers her past life as a priestess in a matriarchal society.  

STILLWATER #4 (Image, 2020) – “They Gave Him Power,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Perez. In a flashback sequence, we learn how the Judge took dictatorial control over Stillwater, and how Laura smuggled Tommy out of town. Also, we realize that Tommy was stuck at the age of 18 months for about five years, though as an adult, he certainly doesn’t act more mature than his physical age. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #107 – “Walking on the Moon Seven,” as above except it’s now 1988. Cerebus descends to the surface of the moon and meets the Judge, based on Lou Jacobi’s character from the film Little Murders. (I only knew this because of Dave’s note “With apologies to Jules Feiffer and Lou Jacobi.” Feiffer wrote the film.) The Judge is also, of course, a reference to Uatu the Watcher. He tells Cerebus a bunch of stuff, most notably that Cerebus will never succeed in conquering the world. Instead of Dave’s note, there’s a letter from Bill Schanes at Diamond, complaining about Dave’s decision not to sell the High Society phone book throuogh Diamond. In response, Schanes threatens to stop carrying Aardvark-Vanaheim’s other title, Puma Blues. Dave’s angry, defiant response appears at the end of the issue, replacing the letter column. For me as a comics historian, Cerebus’s paratextual materials are often just as interesting as the actual comic. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #108 – “Extrusion Intrusion,” as above. In his note, Dave angrily rejects an offer to write an article for Amazing Heroes’s issue dedicated to Superman’s 50th anniverary. Dave explains that he’s angry over DC’s exploitation of Siegel and Shuster. In the story, the Judge tells Cerebus about the conquests of the original Suenteus Po. Then the Judge gives a speech about how religion is a scam. Instead of a letter column, there’s a parodic response to a hostile letter from a Georgia fan. 

2000 AD #313 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. While trying to prevent the Teeeny-Meks’ next theft, Slade is apparently killed. Time Twisters: “The Avenging Kong Meets Laurel and Hardy,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike White. Time-traveling filmmakers send a robot woman warrior into the past in order to film her fighting people. The filmmakers themselves are killed by other filmmakers from further in the future. Dredd: as above. Dredd realizes he’s pregnant with the parasite’s baby. His fellow judges operate on him and remove it. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue meets some other Souther soldiers, and the Major starts giving them cruel orders and punishing them unfairly. Skizz: as above. Roxy buys baby food for Skizz, causing the store clerk to think Roxy is a teen mother. We meet Roxy’s friends Loz and Cornelius. The latter has been driven crazy by prolonged unemployment, and his catch phrase is “I’ve got my pride.” 

LOCKE & KEY: IN PALE BATTALIONS GO #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. The Lockes use the various keys to defeat the invading Nazis. This results in perhaps the funniest line of dialogue of the year: “Help! Help! I am being eaten by stuffed animals!” According to a German-speaking Facebook friend, the word translated as “eaten” here is used for a predator devouring its prey, and not for a human eating food. Sadly, it’s too  late to save Fiona, the Locke children’s mother. Chamberlin tells Jack “I wish we were burying you instead,” and Jack takes him seriously and commits suicide, though Chamberlin stops him from also destroying the keys. Rather a grim story. 

BILL AND TED ARE DOOMED #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Roger Langridge. The rest of the family saves Bill, Ted and Death from being killed by metal fans and trolls. The series’ larger plot, about Bill and Ted’s quest to write the perfect song, is not resolved, because that’s what the new film is about. This was a fun series by two great creators. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #502 (DC, 1993) – “Boy Meets Girl,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. In an early chapter of Reign of the Supermen, Superboy meets Supergirl, and he and Lex compete to see who can treat her more chauvinistically. Also, Superboy signs excluisve contracts with two different news organizations, and Rex and Roxy Leech appear for the first time. I read this when it came out, and parts of it were familiar to me. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #109 – “Abhorring Vacuums,” as above. Dave’s note is a meditation on the work of Jules Feiffer. The Judge tells Cerebus about the origin of the universe. This issue consists mostly of black or white panels, with very little actual artwork. 

ALL GIRL THRILLS #1 (Print Mint, 1971) – I’d never heard of this before, but it was included in the same eBay lot as It Ain’t Me Babe. “Wiley Willy’s Realm of Karma Comix,” [W/A] Willy Mendes. A story about talking horses, with heavily psychedelic art. “Fatima and the Lion,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A wizard kidnaps a woman and turns her lover into a lion, or so we’re led to think. The woman uses a magic crown to turn herself back into a lion, since she was a lioness in the first place, and she and her lover eat the wizard. “Speed Queen,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A female aviator has an adventure involving Jimi Hendrix and Rudolph Valentino. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died just before this comic came out, and the inside front cover is a tribute to Joplin. This comic also includes some artwork by an otherwise unknown artist named Jewel. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #132 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 19,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Jaka talks to her old nurse, who’s in the prison cell next to her, and there are some more flashbacks to Jaka’s past. This issue’s letter column is four pages, with no replies from Dave. The letter columns got longer and longer as the series went on. 

PANTOMIME #2 (Mad Cave, 2020) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The kids do a bunch of thefts for the Manager, but even after they pay off their debt to him, he refuses to release them from his service. The kids decide it’s time to turn the tables on their boss. This is an entertaining crime comic. 

JUNKWAFFEL #1 (Print Mint, 1971) – various stories, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. “Tubs” part one explains why the future people are going back in time to look for food. “Machines” is a series of illustrated descriptions of futuristic weaponry. It’s barely a comic at all, and is cumbersome to read. It’s followed by a few different stories that show the weaponry in operation. As with issue 2, Junkwaffel #1 is more notable for its art than its writing. I4 would be nice if someone, ideally Fantagraphics, would publish a collection of all Bodé’s comics, since his work is scattered across lots of different publications and is mostly out of print. 

2000 AD #314 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade learns that the Teeny-Meks are controlled by a deformed man who he doesn’t recognize, but who claims to have met him before. Then Slade gets killed. A Tharg Special Thriller: “Mr. Macabre,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Josiah Skutcheon sells his soul to the demon Balaak. The title character defeats Balaak and saves Skutcheon’s soul, only to claim it for himself. Dredd: as above. The mutants who were infected by the parasite all turn into parasites themselves. Dredd incinerates all the parasites, but his own “baby” remains alive in an incubator. I don’t know if it ever appeared again. Rogue Trooper: as above. Major Magnam leads his men on an assault on a heavily defended Nort fortress. Also, he learns that Rogue is a deserter, and threatens to shoot him. Skizz: as above. Roxy is mocked at school. Skizz can’t eat the baby food and begins to starve to death. Roxy calls Loz and Cornelius for help. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #133 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim & Gerhard. In the note, Dave explains why the price of the comic is increasing. A Cirinist takes Jaka’s nurse Ada off to be executed. A flashback depicts how a young Jaka got into contact with Lord Julius. Jaka is apparently moved to a much nicer cell, where a fictionalized version of Mrs. Thatcher offers to help her. The backup story is a preview of Jeff Nicholson’s Through the Habitrails. 

NIGHT HUNTERS #1 (Floating World, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Zirtt. A science fiction story set in a dystopian future version of Caracas. Baker’s writing provides a harrowing depiction of Caracas’s squalor and crime, but he has some trouble making the story flow smoothly. I bought this comic for Alexis Zirtt’s art, and his draftsmanship and coloring are stunning. I wish I’d bought more of his work when I had the chance, because Space Riders is not easy to find. 

BLACK WIDOW #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ties That Bind Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande & Jordie Bellaire. I forgot to get issue 3. Natasha rescues her “husband” and “son” from Hydra agents, and we learn that Stevie was created from her and James’s DNA, it’s not clear why or by whom. Another Hydra agent fires a missile at Natasha’s house and sets it on fire. The art in the main sequence is much better than the art in the flashback sequence, though the contrast in the two artists’ styles is interesting. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #515 (DC, 1994) – “Massacre in Metropolis!”, [W/A] Barry Kitson, [W] Karl Kesel. Superman fights an alien named Massacre, and there’s a subplot where some “riot grrls” are trying to loot musical instruments from the ruins left by Luthor’s attack on Metropolis. I may have read this, via the library, when it came out, but I don’t remember it.  

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #141 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Melmoth Two,” as above. Dave’s note explains his disagreement with Scott McCloud on the subject of creators’ rights. At this point in the story, Cerebus is traumatized because he thinks Jaka has been executed, and all he can do is sit and stare, clutching Jaka’s doll. He gives a gold coin to Dino, an inn owner, in exchange for free room and board for life. This is a great deal for Dino because Cirin has confiscated all the gold in town, so the value of gold is hyperinflated, and Dino proceeds to use the interest on the coin to pay for renovations to the bar. However, Melmoth is mostly about the final days of Oscar Wilde, introduced in the previous story. Much of the  story is narrated with quotations from the diaries of Wilde’s friend Robert Ross. The letter column includes a lot of debate about Jaka’s abortion, and there’s a letter from future comics scholar Chris Gavaler. The backup feature is a preview of Scott McCloud’s 24-hour comic. 

KING IN BLACK: IMMORTAL HULK #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Black Christmas,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Aaron Kuder. In a wordless story, the child Hulk fights a Venom symbiote. Hulk turns into Joe Fixit and defeats Venom by outsmarting it. Specifically, he triggers Venom’s vulnerability to sound by playing Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas.” This is a real song that I hadn’t heard of before. Afterward, Joe turns back into the child Hulk in a toy store, so Hulk can have the happy Christmas his abusive father denied him. This is a really cute ending. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #3 (Image, 2020) – “The Action of Interrogation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. Frontier goes on a date with Simon, the man who was linked to the spirit of empathy and then murdered. The other heroes investigate Simon’s murder and eventually find his mother, who draws a gun on them. 

CATWOMAN #28 (DC, 2020) – “High Noon in Alleytown,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Catwoman defeats a bunch of rival criminals, a man in glasses and a top hat threatens her, and Poison Ivy makes a cameo appearance at the end. This series is okay, but I’m not sure it’s good enough to keep reading.  

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #3 (DC, 2020) – “Beneath the Greenhouse…”, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. Some of the protagonists look for a way to kill Dracula, and then they encounter the first Native American vampire. The other protagonists try to escape the train. This series is really not worth reading unless one is already a fan. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. One of the characters, a middle-aged black woman, is assaulted by a man who may be looking for the alien protagonist. Otherwise this issue is mostly small talk. The best thing about this series is Steve Parkhouse’s art. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “In the Depths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey with Jonas Scharf. A young Namor, Dorma and Attuma join forces with a team of new  undersea superheroes. This comic is really fun, and it also turns Dorma from a boring damsel-in-distress into a genuinely fun character. I love her pet fish. Benjamin Dewey’s art is also quite creative. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace, [W] Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. A lot more fun relationship drama, though I can’t summarize it because I can’t remember the characters’ names or relationships. The flashback scene is interesting because it subtly hints at Lauren’s Persian-American background: her mother decides to make ghormeh sabzi for dinner. Sina Grace is Persian-American himself. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. The protagonists travel through a cursed temple and encounter an evil monk. This series is not especially interesting, and I’m leaning toward dropping it. 

BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE #1 (DC, 2020) – “The Demon’s Fist,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Tradd Moore. The tale of a lowly flunky of Ra’s al Ghul whose job is to just hit Batman once. Tradd Moore’s art here is the best I’ve seen from him. “Weight,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III. Not much of a plot, but incredible art. I love how Williams includes visual quotations of a bunch of past Batman artists. “First Flight,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Andy Kubert. Batman and Talia fight some ninja man-bats. A straightforward but entertaining story. “Sisyphus,” [W/A] Emma Rios. I don’t know why, but I can’t stand Emma Rios’s art. Something about her style just grates on me. “Metamorphosis,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Greg Smallwood. Batman rescues a woman from Killer Croc, only she was actually happy with him. An effective depiction of Stockholm syndrome. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #10 (DC, 2020) – “Multi-Crisis on Infinite Earths,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. The most impenetrable and confusing issue yet. In a common pattern for Morrison, the longer this series goes on, the less I understand it. I’m glad there are just two issues left. 

DRYAD #7 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. The kids are unhappy to learn they’re adopted, but they find some new friends. The parents continue searching for information on the kids’ origins. I like this series, but it’s not one of my favorites.  

DECORUM #6 (Image, 2020) – “Work Less, Make More,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Neha and her fellow assassins are hired to recover a certain egg, in exchange for an entire planet made of diamond. Also there are some irrelevant subplots and background materials. Mike Huddleston has an impressive ability to draw in multiple different styles. 

HEAD LOPPER #14 (Image, 2020) – “The Gorgon,” [W/A] Andrew Maclean. The heroes arrive in Arnak Pluth and sit down to dinner, only to be attacked by red-cloaked assassins. Then they go to the Temple of Medusa and recover the Arnakian Hammer. The food that’s served to Head Lopper’s party looks really good. 

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #3 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “Little Ones,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Two runaway children visit a town called Lagrimas, where the people are bitterly divided over Trump’s border wall. This is a rare example of a Gilbert Hernandez comic that comments on contemporary US politics, and he shows a keen understanding of people’s conflicted feelings about the border. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #142 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Melmoth Three,” as above. Cerebus encounters Mick and Keef, based on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Oscar is still lucid but continues to decline. The backup feature is Sim’s 24-hour comic “Bigger Blacker Kiss,” about a newly pregnant woman in a singles bar. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #143 – “Melmoth Four,” as above. Robert Ross speaks to Wilde for the last time, and there’s a horrifying depiction of Wilde’s face infested by maggots. The backup story, “Poison” by Darryl Cunningham, is about a businessman who poisons the world and then gets poisoned himself. As is often the case with Cerebus, there are a lot of letters, but none of them are especially notable. 

2000 AD #315 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade dies, and an ”official courier” drive him to the pearly gates. Time Twisters: “The Big Clock,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Eric Bradbury. Tharg takes the reader on a tour of the facility where time is produced. I already read this story in prog 590, where it was reprinted. Dredd: “King of the Road,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. An idiot goes on a rampage because he didn’t realize he had to keep his new car fueled, and it ran out of fuel. Dredd arrests him. Skizz: as above. Loz points out the fact that Skizz’s plot is very similar to tat of E.T. Van Owen and his men barge into Roxy’s house and kidnap Skizz. Cornelius goes berserk and beats up Van Owen’s men until they tranquilize him. Rogue Trooper: as above. Gunnar saves Rogue from Magnam, and Rogue removes Magnam’s biochip and sends him back to Milli-Com. 

2000 AD #316 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade is refused entry to heaven because there’s still a Samuel C. Slade living on earth. Slade’s new mission is to find this other version of himself. Skizz: as above. We learn that Cornelius’s full name is Cornelius Cardew, a reference to an experimental composer who had recently died. Van Owen interrogates Roxy and releases her to her parents, who had been on vacation. One-shot: “Dr. Dibworthy’s Disappointing Day,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Langford. A scientist experiments with traveling back in time and changing the past. He thinks he hasn’t changed anything, but the art shows that he has caused massive changes to the world – he just doesn’t realize it, because his own memories are also affected. Eventually he prevents the Big Bang and causes the universe to disappear. The fun part of reading this story is noticing all the subtle changes to Dr. Dibworthy’s lab, such as the transformations of the Home Sweet Home sign and the bust of Voltaire. This story is also a good example of humor that results from incongruities between the writing and art: the text says “nothing happened,” but the art shows that all sorts of things have happened. Dredd: “The Stupid Gun! Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A scientist invents a gun that makes people stupid. His teenage intern shoots him with the gun, then uses it on his own parents. Then some criminals steal the gun. Dredd investigates. Time Twisters: “T.C. Spudd’s First Case,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Jim Eldridge. A sentient potato hunts down humans who eat potatoes. Rogue Trooper: “Bigfoot,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Some Nort soldiers try to find a poison that can hurt Rogue, but an unseen cryptid monster hunts down the soldiers before they can complete their mission. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #144 – “Melmoth Five,” as above. Dave’s note includes a sexist diatribe against publicly funded daycare. Cerebus imagines he sees Astoria. Oscar’s other friend Reggie Turner writes a letter to Robert Ross about Oscar’s worsening illness. Cerebus dreams about the Black Tower, then asks his waitress for a raw potato. There are several letters complaining about Dave’s antifeminism, one of which is by cartoonist Pat McEown. The backup feature is a minicomic by David Lee Ingersoll. 

THOR #606 (Marvel, 2010) – “Latverian Prometheus,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Billy Tan. Dr. Doom puts on the Destroyer armor and fights Thor. Balder goes looking for Kelda’s stolen heart. This issue is adequate, but Kieron’s Thor was not one of his better works, and he didn’t seem to be putting his full effort into it. 

A CORBEN SPECIAL #1 (Pacific, 1984) – “The Fall of the House of Usher,” [W/A] Richard Corben. An adaptation of Poe’s story of the same name. I’ve never actually read this story, so I can’t judge the faithfulness or creativity of Corben’s adaptation, but his artwork is fantastic. Corben adapted this same story again in 2013, and it would be interesting to compare the two versions.

Last trip to Heroes of the year: 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #92 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Zecora and her five friends use the Harmony Tree to become the new Elements of Harmony. With their new powers they easily defeat the Grootslang. Applejack writes a “Dear Princess Twilight” letter. An unidentified character tells a “commander” that the Desert Temple has been “activated.” This was a fun start to Season 10.

POWER PACK #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This issue is narrated by Alex. Based on Franklin’s and Val’s current ages, Alex should be over 30 now, but Ryan wisely ignores that. A new superhero named Agent Aether offers to serve as Power Pack’s mentor, and he suggests they should use their powers to create cheap electricity. I was afraid that the speech about electricity was just Ryan going off on a weird tangent, but it actually does have a narrative function. It turns out “Agent Aether” is the Wizard, and the Bogeyman was an illusion he created as part of his plot against Power Pack. Again, the characterization in this issue is very good. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #13 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This has become one of my favorite current series. The Order of St. George starts killing people, and it’s obvious by now that they care much more about maintaining their secrecy than about their mission of killling monsters. (Perhaps this is a veiled critique of American police.) Erica flees with James and Bian, then tries to end the monster threat by summoning the true form of her monster doll. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #11 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The protagonists decide to keep walking the spiral, instead of staying in Unity. Dr. Jain is not happy with this, and reveals that she’s trapped the team in neuro-space, without their knowledge. We still don’t know the content of the parents’ message. I’m not always enthusiastic about reading this comic, but it’s really well done. 

SEA OF STARS #8 (Image, 2020) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Kadyn finds the hammer again, and Dalla takes him to a space village of exiles. Kadyn makes a new friend his own age, and we learn that Dalla had a child who died of unrevealed causes. Gil continues looking for his son. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #4 (Image, 2020) – “The Eyes in the Walls,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Two reporters are shown evidence that all the events in American history since 1963 were engineered by the “deep state.” F or example, Obama really was born in Kenya, and Vince Foster was murdered. In short, the Q theory is true. Oswald offers some theories as to why people would believe all this bullshit. Then, at Oswald’s orders, Cole kills the reporters before they can spread this information. This issue hits almost too close to home, since a week after I read it, QAnon supporters tried to overthrow the American government. But precisely because of its relevance to our current political moment, Department of Truth is a really important comic. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. Another issue with a deliberately nonsensical narrative structure. The main thing we learn from this issue is that that one cave painting is really important. 

TARTARUS #8 (Image, 2020) – “In the Lands of Milk and Honey,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. Surka and Svantoo steal the Sky Raiders’ ship so that Surka can go to the Sky Raiders’ homeland. She makes the raiders build her a fleet of warships, which she uses to conquer a bunch of other planets. By accident, she kills everyone on her home planet, Queen-Meridian. Surka finally returns to Auria, but by now, there’s a rebellion brewing against her rule. I didn’t understand this issue until after I looked back at issue 7.  

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #9 (Marvel, 2020) – “I shall make you a Star-Lord,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. Peter Quill spends 144 years living with a nomadic tribe, and falls in love with a woman named Aradia. Then he returns to the Guardians. I didn’t quite understadn this issue. 

FAMILY TREE #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. In the present, Josh tries to protect his family from government troops. In the past, Josh meets his future wife Sarah and her father, who promptly gets shot by the same government troops. 

X-MEN #16 (Marvel, 2020) – “Sworded Out,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Phil Noto. In the aftermath of X of Swords, Krakoa and Arakko are unwilling to reunite. Also, Arakko’s native mutants aren’t sure they want to ally with the X-Men. Meanwhile, Scott and Jean decide to hold an election for who should be on the official X-Men team. Oh, and Doug Ramsey is married now. This issue was much more interesting than the last few, since it doesn’t assume too much familiarity with X of Swords. 

KAIJU SCORE #2 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Too Many Mullet Fish,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Everything that can go wrong with the heist does go wrong: Gina the safecracker is an impostor, and two kaiju show up, rather than one. This issue is exciting, but I still wish there was more “kaiju” and less “score.” 

SCARENTHOOD #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Nick Roche, [A] Chris O’Halloran. The other parents deduce that Cormac has killed his wife and buried her in the backyard, but in fact it’s his dog that’s buried there. Only the dog’s grave is empty. Cormac gets a gambling-addicted priest to hold an exorcism, which causes Scooper’s “Big Boy” to show up. This series is a successful mixture of humor and horror. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. In a flashback, Jacey tells a teacher about her father’s abuse, and the teacher is totally helpful. Then Jacey meets a dog which is probably her future partner, and decides to runs away from home just before her twelfth birthday, when her dad is going to do God-knows-what to her. Jacey’s dad is an utterly terrifying character. Not much happens in the present-day storyline.

USAGI YOJIMBO: WANDERER’S ROAD #2 (IDW, 2020) – “A Mother’s Love,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. In a story reprinted from vol. 1 #8, Usagi meets a sweet old lady whose son has become a cruel mob boss. The woman asks Usagi to kill her son for her, but he refuses, so she kills him herself. This is one of Stan’s saddest stories, though I previously complained that it was manipulative. https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/reviews-for-first-half-of-march/#uy8

KING-SIZE CONAN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Aftermath – and a Beginning,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Steve McNiven. A prequel to Conan #1, bridging the gap from the siege of Venarium to Conan’s first comics appearance. McNiven draws this story in a style similar to that of the early BWS. “In the City of Thieves,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Pete Woods. Two wizards try to hire Conan to guard them while they summon a demon. Conan refuses, due to his well-known fear of sorcery. The wizards’ summoning attempt is fatal to them, and Conan loots their gold and jewels. This story takes place right before “The Tower of the Elephant.” I like how Marvel got the two best Conan comics writers to work on this issue. “Die by the Sword,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Roberto de La Torre. Conan kills a woman warrior and then watches her daughter also die. This story is pretty grim, and it’s weird that Claremont wrote it, since he’s only written one previous Conan story (not counting his stories with Kulan Gath). The other two stories in this issue aren’t worth mentioning. 

WONDER WOMAN #769 (DC, 2020) – “Liar Liar Returns,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Steve Pugh. Diana finally gets Liar Liar to come to her senses, then takes her to Paradise Island. Again, this issue is more about Liar Liar than Diana herself. 

MAESTRO #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key Part Five: Rondo,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Hulk defeats Hercules for good and becomes the ruler of the world, but at the cost of Rick’s friendship. This series wasn’t really worth buying, and I don’t plan to read the sequel, War & Pax. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Brad and Amanda get married, but someone kidnaps Amanda’s daughter. This comic’s SF elements are extremely understated. I don’t know why no one can tell that the protagonist is an alien, since he looks like an alien to the reader. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #146 – “Melmoth Seven,” as above. Oscar continues to decline. Archbishop Posey goes looking for Cerebus, but is captured by Cirinists; we later learn that he died in prison. There are a bunch of letters about abortion and overpopulation. I feel obligated to read all the letters or at least skim them, but they’re often very tiresome. The backup story is Richard Corben’s “Tales of the Diamond: Blood Birth,” an unsuccessful experiment with computer art. 

That’s it for 2020. I read 2,237 comics this year, only 25 fewer than in 2019. That’s impressive given all the… stuff… that happened in 2020. Of these, 171 were issues of 2000 AD. 

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October and November reviews

New comics purchased on October 1: 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #9 (DC, 2020) – “The Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Part 2,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] various. Another collection of short vignettes about individual Legionnaires, illustrated by an all-star cast including Mike Grell, Art Adams and Michel Fiffe. Some of these pages are beautiful or funny or both; I especially like the vignettes about Bouncing  Boy and Invisible Kid (Jacques, not Lyle). However, this series still has a severe lack of plot or characterization. 

ONCE AND FUTURE #11 (Boom!, 2020) – “The Kings Are Undead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Gran cuts off Grendel’s arm with a chainsaw, but that of course is not the end of the poem, because Grendel’s mother shows up next. Nothing about this issue particularly stands out, but this is still the best current monthly comic. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #24 (Marvel, 2020) – “Cold Snap,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. Finally we’re done with Empire. Jo-Venn and N’Kalla get ready for school – oh, by the way, Ben and Alicia have adopted Jo-Venn and N’Kalla, but I didn’t know that because it happened in an Empire tie-in issue. More on that later. Iceman gives Franklin a ride home from Krakoa, and this provides an opportunity for a flashback explaining how Iceman was once a member of the FF. The flashback takes up most of the issue and uses a Silver Age style of dialogue and coloring. It’s very fun. There’s also an unnecessary Thor backup story. 

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #3 (Image, 2020) – “Into the Thorns,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guéra. To save Sharri, Jael is forced to make a deal with the serpent from the Garden of Eden. Sharri and Jael escape their pursuers, but get stuck at the edge of an impassable fissure. This is another thrilling issue, and R.M. Guéra should be nominated for an Eisner for best artist. 

THE LUDOCRATS #5 (Image, 2020) – “The Existential Trials of Otto von Subertan,” [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. Otto wins his trial, sort of, but is unable to stop the Hyper-Pope from homogenizing the universe. The next four pages are drawn like a black-and-white autobio comic, and then Otto shouts “Boring!” and he and Hades rampage through the back matter of the issue. Besides Alienated, this was the best miniseries of 2020, and I hope there’s a sequel to it. 

SEA OF STARS #7 (Image, 2020) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Dalla reveals she betrayed Kadyn, then collapses. Gil tells a disgusting story about Kadyn’s infancy, and then hunts a space whale. I’ve sort of lost track of this series’ plot, but I still love it. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids learn to see xenoplasmic parasites, like in Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange, which is the main inspiration for this whole series. Then they visit a fortuneteller and fight some teenage hoodlums. The back matter includes some fake recipes. Strange Academy is currently the funniest Marvel comic.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #1 (Image, 2020) – “The End of the World”, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Our protagonist is Cole Turner, a scholar who studies conspiracy theories (as a couple friends of mine do). Cole is recruited by the Department of Truth, which monitors conspiracies because “the more people believe in something, the more true that thing becomes.” As an example of this, the head of the department is Lee Harvey Oswald. So far this series is brilliant, and also very timely considering how conspiracy theories have taken over the Republican Party. My major complaint about Martin Simmonds’s previous series, Dying is Easy, was that it wasted his talents. That is not an issue with this series. James Tynion gives Simmonds every possible opportunity to exercise his design sense and his command of mixed media, and as a result, Simmonds’s artwork gives Department of Truth a spooky, paranoid atmosphere. Overall this is a strong debut issue. 

WICKED THINGS #5 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Lottie helps solve a casino robbery, while we finally get an update on the Miyamoto subplot. At the end of  the issue, Lottie escapes her house arrest. I’m sorry Wicked Things isn’t an ongoing series. It’s so much fun. 

ALIENATED #6 (Boom!, 2020) – “And on Purpose Too,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgooose. Samuel destroys the entire town in a fit of white rage, but it turns out to to just be a vision, and Samantha helps Chip free itself and return to space. Samantha gets a reasonably happy ending. I was going to say that Ludocrats was the best miniseries of 2020, but actually Alienated was better. I especially appreciate its critique of white entitlement, as represented by Samuel. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #252 (Image, 2020) – “Savage Dragon Salutes the Funnies,” [W] Erik Larsen. Because this series is such a guilty pleasure, it’s easy to forget that Erik Larsen is in fact a gifted cartoonist. Every so often he does a clever formal experiment, and this issue is one of his cleverer ones. This issue is a series of parodies of comic strips, including Peanuts, Cathy, Popeye, Doonesbury, etc. Erik perfectly imitates the style of each strip, and also selects appropriate subject matter to go with each strip’s style; for example, the Calvin & Hobbes strip is about one of the Dragon children and her talking tiger friend. 

ASCENDER #13 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Mother puts out an APB on the UGC rebels. Meanwhile, Mila and her shipmates reach the planet of the Between, and the first person they meet there is Dr. Quon. There’s only one brief scene with Andy and Effie. The highlight of this issue is that Mila is super cute, especially on page one when she’s playing with Bandit. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #90 (IDW, 2020) – “Home Coming,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. We get Zecora’s origin story. I’m disappointed to learn that her rhyming is just an affectation and not some kind of genetic thing. Then Zecora has to help her old friends defend the town from a monster called the Grootslang, a name also used in Lumberjanes. A highlight of this issue is the opening panel, a swipe from Batman’s origin story. 

SKULLDIGGER AND SKELETON BOY #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tonci Zonjic. The protagonist (whose name I forget) starts accompanying Skulldigger on missions, but then Officer Reyes finds and “rescues” him. Issue 3 came out back in February, so it’s hard to remember anything about this series’ plot. But this is not a bad issue, and Tonci Zonjic’s art is fantastic. 

CHU #3 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 3,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. Saffron has to kill someone for the first time to save Chu. Then she has to kill someone else immediatley. This is another funny issue, though as usual Chu is not quite as good as Chew. 

THE GOON #12 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Mike Norton. The Goon and the Brewster women defeat Matthew Hopkins with the aid of a bunch of other witches. This was a fun storyline. Next issue Eric Powell will be back. 

GIDEON FALLS #25 (Image, 2020) – “Wicked Worlds Part 4: Are You Feeling Sinister?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. An old blind guy tells Angela the origin of the multiverse, but then gets possessed by the Black Barn, and she escapes and finds some people who are organizing the new Ploughmen. This issue’s first seven pages are a series of beautiful collages. 

SHANG-CHI #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Brothers and Sisters,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi has retired from his life of adventure and is working in a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant, but Leiko Wu recruits him for a secret mission, which involves saving his younger sister. As far as I know, Gene Luen Yang is the first East Asian person to ever write Shang-Chi – unless Larry Hama wrote him at some point – and it shows. Besides being familiar with Asian culture (for example, crystal cakes are a real thing), Yang shows an insider’s understanding of Shang-Chi’s psychology. I love Shang-Chi’s explanation of why he speaks like he does: “If I slow my cadence and use ‘wise’ words, Westerners look atme, rather than past me, when I speak.” Moments like this help redeem the character from his origins as a stereotype. Similarly, Yang solves the problem of Shang-Chi’s association with Fu Manchu, a character who Marvel can no longer use and probably would not use if they could. Yang excises Fu Manchu from Shang-Chi’s continuity and replaces him with a different villain who seems more associated with the wuxia than with the yellow peril genre. Overall this is the best Shang-Chi revival ever, and probably the only good one. I look forward to reading more of it. 

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #3 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Eddie and Tala get captured, but they manage to escape. However, Randy, who Tala planned to use as a substitute for her mother, is killed. At the end of the issue, Tala finally makes telepathic contact with her mother. This is a fun issue, but this series comes out so infrequently that it’s hard to remember its plot. 

LONELY RECEIVER #1 (AfterShock, 2020) – “I’m the Maker of My Own Evil,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. In a future setting, a woman named Catrin gets a new cell phone whose AI incarnates itself as a woman named Rhion. Catrin and Rhion fall in love, but then Rhion leaves, and Catrin becomes desolate. So in short, this is a love story about a woman and her phone. It’s a great idea for a story, and Thompson and Hickman tell that story with a lot of emotion. However,  I found it very difficult to figure out what this comic was about until I read the text features at the end. 

SHADOW SERVICE #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. Gina is kidnapped by agents of MI666, who force her to help them find a certain demon lord. This is an entertaining series, and Corin Howell is good at drawing body horror. The demon on the last page is especially gruesome. 

2000 AD #523 (IPC, 1987) – Anderson: “Hour of the Wolf” part 4, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. An unnamed villainess tries to assassinate Anderson by mind-controlling another Judge. As part of the mind control, the villainess appears to the Judge as a leather-clad dominatrix. Besides that I don’t quite understand this story. Rogue Trooper: “Hit One,” [W] Simon Geller, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue continues his mission and has a nightmare about an awful fanged monster. Dredd: “Pit Rat,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. Dredd investigates an underground rat-fighting ring. Nemesis: “Torquemada the God,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Sister Sturn has borne Torquemada a son, but she becomes convinced that the baby is a monster. Meanwhile, Torquemada’s current body is decaying. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 19,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Red amuse themselves by shooting Reagan with a slingshot. Otherwise noto much happens. 

CURSE WORDS #17 (Image, 2018) – “Them Blue Wizard Blues Part Two,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Jacques Zacques has gotten stuck in the sunken Titanic, but a character named Mr. Opaque rescues him. Meanwhile, Margaret tries to get straight answers from Wizord, but fails.  I have issue 18 but have not gotten to it yet. 

IMMORTAL HULK: THE THRESHING PLACE #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Threshing Place,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mike Del Mundo. While passing through a small town in Toews County (an apparent hockey reference), the Hulk discovers a farm that’s experimenting on gamma-powered people. He rescues a little girl who’s a test subject at the farm. The main attraction of this comic is Mike Del Mundo’s beautiful painted art. He’s a great talent, but I haven’t seen a lot of his work lately. 

YUMMY FUR #16 (Vortex, 1989) – “Ed,” [W/A] Chester Brown. Frankenstein’s monster rescues the little girls from the aliens, and Ronald Reagan meets the guy whose penis looks like Reagan’s face. Also, there’s an adaptation of Matthew 2:14 to 2:23, the story of the flight into Egypt. 

2000 AD #560 (Fleetway, 1988) – As of prog 536 the publisher is named Fleetway instead of IPC. ABC Warriors: “The Black Hole,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] S.M.S. (real name Simon Short). This was the first new ABC Warriors story since the original one, although they had guest-starred in Nemesis. According to http://theslingsandarrows.com/abc-warriors-the-black-hole/, Pat Mills abandoned the ABC Warriors because it was too hard to work with a rotating team of artists. He returned to them when he found two then-new artists, SMS and Simon Bisley. SMS in particular is a major revelation. His draftsmanship is beautiful and incredibly rich in detail. That’s probably why “The Black Hole” is his only major comics work: his style is too labor-intensive for periodical comics, and he’s spent most of his career as an illustrator. Too bad. Strontium Dog: “Stone Killers! Part One,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and an unrevealed partner (I assume Durham Red) are assigned to hunt down some silicon-based killers. Dredd: “Dredd in Oz Part 16: Halls of Judda,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brendan McCarthy. Dredd infiltrates a city of Judda, i.e. Judge clones created by an evil scientist named Judd. As usual, McCarthy’s artwork is excellent, but I wish the whole story was in color. Nemesis: “Purity’s Story,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Roach. Nemesis asks Purity Brown to make Torquemada fall in love with her, so she can then betray him. Purity had appeared in earlier Nemesis stories, but I forget what her role was. Future Shocks: “Killer Rhythms,” [W] Dick Foreman, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Some aliens use a psychoactive dance song to conquer Earth. 

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #16 (Marvel, 2014) – “The Accursed, Part Four: I, Thor… Condemn Thee to Die,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ron Garney & Emanuela Lupacchino. Thor has to back off from avenging Oggy’s death on Malekith. Then the members of the League of Realms debate which of them is a traitor. Thor decides it’s Ud and uncharacteristically kills him in cold blood. The League disbands, and Thor and Wazira go to Svartalfheim, where Malekith reveals that Thor himself is the traitor. I didn’t quite understand what was going on here. I need to read #17. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #8 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. We are now in Zone Two, Unity, a super-advanced realm of nanotech. A new version of Uncle Sam leads the team to a city that’s a hybrid of Seattle and San Francisco. In the city is a replica of Daniel and Charlotte’s childhood home, complete with replicas of their parents. Intriguing. 

IMMORTAL SHE-HULK #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Three Deaths of Jennifer Walters,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Al Ewing integrates She-Hulk into Immortal Hulk continuity. This issue focuses on Jen’s multiple deaths – in her origin story, in Civil War II, and in Empyre. This issue is well-written, but it’s not worth the damage it does to Jen’s character. Ewing presents her as a passive victim, erasing much of the character development she was given by Dan Slott, Charles Soule and Mariko Tamaki. 

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #10 (DC, 2020) – “The Wake-Up Call,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Constantine confronts his future self, and meanwhile, someone starts killing off all the supporting characters from earlier in the series. This isn’t Spurrier’s best issue, but this series is easily the best current DC comic, except maybe Far Sector, and it’s a scandal that DC cancelled it prematurely. 

BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY #6 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Unburied Bones,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Ray Bailey. A boring Chinese-themed ghost story. At least it’s not overtly racist. Of the other three stories in the issue, the only one that’s even worth mentioning is “Voyage of No Return” because it’s an early work of Frank Thorne, though it’s hard to tell. ‘

SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “A Muddy Plot” and other stories, [W/A] Richard Corben. Three EC-esque horror stories, illustrated in black and white but with gruesome draftsmanship and skillful use of greytones. The fourth story, in a rather different vein, is part two of Denaeus, in which the hero is sent to fight a Harryhausen-esque cyclops. 

IRON MAN #27 (Marvel, 2014) – “Rings of the Mandarins, Chapter V,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Cliff Richards & Joe Bennett. This issue has a striking cover by Christian Ward, but its interior story, about the Mandarin, is kind of boring. Kieron’s Iron Man seems like it was kind of uninspired, though Iron Man is hard to write well.

DETECTIVE COMICS #656 (DC, 1993) –“Besieged,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tom Mandrake. Again, this issue’s cover, by Sam Kieth, is perhaps better than the interior story. In this issue the General, a little boy who thinks he’s a world conqueror, invades the Gotham police station, and Batman defeats him. I think I read this as a kid, because I remember Batman telling the General that he’ll be tried as an adult. On the next-to-last page, the General’s little sister asks “Dad, could Ulysses go to the electric chair?” and Dad says “We can always hope.” That joke is reminiscent of 2000 AD’s style of humor. 

MARTHA WASHINGTON STRANDED IN SPACE #1 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Crossover,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] Dave Gibbons. Martha Washington discovers a stranded spacecraft that contains Big Guy, from another Frank Miller series, The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. Miller draws a contrast between Martha’s grim reality and Big Guy’s utopian one. There’s also a backup story where Martha fights some fake aliens. This story is a thinly veiled reference to Watchmen. Dave Gibbons’s draftsmanship in this issue is excellent, but is nearly ruined by bad computer coloring. 

An order from mycomicshop.com: 

LEGION OF CHARLIES #1 (Last Gasp, 1971) – “The Legion of Charlies,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. This was a bargain at about $8. Legion of Charlies is Veitch and Irons’s greatest work, and is included in Paul Gravett’s list of 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die. It begins with six pages where the My Lai massacre and the Manson Family’s Tate-LaBianca murders are depicted in parallel. The subsequent story is about Vietnam vet Rusty Kali, who becomes part of a cannibalistic terrorist cult inspired by Charles Manson. The theme of the story is that the violence that America inflicted on the Vietnamese people is now being inflicted on America itself, through the agency of criminals like Manson: what goes around comes around. Greg Irons illustrates this story with gruesome draftsmanship and skillful use of Zip-a-Tone. This comic is brutal to read, but it’s one of the monumental works of underground comics, and I’m glad I own it. 

BATTLE #355 (IPC, 1982) – “Charley’s War,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Joe Colquhoun. “Charley’s War” is often considered the greatest British comic. It was an unflinching, unsentimental depiction of the horror of World War I. In this issue’s installment, protagonist Charley saves a comrade from drowning in a mudhole by insulting him, and thus keeping  him awake. This installment is good, but it’s not the best war comic I’ve ever read, or anything. However, it does make me want to read more of the series, though I’m not sure if I can stand it. Joe Colquhoun’s depictions of mud and rain are super-realistic. This issue’s color story is “Johnny Red” by Tom Tully and John Cooper, a series that was later revived by Garth Ennis. Other writers in this issue are Gerry Finley-Day, Alan Hebden and Scott Goodall, and other artists are Geoff Campion, Carlos Pino, Ron Tiner and Phil Gascoine. I know this because Battle included creator credits, like 2000 AD but unlike so many other British comics. 

WYND #1 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. In the opening sequence, our teenage protagonist, Wynd, has a nightmare where he turns into a winged monster. Then we meet his foster sister Oakley and his foster parents, and we watch him spying on his crush, Ash the royal gardener. But Wynd’s fairly idyllic existence is about to end because the king has hired the eerie Bandaged Man to hunt down everyone with magical abilities – including Wynd. This is an excellent debut issue, though I wish I had read this series in order. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #14 (Marvel, 2014) – “The Fantastic Four Are Doomed! Part Two: Trial by Fire,”[W] Matt Fraction & Karl Kesel, [A] Raffaele Ienco. I missed this when it came out. This issue, an alternate-dimensional Johnny Storm tells Reed and Sue how they can cure their rapid degeneration, but they have to defeat an alternate Doom and Kang to do it. A highlight of this issue is the surprise Lockjaw appearance. It seems that when the FF went on vacation, Sue was afraid that the kids would be bored without Internet access, so she got Medusa to give her a whistle that could summon Lockjaw. 

2000 AD #255 (IPC, 1982) – Nemesis: “Book II,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Jesús Redondo. Nemesis tries to convince a cabal of aliens to not make war on Earth. Purity Brown guest-stars in this story. Mean Arena: “The Oxford Invaders,” [W] A. Ridgeway, [A] Mike White. A standard example of the Mean Arena formula. A. Ridgeway is unidentified. There is speculation that A. Ridgeway was Tom Tully, but no one knows for sure. Rogue Trooper: “The Petrified Forest,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Mike Dorey. Rogue fights a Nort squad of monsters. I like Mike Dorey’s use of shading. Dredd: “The Apocalypse War Part 11,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd helps organize the resistance to the East-Meg invasion, while the city is evacuated. This was one of the definitive Dredd stories. Ace Trucking Co: “The Great Mush Rush Part 5,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Ace and his crew participate in a spaceship race. This story includes some incredible draftsmanship. Ace’s dialogue is annoying, but in a charming way. Future Shocks: “Voyage of Discovery!”, [W] Chris Stevens, [A] Eric Bradbury. A spacefaring family is eaten by what appears to be a black hole but is in fact a giant space whale. 

CRIME PATROL #3 (Gemstone, 1948/2000) – I paid too much for this; MyCoX-micShop temporarily discounted it from $4 to $1, and I forgot to delete it from the cart when the discount was removed. “The Slaughter Syndicate,” [W] unknown, [A] Johnny Craig. Two hitmen go on a crime spree but eventually get caught. Not much good. “The Grotto of the Green Stone Man!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Ann Brewster. A mildly science-fictional story in which an adventurous young woman and her boyfriend investigate the legend of a green stone idol. “Double-Crossed,” [W] unknown, [A] Al Feldstein: A thief murders a woman, then escapes from the police but gets caught. Overall this is a dumb comic, and it’s not nearly as clever or energetic as a typical New Trend issue. I assume these stories were not written by Kurtzman or Feldstein. 

X-RAY ROBOT #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Allred. I don’t especially understand this comic’s plot because it’s been six months between issues, and also the plot makes little sense to begin with. There are a ton of different alternate dimensions and different versions of the same characters. What is valuable about this comic is that Allred’s artwork is terrific. This series is a perfect expression of his neo-Silver Age style. There are a couple of 3D pages at the end, but 3D glasses are not included. 

SWEET TOOTH #27 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Taxidermist Part 2 of 3: Taboos,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. Thacker’s brother-in-law Louis explains how he opened an underground vault and pissed off the Inuit gods. Louis shows Thacker his newborn son, who has antlers. The significance of this flashback story will become clear later. 

AQUAMAN #63 (DC, 2020) – “Homecoming Finale,” [W] Jordan Clark, [A] Marco Santucci. Jackson and his new boyfriend Ha’wea fight in defense of Xebel, and then Jackson has a heart-to-heart talk with each of his parents. This storyline was okay, but I could have done without it. 

PLANETOID PRAXIS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Some years after issue 1, the planetoid is invaded by a giant corporation called Heliocor. This is a very cute and upbeat series, despite its often grim subject matter.  

WYND #4 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Wynd, Oakley, Ash and the prince travel through an underground tunnel to a forest, where they meet up with a faerie that looks like a humanoid insect. They get to Southport only to find that the Bandaged Man has beaten them there. The four party members have a series of heart-to-heart conversations. This is a really incredible series. It’s a heartfelt parable about being persecuted for who you are. It has superb characterization, and Michael Dialynas’s artwork creates a convincing sense of weirdness. 

BATTLE ACTION #147 (IPC, 1977) – This is the same series as Battle, though its publishing history is a bit confusing. At this point Battle had just been merged with Action, a series that was cancelled for excessive violence. Battle and Action were notable as the starting point of the British boys’ comics renaissance that led to 2000 AD. This issue’s cover feature is about the death of Sam Shimura, a Japanese-American WWII soldier. Other stories include Johnny Red; The Spinball Wars, which feels more appropriate to 2000 AD; Major Eazy, in color and apparently drawn by Ezquerra; and Dredger, a secret agent parody. This issue does not include creator credits yet, but one of the stories is signed by John Cooper, and another looks like Mike Dorey.

SWEET TOOTH #33 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Continuing Adventures of the Big Man and the Boy,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. A sideways-formatted issue narrated from Gus’s perspective. It kind of looks like a children’s book. Gus, Tommy and company head off to Alaska, but meanwhile, the Doctor invades the dam and blows open the doors. 

2000 AD #459 (IPC, 1986) – I just realized that the cover caption “Wagner’s Flying Dutchman” could mean either Richard or John Wagner. Halo Jones: “Heavy Duty,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Having joined the army, Halo learns about the giant suits she has to wear in order to survive on the high-gravity planet of Moab. Slaine: “Tomb of Terror,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine fights the nine-dimensional monster Grimnismal and the humanoid demon Elfric. This is another rather Moorcockian story, and not just because of Elfric’s name. As usual, Glenn Fabry’s art is stunning. After the story is a chapter of an RPG module that tells the same story in interactive form. Dredd: “The Last Voyage of the Flying Dutchman,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Bryan Talbot. The Flying Dutchman, a literal flying ship, tries to destroy the Hall of Justice. Talbot’s art here is a good example of his mature style. Ace: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Ace and his other-dimensional duplicate are imprisoned on a planet of talking chickens. Strontium Dog: “Max Bubba,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf and Johnny search for a criminal in ancient Viking times. 

BLACK MAGICK #14 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I (Part 003),” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Alex kills the creepy demon girl, then visits Rowan’s house only to find Rowan in bed with her new partner. Meanwhile, the creepy white-skinned woman has already been to Rowan’s house and threatened Rowan’s cat familiar. The confusing thing about this series is that I don’t understand who the villains are or what they want. 

G.I. JOE, A REAL AMERICAN HERO #178 (IDW, 2012) – untitled, [W] Larry Hama, [A] S.L. Gallant. The Baroness and Snake-Eyes fight a bunch of ninjas whose command post is in an ice cream truck. This is not the first GI Joe story involving an ice cream truck; see also #93. This series also has a running joke about grape soda, and I think this is somehow related to the ice cream trucks, but I’m not sure. 

AVENGERS #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid & Jeremy Whitley, [A] Phil Noto. The Avengers’ Baxter Building headquarters is infiltrated by a villain named Avenger X. The best thing about this issue is that one of the POV characters is Nadia Pym. 

LETTER 44 #15 (Oni, 2015) – “Dark Matter Part One,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alfredo Jimenez Albuquerque. President Blades starts a war with the UK for some reason, while the evil ex-President gives an interview about how he learned about the aliens. Meanwhile, in space, baby Astra talks for the first time. This issue actually has the same shock ending (a newborn baby speaking intelligible English) as Miracleman #9. 

FRANKENSTEIN UNDERGROUND #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Ben Stenbeck. Frankenstein’s monster tells an old lady about its tragic history. This comic has some pretty good art, but it’s a typical Hellboy comic, it’s of little interest other than to Hellboy fans, and I’m not sure why I even own it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #651 (DC, 1992) – “A Bullet for Bullock,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. Bullock investigates an attempt on his life. The culprit is eventually revealed as Bullock’s landlord. It seems that Bullock is an awful tenant, and also he lives in a rent-controlled apartment, so the landlord can’t raise his rent. This ending is funny, but Bullock is an annoying, one-note character and I don’t enjoy reading about him. 

SWEET TOOTH #34 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Ballad of Johnny and Abbot,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Jeff Lemire with Nate Powell. This is Nate Powell’s second issue of Sweet Tooth, after #19. Those may well be the only monthly comic books he’s ever done, though with comicbookdb  gone, it’s hard to check that. Most of this issue is a flashback, illustrated by Powell, depiting the relationship between the Doctor – Doug Abbot – and his brother Johnny. The Doctor spends most of his life protecting Doug from their abusive father and then from the apocalypse. But back in the present, Johnny refuses to tell the Doctor where the kids have gone, and the Doctor loses patience and shoots him dead. The flashback section of this issue is a harrowing depiction of child abuse. 

THE WOODS #6 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Another story about a good kid and his awful older brother. This issue focuses on Calder, the orange-haired kid, who has spent his entire life covering up for his horrible brother Casey’s crimes. In flashback sequences, we see how Calder is so afraid of Casey that he repeatedly damages his own future just to keep Casey away. It’s a rather terrifying story, though the reader does get angry with Calder for his refusal to tell an adult about Casey’s abuse. Back in the present time frame, the kids encounter a bunch of weird creatures, and Calder tames a giant tiger and rides it. 

2000 AD #474 (IPC, 1986) – Anderson: “The Possessed,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. Anderson finds herself in a fantasy world where she fights a demon called Gargarax. Bad City Blue: untitled, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Robin Smith. Dirty Blue is a gangster aboard a spacefaring city that’s being sucked into a black hole. Blue’s futuristic-slang-filled dialogue is annoying to read. Future Shocks: “The Last Rumble of the Platinum Horde!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Higgins. An alien empire conquers one planet after another, until they unknowingly conquer the planet they started from. This is reprinted from #217. Dredd: “The Law According to Judge Dredd,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kevin O’Neill. In the Cursed Earth, a grotesque mutant dresses up like Judge Dredd and sets himself up as the local authority. When the real Dredd shows up to rescue some stranded Mega-City citizens, the fake Dredd arrests him. Strontium Dog: “Rage,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny battles some hijackers aboard a spaceliner. This issue’s back cover is an installment of Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy’s “Sooner or Later.” As expected, the best thing about McCarthy’s art is his vibrant use of color, and his draftsmanship is designed to accentuate his coloring. 

BATTLE ACTION #196 (IPC, 1978) – None of this issue‘s stories are signed, or if they are, I didn’t notice the signatures. I really wish the GCD had better coverage of British comics. It might be impossible at this point to track down credits for thousands of stories in thousands of old British comics, but I get the sense that for many of these stories, the credits are in fact known to some fans; it’s just that the credits haven’t been recorded in a central repository. Recurring features in this issue include Johnny Red and The Sarge, and another standout is Operation Shark, which has some impressive drawings of underwater combat. Like Warlord, Battle Action had more creative and dynamic page layouts compared to older British comics. 

BACCHUS #33 (Eddie Campbell, 1998) – “The Strokes of Change Which Come Like a Traveler in the Night,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. This is story 8 of 1001 Nights of Bacchus. It consists mostly of an illustrated poem, about a cursed beer that was responsible for the downfall of people like Caligula and Hitler. There’s also a chapter of Hermes vs. the Eyeball Kid, possibly reprinted from Dark Horse Presents, and, most notably, a 1988 story that was later expanded into Graffiti Kitchen. Graffiti Kitchen is one of Campbell’s most lyrical works, though it depicts a rather creepy age-gap relationship, and the 1988 version has some of that same lyricism. On the inside front cover, Eddie uses the word “scribbling” to refer to a type of untutored drawing which produces “pictorial statements of simple and perfect truth.” I remember he used the same word to refer to a quick sketch he did for me at Comic-Con. 

2000 AD #564 (Fleetway, 1988) – ABC Warriors: “The Black Hole,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. The ABC Warriors fight an army commander whose daughter ran off with a robot. I can’t quite follow the plot here, but Bisley’s draftsmanship is spectacular. He’s just as good at pencil art as he is at painting. Dredd: “Dredd in Oz Part 20,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] John Higgins. Dredd confronts Chopper, a fugitive from Mega-City One, but agrees to refrain from arresting him until after the Supersurf race. Supposedly Wagner and Grant disagreed over how this story should end, and their partnership broke up as a result, though I read an interview where Wagner instead said their breaking point was The Last American. Nemesis: “Purity’s Story,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Roach. Torquemada sends a monster called the Mimesis to fight Nemesis, and it apparently wins. I know David Roach is an admirer of the French artist Paul Gillon, and his spotting of blacks reminds me of Gillon, or maybe Al Williamson. Future Shocks: “Care,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Richard Elson. A mostly silent story about a little boy with destructive powers. This story references the Sellafield disaster, a possible reference to a real nuclear disaster in 1957. Strontium Dog: “Stone Killers,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Durham Red fight some of the silicon-based crooks. 

SWEET TOOTH #35 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Singh Tapes: Vol. 3: Alaska,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Volume 1 of The Singh Tapes was in issue 12, but I don’t know if there was a volume 2. This issue employs a formal gimmick where each page tells two separate stories. The top three-quarters of each pagetell the story of a worker at the Anchor Bay research facility. His pregnant wife appears to miscarry, but after his fellow coworkers come down with the plague, he discovers that his son survived but was born with horns. The baby, of course, was Gus, and the protagonist of this part of the story is his biological father. On the bottom panel tier of each page, in a sequence set in the present timeframe, Dr. Singh investigates the now-deserted Anchor Bay facility and finds the same tombs we saw in #27. Then he’s confronted by six animal-human hybrids. 

KILLADELPHIA #8 (Image, 2020) – “Burn Baby Burn Part II: Oh So Close…”, [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shaun Alexander. In the afterlife, James Sangster Sr is conducted by Charon to his dead wife, but then he has to return to life to help his son out. I’ve had enough of this series and will be dropping it from my pull list. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. The clockwork soldiers visit a town whose people were turned into scarecrows by the Shrouded Man, and they team up with a woman who’s the only survivor of the town. I still haven’t read issue 3, but I will try to get to it tomorrow. 

MAESTRO #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Hulk meets some survivors who tell him about the Maestro. Then he meets the actual Maestro, who is not the Hulk himself but Hercules. This series is okay, but it’s not as exciting or funny as PAD’s original Hulk run.  

SWEET TOOTH #36 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Wild Game Part 1 of 4,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue’s first seven pages are a dream sequence, colored by Jeff himself in the same style as Royal City. After that, the protagonists reach Anchor Bay and meet Dr. Singh and Gus’s six siblings. Dr. Singh tells a crazy schizophrenic story about the origin of the plague, but even after having finished the series, I still don’t quite get what caused the plague, or what was in the Inuit tombs. Maybe it’ll make sense if I read the whole series in order. 

2000 AD #566 (Fleetway, 1988) – ABC Warriors: as above. The ABC Warriors are almost executed, along with their human new friend Terri, who thinks she’s a robot. But they survive and fight some zombies. Again, Bisley’s draftsmanship is incredible. Tyranny Rex: “in His Image,” [W] John Smith, [A] Steve Dillon. Rex gets a job working for a rock star obviously based on Prince. This was 2000 AD’s second Prince parody in two years; see also prog 513. Dredd: “Dredd in Oz Part 22: Wipe-Out,” as above except [A] Barry Kitson. Chopper competes in the deadly Supersurf race, and the chapter ends with him falling off his board. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Durham Red recruit Middenface McNulty, who appears to be the stone criminals’ next victim. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis has a philosophical conversation with Purity, and admits that he has more respect for bugs than humans, due to the former’s survival ability. This story is an interesting glimpse into Nemesis’s mentality. Nemesis himself sometimes seems like a supporting character in his own series, because Torquemada is a far more compelling character and, like Satan in Paradise Lost, Torquemada feels like the real protagonist.  

BATTLE #385 (IPC, 1982) – This issue’s cover feature is John Wagner and Jim Watson’s “Fight for the Falklands,” a rather jingoistic depiction of the Falklands War. The two features in this issue that I’ve seen before are Johnny Red and Clash of the Guards. There’s also The Fists of Jimmy Chang, a late example of the kung fu genre, and Truck Turpin, about a “trans-America truck rally.” Writers in this issue include Tom Tully, Gerry-Finley-Day, Scott Goodall and Alan Hebden, and artists include Vano, Carlos Pino, Eric Bradbury, John Cooper and John Vernon. 

CHEW #33 (Image, 2013) – “Bad Apples Part 3 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Chu and Colby are sent to Yamapalu Island to investigate a cult of egg worshippers. They bring along a secret weapon, which we’re led to assume is Poyo. The twist is that Poyo is busy fighting “Pengthulu,” and the secret weapon is just a bunch of baseballs. But Tony is able to use the baseballs to save the day anyway. 

SWEET TOOTH #37 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Wild Game Part 2,” as above. The Doctor plans his invasion of Anchor Bay, and sends the dead crow kid and the wounded Bobby as messengers of his arrival. The various protagonists have a series of conversations with each other. This is a calm-before-the-storm issue. 

2000 AD #569 (Fleetway, 1988) – Rogue Trooper: “Message in a Battle,” [W] Simon Geller, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue carries out another assassination mission and runs into Venus Bluegenes. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Durham Red join McNulty and fight the stone dudes. Dredd: “Dredd in Oz Part 25: Gasoline Alley,” as above except [A] Jim Baikie. The race continues, and Chopper and his nemesis Jug McKenzie are neck and neck as they approach the finish line. Future Shocks: “Of Glooking Globs and Gloins,” [W] Connor Corderoy, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A dumb story about a superhero who fights an alien invasion. I think Connor Corderoy is a real person and not a pseudonym, but this was his only work for 2000 AD. 

SIN CITY: SEX & VIOLENCE (Dark Horse, 1997) – “Wrong Turn,” [W/A] Frank Miller. A man almost runs over a woman with his car, but she’s really an assassin who’s been sent to kill him. I really do not like Sin City. It reads like a parody of “grim and gritty” rather than the real thing, and it’s also very misogynistic. All it has going for it is some striking art. In my opinion, Frank Miller jumped the shark sometime in the early to mid ‘90s. 

THE SPIRIT #30 (Kitchen Sink, 1981) – “Spirit Jam,” [W/A] various. I bought this and the next comic from my friend Dan Yezbick. Kitchen Sink’s Spirit series was mostly reprints, and this issue starts with two reprinted old stories – including “Beagle’s Second Chance”, which I previously read in R.C. Harvey’s Art of the Comic Book. But the bulk of this issue is devoted to a new story, a 36-page jam by an all-star cast of creators. The credits for this story read like a guest list for a comic convention: Miller, Bolland, Kurtzman, Corben, Rosa, Hembeck, etc. Because it’s a jam, the story makes no logical sense. But all the creators were clearly thrilled by the opportunity to write and draw on Eisner’s legendary character, and it’s fun to compare all their styles and figure out who did what. I didn’t know this comic existed until Dan offered it to me, and it’s a nice addition to my collection. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #207 (Dell, 1957) – “The Tenderfoot Trap,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is the one where Donald has to tame a wild burro in order to win a uranium mine. I’ve read this story before in Uncle Scrooge #232, but it’s funny and it’s worth revisiting. As usual, most of the other stories in this issue are crap, but there is a Mickey story by Fallberg and Murry, in which Mickey and Goofy run Pete while looking for underwater treasure. 

COMIX BOOK #1 (Marvel, 1974) – [E] Denis Kitchen. I won this in an eBay auction, along with issue 4, which I haven’t read yet. I already have the Best of Comix Book hardcover, but I always prefer to own the original comics. Comix Book was a short-lived experiment in which Marvel tried to publish their own underground comics. It was doomed to failure because the underground comix ethos was incompatible with sponsorship by a major publisher. But at least in this issue, Denis Kitchen managed to recruit some excellent creators. This issue includes: Trina Robbins’s “Panthea.” Art Spiegelman’s “Ace Hole, Midget Detective,” reprinted from Short Order Comix #2. Basil Wolverton’s “Calvin,” one of his last works. Evert Geradts’s “Marion McKay’s All-Animal Orchestra,” reprinted from Snarf and perhaps originally from some Dutch comic. Kim Deitch’s “Bestial Passion,” about a woman who drams about being kidnapped by dogs, then wakes up to find that she is a dog. Justin Green’s “We Fellow Traveleers,” kind of an incoherent stream-of-consciousness story. And multiple strips by Howard Cruse and Skip Williamson. There are also a few stories by lesser creators, but Comix Book has as strong a lineup of talent as any underground comic, and it’s a fascinating experiment, even if (or because) it was a failed one.  

SWEET TOOTH #38 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Wild Game Part 3,” as above. Tommy and Jimmy try to defend the town from Doug’s troops, while the women and kids hide. But Jimmy is killed, and the women and kids are captured. Things are looking quite grim. 

SWEET TOOTH #39 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Wild Game Part 4,” as above. The cavalry arrives, in the form of the other six hybrid children. But Doug kidnaps Tommy’s son Buddy, who he brought with him, and retreats into the room with the tombs. Tommy pursues Doug and is mortally wounded, but Gus follows them and kills Doug. Then Tommy dies in Gus’s arms. Very sad. 

BATTLE #351 (IPC, 1982) – This issue’s Charley’s War segment depicts the Third Battle of Ypres, when rain turned the muddy battlefield into a swamp. Joe Colquhoun’s black-and-white art is very powerful, giving a sense of the muddy chaos of trench warfare. But I think I’ll have to read multiple chapters of this story together in order to see why it’s so great. Artists in this issue, besides those mentioned in earlier reviews, include Cam Kennedy and Francisco Masip. That was the last issue of Battle I ordered from mycomicshop. I really want to read more of Battle and especially Action, but they’re hard to find online. 

2000 AD #572 (Fleetway, 1988) – Rogue Trooper: “Staying Alive,” as above. Rogue tries to assassinate a man named Vaughan, while his potential victims plan their defense against him. Strontium Dog: “Stone Killers Part 13,” as above. Johnny confronts Stix, the elderly father of the stone killers, and he (Stix) dies of a heart attack. Dredd: “Hitman Part Two,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Jim Baikie. An assassin tries to kill Dredd, but obviously fails. There’s a flashback to the end of Dredd in Oz, where Dredd chose not to kill Chopper. Future Shocks: “Wally Saves the Day,” [W] Steve Dillon, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A cute bloblike alien gets killed while trying to resolve a hostage crisis. The moral of the story is  “always leave the loonies to the police.” Luke Kirby: “Summer Magic,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] John Ridgway. Little Luke Kirby accompanies his uncle on a wolf hunt, and encounters a werewolf. This is Luke Kirby’s second appearance. 

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. In a flashback, Josephine’s psychotic boss tries to enlist her in a project to create eternal life, but Josephine reveals that she’s pregnant with Akai, and her boss fires her. In the present, Akai and Josephine fight Frankenstein’s monster and its bride. This is a really important series, and I need to reread it in order. 

MOM’S HOMEMADE COMICS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1971) – “Ingrid the Bitch,” [W/A] Denis Kitchen. Not a great underground comic. Its lead story is a very uncomfortable depiction of a kindergarten-aged sex maniac. This story is even more tasteless than Crumb’s “Joe Blow.” I like Denis Kitchen’s draftsmanship and lettering, but he was far more important as a publisher than as an artist. The other material in this issue is mediocre, and the only other notable creator in the issue is Skip Williamson. 

HEART THROBS SEASON TWO #2 (Oni, 2017) – “Let’s Do Some Crimes,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. Callie tries to get a normal job and a non-criminal boyfriend, but discovers that she enjoys the thrill of committing crimes as much as she enjoys the proceeds of those crimes. This is another series that I wish I’d read in order. 

SWEET TOOTH #40 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Home Sweet Home,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Many years after #39, Gus defends his and Wendy’s two sons from invading normal humans. Then we see how Gus, Bobby and the other kids have built an idyllic community in Nebraska, and eventually the hybrids inherit the world, as the few remaining normal humans die of the plague. As the series ends, an elderly Gus, now a grandfather, dies while imagining himself walking into the sunset with Tommy. This is a really sweet ending to a series that was often very grim and cruel. The sequel, Sweet Tooth: The Return, has already begun, but I haven’t gotten it yet. 

Another trip to Heroes: 

LUMBERJANES #74 (Boom!, 2020) – “Daylight Savor Part 2,” [W] Shannon Watters, [W/A] Kat Leyh. Ripley, Jo and Jen escape from the Land of Lost Objects, and Ripley says goodbye to Jonesy. Mal plans a giant concert for Molly, but her plans fail because of too many cooks (or mermaids) spoiling the broth. But Mal and Molly still enjoy a romantic moment together. Meanwhile, the coyote revives the big bad dark lord that’s been vaguely hinted at in earlier issues. This series’ conclusion is going to be sad but epic. 

ONCE AND FUTURE #12 (IDW, 2020) – “The Kings Are Undead” conclusion, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan fights Grendel’s mom underwater. Mary/Elaine/Nimue reads the passage from the Nowell Codex in which Beowulf discovers a sword underwater and uses it to kill Grendel’s mom, and Grendel does the same thing. Mary mentions that there’s a “war of stories” between the native British and immigrant populations, and that Beowulf is an example of a “feral story’ that was “trapped in paper” before its 19th-century revival. This idea of “feral stories” recurs throughout the series. I keep trying to think of something to present on for ICFA next year, and maybe I should submit something on Once and Future. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #2 (Boom!, 2020) – “What’s So Important,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo.  The ship’s crew proceeds with their search for a live god, but Georges’s enemy and former friend Paula pursues them. I’m not clear on just what Georges and Paula’s relationship is. This is a good issue, but I have nothing new to say about it. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #3 (DC, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy explains how her child was conceived, and also gives a very accurate description of being an academic in the “post-tenure gig economy.” The characters on Earth try to summon Puck, but it doesn’t go well. Daniel consults Brute and Glob to find out what happened to Ruin. The Daniel sequence is drawn in a very different style from the rest of the issue; it looks painted rather than line-drawn. Finally, Lindy decides to try to learn Shakespeare’s identity by performing one of his lesser-known plays. 

ADVENTUREMAN #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire adjusts to her new body. Gentleman Jim Royale explains that to save the world, he had to erase the memory of Adventureman and his team. Tommy figures out he can find his mother again by reversing that same process. Another really fun issue. 

SEVEN SECRETS #3 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Caspar wins the trial to be the new Keeper, and also learns that his mother really does love him. Then the villains launch their attempt to steal Caspar’s Secret. Caspar is a really cute protagonist. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #13 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “The Return Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Mariko and the old nurse both get caught, although Mariko escapes and runs into someone whose identity is not revealed – my guess is Chizu. Usagi and Kenji wait for the right moment to attack, and we get another childhood flashback in which they fight an army of tokage. Using the nurse as a hostage, Kato forces Usagi to surrender his swords, then decides to kill her and the other prisoners anyway. So the only hope is if Mariko comes back with the cavalry. This entire story has been incredibly suspenseful and thrilling, with occasional moments of warmth, and it’s Stan’s best work in many years. 

PENULTIMAN #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. As depicted in last year’s Steel Cage #1, Penultiman is a superhero from the 910th century, so he’s far more advanced than modern humans, but he’s an evolutionary throwback compared to the people of his own time. This gives him a huge inferiority complex. This issue, Penultiman is summoned back to the 910th century, where he completes a mission for his parent and is then rudely dismissed. On returning to the 21st century, Penultiman discovers that his robot assistant, Antepenultiman, has replaced him and has been a more effective superhero than Penultiman himself. This is a fun debut issue, and I’m excited about this series. 

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS: FRIENDSHIP IN DISGUISE #3 (IDW, 2020) – “Pet Sounds,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Jack Lawrence: Fluttershy befriends some of Shockwave’s robot/animal sidekicks (Ratbat, Laserbeak, etc.) and turns them against their master. She even succeed in befriending Soundwave himself. “The Flyin’ Fox Trot,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Priscilla Tramontano: Rainbow Dash has a race with Windblade. The first story in this issue is cute, but both stories are insubstantial, and this series lacks an overall plot. 

EMPYRE: FALLOUT FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sean Izaakse. The FF and Avengers rescue Jo-Venn and N’Kalla from the Profiteer, and Ben and Alicia decide to adopt the kids. This is a really cute moment, and a nice solution to Ben and Alicia’s difficulty having biological children. It is annoying that this important moment happened in a spin-off issue and not in the regular FF comic. This issue should have just been a regular issue of Fantastic Four. 

MONEY SHOT #9 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. The Money Shot team teleport away from Cockaigne with the President and Councilor Sinch, the centaur woman. To raise enough money to teleport away, they have to film the centaur having sex with Dr. Teozol Al’gnon, the purple long-nosed dude, shapeshifted into the form of President Kirk. That’s the kind of series that Money Shot is. Finally, the crew is able to escape and reach the leaders of the Covalence, who manifest as three giant jellyfish. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #1 (DC, 2020) – “Don’t look behind you!”, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This comic seems to be about a vampire/motorcycle daredevil named Skinner Sweet, but other than that, I couldn’t understand it. It seems to assume knowledge of all the previous American Vampire comics, rather than serving as a starting point for new readers. I’ll keep reading this series for now, but I wish it were more accessible. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #6 (DC, 2020) – “Another Thing,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. In the present, Alana and Mr. Terrific talk about losing their children, and there are more flashbacks to the Pykkt war. So this issue doesn’t advance the plot a whole lot. The highlight of the issue is the scene taking place at the Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. 

BLACK WIDOW #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ties That Bind Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Clint and Bucky track Natasha down and find that she’s living in the suburbs with a man named James. And they have a baby boy, who’s much too old to have been conceived and born since Natasha vanished. Natasha fights some thugs and then builds a bomb without realizing she’s doing it. This continues to be an excellent series, and it’s a nice addition to Kelly Thompson’s corner of the Marvel Universe. 

DIE #14 (Image, 2020) – “Dual Wield,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Matt learns that his father is dead, back in the real world. He returns to the room with the emotion weapons, and is now able to wield both the “sword of grief” and the “maul of rage.” Otherwise, this issue is mostly setup for the big fight between Angria and Eternal Prussia. 

INKBLOT #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. In a flashback, a little elf girl’s mother is enslaved by “sorcerers.” In the present, the cat saves the now-adult girl and her own daughter from a dragon. Easily the best thing about this series is the cat. Besides that, the series is a little unpolished, but the cat is so cute that I don’t care. 

LONELY RECEIVER #2 (AfterShock, 2020) – “A Week: You’re the Maker of My Evil,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. Catrin tries to get her phone company to fix her phone or recreate Rhion, but it’s no use. Catrin plunges into depression, until she unexpectedly runs into Rhion at a nightclub. This ending is obviously too good to be true, so I assume it’s not the real Rhion. This series effectively uses science fiction to depict a codependent relationship. 

LOCKE & KEY: IN PALE BATTALIONS GO #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Two German soldiers watch Jonathan Locke using the shadow key to slaughter their comrades. Locke kills one of the soldiers, but lets the other go. The surviving German follows Locke through a portal into the Keyhouse, and accidentally stabs Locke’s sister. This issue is quite entertaining, and it seems like a fairly accurate depiction of WWI. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace & Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. Two twentysomething lovers, Sam and Lauren, break up, they each start searching for new lovers, and lots of relationship drama ensues. This comic feels like an honest attempt to depict young people’s relationships, but it’s a bit boring.  However, I’m glad that Image is still willing to publish a comic like this, even though it might have trouble finding an audience in the direct market. (BTW, I still resist the idea that I’m not still a “young person.” As I write this, I’m still not 38 for a couple more days.) 

WONDER WOMAN #764 (DC, 2020) – “The Amazing Adventures of Darren Hondor or Miami or Bust!”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Steve Pugh. Diana and Max visit Miami, where they fight a bunch of cyborgs. This issue is rather insubstantial, and I don’t understand where the cyborgs came from. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #1 (Image, 2020) – “The Action of Mystery,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. I didn’t like Steve Orlando’s last creator-owned series, Crude, but I thought I might as well try this one. Commanders in Crisis is about a team of superheroes from alternate realities, each of whom, as we learn, was the president of their version of America and is now the last survivor of their reality. This is an interesting premise, and I also like the individual characters, especially the one who can alter reality by inventing new words. I’m going to keep reading this series. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #22 (Marvel, 2020) – “The New World Part One,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Carol is brought forward in time to 2052, the same version of 2052 that was previously seen in Captain Marvel: The End. I had forgotten about that issue, but it’s still kind of fun to see the characters from it again.  

2000 AD #573 (Fleetway, 1988) – ABC Warriors: “The Black Hole,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] SMS. I don’t remember this installment’s plot, but SMS’s artwork is just incredible. His renderings of robots and art-deco cities are insanely detailed and creative. Too bad he was too slow to do periodical comics. Luke Kirby: “Summer Magic,” as above. The werewolf kills an old lady, and Luke leads some hunters to it. “That night I saw the true nature of death, and left my childhood behind forever.” Dredd: “Hitman Part Three,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Jim Baikie. The assassin puts on a judge’s costume and makes it into Dredd’s hospital room. Judge Hershey realizes Dredd is in danger, but by the time she arrives in Dredd’s room, Dredd has already dispatched the assassin with a gun he kept under his bedclothes. Strontium Dog: “Incident on Zeta,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny succeeds in defeating the hijackers. 

2000 AD #576 (Fleetway, 1988) – Bad Company: “The Krool Heart,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. I don’t know what happened between this story and the first one, but Kano, Danny Franks and Protoid are now searching for the “Krool Heart.” On a Krool-held planet, Danny falls into a pit where the Krool have been distilling the essence of pain. Luke Kirby: “Summer Magic Episode 6,” as above. Luke’s Uncle Elias is too ill to search for the werewolf, so Luke has to go looking for it on his own, and he finds it. Dredd: “Skeet and the Wrecking Crew II,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Liam Sharp. At this point Wagner and Grant were no longer working together. In this story, a trucker named Skeet Orbison uses his old obsolete truck to take revenge on the “wrecking crew” that damaged the truck. ABC Warriors: as above. The ABC Warriors infiltrate the tomb of Emperor Zalinn. SMS’s art here is a bit less obsessively detailed than in #573, but still amazing. It’s a real shame that this was SMS’s last issue of 2000 AD. 

IMMORTAL HULK #38 (Marvel, 2020) – “Not Just, Not God,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Leader causes havoc both in the real world and in Bruce’s mindscape. Bruce summons the Devil Hulk to protect him. I’m not familiar with this character, but he seems to have originated in Paul Jenkins’s Hulk series from 2000. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. In Japan’s Warring States period, Isanosuke leads the Aragami clan into battle. But in fact Isanosuke is a coward, and his sister Ketsuko has been posing as him. Three years later, Ketsuko is seeking revenge on the Kamimura clan for killing the Aragami clan. This series could be accused of cultural appropriation, but no more so than the game Ghost of Tsushima, which seems to be quite popular in Japan despite being produced by Americans. Other than that it’s kind of average, but I’ll continue reading it for now. 

BILL & TED ARE DOOMED #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Roger Langridge. Bill and Ted’s tour is a disaster. Their last stop is the “Freezing Norseman” festival, which is even more of a disaster because it’s a metal festival, and the Wyld Stallyns’ music is no longer considered metal. Also, the crowd goes insane and is about to kill Bill and Ted. This is another really fun issue. There are a lot of cute gags, like the menu board that lists spam, eggs, bacon and spam, or the venue called “Le Triste Alcoolique.” 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #8 (DC, 2020) – “War with the Anti-World!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. The gimmick of this issue is that the scenes are in reverse chronological order, so you can read the issue either forwards or backwards. However, this is an unsuccessful experiment because the story is confusing when read in either direction. Further adding to the confusion, the Green Lanterns’ dialogue is mirror-reversed. I don’t quite get why the Green Lanterns are attacking Qward in the first place. I should mention here that Grant Morrison just came out as genderqueer. 

YASMEEN #3 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. In Iraq, Yasmeen is forced to injure her captor so he can’t be drafted, and then she finds a way of contacting her brother. Back in America, Yasmeen goes through some normal high school drama. To expand on what I said before, Yasmeen is the underrated below-the-radar gem of 2020, just like These Savage Shores last year. Scout is generally a mediocre publisher, but they do have the occasional good comic, like Yasmeen or Henchgirl. 

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: TRIBUTE TO WEIN AND COCKRUM #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Second Genesis!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] various. I may have more different versions of Giant-Size X-Men #1 than of any other comic. I don’t have the original, but I do have the 1990s facsimile edition, X-Men Special Edition #1, Classic X-Men #1 (the latter two both have additional material and are thus not redundant), and now this version. This issue is unusual because the dialogue is the same as in the original comic, but each page is reinterpreted by a different art team. It’s a cool idea, and it’s fun seeing how various artists have reimagined this old story. But I would have preferred a new story and new dialogue, although I suppose that would have been more expensive. 

DECORUM #5 (Image, 2020) – “This is Not a Job for Those with a Weak Stomach,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Neha Nori Sood goes to assassination school and finally succeeds in assassinating someone on her own. Her first victim is her old tormentor Luca. The main story of this issue is entertaining, but I could have done without all the title pages and text pages and frontispieces. Also, most of the worldbuilding in this series is unnecessary. I will have more to say later about Hickman’s habit of excessive worldbuilding. 

ADLER #4 (Titan, 2020) – untitled, [W] Lavie Tidhar, [A] Paul McCaffrey. I wasn’t able to get issue 3. This issue, Carmilla’s troops invade Miss Havisham’s home. A barely-alive Queen Victoria herself helps them escape, but meanwhile, Ayesha lifts off in an airship carrying an atomic bomb. This issue was fun, but Paul McCaffrey draws ugly and monotonous facial expressions. 

PRETTY VIOLENT #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Gamma Rae fights some giant purple dudes. I still don’t understand this series’ plot, and its jokes are getting old. I’m going to quit reading it. 

NO ONE’S ROSE #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. Seren is killed, but Tenn destroys the city’s AI and leads the survivors out into the dome to make peace with the Geddontibe people. This was a good miniseries. I wasn’t impressed by Zac Thompson’s writing before, but I’m starting to enjoy his work now. 

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #23 (Marvel, 2014) – “Darkest Hours,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. Superior Spidey tries and fails to kill Venom. Then Peter has a dinner party to which Venom’s alter ego, Flash, is invited, and Peter convinces Flash to be an experimental subject for a new artificial limb technology. This is actually a trick to enable Peter/Doc Ock to contain the Venom symbiote, but instead the symbiote possesses Peter, becoming Superior Venom. One of the subplots is that Carlie is kidnapped by the Goblin Nation. 

DEADLINE #12 (Deadline, 1989) – [E] Brett Ewins & Steve Dillon. I bought this on eBay for a bargain price, though it’s not in great condition. The highlight of the issue is a nine-page Tank Girl strip. It’s mostly about a female Australian Aboriginal demon, and Tank Girl only shows up at the end, but Hewlett’s art is incredible. There’s also a Wired World story by Philip Bond about an ice cream man who kidnaps children, and a Johnny Nemo story by Milligan and Dillon, in which Johnny fights some fascists. And there’s a Hugo Tate story by Nick Abadzis in which Hugo misses his chance to stop his love interest from leaving town. Hugo’s behavior in this story is kind of embarrassing. Other contributors to this issue include Glenn Dakin and Disraeli. I hope I can find more issues of Deadline soon. 

2000 AD #598 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Waiting for the Big Bang,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. The old bald guy, Peyne, tries to win Zenith over to his side, and also invites him to “breed” with Shockwave and Blaze. Rogue Trooper: “Hit Four: The New Moral Army,” [W] Simon Geller, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue and his pals are sent to assassinate a crazy fundamentalist preacher. Dredd: “Worms,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Chris Weston (miscredited as Colin Weston). At this point in time, the Dredd stories began at the centerfold and then concluded six pages later. That’s very annoying. In this story, a high school bully goes on a field trip to a plant that disposes of garbage by feeding it to worms. The bully feeds a classmate and a teacher to the worms, before being apprehended by Dredd. Chris Weston’s art in this story is a bit crude, but his draftsmanship is already very detailed. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Alan McKenzie & Steve Parkhouse, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Lady Cara heads off into space. Belardinelli’s art in this series is much more subdued than in Ace Trucking Co. or The Dead, though he does draw some weird-looking aliens. Tyranny Rex: “Soft Bodies,” [W] John Smith & Chris Standley, [A] Will Simpson. This story makes no sense to me. 

LETTER 44 #12 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. The spaceship is invaded by pyramidal aliens. In Afghanistan, two soldiers die of radiation poisoning after tracing the origin of an atomic bomb attack to Germany. Yet again this series would make more sense if I read it in order. 

ATOMIC ROBO: DOGS OF WAR #2 (Red 5, 2008) – “And Then There’s the Robots,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo fights a bunch of Laufpanzers. A funny but basic story.

A shipment of $1 comics from “The Hall of Comics”: 

X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Pax Krakoa,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. The beginning of the most important X-Men run since Grant Morrison’s. This issue starts with a flashback to Scott’s first meeting with Professor X. Then we see the X-Men rescuing some mutant children from Orchis, and then we go to Krakoa, where we watch the Summers family having dinner. The most notable thing about this issue is the map that shows that Jean’s bedroom is directly between Scott and Logan’s rooms, and there seem to be doors connecting the three rooms. The implications of this are rather intriguing. See this article by Susana Polo for more on this topic: https://www.polygon.com/2019/10/16/20916145/x-men-1-wolverine-cyclops-jean-grey-love-triangle-hickman

THE WOODS #5 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Back in high school, Sanami goes missing, and her best friends (and lovers?) Karen and Mira have to track her down. In the fantasy world, Karen has to find Sanami a second time. Most issues of this series include extended flashbacks to the characters’ high school lives, and while these flashbacks slow the progress of the present-day plot, they also make the characters much deeper. 

BIRTHRIGHT #8 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Brennan is badly hurt fighting one of the mages, while Rya escapes being captured by two guys in a helicopter. I wonder what happened to Becca, the girl who befriends Brennan in this storyline (and who shot him at the end of #7). I don’t recall her appearing later in the series. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians fight the Greek gods, and Quill apparently sacrifices himself so his team can escape, leaving Rocket heartbroken. I think I want to start reading this series on a monthly basis, because I really like Al Ewing’s writing, and I enjoyed his previous take on Rocket Raccoon. 

PARADISO #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Devmalya Pramanik. This may have been Ram V’s first comic book series. It’s a postapocalyptic story with a lot of motorcycles and a computer called Kronos, but besides that, I don’t understand its plot. Unlike These Savage Shores or Grafity’s Wall, Paradiso seems to have no explicit references to Indian culture. 

RED THORN #1 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Glasgow Kiss,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Meghan Hetrick. I have the first five issues of this series, but I hadn’t read any of them until now. In Red Thorn #1, an American woman named Isla Mackintosh visits Scotland to investigate the death of her sister, who died in Scotland years ago while studying the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Also, Isla has the power to create living creatures by drawing them. In this issue she meets a new love interest, but also discovers that someone else shares her power and is using it to kill people. This is an intriguing series so far. David Baillie is himself from Scotland, and his depiction of it feels accurate to me. Meghan Hetrick’s art and Steve Oliff’s coloring are very vivid. 

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #30 (DC, 1995) – “Natural Born Loser,” [W] Kelley Puckett, [A] Rick Burchett. A crook named Marty and his moll Erica try to find a giant pearl which was previously stolen by the Perfesser, Mastermind and Mr. Nice – aka Denny O’Neil, Mike Carlin and Archie Goodwin. The catch is that the giant pearl isn’t ready yet, because it’s still inside a giant oyster. This issue focuses entirely on the three villains, and Batman himself only appears on the last page. Batman Adventures was a brilliant series, largely because of Kelley Puckett’s amazing narrative economy. I wonder why he didn’t do more work in comics. 

HORIZON #1 (Image, 2016) – “Enemy Line,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Juan Gedeon. A blue-skinned alien, Zhia Malen, lands on Earth and begins her mission: to preemptively stop Earth from invading her planet. This issue is a quick read, but it’s interesting. I’d like to read more of Brandon Thomas’s work. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2016) – “Set in Stone,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Peter and Mockingbird fight the new Zodiac at the British Museum. Peter also has to save Parker Industries from financial ruin after its technology invaded London’s CCTV network. This issue was okay, but not Slott’s best. 

NIGHTCRAWLER #3 (Marvel, 2014) – “If at First You Don’t Succeed… Tri, Trimega Again!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Todd Nauck. Kurt, Amanda and Margali fight three dudes called Trimega, then they go to the X-Mansion. But Kurt has to convince Storm to let Amanda and Margali in, because of their troubled history. And Storm is right to distrust Amanda and Margali because they both betray the X-Men at once. Meanwhile, Kurt has a beer with Logan. This issue isn’t terrible, but it lacks the energy of classic Claremont. Like Paul Levitz, Claremont has remained the same writer he always was, while the rest of the industry has evolved past him. 

After writing this review, I accidentally closed this file without saving it, and OS X’s AutoRecovery function is completely useless, so all the reviews I wrote since November 13 are gone. I lost my reviews of the following comics, up to Detective Comics #945. It’s not worth my time to rewrite all these reviews, so I’ll just write a few notes to remind myself: 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #10 – incoherent plot, awful writing, Mon-El has three baby daughters for some reason 

FANTASTIC FOUR #25 – Franklin loses his powers, The Unseen is Nick Fury 

BIG GIRLS #3 – the Jacks are giant slow-growing babies 

SEX CRIMINALS #69 – Jon and Suzie don’t end up together, Kegelface thinks Rachelle can only orgasm when giving birth 

GIGA #1 – people live inside the bones of dead Transformers 

CHU #4 – Saffron feeds a man to a shark, Chu eats the man’s foot 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #11 – Erica and the kid escape the gym, the Order cares more about maintaining its own secrecy than protecting people from monsters 

STILLWATER #2 – the protagonist becomes a citizen of Stillwater, his mother is buried alive 

SAVAGE DRAGON #253 – Amy invites a talking tiger to her birthday party, Malcolm fights the Vicious Circle 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #110 – Leo sneaks into Hob’s hideout, Raph wins a bike race 

X-MEN #13 – too much unnecessary dialogue and backstory; this is Hickman’s worst habit 

TARTARUS #6 – flashback to how Surka survived; no Jack T Cole art anymore

ASCENDER #14 – Effie kills the vampire Vix; Tesla and Quon find Tim 

WYND #5 – Wynd escapes the Bandaged Man, who turns out to be a Weirdblood himself, but the fairy gets killed 

SHANG-CHI #2 – the hun and po souls are a real thing 

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #4 – Tala finds her mom, but she collapses 

SUPERMAN (1987) #3 – Superman fights a Purifier on Apokolips; Byrne’s art doesn’t suck 

EXCELLENCE #6 – fantasy tale about black male relationships 

THE WALKING DEAD #145 – Rick finds twelve heads on poles 

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #2 – Cole remembers the satanic ritual abuse scandal and meets a man with a tinfoil hat 

GIDEON FALLS #26 – all the protagonists are finally together except Danny who meets the spirit of the Black Barn 

2000 AD #1942 – Dredd fights a monster on Enceladus; other stories I don’t recall 

FAMILY TREE #9 – entire world turns into trees, Josh is now married with a baby 

2000 AD #1951 – Brass Sun, Bad Company with tribute to Brett Ewins, Absalom 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #9 – Destiny Man corrupts Unity; Daniel and Charlotte’s mother had a second message 

IMMORTAL HULK #39 – Leader enlists Brian Banner in service of One Below All 

SKULLDIGGER & SKELETON BOY #5 – Reyes and Skulldigger have to team up to save Skeleton Boy from Grimjim 

WONDER WOMAN #762 – Liar Liar is Max Lord’s daughter 

SHADOW SERVICE #3 – Gina has to track down the stolen London Stone 

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #31 – Peter saves the day, but Anna Maria doesn’t realize that the Spider-Man she knew is dead 

BLACK MAGICK #15 – Rowan’s old partner is investigated by Internal Affairs

2000 AD #599 – PJ Maybe kills his uncle, Zenith learns his dad is inside the Warhead 

SUPERMAN (2019) #15 – Clark meets the Legion; incoherent plot 

DETECTIVE COMICS #945 – Victim Syndicate 

Starting again: 

WIMMEN’S COMIX #2 (Last Gasp, 1973) – [E] Lee Marrs. This was another eBay win. In “Wonder Bread” by Shelby Sampson, the author is blinded by a piece of toast. I wonder (heh) if this really happened. Other major artists in this issue include Lee Marrs, Sharon Rudahl and Aline Kominsky – not Kominsky-Crumb yet. A highlight is Trina and Rudahl’s “Overload,” about two women who teleport from a utopian world to a dystopian one. There’s also a lot of work by lesser artists, much of it rather experimental.

A DCBS shipment: 

RUNAWAYS #32 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Natacha Bustos. This series has been in limbo since March, and has finally reappeared out of nowhere. This issue, the team recovers from their traumatic experience with Doc Justice, Gert and Molly start school, and Gib takes on a human form so he can join them. 

MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala finally returns to school, but Mike is back from study abroad, so Kamala’s relationship with Bruno is complicated again. Kamala has to escape from a SHIELD team led by Dum Dum Dugan. It’s too bad this series is ending, and I really hope Marvel is not lying that they have future plans for Kamala. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #4 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids play “door tag,” which involves teleporting all around the Marvel Universe. During the game, one of the kids, Calvin, is kidnapped by mysterious creatures who live in a swamp. Also, the kids fight a giant pre-Code Marvel monster in the library. There’s a funny Spider-Man cameo appearance. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #19 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero & Marcelo Ferreira. Ultimatum and the Assessor kidnap Miles and Uncle Aaron, but they escape. Miles has the traumatic experience of seeing his own clone disintegrate. Captain America frees some kids from CRADLE’s custody. 

CHAMPIONS #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. The Champions meet to organize against Kamala’s law, but someone reveals the location of their meeting to CRADLE, and two of them are kidnapped. Simone Di Meo is a great science fiction artist, but he is not ideal for a comic with as many characters as this one. I can’t even tell who all the Champions in the meeting are – I think I noticed Jack and Katie Power there, but I’m not sure. 

TRUE BELIEVERS: BLACK WIDOW: TASKMASTER #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] George Pérez. This reprints Avengers #196, in which the Taskmaster fights the Avengers and explains his origin. This is one of only two Avengers issues I’m missing between #120 and #202, and perhaps the only George Pérez Avengers that I hadn’t already read. Reading it is a nostalgic pleasure. I especially like the scene where Iron Man reflects on Wonder Man and Beast’s new friendship. 

HEIST #7 (2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. All Glane Breld needs to do now is deliver the documents that proves he owns the planet, but it’s tough when everyone in town is trying to kill him. One issue left. 

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #4 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. Some very nice draftsmanship and page layouts – I especially like all the extra linework on the Maxx’s body – but a nonsensical plot that goes nowhere. 

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Secrets Revealed,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito & Robert Gill. Some good dialogue, but very little plot advancement. The assembled Atlas teams manage to find Mike Nguyen, but he brainwashes Amadeus and turns him into the Hulk. 

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #5 – as above. Again, excellent artwork but no story to speak of. Sam Kieth really needs to work with a co-writer. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. Appropriately, Colonel Weird’s story is fragmentary and incoherent and takes place on a number of time frames at once. The kid version of Colonel Weird looks a lot like Tintin. 

BIRTHRIGHT #22 (Image, 2017) – In flashback, Rya saves Mikey from an evil mermaid. In the present, Mastema captures and interrogates Mikey, and Sameal continues Brennan’s training. 

2000 AD #600 (Fleetway, 1988) – Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Johnny and Middenface travel back to Earth, which is being taken over by Sagan’s New Church. Rogue Trooper: “The NMA Within,” [W] Simon Geller, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue joins the New Moral Army, but is promptly unmasked as a spy. Dredd: “The Power of the Gods,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Glenn Fabry. The gods give their powers to an ordinary citizen. He turns Mega-City One into a utopia, but Dredd tricks him into making things normal again, and then orders the gods to butt out. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Alan McKenzie & Steve Parkhouse, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The cabin boy, actually Cara Nash, is almost injured by an alien crew member. Zenith: “A Family Affair,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Warhead beats the crap out of Zenith, and Wallace prepares to launch the missiles. 

TRUE BELIEVERS: BLACK WIDOW – RED GUARDIAN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Color Him… the Red Guardian!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Reprinting Avengers #41. Jan finally comes into her inheritance. Hawkeye tries to track down the Black Widow, but he and Hercules instead have to fight the Red Guardian, who is revealed as Natasha’s husband. Not bad, though the Cold War plot is very dated. 

X-RAY ROBOT #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Allred. Another very confusing issue that takes place in multiple timelines at once. In one of the timelines, everyone is colored blue at birth in order to prevent racism. I doubt this would really work. As with #2, the main appeal of this comic is Allred’s art. 

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #11 (DC, 2020) – “This Sceptered Isle Part One,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. Constantine listens to the confession of the demon that possessed Clem Thurso, a white nationalist MP possibly based on Nigel Farage. Also, we learn that the British male elite have a ritual where they rape the giant Albion, the symbol of the nation. Just one issue left in this amazing series, which was cancelled much too soon because DC has no idea what they’re doing. 

THE WOODS #8 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This issue focuses on Adrian, a boy who appears to be a sociopath, and his codependent friend Isaac. In flashback, Adrian writes Isaac a letter saying that he values Isaac’s friendship, but can’t say it out loud. In the present, Isaac is about to be killed, and Adrian doesn’t care. In another flashback, we learn that Adrian’s letter to Isaac was in fact written by Isaac’s mother, who is even more of a sociopath than Adrian himself. A scary issue. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2016) – “Friendly Fire,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Peter opens up Parker Industries’ headquarters, which is located in the Baxter Building. Johnny Storm is not happy that his home is being used in this way, and he and Peter have an angry confrontation. Johnny calms down when Peter shows him the statue of the FF in the lobby (at this time, Reed, Sue and the kids were lost in another dimension). Reading this sequence reminded me that Dan Slott understands both Peter and Johnny very well, and that in my opinion, he’s the only writer besides Stan Lee who’s had classic runs on both Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. This issue also has a subplot about Zodiac. 

BULLET TO THE HEAD #3 (Dynamite, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Colin Wilson. A translation of a French comic. Colin Wilson is a rare example of an artist who started out working in Anglo-American comics and then moved to Franco-Belgian comics, and you can see how that happened, because his artwork here is incredible. His linework is beautiful and he draws deeply atmospheric backgrounds. However, in terms of its story, Bullet in the Head is a fairly generic piece of crime fiction, and it’s also misogynistic. There’s a scene where the two protagonists kidnap a man and murder his wife and teenage daughter, and the man doesn’t seem to care very much, and neither do the protagonist. The wife and daughter are just pawns in a game being played between men. 

TRUE BELIEVERS: BLACK WIDOW & THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Beware… the Black Widow!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. Reprinting Amazing Spider-Man #86. Black Widow puts on a new costume and fights Spider-Man for the first time. This part of the story leads into Black Widow’s first solo feature, in Amazing Adventures #1. Meanwhile, Gwen Stacy refuses to see Peter Parker again unless he promises to have nothing to do with Spider-Man. 

2000 AD #601 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “The Parent Trap,” as above. Zenith blinds Warhead with Phaedra’s stroboscope, then knocks its head off. Strontium Dog: as above. The New Church promises to make Britain great again. Dredd: “Eldster Ninja Mud-Wrestling Vigilantes,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Vanyo. An obvious TMNT parody, in which instead of turtles, the ninjas are old people. Moon Runners: as above. The ship’s first officer discovers that the helmsman is a traitor, and kills him. Bad Company: “Simply,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. Danny Franks befriends a Krool, but Thrax kills it. This story was drawn and lettered in four hours at a convention. 

AQUAMAN #64 (DC, 2020) – “The Deep End Part 1,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Miguel Mendonca. Aquaman challenges Orm to a duel, but Orm stabs him with a spear. Apparently on his deathbed, Aquaman summons some fish to help him. One issue left in this run. 

‘NAMWOLF #2 (Albatross, 2017) – untitled, [W] Fabian Rangel Jr, [A] Logan Faerber. An American werewolf is drafted to fight in Vietnam, where he battles and defeats a Vietnamese monster with wings and lots of eyes. Logan Faerber’s art is rather cartoony, and fits the rather humorous tone of Rangel’s story. I’d like to read the other three issues of this series. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #634 (DC, 1991) – “The Third Man,” [W] Kelley Puckett, [A] Luke McDonnell. Two meddling old ladies from New York involve themselves in Batman’s investigation and nearly ruin it. This is one of Kelley Puckett’s rare Batman stories in the main DCU rather than the animated universe. As in Batman Adventures, his storytelling is very funny, but so economical that it’s a bit hard to follow at times. 

THE PHANTOM #54 (Charlton, 1973) – “Killers in the Mist” and two other stories, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette. All of this issue’s stories are terrible, though Pat Boyette’s art is good. I think one reason the Phantom never caught on in America was because American Phantom comics were just not good, unlike the original comic strips or the Swedish Team Fantomen comic books. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #74 (Image, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Darklord kidnaps a bunch of superpowered children, including little Malcolm. Looking for them, Dragon has to fight Jennifer and a horde of pregnant clone women. This storyline led into the This Savage World epic. 

MADMAN COMICS #11 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “The Truth About Everything and All the Rest!”, [W/A] Mike Allred. Madman goes more insane than usual and has a series of visions, eventually remembering his past life as a professional criminal. Mike Allred’s art at this time was more detailed and less stripped down than his current style; he drew kind of like Paul Chadwick as well as Kirby. 

BLACK PANTHER #8 (Marvel, 1977) – “Panthers or Pussycats?”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. In flashback, T’Challa wins a challenge to become the new Black Panther. In the present, Wakanda is terrorized by a monster named Jakarra, and one of T’Challa’s ne’er-do-well relatives has to become the Black Panther to fight it. I don’t know if any of these relatives ever appeared again. In the letter column, a reader complains that Kirby’s Black Panther was less realistic than Don McGregor’s. A similar complaint was made about Kirby’s ‘70s Captain America run.  

WONDER WOMAN #763 (DC, 2020) – “Sometimes the World Needs a Little Upside Down,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Carlo Barberi. Liar Liar reveals her origin, and then Diana, Max and Etta finally defeat her. Another quick read. 

2000 AD #602 (Fleetway, 1988) – Rogue Trooper: “Oliver’s Barmy!”, as above. The New Moral Army leader throws Rogue off his spaceship. Moon Runners: as above. While going through hyperspace, Kempo has a bunch of weird visions and then passes out. Dredd: “Accident Prone,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Chris Weston. A man accidentally runs someone over in his car, then kills a bunch of other people while trying to cover up the original crime. This is a funny one. Zenith: “Riddle of the Sphinx,” as above. Zenith reveals that he didn’t lose his powers, as Peyne had expected he would, because his listed birthdate is wrong. Zenith has to solve Lewis Carroll’s crocodile puzzle to get inside Wallace’s vault. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 3,” as above. Johnny and Middenface visit Smiley’s World for Wulf’s funeral. Middenface has some funny interactions with some children that Wulf had earlier rescued. Then Wulf rises from his grave. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. I don’t know why I always take so long to read Canto, because it’s very cute and also exciting and sad. This issue, Canto’s clock runs out, but his companion Veratta sacrifices her time for his. She survives for a while but dies the next morning. It’s a very sad moment. 

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #8 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. It’s been months since issue 7 came out, and I was already having trouble remembering this series’ plot, so this current issue largely went over my head. This issue does seem to have an interesting story about the protagonist and her mother and grandmother.

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Another series that’s been on hiatus for several months. This issue, the main villain is revealed as a future version of Isaac. Also, Ellida shoots a guy and he says “Osteoporosis! My only weakness!” I don’t understand this, but it’s funny. 

CATWOMAN #26 (DC, 2020) – “The Big Shake-Up,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Having moved to Alleytown, Catwoman makes her move against the existing criminal element. Meanwhile, the Penguin and Father Valley – apparently not Jean-Paul Valley – plot to kill Selina. Ram V seems like he understands Catwoman well, and so far this series is worth reading despite Joëlle Jones’s departure. This issue includes one panel with Catwoman’s cats. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – This series was renamed from “Snifter of Terror Season Three” because the “season” label was misleading. “The Black Dog,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Russ Braun: An adaptation of Poe’s “The Black Dog,” in which a madman murders his dog and then his wife. Cornell narrates the story from the dog’s perspective, making it funny instead of scary. “Atlas Shrugged,” [W/A] Dean Motter: A paleontologist finds some angel bones. This story is much worse than the first one. Also, it includes some Ayn Rand references (the title and “Galt’s Gulch”), which makes me suspicious about Motter’s political leanings. 

ADLER #5 (Titan, 2020) – untitled, [W] Lavie Tidhar, [A] Paul McCaffrey. Irene and her companions manage to divert Ayesha’s airship so it crashes in the countryside. Then she and Jane have to go on another mission to rescue the kidnapped Chinese emperor. This series isn’t nearly as good as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but it’s entertaining, and I wouldn’t mind a sequel. 

WONDER WOMAN #765 (DC, 2020) – “What Happens in Zandia!”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Steve Pugh. Diana and Max go to Zandia and fight a bunch of unidentifiable villains. Diana gets blinded. So far I’m not impressed with Mariko Tamaki’s Wonder Woman. It just feels generic and boring, with little that’s characteristic of Tamaki’s writing. 

MAESTRO #3 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key Part 3: Adagio,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Hulk discovers that Hercules is a lousy ruler who only cares about himself and not his subjects. Hulk summons a bunch of cyborg robots to aid him in a rebellion against Hercules, even though Hulk doesn’t care much about “ordinary people” either. This issue is OK, but I don’t understand how the Hulk made the psychological transformation from the well-intentioned Professor Hulk to the cynical, Machiavellian Maestro. 

2000 AD #604 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Home to Roost,” as above. Zenith goes home, then has a vision of a bizarre multi-faced entity. Tyranny Rex: “Soft Bodies Part 5,” [W] John Smith & Chris Standley, [A] Will Simpson. This makes no sense at all, though it seems to be about someone who’s making a movie about Tyranny Rex. I see where someone called this the most confusing 2000 AD story ever. http://meanwhileon.blogspot.com/2006/10/soft-bodies-well-ard.htmlPart 4 appeared way back in prog 598, so it must also have been confusing to contemporary readers. Dredd: “Curse of the Spider Woman,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. A sad story about a woman who turns into a spider and has to be taken to the Cursed Earth for treatment. Moon Runners: as above. Flynn (the captain) and Carroll fight a giant alien. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and McNulty leave Smiley’s World. Back on Earth, Sagan and his allies dissolve Parliament and execute the royal family, and Sagan gives Johnny a warning. There’s a scene where Sagan, or his ally, whacks the Speaker of the House of Commons with the parliamentary mace. Alan Grant missed a chance to use the line “take away this bauble.” 

FALLEN ANGELS #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “Sensei,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Szymon Kudranski. Psylocke, X-23 and Cable recruit a team of younger X-Men to go after a villain named Apoth. This is okay, and better than certain recent issues of the main X-Men title, but I don’t plan to add this series to my pull list. I had trouble figuring out whether the Psylocke in this issue was Betsy Braddock or Kwannon or both.  

I went back to Heroes on November 14, the day before my birthday: 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #3 (Boom!, 2020) – “All of Us Together,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. While fleeing from Paula, Georges and his crew encounter a dead god… and then it wakes up. This is another good issue. As I mentioned above, Simone Di Meo’s art is not suited to stories with lots of characters. But he’s perfect for this series, because although his art is lacking in detail, it generates a powerful sense of wonder. Good examples of this are the two double-page splashes in this issue: one depicting the god’s dead body, and then another showing the god projecting energy from her eyes and mouth. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #1 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I finished the original Sweet Tooth series just in time to read this sequel. The Return is set 300 years after the original series, and its protagonist is an eleven-year-old boy who looks just like Gus. He’s spent his entire life in an underground prison, with his cadaverous father and his robotic nannies. He’s been told that there are no people left besides them. But he escapes and discovers a town full of other people, and then a big man who he identifies as Jepperd. I’m excited to see where this is going. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Dawn of Dark,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Dr. Strange tells Brother Voodoo why it’s harmful for any of the students to believe that they’re the Chosen One. The kids realize that Calvin is missing and go looking for him in a swamp, but they get captured by the weird red-robed dudes, who are called the Hollow. The Hollow claim that one of the students is the Chosen One. Also, we learn that Germán is a nahual. Nahuals are a genuine Mexican folk belief. Humberto Ramos is from Mexico, and I wonder if it was his idea to include this concept. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #4 (DC, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard, Part Four,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy puts on a performance of The Birth of Merlyn, an apocryphal Shakespeare play. It ends with Lindy giving birth to an adult Merlin. I’ve never heard of The Birth of Merlin before, but it really was published under the names of Shakespeare and William Rowley. However, nobody seems to believe it’s a real Shakespeare play, and in the comic, Shakespeare admits he didn’t write it. I hope my Shakespearean scholar friends will read this comic, because it’s a fascinating use of a very obscure text. Also in this issue, Ruin goes to the World’s End inn to hide, but Brute and Glob track him down there.  

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #4 (Image, 2020) – “The Mount of the Lord,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guéra. The Amazon woman tracks down Jael and Sharri, and Sharri has to surrender to her to save Jael’s life. Sharri is forced to become a Bride, and Jael becomes a servitor. We finally get a good look at the “divine” infants, who are as horrifying as you’d expect. It looks like the series is over, but then the serpent and his friends show up to crash Sharri’s wedding. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #20 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Marcelo Ferreira. Miles and Prowler fight a horde of Goblinoids with the aid of Bombshell, Starling and Captain America. They’re doing okay, but then Ultimatum himself appears. This issue includes an awesome scene with Miles’s parents. Miles’s parents remind me a lot of Jaime Reyes’s parents. 

MONEY SHOT #10 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. The Cockaignians attack the Highest Authority (the cosmic jellyfish creatures), and the Authority responds by giving the Money Shot crew their powers. The power transfer process involves some hot tentacle sex. The crew wins the fight, but Teozol has to kill President Kirk; unfortunately, the Highest Authority revives him. The series ends happily and sexily. This was an awesome series and I’m sorry it’s over after just ten issues. I hope it returns soon. 

SEVEN SECRETS #4 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The Order’s Venice base is attacked by a man named Amon, who is revealed as the son of the old gray-haired lady. The Order repels the attack, but we’re told that they’ve only “pulled the trigger on our own defeat.” The other six Order bases (Skellig Michael, Kilwa Kisiwani, etc.) are all real places that seem appropriate for keeping secrets in. 

CROSSOVER #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. In 2017, comic book superheroes became real, took over the city of Denver, and completely destroyed it. Now there’s only one comic book store left in America, and a little girl escapes from Denver and finds herself there, just as the store is destroyed by protesters. I have very mixed feelings about this comic. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s also a nostalgic paean to traditional comic book stores and comics fandom. That’s the exact opposite of what we need right now, at a time when comic book stores desperately need to reinvent themselves if they’re going to survive at all. Cates and Shaw are careful to show that the comic book store is full of people of various races, genders and ages. But still, it’s hard to believe that comic book fans are an oppressed minority, or that the comic store is “the only home a lot of us have left.” feel at home in a comic book store, but that’s because I’m a white male mega-fan. The comic book store has never been a home for everyone. Anyway, I’m reserving judgment on Crossover until I read a few more issues. 

SCARENTHOOD #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Roche. This comic takes place in Ireland and its protagonist, Cormac, is the father of a preschool-aged girl, Bethany (“Scooper”). While hanging out with some other parents at his daughter’s daycare, Cormac accepts a dare to climb under the stage in the school theater and retrieve a missing Virgin Mary statue. When he comes out, it’s hours later, and he’s missed his chance to pick up his daughter. That night, things get even worse. This series is a nice combination of cuteness and horror. Scooper is an adorable kid, and the series’ depiction of small-town Ireland feels accurate and probably is.

X-MEN #14 (Marvel, 2020) – “X of Swords Chapter 12,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar & Leinil Francis Yu. Another issue full of unnecessary and uninteresting flashbacks. In my review of X-Men #13 that I accidentally deleted, I complained that Hickman’s worst flaw as a writer is his tendency toward pointless backstory and worldbuilding. Like, Decorum has a fine story about Neha Nori Sood and her assassin training, but that story is hampered by an excess of details that don’t matter. Back when Hickman was writing Fantastic Four, he wasted two whole issues explaining how great Black Bolt is. And the same thing is going on in X-Men. I don’t care about Arakko or Okkara or The White Sword. I barely even know what any of these things are. I want to read about the X-Men. Hickman needs to just tell the story he’s promised to tell, rather than wasting the reader’s time with irrelevant background. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #111 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The turtles lay a trap for Hob’s spies. Meanwhile, the mutant salamander girl reveals herself to her parents, but they reject her. Another good issue. As an aside, it’s weird how this series began as a parody of Frank Miller’s Daredevil, but then evolved to the point where the connection to Daredevil was forgotten. As a kid watching the Turtles TV show, I didn’t even realize it was ever a parody. Something similar happened with Cerebus, which started out as a Conan parody but then became something totally unique. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #8 (Marvel, 2020) – “Business as Usual,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Marcio Takara. Rocket Raccoon investigates a murder mystery at a diplomatic conference. The culprit is the Profiteer from Fantastic Four. Then Knull starts eating the universe. I assume this is related to the upcoming King in Black crossover. This is a funny comic – a high point is the Chitauri assassin who keeps apologizing for his delay in blowing everyone up. I think I’m going to add this series to my pull list. 

BILL & TED ARE DOOMED #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Roger Langridge. Bill, Ted and Death stay behind so the wives can escape, and they end up in the middle of a horde of frenzied metal fans. Meanwhile, the two Stations combine into a single bigger Station so they can help Thea and Billie rescue their dads. This is another very fun issue, but I wonder how this plot can be resolved in just one more issue. 

MARVEL ACTION CHILLERS #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Seth Smith, Gretel Lusky & Derek Charm. Iron Man is captured by the Book of Shuma-Gorath, and Dr. Strange and Ironheart team up to rescue him. This is a fun story, and Derek Charm’s artwork is a nice nostalgic reminder of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. As a historical note, Shuma-Gorath’s books are older than Shuma-Gorath himself; the “iron-bound books of Shuma-Gorath” were mentioned in a Robert E. Howard story, but Shuma-Gorath himself first appeared in Marvel comics. 

2000 AD #605 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Chimera Unbound,” as above. Zenith meets a creature called the Chimera, but it grows bigger and bigger until it turns into a pyramid. Weird. Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. Zenith sets some kind of trap for Torquemada. This story is tough to understand, especially given that Hicklenton’s art isn’t the clearest. Future Shocks: “The Osmotic Man,” [W] John Smith, [A] Horacio Lalia. Thanks to a scientific mixup, a single man sucks up all the water in the world. This premise reminds me a bit of ice-nine from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Dredd: “Alzheimer’s Block Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. An old lady suspects that someone is killing the patients in her nursing home. This story is continued next issue. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Alpha fight Sagan’s goons, while Sagan himself takes over the British government and literally says he’ll make Britain great once again. 

HAPPY HOUR #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. The government passes a law requiring everyone to be happy at all times. Our protagonist, Jerry Stephens, survives a car crash in which his sister is killed. This of course makes him unhappy, so he’s sent to an insane asylum. But meanwhile, a man named Landor Cohen is leading an underground crusade for the right to be sad. Like so many other Peter Milligan comics, this issue is confusing at times, but the idea of compulsory happiness is fascinating. I just realized that Peter Milligan’s other recent miniseries, Tomorrow, must have been silently cancelled . The TPB came out earlier this month, but there’s no sign of issues 3 through 5. Everything II also seems to have gone missing. 

SUPERMAN #2 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman Part Two,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. Jon helps Clark save a ship from a giant squid monster. Jon apologizes to Lois for accidentally killing her cat. As usual with this series, this is a really cute issue. There’s one panel in this issue that I can’t understand – it’s the panel right after Clark says “You’re my son!” 

THE ETERNALS #12 (Marvel, 1977) – “Uni-Mind!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Karkas and the Reject arrive in Olympia, and Margo Damian joins the Eternals as they form the Uni-Mind. The Uni-Mind is kind of similar to the Source, but is distinctly different from it. I feel like the Uni-Mind and the Source are two different attempts by Kirby to answer the same question, whether that question is what God looks like, or where creativity comes from, or what. On this issue’s letters page, a reader complains that Zuras can’t be the same character as Zeus, since Zeus had already appeared in other Marvel comics. Marvel later acknowledged this. 

BLACK CLOUD #3 (Image, 2017) – “These doors aren’t the only way IN, and you KNOW it,” [W] Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, [A] Greg Hinkle. Another totally incoherent issue, though the art is not bad. 

A DCBS shipment containing just two comics: 

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #16 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala teams up with Amulet again to fight a Ghul. This issue is kind of a generic team-up story, but Amulet is a fascinating character. This issue we learn that he’s from Dearborn, Michigan, like Saladin himself, and his mission is to protect people from the Thousand Cursed Things. And as far as I can tell, the Ghul seems like a genuine villain from Arabic folklore. Also this issue, Kamala and Nakia meet up at the Circle Q, just like old times, but then Nakia seemingly betrays Kamala to CRADLE. 

CHAMPIONS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo & Bob Quinn. The kidnapped heroes are in a “rehabilitation camp,” which they compare to a concentration camp or a residential school. This scene is an example of one of Eve Ewing’s great strengths as a writer: her willingness to explore the uncomfortable political implications of her premises. Next, the three main Champions – Kamala, Sam and Miles – try to defuse a riot, and then they try to recruit Riri, who seems to have given up on being a superhero. 

For the first time since early September, I have no more reviews to write. I was so busy and worried about the election that I had no time or energy to write reviews, and then after the election, I was too tired. 

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Reviews for rest of September

2000 AD #410 (IPC, 1985) – Rogue Trooper: “Return of Rogue Trooper,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. Rogue visits a new planet to look for the antigen that will restore Gunner, Helm and Bagman to their bodies. Ortiz’s art is pretty good. One-shot: “The Snicker Snack,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jeff Anderson. A smuggler misplaces a valuable shapeshifting alien, and then eats it, mistaking it for a pie. Halo Jones: “Cat and Mouse,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. A colony of intelligent rats orders Halo to dispose of their deceased brother and replace it with a new rat. Dredd: “The Hunters Club,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cliff Robinson. The new recruit refuses to commit his assigned murder, so his partner kills him instead. The killer escapes. A funny line: “Oh no, that’s not him. The killer didn’t have a broken nose and blood all over his face.” This is after Dredd has already started interrogating the suspect. Future Shocks: “Long Division,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Isidro Mones. A general uses a “bio-mass divider” to repeatedly divide his soldiers in half, not realizing that the soldiers get smaller every time. HellTrekkers: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Horacio Lalia. The caravan gets stuck at a sheer rock wall, and they have to lift the wagons over it with cables. 

STARFIRE #7 (DC, 1977) – “Freedom Never Dies,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Mike Vosburg. Starfire infiltrates the tower of her enemy Lady Djinn. Nothing about this comic stands out in my memory. Englehart was this series’ third writer since issue 2. With #8, he was replaced by yet another writer, Tom DeFalco, but that was the last issue. 

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT #21 (Gold Key, 1970) – [W] unknown. “My Lady Death,” [A] Luis Dominguez. An Englishman falls in love with the ghost of a long-dead highwaywoman. This is the best-drawn story in the issue, though that’s not saying much. “The Living Phantom,” [A] Tom Gill. A house is haunted by a ghost that’s actually a living woman’s astral form. “The Ghost Drums of Rathmoy,” [A] Frank Bolle. The title drums are played by Irish soldiers who fought against Cromwell. “Voyage to Doom,” [A] Jack Sparling. A highly inaccurate retelling of the Scilly Islands naval disaster of 1707. 

2000 AD #411 (IPC, 1985) – Halo Jones: “Memories Are Made of This,” as above. Halo accidentally discovers that her robot dog Toby killed her friend Brianna. Even worse, Toby knows that Halo knows. Sláine: “Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine defends the Eternal Fortress from the alien Cythrons. This story seems more influenced by Moorcock than by Irish myths. As always, Glenn Fabry’s draftsmanship is insanely good. Dredd: “The Hunters Club,” as above except [A] Ron Smith. Dredd tracks down the killer from last issue, but the rest of the Hunters Club escapes. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue witnesses a battle between winged aliens, fighting for the Norts, and insectoid aliens, fighting for the Southers. The Nort aliens capture the only man on the planet who knows about the antigen. HellTrekkers: as above. The cable lift is completed, and then the relatives of the guy from #406 seek their revenge on the caravan’s leadership. 

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2020 (SPIDER-MAN/VENOM) (Marvel, 2020) – Spider-Man & Black Cat: “Moonlighting,” [W] Jed MacKay, [A] Patrick Gleason. Spidey and Black Cat fight the Vulture. Not bad but not great. Venom: untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. Mostly setup for an upcoming crossover or something. 

MIDNIGHTER #1 (DC, 2015) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] ACO. This comic has a lot of complicated and fascinating panel structures, but I don’t understand its plot. 

FAMILY TREE #8 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. The creepy old grandpa dude gets killed, or so it seems. Yay! Good riddance! Meanwhile, some government agents try to cut down the little girl’s tree. This series isn’t that great, and I’m mostly still reading it because of inertia. 

2000 AD #413 (IPC, 1985) – Halo Jones: “Hounded,” as above. In a tragic moment, Nobody sacrifices themself to save Halo from Toby, and Halo immediately forgets her: “Nobody died today.” Slaine: as above except [A] David Pugh. Slaine continues fighting the Cythrons. This was David Pugh’s first 2000 AD story. He mostly worked on other Fleetway titles. I don’t think he’s related to Steve Pugh. Dredd: “Spugbug,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kim Raymond. As a party game, some people play pranks on random victims, one of which has fatal consequences. Dredd brings the partiers to justice. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights the winged aliens and learns the location of the antigen. HellTrekkers: as above. Some natives ambush the caravan by dropping rocks on it. 

WEIRD FANTASY #2 (EC/Russ Cochran, 1950/1993) – “Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion!”, [W/A] Al Feldstein. Two comic book writers (Feldstein and Bill Gaines) write a comic book story about a cosmic ray bomb. Unbeknownst to them, the U.S. government is developing a bomb just like the one in the story. The government lets the writers off with a warning, but the Soviets read the comic book too, and armageddon results. This is a funny piece of metafiction. “The Black Arts,” [W] Harry Harrison?, [A] Wally Wood. A creepy mousy man is in love with his librarian. He uses a love potion to make her fall in love with him, but instead it turns her into a werewolf. I like the last panel, where he’s reading a newspaper about the werewolf’s murders, not realizing that the werewolf’s claw is within striking distance of his head. “The Trap of Time!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Jack Kamen. A man uses a time machine to try to prevent his wife’s death, but instead causes her death. “Atom Bomb Thief!”, [W/A] Harvey Kurtzman. A spy steals atom bomb plans from Oak Ridge, but is marooned in the ocean while trying to escape. He finally reaches land, but the land is Bikini Atoll, on the day of a nuclear test. 

CONAN: DEATH COVERED IN GOLD #1 (Marvel, 1999) – “Golden Shadows,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. This was one of Marvel’s last Conan comics before they lost the license. I don’t think I ever heard of it until I discovered this issue at the Heroes sale. In this story, a young Conan visits the capital of Ophir where he meets an old prospector and his daughter. He accompanies them to their claim, but the prospector is killed by a giant albino worm. This issue is not bad, but it’s very similar to many other Roy Thomas Conan comics. It even includes an unnecessary guest appearance by Jenna, from Roy’s earliest stories. 

ZERO ZERO #23 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – “La réserve de tetes,” [W/A] Henriette Valium.  Bizarre absurdist illustrations coupled with defaced old portrait photos. This piece has no apparent story or plot, and is closer to fine art than comics. “Tired,” [W/A] Doug Allen. A mildly absurdist slapstick story about pizza delivery and auto repair. More accessible than most stories in Zero Zero. “Junk Rabbit,” [W/A] Mike Diana: Disturbing, brutal nonsense. I sympathize with that judge who sentenced him to never draw anything ever again. This issue also includes short pieces by P. Revess, Stephane Blanquet and Renee French. 

THE UNEXPECTED #217 (DC, 1981) – “Dear Senator,” [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Abraham Lincoln is rescued from his assassination and sent forward in time to 2265, where some future power brokers intend to use him as a puppet ruler. Lincoln foils their plot. This story is really weird, but not bad at all. It must have been one of the last stories Mayer ever drew. “Snow Woman,” [W] Tom Sciacca, [A] Fred Carrillo. A semi-accurate version of the Japanese myth of Yuki-Onna. “The Fiends in Fedoras,” [W] Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Dan Spiegle. Some alien invaders buy hats from a struggling hat store to conceal their deformed heads. The hat store owner tells his wife to “keep this under your hat.” “Bride of the Non-Man,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Vince Perez: A female space explorer is tricked into marrying a horribly deformed alien. Vince Perez’s art here is pretty good, but this story is his only credit in the GCD. I wonder if he was a pseudonym. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #673 (Marvel, 2012) – “Spider-Island Epilogue: The Naked City,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli. All the people who were turned into spiders are now normal, except their clothes are gone. Mary Jane retains her spider-powers. Peter befriends a construction worker named Elio, but then Carlie breaks up with him. Dr. Strange tells Peter that it’s now possible again for people to learn his secret identity. The issue ends with the city of New York putting on a light display in honor of Peter. This issue has a ton of different plotlines, but it’s quite satisfying.

MONSTRESS #30 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. We start with a flashback to Maika and Tuya’s childhood, and then we go back to Ravenna, where the battle is winding up. I’ve given up on understanding the plot of this series, though I intend to keep reading it anyway. 

GHOSTED IN L.A. #12 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. Ronnie moves into Rycroft Manor. Daphne discovers that Agi is her great-grandmother (unless she already knew that), and becomes the mansion’s new caretaker. Daphne changes her major to animation and uses “The Ghosts of Rycroft Manor” as her submission to the program. This was a fun series and I’m glad that it was completed in single-issue form, unlike some other Boom! series. 

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #6 (IDW, 2020) – “The Valley of the Shadow of Death…!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. The Einherjar sacrifice themselves so that Thor can escape from Helheim. The issue ends with a couple of hooks for future stories. As always, Uncle Walt’s artwork is incredible and epic. 

2000 AD #503 (IPC, 1987) – Slaine: “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine’s people are enslaved by the cruel Fomorian sea demons and their one-eyed ruler Balor. The current king, Ragall, decides to sacrifice himself so Slaine can replace him. Bad Company: untitled, [W[ Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. Bad Company are a group of weird soldiers who are fighting the alien Krool on the planet of Ararat. Their leader is the Frankenstein Monster-esque Kano. In this installment, some of the soldiers try to see what’s inside the black box Kano always carries, but Kano kills them. Dredd: “Varks,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Sigourney Bean’s sons are turned into monsters by alien germs. Dredd apprehends the monsters and commits the mother to an insane asylum. Kevin O’Neill’s art here is incredible; his monsters are unimaginably hideous, and his panels are full of hidden messages and gags. Nemesis: “Book Six,” [W] Pat Mills,  [A] Bryan Talbot. The samurai robot Hitaki dies, and Nemesis, Purity, and the surviving ABC Warriors try to save Termight from blowing up. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #19 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Cory Smith. Lauri-Ell hangs out with Carol’s cat, then fights some Cotati. Meanwhile, Carol discovers that Wastrel, the villain from Marvel Team-Up, has been up to something. The addition of Lauri-Ell helps to solve this series’ biggest problem: its lack of a supporting cast. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused Part Three,” as above. Carol deputizes War Machine, Spider-Woman and Hazmat to help her fight Wastrel. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Trouble goes missing, and her mother asks Lauri-Ell to help find her. I don’t know why it took this long for Kelly to reintroduce Lieutenant Trouble. 

IRON MAN 2020 #6 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. Arno leads Earth’s heroes in a successful battle against the Extinction Event Entity. But then we learn that there was no such entity in the first place: Arno is dying of a disease, and Tony had to project him into a holographic alternative reality to save his life. Tony resumes his role as Spider-Man. This was a pretty good miniseries, and it makes me want to go back and collect more of Slott’s Iron Man. 

GHOST-SPIDER #10 (Marvel, 2020) – “When the Chips Are Down,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Ig Guara. We learn more about the evil Storms’ past, and then they successfully blackmail Gwen into leaving her planet. It’s disappointing how easily Gwen gives up, but I think Seanan said on Twitter that she plans to write more Ghost-Spider, so I’m hopeful that there will be a resolution to this storyline. I just bought one of Seanan’s novels written under her own name, rather than Mira Grant, and I look forward to reading it soon. 

BLACK WIDOW #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ties That Bind Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. After a mission, Black Widow falls out a window and vanishes. Three months later, Clint Barton sees her on a TV broadcast from San Francisco, and he and Winter Soldier go there to look for her. Black Widow has never had a really good solo series, but this debut issue is very promising. Kelly’s writing is entertaining and exciting, as usual, and Elena Casagrande’s art is the best I’ve seen from her. 

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #9 (DC, 2020) – “The Favourite,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This story revolves around a British royal (based on Prince Andrew) who has a passion for both horses and underage girls. Constantine discovers that the prince has been trying to breed a unicorn. When the unicorn is finally born, it proves to be a monster, and Constantine has to get the duke’s latest underage victim to calm it down so Constantine can kill it. Then Constantine uses the baby unicorn’s horn to save himself from being poisoned by a government spook. This is another brilliant one-shot story, and it is a real shame that DC isn’t allowing Si Spurrier to continue writing this series. 

BLACK MAGICK #13 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I (Part 002),” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Rowan takes a new female friend home to bed, but unluckily, her best friend, Alex, is on her way to see Rowan to talk about magic stuff. There are also some other subplots that I don’t quite understand. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto and the other clockwork people are living happily in New Arcana, but their clocks are slowing down, and Canto and his friends have to go on a quest to find the Shrouded Man. Canto kind of reminds me of Mouse Guard because of its combination of cuteness and deadly adventure. Canto and his companions are very hard to tell apart; they’re almost identical except for the color of their accessories.  

BARBIE FASHION #1 (Marvel, 1991) – “Fall Fashion Issue,” [W] Lisa Trusiani, [A] Anna Maria Cool, plus other stories. This issue starts with a comedy-of-errors story in which Barbie is mistaken for a thief. There’s also a story where Skipper wears Barbie’s white sweater to school, then has to prevent it from getting dirty. Besides that there are several short featurettes. It seems like Barbie Fashion was distinguished from the main Barbie title because all the stories were about clothing, although I wonder how rigorously that distinction was maintained. I’ve mentioned before that Barbie is a problematic character because of the rule that she couldn’t make mistakes. My Little Pony has included lots of excellent stories about fashion, but these stories all revolve around Rarity making mistakes and learning lessons, because Rarity, unlike Barbie, is not perfect. 

2000 AD #504 (IPC, 1987) – Slaine: as above. Niamh symbolically sacrifices Kai, her son by Slaine, so that he can train as a druid. Then their chariot crashes and they get attacked by a wolf. Niamh’s visual appearance is striking, with her short hair and heavy lipstick. Bad Company: as  above. Bad Company discovers a ward where the Krool are experimenting on humans. Kano kills the humans to put them out of their misery. Dredd: “On the Superslab,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] John Higgins. Dredd fights some criminals operating on Mega-City One’s main highway. The punchline of the story is “You can’t carve up an artery without spilling a little blood.” Nemesis: “Book Six Epilogue,” as above. Thoth and Satanus hunt down Colonel John Chivington, the perpetrator of the Sand Creek Massacre, who, we learn, is an earlier incarnation of Torquemada. One-shot: “The Ark,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Dave Wyatt. The President and his cabinet emerge from suspended animation into a post-nuclear wasteland. We then discover that the rest of the world is perfectly fine, and the President was deceived into thinking there’d been a nuclear war; his bombs never went off. 

ONLY A MATTER OF SPACE-TIME! (Random House, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jeffrey Brown. A preview of an upcoming graphic novel about two kids at an astronaut camp in space. This comic is silly and fairly uninteresting. I loved Brown’s graphic novel A Matter of Life, and I wish he’d do more work in that vein, even if kids’ comics have become his primary focus. 

ON THE STUMP #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. This made no sense to me even though I had just read issue 4 a week or two ago. I’m done with this series.

OWLY: THE WAY HOME (Scholastic, 2020) – “The Way Home,” [W/A] Andy Runton. A remake of the first Owly story, in which Owly meets Wormy. This version is in color and also includes word balloons and captions, whereas the original version was wordless. The addition of words is not an improvement; the lack of words was Owly’s main gimmick, and part of the fun of reading it was trying to interpret what was going on in the images. 

PROTECTOR #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. The cyborg locates the only other surviving cyborg. Artyom Trakhanov’s art in this issue is very striking and almost surrealistic at times, but Protector’s plot is very hard to follow. Protector is one of the few surviving examples of the Brandon Graham school of comics, a school which collapsed when Graham ruined his own career. 

KING OF NOWHERE #4 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. We get some background information on the origin of Nowhere. I don’t quite understand what’s going on in this series, or what its point is. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #696 (Marvel, 2012) – “Danger Zone Part Two: Key to the Kingdom,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The Kingpin kidnaps Peter Parker and tries to trade him to Spider-Man in exchange for Horizon Labs’s secrets. There’s an obvious problem with that. Luckily, Max Modell shows up with Peter’s web-shooters and saves the day. I don’t know how Max hadn’t figured out Peter’s secret identity yet.  

2000 AD #505 (IPC, 1987) – Slaine: as above. Slaine saves Niamh from the wolves – though she was already doing fine against them on her own – and then discovers he has a son. Niamh begins telling the story of Kai’s conception and birth. Bad Company: as above. Kano knowingly leads his men into a trap, and we get further evidence of his utter ruthlessness. Dredd: “Slick Dickens,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. A handsome rogue, Slick Dickens, executes a jewel theft and kills a judge. But it turns out there is no Slick Dickens; he’s a purely literary creation, and his author, Truman Kaput – a fat, balding, bespectacled man – was merely acting out Slick’s crimes. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha meets the vampiric female bounty hunter Durham Red. This is Durham Red’s first appearance, and prog 505 is the closest thing I have to a key issue of 2000 AD. 

GREEN VALLEY #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Max Landis, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Some noble knights battle a horde of barbarians and return victorious, but that night, the barbarians invade their town and kill the knights’ lovers. In terms of tone, this comic is a weird combination of parody and grim realism. I’d potentially be interested in reading more Green Valley, but Max Landis is an alleged rapist and sexual abuser, and I don’t want to support his work. 

HITMAN #32 (DC, 1998) – “Tommy’s Heroes Part Four,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. Tommy Monaghan and his friends involve themselves in a civil war in a fictional African country. I can’t stand Hitman in the first place, and this issue’s plot is based on tired African stereotypes. 

HITMAN #1,000,000 (DC, 1998) – “To Hell with the Future,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. In the year 85,271, some nerdy kids summon Hitman from the past, but he turns out to be nothing like what they expected. They send him back and summon Etrigan the Demon, who sends them to hell. This is even worse than a typical issue of Hitman; it’s just a pointless, overly gruesome superhero parody. 

KILLADELPHIA #7 (Image, 2020) – “Burn Baby Burn Part 1: Jupiter Rising,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shawn Alexander. We start with a recap of John Adams’s past history, and then his former allies form a new plan to cause havoc in Philadelphia. I want to like this series, but I can’t. 

STARTLING STORIES: BANNER #4 (Marvel, 2001) – “Banner Conclusion,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Richard Corben. Doc Samson tries to kill Bruce Banner for good, but it doesn’t work. This issue is mostly devoted to a long conversation between Bruce and Samson, and it’s not the most effective use of Corben’s talents. 

KING OF NOWHERE #5 (Boom!, 2020) – as above. We now know that the town’s sheriff has been keeping Nowhere’s people imprisoned there, but the people are fine with it. After a fight scene, Denis leaves Nowhere, but its inhabitants decide to remain, even though they can leave now. This series was kind of pointless. 

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. I was never able to get issue 4; it came out while I was in the middle of switching from DCBS to Heroes. I will have to add it to my next online order. This issue, the protagonists finally manage to escape the island, and the main villain gets killed. This series has become even more relevant now than when it was initially published. 

PLUNGE #6 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. Gage Carpenter sacrifices his life to destroy the last of the Lovecraftian monsters. Immonen’s artwork in this issue is very striking and horrific. I believe this is the last Hill House comic. Hill House was a successful but short-lived experiment. 

2000 AD #510 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Bad Company link up with some surviving human troops and fight some “war zombies.” Future Shocks: “Prime Suspect!”, [W] Alex Stewart, [A] Dave Wyatt. The American and Soviet leaders are revealed to both be aliens, from different species. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 6,” as above. Johnny Alpha and Durham Red try to rescue a kidnapped Ronald Reagan. Grant and Ezquerra’s depiction of Reagan is hilarious. Dredd: “The Taxidermist,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. A human taxidermist (i.e. a taxidermist of humans) stuffs some mobsters who have been persecuting him, and manages to dispose of their bodies without being caught by Dredd. The Dead: untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A man named Fludd lives on a future Earth where death has been conquered. But then Earth is invaded by demons, and Fludd has to die on purpose, so he can go to the land of the dead and stop the demons at their source. This series has some of Belardinelli’s most striking artwork; his depictions of demons and futuristic humans are mind-blowing. However, “The Dead”’s story makes little sense. 

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2013) – “Hero or Menace?”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. In Peter Parker’s body, Doc Ock singlehandedly defeats the new Sinister Six, makes revolutionary discoveries at Horizon Labs, and romances Mary Jane. Doc Ock’s plot to be a superior Spider-Man is going well, but inside his head, Peter Parker’s personality is trying to escape. Superior Spider-Man is probably Dan Slott’s masterpiece, with the possible exception of Silver Surfer.

On September 19 I went back to Heroes. This was the day after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, so I was not in a particularly good mood. 

LUMBERJANES #73 (Boom!, 2020) – “Daylight Savor,” [W] Shannon Watters, [W/A] Kat Leyh. The summer is almost over, so each of the Lumberjanes decides to do the one thing she hasn’t done yet. For April, that means winning the only badge she’s missing: the badge for throwing a party. Meanwhile, Ripley, Jo and Jen return to the Land of Lost Objects so Ripley can reunite with her pet velociraptor, Jonesy. I’m sad this series is ending soon, but the trouble with summer is that it always ends sooner or later. 

BIG GIRLS #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Ember fights a Jack and then has a physical exam; meanwhile, we learn a bit more about the people who are trying to kill the Big Girls. The highlight of the issue is the two-page splash showing a bunch of men climbing like Lilliputians over Ember’s giant naked body. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #2 (Vertigo, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy is asked to decide which of the candidates is the real Shakespeare. Meanwhile, Jophiel and Ruin consult a sorceress, and Ruin explains how he got to the waking world. Also meanwhile, Daniel and Lucien investigate how Ruin escaped the Box of Nightmares. The Daniel scene is a good example of Nick Robles’s artistic versatility. 

SEVEN SECRETS #2 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Most of this issue is an extended flashback to Caspar’s upbringing and training. At the end, Caspar learns that his father’s been killed, and he tells us that “I don’t make it to the end.” This series continues to be quite entertaining. Caspar is a cute protagonist. 

MONEY SHOT #8 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. This issue begins with a sadly plausible scene where two of President Kirk’s supporters watch a tape where he’s sodomizing a sheep, and rather than abandon him, they decide that bestiality is okay. Then we’re back to Cockaigne, where the Money Shot team have a bunch of sex but then find themselves being chased by space knights. Money Shot has become one of my favorite current monthly titles; it’s just extremely funny. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #10 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The other Order agent tries to eliminate the people who know about the monsters, rather than the monsters themselves, which, coincidentally, have just attacked the school. A brutal moment in this issue is when the little girl sees one of the Oscuratypes and wets herself, just before it rips her in half. As I observed in my dissertation, the concept of a monster that can only be seen by children is a recurring fictional trope, appearing everywhere from Dragon Quest V to Monsters, Inc. to Goethe’s Erlkönig. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #109 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. A day-in-the-life issue that includes a lot of good characterization. The main event is that Jenny tries to recruit people to form a band. The issue ends with Jenny (?) being attacked by an octopus mutant.

FINGER GUNS #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. Sadie’s finger is reattached, CPS investigates her father, and she and Wes reconcile. But because Sadie is a stupid idealistic teenager, she decides to get on a bus and run away. This ending is a little disappointing, and I wonder if the creators intend on doing a sequel. 

WONDER WOMAN #760 (DC, 2020) – “What Have I Done?”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Mikel Janín. Diana hangs out with her new roommate Emma, then fights some Para-Demons. Emma is an entertaining new character. I really like Mikel Janín’s draftsmanship.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Cory Smith. Carol and her fellow temporary Accusers fight some Cotati, and Lauri-Ell takes over as the main Accuser. Because this issue was mostly a big fight scene, it was less entertaining than the rest of the storyline. 

WONDER WOMAN #761 (DC, 2020) – “Enemies and Allies,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Carlo Barberi. Diana discovers that her fight with the Para-Demons was a destructive halllucination, perhaps caused by a smartphone app that Max Lord invented. At the end of the issue, we discover that Emma is the daughter of whoever is behind the app. I’m guessing her father is Dr. Psycho. I forgot to get the next two issues. 

X-MEN #12 (Marvel, 2020) – “Amenth,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. I don’t know why I didn’xt get issue 11. This issue, Apocalypse’s grandson Summoner tells a long story about the origin of Arakko, the counterpart of Krakoa. Summoner’s story is difficult to follow and seems disconnected from any of the existing prehistory of the Marvel Universe. Hickman has an annoying habit of creating long, convoluted backstories that don’t really matter. 

BILL & TED ARE DOOMED #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Roger Langridge. Many years after Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Bill and Ted are making no progress on writing the song that will unite the universe. So they decide to take the Wyld Stallyns on tour. I watched both Bill & Ted movies as a kid, but that was so long ago that I barely remember anything about them; however, Dorkin and Langridge do a good job of catching the reader up. And this comic is very fun. Evan Dorkin, of course, has prior history with this franchise, and Roger Langridge is comparable to P. Craig Russell as a creator of comics adaptations. He seems to have an uncanny ability to get into the spirit of the works he’s adapting. 

ASH & THORN #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. Lottie, Sarah and Pickle defeat the giant many-eyed monster that’s eaten Peruvia. This series was well-intentioned but ultimately a bit disappointing. 

STILLWATER #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. Having just lost his job for shoving a coworker, young Daniel West is summoned to the town of Stillwater to receive an inheritance from a relative he’s never heard of. On arriving in Stillwater, Daniel and his friend Tony watch a boy kill himself and then come back to life, and then the local people rough them up and kidnap them. The sheriff explains that Stillwater is a town where nobody ever dies. Then he murders Tony and is about to do the same to Daniel, until Daniel’s previously unknown mother intervenes. This is another exciting new project from Chip Zdarsky. It feels eerie and funny at once. I look forward to issue 2.  

2000 AD #512 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Bad Company fights the zombies alongside the human troops, but Kano declines to tell his human comrades the secret that Earth is dying. One of the human soldiers dies, and Danny only knows the deceased’s first name, so he buries him with the inscription “RIP Malcolm X.” Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Durham Red continue looking for Reagan, who thinks his alien captors are Russians. This story is perhaps the funniest depiction of Reagan in any comic, including Captain America #344. Dredd: “The Beating Heart Part Two,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. An obvious parody of Poe’s The Telltale Heart. The Dead: as above. Fludd encounters some aliens. This storyline includes some of Belardinelli’s weirdest and most grotesque creatures, as well as some impressive drawings of architecture; however, its plot makes no sense. Future Shocks: “Wrong Number,” [W] G. Bell, [A] Kevin Hopgood. A UFO spotter meets an alien that mistakenly traveled to 1987 instead of 11987. I can’t find any information about G. Bell, even his/her first name. 

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #5 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan and Nyla defeat Imus Champion. This was a pretty fun miniseries. Saladin Ahmed has a solid understanding of Conan, and, as I’ve said before, he would be an ideal writer for the regular Conan title. 

IMMORTAL HULK #37 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Keeper of the Door,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Leader manifests himself in the Below Place. Hulk and the Absorbing Man continue their fight. The Leader takes over Hulk’s body. I don’t quite understand what happened in this issue, though it was exciting. 

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #5 (DC, 2017) – “Girl Furious,” [W] Cecil Castelucci, [A] Marley Zarcone. I stopped reading this series after #4, partly because the plot seemed to be going nowhere, although I kept buying it. This issue is just more high school drama combined with confusing Meta politics. The best things about this comic are Marley Zarcone’s appealing, weird artwork and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s coloring. 

UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #11 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Myisha Haynes. Gwenpool investigates an upstate New York village where everyone is undead. She ends up having to fight Blade. This comic isn’t terrible, but I should have given up on this series long before I actually did. 

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “And the Rest Will Follow,” [W] Jay Edidin, [A] Tom Reilly. I’ve known Jay Edidin for many years, but this is the first of his comics that I’ve read – it may even be the first he’s written. If so, it’s an impressive start. I have always hated Cyclops, and after reading this issue I still do, but Jay does a great job of showing why Scott is the way he is. He almost makes me sympathize with my least favorite X-Man, by demonstrating that Scott’s unemotional nature comes from his loveless childhood. Tom Reilly’s artwork is also quite good, reminding me of Chris Samnee. 

BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. The kids manage to defeat Avery and the monster he summoned. This was another very enjoyable miniseries, and I hope there’s going to be a third one. 

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: STORM #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Disintegration,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Russell Dauterman. Despite suffering from a terminal technoorganic virus infection, Storm helps Fantomex and some other characters invade The World. This issue has some brilliant artwork, but I don’t remember much about its story. 

BUZZARD #1 (Dark Horse, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. The first story in this Goon spin-off is about a gray-skinned, black-clad wanderer who may be Death. There’s also a backup story illustrated by Kyle Hotz. This comic is fairly similar in style to Hillbilly. 

YASMEEN #2 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. In flashback, Yasmeen is sold to a creepy man who already has three other “wives.” In Iowa in 2016, we see Yasmeen reliving the trauma of her two years in captivity. This is a very powerful and realistic story. Because of its quality and its lack of critical attention, Yasmeen may be the next This Savage Shores. 

2000 AD #513 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The soldiers walk through an “alcohol swamp” that makes them drunk. Flytrap’s carnivorous-plant arm starts to hurt. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 9,” as above. The hunt for Reagan continues. We’ve now learned that Reagan was kidnapped by aliens who are fighting for freedom from humans. Dredd: “The Comeback,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Garry Leach. Jaxon Prince, a mashup of Michael Jackson and Prince, is revived from suspended animation and puts on a concert, even though the suspended animation has left him insane. This story is very funny, and Garry Leach’s art is striking. The Dead: as above. Fludd encounters some extremely bizarre-looking demons with giant lips. As usual this installment’s plot is just an excuse for Belardinelli to draw whatever he can imagine. 

THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN #1 (Image, 2010) – “The Eye Within the Eye,” [W] David Hine, [A] Shaky Kane. A garbage colllector discovers an old horror comic by Hine and Kane in a dead man’s apartment. Then he learns that the dead man was a vigilante named Coffin Fly. This comic is obviously very metatextual – it incorporates a fake pre-Code horror comic, although this comic is drawn in the same style as the main story. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard example of Shaky Kane’s style. 

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #83 (DC, 1977) – “Seven Doorways to Destiny!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Keith Giffen. The Challs are fighting M’Nagalah, the Lovecraftian Great Old one from Swamp Thing #8. They learn that a professor named Alec Holland may be able to help them, so it’s time for a Challs-Swamp Thing team-up. Giffen’s art in this issue is reasonably good, but Conway’s story is boring. At this point in continuity, Alec had reverted back to a human being. This was of course retconned later, with the revelation that Alec was never human to begin with. 

SEA OF THIEVES #3 (Titan, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Rhoald Marcellius. A bunch of fights between pirates, with entertaining dialogue. This was a fun series, even though it was an adaptation of a video game that I have no interest in. 

SUE & TAI-CHAN FCBD (Kodansha, 2020) – “Here’s Tai-Chan!”, [W/A] Konami Kanata. A series of humor strips about a cat whose human acquires a new kitten. I’m a huge cat person, but this comic doesn’t appeal to me very much. Also, the single-issue format is not suited to manga. 

MERCURY HEAT #9 (Avatar, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. A Crossed crossover in which Mercury Heat’s protagonist fights a bunch of zombies. Mercury Heat isn’t terrible, but it’s clear that Kieron wasn’t putting the same effort into this series as his other major works, and Nahuel Lopez’s art is rather unappealing. 

2000 AD #514 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The soldiers fight some vampire trees and some Krool soldiers. Meanwhile, Flytrap’s arm tries to eat him. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 10,” as above. An alien rebel nearly causes Johnny and Durham to drown, but they survive. Reagan doesn’t appear in this installment. Dredd: “The Genie,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. A certain Garfield Brose discovers a genie’s lamp and wishes to be rich. Judge Dredd becomes suspicious when Brose becomes a billionaire for no reason, and Brose wastes his other two wishes trying to escape from Dredad. Then Dredd imprisons both Brose and the genie. This one is pretty funny. Future Shocks: “Fair Exchange,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Colin MacNeil. An art dealer becomes rich selling alien paintings that he later discovers to be offensive graffiti. The Dead: as above. More utterly ridiculous and beautiful art, but with a nonsensical plot. Fludd reaches the “light sphere” and is turned into a “limbowraith.” 

A small DCBS shipment: 

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #14 (Marvel, 2020) – “Outlawed,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. First issue since March. Kamala, in her hospital bed, has recurring dreams where she causes harm to her family and friends. Meanwhile, Kamala’s friends visit her in her comatose state. At the end of the issue she finally wakes up. This is a powerful and harrowing story. This series is ending with #18, but there have been hints that a revival is coming. 

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #3 (Archie, 2020) – “Something Wicked,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina spies on her aunts invisibly, breaks up with Harvey, watches a horror movie with Jessa, and then encounters Ren with antlers growing out of his head. Another fun issue. I wonder what’s going on with Archie’s comic book publishing. There was a recent month when they didn’t solicit any comic books at all, and the main Archie title seems to be on hiatus. 

TRUE BELIEVERS: X-MEN: SATURNYNE #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “In Support of Darwin” etc., [W] Dave Thorpe, [A] Alan Davis. This contains four Captain Britain stories from Marvel Super-Heroes #380-383. These stories and several others were previously reprinted in X-Men Archives Featuring Captain Britain #1, which I do not have. This is a pretty early version of Captain Britain; at this point his main supporting character was Jackdaw, who never appeared in U.S. comics, and the only other recurring character in these stories is Saturnyne. These stories are well-drawn, but not nearly as memorable as the later ones by Alan Moore or even Jamie Delano. 

2000 AD #515 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The planet Ararat starts to blow up. Bad Company fights some more zombies, including Malcolm from #512. A dying Flytrap asks what’s in Kano’s black box, and Kano promises to tell him. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 11,” as above. Red tries to drink Johnny’s blood. Reagan’s captors put him in a coffin. Dredd: “The Shooting Party,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] John Cooper. Some hunters kidnap Dredd so they can play The Most Dangerous Game with him, but Dredd turns the tables on them, and they get eaten by their own piranhas. The Shooting Party seems unrelated to the Hunters Club. Future Shocks: “The Invisible Etchings of Salvador Dali,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] John Hicklenton. A surrealist story that turns out to be taking place in a dream. John Hicklenton’s style is already instantly recognizable. The Dead: as above. Fludd learns what it means to be a Limbowraith, and decides to return to Earth. More incredible art. 

WELLINGTON #5 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson & Aaron Mahnke, [A] Piotr Kowalski. Wellington fights the barghest but doesn’t quite manage to kill it, leaving room for a sequel. This series was frankly not good, and it makes me skeptical about reading more work by Dawson. 

MS. TREE #31 (Renegade, 1985) – “The Other Cheek” parts 5 and 6, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Some criminals kidnap Mike Tree Jr and murder his grandmother. Ms. Tree accuses Dominique Muerta of being responsible, but Dominique denies responsibility and helps Ms. Tree find the real kidnapper, a corrupt senator. As usual this issue is a hard-hitting piece of crime fiction. 

DAREDEVIL #240 (Marvel, 1987) – “The Face You Deserve,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Louis Williams. This issue’s villain is Rotgut, an albino whose overprotective mother gave him an irrational fear of poisoning. Rotgut tries to poison the water in his apartment building. Daredevil sends some kids to warn the tenants not to drink the water, but one of the kids knowingly allows a mean neighbor to drink the water and die. This story is clearer and more readable than I expect from Ann Nocenti. Louis Williams had a very brief comics career, consisting of five issues of Daredevil plus about 16 other scattered works. 

BATMAN #482 (DC, 1992) – “Vengeance of the Harpy,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Jim Aparo. Batman fights Iris Phelios, aka the Harpy, Maxie Zeus’s sidekick. A very average issue. 

BLACK CLOUD #4 (Image, 2017) – “They needed to see the beast slain,” [W/A] Ivan Brandon, [W] Jason Latour. This issue begins with a scene with some cute talking cats, but otherwise I can’t make head or tail of its plot. Black Cloud was heavily hyped when it came out; however, I was never able to understand it, and I should have stopped buying it almost at once. 

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #5 (IDW, 2017) – “The Flying She-Devils: Raid on Marauder Island Part 5,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Lo Baker. The Flying She-Devils try to escape from their pursuers, I forget who they are. This story is okay, but Lo Baker’s art is very sloppy. There’s also a backup story with better art by Wook-Jin Clark. 

WYND #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. On his deathbed, the king of Pipetown makes his son promise to persecute the Weirdbloods. Miss Molly plans Wynd and Oakley’s escape to Northport. The Bandaged Man persecutes Ash the gardener. Even though I read Wynd in the wrong order, it’s a great series with incredible worldbuilding and characterization, plus a very scary villain. More on Wynd later. 

STAR #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “Birth of a Dragon Finale,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina with Filipe Andrade. Star resolves her fight with the Black Order, then resumes her life as a villain. There are also some flashbacks to Star’s past, drawn in a very different style. I like Javier Pina’s art in this issue, but otherwise, this miniseries was disappointing. 

BATMAN #17 (DC, 2013) – “The Punchline,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. The Joker kidnaps the Bat-family and tries to make them eat their own severed faces. Thankfully it turns out that their faces are okay, but still, this issue is way too grim and disgusting, which is a pervasive problem with recent Batman comics. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #7 (DC, 2020) – “Ultrawarrior,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal dies and becomes the Spectre, but then has to learn about the color spectrum before returning to life. As mentioned before, this series has been worse than Season One because its plot has no clear trajectory. 

2000 AD #516 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Disappointingly, Flytrap dies before Kano can reveal his secret. Some human survivors join Bad Company for their assault on the Krool base. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 12,” as above. Some bounty hunters attack Johnny and Red, who turn the tables on them. Then Johnny and Red search for Reagan in the main Kaiak city. Dredd: “Navel Manoeuvres,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Jeff Anderson. Dredd investigates a crime occurring in the monastery of the Unseeing Eye, where the monks are both silent and blindfolded. This leads to all sorts of funny slapstick antics. Future Shocks: “Big Trouble for Blast Barclay,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Mike White. This story’s protagonists are obvious parodies of Flash Gordon, Dale and Zarkov. Some aliens run a smear operation to discredit them so that they (the aliens) can invade Earth. The Dead: as above. Fludd visits a world of “duplicants” who have three heads growing from one body. 

HELLBOY IN HELL #6 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Mignola. Hellboy plays cards with some dead guy, and a lot of other stuff happens that I don’t understand. The artwork in this issue is terrific, but the plot is hard to follow if you’re not a Mignola expert. 

SILVER SURFER #17 (Marvel, 1988) – “Resurrection!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Ron Lim. The Surfer and Reed and Sue Richards encounter the Elders of the Universe and the In-Betweener. This issue is exciting, but, like many of Englehart’s late-‘80s works, it’s way too convoluted and continuity-heavy for its own good. 

THE FLASH #313 (DC, 1982) – “3-Way Fight for the Super-Simian!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Carmine Infantino. This issue’s splash page looks like a classic Carmine Infantino page from the ‘60s. Flash spends most of this issue fighting Gorilla Grodd and Psykon, a bald villain who somehow used to share a body with Grodd. At the end of the issue, it’s implied that Barry sleeps with Fiona Webb. There’s a Dr. Fate backup story by Gerber, Pasko and Giffen, with art that closely resembles that of Giffen’s Legion stories of the time. 

THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Gurihiru. Gwen fights some aliens and meets a new companion who’s a ghost, or something like that, I don’t really care. 

2000 AD #517 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. An unnamed narrator writes in Danny Franks’s diary about how Bad Company was killed fighting the Krool. However, Danny and Mac survive the battle. Afterward Danny finds the diary, and Mad Tommy Churchill reveals that he wrote it. Then he promises to explain everything. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 13,” as above. Reagan broadcasts a message. Johnny and Durham continue tracking him down but get caught in an animal stampede. Future Shocks: “The Star Warriors,” [W] Alan MacKenzie, [A] M.K. Williams. In 2187 AD, Earth creates a “super-warrior” to quell a revolt on Antares 7, but then they have to create an “ultra-warrior” to defeat the super-warrior, and so on. Dredd: “Night of the Ripper,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] José Ortiz. A mad scientist brings Jack the Ripper forward in time to Mega-City One, hoping to learn who he was. The Ripper kills the scientist and then gets blown up, rendering his body unidentifiable. At least now we know why he stopped killing people. Slaine: “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. The Fomorians demand a tribute of women from Slaine’s tribe, but Slaine kills them. The Dead: as above. I can’t understand this installment’s plot, but it does include one absolutely stunning splash page. 

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #6 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. The protagonists reveal that Aggrocorp corn is infected with a sterility virus, but no one really cares. However, the billionaire dog then decides to sell all his stock. This tanks the world economy to the point where no one is a billionaire anymore, and all of Billionaire Island’s residents are automatically evicted. This was a brilliant miniseries that sadly became more relevant as it went on. 

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2013) – “Everything You Know is Wrong,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. In a funny parody moment, JJJ puts up a “spider-signal” on top of the police station, but Spidey destroys it because it’s a target for his enemies. Then Spidey uses the spider-signal to defeat the Vulture. The Vulture uses children as henchmen, which is triggering to Otto because of his own history of being abused as a child. A good issue overall.

STAR-LORD #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Earth-Lord,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. The same creative team as White Trees, but not as good. Peter Quill is put on trial and sentenced to community service, and then he teams up with Ms. Marvel.

THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #10 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. Aren’t I done with this dumb series yet? This issue, Gwenpool creates an army of clones of herself in order to fight an alien invasion. 

2000 AD #518 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Tommy explains his past history with Kano, and then he, Danny and Mac finally look inside the black box. At this point I was really curious about what was inside the box, and so I read prog 519 next issue immediately afterward. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 14,” as above. Johnny and Red survive the stampede, Johnny kisses Red, and then they reach the slaughterhouse where Reagan is being held. Future Shocks: “A Fistful of Neurons,” [W] Alex Stewart, [A] Dave D’Antiquis. A man uses a “dreamtape machine” to experience a Wild West adventure. D’Antiquis was not yet drawing in his two-tone style. Dredd: “The Interrogation,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kim Raymond. Dredd is arrested for corruption, but refuses to confess to anything. The twist is that the accusation was part of a “random physical abuse test” which Dredd passed. Slaine: as above. As the new king, Slaine is symbolically married to the earth goddess. This chapter includes a thinly veiled on-panel depiction of sex, similar to the one in Marvel Presents #7. The Dead: as above. Fludd helps the humans defeat the demons, and tells them to “remember what happens when life becomes more important than living.” 

2000 AD #519 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The box contains… a brain. Half of Kano’s brain was exchanged with half of a Krool’s brain, and that’s why all Kano wants to do is kill Krool. The Bad Company survivors leave the planet to search for the missing Kano. Now that I’ve read this chapter, I’d like to go back to Bad Company II, which didn’t make sense the first time around. But anyway, this is a powerful twist ending, and it helps explain why Bad Company is one of the best-liked 2000 AD strips. It’s also a gripping, unromantic war story. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 15,” as above. Johnny and Red rescue Reagan, but Johnny announces his intention to hold Reagan hostage until the humans leave Kaiak. Dredd: “The Blood Donor,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brendan McCarthy. A man tries to escape from a mandatory blood donation, but while doing so he destroys a supply of blood, and is required to donate enough of his own blood to compensate for the loss. McCarthy’s coloring on this story’s splash page is incredible, but it’s a shame that the rest of the story isn’t in color. He also drew a beautiful cover for prog 517. Slaine: as above. Slaine is officially crowned king, and names Ukko his royal parasite, to be sacrificed along with him after his reign ends. The Dead: as above. A confusing ending to a beautifully drawn but incoherent story. 

ICE CREAM MAN PRESENTS QUARANTINE COMIX SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2020) – six stories, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo et al. A bunch of very short stories created during quarantine, six by the regular Ice Cream Man team, and five by other creators. The best story in the issue is probably Deniz Camp and Artyom Toplin’s “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” about a little girl staring out a window as tragic events transpire outside. 

HEAD LOPPER #13 (Image, 2020) – “The Quest for Mulgrid’s Star, Chapter One: The Executioner,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Norgal defeats a giant crab/mushroom/jellyfish monster and recovers a key, which unlocks the gate to the legendary Mulgrid’s Stair. The path to the stair goes through the city of Arnak Pluth, where Norgal used to be the official executioner. The king of Arnak Pluth orders Norgal and his friends to recover a stolen hammer and keystone. So far this story is a lot more straightforward and easier to follow than the last one, and it’s full of MacLean’s usual bizarre monsters and funny dialogue. 

IMMORTAL HULK #0 (Marvel, 2020) – “At Ground Zero,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Mattia De Iulis, plus reprinted material. Disappointingly this issue is mostly reprints, but the reprints are framed in such a way that they fit perfectly into Immortal Hulk’s narrative. After a framing sequence, the first reprinted story is Mantlo and Mignola’s “Monster” from Incredible Hulk #312. This is probably the most important modern Hulk story, though it’s now known to have been plagiarized from an unpublished graphic novel pitch by Barry Windsor-Smith. BWS’s finished and expanded version of that pitch is forthcoming from Fantagraphics in 2021, under the title Monsters. Anyway, “Monster” established that Bruce Banner suffers from dissociative identity disorder, and that the Hulk is the embodiment of his rage at his father, who abused him and murdered his mother. The second reprinted story is one I haven’t read before: “Grave Matters” by PAD and Adam Kubert from Incredible Hulk -1. Like all the -1 issues, it includes a gratuitous guest appearance by Stan Lee. It establishes that after getting out of a mental hospital, Brian Banner went to live with Bruce. Then Bruce confronts Brian at his mother Rebecca’s grave, as previously depicted in “Monster,” but PAD reveals that this scene ended with Bruce murdering his own father. In the last part of the new framing sequence, the Leader recruits Brian Banner’s ghost to his side. Despite being mostly old material, this issue is an impressive feat. Much like Saga of the Swamp Thing #33, it skillfully uses reprinted material to lay the foundation for new stories. 

WE ARE HUMANOIDS, FEATURING THE INCAL FCBD 2020 (Humanoids, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Stephane Roux.  This issue’s “new” story is just a plot summary of The Incal. The rest of the issue consists of random preview pages. 

ZOO PATROL SQUAD: KINGDOM CAPER FCBD (Penguin Workshop, 2020) – “Kingdom Caper,” [W/A] Brett Bean. A preview of a kids’ graphic novel about anthropomorphic animals. Brett Bean’s art is quite good, resembling Derek Laufman’s art on Ruinworld, but otherwise this comic doesn’t appeal to me. 

BLOODSHOT REBORN #6 (Valiant, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Butch Guice. Bloodshot and Magic have lunch, Bloodshot grosses Magic out with how much he eats, and then he and Magic have sex. And so do the two people who have been chasing them. This is a pretty fun issue. Jeff Lemire’s dialogue and his style of humor are subtle but effective.  

FANTASTIC FOUR #196 (Marvel, 1978) – “Who in the World is the Invincible Man?”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Keith Pollard. Ben, Johnny and Sue are kidnapped by the Invincible Man, who, when we last saw him, was Johnny and Sue’s father Franklin. But now he’s Reed Richards in disguise, and he was sent by a mysterious man who proves to be Dr. Doom. This is an okay issue, but it’s too bad that George Pérez didn’t draw it.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #40 (Gold Key, 1970) – “Accident in Hyper-Space,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. As of issue 38 this comic was officially called “Space Family Robinson, Lost in Space on Space Station One.” In this issue the kids, Tim and Tam, visit a planet where they get shrunk to tiny size. They help the local aliens survive an earthquake, then return to their family’s ship, where the shrinking wears off. This issue is kind of boring. 

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2013) – “Joking Hazard,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. The Jester and Screwball pull a bunch of criminal pranks. Spidey tracks them down, but when they pull a prank on him too, he beats them half to death. This is unfortunate for him since the Avengers have just been discussing the possibility that something might be wrong with Spidey. Some of the subplots are that Peter/Doc Ock is trying to earn his PhD, and Anna Maria is being bullied for her size. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #33 (DC, 1989) – “Into the Angry Planet,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] John K. Snyder III. Duchess recruits or kidnaps a bunch of other Suicide Squad members and leads them through a Boom Tube to Apokolips. The Apokolips storyline was a high point of this series, although Suicide Squad maintained such a consistent level of quality that it’s hard to identify any stories that stood out among the rest. 

2000 AD #521 (IPC, 1987) – This issue has a slight format change: its cover is a full bleed, whereas earlier covers had a white border around the artwork. Anderson Psi Division: “Hour of the Wolf,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Anderson fights some telepaths in an abandoned factory and is shot. Kitson’s art style is already recognizable as his. Rogue Trooper: “Hit One,” [W] Simon Geller, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue accepts a mission to assassinate the Nort general Yuan-Toh. Dredd: “What If Judges Did Ads?”, [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] various. A bunch of fake ads starring Dredd characters, drawn by five different artists. Nemesis: “Torquemada the God,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Sister Sturn is obsessed with Torquemada. Like David with Bathsheba, Torquemada engineers Sister Sturn’s husband’s death so he can marry her. Kevin O’Neill’s draftsmanship and lettering in this story are brilliant, equal to anything in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 17,” as above. Johnny and Red continue their journey with Reagan, and also they take a shower together. 

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Reviews for part of September

9-29

SPIDER-WOMAN #49 (Marvel, 1983) – “Runaway!”, [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Brian Postman. Spider-Woman and Tigra team up to find a runaway teenager with pyrokinetic powers. I don’t much like Ann Nocenti’s writing because it tends to be weird and incoherent, in a bad way. And she could have done more with the dynamics between Jen and Greer. This issue isn’t terrible, though. Brian Postman only did a few stories for Marvel in the early ‘80s. 

2000 AD #404 (IPC, 1985) – Rogue Trooper: “Re-Gene 4: Eye of the G.I.,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue secretlyacquires the location of an “antigen” that can restore Bagman, Gunnar and Helm’s bodies. Future Shocks: “Crazy War,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tony Jozwiak. During an alien invasion, some rich people hide underground in a bunker. Their loyal robots deceive them by playing false recordings about the progress of the invasion. Discovering this, the rich people disable the robots and return to the surface – only to discover that the aliens have already won the war, and the robots were just trying to protect their masters. Nemesis: “Book Four,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. A four-page fight scene between Nemesis and Torquemada. I think I’m finally starting to understand this series. Dredd: “City of the Damned,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd and Anderson battle the Mutant, Dredd’s future self. Stainless Steel Rat: “The Stainless Steel Rat for President,” [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Jim DeGriz runs for president of an alien planet. He fakes his own death and escapes the planet with a lot of money. This was the last installment of 2000 AD’s adaptations of these novels, and I don’t know if they ever published another literary adaptation. The Hell Trekkers: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant (as F. Martin Candor), [A] Horacio Lalia. An “Oregon Trail” story about settlers traveling through the Cursed Earth. 

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #11 (Gold Key, 1974) – “The Spider’s Nest,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Santos. Zulena and a bunch of Aba-Zulu men are kidnapped by slavers. Sihamba the “little doctoress” helps Dan-El and Natongo rescue them. This is a somewhat formulaic but entertaining story. In Zoe D. Smith’s brilliant essay “4 Colorism, or, the Ashiness of It All,” she begins by discussing this exact comic, and she mentions that the black people in it are actually colored green.  https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2019/05/4-colorism-or-the-ashiness-of-it-all/ I honestly did not notice this, partly because I’m so used to Gold Key’s style of coloring, but also, of course, because of white privilege. 

NEW MUTANTS #55 (Marvel, 1987) – “Flying Wild!”, [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Bret Blevins. Sam and the other New Mutants go to Lila Cheney’s album release party. Some alien criminals convince Sam to take barbiturates, and then kidnap him. Lila and the other kids rescue Sam. As I’ve said before, Sam and Lila’s “romance” is really creepy. But there is some cute stuff in this issue – like the princess dress Dani and Illyana make for Rahne, and the signs of a budding  puppy-love affair between Rahne and Doug. (Who, of course, did not have long to live.) 

ROYALS #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “We Are the Dead,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jonboy Meyers & Thony Silas. The Inhumans fight a bunch of Chitauri. Due to the lack of Javier Rodriguez art, this issue is much less interesting than #10. 

THE AUTHORITY #14 (WildStorm, 2000) – “The Nativity Two of Four,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Another onslaught of ultraviolent, offensive, macho crap. This comic is valuable only for Frank Quitely’s artwork. 

MIDNIGHTER #4 (DC, 2015) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Steve Mooney. Midnighter and Dick Grayson team up against some Russian mobsters who are pretending to be vampires. This is a pretty fun issue. Orlando seems to have some knowledge of Russian culture, as also displayed in Crude, and he plays up the homoerotic tensions between Midnighter and Dick. 

SCALPED #11 (Vertigo, 2008) – “Casino Boogie Conclusion: Requiem for a Dog Soldier,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. This issue focuses on Gina, a woman who was somehow involved in the event at the origin of the series’ plot, i.e. the shooting of two FBI officers 31 years ago. We see Gina forming a plan to get Lawrence Belcourt out of prison, and then she returns to Prairie Rose Reservation and is murdered off-panel. I’ve started collecting this series more actively. 

ACTION COMICS #708 (DC, 1995) – “Moving Miracle!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jackson Guice. Superman and Mr. Miracle team up against a villain called Deathtrap. There’s also a cameo appearace by the as-yet-unidentified Conduit. This issue is okay but not the best. 

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #105 (Marvel, 1984) – “Competition!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Richard Howell. A new hero called Crime-Buster starts stealing business from Heroes for Hire. This is all the more annoying because Crime-Buster is a showboating egomaniac. Finally, Luke, Danny and Crime-Buster are all hired to defuse a hostage situation at Madison Square Garden. When Crime-Buster finds a bomb that’s about to go off, he runs away in terror, thus branding himself as a coward, while Luke and Danny defuse the bomb and are hailed as heroes. Kurt’s work from this very early part of his career is mostly undistinguished, but this issue is quite good. 

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’93 #61 (DC, 1993) – “Death of the Party!”, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Arnie Jorgensen. The LEGION saves an alien president from assassination, and also they get an unwanted new recruit called Gigantus. This issue is rather forgettable. 

2000 AD #406 (IPC, 1985) – Halo Jones: “A Postcard from Pluto,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Book 2 begins by introducing us to Halo’s new life aboard a spaceship. There’s some excellent dialogue in this installment, but no major plot points. Rogue Trooper: “Re-Gene 6: Decisions, Decisions,” as above. Rogue escapes the ship and heads for the planet of Horst, where the antigen is. Dredd: as above except [A] Ron Smith. Dredd and Anderson go to the planet of Xanadu and defeat the Mutant. Dredd gets a new pair of superpowered bionic eyes. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis and the ABC Warriors defeat Torquemada, Futruree  Torquemada’s apparent death is faked. This story includes some small hints of the steampunk themes of Talbot’s Luther Arkwright saga. The Hell Trekkers: as above. One of the migrants shoots a Cursed Earth mutant, and the other migrants allow the mutants to kill the offender in exchange for a guarantee of safety. 

MARVEL TEAM-UP #3 (Marvel, 2005) – “Golden Child,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Scott Kolins. Dr. Strange and the Fantastic Four team up against Dr. Doom, but at the end of the issue, we learn that it’s Tony Stark inside Dr. Doom’s armor. This issue is kind of average, but it’s entertaining. This Marvel Team-Up revival was probably the most successful one besides the original. 

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #10 (DC, 2018) – “Animan Runs Rampant!”, [W] Rob Williams, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Animan kills all the other Herculoids, and then turns Dorno into a god. I don’t like this story arc very much. It’s overly grim and it doesn’t match the tone of other Future Quest stories. 

STAR TREK #34 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Psychocrystals,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Kirk and his officers visit a utopian planet of living crystals. The crystal people are unable to commit violence, so when they get attacked by a dragon, Kirk has to defeat it for them. This comic includes nothing very interesting. 

SUPERMAN #388 (DC, 1983) – “The Kid Who Played Superman!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Clark meets Mickey Morris, a little boy who enjoys pretending to be Superman. Mickey also has psychic abilities that enable him to see aliens no one else can see. Meanwhile, Lois and Lana get in an embarrassing catfight in public. This story is kind of cute, but it’s not “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”. 

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY #10 (Marvel, 1977) – “Hotline to Hades!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Machine Man battles a demon that’s hostile to free will. The demon is eventually revealed to really be a computer. This story has a similar theme to the Fourth World saga – the battle between chaotic free will and orderly oppression – although 2001 is definitely not as good as the Fourth World comics. 

WONDER WOMAN #306 (DC, 1983) – “Secrets and Suspicions!”, [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Don Heck. Diana’s landlord, a retired senator, has a heart attack, and then someone tries to kidnap him on the way to the hospital. Eventually we learn that the senator was a traitor. This period of Wonder Woman was not awful, but it tended to have rather boring plots. This issue includes a bad Huntress backup story. 

KORG: 70,000 BC #3 (Charlton, 1975) – “Land of Milk and Honey!”, [W/A] Pat Boyette. Korg and his wife are separated from their children while fleeing from an ice age. Eventually Korg’s wife is kidnapped by a mysterious man who lives inside a giant stone statue and claims to have psychic powers. This comic isn’t as exciting as it sounds from that summary. 

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #51 (Marvel, 1978) – “A Night on the Town,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Don Heck. Harlem is terrorized by robots under the control of Dr. Nightshade. This issue includes some high-quality characterization and dialogue, but its plot is very boring. 

GHOSTLY HAUNTS #21 (Charlton, 1971) – “The Scariest Picture of Them All!”, [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Charles Nicholas: I don’t remember this one at all. “Old Soldiers Never Die!”, [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Fred Himes: An old man in a nursing home has dreams where he’s fighting in Vietnam. The dreams turn real, and the man dies a brave death in combat. This is the only good story in the issue. “The Man Who Refused to Die,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Norman Nodel: A man narrowly escapes death multiple times. The twist ending is that he’s trying to die, and he can’t. 

On September 4, I received a large DCBS shipment, consisting of over a month’s worth of comics: 

LUMBERJANES: FAREWELL TO SUMMER FCBD SPECIAL 2020 (Boom!, 2020) – multiple stories, [E] Sophie Philips-Roberts. This is the first new Lumberjanes comic book since March, but sadly it’s also one of the last Lumberjanes comic books – more on that later. This FCBD edition consists of five vignettes by former Lumberjanes artists. I think the best is Maarta Laiho’s story about Bubbles. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #89 (IDW, 2020) – “Twilight’s First Sunrise,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. This takes place after the FCBD issue, which I hadn’t gotten yet. After Twilight raises the sun for the first time, four different groups of characters head off to explore different previously unseen areas beyond Equestria. We start with Applejack, Tempest Shadow, Rockhoof and Zecora, who are going to visit Zecora’s homeland, the Farasian Coast. Zecora’s origins are a big gap in MLP’s narrative, and it’s nice to finally get some background on her. As usual, Jeremy’s writing is excellent and Andy’s artwork is gorgeous and full of Easter eggs.

ONCE AND FUTURE #10 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan forces a cab driver to take him to Gran’s nursing home, just in time for it to be attacked by Grendel. This issue is heavy on action sequences, but it does mention that Beowulf only exists in one manuscript, which hardly anyone read until the 19th century. How many other writers of Beowulf adaptations would know these things? I get the sense that Kieron knows at least as much about medieval literature as an advanced undergrad or an MA student. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #22 (Marvel, 2020) – “You Had One Job,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina & Sean Izaakse. Alicia, Sky and the kids recruit the new Fantastic Four, the same ones from FF #347-349, to fight invading Priests of Pama. We later discover that the Hulk and Ghost Rider are  holograms, and the new FF is actually Franklin, Val, Spider-Man and Wolverine. This issue is fun, though not Dan’s best. 

ALIENATED #5 (Boom!, 2020) – “Duty First,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Having been rejected from Waxy’s YouTube contest, Samuel sneaks in to see him in person, then uses Chip’s powers to murder him. Samuel then tries to disguise himself as Waxy, but that doesn’t work either. Then Samuel goes to the hospital and murders a bunch more people. So Alienated is turning into a story about white male radicalization. I didn’t expect it to go that direction. In this issue Chris Wildgoose does an excellent job of depicting Chip’s powers and his alien planet. 

FAR SECTOR #7 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. The day I wrote this, N.K. Jemisin was announced as having won a MacArthur Genius Grant. This issue, Jo visits the world of the @At, the AI people, who use jokes and information as currency. Jemisin’s depiction of the @At is a good example of her ability to shift the reader’s perspective and make readers see things in unexpected ways. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #11 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “The Return, Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi is nursed back to health by Mariko, and he tells a story of his childhood exploits with Mariko and Kenichi. It soon becomes clear that the love triangle between Usagi, Mariko and Kenichi has not changed at all. At the end of the issue, a former Mifune samurai tries to recruit Usagi in a plot against Lord Hikiji. 

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS #1 (IDW, 2020) – “Transformation is Magic,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Tony Fleecs, and “Shine Like a Diamond,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Jack Lawrence. In the intro sequence, Queen Chrysalis summons the Transformers – her fellow “changelings” – from Cybertron. Then she allies with Megatron, while the Mane Six ally with the Autobots. In the backup story, Arcee helps Rarity defend her boutique from Starscream. This comic is well aware of how absurd its premise is – it begins with Quibble Pants complaining about “nonsense crossover stories” that don’t fit into any continuity. So far, the writers are successfully exploiting the humor potential of this crossover. 

WICKED THINGS #4 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Lottie fails to solve the smartphone thefts, but she does earn some respect from the police. This is a really funny issue, and Wicked Things is easily the best of John Allison’s post-Giant-Days comics. It is kind of odd that the series’ initial plotline about the Japanese detective has been abandoned, though it comes up again in issue 5. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #23 (Marvel, 2020) – “War Games,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. The new FF rescue the Kree and Skrull kids from the Priests of Pama. I believe that this story is continued in Empire Fallout: Fantastic Four #1, which I did not order. 

On September 5, I went back to Heroes for their annual warehouse sale. The Heroes staff did a great job organizing this event while maintaining social distancing. In addition to picking up new comics, I bought about 80 back issues for a dollar each. I could have bought even more, but I had to stop because the heat was getting oppressive. 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #8 (DC, 2020) – “The Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes – Part 1,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Various. This two-parter is an “all-star artist event” in which each page is drawn by a different artist. This issue is a lot of fun because of all the different art styles it displays, and also because it finally gives us some background on the Legionnaires. Until this issue I didn’t even realize which character was Phantom Girl. However, Bendis’s dialogue and plotting are still terrible. 

SEA OF STARS #6 (Image, 2020) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. In part one of the new storyline, the Zzaztek lady rescues Kadyn from the crazy old priest, while Gil starts looking for Kadyn all over again. I’m glad this series is back. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #1 (Boom!, 2020) – “Eight Bells, All’s Well,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Al Ewing’s first major creator-owned series (as far as I know) is about a crew of spacefarers who harvest the flesh of dead gods. Literally, there are giant dead gods floating in space, and there are people who make a living stripping their bodies and selling them. It’s kind of like Moby Dick in space. In particular, when Ewing and DiMeo depict the processing of the godflesh, I’m reminded me of Melville’s descriptions of how blubber was stripped from whales and rendered. Di Meo’s artwork creatse a strong sense of wonder. This is a strong debut issue, and I’m excited to see more of this series. 

INKBLOT #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. The Seeker is an immortal, a member of a family somewhat like the Endless. One day she falls asleep, spills some black ink, and accidentally creates a cat with dimension-hopping powers. This series’ fantasy elements are somewhat trite, but the cat is incredibly adorable – I love how it’s just a black blotch with eyes and no mouth. Emma Kubert is a third-generation cartoonist: her father is Andy Kubert and her grandfather was Joe Kubert. 

AMETHYST #5 (DC, 2020) – “In Deep,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy goes to trial before the court of House Diamond. They tell her a very different version of her origin story, in which the villains are Amy’s biological parents, rather than Dark Opal. Amy escapes from the court and returns to the Aquamarine realm, only to discover that Dark Opal is heading for Mount Ruby. I wish this was an ongoing series. It’s a shame that there’s just one more issue. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #5 (DC, 2020) – “On the Other Hand,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. In flashback, Adam and Alanna negotiate with the other tribes of Rann. In the present, they negotiate with the US government. This issue isn’t bad, but I really want to learn more about the Pykkts. 

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #13 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Accursed Part One: The Great Niffleheim Escape or The Svartalfheim Massacre,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ron Garney. Some Dark Elves rescue Malekith from Niflheim. Later, Malekith invades Svartalfheim, and Thor and the other Asgardians come to the rescue. Starting with this issue, Jason Aaron turned Malekith from a historical footnote into one of Thor’s scariest villains. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #32 (DC, 1989) – “Steel Trap,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Grant Miehm. The Squad infiltrates Iran to rescue a kidnapped Iranian-American. One of the Squad members on the mission is Major Victory, a hardcore jingoist. Meanwhile, Lashina kidnaps Big Barda. Like many of Ostrander and Yale’s Suicide Squad stories, this issue is heavily influenced by contemporary politics. There’s one panel where Shade scares off some Iranian soldiers by showing them a vision of Ayatollah Khomeini. 

THUNDERBOLTS #138 (Marvel, 2010) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Miguel Sepulveda. As I have observed before, this series is Marvel’s version of Suicide Squad. This issue is a Dark Reign crossover in which the Thunderbolts go to Colombia to retrieve their missing member, Mr. X. Most of the Thunderbolts in this issue are different from the ones who appeared later in the run, with the exception of Ghost and Crossbones. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #559 (Marvel, 2008) –“The Money $hot,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martin. Spidey battles Screwball, a new villainess who commits crimes in order to upload them to YouTube. Also, Peter starts on the path toward becoming a paparazzi. Screwball was an original idea for a villain, especially in 2008, and her costume is really cool. And Marcos Martin’s storytelling and page layouts in this issue are incredible. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #12 (IDW, 2020) – “The Return Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Kato asks Usagi to help him assassinate a traveling emissary of the shogun, so that Lord Hikiji will take the blame. Shockingly, Usagi agrees to this plot even though it’s dishonorable and would cause horrible collateral damage, and he also slaps his old nurse Yayoi and threatens Mariko. The reader is led to believe that Usagi’s head injury has turned him evil. Thankfully, it turns out that Usagi is putting on an act in order to gain the Mifune samurai’s trust, and he really wants to save the emissary. Usagi and Kenji go off to battle while Mariko leaves town to seek help. I can’t wait for the next issue. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC FCBD 2020 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Trish Fortner. The Mane Six help Twilight raise the sun for the first time. In a backup story by Christina Rice and Tony Fleecs, Twilight gets Cheese Sandwich to throw a birthday party for Pinkie Pie. There’s not much suggestion of romance between Pinkie and Cheese; their marriage in the final episode of season 9 seemed to come out of left field. One advantage of the comics over the TV show is that the comic’s writers can use whatever characters they want, since they don’t have to worry about paying the voice actors. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #108 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell & Ronda Pattison, [A] Nelson Daniel. The Turtles rescue the kidnapped kids from the Slithery, but not before Baxter Stockman succeeds in his secret plot to retrieve one of the Slithery’s eggs. I like this series because of the characters’ warm and caring relationships – although warmth and tenderness are not necessarily the qualities I would expect from this franchise. 

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #5 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Future Imperfect,” [W] John Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Sean figures out that all three of his labmates used holographic disguises to frame him for f#&%ing up time. Sean restores the timestream and destroys the time machine, and things end happily, except that there are still dinosaurs and airships and stuff. This was a fun series. On Twitter, I asked John Layman how he kept track of all the timelines in this comic, and he replied “Never. Write. Time. Travel.” 

DIE #13 (Image, 2020) – “Little Wars,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Ash meets HG Wells, who explains how the German Kriegspiel, or military wargame, led to the creation of Die and the dominance of Eternal Prussia. As usual, Die is quite hard to follow, but Gillen’s portrayal of Wells seems extremely authentic. Gillen shows deep knowledge of Wells’s life and works; in particular, he mentions on the letters page that Wells sent Orwell a letter saying “Read my early works, you shit.” This is actually true. 

TARTARUS #5 (Image, 2020) – “Eclipse,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. The villains find the Cloak of Darkness that hides Tartarus from detection, and the protagonists invade the Lord Governor’s parade. The issue ends with the revelation that Surka is alive. Jack T. Cole’s artwork on this series has incredible, but unfortunately he’s announced his departure, though the series will continue. 

CHEW #2 (Image, 2009) – “Taster’s Choice Part 2,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. This copy is water-damaged, but whatever. In this issue Chu learns that his power is called cibopathy, and he and Savoy investigate the case of an amputated finger that was found in a hamburger. Also, Amelia Mintz appears for the first time, though she’s not named. 

FCBD 2020 (X-MEN/DARK AGES) #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman & Tini Howard, [A] Pepe Larraz. This issue’s X-Men story is more or less incomprehensible. There’s also an Avengers story that’s easier to follow, but uninteresting. 

INCREDIBLE HULK #93 (Marvel, 2006) – “Exile Part II,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Carlo Pagulayan. Hulk fights a number of battles in the arena, and gains the respect of his fellow competitors, some of whom will become part of his Warbound. We also learn that Sakaar’s emperor is not especially popular, and the issue ends with some rebels attempting to recruit Hulk for the Sakaar Democratic Insurgency. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #560 (Marvel, 2008) – “Peter Parker, Paparazzi Part Two: Flat Out Crazy,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martin. Peter continues his lucrative but ethically troublesome work as a paparazzi. Bobby Carr, the celebrity he’s trying to photograph, is being stalked by a two-dimensional villain named Paper Doll. There’s some incredible artwork in this issue, especially when Spidey fights Paper Doll in an art gallery. The idea of a two-dimensional villain is a nice use of the comics medium. On the last page we learn that Bobby Carr’s girlfriend is Mary Jane.  

WYND #3 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This series was an unannounced surprise release which was not solicited in Previews, so I had some trouble tracking down the first three issues. I did manage to get them, but I read them in reverse order. Wynd’s protagonists are a pointy-eared teenage boy, Wynd, and his adopted sister Oakley, an engineer. The boy is being persecuted by human supremacists who hate him for his magical blood. This issue, Wynd and Oakley make it to an enclave of magical people located below their city of Pipetown. But their persecutor, the Bandaged Man – an extremely creepy villain – catches up to them, and Oakley’s mother has to sacrifice her life so her children can escape, along with the prince of Pipetown and his gardener companion. I’ll have more to say about this series later, but it’s amazing. 

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS #2 (IDW, 2020) – “Inspiring,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Sara Pitre-Durocher, and “They Eat Ponies, Don’t They?”, [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Casey W. Coller. In the first story, Spike helps Grimlock defeat the Constructicons thanks to his (Spike’s) ability to do research. In the second story, Pinkie Pie hosts a cooking contest which is interrupted by Soundwave. Neither of these stories advances the series’ overall plot, to the extent that there is one. 

CHU #2 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 2 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. A mob boss named Dan Bucatini takes out a hit on Saffron. But by mistake the hitman instead goes after Saffron’s innocent sister Sage, who’s working at a nursing home. This series is still not as good as Chew, but it’s funny. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #9 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The baby monsters kill a bunch more people. Erica tries to get James to volunteer to serve as bait. This was a good issue, but not spectacular. 

BIRTHRIGHT #19 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In flashback, we see how the five mages decided to create the barrier between Earth and Terrenos. Back in the present, Mikey and the other heroes fight the Terrenos invasion, and at the end they’re confronted by a giant dragon. 

SEX CRIMINALS #30 (Image, 2020) – “The End: Part Five – My Black Hole,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Suzie breaks the time barrier, sees all the moments in her life at once, and wakes up three months later. Jon is released from prison, and he and Suzie seemingly get a happy ending. I believe there’s only one issue left, which is numbered, of course, 69. 

ASCENDER #12 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Andy buries Effie, but then she comes back to life. Yay! They’re attacked by vampires, but a ninja dude named Kantos rescues them. Meanwhile, Mother and Sister discover that the “source of all magic” is Tim. 

HILLBILLY: THE LIZARD OF RUSTY CREEK CAVE (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. A little girl is chosen by her village (in Shirley Jackson-esque fashion) to be sacrificed to a dragon. Her best friend recruits Rondel to defeat the dragon. Rondel discovers that the dragon never asked for the little girls in the first place; an evil talking possum tricked the villagers into offering them up. This is an entertaining one-shot story that makes me excited for the next Hillbilly series. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #662 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Substitute Part Two,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] Reilly Brown. Spidey and the Avengers Academy kids team up against the Psycho-Man. This issue is okay, but it fels more like an issue of Avengers Academy than Spider-Man. There are two backup stories, one of which is drawn by Javier Rodriguez. 

IMMORTAL HULK #36 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Thing in the Tube,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Leader, in Rick Jones’s body, manipulates the Hulk and Gamma Flight into fighting each other. Meanwhile, some creature emerges from a test tube inside Shadow Base. This issue includes one panel where the Hulk executes a Sal Buscema punch (http://80pagegiant.blogspot.com/2011/05/sal-buscema-punch.html), and the rubble in the background spells out SAL BUSCEMA. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 (Marvel, 1968) – “Make Way for… Medusa!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. I bought this from my friend and fellow scholar Dan Yezbick. It has some writing inside and a few missing panels, but it’s in excellent condition otherwise. This issue, Medusa visits New York and is hired to appear in hairspray commercials. But Medusa quits her job, and her boss, Montgomery G. Bliss, manipulates Spidey into going after her. Meanwhile, Peter and Gwen are having some relationship problems. This issue is a classic, and I’m glad I own it. Spider-Man’s from before #100 are tough to find at my price range. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #663 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Return of Anti-Venom Part One: The Ghost of Jean DeWolff,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Anti-Venom (Eddie Brock) meets the Wraith, who appears to be the late Jean DeWolff. Later, Eddie tries to kill Martin Li, aka Mister Negative. In this issue we see Aunt May working at Martin Li’s FEAST shelter, which was one of the central locations in the PS4 Spider-Man game. 

FIRE POWER #1 FCBD (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. Owen Johnson is an ordinary suburban family man, but the night after hosting a cookout, he’s confronted by an old friend from his former life as a kung fu superhero. Chris Samnee’s art in this issue is, of course, fantastic, but Fire Power’s premise is rather questionable. It’s a wuxia comic, but its creators are both white men. That may have been okay when Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy were working on Master of Kung Fu, but it’s not okay now. Also, Fire Power showos no knowledge of Chinese or Asian culture. I’m not sure if Owen Johnson is supposed to be Asian or not, but if he is, he’s completely assimilated. On top of all that, I’ve lost interest in Robert Kirkman’s writing. I would buy more issues of Fire Power if I found them for a dollar or less, but I don’t intend to start ordering it. 

THUNDERBOLTS #148 (Marvel, 2010) – “Lightning in Shadows,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Declan Shalvey. Luke Cage looks for Daredevil, who seems to have turned evil. Meanwhile, the other Thunderbolts fight a bunch of Hand ninjas. The highlight of this issue is the scene where the various Raft inmates have lunch and argue with each other. 

ICE CREAM MAN #20 (Image, 2020) – “For Kids (A Parody in 3-4 Parts),” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. This issue consists of scary parodies of three classic children’s books: Goodnight Moon, The Giving Tree, and Green Eggs and Ham. Ice Cream Man is the scariest comic I’m currently reading, although I am concerned that Prince’s style of horror relies too much on generic creepiness, without enough specific implications as to what the reader is supposed to be scared of.

BITTER ROOT #10 (Image, 2020) – “Rage & Redemption Conclusion,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. After a bunch of fight scenes, Dr. Walter Sylvester redeems himself by sacrificing himself to return the villain Adro to the dimension of Barzakh. This series is hard to follow in single-issue form, but it’s very important. This issue includes essays by Matthew Teutsch and Stanford Carpenter.  

CURSE WORDS #15 (Image, 2018) – “The Hole Damned World Part Five,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Jacques Zacques finds his sons, but they’re already dead. Ruby Stitch and Wizord rescue Margaret from prison, and Margaret is shocked to discover that Wizord and Ruby Stitch are her parents. Also, Platinum Johnny has somehow gotten his girlfriend pregnant. 

ASH & THORN #3 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. Lottie and Peruvia drink some tea and have a mystical vision, and Peruvia decides to turn evil. This series’ execution continues to be weaker than its premise, although I still intend to continue reading it. 

LOCKE & KEY: IN PALE BATTALIONS GO #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I believe the characters in this issue are the same ones from Locke & Key: Small World. The Locke boy, Jonathan, uses the Anywhere Key to try to enlist in World War I, but fails. His parents try to prevent him from using the keys again. But his sister Mary helps him use the keys anyway to get to Europe, and he emerges in the midst of battle. This issue is an intriguing piece of fantasy, and it seems historically accurate enough. 

DRYAD #4 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Osterling. The family reaches the futuristic city of Silver Bay, but their plane is brought down in a terrorist attack by the parents’ old enemies. This series has gotten fairly exciting, and Justin Osterling’s art is not bad. 

SEX CRIMINALS: SEXUAL GARY #1 (Image, 2020) – “Who I Am and How I Cummed to Be” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Rachael Stott. I don’t remember where Sexual Gary appeared before, but this issue tells the story of his career as a porn superstar. This issue is full of puns, including a fake IMDB page. It’s mostly intended for humor value, but it does include some serious meditations on sex. 

BEST OF 2000 AD #0 (Rebellion, 2020) – Dredd: “Democracy Soon!”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Erica Henderson. Dredd arrests some pro-democracy agitators. It’s funny seeing how Erica Henderson draws Dredd. This story is new to this issue; the other three are reprints. Rogue Trooper: “Survival Lesson,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Richard Elson. Rogue Soldier fights alongside a scared young soldier, and is unable to save him. Anderson: “Reasons to Be Cheerful,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Arthur Ranson. Anderson investigates a sect of underground troglodytes. Ranson’s art here is excellent. Durham Red: “The Judas Strain,” [W] Lauren Beukes & Dale Halvorsen, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Durham Red and Johnny Alpha collect a bounty on a vampire lord. 

JACK KIRBY: THE EPIC LIFE OF THE KING OF COMICS FCBD (Ten Speed, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. An excerpt of Tom Scioli’s graphic novel biography of Jack Kirby, who is of course his biggest influence. I’ve seen some people criticize this book because of Scioli’s big-eyed Margaret Keane-esque depiction of Kirby. But Scioli seems to have done a lot of research into Kirby and his times, and he gives a convincing account of how Kirby’s background helped make him the artist he was. I’m reserving further judgment until I’ve read the entire book. 

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #4 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan and Nyla go underwater to search for the Serpent Crown, but Champion manipulates Conan into fighting Namor. I don’t think Conan and Namor have ever met before, but they have some interesting similarities. While reading the issue after this one, I realized that Nyla is not a new character; I’ve seen her before in Daredevil #287. 

STAR #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Birth of a Dragon Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina & Filipe Andrade. This issue was going to be published in trade paperback only, but Marvel changed their minds about that. This issue is mostly a lot of fight scenes, and neither Star herself nor her opponents, the Black Order, are particularly exciting. Filipe Andrade drew the flashback sequences. 

BARBIE FASHION #2 (Marvel, 1991) – “Get Me to the Studio on Time!”, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Amanda Conner: Barbie is almost late to a modeling appointment. I wouldn’t be able to tell this story was drawn by Amanda Conner if I didn’t know. There are also two other stories by the same creators. A fundamental problem with this series is that Barbie is not an effective protagonist, because she wasn’t designed to appear in stories. She originated as a fashion doll with no associated narrative. I’m skeptical about the comics adaptations of Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies for the same reason. 

GHOST-SPIDER #9 (Marvel, 2020) – “Where Does the Good Go?”, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Ig Guara. Another comic that was initially supposed to be digital- and trade-only. This issue, Gwen learns about Kamala’s law, and then she teams up with the evil Sue and Johnny. 

THE WALKING DEAD #110 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Rick, Michonne and friends visit a “kingdom” run by an obvious fraudster named Ezekiel. I’d eventually like to have a complete run of The Walking Dead, but I’m not collecting it very actively. 

USAGI YOJIMBO FCBD 2020 (IDW, 2020) – “Attack of the Teenie Titans,” [W/A] Stan Sakai & Julie Sakai. Usagi fights a tengu, is knocked unconscious, and has a vision where he encounters chibi versions of himself, Tomoe, and Jei. This is okay, but it’s not a top-tier Usagi story.  

ON THE STUMP #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. This issue’s plot makes no sense, and its art is rather minimalistic. I’ve already decided to give up on this series. 

WILDC.A.T.S #25 (Image, 1995) – “On Earth / As It Is in Heaven,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Johnson, Kevin Nowlan & Travis Charest. This is one of two Alan Moore WildC.A.T.s that I was missing. I also got the other one, #50, at the Heroes sale, but I haven’t read it yet. In this issue’s first half, Majestic’s new team of WildC.A.T.s fights some members of Stormwatch. In the other half, which is set on Khera, the original WildC.A.T.s try to free Zealot from the influence of her fellow warrior women. The best thing about this issue is Alan’s prose, although the art is quite good.

BANG! #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. This issue introduces Dr. Queen, a futuristic female detective. At the end, she too meets Thomas Cord, or a version of him. At this point it’s hard for me to look at Wilfredo Torres’s art and not think of Quantum Age. 

NIGHTCRAWLER #1 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Todd Nauck. Having returned from the dead, Kurt Wagner reconnects with his old friends. Kurt is my second favorite of Claremont’s X-Men after Kitty, but this issue feels kind of like a rehash of older stories. I do like the panel where Kurt is reclining on a couch surrounded by Bamfs, in reference to the “Yum!” panel from X-Men #168. (I checked, and that panel was in fact in X-Men #168; there was a lot going on in that issue besides the “Professor Xavier is a jerk” plotline.) 

2000 AD #408 (IPC, 1985) – Halo Jones: “I’ll Never Forget Whatsizname…,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. One of the saddest Halo Jones stories, in which Halo learns the origin of her androgynous, nonentitous roommate, and then promptly forgets that they exist. Psi-Testers: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Mike Dorey. Oscar Meek is a “psi-tester” who uses telepathy to determine if a criminal is innocent or guilty. The crook Cyclops O’Keefe manipulates Meek into making a false report. Mike Dorey’s art here reminds me of Dan Spiegle. Dredd: “The Hunters Club,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Chip Chegley is the newest member of the Hunters Club, who go around murdering people for sport, and it’s his turn to hunt someone. Future Shocks: “Nerves of Steel!”, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Will Simpson. A story about a war between robots and humans. The twist ending is that the protagonists are the robots, not the humans. The HellTrekkers: “Lavalanche!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Horacio Lalia. The caravan is caught in a volcanic eruption and has to split in half. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #667 (Marvel, 2011) – “Spider-Island Part One: The Amazing Spider-Manhattan,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Carlie Cooper gains spider-powers, and Peter initially thinks he gave her a “spidery transmitted disease,” but in fact lots of other people in New York have also gotten similar powers. Mayhem ensues. Another fun issue. 

THE GOON #19 (Dark Horse, 2007) – “The Return,” [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon fights a giant brain with a lot of eyes. There’s also a metatextual joke about South Park. I don’t remember much about this issue, but it was fun, and I want to collect more of this series. 

GHOSTED IN L.A. #11 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. We start with a flashback to Agi’s first encounter with a much older ghost. Then Daphne and her friends fight the same ghost, and surprisingly, Michelle helps him defeat it. As a result, the ghosts can now leave the mansion. One issue left. 

DONUT THE DESTROYER FCBD (Graphix, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley, [W] Stef Purenins (it’s not clear who did what). A preview of a new middle-grade graphic novel about a girl who goes to hero school, to the disappointment of her villain parents. This preview issue is funny and well-drawn, but I’m not sure if I want to read the entire graphic novel. I liked Graley’s two Vampire Island miniseries, but I’m much more likely to order a comic book than a graphic novel. 

FCBD SUPER MERCADO MIX TAPE 2020 (Oni, 2020) – “Sci-Fu” and “Fun Fun Fun World,” [W/A] Yehudi Mercado. Like Sarah Graley, Yehudi Mercado wrote a comic-book format miniseries that I liked (Rocket Salvage), but then switched to graphic novels. The first book previewed in this issue is about a teenage rap prodigy, and it has some very appealing graffiti-style art. The backup story is about would-be alien conquerors. These books seem reasonably appealing, but not enough to make me run out and buy them.  

VALKYRIE: JANE FOSTER #10 (Marvel, 2020) – “At the End of All Things Part 3,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Torunn Grønbekk. Jane fights the god Tyr, who is possessed by something called the Rokkva. That’s the end of the series. This title went rapidly downhill when Al Ewing left, and I’m not sorry it’s over. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #666 (Marvel, 2011) – “Spider-Island Prologue: The One and Only,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli. I accidentally read this out of order. Spidey is in a good place in his life personally, professionally and superheroically, but as usual, villains are conspiring against him. As a result, ordinary New Yorkers start to gain superpowers. There’s a brief scene in this issue that takes place at the superhero poker game. 

WONDER WOMAN #29 (DC, 1989) – “Bloodvine,” [W] George Pérez, [A] Chris Marrinan. This issue is mostly the origin story of the Cheetah and her servant Chuma, and as a result, it’s not as good as a typical Pérez issue. Julia, Vanessa and the other supporting characters don’t appear. However, this issue ends with the first (brief) appearance of the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall. 

PRETTY VIOLENT #9 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Another issue full of violent mayhem. I have long since lost the thread of this series’ plot, but the plot doesn’t matter; it’s only an excuse for the aforementioned violent mayhem. The maim thing that actually does matter is Gamma Rae’s psychological development. 

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August reviews

8-20-20

A comic I read earlier, but forgot to review:

JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE #7 (DC, 1989) – “Teasdale Unbound!”, [W] Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Bart Sears. The JLA and JLE team up against a bunch of ordinary people who have turned into vampires. There’s a subplot about the Spectre and the Gray Man. This issue is not bad. The Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League is remembered as a humor title, but people forget that it was often extremely serious.

2000 AD #183 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Schiklgruber Grab Part 2,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny, Wulf and Gronk are sent to Berlin in 1945 to collect Hitler so he can be punished. Mean Arena – untitled, [W] Tom Tully, [A] John Richardson. Matt Tallon proves he’s not a robot, then scores a goal for the Slayers. At this point we still don’t know what Matt’s motivation is. Dredd – “Aggro Dome,” [W] Alan Grant & Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Mike McMahon. An “aggro dome” is created so that the angry people of Mega-City One will have someplace to work off their frustrations. It goes about as well as you’d expect. This story reminds me of “Get It Out of Your System Land” from Mad Magazine #141. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale: “Tomorrow Brings Doom,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. A mad scientist accidentally creates a time loop that destroys the Earth. Meltdown Man: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Nick Stone and his companions survive a dam breach.

LITTLE LULU #85 (Dell, 1955) – all stories [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. This issue has one of the best Little Lulu covers I’ve seen; it’s a really cute image of Lulu and Annie dancing in the rain. “Water Everywhere” – Lulu and Alvin go to the beach and cause a lot of mayhem. “The Raffle” – the fellers raffle off Tubby, and Lulu buys him. Quite a funny premise.  “The Spider and the Broken Window” – Tubby breaks Mr. Moppet’s window, then, as the Spider, he fools Mr. Moppet into taking the blame for it. Untitled story – Lulu discovers a potato that looks like Tubby. “Baby-Sits for Little Itch” –  Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl babysits for Witch Hazel’s niece. “Mohair” – Tubby walks a “dog’ that’s actually just a pile of hair. This story has some funny plot twists.

STAR SLAMMERS #4 (Malibu, 1995) – “The Minoan Agendas Chapter Four: The Ship,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. A bunch of Star Slammers try to fight their way out of a Minoan Empire spaceship. As usual, Simonson’s artwork in this issue is incredible. I think the issue after this one is the only Star Slammers story I haven’t read.

THE THING #6 (Marvel, 1983) – “Mindscape,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Ron Wilson. Ben fights the Puppet Master inside his (i.e. Ben’s) own mind. Most of this issue takes place against a solid  black backdrop with no backgrounds. I would accuse John of laziness for this, except that he didn’t draw this issue himself.

POWER MAN & IRON FIST #110 (Marvel, 1984) – “O Deadly Debutante!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Greg LaRocque. Luke and Danny are hired to escort a young lady at her debutante ball, but the party is crashed by Doctor Nightshade and a bunch of other villains. This issue is funnier than I expected.

DAREDEVIL #17 (Marvel, 1966) – “None Are So Blind!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. Daredevil and Spider-Man are both chasing the Masked Marauder, and after initially fighting, they team up to fight the Marauder and prove that he’s not Spider-Man’s partner. The earliest issues of Daredevil were hampered by poor characterization, but this issue is better than usual because it’s a Spider-Man story drawn by Romita.

LASSIE #49 (Dell, 1960) – “The Fugitive” and “The Lost Plane,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Bob Fujitani. I’m glad that Gaylord Du Bois finally got a posthumous Bill Finger Award. He was obviously no Alan Moore, but he was a very solid writer. In this issue’s first main story, Lassie and Timmy save a doe from some dogs. In the second story, Timmy goes on a hike with a less outdoorsy friend, Fred, and they discover a crashed plane. While trying to help the plane’s injured pilot, the boys get caught in a rainstorm, but they manage to survive until help arrives. This is quite an exciting adventure story.

THE INVISIBLES #8 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Arcadia Part 4: H.E.A.D.,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. The Marquis de Sade is introduced to 20th-century sexual mores. Lord Fanny summons Aztec gods to defeat Orlando. Ragged Robin explores the secret of the Templars. I have the next few issues after this, but I don’t know where in my boxes they are.

M.A.R.S. PATROL TOTAL WAR #8 (Gold Key, 1969) – “Tomorrow is Doomsday,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Mike Roy. The MARS agents repel an alien invasion of Earth. This issue is even worse than #2 because of the lack of Wally Wood art. MARS Patrol reminds me somewhat of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, but the latter series had much better dialogue and characterization.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #4 (Marvel, 2014) – “You have one and only one chance to surrender,” [W] Peter David, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. The X-Factor agents fight Danger, who’s gone insane. This issue is mostly a long fight scene, but after reading it, I wanted to read more of this X-Factor run.

I bought some old British girls’ comics from my Facebook friend, the cartoonist David Roach. The comics in the lot were mostly from the ‘70s, and there were five different titles included: Bunty, Emma, June, Mandy and Debbie. When I started reading these comics, they tended to blur together. It was only later that I was able to notice differences between them.

DEBBIE #33 (DC Thomson, 1973) – I won’t list credits or story titles for any of these girls’ comics, because they all consist of many short stories, none of them credited. Debbie is unusual in that the covers mostly don’t illustrate the stories; instead, for example, this issue’s cover advertises “4 Free Pop Star Transfers” and has headshots of  Gary Glitter, David Cassidy, Jimmy Osmond and Michael Jackson. All these stories have teenage girl protagonists, most of whom are either aspiring ballerinas, gymnasts, etc., or else are suffering from some kind of cruel oppression. Stories in this issue include: “Graceful Gloria,” about a failed ballerina who becomes a gymnast; “Marsala of the Mists,” about a mystery Welsh girl; “Nobody Loves Nancy,” about an amnesiac girl’s search for her parents; “”Million-Pound Mutt,” in which a girl’s dog inherits a fortune; “The Lonely Ballerina,” about an orphaned aspiring ballerina who’s oppressed by her aunt; “Millie – Maid of Metal!”, about a robot domestic servant; etc. All these stories have four tiers of panels and are drawn in a conventional, anonymous style. There are also a few humor stories in a Dandy- or Beano-esque style.

MANDY #320 (DC Thomson, 1973) – This issue’s front and back covers are a separate comic strip. Stories in this issue include: “The Farmer Wants a Wife” – two girls try to find a wife for their widowed father. “A Girl Called Bright Star” – a Chinese table tennis player is smuggled into England to train an English girl. This story is unusual in having a sympathetic POC protagonist, though it includes a lot of Chinese cliches. “Maggie Malone” – a poor girl tries to become a singer despite her cruel, oppressive guardians. ”Charley Boy!” – a girl has to go to a girls’ boarding school with her little brother.  “The Junkyard Jumper” – a poor girl aspires to become a champion show jumper. “She Shall Have Music” – a girl travels back in time by means of a magic trumpet, and meets Mozart as a child. “The Courage of Kathy” – a poor girl is abandoned by her father during the Klondike gold rush. Overall this comic is very similar to the previous one, though it lacks the humor strips (it has a prose story instead) and its content is maybe a bit darker.

JUDY #1003 (DC Thomson, 1979) – This is six years newer than the other two, but still has very conventional draftsmanship and page layouts. “School for the Expelled” –  due to false accusations, a girl is sent to a school for pupils who’ve been thrown out of other schools. These comics include a lot of boarding school stories. I don’t know what proportion of English children attended boarding school in the ‘70s, but it must have been higher than in America. These comics seem to assume that going to boarding school is a universally relatable experience. Anyway: “Tiny Tessa” – a girl is shrunk to tiny size and pretends to be a doll. “The Taming of the Honourable Angelina” – an upper-class girl has to work on a farm. Another constant reality in these comics is England’s rigid class system. “Forgotten Dreams” – another amnesia story. “Wee Slavey” – another story about a poor oppressed girl. “Cat Conway” – a gymnast becomes a cat burglar.

BUNTY #1092 (DC Thomson, 1978) – This issue has cut-out paper dolls on its back cover. Paper dolls were also a common feature of American girls’ comics. “Little Miss Dynamite” – another table tennis story with Chinese characters, though the protagonist is English. “The Taming of Teresa” – about a girl raised by wolves. “The Impossible Pair” – a lower-class girl befriends an upper-class girl. “The Queen Who Wasn’t” – a Ruritanian romance story. “The Four Marys” – starring four classmates all named Mary. This strip appeared in every issue of Bunty. Its title must have been a reference to Mary, Queen of Scots’s four servants named Mary. “The Wandering Starrs” – about English girls in the American Wild West. “Maid to Be a Lady” – a poor servant girl doesn’t realize she’s the daughter of a lord. “Myra Gold, Budding Ballerina” – another ballerina story. I wonder if DC Thomson made any attempt to build a distinct identity for their girls’ comics. On a cursory reading, these four comics all seem very similar.

KONA #15 (Dell, 1965) – “The Cunning Invaders,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Sam Glanzman. Some criminals trick Kona into taking them to Monster Isle, and then they seize control of the island. Until I looked it up, I didn’t realize that this issue was written by Paul S. Newman instead of the mystery Kona writer – either Don Segall or, less plausibly, Lionel Ziprin. That explains why Kona #15 is much more conventional than earlier issues.

DETECTIVE COMICS #619 (DC, 1990) – “Rite of Passage Part Two: Beyond Belief!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is part two of the story where Tim Drake’s mother is murdered by the Obeah Man. It’s kind of excruciating to watch Tim agonizing over his parents’ fate, especially since I know the tragedy that lies ahead. On the other hand, this story depicts Tim’s parents as innocent victims of a cruel villain, when my natural sympathies are in the other direction. Tim’s dad is a rich white corporate boss, while the Obeah Man is a rebel from a desperately poor postcolonial country. But Alan Grant shows no sympathy for the Obeah Man’s perspective.

NEW MUTANTS #67 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Promise,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Bret Blevins. Sam gets Magneto’s permission to go to New York City for a Lila Cheney concert, on the condition that he can’t use his powers. Of course the concert is invaded by a giant spider alien, and Sam’s teammates have to bail him out. This issue is also the first time the New Mutants meet Gosamyr. This issue has some cute scenes, but Sam and Lila’s romance is just as problematic as Peter and Kitty’s romance. The former seems more acceptable than the latter only because the genders are reversed.

LITTLE LULU #80 (Dell, 1955) – credits as above. “The Valentine” – Lulu tries to find out who sent her a mean Valentine card. It turns out Alvin sent it, and he didn’t know it was mean because he can’t read. “The Trap” – the girls have a snowball fight with the boys. “A Good Skate” – Mr. McNabbem mistakenly thinks Lulu is playing hooky in order to go ice skating. The Mr. McNabbem stories seem to be the only ones that depict Lulu attending school. In my review of #68, I mistakenly said she never goes to school – the McNabbem stories are the exception to that. “Girl Magician” – Lulu pretends a stick is a magic wand. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Birthday Party” – Witch Hazel holds a birthday party for Little Itch. “The Accident” – Wilbur breaks Gloria’s dad’s tobacco jar, and Gloria tries to frame Tubby for it, but instead Tubby breaks everything except the jar.

2000 AD #184 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Hitler plans to escape while a lookalike commits suicide in his place, but Johnny and Wulf catch him first. Meanwhile, another bounty hunter is also searching for Hitler. Mean Arena: as above. Matt finds that his deceased teammate Paul Simpson was cleared to play by a corrupt doctor. Matt gets ready to tell his origin story. Dredd: “Monkey Business at the Charles Darwin Block,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. The inhabitants of an apartment block de-evolve into apes. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales: “Night of the Werebot,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. A twist-ending werewolf story. As far as I know, all of G.P. (Gary) Rice’s 2000 AD stories were one-shots. Meltdown Man: as above. Some moles lead Stone and his companions to Kinita.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #22 (Gold Key, 1967) – “Operation Time-Shift,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. With help from some blue-skinned aliens, the Robinsons manage to get back to Earth’s solar system, but they arrive in prehistoric times. So now they’re lost in time, not space. This issue is competently done, but not thrilling.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #44 (DC, 1992) – “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” [W] Barry Kitson, [A] Rod Ramos. The LEGION tries to save the planet of Arga-Prime from both a deadly virus and its own racial divisions. Also there are a bunch of subplots, and Hal Jordan makes a cameo appearance. This issue has excellent characterization, as usual in this series, but Rod Ramos’s artwork in this issue is unimpressive.

BUNTY #741 (DC Thomson, 1972) – This is significantly older than the other Bunty I read, so all the stories are different, except The Four Marys. “Farah from Afar” – a pretty racist story about an Asian princess attending a British girls’ school. “Penny the Peacemaker” – a girl tries to reconcile her separated parents. The dad in this story is a sexist ass who left his actress wife because he believed women shouldn’t work. “The Fantastic Fosters” – two sisters get superpowers from a mysterious monk. “Blabberbeak” – a girl’s pet parrot knows some uncomfortable secrets.

DAREDEVIL #218 (Marvel, 1985) – “All My Laurels You Have Riven Away…”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Sal Buscema. Matt’s girlfriend Gloriana leaves town, and Matt fights the Jester, who has disguised himself as the lead actor in Cyrano de Bergerac. In a touching conclusion, Matt lets the Jester finish his performance before arresting him. This ending goes some way toward redeeming this rather mediocre issue.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #20 (DC, 2017) – “Space Case,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. The Scooby Gang team up with Space Ghost and his sidekicks against Zorak and Moltar. As usual this issue is very fun, though insubstantial. On the last page there’s a funny inside joke about the Space Ghost Coast to Coast TV show.

DETECTIVE COMICS #841 (DC, 2008) – “The Wonderland Gang!”, [W] Paul Dini, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Batman fights the Mad Hatter and his newly formed Wonderland Gang. It turns out that the real mastermind behind the gang is not the Mad Hatter but his subordinates Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The other five members of the gang appear for the first time in this issue. The most interesting of these characters is the Carpenter, a woman who commits crimes with power tools.

SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Strung Along” etc., [W/A] Richard Corben. This issue’s four short stories are about a crazy puppeteer; a man who turns into a tree; an abused wife who turns her husband into a zombie; and a distant relative of Den. All these stories are in black and white, but Corben’s linework and his airbrush technique are just as impressive in grayscale as in color.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #159 (DC, 1978) – “Crisis from Yesterday!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Dillin. A JLA-JSA crossover in which the third “team” consists of five heroes from earlier eras, such as Jonah Hex and Enemy Ace. The villain is the Lord of Time. This is a potentially interesting setup, but Conway’s writing is unexciting.

2000 AD #185 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Schicklgruber Grab Part 4,” as above. The other bounty hunter, Stix, catches up with Johnny. Stix looks kind of like the Saint of Killers from Preacher. Mean Arena: as above. In a flashback, Tallon tells the story of his rivalry with Archie Sugrue. Dredd: as above. Dredd fights a bunch of apes, and meanwhile, the scientist who caused the de-evolutions is himself de-evolved into an amoeba. Return to Armageddon: untitled, [W] Malcolm Shaw, [A] Jesus Redondo. A spacecraft discovers a ship full of corpses that look like the devil. This story is somewhat difficult to follow even though it’s part one, and I wondered at first if it was a sequel to something else. However, Jesus Redondo’s art is excellent. Meltdown Man: as above. Stone finally meets Kinita, the spiritual leader of the Yujees, but then Leeshar finally tracks Stone down.

JUDY #762 (DC Thomson, 1974) – This comic’s front and back covers are a separate comic strip. Stories include: “Junior Nanny” – about a teenage daycare worker. “Tin Lizzie” – another robot maid story, like “Millie – Maid of Metal!” “The Vet on the Hill” – about a teenage aspiring veterinarian. “Slaves to the Moonstone” – some girls discover an enchanted artifact created by Merlin. “Tunnel to Freedom” – some schooolgirls try to escape from a German prison in 1939. “Backstage Betty” – another dancer story. This comic has somewhat more varied artwork than the last few British girls’ comics I’ve read, and overall it feels a bit higher quality. Although these girls’ comics are often quite formulaic, they have a pretty broad range of subject matter, and their stories are frequently both exciting and grim. In these respects, British girls’ comics contrast with American girls’ comics, which tended to focus exclusively on either humor or romantic dramas. I can’t think of any classic American girls’ comics about sports or dance, for example.

2000 AD #186 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and company escape into a future Earth that’s about to be wiped out by a comet. Mean Arena: as above. We continue the flashback story about Arthur Sugrue. Dredd: “Otto Sump’s Ugly Clinic,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Otto Sump (who previously appeared in prog 132) starts a clinic thata deliberately makes people ugly. But someone else starts vandalizing Otto’s clinics. Return to Armageddon: as above. The crew of the ship argue about what to do with the cryogenically frozen Satan. Meltdown Man: Kinita fights Leeshar so Nick and his friends can escape.

DEBBIE #34 (DC Thomson, 1973) – Most of the stories in this issue are the same as in #33, but there’s also a new one about tennis. There’s another one where some girls beat some boys at water polo. From reading these comics we can get an idea of what sports and activities were considered appropriate for girls at the time. Some big ones apparently included gymnastics, ballet, figure skating, and horse racing – but not soccer, which was often depicted in boys’ comics.

FINALS #4 (DC, 1999) – “Pomp & Circumstance Beyond Our Control,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Jill Thompson. Nancy is killed in a standoff with police, Dave gets shot while trying to rob a “townie” bar, but some of the other characters manage to survive to graduation. This issue is a bit of an anticlimax. Given that the plot involves a time machine, I expected that Nancy’s death would be reversed, but the time machine ends up as a Chekhov’s gun that never fires. But overall, this is a very funny miniseries.

UNCANNY X-MEN #403 (Marvel, 2002) – “Lurking,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Aaron Lopresti. The X-Men fight Banshee’s X-Corps. I can barely remember anything about this comic. The only notable thing about it is a scene where Chamber, now a member of the senior X-Men team, meets some of his old Generation X teammates.

A1 #5 (Atomeka, 1991) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. Stories in this issue include: Neil Gaiman and Kelley Jones’s “Cover Story” – a weird story about an alternate earth where Bettie Page is President. Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins’s adaptation of Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony.” Tor by Joe Kubert. Jeff Hawke by Sydney Jordan, Trevor Goring and Thayer Rich. This is based on a classic British comic strip, but is very different in style and format from the original. Knuckles the Malevolent Nun by Cornelius Stone and Roger Langridge. “Party Piece” by Ilya (Ed Hillyer). I don’t recall seeing any of Ilya’s solo work before, and “Party Piece” is an entertaining story about sexual intrigue at a house party. An EC-esque adventure story by Bruce Jones and Jim Sullivan, with beautiful inks by William Stout. Eddie Campbell’s adaptation of a short horror story by Ramsey Campbell, about a house that can be seen through a window, but isn’t really there. Other contributors include Glenn Fabry, Jeff Jones, Shaky Kane and Steve Dillon. Overall, A1 was one of the best anthology titles of its time. Each issue offered a ton of impressive work by top-tier British and American creators.

LITTLE LULU #71 (Dell, 1954) – “Tubby’s Tonic” – Tubby invents a tonic that will help catch bald criminals, starting with Lulu’s dad. “A Handy Kid” – Lulu babysits Chubby, who gets his hand stuck in a tree. “The Animal Trainer” – Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl becomes a lion tamer. This is another Poor Little Girl story in which Ol’ Witch Hazel does not appear. ‘The Little Men” – Tubby makes Gloria’s dad think his house has been invaded by tiny aliens. In a twist ending, we learn that there really are tiny aliens in Gloria’s house.

THE JUNGLE TWINS #13 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Captives of the Tower,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Paul Norris. Tono and Kono rescue a captured explorer from some aliens. This story is rather disturbing because there are also some Africans held captive with the white guy, but Tono and Kono make no effort to save them. Also, the white guy is from Rhodesia, a country that was notorious at the time for its apartheid regime. At least the Africans in the story speak in Zulu, instead of made-up gibberish. Besides all of that, this is a competent but formulaic comic.

STAR TREK #48 (DC, 1988) – “The Stars in Secret Influence,” [W] Peter David, [A] Tom Sutton. This is one of two Peter David comics that depict a bachelor party. Star Trek #48 isn’t a classic like Incredible Hulk #417, but it’s not bad. The couple in this issue are Konom and Nancy Bryce, two characters who only appeared in this series. As in Hulk #417, the party ends in disaster: Konom and his rival Bearclaw get drunk by accident and start a brawl.

2000 AD #187 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf defeat the rival bounty hunters, only to discover that they’ve lost Hitler. Return to Armageddon: as above. A scientist uses Satan’s cloned DNA to create two babies, one that looks normal and one that has horns and hooves. Dredd: as above. Dredd investigates the attacks on Otto’s clinics. This story includes some hilarious, realistic-looking fake ads for Otto’s uglifying products. Mean Arena: In the flashback, Tallon kills Sugrue. In the present, Tallon reveals that the late Paul Simpson was his little brother, and that he’s on a mission of revenge against everyone responsible for Paul’s death. Meltdown Man: Stone is apparently killed falling from the sky. Back in the city, the Yujees lead a rebellion against the humans.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #56 (DC, 1967) – “License to Kill!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bob Brown. To distract themselves from their grief over Red Ryan’s death, the Challs go to Mexico to retrieve a rare herb. While there, they discover a hidden city of Indians, and they also encounter another explorer, Pancho Torito, who speaks in stereotypical Mexican dialogue. There’s also a subplot about a rock star named Tino Manarry. Eventually we learn that Pancho Torito and Tino Manarry are the same person, and his real identity is Martin Ryan, Red Ryan’s little brother. This is an exciting, wacky comic, and it makes me want to collect more of this series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #27 (DC, 1991) – “Deals with the Devil,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Vril Dox negotiates with various alien races; Garryn Bek, Marij’n and Captain Comet form a love triangle; and Stealth prepares to give birth. This issue lacks a strong plot, but it has a lot of great character moments.

UNCANNY X-MEN #259 (Marvel, 1990) – “Dream a Little Dream,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. An amnesiac Colossus saves Phillip Moreau and Jenny Ransome from being kidnapped by Genoshan troops. Meanwhile, an amnesiac Dazzler discovers her real identity. This comic is okay, but the Siege Perilous era was a very strange era when the series didn’t have a clear trajectory, and the X-Men weren’t a team at all.

DEATH RATTLE #11 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – “Keep the Homefires Burning,” [W] Robert Ingersoll, [A] Rand Holmes. “Keep the Homefires Burning” is a war comic in the vein of Frontline Combat or Blazing Combat. It has some great art that reminds me of Russ Heath’s war comics, but it has a stupid plot, about a magic cigarette lighter that can stop time. Michael Sundermeier and Dave Garcia’s “Junk” is a somewhat touching story about a robot who befriends his dead creator’s best friend. Eric Vincent’s “Mirror” has some very gruesome horror art, but way too much text. P.S. Mueller and Bill Hartwig’s “In League with the Devil” is a forgettable twist-ending story about bowling.

OCCULT FILES OF DR. SPEKTOR #16 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Barbarian and the Brain,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Jesse Santos. Spektor and Lakota team up with Durak, an ancient barbarian, against the disembodied brain of Xorkon. Durak looks a lot like Dagar, but is actually a distinct character who appeared in three issues of Dagar. This is a pretty entertaining issue.

EMMA #70 (DC Thomson, 1979) – “Little Miss Spitfire” – another tennis story. “Carrie and the Conroy Curse” – about a girl who was cursed by g*ps*es to go blind before age 14. This story looks as if it was drawn by a Spanish or Italian artist. “The White Mouse” – starring a girl in occupied Belgium who dresses up as a white mouse in order to rescue captive soldiers. This is perhaps the weirdest and most memorable strip in any of this lot of girls’ comics, largely due to the heroine’s giant mouse mask. This series was drawn by a Spanish artist, José Ariza. See http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2016/06/the-white-mouse-1979/ for more details on White Mouse. “A Girl Called Sam” stars a tomboyish dancer in Depression-era America. “Kitty and the Crooked Myles” is about a failed police trainee who teams up with some inept criminals. “Belinda Born to Skate” is another skating story. Overall, Emma feels like a step up in quality from DC Thomson’s other girls’ comics. The artwork is more varied – most of the stories are illustrated in the Spanish style. Maybe Emma was an attempt to imitate the success of IPC comics like Tammy and Misty.

On August 7, I received a shipment of six issues of the following comic:

WARLORD #235 (DC Thomson, 1979) – According to https://ukcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Warlord, this series was a departure from earlier British comics in that it had more realistic stories, fewer and larger panels, and more varied page layouts. IPC tried to imitate Warlord with their own Battle Picture Weekly, which was a direct predecessor to 2000 AD, and thus Warlord helped reshape the British comics industry. Strips in Warlord #235 include: “Cassidy” – a World War II story about two rival soldiers. “Sergeant Rayker” – a black U.S. Army sergeant leads a bunch of racist white soldiers in WWII Italy. Sergeant Rayker was one of the first black protagonists in British comics; the first was Blackjack in Action. “Union Jack Jackson” – a British soldier fights the Japanese in Burma. “Bring-Em-Back Bert” – about the crew of a tank recovery vehicle. “Codename Warlord” – starring Lord Peter Flint, an aristocratic secret agent. This story has some impressive aviation artwork. “Iron Annie” – a story about the Eastern Front of WWII, told from the German perspective. “Fireball” – I think this is about a spy trying to infiltrate the Mafia. Overall this is a very exciting and well-drawn comic, and it’s head and shoulders above Hotspur, which DC Thomson was publishing at the same time. I can see how this comic helped inspire 2000 AD.

EMMA #67 (DC Thomson, 1979) – Having read Warlord, I have a better sense of how Emma differs from other girls’ comics. This issue has many of the same strips as #70, including the first appearance of White Mouse. Emma’s artwork is less innovative than Warlord’s in terms of page layouts, but “Kitty and the Crooked Myles” and “Little Miss Spitfire” are notable for not following the standard four-tier format. Incidentally, I wish that there was a version of the GCD for British comics. Or that the GCD had better coverage of British comics. It would be nice to at least know who drew all these stories.

2000 AD #188 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Stix almost kills Johnny but is crushed by a falling rock, the future Earth is saved from the comet, and Johnny turns Hitler in for the bounty. This story arc was funny, though not a classic. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale: “Miracle in Slum Alley,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Ian Gibson. A robot sacrifices its life to deliver medicine to a dying boy. Ian Gibson’s spotting of blacks here is really good. Dredd: “Otto Sump’s Ugly Clinic Part 3,” as above. Dredd solves the case of the clinic bombings, then imposes an “ugly tax” to shut down the ugly clinics, which he views as a threat to public health. Otto opens one last clinic that caters to the rich, and later in the prog there’s a fake ad for his new clinic. Return to Armageddon: as above. We learn more about the mysterious babies’ powers. Meltdown Man: as above. Stone wakes up from his apparent death, then returns to the city, where Leeshar has violently suppressed the Yujee revolt. I keep saying this, but Belardinelli’s art in Meltdown Man is incredible, especially his cityscapes.

MANDY #317 (DC Thomson, 1973) – Mostly the same stories as in the other issue I read. Notably, “Robbie’s Rovers” depicts a game of football, but it’s the protagonist’s brother who plays in the game, not the protagonist herself. So this story reinforces the aforementioned divide between boys’ and girls’ sports.

For a while I’ve been seeing ads for a booth at the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall in Gastonia where they have a bunch of comics for $1, or 30 for $20. On August 8, I finally decided to go to Gastonia and check this antique mall out. I ended up buying about 90 comics for $60. It was an expensive Uber ride, but it was worth it in exchange for finally being able to buy comics in person again. Shopping for comics online is just not the same experience. Depending on how long it takes for conventions to start up again, I may have to go back to Gastonia and buy more comics. Some of my purchases:

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #21 (Marvel, 2014) – “Lethal Ladies,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Peter/Doc Ock is ironically accused of stealing the ideas in his thesis from…  Otto Octavius. While dealing with that, Spidey also has to fight Doc Ock’s old lover, Stunner. Meanwhile Carlie Cooper is kidnapped by Green Goblins. Another extremely clever and funny issue.

WONDER WOMAN #309 (DC, 1983) – “The Black Canary is Dead!”, [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Don Heck. Pre-Crisis Wonder Woman comics are relatively hard to find, so it’s exciting when I encounter them in dollar boxes, even though most of them aren’t very good. This issue, Diana and Dinah team up with Zenna Persik, a g*ps* with body-possessing powers, against a Nazi war criminal. This story is reasonably fun, though it’s no Amethyst. In a reversal of when Paul Levitz was writing Huntress, this issue’s Huntress backup story is far worse than its main story.

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #15 (Marvel, 2014) – “The Accursed, Part Three of Five: Bury My Heart in Jotunheim,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ron Garney. Thor and the League of Realms try to stop Malekith’s invasion of Alfheim. Thor sleeps with the dark elf girl, and the giant dude gets killed. One of the good things Jason Aaron did in his Thor run was to focus attention on the rest of the nine realms, besides Asgard and Midgard. I love his description of Alfheim as “a kingdom of fairies and candy farmers, of mermaid lagoons and orchards the size of oceans,” etc. However, his Malekith was so cruel and heartless that he was very unpleasant to read about.

DEATH RATTLE #8 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “Xenozoic!”, [W/A] Mark Schultz. This is probably the best find out of the entire stack of comics I bought, because it includes Mark Schultz’s first Xenozoic Tales story. This story was not reprinted in the subsequent ongoing series, and I’ve never read it. The draftsmanship in this story is worse than in Schultz’s later work, and the most memorable thing in this story is some rather gruesome depictions of aliens that look like walking brains. Still, this is an important story. This issue also includes two other horror stories by Steve Stiles and by Kenneth Whitfield and Dan Burr.

X-FACTOR #3 (Marvel, 2006) – “The Big Bang,” [W] Peter David, [A] Ryan Sook & Dennis Calero. Some guy named Tryp invades the X-Factor Investigations building, but Layla Miller kills him by causing a bathtub to fall through the ceiling onto him. She had loosened the supports to the bathtub even before Tryp arrived. Besides that, I don’t remember much about this issue.

ACTION COMICS #657 (DC, 1990) – “There is a Happy Land… Far, Far Away,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Kerry Gammill. That title may be a reference to Krazy Kat, but it comes from an old song. This issue, the Prankster gets revenge on Luthor by kidnapping the children of top Lexcorp executives. This is a reasonably fun issue that skirts the line between cute and grim.

NIGHTCRAWLER #10 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Best Laid Plans—!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Todd Nauck. Kurt and Betsy fight the Shadow King. This issue is not as fun as I’d hoped for from this character and these creators. It lacks the playful, adventurous spirit of Dave Cockrum’s Nightcrawler miniseries. Also, at this point in continuity, Amanda Sefton is dead for some reason.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #228 (DC, 1984) – “War – of the World?”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] George Tuska. J’onn J’onzz returns to Earth to warn the JSA of an impending Martian invasion. J’onn was one of the earliest Silver Age DC characters, but I don’t think he ever had much of a personality until the Giffen-DeMatteis run, and overall this issue is a bit boring.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO #252 (IDW, 2018) – “Special Missions Part Two: Baroness,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] David Messina. This is the first issue I’ve read of IDW’s revival of Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe series. It’s mostly a flashback to Baroness’s youth and the beginning of her romance with Destro. While the Baroness and Destro are both rather implausible characters, this issue is effective at expanding our knowledge of both of them.

AQUAMAN #30 (DC, 2014) – “Fallen,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Paul Pelletier & Alvaro Martinez. Aquaman fights Hercules and a bunch of demigods, while Tula helps Mera foil an assassination attempt. This issue is not especially impressive. At least it does help explain why Aquaman’s trident is such a big deal in the current Legion series.

MIGHTY AVENGERS #34 (Marvel, 2010) – “Pre-Siege Mentality,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Neil Edwards. Jarvis makes a nice breakfast for the Avengers, which is interrupted by Pietro being an ass. Then the Avengers fight Loki and trap him inside a machine designed to torture gods. Thor shows up and is extremely unhappy with this. Dan Slott’s Avengers is not one of his better-known works, but he shows a solid understanding of the team’s history and the personalities of the individual members. I should collect more of this comic.

ANIMAL MAN #21 (DC, 2013) – “Splinter Species,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Steve Pugh. Buddy attends an awards show, while Maxine travels into the Red and confronts the parliament of animal avatars. The Maxine sequences in this issue are utterly adorable; she reminds me of Katie Power. I was correct to give up on this series after Travel Foreman left, but it’s a fun series to collect in back issue form.

ORDINARY #2 (Titan, 2014) – untitled, [W] Rob Williams, [A] D’Israeli. This miniseries is by two 2000 AD alumni, and I just noticed that it’s reprinted from Judge Dredd Megazine. It’s about the only normal person in a world where everyone has superpowers. So a bit like Y: The Last Man crossed with Top Ten. D’Israeli’s art is quite good, especially due to the Clear Line-esque coloring, and Rob Williams’s story is entertaining. I particularly like the guy whose superpower is to always have a pint of beer in his hand.

MIGHTY THOR #5 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Galactus Seed 5: God of Carnage,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Olivier Coipel & Khoi Pham. Thor fights the Silver Surfer, Odin fights Galactus, and kid Loki carries out some kind of secret plan. This issue is mostly fight scenes and is rather light on story. Whichever of the artists drew the first few pages, he seems to have been consciously emulating Simonson.

TRINITY #10 (DC, 2008) – “Rough World,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The JLA invades the anti-matter universe. In the backup story, Nightwing encounters Primat, a romantic ape from Gorilla City. Primat is easily the highlight of this issue. Like many of the comics in this stack, this was a fun but light read.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #11 (Marvel, 1989) – Colossus: “God’s Country Part II: Cold Warriors,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Rick Leonardi. I’ve never been fond of Nocenti’s writing, which is often just too weird for its own good, but Leonardi is a super-underrated artist. Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror Chapter XI: Perception & Actuality,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Don Hudson & Tom Sutton. This is the main reason to own this comic. The plot doesn’t make sense to me, but Tom Sutton turns in some beautiful drawings over Hudson’s layouts. Sutton would have been the perfect Man-Thing artist, and it’s a shame he didn’t do more Man-Thing comics. Ant-Man: “Drain Storm,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Bob Layton. Scott Lang has to shrink down to rescue his mother’s wedding ring after Cassie drops it down the toilet. This story is silly but cute. Slag: “Over and Over…”, [W] John Figueroa, [A] Ron Wilson. A well-intentioned but implausible story about the crack epidemic.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2001) – “Mother’s Day,” [W] Peter David, [A] Chriscross. The wizard Merlin needs to perform a ritual that requires the blood of a hundred virgins. So he organizes an event at a comic book store. This is a pretty cheap joke, but it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Other than that, this issue is mostly about Rick and Marlo, and Genis is relegated to a subplot where Moondragon helps him learn his powers.

WONDER WOMAN #34 (DC, 2014) – “Madness Rains,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Cliff Chiang. I don’t understand this comic’s plot, except that it involves Orion and Hera and Ares. I also think Brian Azzarello is a below-average writer who had the good luck to work with a bunch of good artists. However, Cliff Chiang is a good artist indeed. I especially like his giant frog creature on the last page.

KING PRINCE VALIANT #1 (Dynamite, 2015) – “The Life & Times of Prince Valiant,” [W] Nate Cosby, [A] Ron Salas. This is inferior to Dynamite’s other King comics because first, Ron Salas is no Hal Foster. Second, about half this comic is taken up with foreshadowing sequences in which nothing happens. Nate Cosby does seem to have a good grasp of Val’s character. I should mention here that I won’t be giving Dynamite any business anytime soon.

UNCANNY X-MEN #459 (Marvel, 2005) – “World’s End Conclusion: Bad Company,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Alan Davis. The X-Men fight some super-evolved dinosaurs called Hauk’ka in the Savage Land. This comic’s plot is not all that interesting, and the main reason to read it is because of Alan Davis’s art.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #160 (Marvel, 1989) – “Brothers,” [W] Jim Owsley, [A] Andy Kubert. Conan and a bunch of Kozaks fight in a battle between a prince and his father, or something like that. I don’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but I do like Owsley/Priest’s rather grim version of Conan. My old friend Benoit Leblanc is a fan of Priest’s Conan, and I remember him quoting a scene from this issue in which Conan declines to sleep with a young virgin, saying “Virgins are boring.” Later in this issue the girl takes up with a young warrior, and at the end she asks to travel with Conan, saying she’s not a virgin anymore.

2000 AD #191 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Doc Quince Case Part 2,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny’s current target is a doctor named Quince, but Quince’s neighbors refuse to give him up, since they credit him from saving their village from a plague. Mean Arena: as above. Tallon gets a deformed rich man to sponsor his team in a match against Southampton Sharks, led by a giant bruiser named Jensen. Dredd: “Synthi-Caff Vindilu,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson (as “Emberton”). Dredd and Walter the Wobot defeat some thieves using a vile-tasting synthetic curry. By this point Walter’s appearances were very rare; his previous appearance was in prog 121. Return to Armageddon: as above. The two babies continue to cause havoc. Meltdown Man: as above. Gruff the dog and T-Bone the bull help foment a Yujee rebellion.

DEBBIE #46 (DC Thomson, 1973) – A new story here is “Mavis – the Singer with a Secret,” set in Victorian London. Other stories I haven’t seen before are about a field hockey player and a girl with a gnome companion. As I’ve observed before, while these stories are quite rigidly gendered, they do offer a lot of variety of subject matter, and they show girls having exciting adventures, whereas comparable American comics are mostly about romance. Indeed, these British girls’ comics have almost no romance at all, and when there are romantic themes, they usually involve characters other than the protagonist. An example of the latter is the story in Mandy where the girls try to find a bride for their widowed dad. Maybe the assumption was that the target readers for these comics were too young to be interested in boys.

WARLORD #239 (DC Thomson, 1979) – The Sergeant Rayker story here includes a fascinating moment where one of Rayker’s racist soldiers questions his orders, and Rayker chews him out and threatens to knock his teeth down his throat. This sort of open resistance to racism feels kind of progressive. A funny moment occurs in the “Union Jack Jackson” story: the British troops and their Chinese liaison hate each other, and the Chinese officer takes advantage of this by calling a British soldier “my friend” and telling him to do his usual “excellent job.” The British soldiers realize he’s trying to warn them of a trap, because he’d never normally say this. A new (to me) story in this issue is “Cassidy,” in which a pilot has to fly a combat mission despite having gone blind. In general, this issue has exciting stories and artwork. The artists are all uncredited, but most of them take effective advantage of the huge size of the British comics page.

THOR #415 (Marvel, 1990) – “When Gods Wear Mortal Flesh,” [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Herb Trimpe. Mostly a recap of early issues of Lee and Kirby’s Thor. A new piece of information here is that Donald Blake’s appearance and personality were based on those of Keith Kincaid. I don’t know when this retcon was added. There’s also a Tales of Asgard backup story in which Hogun convinces a young boy not to become a warrior. DeFalco’s Thor was a blatant ripoff of Lee and Kirby’s original, but at least it was entertaining.

X-FACTOR #34 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Darwin Awards,” [W] Peter David, [A] Larry Stroman. X-Factor fights She-Hulk and Jazinda, the Super-Skrull’s daughter. Also, Darwin (the X-Man, not the scientist) and his dad are somehow involved. This issue has some good dialogue, but its plot is hard to understand because it’s a Secret Invasion crossover.

THE WALKING DEAD #179 (Image, 2018) – “New World Order Part 5 of 6,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Some of the protagonists visit a community that has all the pre-apocalyptic amenities, including football – something that doesn’t even exist in America in 2020. Michonne (I think this character is Michonne) decides to stay in the community. This issue has a sweet, warm-hearted tone, though I do get the sense that there’s something wrong with this ideal community.

STAR HUNTERS #2 (DC, 1978) – “The Annihilist Factor,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Larry Hama. A space opera/adventure story in the vein of the original Star Trek. I don’t remember much about this comic’s plot or its characters, and this series never made much of a lasting impact, as it was a casualty of the DC Implosion. Still, this series is mildly interesting and I wouldn’t mind owning the rest of it.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #90 (Charlton, 1970) – “No Escape,” [W] Willi Franz, [A] Sam Glanzman. Willy Schultz is a German-American soldier wrongly accused of killing his commanding officer. This issue, he fights alongside an Italian resistance unit and narrowly survives a battle that kills his comrades. “The Lonely War of Willy Schultz” had a bleak tone and an anti-war perspective that set it apart from other Charlton war comics, most of which were terrible. The other two stories in this issue are typical crap, though one of them is drawn by Ditko.

ACTION COMICS #649 (DC, 1990) – “Man and Machine,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] George Pérez & Kerry Gammill. Clark Kent gets a new job and uses his new computer equipment to track down Luthor and Brainiac. Meanwhile, Brainiac transforms into a new form, regaining his traditional green skin. This period of Superman comics, after Byrne and before Jurgens, was a pretty good one. Roger Stern was an underrated but effective Superman writer. Pérez’s layouts in this issue are excellent, though it’s too bad he didn’t do complete pencils.

DAREDEVIL #603 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Mike Henderson. As far as I know, Charles Soule is the first and only Daredevil writer who’s actually a lawyer. However, this issue gives Soule no opportunity to use his legal knowledge, because the entire issue is about Matt’s temporary role as mayor of New York, and his attempt to save the city from some kind of crisis. The highlight of the issue is a flirty conversation between Matt and Elektra.

DEVIANT SLICE #1 (Print Mint, 1972) – “Last Rights” etc., [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. Technically this is “Deviant Slice Comics and Stories and Funnies, Etc.” with no number. Greg Irons is one of the most bitter and brutal of the underground cartoonists. Like Rory Hayes and Rick Griffin, etc., he produced a small body of work and died quite young, but his work is unlike that of any other cartoonist. His masterpiece is Legion of Charlies, but I haven’t found an affordable copy of that. The centerpiece of Deviant Slice #1 is a long story in which the world is destroyed by nuclear war, but Nixon and a bunch of other fat-cat politicians survive in an underground bunker, with some soldier flunkies and some kept women. Inevitably, the soldiers get tired of competing for resources with the politicians, and the politicians get exiled to the destroyed surface, where they fight over scraps. It’s a very grim vision of the future, rendered even more grim by Irons’s gruesome draftsmanship. His Nixon looks especially fat and sleazy. This issue also includes a gallery of gruesome mutated people; a Lovecraftian SF story drawn by Veitch; and “The Creature from the Bolinas Lagoon,” a gross horror story about a sewer monster.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #8 (Marvel, 1993) – “Flight of Fancy,” [W] Peter David, [A] Rick Leonardi. Spider-Man 2099 fights Vulture 2099, and there’s a subplot about Miguel’s brother and his girlfriend. This series was not as good as PAD’s other contemporaneous Marvel comics, like Hulk and X-Factor, though it was better than the other 2099 series. However, Rick Leonardi’s artwork is excellent as usual, and I wonder why this series didn’t make him more of a star.

THOR #605 (Marvel, 2010) – “Latverian Prometheus Part 2 of 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Billy Tan. Thor fights Dr. Doom in Latveria, and the Destroyer shows up at the end. This issue is mostly a bunch of fight scenes, and lacks Kieron’s usual creativity.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #522 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Future Part 2: Rings,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. The Mandarin summons a bunch of armored villains to steal stuff, and also tells Tony a slightly revised version of his origin. Rescue rescues Tony from the Mandarin’s grasp. The Mandarin originated as a Yellow Peril stereotype, but Matt Fraction does a reasonable job of rehabilitating him. The highlight of this issue is Larroca’s art, though, especially his depictions of armor.

2000 AD #192 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Doc Quince Case Part 3,” as above. Johnny learns that Doc Quince’s “crime” was marrying the princess of a barbaric feudal world. The king, the princess’s dad, sentences Quince to be executed by having a rock dropped on him. Johnny has a change of heart and decides to stop the execution. Mean Arena: as above. The Slayers and Sharks schedule a match, but some old shopkeepers refuse to move out of the area chosen as the arena. Dredd: “Loonies’ Moon!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A company develops a technology for projecting advertisements on the full moon. A cult called the Loonies (i.e. Moonies) is unhappy about this and attacks the projection tower. Dredd shuts the Loonies down. The story ends with Dredd writing NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE on the moon. This is a pretty funny one-shot. Meltdown Man: as above. King Seth the snake Yujee hypnotizes T-Bone. Meltdown Man has incredible art, but a somewhat slow-moving plot. Return to Armageddon: as above. A gigantic old woman utters a prophecy about the two babies. This story is well-drawn but somewhat confusing.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #326 (Marvel, 1987) – “The Haunting of Skull-House,” [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Paul Neary. Cap returns to the Red Skull’s headquarters, Skull-House, for the first time since the Skull’s “death” in issue 300. Dr. Faustus is there, and he makes Cap see visions of dead people, including the Ultimatum soldier he killed a few issues back. Cap returned to Skull-House in #370, which I read a long time ago. I haven’t read any Gruenwald Cap comics in a while, and I forgot that he’s quite an effective writer.

NAMOR #10 (Marvel, 1991) – “Reunion,” [W/A] John Byrne. Just after German reunification, Namor and Namorita visit Berlin, and Namor encounters a revived Master Man and Warrior Woman. These were not actual Golden Age villains but were created by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins in Invaders. This story shows some anxiety that the new Germany might turn into an imperial power again. Byrne’s draftsmanship in this issue is pretty good.

WONDER WOMAN #326 (DC, 1985) – “Tropidor Heat,” [W] Mindy Newell, [A] Don Heck. Mindy Newell, not Gail Simone, was the first woman to write Wonder Woman regularly. However, this issue is not nearly as good as a typical issue by Gail. Half the issue is about political intrigue in a fictional South American country, and Diana doesn’t get involved in the action herself until the end.

WARLORD #243 (DC Thomson, 1979) – Mostly the same stories as in the last two issues I reviewed, with a couple more that aren’t especially notable. “Cassidy” has some excellent aviation art, though I can’t figure out who the artist was. “Iron Annie” and possibly “Sergeant Rayker” are drawn by Mike Dorey, who did some work for 2000 AD. On Iron Annie and Warlord in general see: https://nothingbutafan.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/battlegroup-niffleheim-abode-of-the-dead/

EMMA #80 (DC Thomson, 1979) – A new story this issue is “Stunt Girl,” about a stuntwoman who is mistaken for an actress and kidnapped. “Lucy and Lightning” is about an amnesiac girl, similar to “Nobody Loves Nancy.” “The Emma Report” stars a character actually named Emma who serves as the magazine’s mascot. In most of these other girls’ comics, the title is a girl’s name but there is no character in the comic with this name. This issue also includes new chapters of Little White Mouse, Kitty and the Crooked Myles, etc.

DEVIANT SLICE COMIX #2 (Print Mint, 1973) – untitled (“Vince Shazam”), [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. In this issue’s lead story, a Vietnam vet returns home to Montana with a drug addiction and a missing hand. He descends into psychosis, and ultimately holds up a bank, murders a man who he thinks is his sergeant, and is killed by police. This story is a gruesome depiction of PTSD and drug addiction. “Flesh” is an even grosser story, about two grossly fat men who compete for the highest weight. Unfortunately the black character in this story is a racist stereotype. 2000 AD #334 included a story with the same premise as this one, entitled “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” Deviant Slice #2 ends with “You Got a Point There, Pop!”, about a postapocalyptic war between the sexes. Like Fresca Zizis, this story includes a gruesome castration scene.

JUNGLE JIM #28 (Charlton, 1970) – “The Magic of Shutan!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette. A tyrant named Shutan seeks to unite the people of “Kandar,” apparently in Afghanistan, and conquer Asia. Jungle Jim defeats him, of course. This comic has some impressively weird page layouts, but its story is a boring white savior narrative.

ANIMAL MAN #50 (DC, 1992) – “Journal of a Plague Year,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Steve Dillon. Animal Man battles some kind of cosmic evil entity called the Antagon. Meanwhile, an anonymous scriptwriter hangs out at Buddy and Ellen’s house, writes a screenplay about Buddy’s life, and tries to convince Ellen that Buddy is cheating on him. This issue is confusing, and it tries to emulate Grant Morrison’s metatextual techniques but doesn’t quite succeed. Still, Tom Veitch is a better writer than I realized. My opinion of him was negatively influenced by the fact that his first comic I red was Star Treek: Tales of the Jedi. He’s spent most of his career in the shadow of his brother Rick and of Greg Irons.

DOPE COMIX #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1979) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen. Howard Cruse’s “That Ol’ Gang o’ Mine” is a beautifully drawn story about an LSD trip. Unlike most of Cruse’s work, it has no LGBTQ themes. The other highlight of this issue is Doug Hansen’s “A Night in a Head Shop,” which beautifully combines painted backgrounds with characters based on early animation. Other artists featured in this issue include Gary Whitney, Steve Stiles and Larry Rippee. As the title indicates, all this issue’s stories are about drugs.

2000 AD #193 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny rescues Doc Quince, the king is killed by his own execution method, and Doc Quince’s wife becomes queen of her planet. In a cute ending, Johnny says that he decided to help because he has a heart; “you just have to dig deep to find it.” Mean Arena: as above. More preparations for the big game. Each player is assigned a substitute who will replace them if they get killed. Dredd: “The Fink,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. A judge is murdered by the Fink, a deformed criminal with a pet rat. Meltdown Man: as above. Stone and Liana confront some cruel humans who are hunting Yujees. Return to Armageddon: as above. The evil baby is rapidly aged to adulthood and becomes the Destroyer, a dead ringer for Satan.

GODLAND #16 (Image, 2007) – “Strange But True,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Tom Scioli. This issue is priced at 60 cents and is intended as a jumping-on point for new readers. It’s mostly a summary of what’s been going on. The trouble with Godland is that it effectively imitates Kirby, especially his late work for Pacific – but it doesn’t do anything more than that. It has too much Jack Kirby and not enough Tom Scioli.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #62 (Gold Key, 1968) – “Terror of the Dream,” [W] unknown, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Turok and Andar meet a cruel chieftain named Nogu who claims he can predict the future by eating “dream-berries.” Andar eats the dream-berries himself in hopes that they’ll show him an exit from Lost Valley, but it doesn’t work, and Turok proves that Nogu’s visions are fake. Turok is always competently done, but it’s kind of boring and repetitive; there’s no ongoing plotline or character arc, and Turok never makes any progress in escaping from Lost Valley.

PLANET TERRY #3 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Secret of the Space Warp,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. In search of his parents’ ship, Terry is kidnapped by “Gamesfolk” who force him to complete three challenges, based on Space Invaders, baseball and bowling. Terry completes all three and finally finds his parents, or at least some people who look like them. Planet Terry is probably the best Star title. It’s extremely cute and has a sophisticated and compelling plot. It makes me want to read more Harvey comics, though I don’t know which ones I should be looking for.

BARBIE #25 (Marvel, 1993) – “The First Thanksgiving,” [W] Lisa Trusiani, [A] Win Mortimer. A flashback story in which Barbie and Skipper are Pilgrims who participate in the original Thanksgiving. This story is somewhat problematic, like basically every media depiction of the first Thanksgiving, but it’s not as offensive as it could have been. The big problem with Marvel’s Barbie comics was their total lack of narrative complexity. Mattel had a rule that Barbie couldn’t make mistakes. This made it hard to tell convincing stories, and on top of that, Barbie rarely did anything dangerous or encountered any serious villains.

THE ALL-NEW ATOM #13 (DC, 2007) – “Hunt for Ray Palmer Part Two: Second Genesis,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Mike Norton. In the South American jungle, Ryan Choi encounters two warring tribes of tiny aliens. One tribe worships Ray Palmer as a god, the other thinks he’s the devil. This issue is a throwback to Sword of the Atom, easily my favorite Atom comic. The cover even says Sword of the All-New Atom.

LITTLE LULU #30 (Dell, 1950) – credits as above. “She Flies Through the Air” – Lulu and Tubby go skiing, with absurd and implausible results. This story isn’t quite as farfetched as the one with the whale in #61, but it’s worth noting that one difference between Little Lulu and, for instance, Sugar & Spike, was plausibility. Sugar & Spike was full of science-fictional and fantastic elements, but Little Lulu stories are mostly about plausible situations that develop in funny ways. “The Case of the Hairless Shaving Brush” – Tubby tries to figure out who ruined Lulu’s dad’s shaving brush. “Do Not Look in This Hole” – Lulu and Annie defeat the boys in a snowball fight. “Little Lulu and the Snow Giant” – Lulu tells Alvin a story about a giant snowman. “The Christmas Tree” – Wilbur ruins Tubby’s mother’s Christmas tree. Tubby gets revenge by stealing Wilbur’s Christmas tree. All the stories in this issue take place in winter. Most issues of Little Lulu lack any such unifying theme.

JUDY #989 (DC Thomson, 1978) – I don’t think any of the stories in this issue are the same as in #1003. None of them particularly stand out, although “Sonia’s Secret” is notable for its combination of ballet and Russian revolutionary politics. Some of the artwork in this issue is rather old-fashioned. For instance, “Boundary Babs” has lots of ornate detail, but uses a style of linework that reminds me of Victorian illustration.

2000 AD #194 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: “The Bad Boy Bust Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf are sent to a Wild West planet to hunt down some carnivorous hairy criminals. Mean Arena: as above. We get some background information on the origins of street football, and then the game begins. Dredd: “The Fink Part 2,” as above. The Fink kidnaps another judge, and Dredd learns that the Fink is the previously unknown fifth member of the Angel family. Meltdown Man: Stone fights a giant bat, then realizes he’s caught the deadly meta-plague. Liana catches the same plague and is kidnapped by evil Yujees. Return to Armageddon: The Destroyer forces the other villains to join his cause. Meanwhlie, the old woman causes the other baby to age to adulthood, and tells him that he’s the incarnation of life.

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #11 (Marvel, 2008) – “Killed in Action Part 4 of 4: Worst Case Scenario,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Stefano Caselli. A bunch of confusing fight scenes between Avengers trainees and former New Warriors. I didn’t really understand this comic.

ACTION COMICS #786 (DC, 2002) – “Red,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Pascual Ferry. Superman fights Kanjar Ro on a planet of granite people. This issue isn’t bad, though as I wrote this review I had trouble remembering anything about it. Pascual Ferry is an interesting and underappreciated artist.

TIGER-MAN #2 (Atlas, 1975) – “Stalker and Concrete Jungle!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Steve Ditko. Tiger-Man fights Blue Leopard, a Black Panther knock-off. This is a highly generic and boring comic, and I barely remember it at all.

X-FACTOR #211 (Marvel, 2011) – “Staying in Vegas,” [W] Peter David, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Pip the Troll is being held captive by Hela, and somehow this results in X-Factor fighting a bunch of zombies. Thor shows up at the end. I didn’t quite understand this comic either, but it does have some strong characterization.

ARCHIE #257 (Archie, 1976) – “Early Worms Get the Bird,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Chic Stone, etc. A bunch of completely forgettable stories. There’s one where Archie goes to the beach early in the morning and sleeps through the whole day; another where Archie intends to play tennis, but instead uses his tennis racket for various other purposes; etc.

Y: THE LAST MAN #39 (DC, 2006) – “Paper Dolls Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Yorick tries and fails to recover some photographs that show, um, proof of his maleness. Also, Yorick and Agent 355 continue their attempts to track Beth down. The issue ends with a woman apparently shooting Yorick’s mother. I gave up on reading this series after #35 because it was getting boring, and I haven’t made an active effort to acquire the issues I missed.

ANIMAL MAN #28 (DC, 2014) – “Evolve or Die Part Two,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. Inside the Red, Buddy fights Totem, the leader of the Parliament of Limbs (the guy with the giant horns), while Maxine fights Brother Blood. Eventually the good guys win. Rafael Albuquerque’s art here is quite good.

2000 AD #195 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: “The Bad Boys Bust Part 2,” as above. Johnny and Wulf fight the Bad Boys as the latter attempt to rob a train. Meltdown Man: Stone and Liana survive the Meta-Plague by eating a lot. Liana gets a new longer hairstyle. Return to Armageddon: as above. The Destroyer kills the Triad, whoever they are, and also turns his brother into a freak. The good twin is eventually named Amtrak for some reason. Dredd: “The Fink Part Three,” as above. A flashback reveals the Fink’s origin, and we learn that he’s seeking revenge on the Judges who killed his family, during the Judge Child saga. Dredd: “Knock on the Door,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant. One of Dredd’s subordinate Judges obtains a confession by torture. Dredd arrests the Judge, then tricks his subject into making an admissible confession. Probably the reason this prog has two Judge Dredd stories is because Dredd doesn’t appear in “The Fink Part Three.”

ICEMAN #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Edgar Salazar & Ibraim Roberson. Bobby teams up with his ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde as they try to save a mutant boy from being lynched by his neighbors. Kitty and Bobby have a heart-to-heart talk about Bobby’s failure to tell Kitty that he’s gay. This is a fairly powerful and heartfelt story. Sina Grace has publicly complained about the treatment he got from Marvel when he was writing this series.

CEREBUS #130 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Jaka, Rick, and the Oscar Wilde lookalike are arrested by creepy dudes in white masks. It might not be ideal to read Cerebus in single-issue form, but I like Cerebus’s production values and its cover art, and its letter columns are interesting in a disturbing way.

ANARCHY COMICS #1 (Last Gasp, 1978) – various stories, [E] Jay Kinney. As its title indicates, this underground comic has a theme of radical politics. Kinney’s “Too Real” appears to be constructed entirely from old photos and clip art. Spain’s “Nestor Makhno” is a biography of the eponymous Ukrainian revolutionary. Melinda Gebbie’s “The Quilting Bee” is somewhat incoherently plotted, but has stunning artwork. Gebbie was the most graphically talented of all the female underground cartoonists, and someone really ought to publish a collection of her underground comics. Spain’s “Blood and Sky” is about the Spanish Civil War and includes some beautiful aviation art. “Kronstadt” is about a 1921 anti-Bolshevik revolt. This story is reprinted from L’Echo des Savanes and is credited to Epistolier and Volny. Epistolier is Yves Frémion, a frequent contributor to L’Echo and Fluide Glacial, but I can’t find any information on Volny. Paul Mavrides’s “Straight Talk About Anarchy” is a didactic piece. I’m mostly bored by this sort of ultra-leftist material, but this comic has some excellent art and writing.

ACTION COMICS #831 (DC, 2005) – “Black & Blue,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] John Byrne. In a Villains United crossover, Superman fights Black Adam, while Bizarro tries to get Professor Zoom to join the Injustice Society. This issue is full of entertaining mayhem, and Byrne’s art isn’t as bad as I’d have expected.

BLOODY MARY #1 (DC, 1996) – “Bloody Mary Part One,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. In the early 20th century, the world is consumed by war, and an elderly assassin who dresses like a nun is trying to track down an old comrade. This comic is an impressively grim combination of the horror and war genres. Until I started reading 2000 AD, I didn’t realize how much Carlos Ezquerra influenced Steve Dillon. Carlos Ezquerra may have been the single most influential 2000 AD artist. Bloody Mary was one of various works he produced for the American market in his later years, most of which were written by Ennis.

2000 AD #196 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: as above. The train fight continues, and the train goes over a cliff. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale: “Spirit of Vengeance,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. An ex-convict destroys his loyal robot by overworking it. The robot’s ghost gets revenge by causing its owner to get sent back to prison for life. G.P. Rice was only an average writer, but Gibbons’s art on this story is beautiful. Dredd: “The Fink Part Four,” as above. The Fink takes the kidnapped Judge to a corpse recycling plant. Dredd follows him there and saves her. Meltdown Man: as above. Gruff and T-Bone continue their pilgrimage. Return to Armageddon: as above except [A] Johnny Johnson. Amtrak tries to avoid the mutation ray by going back in time, but fails. Then he gets picked up by a passing spaceship. This prog’s cover does not depict any of the comics inside, but rather a prose story that appears below the letter column.

2000 AD #198 (IPC, 1981) – Tharg: “The Revenge of the Thrill-Suckers,” [W] unknown, [A] Ian Gibson. Tharg battles some more of the Thrill-Suckers from prog 180. The Thrill-Suckers look really gross, like mushrooms with faces in their stems. Mean Arena: as above. The game begins. Tallon confronts Jaws, one of the people he blames for his brother’s death. Return to Armageddon: as above except [A] Jesus Redondo. Amtrak’s ship lands on Earth. Amtrak meets Atlanta Watts, who appeared earlier in the story, but I forget who she is. Dredd: “Pirates of the Black Atlantic 2: Nuclear Skank,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The pirate Captain Skank (not sure if “Skank” is meant in the modern sense) launches a bunch of nukes at Mega-City One. Dredd goes after Skunk in a submarine. Meltdown Man: as above. Gruff meets a giant bear dude named Pole-Axe. This prog also includes the last installment of Dash Decent, a one-page strip which, despite Kevin O’Neill art, is consistently awful. As its name indicates, it’s a parody of Flash Gordon.

DEAD LETTERS #1 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Chris Visions. A career criminal named Sam Whistler wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. At the end of the issue, he discovers that he’s in purgatory or limbo. This is an okay issue, but I haven’t yet felt motivated to read issue 2, which I have. Chris Visions’s art here is more appealing than in Trust Fall.

2000 AD #233 (IPC, 1981) – Ace Trucking Co: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. This series stars Ace the trucker and his giant bodyguard GBH, who believes himself to be dead. In this story Ace seeks revenge on someone who stuck him with a useless cargo, and then gets a new assignment to smuggle war supplies. As in Meltdown Man, Belardinelli is really good at drawing futuristic technology and weird-looking aliens. Ace’s dialogue is hard to read because he speaks in exaggerated trucker jargon. Strontium Dog: “The Kid Knee Caper Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf are tracking a shapeshifting villain, the Mutator, alongside another bounty hunter, Kid Knee, whose face is in his knee. Johnny shoots and kills Kid Knee, who is actually the Mutator, then discovers that the Mutator has killed the real Kid Knee. Which is ironic because he was about to retire. Dredd: “The Hotdog Run Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd and Judge Giant lead a team of Judge cadets on a field examination in the Cursed Earth. Nemesis the Warlock: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Nemesis and Torquemada battle each other in some kind of alien dimension.

WORLD WITHOUT END #1 (DC, 1990) – “The Moon Also Rises…”, [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. We are introduced to Bedlam, a bizarre postapocalyptic world of men only. The only females are “skittons,” or nonsentient sex slaves. A flying scout discovers the existence of sentient females in the wilderness, and the leaders of the Gess, or men, respond by creating a champion called Brother Bones. John Higgins’s art in this issue is amazing; he convincingly creates a bizarre, oppressive, alien world. World Without End’s story is somewhat difficult to read, but fascinating.

CEREBUS #131 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story Book Three: Mystery Achievement,” as above. In prison, Jaka talks with a cellmate who proves to be her old nurse. It must have been excruciating to read Cerebus on a monthly basis, because of how slowly the story moves. Cerebus was an early example of decompressed storytelling or writing for the trade.

MIDNIGHTER & APOLLO #2 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Fernando Blanco. Apollo is killed, and Midnighter has to save his soul from hell. This issue has some good art, and is a good example of gay representation. This comic is set in the DC Universe, but I think I’m going to file it with my WildStorm comics.

BLACKHAWK #254 (DC, 1983) – “What Price Courage?”,  [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Blackhawks go on a bunch of missions, and Hitler sends Agent Domino to assassinate Blackhawk. This series is my least favorite Evanier-Spiegle collaboration. Evanier is a humor writer at heart, and he doesn’t have the grim mindset that’s necessary to write effective war comics. The “Detached Service Diary” backups in Evanier’s Blackhawk were often better than the main stories. The one in this issue is drawn by Dave Cockrum. In this story Chuck hunts down a Nazi while recalling a burlesque show he saw in New York.

SUPERBOY #74 (DC, 2000) – “Game, Set & Match!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. In a Sins of Youth crossover, the adult Young Justice heroes fight the kid Justice Leaguers. Then Superboy fights Match, and a villain named Amanda Spence assassinates Tana Moon, just after Tana admits that she loves Superboy. This is a really depressing and unnecessary death. Kesel and Grummett created Tana, and I don’t quite see why they chose to get rid of her.

DETECTIVE COMICS #707 (DC, 1997) – “Riddled,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. The best part of this issue is the cover, which shows the Riddler asking how Batman is like a mob informant (answer: when he spills his guts). This issue has a pretty dumb plot in which Batman and the Cluemaster, one of Dixon’s pet characters, try to track down the Riddler.  The Riddler’s riddles in this issue seem impossible to solve unless you can read the writer’s mind.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #381 (Marvel, 1991) – “This Gun’s for Hire,” [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Ron Lim. The title is a reference to one of my favorite Springsteen songs. This issue, Cap gets involved in the Serpent Society’s civil war, and Diamondback hires Paladin as backup since she and Cap have apparently broken up. This issue has a ton of characters. At this point in Gruenwald’s run, Cap had so many allies and partners that the series was almost a team comic. This issue has a backup story starring USAgent.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #435 (DC, 1987) – “The Circle Turns,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jerry Ordway. While driving a race car as Clark Kent, Superman suffers a psychic attack. A bunch of villains called the Circle prove to be responsible. The Circle discover that Superman isn’t the “lost one” they’re looking for, and they leave him alone. As far as I know, the Circle never appeared again, nor did we ever learn who the real “lost one” was.

WARLORD #3 (DC, 1976) – “War Gods of Skartaris,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Morgan fights some lizard people and discovers his lost plane. This issue has very exciting art but is otherwise a typical Grell comic. As I read this issue, it occurred to me that Warlord is basically the same setup as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar. And DC had just finished doing an adaptation of Pellucidar in Weird Worlds. But of course DC did not own Pellucidar, while they did own Warlord.

2000 AD #235 (IPC, 1981) – Ace Trucking Co.: as above. Ace’s cargo consists of mercenaries in suspended animation, and they come to life and try to take over Ace’s ship. Ace and his crew fight them into submission. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Once Upon an Atom,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Alan Langford. Earth is destroyed by a hydrogen atom that’s angry at the loss of its love interest, a chlorine atom. Mean Arena: “The Salford Slicers,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Eric Bradbury. Matt Tallon’s latest target is a medic who allowed Matt’s brother to play with injuries. Eric Bradbury’s art is less impressive than John Richardson’s. Dredd: “The Hotdog Run Part III,” as above. The judge cadets fight some creatures called Gila-Munja. Of the seven cadets who started the exam, two of them pass, two fail but are allowed to try again, one is expelled from the academy, and two are killed. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Sign of the Times,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Mike White. Some American astronauts go on a space mission to stop the Soviets from doing something. We’re led to believe the Soviets are going to drop a bomb on America, but instead they’re putting up a giant FLY AEROFLOT sign that’s visible across North America. Rogue Trooper: “Scum Sea,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Rogue invades a Nort ship in an effort to find out who was responsible for a massacre.

DETECTIVE COMICS #614 (DC, 1990) – “Street Demonz,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Batman meets some young crack dealers. He tries to reform them, while also protecting them from adult criminals who suspect them of informing on them. While doing all this, Batman has flashbacks to his own privileged upbringing. At the end of the issue, Batman, as Bruce Wayne, sets up a scholarship for underprivileged children. This issue is a reasonable response to the “why doesn’t Bruce Wayne use his money to change society” argument.

BEWARE THE CREEPER #4 (DC, 1968) – “Which Face Hides My Enemy?”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Steve Ditko. The Creeper tries to track down a mysterious villain named Proteus. The Creeper was one of Ditko’s best post-Spider-Man works. It had dynamic action sequences and page layouts, a compelling protagonist, and an exciting plot.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #86 (Marvel, 1982) – “Golden Eye… Gleaming Death!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Denys Cowan. Luke and Danny are hired to protect a drug-addicted rock star named Rip Chord who’s recording an album during a train ride. But some criminals destroy the train, and Rip Chord is killed as collateral damage. This issue is okay, but not as good as an average issue of Jo Duffy’s run.

VIOLATOR VS. BADROCK #4 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brian Denham. Not one of Alan’s better works for Image. It has some witty dialogue, but Brian Denham is just not talented enough to tell the story Alan has in mind. Also, both the main characters are awful.

THOR #256 (Marvel, 1977) – “Lurker in the Dark!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] John Buscema. Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three visit a generation starship whose people are being menaced by a tentacled creature called Sporr. This issue is not bad, though also not incredible.

I KILL GIANTS #7 (Image, 2009) – “The End,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] J.M. Ken Niimura. I bought this years ago, but never read it because I subsequently bought and read the trade paperback. In hindsight, I Kill Giants is an excellent graphic novel, a powerful depiction of childhood mental illness, and probably Joe Kelly’s masterwork. This issue is a touching conclusion, in which the bunny-eared protagonist survives her encounter with the monster and succeeds in adjusting to life at school. This issue includes some interesting behind-the-scenes features.

PETER CANNON, THUNDERBOLT #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Watch Part Three,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. I received this from DCBS when it came out, but I misplaced it somehow. I finally found it while cleaning out my closet. This issue continues the Watchmen-homage plot from #2, and includes some artwork that explicitly references Watchmen. It also uses the line “That’s quite a drop” at a significant moment. In terms of the plot, the main Thunderbolt character tries to defeat his evil counterpart by using his power to escape the panel grid, but instead he gets plunged into a world based on Eddie Campbell’s Alec.

THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT #1 (Eagle, 1985) – “The Stainless Steel Rat,” [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. These stories are reprinted from 2000 AD #140-145, none of which I have. They’re an adaptation of Harry Harrison’s novel of the same name. I’ve read the original novel, and I didn’t love it. And Gosnell and Ezquerra’s adaptation is competent, but doesn’t add a whole lot to the original. Also, Eagle must have made lots of alterations to the original pages in order to accommodate them to the American format. For example, in the last panel of the page reproduced at https://shop.2000ad.com/catalogue/XB378, Eagle shrunk down jim’s head so that it doesn’t cross the panel border.

MORELLA AND THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Morella” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” [W/A] Richard Corben. This one-shot contains two adaptations of Poe stories. In “Morella,” Myron’s creepy wife dies, then he sleeps with her daughter Orella. When Myron mistakenly introduces Orella as Morella, she dies, and then Myron commits suicide. Corben’s adaptation departs from Poe’s original, in which Orella is the protagonist’s biological daughter, and he doesn’t sleep with her. A notable visual aspect of Corben’s adaptation is that Morella is covered with tattoos, which look kind of like the Native American designs in Rat God. The second adaptation is of a better-known story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The solution to this mystery is that the murders were committed by an orangutan, and Corben makes the orangutan look hideous and ferocious.

By this point I hadn’t received any new comics in quite a while. I stopped ordering from DCBS, and they decided to hold all of my unshipped items until they all arrived. I’m currently trying to get them to at least send the items that have already arrived. Meanwhile, on August 19, I went to Heroes to pick up new comics. This was the first time I bought new comics in person since I left Atlanta, where I had been shopping at Oxford Comics. I’m going to miss the convenience of DCBS, but it’s nice to actually talk with people while buying comics, and to be able to make impulse purchases. Some of the stuff I bought:

BIG GIRLS #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. A virus is causing  men to turn into giant monsters. Women can get infected too, but the virus just makes them giant and not monstrous. Our protagonist, Ember, is a giant woman who works to protect her city from male monsters. Sadly, on her first mission she has to help kill a little boy before the virus turns him into a monster. As the issue goes on, we realize that Ember is being manipulated in some way, and the monsters might not be what we think. I believe this is Jason Howard’s first solo comic, and it’s an impressive debut. It has an impressive premise, and it feels quite feminist. Howard also seems to have thought through the logistics of giant-sized people. A brilliant detail is when Ember walks into her base, and some men use marshalling batons (the kind that aiport ground crews use) to indicate where she should put her feet.

SEVEN SECRETS #1 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Sigurd and Eva are the guardians of two out of the seven secrets, which are not explained in detail, but they’re really important. But Sigurd gets Eva pregnant, which is forbidden because their secret-keeping mission is supposed to be their entire life. The baby, Caspar, is born and then given up for adoption. 15 years later, Sigurd is killed by a villain named Amon. I assume Caspar is going to be the protagonist of the series, but in this issue he only appears as a newborn. Seven Secrets #1 is one of the most heavily hyped comics of 2020. I’m not sure it lives up to the hype, but it’s an exciting debut issue.

ADVENTUREMAN #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire goes to the hospital and has a vision of Adventureman giving a blood transfusion to Chagall. When she emerges from the vision, she realizes she’s given a man a life-saving blood transfusion. Also, she’s a lot bigger than before. Later, Claire has a second vision while watching a movie. This is another really entertaining issue. I love how the family relationships in this comic feel so warm and friendly – I especially like the Shabbat dinner scenes.

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. Sharri and Jael continue their escape attempt and kill one of the women pursuing them. Meanwhile, the women from atop the mountain kidnap some people from a primitive tribe. R.M. Guera’s art in this series is absolutely stunning, and Jason Aaron’s plot is scary and compelling. I need to collect more of their previous series, Scalped.

HEDRA (Image, 2020) – “Hedra,” [W/A] Jesse Lonergan. An astronaut flies in a rocket to a far-off planet, where she meets a giant superhero and helps him defeat some smaller enemies. The superhero offers the protagonist membership in his team, but she refuses and apparently returns to her home planet, though the ending is enigmatic. While its plot seems simple, Hedra is actually perhaps the most impressive and visually innovative comic book of the year. Its style of storytelling is unique: each page is based on a 35-panel grid, but usually some of the panels are combined. Because there are so many panels and the pages are bigger than normal, Lonergan is able to use a lot of space to depict the trajectories of objects that travel across the panels. He also uses the panel structure in other ways – like, there’s one page where the panels are organized like a maze, and you have to read them in nonlinear order. Part of the fun in this comic is seeing all the different things that Lonergan does with the 35-panel grid. I should also mention that Hedra is entirely silent, which explains why the ending is hard to interpret. Another cool thing about this comic is what the title means. At the end, we discover that the four superheroes are based on four of the five regular polyhedra or Platonic solids, and the protagonist is invited to become the fifth member of the team, representing the dodecahedron. I wonder how many readers realized this. Overall, Hedra is one of the best comic books of the year, and I look forward to Lonergan’s next book, Planet Paradise.

LUDOCRATS #4 (Image, 2020) – “The Desolation of the Ludocrats,” [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. Hades betrays Otto to the Hyper-Pope, who makes his first appearance on the last page of the issue. This issue is full of great stuff. Near the start, Otto makes himself two-dimensional by killing Dr X-Position, so that he only has a Y- and a Z- position. Later on, Otto spends a full page lamenting that he’ll never get to destroy the moon. This is such an incredibly fun series that it deserves more than five issues, and I hope it gets a sequel.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #1 (DC, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy, an English grad student and new mother, accidentally swaps places with a native of the Dreaming. While in the Dreaming, Lindy meets William Shakespeare as well as a bunch of alternative Shakespeare authorship candidates. One of them is an Arab named Sheikh Zubayr. A notable moment in this issue is when Lindy meets with her advisor, who, despite being female herself, has no sympathy for Lindy’s struggles as a woman and a mother in academia. (https://www.instagram.com/p/CEFnhDOhsm0/) I know a lot of graduate faculty in English, and none of them would ever treat their students in such a cruel way. But sadly, there are academics out there who are as heartless as Professor Dunbar.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #4 (DC, 2020) – “Out the Window,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads  Doc Shaner. I keep wanting to call him Gerards instead of Gerads. This issue, Mr. Terrific goes to Rann to investigate, but encounters stonewalling whenever he tries to learn anything about the Pykkts. Meanwhile, in flashback, Adam asks Green Lantern and Superman for help with the Pykkts, but they both refuse. It’s become abundantly clear by now that the Rannians are on the wrong side, and it also seems like Adam and Alanna are hiding something.

ASH & THORN #4 (AfterShock, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. I haven’t read #3 yet because DCBS still has yet to deliver it. In #4, Lottie and her young assistant bake some “battle scones” as ammunition against the evil Court. At the store, I talked to someone who described this comic as “bare-bones.” I think that’s a good way to put it – Ash & Thorn could be more substantial. But I still think it’s an important comic, because it’s a big step forward in terms of the depiction of older female protagonists.

WONDER WOMAN #759 (DC, 2020) – “I Walk the Line,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Mikel Janin. Diana meets a new roommate, saves a woman who’s gone insane and endangered her children, and then confronts her old enemy Max Lord. This is a good debut issue with excellent artwork, though I have no interest in Max Lord as a villain.

I said I wasn’t going to buy any more 2000 AD comics, but there were a couple lots on eBay that were too cheap to resist. They were from the same seller as the lot I received of July 7. I still haven’t read most of the comics from this shipment yet, but:

2000 AD #791 (Fleetway, 1992) – Dredd: “Judgment Day Part 8,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd leads the defense of Mega-City One against invading zombies. Kola Kommandos: “Part 12,” [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Anthony Williams. I don’t really understand this strip. This installment ends with a Coke ad being projected on the moon – see “Loonies’ Moon” in prog 192. Zenith: “Phase IV: Prologue – Golgonooza,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This chapter is about a character named Michael who lives in a bleak, lifeless city. I don’t know how this character is connected to Zenith himself. Rogue Trooper: “Apocalypse Dreadnought Part 12,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Ron Smith. Friday fights some kind of pink floppy alien. Button Man: “The Killing Game 12,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Arthur Ranson. Harry Exton’s employer poisons him and then tries to shoot him, but Harry survives and cuts his employer’s head off. This is the best story in the prog.

MONEY SHOT #7 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. In a flashback, we see how America’s xenophobic douchebag president ruined America’s reputation with the aliens. Then the Money Shot crew go on a mission to the planet Cockaigne, where everyone is super hot. We don’t see any more of the imperialist aliens from #6. This series is getting really good. It’s well-executed, funny, and sexy.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #7 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. We start with a flashback to before the U.S. was sealed off. Then the train reaches the next section of America: a forest of white trees covered in red and blue veins. And we meet a second Dr. Sam Elgin. This series is not exactly my favorite, perhaps because it feels too ponderous and not funny enough, but it’s fascinating.

SAVAGE DRAGON #251 (Image, 2020) – “Family Reunion!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Heroes also had #250, but I skipped it because it was too expensive. In #251, Malcolm meets Paul Dragon, who has the original Dragon’s memories. Also, Maxine continues to suffer from nymphomania. There’s a scene where Malcolm is playing a game with the kids, and then he interrupts the game to, um, pork Maxine. At least this issue isn’t as offensive and exploitative as the earlier issues that caused me to drop the series.

AQUAMAN #62 (DC, 2020) – “Homecoming,” [W] Jordan Clark, [A] Marco Santucci. Aqualad confronts Black Manta and then meets a new, male love interest. This series was rumored to be ending with issue 65, but I’m not sure if that’s still true.

GIDEON FALLS #24 (Image, 2020) – “Wicked Worlds Part 3: All the best cowgirls have daddy issues,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In the Wild West version of Gideon Falls, Clara saves two children from zombies, and then she reencounters her dad. This issue is clearer than some of the last few issues, though I’m not sure who the kids are.

X-MEN/FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Welcome to the New World: The Might of Latveria Has Been Unleashed,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Terry Dodson. The X-Men, the FF and Doom have a final confrontation. Franklin agrees to visit Krakoa for training, and Magneto and Professor X destroy Reed’s device that can cloak the mutant gene. This was a fun miniseries, and an effective spiritual sequel to Fantastic Four/X-Men.

DECORUM #4 (Image, 2020) – “And the Eating of a World,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Half this issue consists of blank pages or two-page spreads of starscapes. The rest of the issue tells an actual story, but one that makes no sense. I still don’t get what this series is supposed to be about, although I love Mike Huddleston’s art.

SPACE RIDERS: VORTEX OF DARKNESS #2 (Black Mask, 2020) – untitled, [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Alexis Zirtt. Space Riders is tough to find because it’s published by Black Mask, a poorly run publisher that’s on the verge of going out of business. That’s a pity because Alexis Zirtt’s artwork is spectacular. He has great coloring and a style that echoes but doesn’t slavishly imitate Kirby, and like Tom Scioli, he allows the reader to see the texture of the original paper. I also like how this series combines space opera with Latinx pop culture.

2000 AD #239 (IPC, 1981) – Ace: “Hell’s Pocket Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. An alien named Ignatz Lg0o convinces Ace to take him on a trip to Hell’s Pocket, the Bermuda Triangle of space. Nemesis: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Nemesis fights Torquemada in a series of host bodies, the last of which is a giant grim reaper. Dredd: “Block Mania Part Four,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The apartment blocks of Mega-City One declare war on each other. This story was a prologue to “The Apocalypse War,” one of the most important Dredd stories. Mean Arena: “The Edinburgh Executioners,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Eric Bradbury. Matt Tallon captures Jessup, the plastic surgeon who helped cause his brother’s death. Rogue Trooper: “The Rookies,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Rogue fights alongside a bunch of new recruits.

2000 AD #241 (IPC, 1981) – Ace: “Hell’s Pocket Part 3,” as above. In Hell’s Pocket, GBH is kidnapped by some of the local natives. Also, by now we know that Ignatz was lying about having been to Hell’s Pocket before. Mean Arena: as above except [A] Mike White. The Slayers-Executioners match begins, and Matt deliberately makes himself a target for some reason. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “The Masks of Arazzor,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] José Casanovas. Some astronauts discover a colony of masks that drive their wearers insane. Casanovas draws this story in a very Spanish style that reminds me of Carlos Giménez. Dredd: “Block Mania Part 8,” as above. Some guy tries to tell Dredd who’s responsible for the block mania, but then gets murdered. Dredd investigates the crime scene and realizes the madness is being spread through water. Rogue Trooper: “Blue Moon,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Colin Wilson. Rogue helps out some entertainers known as “blue mooners”. Colin Wilson had just started his interrnational career at this point, but he was already extremely good at drawing realistic machines and exciting action sequences. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Joe Black’s Tall Tale!”, [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] John Higgins. An astronaut falls in love with a beautiful human-looking alien, only to discover that she’s ten times his size.

SHADOW SERVICE #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. Our protagonist, Gina, is a private investigator with magical powers. This is a reasonably fun opening issue, with excellent artwork, but there’s not much about this comic that stands out to me. I’d still be willing to read the next couple issues.

PRETTY VIOLENT #8 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Gamma Rae argues with her siblings, and then goes to a graveyard where she encounters a zombified Brodie Perron. I have trouble keeping track of this comic’s plot, but the plot is just an excuse for ridiculous mayhem, as in I Hate Fairyland.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #6 (DC, 2020) – “Assault on Sector General,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. This comic’s title and premise are an obvious homage to James White’s Sector General novels. I just read one of those and enjoyed it. This issue, Hal is recovering from injuries at a hospital for aliens. Hal’s colleagues come to visit, just in time for the hospital to be attacked by villains from the antimatter universe. This issue is an improvement on the last few, and I especially like Hal’s whiny lion-like roommate.

HEATHEN #12 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley Woods. The story concludes, but I don’t really understand what happens. Without Alterici’s artwork, this series is not all that interesting.

2000 AD #243 (IPC, 1981) – Ace: as above. Ace and his crew escape Hell’s Pocket, and Ace dumps Ignatz back where he found him. Mean Arena: as above. Tallon alters Jessup’s face to resemble Tallon’s, and then forces Jessup to rejoin the game in Tallon’s place. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis and Torquemada’s epic battle continues. Kevin O’Neill’s  art here is brilliant, though difficult to parse. Tharg: “Tharg’s Christmas Tale,” [W] unknown, [A] Eric Bradbury. Some aliens kidnap Santa and replace his presents with deadly menaces. Santa’s reindeer call upon Tharg for assistance. Dredd: “Block Mania Part 8,” as above except [A] Steve Dillon. Judge Giant is murdered, and the enemy takes over Weather Control and creates a madness-inducing rainstorm. Rogue Trooper: “Poison,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Mike Dorey. At the polar ice cap, Rogue has to overcome poisoning to defeat some Nort ski troops. Mike Dorey did some uncredited art for Warlord, and was a very early contributor to 2000 AD, starting with prog 6.

2000 AD #244 (IPC, 1981) – Dredd: “Block Mania Part 9,” as above except [A] Brian Bolland. Dredd defeats the culprit but gets block mania himself, but is cured. The culprit is revealed as Orlok, a Judge from East-Meg One, i.e. the USSR. This leads directly into “The Apocalypse War.” Tharg: as above. Tharg defeats the aliens with aid from all the 2000 AD characters, including some obsolete ones like Black-Hawk and the VCs. Ace: “Lugjack,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. While Ace is towing a giant iceberg, his ship is hijacked by space pirates. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis defeats Torquemada and returns to Termight. That concludes Book One. Mean Arena: as above. Matt Tallon is apparently killed, but then shows up alive, and there’s no proof that it was Jessup who died. Matt’s four surviving targets consult with each other. This was the last prog included in the lot I ordered on July 6.

UNCLE SCROOGE #3/407 (IDW, 2015) – “The Duckburg 100,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. A bank gives $100 to three infamous spendthrifts, with the promise of $100 more if they keep the original $100 or invest it as a profit. The three spendthrifts are Donald, Gladstone, and a Beagle Boy. Upon learning that he owns the bank, Scrooge tries to prevent any of them from earning the extra $100. This story is actually quite well-plotted and entertaining, and very Barksian, but I found it somewhat tiresome.

NEW TITANS #82 (DC, 1992) – “The Jericho Gambit Part One: The Saviors!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Tom Grummett. The Titans fight an insane Jericho. By this point in its run, this series was a shadow of its former self, but this issue does arouse some fond memories of the Titans’ glory days.

2000 AD #593 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/4: Deep Trouble,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Evil government minister Peter St. John is interviewed on TV, and then learns that London is being nuked. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Alan MacKenzie & Steve Parkhouse, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The mother and daughter argue, and the two ships continue their pursuit. This story is a bit like Ace Trucking Co., except not funny. Dredd: “PJ Maybe, Age 13,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Liam Sharp. PJ kills another one of his relatives. This story is quite funny. Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. Nemesis fights Torquemada yet again, in new bodies. Hicklenton’s art is gorgeous, if hard to follow. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Cultural Exchange,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Jim McCarthy (as “I. Dren”). A scientist learns the secret of FTL travel from some aliens. In return, he teaches the aliens that “if it still doesn’t work, hit it with a spanner.” Daily Dredd: “The Mean Machine Part 4,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd arrests the man responsible for reviving the Angel Gang.

2000 AD #637 (IPC, 1991) – Anderson: “Triad,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Arthur Ranson. Psi-Judge Anderson investigates some cases of spontaneous combustion, and there’s a subplot about two little twin girls with psychic powers. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. A paramedic retrains as an ambulance pilot. That sounds boring, but the main character in this strip is really cute, and Dobbyn’s art reminds me a bit of John Armstrong or Alan Davis. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “House of the Future,” [W] Glen Gormley, [A] Chris Weston. An old woman’s home security system kills some attempted burglers. Gormley’s first name is given in other sources as Chris. I can’t tell which is correct, because he has no other comics credits under either name. Dredd: “And the Wind Cried…”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike Collins. Dredd and Anderson visit a city that was nuked in the Apocalypse War. There they find a comatose man who’s survived on life support for eight years. Anderson pulls the plug on his life support, allowing his late wife’s ghost to find rest. This story is very touching. Tales from the Doghouse: “Niall of the Nine Sausages,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. In a series spun off from Strontium Dog, a bounty hunter named Maeve investigates an evil sausage maker. This story’s title is a reference to Niall of the Nine Hostages, a legendary Irish king. Simon Jacob’s art here is quite good, though very cartoony. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 16,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Middenface and some of his allies escape from Milton Keynes, and meanwhile, we learn that a character named Sagan is Johnny Alpha’s brother. I didn’t know this until I looked it up, but Johnny Alpha was permanently killed in this story, and that’s why his co-creator, Carlos Ezquerra, refused to draw it.

FINGER GUNS #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. Sadie can’t report her father to the police because her mother is an illegal immigrant. This is a sadly realistic dilemma, especially in Trump’s America. Instead, Sadie comes up with a cockamamie plot to manipulate her father into being caught committing a crime. Predictably, Sadie’s plot backfires, and her dad slams a door on her and cuts her finger off. This was my favorite issue since #1.

NO ONE’S ROSE #4 (Vault, 2020) – “Away Mission,” [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Alburquerque. I just realized that the artist’s surname is not spelled like the city in New Mexico, but has an extra R. This issue, Tenn (the sister) and her team visit a city called Geddontibe that uses mushrooms as technology. She tries to encourage cultural exchange between her team and the city, but instead her teammates start a massacre. Meanwhile, Seren (the brother) participates in an attempted terrorist attack, but has a last-minute change of heart.

MAESTRO #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect is PAD’s personal favorite of his Hulk stories, and in this series he revisits it for at least the third or fourth time, revealing the Maestro’s origin. This issue starts as the Hulk is living happily with Betty and their sons, but Bruce quickly realizes that it’s a dream. Then he wakes up inside an underground AIM base, in a world that’s been devastated by nuclear war. I probably shouldn’t have ordered this comic, since I’ve been unhappy with most of PAD’s recent work, but it’s not a terrible comic.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #578 (Disney, 1992) – “Old Quackly Manor,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald is employed as a real estate agent and has to sell a dilapidated old house. Huey, Dewey and Louie have been playing in the house, so they try to dissuade Donald’s client from buying it. But their efforts backfire, and the client buys the house and turns it into a clubhouse for boys. This issue also includes another haunted house story, reprinted from an old Mickey Mouse giveaway comic, and a European story about the origins of soccer.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE SUICIDE BLONDE #2 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. A pointy-eared Martian travels to Earth and reinvents himself as a private detective. This issue is a reasonably effective combination of the SF and detective genres. However, it feels as if it started out as a rejected proposal for a Martian Manhunter series.

FRONTLINE COMBAT #2 (Gemstone, 1951/1995) – all stories [W] Harvey Kurtzman. “Bouncing Bertha,” [A] Jack Davis: A member of a tank crew gets himself killed by his own cowardice, and his plight is compared to that of a drowning beetle. This story doesn’t have enough of a coherent theme. Like many EC war stories, it makes effective use of sound effects to depict the chaos of battle. “Zero Hour!”, [A] John Severin: In World War I, a young soldier gets caught on barbed wire, and several of his comrades get killed trying to save him. The boy’s commanding officer has to shoot him to put him out of his misery. This story is a powerful depiction of the pathos of war. “Gettysburg!”, [A] Wally Wood: During Pickett’s Charge on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, a Northern soldier kills his father, who’s fighting for the South. This story has great art, but its twist ending is trite. “Contact!”, [A] Kurtzman: In the Korean War, some American troops beat some Chinese troops, beecause “America is a way of life… and as long as we believe in good we can’t go wrong.” This story is far more jingoistic than most Kurtzman war stories.

G.I. JOE #55 (Marvel, 1987) – “Unmaskings,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Rod Whigham. Cobra Commander and Destro escape from the ruins of the Pit. Cobra Commander coincidentally discovers his son Billy in hospital, missing an eye and a leg. There’s a subplot about a civil war in Sierra Gordo. Meanwhile, Grunt leaves the military to go to Georgia Tech.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #386 (Marvel, 1994) – “The Wings of Age!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. Aunt May hires a private investigator to look into Richard and Mary Parker, and as a result Peter convinces himself that Aunt May has Alzheimer’s. He visits an expert on aging for advice. Then the Vulture breaks out of prison and uses the same expert’s experimental device to drain Spidey’s lifeforce. Despite its top-tier creative team, this issue is pretty bad, especially since it includes Richard and Mary Parker (or the clones thereof). The period from 1994 to 1996 was probably the lowest point in Spider-Man’s entire history.

RICHARD DRAGON, KUNG FU FIGHTER #4 (DC, 1975) – “A Time to Be a Whirlwind!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Ric Estrada. Richard Dragon tries to rescue his love interest Carolyn from some hoodlums, but is unable to save her from being fridged. The best thing about this comic is Wally Wood’s inking.

2000 AD #638 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Triad Part 4,” as above. Anderson consults an expert at the “Department of Fortean Events” about spontaneous combustion. Anderson and the expert’s conversation takes place against a background of non-sequitur images, kind of like in Stillman’s monologue in City of Glass. In this story there’s a “Norm Breyfogle City Block.” Medivac 318: as above. The Medivacs try to stop a civil war on an alien planet. Future Shocks: “Brand Loyalty,” [W] Mike Collins, [A] Paul Marshall. An old woman goes out shopping in a world that’s been torn apart by a civil war between rival corporations. Dredd: “Kirby’s Demon,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A psychotic young boy returns home from a mental  hospital and promptly summons a demon. When his family and his social worker are unable to see the demon, he flies into a rage and murders them. The boy’s name is “Jack Kirby,” his demon looks a lot like Etrigan, and he lives in Matt Wagner Block. So this issue is quite heavy on references to American comics. Strontium Dog: as above. The villains perform a beautifully drawn but incomprehensible ritual, and Middenface and his team head to Stonehenge. I forgot to mention the “Niall of the Nine Sausages” installment.

DETECTIVE COMICS #638 (DC, 1991) – “The Bomb,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim Aparo. A government agent named Kelly enlists Batman’s aid in tracking down a runaway “human bomb.” We soon realize that Kelly has ulterior motives, and that the human bomb is a lot more human than Kelly has led Batman to believe. In fact, the bomb is a superpowered black teenage girl, and Kelly wants Batman to recapture her for the government. Batman convinces Kelly to let the girl take off her protective suit and go outside for a day, but when she does that, her own powers kill her. This story is very sad and touching, but if published today, it would draw criticism because of its inability to imagine a non-tragic ending for a young black girl with dangerous superpowers.

ANIMAL MAN #49 (DC, 1992) – “The Hot Heart of Abstract Reality,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Steve Dillon. More of the same plots as in issue 50, except with a greater emphasis on Animal Man, Vixen and Tristesse. This issue includes an illustrated prose sequence depicting the Antagon’s origin.

2000 AD #639 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson; “Triad, Part 5,” as above. Anderson investigates further and learns about the twins’ psychic powers. Medivac 318: as above. The medivacs’ attempt to calm the civil war turns into a massacre, and the protagonist, Verity, goes to the planet to look for survivors. I assumed Hilary Robinson was a man, simply because most 2000 AD writers are, but she’s a woman. According to the Albion British Comics Database Wiki, she left 2000 AD because Alan McKenzie tried to reassign Medivac 318 and Zippy Couriers to another writer, even though Robinson owned them. Future Shocks: “The Getting of Wisdom,” [W] Mike Collins, [A] Dave D’Antiquis. A scientist receives a communication from aliens, which turns out to be an ad for an encyclopedia. Dredd: “Curse of the Spider Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mick Austin. A man is diagnosed with AGV, a disease that’s going to turn him into a spider. He tries to kill himself so his family will get his life insurance money, but only succeeds in getting himself sent to prison. Ironically, he was misdiagnosed and has AVG, a mild disease, while another of the doctor’s patients has turned into a spider. The Simpsons episode “Duffless” included a similar joke where Chief Wiggum confused DOA and DWI. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5uuaWZYHbM Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 18,” as above. Middenface and his allies arrive at Stonehenge, and some other stuff happens that I don’t understand.

CONAN THE ADVENTURER #3 (Marvel, 1994) – “Blood Days in Brythunia,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rafael Kayanan. A young Conan arrives in a city for the first time, and gets drawn into a conflict between rival political factions. This short-lived series was intended for younger readers, though it’s not all that different from Thomas’s Conan the Barbarian. This issue includes a somewhat offensive depiction of a Pict. Howard’s Picts were more like Native Americans than like the real Picts, who were ancient inhabitants of Scotland.

WEIRD SCIENCE #1 (Russ Cochran, 1992) – All stories [W] Al Feldstein w/ Bill Gaines unless stated otherwise. “Lost in the Microcosm,” [A] Harvey Kurtzman. A man is hit with a shrinking ray and shrinks endlessly through smaller and smaller microworlds. This story has a powerful premise, but it’s not much of a story. “Dream of Doom,” [W] Harry Harrison?, [A] Wally Wood. An artist named Bristol keeps waking up from a dream only to realize he’s still dreaming. Like the previous story, this story has no real ending. “Dream of Doom” includes fictionalized depictions of Bill Gaines (“Gill Baines”), Harvey Kurtzman (“Bill Kurtz”) and Johnny Craig. “Experiment… in Death”, [A] Jack Kamen: A scientist kills a dog and then resurrects it. The procedure works, so he does the same thing to himself. But then the dog goes insane and has to be put down, presaging a similar fate for the scientist. “ ‘Things’ from Outer Space!”, [A] Feldstein: A woman discovers that America has been infiltrated by three-eyed aliens. She tries to bring this news to the authorities, up to and including the President, but they all turn out to be aliens themselves.

LITTLE LULU #56 (Dell, 1953) – credits as above. “The Downfall of Mr. McNabbem”: Mr. McNabbem thinks he’s caught Lulu playing hooky and smoking a pipe. The pipe actually  belongs to the principal, and when McNabbem breaks it, the principal chases him and he runs away. In a typical ironic Stanley touch, while fleeing, McNabbem discovers two kids who really are playing hooky and smoking. “Elephant Ride”: Lulu and Alvin ride an elephant at the park, Eddie shoots the elephant with a slingshot, and it chases him and the boys. “Space Kids”:   the boys pretend to have traveled to Mars in their clubhouse, but Lulu turns the tables on them. “The Little Pink Cloud”: Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl captures a living cloud. “The Buzzard”: Gloria breaks a date with Tubby in order to go out with Wilbur instead. Tubby pursues Gloria and Wilbur implacably, staring at them, until Wilbur runs away. Tubby’s determined stare is the funniest thing in this issue.

STAR TREK #44 (Gold Key, 1977) – “Prince Traitor,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Al McWilliams. Kirk, Spock and Scotty visit a primitive planet, where they become involved in the prince’s rebellion against his cruel father. This issue has some nice art, but also a confusing, overly abbreviated plot that doesn’t feel like Star Trek. The GCD says that this issue is full of Alex Raymond swipes. I didn’t realize this because Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon is one of the biggest gaps in my knowledge of comics.

SUPERMAN #14 (DC, 1988) – “Last Stand!”, [W/A] John Byrne. A Millennium crossover in which Superman and Green Lantern fight the Highmaster. This issue’s story is boring and its art is lazy even for Byrne, with lots of backgrounds that appear to be computer-generated. Also, there’s a scene where Hal finds the Guardians’ discarded clothes, and then he realizes that they’ve removed their clothes because they’re having an orgy with the Zamarons. Ewww.

DETECTIVE COMICS #580 (DC, 1987) – “Double Image,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Jim Aparo. Batman and Robin (Jason) fight Two-Face, who turns out to be an impostor. Jim Baikie’s art in this issue is very good, and quite reminiscent of Gibbons, but Jason Todd is an extremely annoying character. I understand why people voted to kill him.

GROO THE WANDERER #6 (Marvel, 1985) – “Eye of the Kabula,” [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. Groo steals a ruby from King Ojete to give it to the village of Kabula. But unbeknownst to him, the people of Kabula wanted the ruby so they could give it to King Ojete. There’s a scene in this story where Groo disguises himself as a woman to infilrate King Ojete’s harem. Sergio’s storytelling is so immersive and so compelling that when I read Groo, I often find myself not even noticing the art.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #188 (Marvel, 1975) – “Druid-War,” [W] John Warner, [A] Sal Buscema. Cap fights Dredmund the Druid and his robot. This is a boring issue by an unimpressive writer.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #58 (DC, 1967) – “Live Till Tomorrow,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bob Brown. When the Challs attempt to return to their headquarters, a villain named Neutro turns their plane into glass. The Guardians defeat Neutro with help from Martin Ryan/Tino Manarry. This is another very fun issue.

I broke my promise again and ordered another large lot of 2000 AD’s. This lot was about 65 progs for $120. I offered $95 in exchange for leaving out a few progs that I already had, and the seller accepted the offer.

2000 AD #351 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “The Killing, Part 2,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf participate in The Killing, which is like Battle Royale or the Hunger Games. The only difference is that Johnny and Wulf are trying to kill all the other participants in order to collect the bounties on them. Dredd: “Mutie the Pig,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd fakes his death in order to catch a criminal. This issue begins with Dredd’s fake funeral, and the people of Mega-City One actually seem sad when they think Dredd is dead. This is ironic since Dredd is such a tyrant. Future Shocks: “The Sum of the Parts,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Steve Hatton. Some aliens abduct a man, take him apart, and then put him together with his head backwards and his arm and leg swapped. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. A mysterious colonel sends Rogue to a planet where the Norts are making their own super-soldiers. Cam Kennedy’s art here is excellent, comparable in quality to that of Gibbons. Slaine: “The Shoggey Beast 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Slaine kills a monster who was being protected by his human mother. Mike McMahon’s art is effective, but somewhat hard to read. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Straight! Part 2,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. I’ve read the complete D.R. & Quinch before, but it’s fun to see these stories in their original context. This is the conclusion to their first story arc, in which the boys get revenge on Judge Thorkwung. It ends with a scene where the boys are about to feed a bellboy to some rippy fish. This series is probably the funniest thing Alan Moore has ever written, and Alan Davis draws some very weird and humorous aliens.

2000 AD #352 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots Part 1,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Journeying north to his tribe, Slaine bids his girlfriend goodbye, while Ukko says goodbye to his five girlfriends. Slaine is much more open about sex than other 2000 AD strips. Slaine and Ukko ride a mammoth to a village whose people are starving. Slaine lets the villagers eat the mammoth, but then some “skull-swords” show up. This story is followed by a two-page feature in which Mills describes some of his mythological sources. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy! Part 1,” as above. To Quinch’s chagrin, D.R. falls in love with a prim and proper girl named Chrysoprasia. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 3,” as above. Rogue finds himself marooned with the enemy soldiers. Dredd: “Mutie the Pig Part 2,” as above except [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd defeats and kills Mutie, who is in fact his old classmate Judge Gibson. This whole story was reprinted from progs 34 and 35. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 3,” as above. Wulf and Johnny eliminate some more of the competition.

2000 AD #353 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 2,” as above. The “skullswords” belong to the drune (evil druid) Slough Throt. They kill one of the villagers, and Slaine attacks them. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy! Part 2,” as above. Quinch kidnaps Chrysoprasia in order to break her and D.R. up, but hilariously, Chryssie does a face-heel turn and becomes even more evil than D.R. Dredd: “The Highwaymen,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd fights a futuristic highwayman, who, like his ancient predecessors, ends by getting himself hanged. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 4,” as above. Rogue disguises himself as a Nort and infiltrates the group of Nort soldiers, but his cover is blown when Colonel Kovert breaks radio silence and contacts him. On my first reading, I mistakenly thought that Kovert was one of the Norts. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 4,” as above. WUlf and Johnny kill some more competitors, but Wulf is poisoned.

LITTLE LULU #70 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “Two Lulus”:  A toymaker makes a doll that looks identical to Lulu, and the real Lulu gets mixed up with the doll. “The Clown”: Lulu is sad that her doll is broken, so Tubby dresses in women’s clothing to cheer her up. After a series of mishaps, Tubby finds himself standing outside Lulu’s door in boxer shorts, and when Lulu seems him this way, she finally does laugh. “The Hunters”: Lulu stops the boys from hunting a rabbit. “Black Mumday”: The boys vow not to speak to any girls, on pain of being thrown out of the club. Lulu tricks all the boys into speaking with her. “Cats”: Tubby and Iggy attract a giant horde of stray cats. “A Bus to Fairyland”: Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl takes a disappointing trip to Fairyland. “Three Fathers”: Alvin dresses as a baby and makes the boys think they’re responsible for him. This gag, like the doll-girl confusion in the first story, only works because of Irving Tripp’s unrealistic art. With his style, it’s impossible to tell a real girl from a doll, or a little boy from a newborn.

THE COMPLEAT FART AND OTHER BODILY EMISSIONS (Kitchen Sink, 1976) – “The Compleat Fart” and other stories, [W/A] Lee Marrs. A series of short pieces about farts and bodily fluids. These stories are well-drawn and funny, but I’m not a big fan of scatological humor, and I didn’t like this comic as much as Lee Marrs’s other work.

SUPERMAN #348 (DC, 1980) – “The Master of Wind and Storm!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights an alien storm entity that was mistakenly summoned by an old Indian man. The Indian character in this story is a stereotype, but at least Conway tells us that he’s an old eccentric and all the local tribes have disavowed him – that is, he shouldn’t be taken as representative of all Indians.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #15 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Mad Chemist” and “The Sunken Yacht,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In “The Mad Chemist,” Donald becomes super-smart due to a chemistry experiment. He invents a gasoline substitute and uses it to build a rocket and fly to the moon, but when the rocket crashes, he forgets all his new knowledge. After this is a Gutenberghaus story, “Strange Adventures,” in which the nephews try to fool Donald into thinking aliens have invaded. But neither Donald nor the nephews realize that aliens really have invaded. In “The Sunken Yacht,” Donald discovers a sunken ship belonging to Scrooge, but Scrooge won’t pay Donald a fair price to raise the yacht, and he prevents Donald from obtaining any of the usual equipment needed for the job. The nephews come up with the idea of raising the ship by filling it with ping-pong balls. In 1964, a Danish man named Karl Krøyer used this method to raise a real sunken ship. Supposedly, he then tried to patent this method, but the Dutch patent office refused the patent because Krøyer’s method had already appeared in Barks’s comic. See https://www.iusmentis.com/patents/priorart/donaldduck/.

ACTION COMICS #314 (DC, 1964) – “The Day Superman Became the Flash!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Al Plastino. A series of imaginary vignettes in which baby Kal-El is sent to planets other than Earth, and grows up to become  Atom, Aquaman, Batman, Flash, and Green Arrow. The backup story, “Supergirl’s Foster Parents” by Dorfman and Mooney, is a lot better. Supergirl’s birth mother, Allura, is depressed at being separated from her daughter, so Zor-El and Allura decide to switch places with Fred and Edna Danvers. This story is touching because of how much Kara is loved by both her sets of parents.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #78 (Marvel, 1981) – “Monster Man!”, [W] Tom DeFalco & David Michelinie, [A] Ron Wilson. Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, appears in a TV show as a character who resembles the Thing. Jealous of his godson Franklin’s obsession with Simon, Ben tries to sue Simon for plagiarism. It doesn’t work, but Ben ends up having to team up with Simon, because the sponsor of Simon’s show is a disguised Xemnu the Titan. This is an extremely fun issue. I bought it years ago, and I should have read it sooner. Xemnu’s alias in this issue is Amos Moses, a reference to a Jerry Reed song. Simon’s director is named Ted Silverberg, perhaps after Robert Silverberg.

HELLBLAZER #7 (DC, 1988) – “Ghosts in the Machine,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Ridgway with Brett Ewins. Constantine asks Ritchie, the last survivor of the Newcastle group, for assistance with the cult that’s been stalking Zed. But Ritchie gets himself killed while surfing the Internet, and meanwhile the cult kidnaps Zed.

2000 AD #354 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 3,” as above. Slaine loses his fight with the skullswords, but Slough Throt forcibly recruits him as a bodyguard, and they take off in Slough Throt’s flying ship. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy! Part 3,” as above. Chryssie ruins D.R./Waldo’s play, but when Waldo is asked who did it, he blames Chryssie instead of Quinch, choosing friendship over love. Dredd: “Are You Tired of Being Mugged?” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. An entrepreneur starts a “pedestrian escort agency” to deal with Mega-City One’s mugging epidemic. It starts off well, but the business collapses, and ironically, the entrepreneur is himself killed while trying to mug someone. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 5,” as above. Colonel Kovert airlifts Rogue off the planet, but Rogue leaves behind the bag Kovert gave him. In the bag is a bomb that detonates and blows up the planet. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 5,” as above. Johnny saves Wulf’s life, but we’re reminded that for either of them to win the Killing, the other has to die.

2000 AD #355 (IPC,  1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 4,” as above. Slaine discovers that the ship is carrying some of his zombified dead comrades. Then the ship flies into a storm sent by Slaine’s old enemy Slough Feg. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 1,” as above. The boys join the army, which suits them fine because they get to use advanced weaponry, and then they’re sent to fight on an alien planet. Dredd: “Bob’s Law,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. The Judges decide to change the numbers of Mega-City One’s sectors, but this decision sparks massive protests. Dredd pays everyone to agree to use the new numbers instead of the old ones, then confiscates the money back by raising taxes. There are three Bob’s Laws, the first of which is “all it takes is one person to do something stupid and all the rest are sure to join in.” Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 6,” as above. Angry at Kovert’s deceptiveness, Rogue escapes from his ship, but Kovert vows that they’ll meet again. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 6,” as above. Johnny and Wulf fight Steelkreeg, one of their few remaining opponents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #652 (DC, 1992) – “Beyond the Law!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. Batman and Huntress team up against some criminals from the fictional Balkan nation of Krasna-Volny (I think this means “red-free” or “red waves”). I don’t like the Helena Bertinelli Huntress nearly as much as the Helena Wayne version. Without the connection to Bruce Wayne, Huntress has little to distinguish her from other characters.

LITTLE LULU #59 (Dell, 1953) – credits as above. “The Fright Racket”: Lulu has to go upstairs in a haunted house in order to join the boys’ club. She succeeds, and also fools the boys into thinking their clubhouse is haunted. “Sawdust Trail”: A mean man hires the boys to get rid of his wife’s cat. Lulu saves the cat (though its fate is left somewhat ambiguous) and gets revenge on the boys. “The Comedian”: Tubby tries to throw a pie in Lulu’s face, but instead Annie throws eight pies in Tubby’s face. “The Outing”: Lulu locks herself out at night looking for a stray cat. She enlists Tubby’s aid to get herself back home. We are not told what happened to the cat. I hope it’s not the same cat as in “Sawdust Trail.” “Luluson Crusoe”: Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl is shipwrecked on an island and befriends a grossly fat “savage.” This story includes some unfortunate racist stereotypes. “The Manhunter”: Tubby wrongly accuses two men of being the robber Barry Burgle. The real Barry Burgle is the cop who was assisting Tubby.

2000 AD #357 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 6,” as above. Slaine’s ship is attacked by enemy ships, and a huge battle results. Mike McMahon’s fight scenes are powerful, but, again, rather hard to read. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 3,” as above. D.R. and Quinch find themselves in the same cell as Pulger, from their first story. They escape from their cell into another one, which contains none other than Chrysoprasia. This chapter begins and ends with D.R.’s hilariously bad poetry. Dredd: “Citizen Snork Part 2: The Making of a Nose,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A man named Snork grows a giant nose, but becomes rivals with Bung, who has an equally long nose. A criminal called the Collector steals Bung’s nose. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 8,” as above. Johnny and Wulf defeat Steelkreeg, and now their only surviving rivals are the Osmongs. Time Twisters: “The Great Infinity Inc. Foul-Up Part 2,” [W] Chris Lowder (as Jack Adrian), [A] Jesus Redondo. A mischievous boy named Jimmy Jiss-Cohen joins a time travel tour and causes the destruction of Pompeii and the Great Fire of Rome. Jimmy’s tour guides marooon him in the 12th century, ensuring that he’ll grow up to be Genghis Khan.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #64 (Marvel, 1990) – Wolverine/Ghost Rider: “Acts of Vengeance Part 1 of 8: Ghosts of the Past,” [W] Howard Mackie, [A] Mark Texeira. Wolverine and Ghost Rider have separate encounters with Deathwatch’s minions. Poison: “Vandals of the Heart Part 5: Injuries,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Cindy Martin. This is the only story in the issue by a good writer, but its plot makes no sense. It’s about a woman named Poison and a grossly fat mobster, the Slug. Fantastic Four: “Deadly Dimensions Part 1: Common Sense,” [W] Robert DeNatale, [A] Mike Harris. On his night off, Reed accidentally summons a pale-skinned alien dude. Blade: “Vampires,” [W] Marcus McLaurin, [A] Malcolm Davis. Blade saves his girlfriend Saffron from some fake vampires. It’s weird that Blade has never had a successful solo comic, given his success as a film franchise.

DEATH RATTLE #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “A Dead Man’s Chest,” [W/A] Doug Hansen. In 1856, a passenger on a ship is thrown overboard. Three poor children find his coins, fan and whistle, but they all go on to suffer gruesome and unusual fates, and his belongings ultimately return to their owner under the sea. This story is well-drawn and has a well-constructed narrative with a broad historical scope. I don’t know much about Doug Hansen, but this story suggests that he was very talented. “Bulto… The Cosmic Slug!”, [W/A] Jack Jackson: A story that blends myth and history, in which an Apache named Xotl discovers the spoor of a cosmic monster. “Mind Siege!”, [W/A] Steve Stiles: Some soldiers fight a cosmic monster that causes madness. This story ends with two subtly different versions of the same page: one version where the soldiers win, and another where it seems as though they only think they’ve won.

SILVER STAR #2 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Others!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This story feels like a retread of older Kirby comics. Its hero and villain, Silver Star and Darius Drumm, resemble Orion and Darkseid. But even mediocre late Kirby is still Kirby. This issue has a backup story by Richard Kyle and D. Bruce Berry. It’s a piece of historical fiction set in New York in 1894.

FLASH #16 (DC, 1988) – “The Adventures of Speed McGee Part 1,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Greg LaRocque. Wally breaks up with his much older, married girlfriend Tina McGee, then fights some dude in a white and blue costume, and then Vandal Savage kidnaps Wally’s landlord’s child. This was the second issue after the departure of Mike Baron, whose depiction of Wally West was wildly inconsistent with any other version of the character before or since. At this point in his run, Messner-Loebs was still tying up Baron’s loose plot threads.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #8 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. I missed this issue when I was trying to read all the issues of this series that I had. This issue is a Spider-Verse crossover in which not very much happens.

2000 AD #359 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 8,” as above. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 5,” as above. D.R., Quinch and friends get caught in a standoff between two armies, but Quinch’s gigantic mother appears and saves them. D.R. has a profound realization about the origins of war, but forgets it at once. Dredd: “The Haunting of Sector House 9,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. An old sector house (police station) is haunted by something we don’t get to see yet. This story begins with an impressively drawn crowd scene, with a lot of simultaneous dialogue. Rogue Trooper: “You Only Die Twice Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Gunnar is destroyed, and Rogue has to complete a mission without him. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 10,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf kill the Osmongs, but instead of trying to kill each other, they abandon the competition, content with the bounties they’ve already collected. Since the competition was left incomplete, its sponsors are forced to kill themselves.

SAVAGE DRAGON #168 (Image, 2011) – “This Ravaged World,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. A somewhat confusing conclusion to the Emperor Dragon epic. This issue also includes a backup story, by Hyeondo Park, that makes no sense at all.

DETECTIVE COMICS #584 (DC, 1986) – “Fever Break!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. In their second appearance ever, the Ventriloquist and Scarface run a scheme to smuggle drugs into America inside a fat man’s corpse. Having read so much 2000 AD, I can now see how the Ventriloquist and Scarface are similar to Wagner and Grant’s wacky characters from Judge Dredd. In this issue, Wagner and Grant heavily emphasize Scarface’s habit of pronouncing “b” as “g”. The reason for this is that ventriloquists have to speak without moving their lips, so they can’t pronounce “b”.

2000 AD #371 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw! Part 9,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anti-mutant politician Nelson Bunker Kreelman hires Stix and his identical brother to hunt down Johnny, who is in fact Kreelman’s son. One-shot: “The Domino Theory!”, [W] Martin Feekins, [A] Ian Gibson. An alien domino-toppler tries to set the record for the most dominoes knocked down. He fails, and the unfallen dominoes become Stonehenge. Dredd: “Super Bowl Part 2,” [W John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kim Raymond. Dredd tries to protect one of the teams in the Super Bowl from a terrorist threat. The threat turns out to be a hoax, and Dredd arrests half the team for petty crimes, causing them to lose the game 94 to 0. This story introduced Judge Dekker. Future Shocks: “Bill Tompkins Meets… Bill Tompkins!”, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] José Casanovas. Bill Tompkins has a nightmare where everyone he meets has his face. When he wakes up, a man with his face is at the door. Bill kills the man, who is in fact his long-lost twin brother. Rogue Trooper: “Message from Milli-Com 3: The Officers’ Mess,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue leads some new recruits on a training course.

THE MIGHTY THOR #11 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Mighty Tanarus 4: The Asgardian,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Pasqual Ferry & Pepe Larraz. Everyone forgets about Thor and thinks the god of thunder is Tanarus. Meanwhile, Thor fights the Demogorgon. This comic is kind of average, but Pasqual Ferry’s art is unusual and impressive. His first name is alternately spelled Pascual.

PUMA BLUES #5 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “In the Empire of the Senses,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. A mostly wordless story that depicts a puma hunting at night, as well as various other animals. This comic feels like a symphony because of its use of sound effects below every panel. There’s a constant “tsip-TSIP” that represents the sound of either water or insects, but this bass rhythm is punctuated by the louder sounds of other animals.

TANTALIZING STORIES #3 (Tundra, 1993) – Frank: untitled, [W/A] Jim Woodring. Frank visits the seashore and encounters a creature with an eerie giant smile. Like most Frank stories, this story is beautifully drawn but doesn’t follow conventional narrative logic. Montgomery Wart: “A Faulty Connection,” [W/A] Mark Martin. A “love bug” tries to make Montgomery Wart fall in love. Mark Martin is heavily influenced by Walt Kelly. This issue also includes an installment of Woodring’s “Chip and Monk.”

LITTLE ARCHIE #159 (Archie, 1980) – “The New Man” and other stories, [W/A] Dexter Taylor? The only story in this issue that’s not explicitly credited to Dexter Taylor is the first one, but it doesn’t look like Bolling to me, so I’m not sure why I bought this issue to begin with. The stories in this issue are okay but forgettable.

NEW LOVE #2 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – “Letters from Venus: Life on Mars” etc., [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. In this issue’s first long story, Fritz and Petra attend a party full of people in bizarre costumes. This story reminds me of that one early Palomar story that took place at an outdoor party, and was full of Easter eggs. There’s also “The Fabulous Ones,” about some naked cavemen who kill each other in order to eat each other’s brains and gain their knowledge. And then “Peripeteia,” about a vain woman and her love gremlins. Between the longer stories are one-page biographies of saints.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #96 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Test of Manhood” and “The Man Who Believed,” [W] unknown, [A] José Delbo. In the first story, Andar passes his test of manhood, enabling Turok to teach him their tribe’s secrets. Turok is sometimes described as a Kiowa, but in this story he prays to “Wakan Tanka,” a name associated with Lakota people. In the backup story, Turok and Andar meet a man who can climb the impassable cliffs surrounding Lost Valley. But then the man loses the stone that he thinks is responsible for his climbing skill, and he becomes unable to climb. This story is an example of how Turok’s plot could never go anywhere, because if Turok and Andar ever escaped the valley, the series would end.

ACTION COMICS #543 (DC, 1983) – “In These Hands – Power!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights a nuclear-powered villain named Neutron, while Lois tries to interview two rival Middle Eastern leaders. This issue includes a touching conversation between Superman and Lois at the North Pole, but the rest of the issue is mediocre.

2000 AD #377 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw! Part 15,” as above. In the water world of Och-Il, the Stix brothers kill Middenface McNulty and kidnap Johnny, only Middenface’s death is revealed to have been faked. Like McNulty, the people of Och-Il all have exaggerated Scottish clothes and accents. Halo Jones: “A Little Night Music,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. I may have read this story before, but if so, it was several years ago, and I read it in an awful Quality reprint. In this story Halo and her friend Rodice go to their friend Ludy’s concert. They almost get mugged on the way home, but the muggers leave them alone out of respect for Ludy’s music. Back at home, they realize they’re out of food and have to go shopping. Halo Jones was one of Alan’s earliest major works, and Halo was probably 2000 AD’s best female protagonist yet. Dredd: “Angel Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Judge Dredd recruits Mean Machine Angel to visit the Cursed Earth and recover some stolen judge clones, though Mean thinks they’re looking for the loot from Liberace’s tomb. Also, due to brain surgery, Mean thinks Dredd is his father. Mean must have been a popular villain, because this is the third story I’ve read in which he appears. Future Shocks: “Doing Time!”, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] John Ridgway. Due to a faulty time travel device, a scientist destroys the same town twice. Rogue Trooper: “Message from Milli-Com 9: Souther vs. Souther,” as above. Rogue defeats a traitor named Coogan, but gets no credit for it.

METAL MEN #50 (DC, 1977) – “Our Mentor, the Robot,” [W] Martin Pasko & Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Staton & Ross Andru. A heavily edited reprint of Metal Men #6, in which Will Magnus turns into a robot and creates an evil Gas Gang. There’s also a four-page framing sequence. For this reprint, the original story from Metal Men #6 was compressed from 23 and 2/3 pages to 13 pages, rendering it nearly incoherent.

SLOW DEATH #11 (Last Gasp, 1992) – [E] Ron Turner. This was the first and only issue since 1979, although another issue is in the works. It begins with Tom Veitch’s tribute to Greg Irons, who had died eight years earlier. Most of the material in this issuee is quite old. Highlights include: “Cold Snap,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Bryan Talbot: A story about intelligent dinosaurs observing the ice age, reprinted from a 1985 famine relief comic. “Darnold Duck”, [W/A] Greg Irons: “Darnold” Duck is caught in an oil spill. “Super Cosmic Creator Comix,” [W/A] Wally Wood: An artist uses the secret words “Ben Day” to become a comics mogul. Woody’s art here is beautiful. This story is dated 1977, and seems to have been published elsewhere in other versions. “Gregor Baboon,” [W/A] Greg Irons: A story about a suicidal, anthropomorphic baboon. This may have been Irons’s last work. In his two stories in this issue, Irons uses thicker linework and fewer screentones than in Deviant Slice, and his art looks more polished. This issue’s centerfold is a giant poster with all sorts of information about deforestation. It’s very tedious to read because there’s a ton of text and it’s reproduced way too small.

2000 AD #380 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw! Part 18,” as above. Middenface and his other allies head to Kreelman’s headquarters to look for Johnny. Halo Jones: “The Wild Brown Yonder,” as above. Halo and Rodice leave their giant edifice for a shopping trip. Rodice goes crazy from agoraphobia, and then she and Halo get mugged again. Dredd: “Angel Part 4,” as above. Dredd finds one of the infant clones dead, and Mean starts to realize that Dredd isn’t his father. Ace: “On the Dangle 3,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli (miscredited to Carlos Ezquerra). Ace and his crew party with some space pirates, and the head pirate orders Ace to murder a shaggy-headed dancing girl. Rogue Trooper: “Blind Terror Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue goes blind and puts his chips in the wrong pieces of equipment, but still manages to complete his mission.

Finally done. It took me about two weeks to finish writing this round of reviews.

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July reviews

Trying to write reviews while listening to a Comic-Con panel. This will probably not work.

2000 AD #129 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “Battle of the Black Atlantic Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd defeats the Sov troops and arrests their whole ship. This is the highlight of the issue. Tharg: “A Day in the Life of the Mighty Tharg!”, [W] unknown (credited to Tharg the Mighty), [A] Carlos Ezquerra. As the title indicates. This anniversary story replaces Blackhawk this week. It’s pretty cute. ABC Warriors: “Mars! The Devil Planet!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Now that the ABC Warriors team is assembled, their first mission is to resolve a war between Martian food companies. This story is well-drawn, but coming after the story of the team’s founding, it’s an anticlimax. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie battles another psychic named Hobb. This story is a bit like X-Men #117. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alan Willow. Bill and Bamber fight some hicks, then they finally get to Oxford where they’re rendered unconscious by a mysterious mist.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #226 (DC, 1984) – “Hell on Earth!”, [W] Joey Cavalieri, [A] Chuck Patton. The Justice League fights some generic demons. A lousy issue by a lousy creative team.

New comics received on July 11:

STRANGE ACADEMY #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. It’s nice to see this series again. It’s basically Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men except with magic instead of mutant powers. But that’s not a bad thing because Wolverine and the X-Men was really fun, and so is this comic. The characters aren’t particularly well-defined yet, but I expect that will change.

ASH & THORN #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. This is good, and important. But it could be funnier, and the art could be better. Soo Lee’s art makes me wish that Jill Thompson was doing the interiors as well as the covers. I believe I saw both Soo Lee and Mariah McCourt on Comic-Con at Home panels.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The cop dude tries to kidnap little Bian, but Erica prevents him. Tommy gets abducted by baby monsters. Kind of a forgettable issue.

EMPYRE: FANTASTIC FOUR #0 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva & Sean Izaakse. In her Casino Cosmico, the Profiteer, sister of the Grandmaster, is staging battles betweeen a Kree and a Skrull warrior. The twist is that the two “warriors” are young children. The FF arrive at the Casino Cosmico while investigating something else, and they rescue the two kids and take them back to Earth. I don’t care about the Arena crossover, but this was a really entertaining issue. It’s also a sequel to Fantastic Four Annual #18.

ALIENATED #4 (Boom!, 2020) – ‘Meet Thy Maker,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. It’s Samir’s turn to experiment with Chip (the alien). He uses it to locate and confront his deadbeat father. We learn that Samir wrongly blames himself for his father’s departure; Samir thinks he drove his father away through his own failure to be a proper Muslim and Pakistani, and has been self-harming as a result. Meanwhile, Samuel learns that he lost the YouTube contest. This issue includes the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Alienated is one of Si Spurrier’s best works yet, along with Coda and Angelic.

ADVENTUREMAN #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire goes to the address on the new Adventureman novel and finds a giant building no one else can see, filled with bizarre technology. This issue is much shorter than #1, and thus less tedious to read. Claire is an engaging character, but she seems like a rather irresponsible and carefree parent. Terry Dodson’s art is excellent, but as I’ve observed before, it seems inhumanly slick and polished.

FINGER GUNS #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. The two kids continue experimenting with their powers, and the girl’s father continues to abuse her mother. This issue is just average, and as a depiction of domestic abuse, this comic is inferior to Middlewest.

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #2 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Della teaches Sabrina to play cards, and then Sabrina casts a spell that has some unintended consequences. I don’t remember much about this issue.

BITTER ROOT #9 (Image, 2020) – “Rage and Redemption Part Four,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This series just won the Eisner for Best Continuing Series. I voted for Crowded and I expected Immortal Hulk to win, but Bitter Root is a deserving winner, especially at the present cultural moment. This issue continues a bunch of different plotlines, and we meet one of the Chinatown monsters, which takes the form of a lion dance costume. At the end of the issue, Walter Sylvester, the main villain of the storyline, gets chased into a sundown town. This weekend I watched a Comic-Con panel where either Walker or Greene discussed the imp creatures that show up throughout this series.

NO ONE’S ROSE #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. The sister is browbeaten into making a pro-government broadcast, while the brother continues to foment rebellion. This series has a fairly conventional sibling-against-sibling plot, but its plant-based technology is unique, and Alberto Albuquerque’s art is excellent.

MONEY SHOT #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. Part of this issue is about an alien warrior who serves an evil colonialist empire. And she’s been ordered to breed with another high-class alien, even though she loves one of her own subordinates. Meanwhile, the Money Shot crew is looking for their next mission, and their leader, Christine Ocampo, seems to have a sexually transmitted disease. The highlight of this issue is Christine’s cat, who uses a cat-to-human translator to say things like ”Quiet. Sleeping” and “No! No touch!”

THE CIMMERIAN: RED NAILS #2 (Ablaze, 2020) – “Red Nails Part 2,” [W] Regis Hautière, [A] Olivier Vatine & Didier Cassegrain. I didn’t like the first Cimmerian album, and I wasn’t going to read the second one, but I ordered this issue by mistake. This is a comic that didn’t need to exist. Thomas and BWS’s adaptation of “Red Nails” is an all-time classic, and probably the best Conan comic ever. This new adaptation adds nothing that’s not in the Thomas-BWS version, except that the artists make Xuchotl look more like a Mesoamerican city.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #7 (DC, 2020) – “Fixed,” [W] Gerard Way & Jeremy Lambert, [A] Nick Derington. Casey revives Crazy Jane so she can deal with the insane Robotman. Jane turns Robotman into a robot baby, and Casey returns to the pages of her comic book. Way and Derington’s Doom Patrol was one of the best DC comics of the 2010s, but it was crippled by chronic lateness.

LOIS LANE #12 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part 12,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. This issue wraps up the plot of the series, but I don’t understand that plot anymore, nor do I care about it. Lois Lane started out promisingly but turned into a huge disappointment. Its plot was hard to follow, and Lois was too dependent on Superman; she didn’t have enough agency of her own.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #5 (DC, 2020) – “Wanted: Hyperman Dead or Alive!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. In order to avenge the murder of a Green Lantern, Hal fights an evil version of Superman and his evil family. This issue’s art style is an obvious homage to Kirby. So far, Season Two of Green Lantern has been worse than Season One due to its lack of a clear plot. Season One was tied together by the Blackstars story arc, but I’m not sure what Season Two is supposed to be about.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #12 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel fights his girlfriend, who’s been turned into a giant mutant wasp. Thankfully this is the final issue. This series was not one of PAD’s better works.

2000 AD #587 (Fleetway, 1988) – Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. This story has amazing art, but I don’t understand its plot. Nemesis in general is very confusing; it seems to involve a lot of time travel and alternate realities. Strontium Dog: “The No-Go Job Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan betrays Johnny Alpha and Middenface McNulty (who has an awesome name) and kills McNulty’s dog. The “bones” that served as this storyline’s McGuffin are revealed as belonging to “the magician Malak Brood.” Dredd: “The Brainstem Man,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Dredd fights a mutated lizard man. This story is inconsequential, though its art is good. Tribal Memories: “Part Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tony Wright. The protagonist and the last surviving Maasai return to the protagonist’s home planet. This story depicts the Maasai in a problematic way, implying that they represent the primal, original essence of humanity.

DRYAD #3 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Osterling. The parents’ village is invaded by soldiers with ray guns, and we now realize that this series is SF, not fantasy; the first issue took place in a fantasy enclave within an SF world. I have doubts about Kurtis Wiebe’s writing, but I’m enjoying this series enough to continue reading it.

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. It’s been so long since issue 3 that I barely remember what’s going on in this series. In this issue, Ellida is fleeing from the main villain, Brother John, and Ellida’s girlfriend is looking for her. This whole miniseries has been kind of underwhelming.

SUPERMAN #405 (DC, 1985) – “The Mystery of the Super-Batman!”, [W] Craig Boldman, [A] Alex Saviuk. Superman grows horns because of some cursed pipes of Pan. To conceal the horns, Superman disguises himself as Batman. This is quite a funny story. The backup story, by Rozakis and Schaffenberger, is about a little boy who doesn’t believe Superman exists. This idea had already been used in a 1954 TV episode, and later in Superman #96 the following year.

2000 AD #130 (IPC, 1979)- Dredd: “The Testimonial of Lips Lazarus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dredd has to protect a mob informant who’s lost his body and consists only of a head. This story is funny, but the art looks more like Ron Smith than Gibbons. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Blackhawk and Ursa compete in a deadly obstacle course. Blackhawk saves Ursa’s life, against the orders of their trainer Battak. ABC Warriors: “Cyboons,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. The ABC Warriors defend a herd of Martian “soya bean cows” from an army of intelligent baboons. This story is ridiculous, and it clashes with the more serious tone of the previous ABC Warriors stories. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie defeats Hobb and heads off to his next adventure. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Pino. Bill wakes up in Oxford, which is run by a bunch of cliquey, elitist professors. Oxford is invaded by a flock of birds – yes, birds. By this point I was getting rather tired of “Disaster 1990.”

RAT GOD #5 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Clark and Kito escape from Lame Dog and witness a battle between the titular rat god and a giant panther. The old mad scientist shows up and kills Clark, but he and the rat god get blown up, and Kito escapes and becomes the ancestor of the series’ original narrator. This miniseries’ plot is not without flaws, but Corben’s art is amazing. The rat/panther battle in this issue is particularly epic.

MS. TREE #15 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Skin Deep Chapter Three,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. This storyline is based on the 1984 Miss America scandal, when Vanessa Williams was voted the first black Miss America, but had to resign when Penthouse announced plans to publish nude photographs of her. In “Skin Deep,” a photographer has been murdered after obtaining nude pictures of Veronica Valer (Williams), the new “All-American Miss” (Miss America). Another of the suspects is “Harry Rynd,” i.e. Larry Flynt. Ms. Tree eventually discovers that the culprit is an obsessive All-American Miss collector who wanted to protect the pageant’s reputation. Part of the fun of this issue is identifying the real-world basis of its story and characters.

IRON MAN #251 (Marvel, 1989) – “Wrecked Him? He Nearly Killed Him!”, [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Herb Trimpe. An Acts of Vengeance crossover in which Iron Man fights the Wrecker. Tony beats the Wrecker, but another villain, Chemistro, shows up to finish Tony off. The scenes with Chemistro and his amputee, ex-con brother are the only interesting things about this issue.

2000 AD #589 (Fleetway, 1988) – Starting with this issue the covers are printed on glossy paper instead of newsprint, and there are also several more color pages. Zenith: “Phase II Prologue: Down Under,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This prologue takes place in a different universe from the main story, and depicts a fight between two dinosaurs. The prologue doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot of Phase II. Nemesis: as above. Again, this story has excellent art, but I don’t understand what it’s about. Dredd: ‘Twister Part Two: Somewhere… Over the Radzone,” [A] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. Another “Dredd in Oz” story, except it’s set in L. Frank Baum’s Oz, not Australia. It’s as funny as you’d expect. It even takes advantage of the fact that 2000 AD only included a few color pages at this time. Dredd’s arrival in Oz takes place on the first color page, so when the twister drops him off in Oz, the world changes from black and white to color, just like in the movie. Slaine: “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine defeats an army of Fomorians. This story includes a classic nearly-full-page depiction of Slaine’s warp spasm (http://jsbookreader.blogspot.com/2012/08/warp-spasm.html). Rogue Trooper: “Through the Eyes of a Gun,” [W/A] Steve Dillon. As indicated by the title, this story is mostly about Rogue’s gun, Gunnar.

RAGEMOOR #1 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Richard Corben. Ragemoor is an ancient castle with a dark history of human sacrifice. The castle’s current inhabitants are the insane owner, Machlan,  and his son Humbert. Machlan’s brother tries to gain control of the castle, but the castle comes to life to foil his plot. Despite being black and white, this series is just as beautiful as Rat God. Its plot has obvious similarities to Gormenghast, The Fall of the House of Usher, etc.

RIO AT BAY #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Hot Lead for Jonny Hardluck,” [W/A] Doug Wildey. A young boy wins a priceless gold nugget in a poker game with some corrupt mine owners. The mine owners try to kill the boy and get the nugget back, and Rio has to save him. Rio at Bay is some of Doug Wildey’s finest work. His action sequences are beautiful, and his backgrounds are detailed and immersive. It’s a pity that he produced so few comics after his animation career began.

2000 AD #131 (IPC, 1979) – “Sob Story,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Judge Dredd finds a dead body in a “mo-pad” – a motor home that’s permanently on autopilot. The victim is a former contestant on a reality show where viewers donate money to the person with the saddest sob story. There are some very funny concepts in this story. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights Battak in the arena and wins, but refuses to kill him. Ursa becomes Blackhawk’s official sidekick. ABC Warriors: as above. The ABC Warriors resolve the conflict in favor of the Cyboons, but the Cyboon chief’s educated son is killed. Again, this story is rather silly. Wolfie Smith: “Night of the Carnivore,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Eduardo Vaño. Wolfie visits the set of a horror movie, which is being filmed on location next to some creepy old standing stones. Vaño uses the scratchy, mixed-media style associated with other Spanish artists like José Ortiz and Vicente Alcazar. Bill Savage: as above. Savage tracks down a villain who’s raising killer waterfowl. This story is also quite silly, and not on purpose.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #13 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Pop Mhan. Quicksilver takes Luna and Georgia Dakei to Colonial Williamsburg. Gorgon – who is now sleeping with Pietro’s ex-wife Crystal – shows up to recover Luna, claiming that Pietro kidnapped her. A fight starts, and Crystal herself arrives to resolve it. There are also a bunch of other subplots. I haven’t read much of PAD’s second run on X-Factor, but it’s a lot better than his second run on Spider-Man 2099.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #38 (Marvel, 1975) – “Night of the Griffin,” [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spider-Man and the Beast team up to fight the Griffin. This issue was the first time these two characters teamed up, but otherwise it’s completely uninteresting. That’s too bad because both its protagonists are famous for their witty dialogue.

PRETTY DEADLY #6 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. An old woman is dying, and her descendants try to keep Death away from her until her son can return from World War I. This issue at least has a coherent plot, unlike most issues of Pretty Deadly, but I still hate this series.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel fights a villain named Doctor Cronos. This is another pointless issue, and thankfully it was the last one I ordered.

THE WAKE #4 (Vertigo, 2013) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. The protagonists manage to escape from underwater zombies by deafening them with a really loud drill. But then an even bigger zombie appears. This issue isn’t as visually stunning as earlier issues of The Wake, but it’s still well-drawn. I should point out here that Sean Gordon Murphy has exhibited a pattern of problematic behavior, and therefore I don’t want to support his work.

INCREDIBLE HULK #99 (Marvel, 2006) – “Anarchy Part IV,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Aaron Lopresti. The Hulk and Caiera fight, but then Caiera’s boss, the Red King, drops a bomb on her in a futile attempt to kill the Hulk. Caiera and the Hulk decide to team up against the Red King, who they now realize is the real enemy. This issue climaxes in a shocking sequence where Caiera is hit by the bomb while holding a small child, and the child’s body crumbles to dust while Caiera is unhurt. Greg Pak was probably the best Hulk writer between PAD and Al Ewing.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #9 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. The elves fight some trolls underground, and there are various other subplots. This whole series was boring and aimless and was of little interest to a casual Elfquest fan like me.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #9 (Marvel, 1981) – various stories, [E] Archie Goodwin. I bought a bunch of these at a book sale back when I lived in Gainesville, but I’ve only read a few of them. This issue starts with the conclusion of Jim Starlin’s “Metamorphosis Odyssey,” the story that introduced Dreadstar. I have mixed feelings about most of Starlin’s post-‘70s work, but Metamorphosis Odyssey is interesting and has some nice painted art, and it makes me want to read more Dreadstar. Charles Vess’s “Children of the Stars” has gorgeous draftsmanship but a thin plot. The protagonists’ names, Bran and Bronwen, come from the Mabinogion, but otherwise Vess’s story is original. The high point of the issue is part one of a new Weirdworld story by Doug Moench and John Buscema. After their adventures in Marvel Super Special, Tyndall and Velanna are living in a village of dwarves, but Velanna is sick of constant domestic work and is getting ready to dump Tyndall. Luckily, they both get thrust into another epic quest. I love Weirdworld, and I’m excited to discover that there’s another Weirdworld story I haven’t read. Next is a story by Lee Marrs about a science-fictional marriage counseling exercise. This story is a lot like her work in Star*Reach. Finally, there’s a wordless story by P. Craig Russell. Overall this is an impressive issue.

2000 AD #590 (Fleetway, 1990) – Zenith: “Phase II/1: Many Happy Returns,” as above. Zenith fights a robot that’s later revealed to be his father. I already read this story earlier this year, in an American reprint. This story quotes the Smiths’ song “The Queen is Dead.” Dredd: “The Mean Machine!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A series of newspaper strip reprints, in which Dredd fights Mean Machine, the last surviving member of the Angel Gang. Nemesis: as above. I still don’t undertsand this story, although John Hicklenton’s artwork is stunning. Dredd: “Twister Part 3: Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” as above. Dredd meets the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. This story is interrupted by a reprint of Alan Moore’s “The Big Clock” from prog 315, and after that there’s another new Future Shock. Slaine: as above. A fun story, but it’s only three pages. On the back cover there’s a gallery of Slaine and his chief warriors.

STAR SLAMMERS #2 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Little Ethon sacrifices his life to allow his comrades to escape, but now the galactic powers that be are aware of the Star Slammers’ existence. This series is one of Walt’s major works; its writing and art are both excellent.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #2 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Basics,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Isaiah Bradley learns he’s become a father, but then his unit’s commander is murdered in cold blood by a higher-ranking officer, and he and his entire unit are put on trucks and taken who knows where. This issue draws some disturbing parallels between the conduct of the US Army and that of the Nazis.

SUPERMAN #66 (DC, 1992) – “Our Army at War,” [W/A] Dan Jurgens. In the conclusion of Panic in the Sky, a bunch of superheroes fight Brainiac in Warworld. Panic in the Sky was a rather pointless crossover, just like Jurgens’s next major crossover, Zero Hour, and these stories together suggest that Jurgens was an overrated writer. This issue shows Metron fighting on the side of the superheroes. That seems wrong since Metron has no principles or allegiances other than his desire for knowledge.

DREADSTAR #29 (First, 1987) – “Mindwar,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. Willow and Oedi battle a telepathic villain named Monalo in his underground lair. This issue has some very effective storytelling. Dreadstar himself and his other companions only appear at the end of the issue.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #21 (DC, 1992) – “Off the Road Part 1 of 5,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. Shade, Lenny and Kathy camp out in a junkyard. Shade tries to sleep with Kathy but can’t finish, so he allows his more aggressive split personality, Hades, to take over his body. Issue 26, reviewed below, gives us a different perspective on what happened in this issue.

LITTLE ARCHIE #161 (Archie, 1980) – “A Twist of Fate,” [W/A] Dexter Taylor, etc. The Bob Bolling story in this issue is “Falcons Don’t Forget.” The South Side Serpents try to shoot a mother falcon and her baby, and Little Archie and Dilton use a model airplane to save the birds. This story has a cute plot, and it demonstrates Bolling’s effective action sequences and his realistic drawings of animals.

NEXT MEN #24 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Power 2 of 4,” [W/A] John Byrne. This issue’s epigraph is a Shakespeare quotation which Byrne attributes to Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. I already had enough reasons to dislike John Byrne, but I have an even lower opinion of him now that I know he subscribes to the Oxonian conspiracy theory. Besides that, the issue starts with a dumb metatextual sequence where Byrne, Mignola and another artist confront their editor (named Ben Horowitz, perhaps in reference to Bob Harras). Later in the issue there’s a cameo appearance by Concrete, but he doesn’t act like Concrete. I’m not sure which of the characters in this issue are the actual Next Men.

JONAH HEX: TWO-GUN MOJO #3 (Vertigo, 1993) – “The Resurrectionist,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. Jonah encounters Doc Williams, a snake oil salesman who speaks in a font based on old posters, like P.T. Bridgeport in Pogo. Doc Williams has been resurrecting dead people by curing them in pickle barrels, and he captures Jonah and subjects him to the same treatment. This is a very funny series; it takes the raucous humor of the original Jonah Hex comics and turns it up to 11.

New comics received on July 16:

FANTASTIC FOUR #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “Living History,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina w/ Sean Izaakse. The adult FF members go off to participate in the Empire crossover, leaving Franklin and Valeria to babysit the Kree and Skrull kids, Jo-Venn and N’Kalla. Franklin and Val recruit a replacment Fantatsic Four to help defuse the fight between the two kids, but this results in N’Kalla getting stabbed by Wolverine. This is another really fun issue, and it’s a relief that this series is back.

ONCE AND FUTURE #9 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan manages to survive being attacked by Beowulf. Gran returns to the old folks’ home. Grendel shows up at the end of the issue. So far this storyline has been less impressive than the first one. I think Beowulf ought to speak in alliterative verse.

LUDOCRATS #3 (Image, 2020) – “In Which Interrogation Becomes Terrible Seduction,” [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. Otto and Gratty consummate their love, then they investigate what the Hyper-Pope is up to. Highlights of this issue include the tentacled glowing creature in a police hat, and the pedantic dude who appears to provide exposition. Ludocrats continues to be the best new comic of the year.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #3 (DC, 2020) – “Good Guys and Bad Guys,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Doc Shaner. In flashback, Adam fights a lizard dude in an arena. In the present, Adam and Alanna’s conflicts with the Justice League continue. I’m still kind of confused as to where this story is going. Adam and Alanna don’t act like parents who have recently lost a child. This series is better than Heroes in Crisis, but it ought to be the best Alanna Strange story ever, and so far it isn’t. Tom King was in the news this weekend because of his denunciation of Jae Lee. His handling of the situation could be criticized, but I obviously think he’s right to take an aggressive anti-C*micsg*te stance, and it’s important that such an influential figure in the industry is publicly coming out on the correct side.

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan and Nyla encounter Black Panther in Wakanda. The Black Panther guest appearance is a bit unnecessary, but Saladin writes both these characters well.  Saladin earned his first recognition with a sword-and-sorcery novel, and he would be an ideal writer for the regular Conan series.

IMMORTAL HULK #35 (Marvel, 2020) – “A Certain Amount of Light,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Mike Hawthorne. A rather low-intensity issue. The main events are that the Savage Hulk talks with Banner inside their mind, and then he helps rebuild a house. The issue ends with the Hulk blowing up, so there’s more excitement on the way. This issue includes a helpful list of all the Hulk personalities. As mentioned above, I was surprised that this series didn’t win an Eisner for Best Continuing Series.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #12 (DC, 2020) – “Finally!”, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Jimmy foils Julian’s plot and becomes the new publisher of the Daily Planet. This is a satisfying conclusion, though I still want to reread the series to see how all the plot threads fit together. Overall this was an excellent miniseries, despite its sometimes overly complicatd plot.

GIDEON FALLS #23 (Image, 2020) – “Wicked Worlds Part 2 of 5: Neon Bible,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Father Fred discovers that he can sell his blood for more than enough money to see the bishop, but the “bishop” is actually a cybersex program. Fred befriends a poor young girl, and then the Black Barn chases them both into a steampunk version of Gideon Falls. This issue was far easier to follow than #22.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #106 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell & Ronda Pattison, [A] Nelson Daniel. It’s too bad this issue isn’t drawn by Sophie Campbell, but just like Jem and the Holograms, TMNT is so well-written that I’m willing to continue reading it despite the lack of Campbell’s artwork. This issue, mutant children are disappearing, and Leonardo refuses to believe little Lita when she claims that “the Slithery” is responsible. But the Slithery is real, and Lita herself becomes its next victim.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2020) – “Game Night,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Francesco Manna. Carol invites Kamala Khan to the regular superhero poker game, only to discover that gambling is against Kamala’s religion. To salvage the situation, Carol, Kamala and friends go to an escape room instead. Of course the escape room is a trap created by a supervillain. This is easily Kelly’s best issue of Captain Marvel. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a throwback to other classic comics like Marvel Two-in-One #51. However, while this issue is fun, it’s mostly fun because of the other characters and not Carol herself. Kelly’s version of Carol is still not interesting enough to carry the entire series.

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: MAGNETO #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Wait & See,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ramón Pérez. Magneto negotiates with Namor for the rights to a vacant island, and they fight some undersea enemies together. This issue is okay, but it’s too decompressed. It includes a lot of silent panels that do nothing but pad the length of the story.

FAMILY TREE #7 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. This issue barely advances the plot at all. I’m not yet ready to give up on this series, but I’m starting to think about doing so.

HEIST #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Reven manipulates the minds of everyone on the planet, ordering them to kill Glane Breld. This is another fun issue. I was surprised that this wasn’t the last issue. I had assumed Heist was a six-issue miniseries.

THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Noriko tells Nile about Andromache’s complicity in ancient slavery, thereby poisoning Nile’s relationship with the other Old Guard. This issue has only a short action sequence. I haven’t seen the TV adaptation of this comic, but it’s gotten good reviews.

AQUAMAN #61 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 4,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Miguel Mendonça. Mera tries to cancel the wedding, Ocean Master insists on marrying her, and a giant fight starts. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Ocean Master is a very effective villain. I notice that this issue’s entire plot is the result of Dan DiDio’s idiotic anti-marriage policy, because of which Arthur and Mera aren’t married, even though they have a child.

2000 AD #132 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above. Dredd apprehends the person who’s killing Sob Story contestants, and in an ironic twist, the host of Sob Story is bankrupted by lawsuits and has to beg his own listeners for money. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Ramon Sola. Blackhawk and Ursa fight a giant dinosaur. This prog may be the first time Ursa sings his “crushing thud” song. ABC Warriors: “The Red Death,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. The ABC Warriors investigate a plague that kills people when they get scared. Wolfie Smith: as above. The film shoot starts, and Wolfie has a vision of the Carnivore monster. Vanyo continues to exhibit some interesting artistic techniques. Bill Savage: as above. The crazy bird-breeder gets killed by his own birds, and Savage and Bamber decide to leave Oxford.

A1 VOL. 2 #2 (Epic, 1992) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. This issue begins with Hunt Emerson’ story about a jazz musician and his talking horn. It’s a good introduction to Emerson’s style. George Pratt’s story is well-drawn but is all about his inability to write a good story. Philip Bond and Jon Beeston’s ”Cheekie Wee Budgie Boy in the Castafiore Affair” is an excellent story, an SF murder mystery with a bird-headed protagonist. Nick Abadzis’s “Sacharine Fools” has very distinctive artwork but makes little sense. Peter Milligan and Jamie Hewlett’s “King Leon Part One” is also excellent, though its art is much more restrained than is usual for Hewlett. The issue ends with a two-pager by Roger Langridge.

SUPERMAN #366 (DC, 1981) – “Revenge, Superman Style,” [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman disguises himself as an alien in order to infiltrate the Superman Revenge Squad. Bates fails to convince me that the Superman Revenge Squad are scary enough that Superman has to take such elaborate precautions when dealing with them. The backup story, by Rozakis and Schaffenberger, is about Perry Wihte’s attempts to prove that Superboy has moved to Metropolis. According to this story, George Taylor was Perry’s boss at the start of his career.

ARCHIE #197 (Archie, 1970) – “A Fair Shake” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of forgettable stories. The first one is about how Betty feels that her musical contributions to the Archies are not appreciated. One of the other stories is set in caveman times.

THOR #332 (Marvel, 1983) – “Blood of a Goddess!”, [W] Alan Zelenetz, [A] Don Perlin. Dracula visits New York and tries to suck Sif’s blood. This issue isn’t actively bad, but it’s not great either, and Dracula is not an appropriate villain for Thor. Notably, this issue depicts Thor and Sif sharing a bed.

At this point I received a small shipment of back issues:

TANK GIRL 2 #3 (Dark Horse, 1993) – various stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Jamie Hewlett. This cost $5, and it was the main reason I placed this order. Most of the other comics in the shipment were things I added to justify the shipping costs. The stories in this issue are all reprinted from Deadline. The stories are almost devoid of plot, but Hewlett’s draftsmanship, page layouts, lettering, and coloring are spectacular. He has a unique aesthetic that heavily influenced Evan Dorkin and probably lots of other artists. His talents are perhaps more suited to poster art than graphic narrative, and he’s achieved his greatest fame as the graphic designer for Gorillaz.

SNARF #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1972) – “Rex Glamour, Process Server” and other stories, [W/A] Denis Kitchen et al. This issue is kind of disappointing. The most notable artists in it are Kitchen himself and the Dutch underground cartoonist Evert Geradts. Other contributors include Tim Boxell, Dave Herring, Wendel Pugh and Don Glassford. Kitchen’s art is slick and polished, but the best art in the issue is actually in Pugh’s “Crescent City Rollo.” Later issues of Snarf would have a more exciting lineup of talent.

ACCIDENT MAN #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, [A] Duke Mighten. A very funny story about an assassin who’s obsessed with expensive cars and clothing. It’s sort of a parody of James Bond. Duke Mighten is a fairly obscure British artist, but he’s not bad. This issue’s cover is by Howard Chaykin.

UNDERWATER #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Chester Brown. Chester Brown’s first post-Yummy Fur work is the story of two twin babies named Yuy and Kupifam. It begins with their birth and depicts their gradual acquisition of language. The gimmick is that the adults’ dialogue starts out as unintelligible gibberish, but is gradually replaced by standard English as the series goes on. Underwater is disturbing and nightmarish, reflecting how small children find themselves in an unfamiliar, intimidating new world. However, this series’ narrative potential is rather limited, and Brown got bored with it and never finished it.

HARDWARE #1 (Milestone, 1993) – “The Man in the Machine Chapter One,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Denys Cowan. Curtis Metcalf is a brilliant young black engineer who was born into poverty. His career was sponsored by white billionaire Edwin Alva (named after Thomas Alva Edison). But when he grew up, Curtis realized that Alva had trapped him in a contract that gave Alva all the rights to Curtis’s inventions and prevented Curtis from ever working anywhere else. This is of course a metaphor for white people’s historical exploitation of black people’s labor. Unhappy with this arrangement, Curtis invents an Iron Man suit and sets about using it to destroy Alva’s company. Of the four Milestone launch titles, Hardware is the one I’m least familiar with. But its premise is just as fascinating as that of Icon, Static, or Blood Syndicate, and I want to read more of it.

THE BLACK LAMB #1 (DC/Helix, 1996) – “The Hated, the Haunted, the Hunted,” [W/A] Tim Truman. The Black Lamb is a vampire who hunts vampire hunters, and who looks a lot like Grimjack. This first issue depicts his adventures in a dystopian future. The idea of monsters fighting back against their hunters is interesting, but late in this issue Truman makes a serious misstep. He shows a werewolf eating a fairy alive, which puts the lie to the idea that the monsters are the injured party and that the humans are the real villains. Truman’s artwork in this issue is very good. This issue includes clever references to Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie (https://www.instagram.com/p/CCzDKeah9fF/).

THE THING #9 (Marvel, 1984) – “What Price a Soul?”, [W] John Byrne, [A] Ron Wilson. The Thing has been possessed by the spirit of an ancient warrior, and Alicia Masters has to save him. This issue is reasonably exciting, but Byrne’s prose style is rather overwrought, and Alicia’s dialogue is especially so; for some reason Byrne never lets her use contractions. I wonder why Alicia doesn’t use a white cane or a guide dog. It would be interesting if someone would write an issue of Fantastic Four from Alicia’s perspective, using techniques like those of the animated film Out of Sight (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qCbiCxBd2M).

2000 AD #591 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/2: Visitors,” as above. Zenith meets Phaedra Cale, and we learn that the villains have Zenith’s mother’s eyes in a jar. Judge Dredd: “The Mean Machine Part 2,” as above. Two pages of reprinted newspaper strips. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Alan McKenzie & Steve Parkhouse, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A new series about space-traveling cargo haulers. This prog’s cover depicts two women and has the caption “Moon Runners: Where No Woman Has Gone Before,” but these women don’t appear in the story. Judge Dredd: “Twister Part Four: There’s No Place Like Home,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. Dredd meets the Cowardly Lion, and it turns out the whole thing was a hallucination. “Twister” was a very funny story. Nemesis: as above. Yet another story I don’t understand. Slaine: as above. Slaine is bored with feasts and petty fighting, so he decides to go on a quest for three treasures: a sword, a spear and a stone. This sets up “The Horned God,” the most famous Slaine story.

IRON MAN #111 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Man, the Metal, and the Mayhem!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Keith Polllard. Tony gets drawn into a battle between the Rigellian Colonizers and the Knights of Wundagore. This feels more like a Thor comic than an Iron Man comic. Indeed, most of the footnotes are references to old issues of Thor.

SUPERMAN #257 (DC, 1972) – “Superman Battles the War-Horn!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights an alien that’s trying to harvest Earth’s nitrogen. This story doesn’t live up to the cover, which depicts Superman telling two boys “There’s nobody in this forest but us!”, while directly below, an alien is aiming a weapon at them from underground. This issue’s backup story, Maggin and Dillin’s “The Greatest Green Lantern of All!’”, is about Tomar-Re’s failed attempt to stop the destruction of Krypton. It was included in The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #16 (Marvel, 1982) – various stories, [E] Archie Goodwin. Rick Veitch’s “Abraxas and the Earthmen” makes no sense, and Marc Hempel’s “Arise, Awake” is a predictable twist-ending story about a man who wakes up as a robot.  This issue’s main attraction is three new stories by Barry Windsor-Smith. The first one, “The Beguiling”, gave its name to the best comic book store in North America, and it has some stunning artwork. It was his first new story in a decade, and also his first comic that used his mature style of coloring. This story is important for completing my understanding of his career. The second BWS story is a two-page Little Nemo homage, and the third one is an illustration to a (bad) prose story by Goodwin. The issue also includes a two-pager by Dave Sim, and then Trina Robbins’s “The Woman Who Loved the Moon,” which I previously encountered in Near Myths. Then there’s a tribute to the recently deceased Gene Day, and stories by Carl Potts and Charles Vess. As usual, Vess’s story has beautiful draftsmanship but below-average writing.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #213 (DC, 1972) – “Peril in a Very Small Place!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Dick Dillin. While trying to visit Superman via a phone line, the Atom gets trapped in a microworld. Superman has to use the Kandorian shrinking ray to free Atom, so they can fight a villain together. This is a fun issue from a very good period of World’s Finest Comics, when Superman was teaming up with heroes other than Batman. There’s a running joke where Clark Kent and his musician neighbor are annoying each other with their music.

MAVIS #2 (Exhibit A, 1999) – “Mavis!”, [W/A] Batton Lash. Mavis has to work at night while all her friends are partying, and what’s worse, one of her clients, a teenaged vampire, is harassing her. This is a funny comic that blends suprenatural humor with effective characterization.

ZAP COMIX #5 (Print Mint, 1970) – various stories, [E] uncredited. There’s an extremely tiny jam comic on the inside front cover. The highlights of this issue are two stories each by Williams and Crumb. Robert Williams’s “Bludgeon Funnies” and “Docil Days” have artwork that’s difficult to parse, but immaculately drawn and lettered. Williams was probably the most talented of all the underground artists, and it’s no surprise he went on to a fine art career. Crumb’s untitled Mr. Natural story is about how Flakey Foont has started ignoring him and sitting in a bathtub all day, and there’s also “The Adventures of Fuzzy the Bunny,” a collaboration with his brother Charles. There’s also Shelton’s satirical “Believe It or Leave It,” and various stories by Moscoso and, unfortunately, S. Clay Wilson.

NEW STATESMEN #1 (Fleetway, 1989) – multiple stories, [W] John Smith, [A] Jim Baikie. New Statesmen originally appeared in Crisis, a 2000 AD spinoff title. It takes place in a mid-21st-century America where England is the 51st state, and each state has its own superhero. As a revisionist superhero story, New Statesmen is comparable to Watchmen or Zenith or Squadron Supreme, and it also addresses issues of race and sexuality. Its main problem is confusing plotting. New Statesmen #1 takes place in multiple timeframes at once and has a huge cast of characters. It’s impossible to keep the timeline straight or to remember who any of the characters are. As I’ve said before, John Smith is a master prose stylist, but perhaps his weakness was his plotting.

SWAMP THING #142 (DC, 1994) – “Soul Train,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] Phil Hester & Kim DeMulder. Alec Holland has a vision where he’s on a train of damned souls, and then Odin appears and tells him he’s really Swamp Thing. Meanwhile, Abby is trying to find Swampy. This issue is somewhat confusing, but it does make me want to read more of this storyline.

COYOTE #6 (Marvel/Epic, 1984) – “X-Caliber!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. Englehart is another writer whose plots tend to be overly complicated, and this issue is kind of tough to figure out. I think my favorite thing about this series is Coyote himself, because he’s such a dog in both the literal and the sexual sense. This issue includes a scene where Coyote turns into a panda and whacks a guy with his paw.

2000 AD #133 (IPC, 1979) – This issue has an unusually boring cover; it’s just a wanted poster of an alien’s head. Dredd: “The Great Muldoon,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Barry Mitchell. Dredd tries to stop a magician from attempting a fatal trick. Dredd fails, and the magician dies. “Guess that’s showbiz.” Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights a “smiling chukwalla” and then a savage dwarf named Zog. ABC Warriors: as above. The robots defeat the Red Death, which incarnates itself as a creepy little boy. Wolfie Smith: as above. Simon Trent the stuntman has a vision of the Carnivore, causing him to fall and hurt himself. This storyline is rather slow-paced; this and the previous few installments have just been setup. Bill Savage: as above. Savage is sent to contact some sheep farmers in the Pennine Hills, but on the way there he and Bamber are attacked by a water snake. Overall this prog is kind of boring. At this point in 2000 AD, the only consistently good series was Judge Dredd.

JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE #3 (Eclipse, 1986) – “New London Pride,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins & Steve Dillon. Johnny has a dream where he kills his parents. When he wakes up, he encounters a gang of skinheads who worship him as the god of violence, and then he goes on a berserk killing spree. The story ends here with no real resolution. Johnny Nemo next appeared in Deadline. There’s also a Sindi Shade backup story, which unfortunately was this character’s last appearance.

HELLBLAZER #292 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The House of Wolves,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Simon Bisley. This issue is mostly a flashback to ten years ago, focusing on Constantine’s future wife, Epiphany or Piffy. When Piffy was 14, her father was supplying elderly House of Lords members with an aphrodisiac that turned them into werewolves. Constantine got an accidental dose of the aphrodisiac, became a werewolf, and tried to either eat or possibly rape Piffy, before her father intervened. As that summary indicates, Constantine and Piffy’s relationship is kind of creepy. Bisley’s artwork in this issue is not bad, but it’s not in the same style as his Slaine or Lobo.

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Serpent in the Tower Part 1,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito. I didn’t buy this when it came out because I didn’t realize it was a continuation of Agents of Atlas. This issue, Namor invades Pan and orders Mike Nguyen to return the kidnapped dragon in one day or face an invaison. Jimmy Woo summons the original Agents of Atlas to try to save the day.

THE PHANTOM #749 (Frew, 1982) – “The Jungle Patrol,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. I purchased a lot of seven Australian Phantom comics in late June, and they arrived in mid-July. The Phantom is largely forgotten in America but is very popular in other countries, especially Australia, where Frew Publications’ Phantom series is approaching its 2000th issue. These Australian Phantom comics are printed in black and white on paper that’s barely better than toilet paper. The covers are printed on the same paper as the interiors, and the seven issues’ covers look nearly identical; they all have a giant image of the Phantom against a blue background. However, these features actually add to the comics’ charm. “The Jungle Patrol” is a newspaper strip sequence reprinted from 1952. It focuses on Smythe, a new agent of the Phantom’s Jungle Patrol, who’s obsessed with uncovering the identity of the patrol’s commander (i.e. the Phantom himself). Also, Smythe is a coward who didn’t want to join the patrol to begin with. After an adventure with some smugglers, Smythe gains new courage and gives up trying to identify the Phantom. I’ve never read Lee Falk’s Phantom before, and I’m pleasantly surprised that despite its age, this story is exciting and relatable.

THE PHANTOM #764 (Frew, 1983) – “The Prisoner in Marrakech,” [W] Janne Lundström, [A] Jamie Vallvé. This is a much newer story, published in Sweden by a Swedish writer and a Spanish artist, and created for comic books rather than comic strips. “The Prisoner of Marrakech” is a flashback story that takes place in 1912 and stars the 18th Phantom, the grandfather of the current one. On their honeymoon, the Phantom’s wife is abducted by a French officer who carries her off to Morocco. The Phantom follows the officer to Morocco, where the officer is fighting a Berber rebellion. He rescues her and kills her abductor, and also learns that he has a child on the way. This story is notable for presenting the French colonialists as villains who are oppressing the native Moroccans. The Phantom is an archetypal white savior character, but he always fights for the oppressed against their oppressors, and perhaps this explains his popularity in postcolonial countries like India.

2000 AD #592 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/3: Take the High Road,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This is the one where Zenith’s agent objects to being called a “Scotch fairy” because “Scots is a drink.” Moon Runners: as above. Finally we meet the women from last prog’s cover. In this story they try to preveent the characters from last prog from completing their delivery. Judge Dredd: “P.J. Maybe, Age 13,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Liam Sharp. A story told from the perspective of P.J. Maybe, a 13-year-old serial killer who preys on his richer relatives, the Yes family. Nemesis: as above. I still don’t understand the Deathbringer story, but this installment includes some interesting depictions of punk rock culture and fashion. Judge Dredd: “The Mean Machine,” as above. Dredd’s battle with the Mean Machine continues.

MONSTER MASSACRE #nn (Atomeka, 1993) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott, Garry Leach & Steve White. A monster-themed anthology from the publishers of A1. John Tomlinson and Kevin O’Neill’s “The Kingdom of Zitturk” is a silly kaiju  story, but it has some very detailed and funny art. Simon Furman and Dougie Braithwaite’s “Headcase” is kind of dumb but is nicely inked by Dave Gibbons. Tomlinson and Henry Flint’s “Of Ill Omen” is about space zombies and has some very nice painted artwork. Tomlinson and Peter Snejbjerg’s “Expressway to Your Skull” is in the same continuity as his later Lords of Misrule miniseries from Dark Horse. It’s a scary piece of supernatural horror, and it makes me want to read more Lords of Misrule. Dave Eliott and Simon Bisley’s “Maximum Force” is the sort of ultraviolent superhero parody that’s hard to tell apart from what it’s parodying. Again, though, it has very good artwork. Overall this is an impressive anthology, even though some of the contributors aren’t well known in America.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #26 (DC, 1992) – “Lenny’s Story,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. This issue begins with Kathy and Lenny in bed, and then we flash back to issue 21. Lenny reveals that she and Kathy had sex for the first time in the junkyard, after Shade tried to have sex with Kathy and couldn’t. Then we flash back even further to when Lenny was sexually abused by her uncle, and got her revenge on him by calling him out at his wedding.  Back in the present day, we discover that Shade, who’s currently trapped in na immaterial form, has heard Lenny and Kathy’s entire conversation. I don’t know how well this issue holds up today, but back in 1992, this issue was pioneering in its frank treatment of same-sex relationships and childhood sexual abuse. Peter Milligan deserves credit for helpinig introduce LGBTQ topics into mainstream comics, both in Shade and Enigma.

SWEET TOOTH #29 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Unnatural Habitats,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Jepperd sends Gus back to the dam as he prepares to confront the as-yet-unseen villain Haggarty. But then in the most shocking twist in the series, we learn that the man living in the dam, who calls himself Walter, actually is Haggarty. And the women and kids are trapped in the dam with him. This was such a stunning cliffhanger that I had to read the rest of the storyline at once.

SWEET TOOTH #30 – as above. This is labeled Part 2 of 3, but there are actually four parts. Instead of Haggarty, Jepperd finds the remaining Project Evergreen survivors, who tell him how Haggarty tricked his way into the dam and then expelled them from it. Jepperd rushes back to the dam, but overturns his truck, and is found by a mysterious man with an axe.   Back at the dam, Haggarty terrorizes Gus and Jepperd’s friends.

SWEET TOOTH #31 – as above. Another adult abducts Gus, but Gus frees himself and heads back to the dam, where Haggarty has been threatening to kill the children unless Becky does his bidding. Meanwhile, the man who found Jepperd is holding him captive, and Jepperd has to free himself so he can save the day. “Unnatural Habitats” is a thrilling, tense story, almost as much so as Sentient. By this point in the story I couldn’t wait for Haggarty/Walter to die.

SWEET TOOTH #32 – as above. Jepperd discovers that his rescuer is a fellow hockey player, Jimmy Jacobs, and he accompanies Jepperd back to the dam. But at the dam, Gus and the other kids and women have already disarmed Haggarty and thrown him out in the cold. Jepperd and Jacobs finally reach the dam to find Lucy dying, since Haggarty injected her with the plague. I still don’t have issues 33 and 34, and I really want to get them.

THOR #176 (Marvel, 1970) – “Inferno!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Loki has finally succeeded in taking over Asgard. But much like certain real-life villains, he only wants to be king for the sake of being king, and he has no interest in the responsibilities that come with the job. When Surtur invades Asgard, Loki flees, leaving Thor and the other Asgardians to deal with the crisis on their own. This issue is not bad, although “Loki takes over Asgard” must have been a trite plot even in 1970.

THE PHANTOM #753 (Frew, 1982) – “The Flirtatious Princess,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. This story is from 1949, so it’s older than the one in #750. It’s a story in the Ruritanian romance genre, set in the fictional kingdom of Pathia. Two noblemen are contending for the throne, and the king’s daughter, Gwena, promises to marry both of them. To avoid having to choose between them, she flees the country and is rescued by the Phantom. After a series of adventures, Gwena decides to marry the Phantom instead of either of her suitors, but he misinforms her that he already has 300 other wives. She ends up marrying the humble palace guard who she loved to begin with. Gwena is a rather sexist character, but other than that, “The Flirtatious Princess” is a really fun story.

GAY COMICS #18 (Bob Ross, 1993) – various stories, [E] Andy Mangels. Most of the stories in this issue are by people I’ve never heard of, and some of them are quite bad. The highlight of the issue is Ivan Velez Jr’s “Into the Out Of,” which examines intersections between queer, black and Puerto Rican identity. This issue also includes a one-page comic by my friend Diana Green.

2000 AD #135 (IPC, 1979) – “The Invisible Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. “Edwin the Confessor” has a habit of falsely confessing to crimes. He accidentally helps Dredd catch a criminal who’s using a time machine to rob banks, and Dredd “rewards” Edwin by giving him a short prison sentence. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights the basilisk-like Goool, his weirdest-looking opponent yet. Belardinelli’s art here is better than in earlier Blackhawk stories. ABC Warriors: “Golgotha,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. The robots battle the giant armored dinosaur Golgotha and his mate Delilah. Golgotha is the grandson of Old One Eye from the Flesh series, and this family of dinosaurs also appears in other 2000 AD strips. The Old One Eye family are not related to the dinosaurs from Dinosty, except that both groups of characters were the result of Pat Mills’s dinosaur obsession. Bill Savage: as above. Savage and Bamber fight some crazy farmers, and then they return to Oxford only to find it in ruins.

New comics received on July 22:

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #3 (Ahoy, 20200 – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. After Shelley and Flynn encounter another escapee, Flynn gives up on escaping and returns to prison. Meanwhile, Trent is tortured, and a “Business Dog” is brought in to decide whether  he’ll live or die. This issue includees some deservedly bitter criticism of the ultra-rich – like, that they literally shit gold, but that faced with a worldwide catastrophe that they created, all they can do is hide on private islands.

MIDDLEWEST #18 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel and his dad fight, Abel wins, and Abel’s dad finally apologizes. But Abel refuses to go home; his relationship with his dad is irreparably ruined, and he’s found a new family. This ending feels appropriate, because it shows that Abel’s dad’s apology is significant, but not sufficient to make up for Abel’s lifetime of trauma.

AMETHYST #4 (DC, 2020) – “At a Loss,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy confronts Dark Opal, but accomplishes nothing. Maxixe reveals that he’s not really a prince and abandons Amy and Phoss. Amy starts to realize that House Amethyst has not been an entirely benevolent influence on Gemworld. Amy and Phoss’s next destination is Diamond, but they get captured on the way there. I wish there were more than two issues of Amethyst left.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #4 (Aftershock, 2020) – “Sins of the Past,” [W] John Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Sean screws things up even further, creating a future where bees are the dominant species. But then he figures out that his future selves actually aren’t his future selves, because they don’t have the same scars he has. And he realizes whodunit, but he doesn’t tell the reader. It looks like the next issue will be the last.

BIRTHRIGHT #45 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Having killed Lore, Mikey finally gets to meet his newborn daughter. But Brennan, Aaron and Wendy still have to fix the barriers between Terrenos and Earth. Aaron and Wendy get delayed rescuing some orphaned children, and are stranded on the wrong side of the barrier when it closes. Rather ironic.

CHU #1 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. This Chew spinoff stars Tony’s sister Saffron, who, for as yet unexplained reasons, was not mentioned in the original Chew series. Also, she’s a criminal. Chu #1 is funny and very similar in tone to the original Chew, but Rob Guillory’s artwork is irreplaceable. Without Guillory and all the little details he included, Chu #1 is a much quicker read and is not as funny or clever as Chew was.

USAGI YOJIMBO #10 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “Mon,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Congratulations to Stan on a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction. This issue Usagi visits a town ruled by Lord Hikiji, and encounters hostility because he’s wearing the Mifune clan crest (mon). An old acquaintance betrays Usagi to a bunch of Hikiji’s soldiers. Usagi manages to kill the traitor and the soldiers, of course, but suffers a head injury and falls unconscious in an unmoored boat. Next issue’s cover shows Usagi back in his home village with Mariko. The high point of the issue is when the samurai order Usagi to remove the crests from his clothes, and Usagi replies “You will have to do it from my corpse.” His facial expression shows that he’s absolutely serious.

TARTARUS #4 (Image, 2020) – “Dogs of Tartarus,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. Tilde has to ransom her comrade Klinzu from her brother Mogen’s captivity. This story was confusing because it was hard to figure out what happened in the gap between issues, and also I’m having some difficulty keeping the characters straight. But this is an exciting comic, and jack T. Cole’s artwork is very imaginative and immersive.

WICKED THINGS #3 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Lottie starts working as an intern for the police. All they’ll let her do is make tea, but in her abundant spare time, she uncovers a crime wave that the police haven’t even noticed. Issues 1 and 2 were in the cozy mystery genre, but #3 is more of a police procedural, and there’s no mention of the attempted murder of the Japanese detective. Of course this issue is still just as funny as the previous two.

DIE #12 (Image, 2020) – “Hidden Role,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Angela looks for her daughter, Ash engages in political machinations, and at the end of the issue, Ash meets an unhappy H.G. Wells. This is a good issue, but this series always has a ton of different stuff going on at once, and it can be rather hard to follow.

On July 23 I received a shipment of about 75 comics, most of them priced under a dollar:

MIDAS FLESH #4 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Shelli Paroline & Branden Lamb. This is a Boom! Box title, but it has little in common with the other titles released under that imprint; it’s a SF comic, while most Boom! Box comics are modern-day slice-of-life or fantasy stories with strong queer elements. Midas Flesh is also Ryan North’s only comic book not published by Marvel, as far as I know. It’s about some space pirates who discover a planet that can change anything to gold, but the authoritarian Federation is trying to steal their discovery. This issue, the protagonists battle a Federation ship using an amputated finger from the Midas planet. This issue is grimmer and more violent than most of Ryan’s work, but it’s also quite funny, and one of the main characters is a dinosaur. I need to track down the other seven issues of this series.

DARK CLAW ADVENTURES #1 (Amalgam, 1997) – “Face to Face,” [W] Ty Templeton, [A] Rick Burchett. An “adaptation” of the nonexistent TV cartoon starring Dark Claw, the amalgam of Batman and Wolverine. Like all Amalgam comics, Dark Claw Adventures #1 is very funny and is full of clever Marvel and DC comics. However, in the decades since 1997, the DC animated style has become thoroughly integrated into the look of mainstream comics. Therefore, it’s hard to tell that Dark Claw Adventures #1 is supposed to be a cartoon adaptation rather than a normal DC or Marvel comic.

THUNDERBOLTS #156 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. Satana joins the Thunderbolts for a mission to Gothemwald Castle, which looks like something out of Hellboy. Meanwhile, Luke Cage and Mimi Gold interview candidates for the Thunderbolts’ understudy team, the Underbolts. The last candidate is Mr. Hyde, and the issue ends with him  gripping Mimi in one giant fist. As usual this is a very fun issue.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.2 (Marvel, 2014) – “Learning to Crawl: Part Two,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is set around the time of Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #2, when Spidey first encountered the Chameleon. It guest-stars a new hero, Clash, who’s inspired to become a superhero by Spidey’s example. But when they finally meet, Clash realizes Spidey is a thrill-seeking glory hound. This is a fun issue. Others, notably Kurt Busiek, have already written new stories set in Spider-Man’s earliest years, but Dan Slott’s style is significantly different from Busiek’s.

THE BOGIE MAN: CHINATOON #1 (Tundra, 1993) – “Barefoot in the Pork,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Robin Smith. I guess this series was picked up by Tundra after the initial miniseries from Fat Man. This issue, Francis Clunie (the lunatic who thinks he’s Humphrey Bogart) escapes from the asylum and goes to Glasgow to investigate an imaginary criminal named Taiwan Lil. Meanwhile, some real criminals, probably the same ones from the last series, are targeting a local Chinese restaurant. This issue is at least as funny as the previous Bogie Man I read. For instance, when we first see Clunie in this issue, we discover that he’s escaped the asylum with no clothes on except a fedora. Given its subject matter, this comic could have been rather Orientalist, but Wagner mostly avoids engaging in Chinese stereotypes.

SOVEREIGN SEVEN #2 (DC, 1995) – “The Twelve Chairs,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Dwayne Turner. This was Claremont’s first new series after he was fired from X-Men. It wasn’t a huge success, and seems to have a rather mixed reputation today. This issue is not bad, but it has way too many characters, and it feels like a retread of Claremont’s later X-Men stories. Dwayne Turner’s art looks very similar to that of Jim Lee, and even the lettering is by Tom Orzechowski. Still, I’d be willing to collect more of this series, simply because I’m a big Claremont fan and I’m running out of Claremont comics I haven’t read. Early in this issue there’s an unofficial cameo appearance by Wolverine.

HIGHER EARTH #3 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. Heidi and Rex fight some dinosaurs and robots, and then they discover that the guys who have been chasing them are all alternate-Earth versions of Rex. I had thought this was a five-issue miniseries, but there were actually nine issues.

STAR TREK #14 (DC, 1990) – “The Return of the Worthy Part Two: Great Expectations,” [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. Most of this issue is devoted to interactions between the Enterprise crew and the Worthy (i.e. the Robinson family), but there’s also a plot involving the Gorn, the planet of Karimea, and the Lamver device. I probably missed a lotof the humor in this issue because I’m not familiar with Lost in Space. Still, this comic is funny and has some excellent characterization. “The Return of the Worthy” is apparently considered one of the best Star Trek stories in comics form. I must have read this issue as a kid, because I remember the scene where one of the Worthy tries to seduce Chekov, and he turns her down. Of course, as a kid, I didn’t understand who the Worthy really were.

STRANGE ATTRACTORS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Tangles in the Tapestry,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Greg Scott. A Columbia grad student and an old professor try to test some dangerous ideas about chaos theory. I like that this comic is mostly about math, because math is underused as a source of inspiration for science fiction. However, I wish this comic was about something other than chaos theory. Chaos theory is already a cliché because of Jurassic Park, and I suspect that the popularized version of chaos theory has little to do with what actual chaos theorists study. Also, Charles Soule’s depiction of mathematical research in this comic just doesn’t feel accurate. I wish he’d chosen to focus on some other important area of math that’s less familiar to the general public – e.g. algebraic geometry or category theory. I’m not in any hurry to collect the rest of this miniseries.

THE GOON: OCCASION OF REVENGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Occasion of Revenge Part 1,” [W/A] Eric Powell. This is issue 46 and it comes before Once Upon a Hard Time. Part of this issue is a rather misogynistic story about a femme fatale and the ghost of her dead lover. The rest of the issue depicts a fight between the Goon and a bunch of villains. As usual, Eric Powell’s artwork is excellent. His style is original, but reflects the influence of classic horror artists like Corben and Wrightson.

UFOLOGY #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. A science fiction story that’s set in a small town and involves some aliens with weird melting skin. Based on this issue I’m not quite sure what the point of this series is, but I’m interested in reading more of James Tynion’s work, and I’d like to find the other five issues of UFOlogy.

THUNDERBOLTS #157 – as above except [A] Kev Walker & Declan Shalvey. Mimi avoids being killed by Mr. Hyde. The Thunderbolts defeat Master Gothenwald despite his attempts to confront them with their worst fears. There’s a terrifying moment when Gothenwald makes Luke think that his baby is dead. The Thunderbolts’ next mission is to Najaf, Iraq, home to the world’s largest cemetery. As I’ve said before, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts is an extremely fun comic with lots of unique and weird characters, and it should be better known.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #73 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X Chapter One,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith. In part one of Weapon X, Wolverine is kidnapped by some scientists who perform cruel experiments on him. This series is of course a modern classic. The only other notable story in this issue is Shanna by Gerard Jones (now in prison for child pornography) and Paul Gulacy. This story is called “The Bush of Ghosts Part 6: A Dance of the Forest,” a reference to two classic works of Nigerian literature. However, the African people in the story are blatant stereotypes.

MURDER ME DEAD #2 (El Capitan, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] David Lapham. Still under suspicion of murdering his wife, Steven reunites with an old flame, Tara. But Tara has some secrets of her own. This is an intriguing issue.

GATECRASHER: RING OF FIRE #1 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Ring of Fire, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Amanda Conner. All Alec Wagner wants is to take his girlfriend to the prom. But he’s also a member of the superheroic Split-Second Squad, and before he can make it to prom, he has to go to another dimension and fight a bunch of giant bugs. Gatecrasher is an exciting comic that combines two of Amanda Conner’s great strengths: cheesecake art and hideous monsters. I think this comic was underappreciated because it was published by a small, short-lived publisher associated with the unpopular Wizard magazine.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #4 (Eclipse, 1985) – various stories, [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. These stories are all reprinted from Warrior. In a story continued from last issue, Axel and Laser Eraser battle a villain named Zirk. In “Brides of the Sluzzgreep,” Axel is on a ship with a harem of beautiful women, but he ends up unintentionally killing them and their boyfriends. Until this story I didn’t quite understand the series’ central premise: Axel is impotent thanks to his cyborg modifications, but when his button is pressed, he experiences extreme pleasure and also flies into a violent rage. There are also two backup stories that don’t feature Axel. The last one, “The Poet and the Flowers” starring Ektryn, is notable for its harshly pessimistic tone. The poet in the title is an optimist who praises the gallantry of war, but in the end he gets eaten by a carnivorous plant.

MONSTRESS #29 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Yet again I have to complain about this series’ impenetrable plot. The violence in this issue would be more powerful if I had any idea who the two sides are, or what they’re fighting about, or which side, if any, is in the right. Although maybe that’s the point, that both sides of the war are equally bad. This issue is full of more awful violence, including a brutal two-page sequence where we see various characters’ happy memories, juxtaposed with their pointless deaths in battle.

YASMEEN #1 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. A slice-of-life series about an Iraqi-American family. Half the issue takes place in 2014, when the protagonists were trapped in Mosul during its siege by ISIS. The other half is set in 2016, when the surviving family members have just arrived in Iowa. This series is potentially fascinating, and I think it’s an example of #OwnVoices representation. There are some points that could be explained better; for instance, one of the characters is murdered by ISIS troops because his name is Hussein, but non-Muslim readers probably won’t know why Hussein is a distinctively Shia name. Still, the murder scene is horrifying, especially when the ISIS troops justify their actions by claiming that Hussein was quoting false hadith. I’d like to continue reading this series if I can find it.

ARCHIE #635 (Archie, 2012) – “Occupy Riverdale,” [W] Alex Segura, [A] Gisele Lagace. This is one of Gisele Lagace’s few actual Archie comics, although her style is heavily Archie-influenced. This issue, a new character, Andy Martinez, leads an Occupy protest against Riverdale’s rich people, primarily consisting of Hiram Lodge. Conflict ensues when the mayor tries to shut the protest down. Alex Segura deserves credit for introducing real-world politics into a series which tends to be highly conservative. However, this issue’s ending is too simplistic and Pollyanna-ish. In the real world, it’s been eight years since Archie #635, and the problems that inspired the Occupy movement have only gotten worse.

THE PHANTOM #750 (Frew, 1982) – “The Betrothal,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. 15 years ago, the five-year-old Prince Lioni of Llongo and Princess Wamba of Wambesi were engaged. Now Lioni is a college student living a modern lifestyle, and he’s fallen in love with someone else. When Lioni is summoned back to Llongo to marry Wamba, he refuses, nearly leading to war. This story is a ton of fun, and it’s less racist than one would expect. The Africans in the story are distinctive characters with different personalities. Lee Falk’s story acknowledges the conflict between traditional and modern lifestyles, even if his version of a traditional African society is mostly made up. The most problematic thing about this story is actually its fat-shaming; Princess Wamba is extremely fat, and in order to stop the war, the Phantom makes her lose weight fast so she’ll be more attractive to Lloni (though she marries someone else in the end).

SUPERMAN #102 (DC, 1995) – “Pulp Friction,” [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Gil Kane with Joe Rubinstein. Jimmy Olsen tries to get a big scoop by arranging a battle between Superman and Arclight. Things don’t work out the way Jimmy wants, and the story ends with Jimmy quitting the Daily Planet. This issue’s plot is stupid, and Jimmy acts like such a brat that the reader can’t sympathize with him. At least Gil Kane’s art is good.

2000 AD #137 (IPC, 1979) – Dredd: “Death of a Judge,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. This story’s title is a spoiler, but the twist is how the judge dies. When Judge Bryce’s partner and love interest is killed, Bryce tries to kill her murderer without due process, and Dredd has to kill Bryce to prevent him from breaking the law. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk and Urza make a failed attempt to escape the Director’s spaceship, and then the ship is attacked by space pirates. Belardinelli’s art was gradually improving. ABC Warriors: “Mad George,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. We meet a giant robot named George whose limbs are each controlled by a separate brain, so he walks like the protagonist of the video game Qwop. The ABC Warriors have to recruit George to fight a corporate army. Wolfie Smith: as above. We get some background information on the monstrous Wendigore. Bill Savage: as above except [A] Mike White. Bill and Bamber are back in Lnodon, where they’re fighting the Greater London Legion, led by the Hitler lookalike from prog 120.

NAMOR #22 (Marvel, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] John Byrne. Namor, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing visit the ruins of K’un L’un, where they encounter the H’ylthri from Iron Fist #2. Namor finds the body of Iron Fist, who had been believed dead since the last issue of Power Man & Iron Fist. Wolverine makes a cameo appearance at the end. For a ’90s Byrne comic, Namor #22 is not bad.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO – COMPLETE SILENCE (IDW, 2020) – “Silent Interlude,” [W/A] Larry Hama with Steve Leialoha. “Silent Interlude,” from G.I. Joe #21, is Larry Hama’s most famous work. It’s a completely silent story in which Snake Eyes and Scarlett escape from a Cobra base. “Silent Interlude” is based on the silent opening sequence from Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1, but it’s much longer. Larry Hama achieved an impressive feat of visual storytelling by telling such an exciting action story without using any words. Even more impressive, his storytelling is completely clear, and the reader never has to guess what’s going on. The original G.I. Joe #21 is beyond my budget, so I’m glad IDW published this reprint. Complete Silence also includes a 2008 story, “Silence Between Borders,” that fills in the gaps in the original “Silent Interlude,” but “Silence Between Borders” doesn’t add anything significant to the original.

THE PHANTOM #765 (Frew, 1983) – “The Ghost Pirates,” [W] Norman Worker, [A] Jaime Vallvé. Another relatively new story produced in Sweden. “The Ghost Pirates” is a flashback story set in Cornwall in 1785, depicting a battle between the 12th Phantom and the pirate Black Gull. It’s an entertaining story, and it feels more or less historically accurate. The Swedish comics produced by Team Fantomen are far better than any American Phantom comic books, except maybe the ones drawn by Don Newton. But I don’t think any of the Team Fantomen comics have been published in America.

2000 AD #139 (IPC, 1979) – Dredd: “The Great Plasteen Disaster!” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Cooper. Everything in the 22nd century is made of plasteen, but suddenly alien bacteria start eating all the plasteen. Dredd arrests the president of the company responsible for the bacteria, but this results in his death, since he has a plasteen heart. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk, Ursa and Zog fight a mind-controlling monster called a Soul-Sucker, and then their ship falls in a black hole. Belardinelli’s depiction of the black hole is rather impressive. ABC Warriors: as above. The Mess combines with Mad George to save the day. This was the last ABC Warriors story for several years. With the next prog their slot was taken over by The Stainless Steel Rat. Wolfie Smith: as above. The Wendigore causes more havoc. This series is very slow-paced. Bill Savage: as above. Bill defeats the Legion, and the floodwaters freeze, indicating that the polar ice caps are recovering. Bill Savage’s next chronological appearance was “Invasion!” in progs 1 to 51, but his next actual appearance wasn’t until 2004.

EZEQUIEL HIMES, ZOMBIE HUNTER #2 (Amigo, 2020) – “What I Mean by Revenge,” [W] Victor Santos, [A] Alberto Hernandez. Ezequiel fights some zombies, and we discover that his wife and son have become zombies themselves. It’s always a good thing when comics from Spain are translated into English, but Amigos could have picked a better one to start with, because Ezequiel Santos is an uninteresting work.

CANTO & THE CLOCKWORK FAIRIES #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto and his Malorex companion save some fairies from an evil sorceress. This comic is pretty cute.

DECORUM #3 (Image, 2020) – “Take a Ride, Take a Trip,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. This is much less difficult than the first two issues because it focuses on just two characters – Imogen, the polite assassin, and her rude young protégé Neha Nori Sood. This issue Imogen gets Neha admitted to a school for assassins. Mike Huddleston’s artwork continues to be the highlight of this series. He can draw in a lot of different styles, and he makes effective use of photo collage.

LITTLE LULU #73 (Dell, 1954) – “Two is a Crowd” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I bought a bunch of Little Lulus in June, but I stopped reading them because I ran out of space in my Dell/Gold Key box. I’ve now solved that problem (or rather, transferred the problem to a different box). Stories in this issue: “Two is a Crowd” – Tubby tries to cheat Lulu out of ten cents. “Wrong Number” – Lulu puts on a space suit, and Tubby thinks she’s an actual alien. “The Smokers” – the kids all get sick from puffing on Lulu’s dad’s cigar. “Breakfast in Bed” – Lulu gets Mr. Inch to cook breakfast for her mom. “Tubby’s Guest” – Tubby has a sleepover with his identical cousin Chubby. This issue doesn’t have a Poor Little Girl story. The back cover is a Wheaties ad starring Roy Campanella, whose Hall of Fame career would be prematurely ended by a car accident after just three more seasons.

JLA #53 (DC, 2001) – “It Takes a Thief,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Bryan Hitch. Six JLAers have had their superheroic and secret identities split off into different bodies, thanks to some sixth-dimensional villains. This is a relatively fun story, but somewhat hard to follow. It includes a scene where an entire city goes blind, like in José Saramago’s novel Blindness(which I’ve owned for many years but have not read). Bryan Hitch’s art is a good example of his widescreen style.

IRON MAN #299 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Doomsday Machine!”, [W] Len Kaminski, [A] Kevin Hopgood. Iron Man gets his ass kicked by Ultimo, and to save himself, Tony has to recruit a bunch of former wearers of the Iron Man armor. Iron Man was pretty bad after Michelinie and Layton left, but this issue isn’t terrible.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #402 (Marvel, 1995) – “Crossfire, Part One,” [W] J.M. Dematteis, [A] Mark Bagley. The Clone Saga was the lowest point of Spider-Man’s entire history, and while this issue is not the nadir of the Clone Saga, it’s still very bad. Spidey encounters Judas Traveller, a confusing villain whose powers and backstory were never made clear, and Traveller tries to bargain with him for Aunt May’s soul.

2000 AD #153 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: “Day of the Droids!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Someone has been replacing VIPs with robots, and Sam Slade has to solve the mystery while being driven nuts by his inept sidekick Hoagy. Dredd: “Blood of Satanus Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd fights a man who’s been turned into a monster by the blood of the dinosaur Satanus. Satanus is the son of Old One-Eye and the father of Golgotha; see the above review of prog 135. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. In 1941, some German soldiers invade Russia alongside some mysterious Romanian allies. It soon becomes obvious that the Romanians are vampires. Carlos Ezquerra’s style is well-suited to a war comic. Blackhawk: as above. Inside the black hole, Blackhawk fights another man who’s been enslaved by the Soul-Sucker. At this point, Belardinelli’s linework is much crisper, and his backgrounds and alien creatures are much weirder. The V.C.’s: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. A new series about soldiers in a war against the alien Geeks. Cam Kennedy’s artwork here is notable for its heavy spotting of blacks.

2000 AD #158 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam Slade uses a giant wrecking droid to fight some enemies. Then Hoagy throws Sam a surprise party, and we meet Hoagy’s human parents. The V.C.’s: as above. A contingent of VCs go on a suicide mission to rescue some stranded comrades. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. This was one of the first major Dredd epics, and I think it was longer than any previous Dredd story, at 26 parts. Its overarching plot is that Dredd is searching for a child who’s been prophesied to be the next ruler of Mega-City One. This prog, Dredd is trying to recapture the Judge Child from Faro, a madman who’s “recreated ancient Egypt in the Cursed Earth.” Ron Smith’s establishing shot of Faro’s realm is amazing. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “Part 7,” as above. Two of the surviving German soldiers succeed in killing all the vampires except two. This story puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of sympathizing with Nazi soldiers. It would be just as well if the vampires did manage to kill all the soldiers. Blackhawk: “Warrior in Search of His Soul,” as above. Blackhawk and his allies encounter a robot from Betelgeuse. This story is a rare moment when Tharg’s universe crosses over with the universe of one of the strips. Usually Tharg seems to exist on a narrative level between the real world and the universes of the 2000 AD comics – that is, Tharg himself is fictional, but Judge Dredd and the other 2000 AD characters are fictional from Tharg’s perspective.

THE PHANTOM #766 (Frew, 1983) – “The Drummer of Timpenni,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. The island of Timpenni (i.e. “timpani”) was home to an evil tribe that used hypnotic drums to capture and enslave the people of Bengali. The rest of Bengali finally destroyed Timpenni, but one last drummer of Timpenni survived and taught his craft to his son. Years later, that son uses his drums to try to conquer Bengali, but of course the Phantom defeats him. This story includes some impressive uses of sound effects (including a lot of drumbeats), but otherwise it’s not as fun as the other Lee Falk Phantom stories I’ve been reading.

DONALD DUCK #31 (Dell, 1953) – untitled (Vacation Work), [W] Carl Fallberg, [A] Jack Bradbury. This comic was included with the Little Lulus I bought. In the main story, Donald goes on vacation, but Scrooge tricks him into taking care of an old dilapidated mansion. this story is fairly entertaining, but Fallberg and Bradbury weren’t nearly as good as Barks. There are also a couple shorter stories by the same creative team. One of these stories is the first and only appearance of Donald’s cousin Botcho, an inept inventor.

LITTLE LULU #72 (Dell, 1954) – [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. “A Case of Green Toes”: Lulu uses a trick to prove that Tubby stole Mrs. Dingley’s pie. “Sandwich Boys”: Lulu tricks the boys into providing free advertising for an old lady’s restaurant, instead of for its competitor. “Queen of the Crows”: Lulu tells Alvin about how the Poor Little Girl turned Ol’ Witch Hazel into a scarecrow. John Stanley used the Poor Little Girl and Witch Hazel to tell stories that went beyond the limits of Lulu’s severely constrained world. “The Ball of String”: Gloria is rude to Tubby, as usual, so Tubby takes revenge by destroying Gloria’s vase.

ZAP COMIX #14 (Last Gasp, 1998) – various stories, [E] uncredited. This issue’s wraparound cover is one of S. Clay Wilson’s most impressive works, and it shows that he was capable of creating interesting artwork and not just his usual racist, sexist, hyperviolent crap. This issue includes a long Wilson story in several parts, starring Star-Eyed Stella, the Checkered Demon, and other characters. There are also some shorter works by Moscoso and Spain. The best part of the issue is at the end, when Crumb, Moscoso and Spain (together), and Paul Mavrides tell three different versions of how Mavrides became Zap’s first new contributor in 29 years.

WASTELAND #1 (DC, 1987) – “Foo Goo,” [W] John Ostrander & Del Close, [A] David Lloyd. This series was intended as both a revival of the old horror title and a vehicle for Del Close, who is best known as the founder of modern improv comedy. In comics, he also co-wrote many of the Munden’s Bar stories in Grimjack. “Foo Goo” is about people who deliberately kill themselves by eating fugu. Its depiction of fugu is highly inaccurate, probably on purpose. “R.A.B.,” drawn by William Messner-Loebs, is about an overpopulated dystopian future where parents can perform “retroactive abortions” by throwing their baby out a window. “Sewer Rat,” drawn by Don Simpson, depicts a hallucination, and is described as semi-autobiographical.

THE PHANTOM #776 (Frew, 1983) – “The Last Assignment,” [W] Norman Worker, [A] Bertil Wilhelmsson & Özcan Eralp. Sergeant Svenson is about to retire from the Jungle Patrol. Unsurprisingly, on his last day, his no-good brother kidnaps him and forces him to participate in a jewel theft. Svenson’s fiancee goes looking for him and helps the Phantom prove his innocence. This is another exciting issue. It’s the last of the Australian Phantom comics I ordered. I hope I can get more somehow.

LITTLE LULU #67 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “The Dolly’s Ghost” – Lulu fools the boys into thinking that they’re haunted by Lulu’s doll’s ghost. “Good Little Citizen” – Two mayoral candidates each hire Lulu to paint mustaches on the other candidate’s posters. As a result, a third, dark-horse candidate wins the election. “Gran’ma Jones” – Lulu masquerades as a notorious old female criminal. The actual Gran’ma Jones does not appear. “The Case of the Disappearing Drums” – Tubby, as the Spider, solves the theft of Alvin’s drum. Lulu’s dad is the  culprit. “Best-Dressed Boy” – Tubby goes to a party wearing a dog’s coat. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Trip to the Moon” – Lulu uses a pogo stick to beat Ol’ Witch Hazel at being the first person on the moon. This story predates Apollo 11 or even Sputnik. “Kite Flight” – Tubby and Chubby accidentally break up a counterfeiting ring while flying kites. This issue’s back cover is a Wheaties ad starring Hall of Fame wide receiver Tom Fears, who played so long ago that his position was still called “split end”.

2000 AD #159 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam Slade goes to the police chief with evidence that people are being replaced by robots, only to learn that the police chief himself is a robot. The V.C.’s: as above. The V.C.’s continue their rescue mission. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 4,” as above. Faro kills himself and the Judge Child, but Dredd discovers that Faro’s Judge Child is an impostor, and the real child was abducted by Faro’s subordinate Bunsen. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. One of the soldiers and one of the vampires are killed. The last soldier reaches relative safety, but the last vampire is still hunting him. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk finally makes it to the Soulsucker. By now Belardinelli’s draftsmanship had gotten really good. His depiction of the Soulsucker’s “hell at world’s end” is especially striking.

THE SPIRIT #33 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – [W/A] Will Eisner. “The Springtime of Dolan” – Dolan almost marries Widow Walker, but doesn’t. “Barkarolle” – a criminal captures Ebony’s dog and trains it to steal purses. This story has some very nice lettering. Ebony, of course, is the worst thing about this great comic, and Eisner’s portrayal of him is really not defensible, even if he had some positive aspects. “The Thing” – an adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s story of the same name. “Caramba, Crime Capital of the World” – the Spirit visits a fictional jungle country to hunt down Mr. Carrion. I have a bunch of other Kitchen Sink Spirit comics that I haven’t read. This series is the most cost-effective way to collect the postwar Spirit, although it’s in black and white.

INCREDIBLE HULK #314 (Marvel, 1985) – “Call of the Desert,” [W/A] John Byrne. In the first issue of Byrne’s short-lived run, Doc Samson tracks down the Hulk, but the Hulk has a vision in which he imagines himself fighting all his worst enemies. This issue’s plot is somewhat flimsy, but its art is excellent.

THE VISITOR: HOW & WHY HE STAYED #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. Now widowed, the Visitor is captured and fatally wounded by villains. He stays alive long enough to meet Hellboy face to face for the first time and warn him about future threats. This miniseries is easily my favorite Hellboy comic not drawn by Mignola.

THRILLING MURDER COMICS #1 (San Francisco Comic Book Company, 1971) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. As its title suggests, this one-shot is unusually violent even compared to other underground comics. It’s mostly in black and white, but uses red to depict blood. It starts with Jim Osborne’s “Kid Kill!”, about a serial killer who targets pregnant women (and is named after the artist). In Bill Griffith’s “A Fine Way to Die,” the Toad murders his lover’s husband. There’s a pinup by S. Clay Wilson, a three-pager by Osborne, then Crumb’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” about a cultist who murders his female followers. Then a story by Kim Deitch in which a Cajun farmer murders a man who’s sodomizing his prize hen. The farmer’s wife looks like Daisy from Li’l Abner. Finally, Spain’s “In the Gloom of Night” is about a series of mob executions. This comic has an impressive line of talent, but is rather tough to read.

TRANSFORMERS #70 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Price of Life!”, [W] Simon Furman, [A] Andrew Wildman. Megatron and Ratchet’s bodies have merged. Optimus Prime refuses to kill Megatron to save Ratchet, and in response Kup challenges Prime’s leadership. Meanwhile, Grimlock tries to use a dangerous substance called nucleon to revive the other Dinobots. When I read Transformers as a kid, I didn’t realize how closely Furman’s writing style resembled that of 2000 AD.

2000 AD #179 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “Death’s-Head,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha, Wulf and the Gronk search for a crook named Willy Blanko. Mean Arena: “The Southampton Sharks,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] John Richardson. This series is about the brutally violent game of “street football,” which is American football played across an entire city. I don’t recall having seen John Richardson’s art before, but he’s quite good. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 24: Grunwald’s Kingdom,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The Angel Gang (the same ones from the newspaper strips reprinted in prog 590) have kidnapped the Judge Child and are taking him to the realm of the robot Grunwald. Dredd pursues the Angel Gang and kills two of them. Meltdown Man: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. One-eyed Nick Stone finds himself in an alien world where “Yujees,” or anthropomorphic animals, are enslaved by humans. Stone receives a message from the mysterious Yujee leader Kinita. Again, Belardinelli’s art here is really good, especially his establishing shot of the alien citadel. Comic Rock: “Killer Watt Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is the third appearance of Nemesis and Torquemada. Like the first appearance of these characters in prog 167, “Killer Watt” was an adaptation of a music album, but Nemesis and Torquemada were popular enough that their next appearance was in their own series.

LITTLE LULU #61 (Dell, 1953) – credits as above. “The Earwich” – Lulu and Alvin take a disastrous trip to the beach. Most Lulu stories are fairly plausible, but in this story Lulu and Alvin find themselves on  top of a whale. “The Spider and the Secret Six” – Mr. Moppet refuses to let Lulu jon the boys’ club because he thinks kids shouldn’t be in gangs. Some mysterious people come to visit Lulu’s dad. Lulu and Tubby capture them and tie them up, only to learn that they’re members of Mr. Moppet’s own childhood gang. “The Blackout Party” – Tubby throws a party, but the girls cleverly avoid participating in a game of spin-the-bottle, and they also eat all the cake. “The Hungry One” – Tubby pretends to be dying of hunger. His pretense is unmasked when Lulu offers him crackers and milk, and he gets up and leaves. “The Daredevil” – Lulu goes into a cave and captures two bats, but they’re the baseball kind of bats. “The Human Mudpie” – Lulu tells Alvin a story to convince him to take a bath. This is a rare Poor Little Girl story in which Ol’ Witch Hazel doesn’t appear. “The Shark in the Lake” – Tubby sabotages Wilbur and Gloria’s boat ride.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! #17 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Doom Flower,” [W] unknown, [A] Sal Trapani. A bunch of dumb stories with boring art. The last one is based on the real-life story of Amala and Kamala, two Bengali children who were allegedly raised by wolves. However, in the comic the older child returns to her wolf pack, while in real life she died of tuberculosis – if she even existed. According to Wikipedia, there’s only one source that attests to Amala and Kamala’s existence, and that source’s accuracy has been questioned.

WASTELAND #2 (DC, 1987) – [W] John Ostrander & Del Close. “That’s Entertainment,” [A] William Messner-Loebs: An autobio story. Del performs at a small Kansas town, and a local man threatens to shoot him, but instead shoots a reel of nitrate film and causes an explosion. “Ghengis Sings!!”, [A] George Freeman. A modern-day woman performs past-life regression and switches bodies with Genghis Khan. The results are tragic and hilarious. “Warning Signals,” [A] David Lloyd. A boy is referred to child protective services because his stepfather seems to be abusive. An investigation clears the stepfather of any wrongdoing, but the boy is telling the truth when he claims the stepfather is a werewolf, and “one month later the boy was dead.” Creepy.

TOTAL WAR #2 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Sneak Attack!” and “Breakthrough!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Dan Adkins & Wally Wood. A multiracial team of American soldiers battles an invasion by unspecified foreigners. This comic has some excellent artwork, including some beautiful depictions of military hardware. However, its stories are very boring, and it has no characterization to speak of. The only character who has any distinctive traits is the Japanese soldier, because he’s a stereotype; he’s always spouting proverbs that he attributes to an ancestor. With issue 3 this series was renamed M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War.

BATMAN #464 (DC, 1991) – “Spirit of the Beast Part Three: Sacrifice,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Bamtan fights an evil Native American chieftain named Two-Hearts. Like so many other comics, this issue shows an inability to tell one Native American nation from another. Two-Hearts seems to be Navajo, but his costume looks like something out of the children’s book Arrow to the Sun. And his grandfather, Black Wolf, draws his power from “Manitou,” an Algonquian word. Also, this story shows no sympathy for Two-Hearts and his people, except at the end, when Bruce Wayne decides to be a white savior and donate money to Native American causes. This issue includes previews of the upcoming Impact line of comics. Some of the Impact titles actually look pretty interesting.

ANIMAL MAN #60 (DC, 1993) – “Wildlife,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Russell Brown. Buddy escapes from an insane asylum and returns home, without any clothes. Meanwhile, Ellen and her mother have a frank discussion about Ellen’s marriage. This issue is pretty cute and has some good characterization. A couple elements from Delano’s run were used in Jeff Lemire’s run, including Ellen’s mother and Maxine’s nickname “Little Wing.”

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #8 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Thought Controller,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Frank Bolle. Nuro causes Doctor Solar to suffer hallucinations so that he’ll waste his energy. Given that Doctor Solar’s powers were based on radiation, it’s a miracle that his supporting characters, Gail and Dr. Clarkson, didn’t get cancer. There’s also a short story about breeder reactors, which produce more fuel than they consume. As it turned out, breeder reactors never fulfilled their potential because uranium proved to be more abundant than was previously believed.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #10 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. On this issue’s title page, PAD mentions that his daughter has just gotten her master’s degree. In this issue Georgia Dakei is kidnapped by her supervillain father Memento Mori, and the X-Factor members have to rescue her. I ought to read more of PAD’s second X-Factor run. This issue demonstrates that he’s still an excellent writer, Spider-Man 2099 notwithstanding.

2000 AD #180 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Gronk acquires a living shadow companion. Johnny and Wulf defeat some of Willy’s minions, only to fall into an ambush by Willy himself, who has already dug Johnny’s grave. Meltdown Man: as above. Nick acquires two Yujee sidekicks, a cat and a dog. They escape the city but find thmeselves in “the vats.” Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 25,” as above. Junior Angel kills Dredd’s companion Old Joe Blind, but Dredd executes Junior. This story has another incredible splash page, depicting a volcanic eruption. Mean Arena: as above. Matt Tallon has seemingly murdered an opposing player, but his victim proves to be a robot. Tharg: “Tharg and the Thrill-Suckers,” [W] unknown, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg stops an epidemic of thrill-sucking insects.

LITTLE LULU #78 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “Fiddlin’ Around” – Lulu breaks her dad’s pipe. Tubby tricks Mr. Moppet into forgiving Lulu. “Alvin’s Voice” – Tubby fools Lulu with ventriloquism, and they accidentally foil a bank robbery. “The Spider and the Million Cats” – Lulu’s father has some new squeaky shoes that attract stray cats because they sound like mice. The end of this story is enigmatic: Tubby is holding some unidentifiable object, and he says he’s going to leave it at Lulu’s door and ring the bell. I guess the thing he’s holding must be the remains of the shoes. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Iron Door” – the Poor Little Girl finds a cache of gold inside a mountain. “Big Fish” – Tubby tricks Wilbur’s dad by pretendiing to have caught a giant fish, but Wilbur’s dad turns the tables on Tubby.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN #1 (Epic, 1989) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Most of this story is set in an insane asylum where the patients are knock-offs of Marvel characters. For example, there’s a Reed Richards knockoff who’s always talking to his invisible wife, and a Lord of Valhalla who talks in faux-Elizabethan English. A new superhero, the Persecutor (i.e. the Punisher), tries to get into the asylum, but is rejected because he has no powers. Meanwhile, Marshal Law is assigned to hunt down the Persecutor. I don’t know what exactly to make of this comic. It has excellent art, it’s often hilarious, and it makes some serious arguments about the fascist and masochistic subtext of superhero comics. On the other hand, it enacts the same ultra-violence that it critiques; for instance, this issue ends with a splash page depicting the mutilated remains of the asylum inmates, after they’ve jumped out a window to their deaths. It feels like Mills and O’Neill are using this serise as an excuse to indulge in more violence, gore and sex than they could normally get away with.

New comics received yesterday, July 31:

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #7 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Stephen Byrne. This is a very poorly written comic: it has no plot at all, not much characterization, and very awkward dialogue. And after seven issues, we still don’t even know all the characters’ names, even though they literally wear nametags. On the other hand, this issue has some adorable moments – like Triplicate Girl realizing that if all the Legionnaires voted for themselves as leader, she would win. Or Bouncing Boy eating all the things, or the Ranzz family reunion. I’m continuing to read this series because it has tremendous potential, but I wish Bendis would co-write it with someone who’s not totally incompetent.

X-MEN #10 (Marvel, 2020) – “Fire,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Not a great way to restart the series after a four-month hiatus (or longer for me, since I forgot to order #9). This issue is an Empyre crossover in which Vulcan, Petra and Sway fight the Cotati. I have no idea who Petra and Sway even are, and it took me half the issue to figure out that the villains were Cotati.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #107 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell & Ronda Pattison, [A] Nelson Daniel. The Turtles investigate Lita’s disappearance, for which Baxter Stockman seems to be responsible. This issue is fun, but I wish Sophie Campbell was still writing and drawing this series herself. The best moment in the issue is Lita not being able to pronounce “environment.”

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #8 (DC, 2020) – “Britannia, Rule the Waves, Part 2,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A]  Aaron Campbell. Constantine reveals the rest of the fisherman and the mermaid’s story. Like a classic abuse victim, the mermaid tries to justify her boyfriend’s actions. Then she dies in childbirth – like salmon do after they spawn, as Constantine explains by means of an extended metaphor. Constantine feeds the fisherman to his own newborn half-fish children. This story was gruesome, but extremely powerful and clever.

ASCENDER #11 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Driller defeats the vampires, allowing Mila, Tesla and company to escape the planet. A very exciting issue.

BLACK MAGICK #12 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Nice to see this series again. Rowan attends a Beltane ritual, then solves a crime singlehandedly. Meanwhile, two of Rowan’s enemies have a lot of sex.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Cory Smith. An Empyre crossover in which Carol adjusts to her new role as the Supreme Accuser, and also meets her previously unknown half-sister. This issue demonstrates two of the problems with this series: Kelly’s Captain Marvel has no personality beyond being a strong female character, and Kelly hasn’t given Carol any supporting cast.

HEATHEN #11 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley A. Woods. The pirates join the villagers to prepare for a battle, which the Valkyries stop from happening. This issue is a really quick read and is not very interesting. There’s not much reason to read this series if Alterici isn’t drawing it herself.

ARCIHE #713 (Archie, 2020) – “Archie and Katy Keene 4 of 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki & Kevin Panetta, [A] Laura Braga. Katy Keene has a fashion show and then decides to stay in New York. As stated in previous reviews, “Archie and Katy Keene” has no plot at all and is mostly an excuse to show off Laura Braga’s costume designs.

FCBD THE WEIRN BOOKS (Yen Press, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Svetlana Chmakova. A preview of Chmakova’s new middle grade graphic novel, about students at a school for magic. The artwork in this comic is adorable, especially the depictions of the kids’ “astral” companions. I already have The Weirn Books, and now I look forward to reading it.

HAWKMAN #13 (DC, 1966) – “Quest of the Immortal Queen!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Because of Gardner Fox’s reputation as a canonical superhero writer, one tends to forget how weird his work is, and how much it owes to classic science fiction and fantasy. This issue, Hawkman is kidnapped by an immortal Valkyrie who lives in St. Martin’s Land, a hollow-earth realm mentioned in some medieval texts. She wants to make him her eighth husband, but first he has to prove his valor by stopping the flying ship Naglfar. Luckily, Hawkgirl saves Hawkman from committing bigamy. Hawkgirl was one of DC’s best female characters of the Silver Age, even though characterization was not Fox’s strong suit.

PLUNGE #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The corporate stooge betrays the other humans to the aliens. The female crew member, Moriah, has to dive to open the hatch of the sunken submarine, in order to free the aliens’ queen. This issue is an excellent work of supernatural horror.

IRON MAN 2020 #5 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. Tony builds a new suit of holographic armor and uses it to defeat Arno. Unfortunately, the Extinction Event Entity that Arno was worried about actually exists, and at the end of the issue it finally appears. There’s one issue left.

STRANGE TALES #151 (Marvel, 1966) – Nick Fury: “Overkill!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby & Jim Steranko. Nick Fury defeats a bunch of Hydra agents, but then we learn that they let him win in order to trick him into activating the Overkill Horn. This story was Steranko’s first work for Marvel, though he only did finishes over Kirby layouts. Dr. Strange: “Umar Strikes!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett. Mostly a summary of earlier Dr. Strange stories, told from Umar’s perspective.

2000 AD #181 (Fleetway, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny uses a “time-shrinker” to finally kill Willy Blanko. Ro-Jaws’ Robo Tales: “The Tidy-Up Droid,” [W] Gary Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. A slob murders his wife, but is caught because of his cleaning robot. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 26,” as above. The Judge Child kills Pa Angel. Dredd concludes from this that the Judge Child is too evil to rule Mega-City One, and decides to leave him behind and go back to town. That’s the end of this story, though there’s an epilogue in the next prog. Meltdown Man: as above. We’ve reached the Vats, where Yujees are executed after they’re no longer useful. Nick destroys the Vats, and a bull-headed vat worker joins his team. Tharg: “Tharg Strikes Back!”, [W] unknown, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg stops the Dictators of Zrag from shutting down 2000 AD. This story is intended to explain why 2000 AD was not available at newsstands earlier in the year. I don’t know the real explanation for this.

LITTLE LULU #44 (Dell, 1952) – credits as above. “Mumps” – Lulu pretends to have mumps, but the pretense becomes real. “The Apple Watcher” – Lulu watches Mr. Joe’s fruit stand and tricks Tubby and the boys into staying away from it. “The Merry-Go-Roundup” – the Poor Little Girl befriends a lonely carousel pony. I think I’ve read all this issue’s stories before in a trade paperback collection, but this story is the only one I remember. “Riding the Pookle” – Tubby makes the West Side Boys think he’s swum through a giant pipe.

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Two more weeks of reviews

7-8-20

2000 AD #880 (Fleetway, 1994) – I have a lot of 2000 ADs to get through, so let’s try a new format. Judge Dredd: “Under Siege,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Paul Peart. A one-shot in which Dredd saves some people from an automated luxury apartment building whose AI is malfunctioning. Grudge-Father: “Part 3,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Jim McCarthy. I can’t remember the plot of this one, though Peart draws some impressive monsters. Dinosity: “Pray It Isn’t True,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Drakon and the humans execute their master plan against the dinosaurs. This story is hilarious, and Langley’s artwork and coloring are awe-inspiring. Tyranny Rex: “Deus Ex Machina Part 8,” [W] John Smith, [A] Richard Elson. This story has some impressive psychedelic art, but I still can’t follow its plot. I just read some earlier Tyranny Rex stories today, and they have nothing in common with Deus Ex Machina. Rogue Trooper: “Part 8,” [W] Mike Fleisher & Falco, [A Chris Weston & Mike Hadley. Friday saves himself from being blown up by a self-destruct device, then heads to Earth to confront a traitor named Clavell. This whole storyline is unimpressive.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #4 (Icon, 2010) – “The Sinners Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Teeg Lawless continues to investigate a wave of killings, and is pressured by both the government and Sebastian Hyde. This is not one of my favorite Criminal stories, though maybe that’s because I read it out of order.

SUPERMAN #328 (DC, 1978) – “Attack of the Kryptonoid!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. An intelligent swarm of Kryptonian microorganisms comes to Earth, posssesses a Superman robot, and fights Superman. Afterward, the microorganisms unite with Superman’s human enemy, D.W. Derwent, becoming the Kryptonoid. Notably, the Kryptonoid is hybrid of an nonhumanoid alien creature and a human who has a grudge against a superhero, and it debuted a decade before Venom. I think the similarity between the Kryptonoid and Venom is a coincidence, but it’s a funny one. This issue also includes a Private Life of Clark Kent story where Clark helps reunite a rich man and his kidnapped son. This story is an obvious reference to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Spice of Death,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. In a classic hard-boiled detective trope, Johnny discovers that his own client, who’s also his lover, has betrayed him. I wonder why Johnny Nemo wasn’t published in 2000 AD; it had the same creators as Bad Company, which did appear there. This issue also includes a Sindi Shade backup story, in which we learn that the library runs on the chief librarian’s urine. With its library theme, Sindi Shade reminds me of the work of Borges or Eco.

BATTLEAXES #2 (DC, 2000) – “How the Other Half Lives,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Alex Horley. The Battleaxes arrive in a civilized town, where their friendships start to collapse as a result of divided loyalties and sexual jealousy. This series is a lot like Rat Queens, but it presents the characters’ relationships and traumas in a grimmer, less funny way, making it less accessible. It’s still really interesting though.

ETERNALS #11 (Marvel, 1977) – “The Russians Are Coming!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Eternals come from everywhere to join in the Uni-Mind, and we’re introduced to a new team of Eternals from Russia. Kirby probably had no idea what Russian gods are supposed to look like, and his Russian Eternals look like generic Kirby characters. But overall, this issue is much more entertaining than #15.

THOR #306 (Marvel, 1981) – “Fury of the Firelord!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Keith Pollard et al. Thor battles Firelord, who mistakenly blames him for killing Air-Walker. This issue includes a long flashback detailing Firelord’s origin and his relationship with the other heralds of Galactus. There’s also a backup story in which Balder’s girlfriend Nanna sacrifices her life to stop Balder from marrying Karnilla. This story may have been written to explain why Nanna, the wife of the mythological Balder, is absent from the Marvel Universe.

GREEN ARROW #32 (DC, 1990) – “The Canary is a Bird of Prey Part Two,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Grant Miehm. Dinah rescues Ollie from some criminals who have captured him and beaten him within an inch of his life. In the process, Dinah asks like a classic white savior. The criminals’ hideout is located in a black neighborhood, and Dinah shames the local black people for having tolerated the criminals’ presence.

GREEN ARROW #33 (DC, 1990) – “Broken Arrow,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Dan Jurgens. In the aftermath of last issue’s traumatic events, Ollie sees a psychiatrist, while Dinah deals with her guilt over having killed one of Ollie’s kidnappers. This issue was a more realistic depiction of trauma than was usual at the time. However, the psychiatrist’s questions seem kind of unprofessional; her questions for Ollie seem more appropriate to a cross-examining attorney. At the end of the issue, Dinah decides she wants to have a baby with Ollie, in case he gets killed. This is a dumb reason to have a baby, and Dinah’s line “I want you to plant the seed so I can feel it grow in my body” is cringe-inducing. It’s just as well that Dinah proved to be infertile.

B.P.R.D.: PLAGUE OF FROGS #4 (Dark Horse, 2004) – “Plague of Frogs, Part 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Guy Davis. Like all the other issues of BPRD I’ve read, this issue feels well-executed, but it’s hard to understand without a complete knowledge of Mignolaverse continuity. By the way, this issue was edited by Scott Allie. I hope that this predator’s career is finally over. It’s an embarrassment that he, like Charles Brownstein and Eddie Berganza, was allowed to inflict pain on vulnerable people for so long.

New comics received on June 25:

ONCE & FUTURE #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The best current monthly comic is finally back. This issue is mostly setup. Duncan and Gran try to figure out what the villains’ plot is, and Beowulf, Merlin and Arthur meet.

ASH & THORN #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Chapter One,” [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. Lottie Thorn, a woman of mature years, is recruited as Earth’s new mystic champion. This series was explicitly intended as diversity representation, of a type that’s very unusual in comics. Lottie Thorn is an old woman, and the basic joke of the series is that her mentor was expecting her to be a vigorous young lady. In comics and SFF, it’s very rare to encounter an elderly female protagonist, or an old woman of any kind who’s not a stereotypical witch or hag. Lottie is also black, but her race is much less central to the series than her age. Besides having an important diversity agenda, Ash & Thorn is also a lot of fun so far.

SEX CRIMINALS #29 (Image, 2020) – “The End Part Four: O.D.D.,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Jon obsessively destroys everything in Kuber Badal’s apartment, but then gets arrested, because his powers aren’t working. So now we know why Jon was in jail. This was perhaps my favorite issue since the restart, simply because it was the easiest to follow.

WICKED THINGS #2 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. The police investigate the murder of the Japanese detective, who turns out to not be dead, yet. Lottie is released from jail under house arrest and starts her own investigation. This series is a standard example of John Allison’s style, but it’s very funny.

MIDDLEWEST #17 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Nicholas and Maggie confront each other. Abel unleashes the storm, but Nicholas has planned against this contingency, and it looks like Abel is going to die. And then the “cavalry” arrives in the form of Abel’s dad. Surprisingly, this is the next-to-last issue. One more issue seems sufficient to resolve all the dangling plotlines, and I assume the series was always intended to end after 18 issues.

OUTER DARKNESS/CHEW #3 (Image, 2020) – “Fusion Cuisine Part Three,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. A predictable but fun conclusion. The holodeck characters go insane and terrorize the ship, and Tony and Colby accept their inevitable deaths. I’m furious to learn that this is the final issue of Outer Darkness. It seems that Outer Darkness is owned outright by Skybound, and they can make the unilateral decision to cancel it. That seems like a terrible deal for Layman and Chan, and it’s also directly contrary to Image’s founding principles. I know there will be more John Layman comics, but I wanted more of this one.

DIE #11 (Image, 2020) – “Risk,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. This issue is mostly taken up with more political maneuvering and inter-group drama. At the end, we discover that Prussia is invading Angria, and that Angela’s daughter Molly has somehow gotten into the RPG world.

MONSTRESS #28 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Kippa endures more trauma that would drive a much older person insane. The various good guys battle the Grey Riders from last issue and kick their asses. This series continues to be very powerful, but it suffers from an overly complex plot. I still have no idea how many sides there are in the war, or who’s on which side, and I’m not sure what they’re fighting about.

IMMORTAL HULK #34 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Apotheosis of Samuel Sterns,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Butch Guice. I’m sorry to see Butch Guice’s name on this comic because he’s affiliated with Comicsgate. Other than that, this issue introduces the Leader into the series, and it summarizes his complicated history in a very clear and logical way. Al Ewing comes up with an in-universe explanation for why the Leader is always getting killed and coming back. This series is ending with issue 50. That seems fine to me; it’s better if Ewing can conclude his story rather than artificially prolonging it. Immortal Hulk deserves an Eisner for Best Continuing Series, and I think it will get one, though I voted for Crowded instead.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #105 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles and their friends go to a concert. Alopex is inducted into the Splinter clan. The Turtles start a martial arts class, and Jenny comforts a lonely little girl. The issue ends with the appearance of a mysterious traveler from the future and/or another dimension. This TMNT run is extremely fun and heartwarming. As with Jem, Sophie Campbell has made me fall in love with a franchise I didn’t care about before (well, I used to be a Turtles fan, but that was a quarter century ago).

HARLEY QUINN AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #1 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Amanda Conner, [W] Jimmy Palmiotti. Harley’s apartment building is repossessed by the mob, and she has to travel to Gotham to deal with the situation. This series’ plot is pretty standard raucous comedy, but Amanda Conner’s artwork is incredible, as usual. She draws extremely cute women – she may be the best female artist of cheesecake in the history of American comics – and her panels are full of sight gags. She’s reached the point in her career where it’s no longer cost-effective for her to do monthly comics, so I’m glad she’s still producing new work.

AQUAMAN #60 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 4,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman uses Black Manta’s technology to find Andy, but has to give her up for her own safety. Mera wakes up to discover that the wedding is taking place tomorrow. This was just an okay issue.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is Mark Russell’s first work for Marvel. It focuses on Felix Waterhouse, a young black man from the South Bronx. He’s a brilliant engineer, but his college plans are dashed when his neighborhood is destroyed by the Madbomb War, which took place in Captain America #193-200. So Felix goes to work for Advanced Idea Mechanics. Inevitably, Felix ends up fighting Captain America, and the issue ends with a frank discussion between Felix and Cap. This is quite an effective issue. Russell powerfully shows us how generational poverty and racism combine to deny Felix a future. The ending is a bit unconvincing, but I like Cap’s line about how all superheroes know how to do is punch things.

PLUNGE #4 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The Derleth crew try to get the living humans to help them, and one of the humans, a loathsome corporate stooge, is interested in cooperating. This issue doesn’t include any more of the mathematical references from last issue.

IRON MAN 2020 #4 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. The robot war continues. Tony recovers his memory. There’s a flashback revealing that Tony is adopted, but I guess I was already supposed to know that. There’s also a cute scene with a cat typing on a keyboard. Tony’s “13th floor virtual environment” reminds me of the ancient memory palace method.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #7 (DC, 2020) – “Britannia, Rule the Waves,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. For some reason I got #7 before I got #6. Issue 7 focuses on Freddie, an English fisherman whose industry is being devastated by foreign competition and environmental regulations, or so he thinks. Freddie falls in love with a mermaid, and she supplies him with the best fish. But Freddie turns out to be a horrid little monster; he cuts off the mermaid’s tail and sells it as fish. Even though she’s pregnant with his child. Besides being an excellent horror story, this issue is also an incisive critique of the Brexit mentality. Freddie is a classic Brexit supporter, blaming imaginary foreign enemies for his own perceived lack of manliness.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #11 (DC, 2020) – “For the Defense of… Earth!” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Most of the characters from earlier in the series show up to save Jimmy from Jix’s evil boyfriend. Jimmy and Jix’s marriage is dissolved, and with that, most of this series’ plot threads have been resolved. This series has gotten a bit tiresome, and I’m not sorry that it’s almost over.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #6 (DC, 2020) – “Bells to Rest, Lambs to Slaughter,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. Vee gets into college. The two girls decide to give the women of Shudder-to-Think the choice of whether or not to restore their memories. This was an excellent series. For a first-time comics writer, Carmen Maria Machado did quite well, and this comic continues the themes of her prose work.

HARLEY QUINN AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #2 – as above. As with last issue, this issue has beautiful artwork and a fun but inconsequential plot. This issue includes an appearance by Atli, aka Terra, one of Conner and Palmiotti’s pet characters.

2000 AD #885 (Fleetway, 1994) – Judge Dredd: “Scales of Justice Part 2,” [W/A] John Higgins. Dredd battles some judge cadets who were abandoned for 18 months in the Cursed Earth. Higgins’s painted art is impressive. Luke Kirby: “Sympathy for the Devil Part 7,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Luke continues his quest, and the devil knocks him off a bridge into an abyss. Babe Race 2020: untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Anthony Williams. This story is about a deadly motorcycle race between hot babes. It’s a bit like Chopper: Song of the Surfer, except it’s utterly tasteless and it’s just an excuse for T&A. Clown: “The Painted Mask Part 5,” [W] Igor Goldkind, Robert Bliss. A superhero story about a deranged superheroic clown, with excellent painted art. Bradley: “The Sprog Prince Part 1,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Simon Harrison. A “Prince and the Pauper” parody starring a crazy alien child. This story has more beautiful painted art, in a style reminiscent of Ralph Steadman (I made this comparison before).

A shipment of two comics from Shortbox:

SOBEK #1 (Shortbox, 2019) – “Sobek,” [W/A] James Stokoe. This is perhaps the most beautiful, elaborately produced comic book in my entire collection. It has a gold foil cover, thick paper, and, of course, insanely lush and detailed artwork by the finest draftsman in comics. Its price is proportional to its quality: 9 pounds, about $11, for just 32 pages, although because of Stokoe’s hyper-detailed draftsmanship, those 32 pages take as long to read as a hundred pages of normal comics. As for its story, Sobek is set in ancient Egypt and depicts a battle between Sobek, the crocodile god, and Set, the god of Chaos. It’s an Egyptian version of Godzilla, including the ending where Sobek wanders back into the water. This comic suggests a possible path forward for periodical comics. If standard-format comic books become unprofitable as a mass medium, they could still survive as an expensive prestige product, intended for a small audience of collectors. I don’t think that’s the only solution for the industry, but it’s a possibility, and I would certainly buy more comics like Sobek. Also, I regret that I didn’t read this comic until after I cast my Eisner votes.

MINÖTAAR #1 (Shortbox, 2019) – untitled, [W] Lissa Tremain. This comic is much smaller than a typical comic book, though it’s still printed on excellent paper, and it’s cheaper than Sobek and has less elaborate art. But it’s delightful in its own way. Like Grady Hendrix’s novel Horrorstör, Minötaar is a horror story set in IKEA. I assume these two stories were developed independently, because IKEA is such a natural setting for horror. And these two stories are actually quite different in tone and subject matter. Minötaar is about two women who go to IKOS (IKEA) to get furniture for their new apartment. But they get lost in IKOS’s (literally) labyrinthine showroom, and they have to use all their courage in order to escape with their friendship intact. Minötaar is very funny and well-executed, and it shows that while Lissa Tremain is mostly known as the initial artist of Giant Days, she’s also a skilled writer-artist in her own right.

2000 AD #888 (Fleetway, 1994) – In this issue, all four of the continuing stories end. Judge Dredd: “The Accidental Culprit,” [W] “Sonny Steelgrove” (Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson), [A] Anthony Williams. A humorous story about accidental criminals. Luke Kirby: “Sympathy for the Devil Part 10,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Luke discovers that his father can’t be returned to life. He goes back home, content to stay away from magic. Luke Kirby next appeared in prog 954. Babe Race 2000: “Part 6,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Anthony Williams. More horrendous crap. After winning the race, the main character says she’s going to settle down and have some kids. One website calls Babe Race 2000 “possibly one of the worst written in the title’s history” (https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Babe_Race_2000), and that’s putting it mildly. Clown: “The Painted Mask,” [W] Igor Goldkind, [A] Greg Staples. A conclusion that I don’t really understand. This story is kind of like Batman, except with a second Joker instead of Batman. Bradley: “The Sprog Prince Part 4,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Simon Harrison. Bradley saves the prince of Oscuritania (Ruritania) from being assassinated. Simon Harrison’s art is better suited to color than to black and white.

GAY COMIX #6 (Bob Ross, 1985) – various stories, [E] Robert Triptow. Trina Robbins’s “Tommy Teene” is a gender-swapped parody of Katy Keene, complete with reader-designed clothes, except the “readers” are fak enames like “J.D. Busby, Berkeley” and “W. Whitman, N.Y.” Tim Barela’s Leonard and Larry story depicts a meeting between some gay men and their conservative relatives. Tim Barela’s draftsmanship is excellent, but his comics are very text-heavy. Roberta Gregory’s “Acute Observation” is about aliens observing human sexuality, and it reminds me of her solo comic Winging It. The back cover is a Wendel strip by Howard Cruse. Of the other stories in the issue, the best is a two-pager by Jerry Mills, who also did the cover. Sadly, a later issue of this series included Mills’s obituary.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #3 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Passage Part III,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Isaiah Bradley and his black soldiers are subjected to dangerous and sometimes fatal experiments, while Isaiah’s wife investigates her husband’s disappearance. I have five issues of this series, and I need to get the other two. This series is one of Marvel’s most important treatments of racial issues.

DAN DARE #4 (Titan, 2018) – “Different Worlds, Different People,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Alberto Foche. This short-lived Dan Dare revival has high production values, but feels like a rehash of old-fashioned old comics. So far the only Dan Dare comic I’ve really liked is Morrison and Hughes’s Dare, but I have a volume of Frank Hampson’s original series, and I ought to read it soon.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #106 (Marvel, 1981) – “A Savage Sting Has – the Scorpion!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Scorpion tries to get revenge on J. Jonah Jameson, and Spider-Man teams up with Captain America. This is a surprisingly fun issue, but it’s really a Spider-Man solo story. Cap plays no essential role in the plot. On the last page, Cap even admits that the Scorpion is no match for either him or Spidey alone, let alone both of them. This issue is perhaps most notable for its Frank Miller cover.

ACTION COMICS #703 (DC, 1994) – “Chronocide!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jackson Guice. Because of Zero Hour, time is disappearing from the past forward, and older people are vanishing as their birthdays are eradicated. Superman tries to save his parents by moving them into another reality. This issue is unimpressive, and it reminds me that Zero Hour was pretty dumb.

RED CIRCLE SORCERY #10 (Archie, 1974) – “Death is My Love’s Name,” [W] Marv Channing, [A] Gray Morrow, etc. A Pygmalion-and-Galatea story that ends much less happily than the original one did. The second story is Channing and Chaykin’s “Pirate Island,” an early example of Chaykin’s central theme of the desire for swashbuckling adventure. Other artists in this issue include Gray Morrow, Al McWilliams and Jack Abel.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #12 (Marvel, 2015) – “Time Alone Shall Murder All the Flowers,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. At the end of time, the evil King Loki tells Thor and the younger Loki about his plan to become king of the multiverse. As part of his monologuing, King Loki summarizes a lot of stories that were never published. This issue includes one panel that’s deservedly gone viral – the one with the caption “actually it’s about ethics in hammer-wielding!” – but the rest of the issue isn’t nearly as good as that panel.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #206 (Marvel, 1977) – “Face to Face with the Swine!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Having just returned to New York from his latest adventure, Cap witnesses a man being kidnapped by agents of the Swine, a brutal Latin American dictator. The Swine is a huge stereotype, though at least he doesn’t speak in a fake Mexican accent, like the Latin American characters in 2000 AD. On this issue’s letters page, several readers criticize Jack Kirby’s writing, and one guy complains about Kirby’s lack of sophistication compared to Englehart. This critique is not wrong, though the editor is also correct to point out that “the difference between Kirby and Englehart is basically one of style.”

GAY COMICS #17 (Bob Ross, 1993) – various stories, [E] Andy Mangels. The highlights of this issue are Eric Shanower’s “Pizza Face,” about a kid with exaggerated acne, and Roberta Gregory’s “Bitchy Butch Returns.” There are also some strips by Jennifer Camper, and Julie Frankl’s “A Trip to Queersville USA,” about queer tourism, is interesting. It depicts a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, which at the time was one of the few places where gay people could safely vacation. It’s kind of strange to read a story like this almost 30 years later, when queer culture has become much more normalized.

DEADLINE USA #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Warner & Jerry Prosser. There are too many stories in this issue to mention them all, but highlights include: Richard Sala’s Thirteen O’Clock. Wild World by Philip Bond. Johnny Nemo by Milligan and Ewins. Beryl the Bitch by Julie Hollings, one of the few female artists in the UK alternative comics scene. Hugo Tate by Nick Abadzis. Wild World may be my favorite Deadline strip, and it really should be collected into a single volume. It’s been described, somewhat accurately, as a British version of Locas.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #11 (Marvel, 2015) – “Turn Away and Slam the Door,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. I assume all the issues of this series are named after song lyrics, but I don’t recognize them all, though of course I do recognize the source of this one. This issue, Freyja accuses Loki of betraying Asgard, and then King Loki shows up and reveals his scheme. I’ve already seen what happens next. More thoughts on this series later.

CHAMPION SPORTS #2 (DC, 1974) – “The Enchanted Bat,” [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. A baseball player becomes a superstar because of a magical bat. We later learn that it’s a normal bat and that the player became a star all by himself, but even without this trite conclusion, the story would still be ludicrous. Contemporary baseball players use dozens of bats every season, and I assume this was also true in 1974. Next is an uninteresting story about boxing, and the third story is about an offensive lineman who’s embarrassed that he’s not the quarterback. The story ends with the OL being drafted by the NFL, while the QB becomes an insurance salesman. This ending is quite realistic; the unrealistic part is that the offensive lineman shouldn’t have had such a massive inferiority complex in the first place.

2000 AD #889 (Fleetway, 1994) – This is a “jumping-on point” issue in which several new stories begin, since all the stories from last issue have concluded. This issue also introduces a new format for the opening pages. Judge Dredd: “The Time Machine,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Some Cambridge dons travel from 1999 to 2116 and are horrified by the dystopian Mega-City One. Ezquerra’s opening splash panel is impressive. Mambo: “The New Flesh 1,” [W/A] Dave Hine. Mambo is a 21st-century cop with red hair and a plate over her left eye. I don’t quite get what this story is about. Rogue Trooper: “Mercy Killing Part 1,” [W] Steve White, [A] Henry Flint. Rogue Trooper fights some “ice nomads” and their war mammoth. Henry Flint’s art and coloring here are very impressive; the entire story has a distinctive blue color scheme. Flint only created a small body of work for the American market. Armoured Gideon: “An Evening with Michelle Pfeiffer,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A man named Frank Weitz dreams that he’s become rich and famous by taking photos of the robot Armoured Gideon. Then he wakes up. This story’s last panel mentions the Volgans from Invasion! and ABC Warriors. Slaine: “The Queen of Witches,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dermot Power. Slaine fights some blue guy, then we learn that he’s become a year king, destined to be sacrificed at the next Beltane. Also, the Romans are invading Britain, and Ukko has a plan to stop them.

SUPERMAN #47 (DC, 1990) – “Lives in the Balance Part Two of Three,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Superman battles Blaze in hell for the souls of Jimmy Olsen and Jerry White. Luthor reveals that he’s Jerry White’s father. There’s also an unnecessary appearance by the Black Racer. Jerry Ordway is an underrated writer.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #14 (DC, 2014) – “Love Stories,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Laura Braga & Mirka Andolfo. I hate Marguerite Bennett’s writing, and unfortunately I didn’t figure this out until I already had a giant stack of unread comics written by her. My principal problem with her writing is her dialogue. But in the case of DC Comics Bombshells, further problems include an overabundance of forgettable characters, and a lack of an overarching plot. It’s impossible to tell where the story is going, or how the characters connect to each other. This is partly due to the series’ origin as a webcomic. This issue begins with a chapter about Mera and then continues with chapters about Zatanna and about Harley Quinn. However, there’s no explicit indication of where the chapters begin and end, so the reader gets the sense that the entire comic is one story with three different unrelated plots.