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2022 Eisner votes

Best Short Story

“Funeral in Foam,” by Casey Gilly and Raina Telgemeier, in You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife (Iron Circus)

(Didn’t read any of the nominees)

Best Single Issue/One-Shot (must be able to stand alone)

Nightwing #87: “Get Grayson,” by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (DC)

Best Continuing Series

Something Is Killing the Children, by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera (Boom Studios)

Though my own pick would have been Once and Future.

Best Limited Series

Stray Dogs, by Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner (Image)

This was just amazingly good. The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is a close second.

Best New Series

The Nice House on the Lake, by James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno (DC Black Label)

Though I also love Radiant Black.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

I Am Oprah Winfrey, by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial Books for Young Readers)

I read none of the nominees. I’ll just vote for this one because of the attempts to ban it.

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

Salt Magic, by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock (Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House)

Didn’t read any of these.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

Wynd, by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas (Boom Box)

Best Humor Publication

Not All Robots, by Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr. (AWA Upshot)

This was the only one I read, though I think it’s too depressing to be called a humor publication. I ought to get Thirsty Mermaids.

Best Anthology

The Silver Coin, by Michael Walsh and various (Image)

Didn’t read any of the others.

Best Reality-Based Work

The Black Panther Party: A Graphic History, by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson (Ten Speed Press)

I haven’t read any of the nominees, but Dave Sim certainly shouldn’t win.

Best Graphic Memoir

The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel (Mariner Books)

I also liked Parenthesis, and I have both Run and Save It for Later, but have not read them yet.

Best Graphic Album—New

Monsters, by Barry Windsor-Smith (Fantagraphics)

I haven’t read this yet. I also have Ballad for Sophie, but have not read that either.

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

Middlewest: The Complete Tale, by Skottie Young and Jorge Corona (Image)

This was an excellent series, and a major creative step forward for Skottie.

Best Adaptation from Another Medium

After the Rain, by Nnedi Okorafor, adapted by John Jennings and David Brame (Megascope/Abrams ComicArts)

Didn’t read any of these.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

Ballad For Sophie, by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, translation by Gabriela Soares (Top Shelf)

Just guessing here. I also love Schuiten and Peeters, but I don’t remember if I got Shadow of a Man. 

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

Spy x Family, by Tatsuya Endo, translation by Casey Loe (Viz Media)

I’ve been looking forward to reading this, though I haven’t yet.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips (at least 20 years old)

Trots and Bonnie, by Shary Flenniken, edited by Norman Hathaway (New York Review Comics)

A strip that I’ve wanted to read for many years, and it’s finally available. Friday Foster is also an important project, but I’ve seen that book at the store and have not felt motivated to buy it.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books (at least 20 Years Old)

Farewell, Brindavoine, by Tardi, translation by Jenna Allen, edited by Conrad Groth (Fantagraphics)

Best Writer

James Tynion IV, House of Slaughter, Something Is Killing the Children, Wynd (Boom Studios); The Nice House on the Lake, The Joker, Batman, DC Pride 2021 (DC); The Department of Truth (Image); Blue BookRazorblades (Tiny Onion Studios)

Best Writer/Artist

Barry Windsor-Smith, Monsters (Fantagraphics)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Tea

Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)

Though my own pick might be Javier Rodriguez.

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)

Juan Cavia, Ballad for Sophie (Top Shelf)

Best Cover Artist

Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)

Though I am surprised to realize that Yoshi Yoshitani did the covers for four different comics I read. 

Best Coloring

Filipe Andrade/Inês Amaro, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr (Boom Studios)

Best Lettering

Crank!, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters, The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Oni); Money Shot (Vault)

Though none of them really stood out to me.

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism

WomenWriteAboutComics.com, edited by Wendy Browne and Nola Pfau (WWAC)

Best Comics-Related Book

The Art of Thai Comics: A Century of Strips and Stripes, by Nicolas Verstappen (River Books)

I haven’t read this, but I really want to.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work

The Life and Comics of Howard Cruse: Taking Risks in the Service of Truth, by Andrew J. Kunka (Rutgers University Press)

Best Publication Design

Crashpad, designed by Gary Panter and Justin Allan-Spencer (Fantagraphics)

This was the only one that I read.

Best Webcomic

Lore Olympus, by Rachel Smythe (Webtoon),

I haven’t read this, but I bought the print edition.

Best Digital Comic

Days of Sand, by Aimée de Jongh, translation by Christopher Bradley (Europe Comics)

I didn’t read any of these.

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Two months of reviews

4-2-22

>ARCHIE: LOVE & HEARTBREAK SPECIAL #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Bughead in The Best Things in Life Are Free,” [W/A] Thomas Pitilli, etc. Three romantic stories featuring various unusual pairings of Archie characters, all set in a carnival. This comic was okay, but I barely remember anything about it. I’m disappointed that Archie has only been publishing one-shots and digests, and has seemingly moved away from ongoing series or even miniseries.

BUCKHEAD #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo, [A] George Kambadais. The kids continue investigating the mysterious stuff going on in town. This is a pretty standard young adult adventure comic. The only really interesting thing about this issue is the backstory, which is about a war between the Orisha and the Ajogun. I had never heard of the Ajogun before, but Google research suggests that they’re an authentic element of Yoruba religion, and that Shobo’s account of them in this issue is accurate.

THING #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 4,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben, Amaryllis and Bobby travel to the Blue Area of the moon, where Ben gets mortally wounded by a robot, but is then healed. And then he’s attacked by Terrax, the Faceless One and a new villain called Berserker. This is another very fun issue. For someone who’s never written comics or fantastic fiction before, Walter Mosley is really good at it.

ECHOLANDS #6 (Image, 2022) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. The party leaves the Oracle and heads for Horror Hill, taking along Romulus, the treacherous Kirbyesque guy. At Horror Hill they fight a giant horde of zombies, and then King Vaslav addresses Rosa as his queen and gives her a crown. As usual, the artwork in this issue is superior to anything else in current comics.

2000 AD #2258 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Tread Softly, Part 2,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. Dredd and another judge apprehend a drug dealer, and we discover that the point of the entire case was for the other judge to evaluate Dredd. Diaboliks: “London Calling Part Two,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Jake and Ravne invade Karswell House to get Jake’s stuff back. Ravne encounters an old enemy of his from Nazi Germany. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 7: Lordy Jordy, King of Everything, Part One,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. What a title. Dexter and his allies fight a bunch of dinosaurs in a sewer. I’m not sure why this is just Dexter and not Sinister Dexter. Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 8,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A space battle between humans and Jovians. The Out: “Book 2 Part 8,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. The protagonist continues her talk with the David Bowie stand-in. This story has easily the best art in the issue.

MY LITTLE PONY: GENERATIONS #5 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The two generations of ponies defeat the s’monies and make piece with Grackle and Dyre. This comic was better than some of the earlier issues, but this whole series has felt like an irrelevant afterthought, given that Hasbro is winding down this version of the MLP franchise.

I AM BATMAN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Empire State of Mind Part 1,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Ken Lashley. Jace moves to New York and starts a new crimefighting career. At this point I decided to give up on this series. I’ve never been able to follow its plot, and I don’t think it’s all that interesting anyway. I will not be getting issue 7.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The best thing about this issue is the revelation that the protagonist’s lack of a name was deliberate. His name is in fact Ernie Nez, and he’s Navajo, not Apache. His namelessness was meant to indicate his comrades’ lack of knowledge about him. Also, Ernie and Sobrat go looking for the Japanese gold and fall into a trap.

SHANG-CHI #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Family of Origin Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and the other Five Weapons fight off Chieftain Xin’s attack, and we get more backstory about Xin and Zheng Zu. Xin kidnaps Shang-Chi’s mom and takes her back to Qilin Island. The other day there was a small debate on my Facebook wall about how Simu Liu, the actor who played Shang-Chi, refuses to sign old Master of Kung Fu comics. I personally love Master of Kung Fu, but those comics were created entirely by white people, and they showed no authentic knowledge of Chinese culture. And you can see this by contrasting those comics with the current Shang-Chi series.

NEWBURN #3 (Image, 2022) – “We’ve All Lost Men,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn and Emily solve a series of murders of mobsters. Then the police tell Newburn they want to hire him. This series is generally quite good, but it doesn’t excite me as much as some of Zdarsky’s other work, perhaps because I’m not a huge fan of crime fiction.

2000 AD #2259 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Musical! Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Chris Weston.  Sensitive Klegg, a terrifying but poetic crocodilian alien, is recruited to star as Judge Dredd in a musical. This is a very funny story, and I hope I eventually get prog 2260 so I can see how it ends. Also, Chris Weston’s art is still excellent. Diaboliks: as above. Ravne is teleported back in time to World War II. Dexter: as above. The protagonists find the man who’s been breeding the dinosaurs. Scarlet Traces: as above. This chapter makes no sense to me, but D’Israeli draws some really weird aliens. The Out: as above. The protagonist, Cyd, has a vision of her daughter. Then the Bowie dude’s planet is attacked by aliens.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #3 (DC, 2022) – “Room and Board,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Jack O’Lantern, a Heroz4U employee, allows some shipwreck victims to drown because he gets invited to a Halloween party. As a result, Superman decides to withdraw the “Hall of Justice”’s endorsement of Heroz4U, and the company’s board asks Red Tornado to come and see them. Reddy thinks he’s being fired, but instead the board members (a bunch of horrible sociopathic techbros) tell him to fire half the office staff, including Power Girl. This issue makes some effort to portray Red Tornado in a sympathetic way, making up for his unappealing depiction in the first two issues. However, this whole series is still very grim and mean-spirited, and I’m not enjoying it much.

MONKEY MEAT #2 (Image, 2022) – “Haricot,” [W/A] Juni Ba. A college dropout gets a job at Monkey Meat Island, where he gets possessed by a god inhabiting a can of soda. Haricot has a giant fight with Thaddeus Lug, and then he gets recruited to lead Monkey Meat Island’s army. This issue has some fascinating art, but I was not captivated by its story.

DEVIL’S REIGN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. The heroes break out of prison, and Kingpin uses the Purple Man’s power to remember Daredevil’s secret identity. This series is better written than most crossover titles.

X-CELLENT #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 1,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The new X-Statix, featuring U-Go Girl’s daughter and Tike Alicar’s son, battles Zeitgeist and his X-Cellent team. At the end of the issue, Vivisector is mortally wounded. X-Cellent isn’t bad, but it’s a revival of a classic old series, and those are never as good as the original.

GEIGER 80-PAGE GIANT #1 (Image, 2022) – “Who Is Redcoat?”, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Bryan Hitch, etc. A series of stories about various characters in the Geiger universe. These stories offer an impressive variety of art styles and topics, and they do a reasonable job of expanding the scope of Geiger’s universe. My favorite of the stories is the one about how Geiger got his two-headed wolf-dog. In this story, the book Geiger is putting back on his shelf is Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk.

THE MARVELS #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Almost Positive,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. The heroes invade Siancong but are captured. We learn the origin of the new Warbird, who is half Wakandan and half Shi’ar. The heroes escape from prison and discover a mysterious door. The Marvels is okay but it’s not among my favorite of Busiek’s works.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The ‘10s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse et al. Dr. Doom executes his ultimate plan for world domination, but Reed manages to break out of his coma and save the world. This series did not give me what I was hoping for. In particular, since the FF has a strong family theme, I wish there had been more second- or third-generation FF members. But in this universe there’s no Valeria, and we never learn anything about Franklin’s family.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. The two women visit Madrid, where they do a bunch of dumb stuff, and then their next stop is Paris. I honestly don’t like this series at all. It’s an insubstantial piece of romantic comedy, with a trite message about enjoying your life and ignoring silly rules (even if those rules are there for everyone’s safety). I only read issue 5 because I had already ordered it.

DARK RED: WHERE ROADS LEAD #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Corin Howell. A vampire rescues an old army buddy from demonic possession. This story also references Papa Legba and the devil-at-the-crossroads myth. This comic is reasonably good, and it makes me want to go back and read the rest of the original Dark Red series. Tim Seeley is an underrated writer.

SUICIDE SQUAD: BLAZE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. This comic has the same premise as Strikeforce: Morituri – a bunch of people are given superpowers that will kill them in short order. The only twist is that the people with the lethal superpowers are criminals, not heroes. Besides that, this comic is a litany of pointless violence, with a cast of unsympathetic psychopaths. It may be Simon Spurrier’s worst comic to date, and that’s a shame because Spurrier and Campbell seemed like an excellent creative team. I won’t be getting the next issue.

2000 AD #1323 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Aliens: Incubus Part 3,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. Dredd and the other judges fight some xenomorphs. Henry Flint’s art here is similar to Ezquerra’s. Caballistics Inc: “Going Underground Part 3,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Some people fight a bunch of zombies in a sewer. Sinister Dexter: “Relode Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Ben Willsher. The protagonists are stranded 15 years in the past, and there’s a funny running joke where they’re trying to avoid causing a “Sound of Thunder” situation, so they can’t eat anything. Nikolai Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 3,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. Dante plays with the two orphaned kids and then saves them from some sea monsters. John Burns’s art is beautiful, though it looks odd when printed on modern glossy paper. Slaine: “Moloch III,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Slaine battles and defeats Balor, but his next opponent is Balor’s pal Moloch. Clint Langley’s art looks like the cover art for a heavy metal album.

KILL OR BE KILLED #10 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Lily stalks Dylan, and meanwhile Dylan has a tense encounter with Kira, and then sees a painting of his father’s that depicts the same demon as in his visions. The only issue of this series that I’m still missing is issue 1.

LETTER 44 #7 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joëlle Jones. A flashback story showing what the characters were doing before they were recruited for the space mission. Notably, Charlotte almost gets killed by Brazilian indigenous people, discovers she’s pregnant, wins the Nobel Prize, and then loses the baby.

CEREBUS #222 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 3,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue has some beautiful artwork, depicting Rick’s supernatural visions, but it has no particular plot. There’s a long letter at the end from some antifeminist asshole.

WELCOME BACK #5 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Claire Roe. The protagonist of this issue is a little girl who’s the reincarnation of a soldier in a war between immortals. Welcome Back has a somewhat similar premise to Ordinary Gods, but I like Welcome Back a lot better, at least based on the two issues of it that I’ve read.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. The conquistadors try to convince Groo to lead their crusading army, and meanwhile a lot of new gods show up in heaven. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!” Ahax and Taranto also appear in this issue. Overall this comic is much better than some of the other recent Groo miniseries, and I regret that I didn’t read it when I first got it. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!”

STEVEN UNIVERSE #8 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Melanie Gillman, [A] Katy Farina. Steven and the Crystal Gems encounter a giant monster in a corn maze. I want to like this franchise, but I haven’t been able to get into it.

RINGSIDE #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. An unmemorable crime comic about professional wrestling, with artwork that’s so loose it seems unprofessional. I should have given up on this series after just one or two issues. Ironically, the reason I didn’t was because I was just buying it and not reading it, and I somehow felt obligated to keep buying it.

REVIVAL #15 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. A lot of different subplots, with no real central theme. Much of what happens in this issue is the result of Aaron Weiner’s death. I have no sympathy for him at all, because he was a college instructor who was sleeping with a student (a theme that also appears in Luke Healy’s How to Survive in the North).

2000 AD #1325 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. A bunch of Judges get killed fighting xenomorphs. Two of the characters in this story are named Millar and Brubaker. Caballistics Inc: as above. The protagonists discover a mystical bomb underneath London. This chapter reminds me a bit of the chapter of From Hell with the tour of London. Dante: as above. Dante and the kids are kidnapped by a pirate queen, and Dante defeats the pirate queen’s champion by kicking him in the face. More beautiful art. I like Nikolai Dante; his impish expression in the last panel perfectly sums him up. Sinister Dexter: as above. The protagonists get back to their own time with the help of their past selves. Slaine: as above. Slaine’s wife Niamh is r***d and murdered by Moloch. This is a brutal scene to read, and it seems to have caused some understandable controversy at the time. https://forums.2000ad.com/index.php?topic=3957.45 Niamh later reappeared in the series in various reincarnated forms. 

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #4 – as above. Groo gets the native people to build a temple for the colonialist priests, but they dedicate the temple to Groo himself, rather than to the priests’ god Diothos. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!” Since people are worshipping Groo now, Groo himself ascends to heaven with the other gods, which means the gods in heaven are now stuck with him. Also, Groo manages to sink Ahax’s ship again. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!”

RINGSIDE #12 (Image, 2017) – as above. More of the same thing as last issue. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this series even if I cared about professional wrestling. I do intend to read Daniel Warren Johnson’s new series Do the Powerbomb, but that comic’s art is more interesting.

2000 AD #1326 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The xenomorphs invade a maternity ward. Slaine: as above. After Niamh’s funeral, Slaine resigns as high king so he can seek revenge on Moloch. Slaine finds Moloch and stops him from sacrificing some children, and the story ends with Slaine and Moloch falling off a cliff together. This chapter is unusually long at ten pages. Caballistics: as above. Ravne defuses the bomb, and then some old guy in Israel sees him on TV and recognizes him as a Nazi. Dante: as above. Dante sleeps with the pirate queen, but meanwhile, her lieutenant, the one who Slaine kicked in the face, drugs the children and threatens to kill them.

CEREBUS #223 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – as above. Rick has more religious visions and flirts with Joanne, while Cerebus gets increasingly more annoyed with him. This is yet another issue in which nothing happens at all.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Meg Omac. Steven and the Crystal Gems go on a fishing trip and encounter a sea monster. I don’t think this series ever had the narrative complexity of IDW’s My Little Pony comics. Perhaps one reason why Steven Universe appeals to me less than MLP is because its episodes are only 11 minutes.

DEMONIC #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Niko Walter. Police officer Scott Graves has a young daughter who is dying of a rare disease. Scott is also possessed by a demon, and the demon offers to heal Scott’s daughter if Scott kills a bunch of people on the demon’s behalf. Like most of Sebela’s work, this series has a fascinating premise, and I want to read more of it. In his author’s note Sebela recommends Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. I need to read that sooner or later.

THE PHANTOM #1056 (Frew, 1993) – “Kukailomoko – The Destroyer of the Earth,” parts 2 and 3, [W] Sverre Årnes, [A] Carlos Cruz. The 11th Phantom and his friend Pedro are trapped in Kahoolawe, where the Phantom has to protect the local people from being conquered by King Aladai, the father of Kamehameha the Great. In the second chapter, the Phantom sails to Spanish California and protects some mission Indians from pirates. In both chapters the Phantom scares his enemies by masquerading as a god. Carlos Cruz’s black-and-white artwork is very appealing, and reminiscent of Jim Aparo’s work. The history in this story is only sort of accurate; there was a Hawaiian chief named Alapa’i, not Aladai, and he was Kamehameha’s great-uncle, not his father.

2000 AD #1327 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges try to track down a criminal named Futsie who is responsible for the alien plague. Bec & Kawl: “Enlightenment,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. Bec and Kawl summon a green monkey god so it can tell them the “universal truth,” but they don’t learn anything useful. This series may have been Simon Spurrier’s first major work. The VC’s: “Look on the Bright Side,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. I’m not sure what this series is about, but it was the most notable contribution to 2000 AD by Garry Leach, who sadly just passed away. Terror Tales: “The Statue Garden,” [W] Gary Wilkinson, [A] Dom Reardon. An art lover goes looking for a sculptor, who, in an unsurprising twist, turns out to be a gorgon. Dante: as above. This chapter focuses on Dante’s mother. John Burns is quite effective at drawing aging women.

FOUR COLOR #727 (Dell, 1956) – The Nature of Things: “The Giraffe” and two other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Jesse Marsh. Three educational vignettes about giraffes, camels and elephants. Jesse Marsh was a skilled artist of wildlife, but this comic is pretty boring, and it includes some patronizing depictions of African and Asian people.

CEREBUS #224 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 5,” as above. Yet another issue with beautiful artwork but no plot at all. The main event is that Rick has a giant bump on his head, and then Cerebus and Joanne argue about a bar rag. I can’t imagine why anyone would have enjoyed this story.

DETECTIVE COMICS #826 (DC, 2007) – “Slayride,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Don Kramer. Tim Drake is forced to ride in the passenger seat of the Joker’s car as the Joker runs over helpless people. As I have said before, I am thoroughly sick of the Joker, and I would be thrilled if DC vowed to never publish another story about him. All modern Joker stories are ultimately about how the Batman is unable to stop the Joker from murdering people, and where is the fun in reading about that? What saves this issue is that it also includes some cute scenes where Tim is talking with Dick Grayson about Batman. I like Dick Grayson’s role as the big brother to the other Robins.

FAKER #1 (Vertigo, 2007) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Jock. Protagonist Jessie, a student at Minnesota University at St. Cloud, seduces her professor into giving her a better grade, then blackmails him. Then some guy climbs up the college clock tower and threatens to jump, claiming that he’s not real. Since this is a Vertigo comic, I assume there’s some kind of supernatural element to it, but I can’t tell what it is. I suppose I’d buy the other issues of this series if I found them for a low price, but there are lots of other Mike Carey comics that are more interesting than this one. Minnesota University at St. Cloud is fake, though there is a real St. Cloud State University.

PRISM STALKER #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sloane Leong. The protagonist continues her studies in company with a bizarre group of other aliens. This series is very reminiscent of Brandon Graham’s Prophet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like Graham and Roy, Leong is very good at depicting weird nonhuman aliens. I need to get around to reading the rest of this series.

EXCELLENCE #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. Spencer deals with the fallout from issue 1, when he misused his powers to save his dying great-grandmother. This issue also seems to suggest that the job of the black magicians is to protect white people, and this has some deliberately disturbing implications. I think this series is still going on now – issue 12 came out in January – and I would consider adding it to my pull list, if I could get caught up on the back issues.

WILDC.A.T.S #22 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin Maguire. Half of the team arrives on Khera but quickly discovers that it’s not the paradise they expected. There’s also a subplot with the half of the team that’s still on Earth, but I don’t understand what’s going on with them. I haven’t read an Alan Moore comic in a while, and I sometimes forget how brilliant his dialogue and pacing are. Also, Kevin Maguire was capable of realizing Alan’s artistic intentions, unlike some of the other artists Alan worked with at Image.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2007) – “A Not-So-Beautiful Mind,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Juan Santacruz. MODOC (not MODOK because the last letter stands for Conquest, not Killing) turns all the other Avengers into MODOCs. However, instead of using their new mental powers for evil, they use them to defeat Attuma and the Leader. This issue is fun, although somehow I’ve never found MODOK to be as funny as he’s supposed to be. One of Attuma’s monsters is named after C.B. Cebulski.

ART OPS #10 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Children: Part Three of Popism,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Matt Brundage. Reggie and Mona’s child is abducted at birth, and a lot of other stuff happens that I don’t understand. This series wanted to be an art version of The Unwritten, but Shaun Simon is not as skilled a writer as Mike Carey, and he never managed to realize this series’ potential. The only thing Art Ops really had going for it was Mike Allred, and Matt Brundage’s artwork in this issue is a pale imitation of Allred’s.

Next trip to Heroes:

SAGA #56 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Hazel has to go on a mission for some asshole with deer antlers, while King Robot is looking for vengeance for his son’s death. Also there are a lot of random cute moments, like Hazel discovering what a guitar is. One of the fun parts of this series is watching Hazel evolve from a newborn infant into a child with a distinct personality. It’s wonderful to finally be getting more Saga, after such a long wait.

SUPERMASSIVE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott & Mat Groom, [A] Francesco Manna et al. In the first Radiant Black spinoff, Marshall teams up with two new heroes, Rogue Sun and Inferno Girl Red. The strange thing about this comic is that it’s a crossover between Radiant Black and two other series that hadn’t been published yet. But Supermassive is extremely fun, especially because of the interactions between the three protagonists. Two memorable moments are Inferno Girl Red misunderstanding the name Waffle House, and Rogue Sun saying that he has experience with giant monsters because he’s been married twice. The artwork in this comic is very exciting, and there’s a surprise foldout four-page splash during the decisive fight scene. I’m not sure just how the Radiant Black universe is supposed to be different from all the other superhero universes, but Supermassive is an exciting introduction to that universe.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andres Genolet. Kamala gets acquainted with Qarin, a shapeshifter from an alternate univesre. But at the end of the issue Qarin accuses Kamala of killing the Ms. Marvel of Qarin’s own universe. This issue has a lot of funny moments. Samira Ahmed sometimes seems to imply that Kamala is diabetic; if she’s not, she certainly seems to get hungry a lot.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This creative team’s second collaboration, after Coda, is an entirely silent comic. (There is some dialogue, but it’s written in illegible symbols.) It begins with a little girl waking up in the palm of a giant robot. The robot carries the girl through a series of strange landscapes, until they reach a farm. Here the girl befriends the child of the farmers, but then the robot carries her away, and opens its helmet to reveal that it has a woman’s head. At the end, some creepy blue-skinned people arrive at the farm looking for the girl and the robot. Matías Bergara’s art here is even better than in Coda. His creatures and landscapes are stunningly creative. And he achieves the rare feat of telling an intelligible story with no dialogue.

PRIMORDIAL #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The alien ship finally returns to Earth, and Yelena is reunited with Laika. This ending feels kind of flimsy. The real point of this issue is not the story, but Andrea Sorrentino’s stunning page layouts and his depictions of the alien ship. However, I would still have liked to know more about what happens after the aliens show up. Jeff Lemire has a tendency to end his stories at the most emotional moment, without providing an epilogue or a “what happened next”.

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] James Stokoe. Orphan defeats the autocannibalistic chef, whose final act is to fall into his pot and cook himself. It’s interesting to compare this comic to Fire Power. They’re both inspired by the wuxia genre, but Orphan and the Five Beasts feels far less culturally appropriative. Of course it also has a completely different artistic style. I can’t say that either Stokoe or Samnee is a better artist than the other, because they have such different intentions. This series was announced as only lasting four issues, but issue 4 doesn’t say that it’s the final issue, and by the end of #4, only three of the beasts have been defeated. I hope there will be a second season of this series, though given Stokoe’s extremely labor-intensive style, I don’t expect it any time soon.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part 5,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the present, Jace reveals that he’s been raising children who were orphaned by monsters, rather than delivering them to the Order of St. George. In the past, Aaron stops Jace from assassinating the Old Dragon. I’ve never enjoyed this series as much as Something is Killing the Children, but it’s still good, and it effectively fleshes out the SIKTC universe.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #16 (Image, 2022) – “Deviation 5: Free Love,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alison Sampson. In San Francisco in 1968, Lee Harvey Oswald shares sex and drugs with a mysterious woman, who turns out to be the woman with X eyes. She tells Oswald that the counterculture is just an attempt to distract America from revolutionary change, and that it was created by the same entities who killed JFK and RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. Appropriately, this comic is drawn and colored in a psychedelic style. I’m not familiar with this artist, but she was an excellent choice for this story.

USAGI YOJIMBO #26 (IDW, 2022) – “Crossroads Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Jei somehow decides to let Yukichi go, and he reaches Usagi in time to help him defeat the six bandits. One of the bandits survives, but not for long, because he escapes Usagi and Yukichi only to run into Jei. Whenever Jei shows up, I always expect that Stan is planning some kind of epic final confrontation between him and Usagi, but so far that has not happened. I don’t recall if Jei appears in the epic “final” Usagi story, Senso.

NIGHTWING #88 (DC, 2022) – “Get Grayson Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Blockbuster’s minions try to assassinate Dick Grayson, but his fellow Titans save him – including Starfire, to my delight. The splash page where Dick shouts ‘Titans together!” is an epic moment. Nightwing is easily the best current DC title, if you don’t count Nice House on the Lake. This issue’s first page may be inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #35 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Michele Bandini & Luigi Zagaria. Miles and Shift finally confront the Assessor, and also Quantum, who I don’t remember. They discover an interdimensional portal, which Miles decides to use to find Uncle Aaron. This series is quite fun, but the last few issues have been entirely composed action sequences, and I wish there’d be more focus on Miles’s private life.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #4 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Dog is Fine,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Risa and Croak travel through the dream world to the Risa Training Facility, where one of the surviving soldiers fails to recognize Rise and tries to shoot her. Meanwhile, Machi goes on a date with a cute boy. Like much of Paul Tobin’s best work, this series strikes a delicate balance between adorable and horrible.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #9 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy discovers that the real villain is the evil version of her father, the previous Black Hammer. This series hasn’t been quite as exciting as the original Black Hammer series or Age of Doom, though it’s still fun. This issue does not have an Inspector Insector backup story.

KING CONAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Princess of Golden Ruin,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. This comic was widely criticized because it introduces a villain who’s an evil, hypersexualized version of Pocahontas. Many people called out this depiction as being offensive to Pocahontas’s Native Americans; see https://bleedingcool.com/comics/marvel-comics-alters-art-for-king-conan-2-after-pocahontas-criticism/. I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with this comic when I first read it, but that just indicates my own blind spots as a non-indigenous person. I do understand what’s wrong with this comic now, though that doesn’t matter, because it’s not up to me to decide whether this comic is offensive or not.  Jason Aaron has since apologized for this comic, and has donated the money he received for it to an indigenous women’s charity, and future printings of this story will be heavily edited.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #126 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. The Turtles confront the Punk Frogs, and they also encounter a mad scientist named Jasper Barlow. Meanwhile there’s a subplot that takes place on the alien planet. This story arc has been disappointing so far. I’m not sure why any of the stuff happening on the alien planet is relevant to the Turtles.

FANTASTIC FOUR #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Every World on Fire,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. This is the worst issue of this entire volume. It’s full of so many shocking plot twists and epic cosmic moments that none of them have any impact. Like, the moon literally blew up last issue, and it doesn’t even seem to matter because there’s other stuff going on that’s even more shocking. (And besides, the moon will obviously be back to normal after this story is over.) I don’t know why Dan Slott thought this story was a good idea, and I hope it will be over soon.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #5 (Oni, 2022) – “The Day I Tried to Live,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. God turns out to be totally unhelpful, but Kat and her ghost friends succeed in defeating both the angels and demons anyway, and Kat returns to her former life of escorting ghosts to their final rest. This was an extremely strange series, but that’s kind of the point.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #6 (DC, 2022) – “Before & After,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Serg Acuña & Diego Olortegui. Jackson and his relatives stop the terrorist attack on the peace conference and save the day, but Jackson’s mom is seriously hurt. People start calling Jackson “Aquaman,” but he’s not able to enjoy it much. This was a fun miniseries and it effectively set up the next ongoing.

ROBIN #11 (DC, 2022) – “Field Trip,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov (misspelled Melkinov in the credits). Various loose ends from the previous storyline are tied up, and Damian and Flatline kiss. Damian returns to Gotham to use some Lazarus resin on Alfred’s grave. Flatline seems to have replaced Nobody as Damian’s romantic interest.

STRANGE ACADEMY #16 (Marvel, 2022) – “Winter Formal,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Brother Voodoo expels Calvin from school for selling drugs. Doyle invites Emily to the dance, but when Emily discovers Calvin sulking, she chooses to comfort him rather than go to the dance, and Doyle is heartbroken at being stood up. This is an effective piece of drama because all of the three main characters’ actions are understandable, and consistent with their character. None of them acted with truly evil intentions – not even Calvin, because although he was endangering his fellow students, he did so because he thought it was his only way to be included. Yet their actions lead to Calvin’s expulsion from school and the possible end of Doyle and Emily’s romance.

NIGHTWING #89 (DC, 2022) – In a really cute opening sequence, Dick rescues and comforts young Jon Kent after he gets lost. This is another example of Dick’s role as an older brother to younger heroes. In the present, Dick and Jon team up again to solve a series of murders of superheroes. One of the victims is Risk from Dan Jurgens’s Teen Titans, but that was a very forgettable series, and I don’t really care that Taylor got rid of Risk for dramatic effect. This story is a crossover with Superman, Son of Kal-El, and indeed, the continuity of the two titles is tied together so tightly that this almost seems like an issue of Superman and not Nightwing. I don’t mind this either, though, since I was already reading Superman, Son of Kal-El anyway.  

AQUAMEN #1 (DC, 2022) – “Sins of the Father,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. The two Aquamen team up to defend the United Nations from Ocean Master, and Black Manta unexpectedly appears to help the Aquamen. Meanwhile, Atlantean sleeper agents start reactivating. This is a fun first issue.  

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #2 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine DiGiandomenico. In Paris, Bruce becomes an apprentice to a cat burglar named Lucie. Bruce kisses Lucie while she’s bandaging his wounds, but she quickly shuts that down. I think we’re meant to see her as a precursor to Catwoman. Meanwhile, Paris’s great detective, Henri Ducard, investigates a series of murders. I have now learned that Ducard is a recurring character dating back to the ‘80s, and that he’s the grandfather of Nobody from Robin, Son of Batman. I must have enjoyed this issue when I read it, but when I read #3, I didn’t remember anything about #2.

WONDER WOMAN #784 (DC, 2022) – “Through a Glass Darkly Finale,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Diana defeats the mirror dude, who turns out to be Siggy’s ghost – and that explains why he’s a new character and is not just called Mirror Master. Dr. Psycho rescues one of the glass Wonder Woman duplicates. There’s a backup story that leads into Trial of the Amazons. This was an unmemorable issue.

GETTING DIZZY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Dizzy defeats the Negatrixes and saves the day. I suppose this series was all right, but it was very simplistic even for a kids’ comic. Come to think of it, Getting Dizzy’s premise is problematic because it implies that bad feelings as being the result of monsters, rather than genuine disagreements and incompatibilities between people. Also, Getting Dizzy may be the lowest-impact superhero comic I’ve ever read. What I mean by that is, all the villains are trying to do is make people angry, and Burb Defender is not defending the entire universe or even the entire country, but just a single neighborhood. So Getting Dizzy fails to give the sense that anything important is at stake.

HEATHEN #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. I regret buying this because it’s not a new comic, but just an expensive prestige-format reprint of Heathen #1, which is already in my collection. I wish Vault had communicated this more clearly.

HUMAN TARGET #5 (DC, 2022) – “This is a Good Block,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. This issue is extremely confusing because it’s narrated as a series of visions in Chance’s mind, and the order of these visions is unclear. I suppose the point of this narrative structure is to illustrate the essential strangeness of J’onn J’onzz, who is the focal character in this issue, but to me it was just mystifying. We finally do learn that J’onn was responsible for the poison, and also that he was sleeping with Fire, which I didn’t even realize until I read a review of this issue (https://dccomicsnews.com/2022/03/19/review-the-human-target-5/). Also this issue includes a Titanian telepath named Emra, but she’s explicitly not Saturn Girl.

RADIO APOCALYPSE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Anand RK. This issue has some very interesting and distinctive art, but I had trouble understanding its plot, mostly because of the amount of time that’s passed since issue 1. That’s a consistent problem with some Vault comics – the other one I’m thinking of is Giga – they come out so infrequently that their plots become hard to follow.

SHANG-CHI #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Part One,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. In Hawaii, Shang-Chi and his friends fight some self-cloning monsters called taotie. The taotie is a genuine Chinese mythological creature. It’s mentioned in the Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) as one of the four malevolent animals, along with the hundun, previously seen in this comic, and the more obscure taowu and qiongqi. Otherwise, this is a fairly forgettable issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. More backstory on the four Norse mythological weapons, together with more ridiculous and gory mayhem. Unlike its predecessor, this series relies on shock and gruesomeoness rather than genuine fear or realistic characterization, and that makes it a lot less effective. I might as well finish reading it though.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #6 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto finally defeats the Furies, and the series ends by setting up the next miniseries, Tales of the Unnamed World. I like Canto, but I wish I understood its plot better. One reason I want to keep reading it is because IDW is publishing so few comic books these days.

CRASHPAD #1 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Gary Panter. Gary Panter is one of the most important living cartoonists in America, but his comics are quite hard to find, and his art style is difficult and lacking in popular appeal. Therefore his influence seems to have been mostly indirect; his own work may be less prominent than the work of the cartoonists he inspired. Crashpad #1 is about a bunch of anthropomorphic animal hippies who have a bizarre drug trip and encounter a bigoted cop. It makes more sense than some of the other Panter comics I’ve read, and it displays some incredible draftsmanship. I guess one of Panter’s skills is his stylistic versatility, and his art in this issue doesn’t really have the scratchy, blocky style that I associate with him. However, this comic’s subject matter feels outdated.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #4 (DC, 2022) – “Reprisals,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Hardware’s friends blow the whistle on Edwin Alva’s crimes, and Edwin responds by trying to assassinate them. This series has been a disappointment, partly because it’s been coming out so infrequently, and also because Denys Cowan’s art is unpleasant-looking.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – “Changing the World,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalaguida. Oswald spends half the issue delivering a long, annoying monologue, until finally Rose decides she’s had enough of listening to him talk, and she shoots him dead. This is a cathartic moment; by that point in the issue, I was so sick of Oswald that I’d probably have shot him too. Then the protagonists bury Oswald and prepare for their escape.

SILVER COIN #9 (DC, 2022) – “The Dancer,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Michael Walsh. The coin’s new owner is a corrupt cop who’s in debt to the mob. A little black girl witnesses him trying to burn down a building to pay his debt. While trying to kill the girl, he instead saves her and is publicly celebrated as a hero. His efforts to murder the girl are unsuccessful, and the next time he tries to commit another act of arson, his own unwilling henchmen lock him inside the building. He dies and is posthumously revealed as a villain. His police chief inherits the coin from him. The “hero cop” (who I don’t think has a name) is the most disgusting character in this entire series. He’s literally willing to murder a child in order to conceal his own crimes, and on top of that, he’s a vile racist.

IRON FIST #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG. The new Iron Fist is Lin Lie, formerly known as Swordmaster, who appeared in the series of that name and also in one of Si Spurrier’s Black Knight comics. Lin Lie meets Danny Rand, and then we learn that after his sword was shattered (in a comic I didn’t read), Lin Lie washed ashore in K’un L’un and was rescued by a local woman named Mei Min. Now his hands hurt and his chi is disrupted, and also Mei Min’s dad seems to be possessed by some kind of demon. Like the new Shang-Chi, this series is informed by actual Chinese culture rather than by the ‘70s kung fu craze, and it feels culturally accurate. I wonder what Michael YG’s name stands for – I assume those are initials, because I’ve never heard of “Yg” as a surname.

BRZRKR #7 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute works with a scientist named Caldwell to locate historical artifacts that he’s encountered over the course of his life. We get the interesting suggestion that Unute himself is responsible for keeping civilization alive by spreading technology.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer is hired to kill a certain Nabil Jebbouri, who poses as a champion of immigrant communities but is actually a crimelord. This series is not a great work of art, and its protagonist is deliberately impossible to sympathize with. But The Killer is well-executed, and I think Jacamon’s art has improved since earlier volumes of this series. I do think it’s problematic that the villain appears to be a North African or Middle Eastern immigrant to France. That feels like a stereotype.

THE LAST SESSION #3 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. We begin with a flashback depicting Walter’s tense relationship to his overprotective parents, and then there’s another campaign session. Cassandra figures out the solution to the adventure, but none of the other party members are willing to listen to her. A reasonably fun issue.

UNTIL MY KNUCKLES BLEED #1 (Behemoth, 2022) – “Extremely Damaged Part 1,” [W/A] Victor Santos. Gabin, aka Damager, was an ultraviolent superhero in the ‘90s. Now he works as a bouncer in a strip club, protecting human-trafficked Eastern European girls from their clients. This series has a fascinating premise, and Santos captures a sense of ‘90s nostalgia by imitating the styles of Liefeld and Frank Miller (specifically Sin City). However, the ending of this series was disappointing. More on that below.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #3 (Scout, 2022) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. Jones fights a villain called the Saint of Knives. Two superheroes rescue her and mistakenly assume she’s a superhero herself, and she decides not to correct them. Meanwhile, her roommate is kidnapped by a villain named Homewrecker. I liked issue 4 better than this one. I was in a pretty bad mood when I read some of these comics; I may explain that more later.

THE RUSH #4 (Vault, 2022) – “The Crime,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie and her pals fight a terrifying half-spider, half-man creature. When she defeats him with the help of the marshal, he claims her son is alive, just before being attacked by a terrifying harpy. While the harpy and spider are fighting, the humans are attacked by a terrifying glowing-eyed moose. This series is a very effective piece of horror, but I find it hard to read because it’s so bleak and cheerless.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #2 (Image, 2022) – “Shadows Over the Land,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Fletcher is in a prison camp in occupied Europe. He’s interrogated by some terrifying priests, and then witnesses a flying duel between a British pilot and the Arrowsmith version of the Red Baron. Arrowsmith has never been my favorite Busiek comic, but reading it after an 18-year hiatus makes me feel nostalgic.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – “A Pound of Flesh,” [W] Kirk Vanderbeek, [A] Jon Proctor. A man drives his friend to suicide by borrowing money from him and refusing to pay it back. The friend’s ghost drives the man insane. This story is pretty dumb. The backup story is by the same writer and has an even flimsier plot, but Shane Oakley’s psychedelic artwork is impressive.

ANIMAL CASTLE #3 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. This is always one of the last new comics I read, because it’s brilliant, but also heartbreaking and difficult to endure. This issue, the animals start fighting back against Silvio and the dogs by painting graffiti pictures of flowers. Silvio is of course angry about this, but it gives the people hope, which is itself a victory. When one reads this comic right now, it’s hard not to compare Silvio to Putin, and hopefully they will both suffer similar downfalls.

BOLERO #2 (Image, 2022) – “Boys and Girls Like Me and You,” [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. Devyn travels through a bunch of different alternate realities. I like the art in this issue, but Devyn is an unappealing protagonist, and I feel like this comic is somehow tainted by its association with Brandon Graham. I still haven’t felt motivated to read issue 3.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #5 (DC, 2022) – “A Champion’s Last Quest,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. Nubia defeats and saves Nubia, and the issue ends with a tie-in to Trial of the Amazons. I really didn’t much like this miniseries, and yet I felt obligated to order the first issue of the new Nubia series.

MY BAD #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “My Life, My Creed” and other stories, [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingram, [A] Peter Krause. The Chandelier prepares for his final confrontation with Emperor King, who has befriended Rush Hour. This whole series has been silly, pointless, and only occasionally funny. One of the good jokes this issue is a lion character named Lion L. Richie.

MARVEL VOICES: LEGACY #1 (Marvel, 2022) – various stories, [E] Sarah Brunstad. Like most of the Marvel Voices specials, this one is a mixed bag. I really like the Moon Girl and Shuri stories, particularly since the latter has art by Natacha Bustos. However, Cody Ziglar’s one-page stories are annoying pieces of filler that are worse than ad pages. The Ninki Nanka, from the Shuri story, seems to be a real West African mythological creature.

SUPERGIRL, WOMAN OF TOMORROW #8 (DC, 2022) – “Ruthye, Supergirl, and Krem of the Yellow Hills,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. I’m tired so I’ll just quote my own Facebook post: “Like so many other Tom King comics, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow has an anticlimactic, bait-and-switch ending that is difficult to reconcile with the rest of the series. Tom King needs to learn to end stories in a straightforward and satisfying way, rather than always trying to fool the reader and outsmart himself. In this case, the twist is that Krypto was never sick at all. Kara just told Ruthye they needed to find Krem to cure Krypto, so that she could stop Ruthye from killing Krem. That’s an extremely manipulative thing for Kara to do, and I don’t understand what it accomplished. Also, it’s obvious that Ruthye was never going to kill Krem, because that would violate the moral code of superhero comics. So it’s annoying that Tom King spent the whole series making the reader *want* Ruthye to kill Krem. It’s just a deliberate deferral of satisfaction. This is the same reason I’m sick of reading about the Joker — because Joker stories always make us *wish* Batman would kill the Joker, but that wish can never be granted.” After I wrote all that, I read the last page, where Ruthye claims that Supergirl killed Krem herself, but we can’t tell if Ruthye is telling the truth or not. That doesn’t make the ending any more satisfying.

2000 AD #1328 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Vs. Aliens: Incubus, Part 8,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. A villain named Mr. Bones tells Futsie how he brought the xenomorphs to earth, then he feeds Futsie to the xenomorphs, and we see that the alienshave laid a whole bunch of eggs. Bec & Kawl: “Eeevil.com Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. While surfing the Internet, Kawl is abducted by a sentient cybernetic spider. Before Kawl can do anything about it, some men in black come to the door and shoot her. This series is always very funny. The VCs: “Shotgun,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. I didn’t understand this story. Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 8,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. Nikolai convinces his mother to help him defeat Lord Murakami, and then joins his mother’s crew. I’m not sure what happened to the two kids.

BLACK WIDOW #14 (Marvel, 2022) – “Die by the Blade Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and her team fight the Living Blade and his employers, and the Blade seemingly cuts Natasha’s arm off. We’ve just learned that this series has been cancelled. That’s too bad, because it had some excellent art, and it was certainly the best Black Widow solo series.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #36 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Last of the Marvels Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and a bunch of other heroes team up to beat Vox Supreme. This issue was a predictable conclusion to a rather boring story arc. At one point in the issue, Carol tells Lauri-Ell to summon Spectrum, Iron Man, Moondragon, Star-Lord and Black Panther, but she never tells Star-Lord or Black Panther to do anything.

FOUR COLOR #744 (Dell, 1956) – Little Beaver: “The Howling Cavern” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Dan Spiegle? This was part of a small eBay order containing four ‘50s Western comics. Little Beaver is an adventure comic starring a small Navajo boy. The three stories in the issue are fairly standard Dell material, and this would be a reasonably entertaining comic if not for the fact that Little Beaver’s dialogue is appallingly racist. His first speech balloon is “Aiee! Sound-um like evil spirits back in haunted canyon!” and he keeps talking in this sort of “Tonto Talk,” as TVTRopes calls it, throughout the issue. It’s possible that he talks like this because he’s a child, not because he’s Indian, because the adult Indians in the comic sometimes speak in more intelligible English. But it’s still really annoying to read this sort of dialogue. It’s particularly nonsensical that this comic shows Navajo people speaking in pidgin to each other, because the whole point of pidgin and creole languages is to enable communication between people who don’t share a common language. Also, I don’t know if this comic’s depiction of Navajo people is accurate, but I rather doubt it.

THE PHANTOM #1057 (Frew, 1993) – “Wanted: For Murder!”, [W] Idar Pettersen, [A] Stefan Nagy. This is sort of a stealth Phantom/Punsiher crossover. In Morristown, a man wearing the Phantom’s costume is going on a killing spree, shooting criminals dead with assault weapons. The actual Phantom is accused of the killings, but President Luaga gives him a one-week grace period, and the Phantom apprehends the impostor. The fake Phantom proves to be a policeman named Charlie McClane whose family was murdered by criminals. Again, I assume this character is an intentional reference to the Punisher. Stefan Nagy’s black-and-white art in this issue is appealing, though some pages are printed poorly.

THE FLASH #143 (DC, 1998) – “Like Wildfire,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Pop Mhan. Wally goes hunting for Cobalt Blue, but Cobalt Blue traps Wally inside Barry Allen’s tombstone, and then reveals himself as Malcolm Thawne, Barry’s unknown twin brother. Also, Wally is single because Linda Park has somehow been erased from history. Wally’s future daughter, Iris, makes a brief cameo appearance. None of Mark’s subsequent Flash runs have been as good as his first one, but this issue is okay.

CEREBUS #225 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 6,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is perhaps the single most tedious comic book in my entire collection. Reading it is an extremely frustrating chore. The main reason is because this issue includes several pages of the phony Bible that Rick writes based on his misinterpretation of Cerebus’s doctrine. These “Bible” pages are printed in tiny text, with faux-sixteenth-century spelling, and their content is vapid (example: “And three of the stooles of The Barre wre vpon Cerebvses right hande, and three of the stooles of The Barre wre vpon Cerebvsesleft hande”). One particular page includes three whole columns of this nonsense (https://www.instagram.com/p/Ca3mTiKuXM2/). On top of all that, this issue again has no plot at all, and the letter column includes yet another letter that’s an awful piece of misogyny.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #24 (Marvel, 1977) – “Does Anyone Remember… the Hijacker!?”, [W] Bill Mantlo & Jim Shooter, [A] Sal Buscema. The Thing and Black Goliath battle a dumb villain named the Hijacker. This character was introduced in a very early Ant-Man story in 1963, but MTIO #24 was his first appearance since then, and he was subsequently murdered by the Scourge of the Underworld. He later returned in Dark Reign along with a bunch of other Scourge victims, which is unfortunate since Gruenwald’s whole purpose for creating Scourge was to get rid of a bunch of dumb old villains. Anyway, other than that, MTIO #24 is a boring issue and there’s not much to say about it.

WONDER WOMAN #248 (DC, 1990) – “Fang and Claw,” [W] George Pérez, [A] Jill Thompson. Diana and Donna Troy battle Circe, with the aid of Anna and Theo, two lovers who Circe transformed into a werecat and a centaur. Anna and Theo both get killed in the end, and the twist is that Theo was originally a horse, not a man – though I didn’t understand this point at first. The issue ends with some cute moments between Donna and Diana, and also Vanessa befriends Cindy, the daughter of Donna’s adoptive mother Fay Stacey Evans. Again I wasn’t sure who Cindy was at first – she appears in New Teen Titans #38, one of my favorite comics ever, but almost nowhere else. In post-Crisis continuity, this story was Diana and Donna’s first team-up. Donna’s continuity was a horrible mess from the start, and it was broken beyond repair by Crisis. The basic problem was that because of Crisis, it no longer made sense for Donna to be Wonder Woman’s younger sidekick, and DC never managed to redefine her as a character who was independent of Wonder Woman.

SUE AND SALLY SMITH, FLYING NURSES #51 (Charlton, 1963) – “The Surgeon Had to Die,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Joe Sinnott, etc. Like so many other Charlton comics, this series took over the numbering of a previous series, My Secret Life. (Charlton did this because the postal rates were higher for new series than for existing ones.) “Flying nurses” in this context refers to nurses who reach their patients by parachuting in from a plane. I bought this comic because it looked stupid, and it is, but at least it’s not totally incoherent. The first story, about a hillbilly who’s suspicious of modern medicine, is actually kind of poignant.

DAREDEVIL #70 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Tribune,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Gene Colan. Matt fights the Tribune, an ultraconservative villain who tries to frame young protesters as terrorists. This is one of Marvel’s most politically charged comics of this era – the Tribune is kind of like Sam Bullitt from Spider-Man #91-92, but is even more starkly depicted as a Nixonite, pro-war, conservative reactionary. Friedrich shows obvious sympathy for the protesters, depicting them as idealistic youths who are scapegoated for not blindly obeying their elders. Gene Colan’s art, of course, is beautiful. At one point in the issue, one of the protesters says that the Tribune can’t convict them “because our hair is long.” There’s a nearly identical line from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which came out the following year. I doubt if there’s any direct connection between these two texts; the idea of being oppressed because of long hair must have been a common meme at the time.

STRAIGHT ARROW #6 (Magazine Enterprises, 1950) – various stories, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Fred Meagher. This is from the same order as Four Color #744. It’s based on a radio program about a half-Comanche rancher who has a superhero secret identity. The stories in this issue are pretty average, but Fred Meagher’s artwork is beautiful. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d have guessed this issue was drawn by John Severin or even Frazetta. Fred Meagher left the comics industry only a few years later, and is now totally forgotten, which is a shame. Straight Arrow #6 seems less offensive than Four Color #744 in terms of its representation of Native Americans. However, it does seem rather inaccurate. The first story suggests that Comanche warriors are better at hand-to-hand than mounted combat, and that they don’t know how to use lances. My understanding is that this is completely backwards; in fact, in the 19th century the Comanches were considered the best horsemen in the world.

2000 AD #1329 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges keep looking for the aliens, and Mr. Bones prepares to blow up the Hall of Justice. Bec & Kawl: as above. The Men in Black robots have an early example of a conversation conducted entirely in emoji. Bec’s friend Norm arrives with a bunch of fellow geeks. They travel into cyberspace and are confronted by the “Arch-Geek” – who I think is Bill Gates – piloting a giant robot. The VC’s: as above. Another chapter that doesn’t make much sense, though there is a funny bit about a game of rock-paper-scissors with unusual rules. Tales of Telguuth: “The Black Arts of Strixlan Nort,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Jon Haward. Strixlan Nort is a wizard who can summon demons by drawing them. He uses this talent to defeat an evil warlock. Atavar II: “Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Richard Elson. A science fiction story starring weird nonhumanoid aliens.  

HERCULES UNBOUND #9 (DC, 1977) – “Finale,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Walt Simonson & Bob Layton. Hercules and his friends try to prevent a nuclear war, but in doing so, they cause the nuclear war that occurred in 1986, in the series’ backstory. This series was never all that impressive.

Next Heroes trip:

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #7 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Álvaro Martínez Bueno. I’m very glad this is back. Part of this issue focuses on Norm, formerly Norah, who Walter imprisoned behind a mirror, just like he did with Reg. Meanwhile, the other protagonists decide to build their own houses. The most annoying thing about this series is the difficulty of remembering all the characters, and it’s very helpful that this issue includes a character guide on the last page.

SEVEN SECRETS #15 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The sixth case opens to reveal a demon baby. Caspar’s love interest Titus is tragically killed fighting the traitors. Caspar’s mom tells him that his case is useless because he himself is the seventh secret. It might be nice if this series was less fast-paced, so we would have more time to get to know the characters. But I love it anyway, and if I could vote for the Eisners right now, I’d vote for Tom Taylor as Best Writer.

CROSSOVER #12 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates w/ Robert Kirkman, [A] Geoff Shaw w/ Phil Hester. On Facebook I wrote, “This is a super self-indulgent, masturbatory, by-fans-for-fans comic, and that’s why it’s so funny.” The jokes in this comic don’t make sense unless you’re a hardcore comics fan, but if you are, they’re hilarious. The issue begins with a ten-page sequence written by Robert Kirkman, in which Kirkman is murdered by his own creation, Negan. Hester draws this sequence in a style that parodies the ultra-violent artwork of Invincible and Walking Dead. Meanwhile, Donny Cates stabs his interrogator with the spiky tail of a word balloon. (The use of word balloons as material objects is an old trope that goes back to Felix the Cat cartoons, and I discuss it extensively in my dissertation.) Also, Cates shaves his beard off “between panels. The Alan Moore thing was just confusing people.” Given that Image has been making genuine efforts to reach out to new readers, I think it’s okay that they’re also publishing a comic like Crossover, which is exclusively meant for people who already read comics.

SHE-HULK #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Rogê Antônio. Jen nurses Jack of Hearts back to health, but some villain is looking for him. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and it’s unfortunate that this series is tied to current Marvel continuity. One reason Rainbow Rowell’s Runaways was so good was because it had limited ties to the rest of the Marvel Universe.

LITTLE MONSTERS #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A postapocalyptic world is populated only by a gang of vampire children, who spend their nights doing the same things over and over again. At the end of the issue, things finally change when they encounter an adult human. I was in a bad mood when I read this comic, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I ought to have, but it seems like another effective piece of work by Lemire and Nguyen.

ADVENTUREMAN #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, though it’s fun anyway. Claire’s sisters stage an “adventurevention” for her, and the plots about the ghosts and the Crossdraw Kid are further developed.

STRANGE ACADEMY #17 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. While Brother Voodoo is confronting Gaslamp, Doyle starts a big fight with Iric in the cafeteria. Brother Voodoo returns to the school to find that all the students have left. This is another fun issue of an excellent team superhero comic.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #9 (DC, 2022) – “World’s Finest Sons Part 2 of 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. This is effectively an extra issue of Nightwing, just as Nightwing #89 was an extra issue of Superman, Son of Kal-El. This sort of tight connection between two series is sometimes annoying, but in this case I don’t mind because I’m reading both series already. Jon and Dick’s interactions in this issue are adorable, and I love the line “We could ask this guy, but I mean, he headbutted Superman, so he’s clearly not the cleverest.”

ROGUE SUN #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. We already met Rogue Sun in Supermassive, but this ongoing series instead focuses on his son (Rogue Son?), Dylan, who, unlike most teenage superheroes, is a bully and an asshole. Perhaps this is because his father Marcus, the Rogue Sun from Supermassive, left his mother to start a new family. When Marcus, the Rogue Sun from Supermassive, dies in a car accident, Dylan is surprised to discover that he’s inherited his father’s superpowers, but the catch is that he’s also possessed by his father’s spirit. Rogue Sun has a vaguely similar premise to Firestorm – a young superhero with an older man inside his head – but what makes Rogue Sun unique is Dylan’s unpleasant personality and his vexed relationship with his father.

MONKEY PRINCE #2 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. (Notably, in the credit box, the creators’ names are written in both English and Chinese.) Zhu Baijie saves Marcus from Batman and Damian, and the Penguin turns into a qi-eating vampire. This issue is fun, but it’s a predictable continuation of last issue. The name Marcus Shugel-Shen suggests that he’s both Chinese and Jewish.

RADIANT RED #1 (Image, 2022) – “Brave New World,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. This new series stars Satomi, the same character from Radiant Black #6. Unfortunately she’s still robbing banks in order to cope with her asshole boyfriend’s gambling habit. Some dude tries to blackmail her into working for him, or else he’ll harm her sister’s family. Meanwhile, a journalist seems to have uncovered her connection to Nathan. Radiant Black #6 was perhaps the best issue of that series so far, and I’m glad that Satomi has gotten her own series.

HUMAN REMAINS #6 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Anjali visits a community of survivalists who have discovered a fungus that repels the monsters, and there’s also some minor progress on the other subplots. This is Peter Milligan’s best series in recent years, partly because its plot is easy to follow.

BATGIRLS #4 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 4,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The Batgirls capture the Tutor and deliver him to Charles Dante, who reveals himself as the villain Spellbinder. Jorge Corona’s artwork in this series is perhaps the best of his career so far.

COPRA #42 (Copra, 2022) – “Games on Display,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Changó, Yasuda and Wir fight a bunch of villains in order to prevent some dude from being assassinated. Vincent reassembles Rax’s helmet, but Rax comes back for it. The individual issues of Copra are very expensive, but I’m willing to buy them in order to support an independent creator, and also because they’re beautiful artifacts, in terms of both their art and their publication design.  

ROBINS #4 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin Part 4,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The Robins, except Tim, all chase after Anarky and end up in the same place. Batman discovers that the Escape Artist, Cormac Dodge, is somehow involved in what’s been happening to the Robins. Tim realizes that the original Robin has manipulated him into executing her plot. This issue is interesting, but its plot is tough to follow.

NOCTERRA #8 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Metal,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. The team tracks down Blacktop Bill, who agrees to team up with them in order to find the location of Eos. Given how Snyder has been bending over backwards to convince us that Blacktop Bill is the worst villain ever, it’s annoying that he’s now being presented as a lesser evil than whatever the Big Bad is.

NEW MASTERS #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. There are two plot threads focusing on the technicians, Sulesh and Persio, and their daughter, Ola. This issue the parents turn down a job from a criminal, and then they discover that their most recent project has been sabotaged. Some things that make this series fascinating are Shof Coker’s art, the Africanfuturist setting, and the constant references to Nigerian culture. For example, this issue we see the characters eating efo and akara. I have had the former but not the latter. I think I might propose a paper on Africanfuturist comics for this year’s Worldcon.  

THE WRONG EARTH: TRAPPED ON TEEN PLANET #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Trapped on Teen Planet,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani & Bill Morrison. This is the first of several Wrong Earth one-shots by guest creators. This issue, Dragonfly, Stinger and Deuce find themselves in the Wrong Earth version of Riverdale. This comic is pretty hilarious. I forget if either Gail or Bill Morrison has ever written an actual Archie comic, but they’re both very good at parodying Archie.

FANTASTIC FOUR #41 (Marvel, 2022) – “Will You Watch as Our Universe Burns?”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. Another issue full of pointless fight scenes and unconvincing attempts at epic grandeur. Also, Johnny returns to the Unparalleled’s world and discovers that Sky now has a new boyfriend, Citadel. But given the way that Sky’s world works, Citadel should have had another fiancee already, so what happened to her? Anyway, I hope this dumb story arc ends soon, and I wish Slott would stop torturing Johnny Storm.

DAREDEVIL: WOMAN WITHOUT FEAR #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Elektra fights Kraven and wins, then encounters her old handler, Aka. Goldy tells Elektra that Matt has been murdered, though I find that hard to believe. I think that this is the last issue and that the series will continue with a new Daredevil #1.

BUCKHEAD #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] George Kambadais. The kids invade the school at night. Toba has a vision where his father helps him retrieve a sword from the ruins of the palace of Benin. Buckhead is not nearly as interesting as New Masters because its African elements feel like cosmetic trappings on a generic adventure story. Because of its Nigerian setting and entirely African cast, New Masters feels less like a typical science fiction comic. BTW, the modern Benin City is in Nigeria, not Benin. The reason is because Benin is named after the Bight of Benin, which is itself named after the city and historical kingdom of that name. The country of Benin used to be called Dahomey, but that name was changed in 1975, perhaps because the kingdom of Dahomey only included part of Benin’s current territory.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The issue begins with a myth explaining the origin of Van Cat village, where the gold is hidden. The people of Van Cat capture Ernie and Sobrat, but Sobrat escapes by killing some visiting hippies. This series seems kind of insubstantial, and I wonder if just one more issue will be enough to resolve anything.

THE BLUE FLAME #7 (Vault, 2022) – “Divine Intervention,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. While Mateo languishes in an ICE lockup, Sam is arrested for beating up the guy who betrayed Mateo. Dee pays Sam’s bail, but then throws him out of her house, and Sam winds up in a homeless shelter. Meanwhile, the alien trial continues, though it now seems as though it’s entirely occurring in Sam’s head. This is an excellent series, but I wish it would come out more often – see my previous complaint about Radio Apocalypse.

THE THING #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 5,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. After some fight scenes, Dr. Doom arrives in the Blue Area and explains his plot to save his mother by destroying Death herself. Then we learn that Amaryllis is Death, while Bobby is a juvenile Watcher. This series is weird and wacky, and that’s why I love it.

WHAT IF….? MILES MORALES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If Miles Morales Became Captain America?”, [W] Cody Ziglar, [A] Paco Medina. The answer is that nothing especially interesting would happen. Also, the big reveal in this issue is that the Prowler is Uncle Aaron. How is that a surprise? I’m going to avoid buying any further comics written by Cody Ziglar.

RADIO SPACEMAN #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Mission to Numa 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Greg Hinkle. A radio-operated astronaut tries to save a female astronaut from being sacrificed to a Lovecraftian monster. I might not have bought this if there had been more offerings from Dark Horse this month, but it’s not bad. It has the same aesthetic as Hellboy, without being tethered to Hellboy continuity.

LOVE & ROCKETS #11 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. The Jaime stories in this issue are mostly about Maggie’s vexed relationship to Tonta. At the end we learn that Vivian, the Frogmouth, is about to marry Ignacio Dominguez. I forget who that is, but he must be related to Ray. The most interesting of the Beto stories are the ones that take place at a comic convention. In “Weird, Weird World” there’s a funny metatextual moment when Rosario asks Venus if comics about comics are dumb. Two pages later we see Harley Yee signing autographs. The next time I see Harley Yee at a comic convention, I want to ask him if Beto meant anything specific by this.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #91 (Marvel, 2022) – “What Lurks Behind Door Z?”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sara Pichelli & Fran Galán. In the depths of the Beyond Corporation, Peter and the Daughters of the Dragon fight a bunch of weird creatures, including a fanged housecat-like creature that can clone itself, and a chicken with boxing gloves. Then ”Door Z” opens to reveal the Lizard, grown to giant size. This is an entertaining issue, and I’m sorry that I have to stop buying Spider-Man soon because the new writer is Zeb Wells, who I don’t like.

X-MEN LEGENDS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Start Again,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Scot Eaton. In a story set between X-Men #227 and Excalibur #1, Kurt and Kitty fight the Harriers in order to stop Mystique from killing Forge. It’s too bad that Alan Davis only drew the cover of this issue and not the interior. Otherwise, this comic is a nice piece of nostalgia, with all sorts of connections to X-Men continuity. It’s especially poignant seeing Kurt and Kitty’s despair over the presumed death of the X-Men. And Claremont derives dramatic irony from the fact that the reader knows Mystique is Kurt’s mother, but that Kurt himself doesn’t know this.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book Four,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal. T’Challa comes to suspect Omolola of betraying him. They fight, and then Shuri and Hunter show up. This feels like a waste of an issue.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #1 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue has three separate stories depicted on separate panel tiers. The middle tier is another series of Red Room torture shows. The top tier is printed in color, unlike the rest of the series so far, and focuses on Brianna, the daughter of the cop/serial killer/Red Room performer Davis Fairfield. On a visit to Davis’s lakehouse, Brianna and her friend gradually figure out that Davis is involved in something illegal, and when they get home, they find that Davis has been arrested for downloading Red Room videos. This is the most suspenseful part of the comic; I was expecting Brianna and her friend to be killed at any moment. The bottom tier is about Davis himself, as he tries to remain in the good graces of the Red Room management while avoiding the law. I should mention here that Piskor and Jim Rugg were widely criticized because Rugg’s variant cover for Trigger Warnings #3 was based on Maus. Rugg, Piskor and Fantagraphics pulled the cover almost as soon as it became public. I don’t want to disagree with the critiques of the cover, but I do suspect that this controversy was fueled by the fact that Maus has been all over the news lately.

DEVIL’S REIGN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. After a series of fight scenes, the Purple Man turns a crowd of people into zombies. Meanwhile, the Kingpin beats Matt Murdock to death, or at least it seems to be Matt Murdock. This issue was competent but not spectacular.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #92 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson & Jed MacKay, [A] Fran Galán et al. Behind Door Z, Peter, Misty and Colleen find Morbius. Ben Reilly has a vision where he’s being eaten by carnivorous sandwiches. Kelly Thompson would be an ideal Spider-Man writer if she was given sole creative control of the franchise. Though really, Kelly Thompson would be an ideal writer of almost any superhero comic.

SABRETOOTH #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Know Your Enemy,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth gets to know his new cellmates, and he develops a plan to escape. So far this comic is my least favorite Victor LaValle work. As mentioned in my review of #1, this comic’s critique of prisons falls flat because the protagonist is a man who should be in prison.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #6 (DC, 2020) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 2,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. The first half of the issue depicts Hippolyta’s funeral, and then the Amazons prepare for the contest. This issue is not really about Nubia at all, and it should maybe have been published under the title of Trial of the Amazons. Overall this miniseries was less interesting than I’d hoped.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Gwen’s life continues to suck, and she’s still having adventures in the multiverse, against her father’s wishes. But on her latest attempt to visit Earth-616, Gwen gets stuck in the wrong universe, and meanwhile, a new, very strange Sinister Six is pursuing her. It’s hard to remember what exactly happened in this issue, but it’s a fun issue.

WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. This is effectively a Marvel’s Voices comic, though it doesn’t have Voices in its title. It begins with a story by Mirka Andolfo that introduces an intriguing new heroine, Patty Prue. I don’t generally like Mirka Andolfo’s writing, but I liked this story. The highlight of the issue is the Squirrel Girl/Black Widow team-up written by Charlie Jane Anders. Like most of the other Marvel Voices comics, this issue also includes some less interesting material. I should note here that in the Squirrel Girl story, the Mad Thinker refers to himself as the Mad Thinker. This is a common mistake. He just calls himself the Thinker. It’s everyone else who thinks he’s mad.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nikjamp, [A] Enid Balam. With the aid of America Chavez and Cassie Lang, Kate and Susan invade the Bishop  mansion and recover the Cosmic Cube fragment. This was a fun miniseries that was reminiscent of both Young Avengers and Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye.

NEWBURN #4 (Image, 2022) – “Bring Some Heat,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn is forcibly “hired” by the Police Benevolent Association of New York City, which, as Zdarsky observes, is the one union that makes other unions look bad. The police want Newburn to solve a gang killing. Newburn finds a way to resolve the killing without earning the enmity of all the gangs, and also discovers that the person who hired him has been embezzling union funds. This issue is fun because it confronts Newburn with a seemingly intractable problem, and yet he manages to solve it with his life and reputation intact.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. Dorian and Magdalene break up, but then Magdalene runs through an airport in search of Dorian, somehow managing not to get arrested, and they finally kiss. This series was frankly awful. It was a stupid piece of romantic comedy, with no attempt at realism or serious consequences, and I don’t know why Image chose to translate it when there are so many other better European comics.

SUPERGIRL, WOMAN OF TOMORROW #7 (DC, 2022) – “Hope, Help, and Compassion,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. I forgot to buy this until after issue 8 came out. I honestly could have done without it, but I wanted to have a complete set of the series. In this issue, Supergirl fights a bunch of pirates while Comet the Super-Horse tries to keep Ruthie from killing Krem.

MONKEY MEAT #3 (Image, 2022) –“Troll!”, [W/A] Juni Ba. This issue starts with a framing sequence in which a homeless man named Karl tells Lug a fairy tale. In the fairy tale, a boy is abducted by fairies, and then as an adult, he volunteers to take a package across a bridge guarded by a troll. The troll refuses to let any “living thing” cross the bridge, so the boy finds a way to kill himself and still cross the bridge. Then he rescues another child who was replaced by a changeling, and that child herself makes an appearance after Karl finishes the story. This was the best issue of Monkey Meat yet. I love Juni Ba’s artwork, but the first two issues didn’t  tell a complete, satisfying story, and this one did.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #4 (DC, 2022) – “One Downsize Fits All,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Reddy announces that he has to fire half the staff, but then he decides that he can’t do it, and he’s going to tell his bosses so. Just as Reddy is about to tell off the company’s owners, they reveal that they’ve found a buyer for the company. Reddy returns to the Heroz4U office only to find it on fire. I disliked this series at first, but the last couple issues have been better because they depict Reddy as a more sympathetic character – although Russell’s portrayal of Power Girl is still wildly contrary out of keeping with her character. If nothing else, One-Star Squadron is a lot better than My Bad. One-Star Squadron seems to be influenced by Glengarry Glen Ross. The owners of Heroz4U are like “Mitch and Murray,” in that they sit in their office downtown and do nothing, while sending flunkies to communicate their decrees to their employees.

ETERNALS #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail, Thanos, Part 4,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. A team of Eternals tries to rescue the child Starbrand from the Avengers’ headquarters. Meanwhile, Thanos confronts his resurrected mother Sui-San. I’ve been displeased with this series ever since I read Charles Hatfield’s negative review of it, but maybe I’m allowing myself to be too influenced by his opinion. I did enjoy the most recent one-shot; see my review of it below.

THE GOOD ASIAN #9 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark escapes an assassination attempt, then he takes off his bandage and reveals his new face, and he prepares to confront Victoria. I’ve completely lost track of this series’ plot, and I’m glad there’s just one more issue.

Older comics:

2000 AD #1330 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges fight a giant infestation of aliens. Bec & Kawl: as above. Bec and Kawl defeat the Bill Gates character. This storyline was very fun, although its depiction of the Internet is somewhat dated now. The VCs: as above. I still don’t know what this storyline is about. Tales of Telguuth: “Pagrok the Infallible Part 1,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Jon Haward. Some parents hire a wizard to find their kidnapped daughter. The wizard, Pagrok, discovers that the daughter has been arrested for stealing and is about to be sacrificed to a lightning deity. Jon Haward’s art is creative and full of weird details. Atavar II: as above. Again this story makes no sense.

2000 AD #1453 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Sergeant Nate Slaughterhouse suffers severe battle wounds and returns to Mega-City One as a “mandroid,” with almost no human body parts remaining. Dredd only appears in the last panel of the chapter. Savage: “Out of Order Book Two,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Charlie Adlard. A revival of one of the oldest 2000 AD characters. In this chapter, Savage saves his niece Jan from being killed in a guerrilla attack against the Volgans. Based on reading Wikipedia, I think the protagonist in this chapter is Bill Savage, disguised as his dead brother Jack. Leatherjack: “Chapter 4,” [W] John Smith, [A] Paul Marshall. Like much of John Smith’s work, this story has beautiful, evocative dialogue, but an impenetrable plot. Breathing Space: “Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] L. Campbell. This story takes place in the Judge Dredd universe, but I’m not sure what it’s about. Robo-Hunter: “Stim! Part 4,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade’s granddaughter, Samantha, escapes an assassination attempt. Like John Burns’s art in Nikolai Dante, Ian Gibson’s art here is beautiful, but looks weird when printed on glossy paper. It’s unfortunate that this story includes an appearance by Stogie, perhaps the most offensive character ever to appear in 2000 AD.

DETECTIVE COMICS #433 (DC, 1973) – “The Killer in the Smog!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Dick Dillin. Someone is murdering people by strangling them with a scarf. There are three suspects. Batman eventually figures out that all three of them are guilty. Like in Strangers on a Train, they each agreed to kill the intended victim of one of the others, so that their motives would be hard to figure out. In the backup story, by Robbins and Heck, someone frames Jason Bard for trying to assassinate a senator.

CEREBUS #226 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 7,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue includes more text from Rick’s fake Bible, and it’s only a little less tedious to read than #225 was. Also, yet again, literally nothing happens in the entire issue. Reading Rick’s Story, I find it hard to remember that Cerebus used to have exciting and clever plots. Instead of a letter’s page, this issue has an essay by Sim called “Mama’s Boy,” but I didn’t bother to read it.

KANE #24 (Dancing Elephant, 1999) – “Meyer Culpa,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This issue is an interesting storytelling experiment. It has two parallel plot threads. In one of them, Kane and his partner interrogate a man named Meyer who’s suspected of robbing the bank where he works. In the other sequence, we see how the bank robbery happened: Meyer actually did try to rob his own bank, but a gang of criminals was robbing it at the same time. Meyer drugged them and escaped with the money, but was caught by the police. When the police go on to catch the real criminals, they falslely think Meyer is a hero. Meyer himself is a colorless, dull man, so he never says anything in the entire issue, and the flashback sequences from his perspective are completely silent.  

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – “Better Angels,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. This issue begins with a poignant scene where Damian watches as a child falls from a piece of playground equipment, but is caught by his parents. Then there are some action sequences that I don’t understand, and then Damian introduces Goliath to his pet dog, cat and cow. I like this issue, but it’s hard to understand without having read the whole series in order.

UNCANNY X-MEN #278 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Battle of Muir Isle,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Paul Smith. This was Claremont’s second to last issue before he was unceremoniously fired. It consists of a number of separate plot threads, most of which somehow involve the Shadow King. It’s a shame that Claremont was fired, because in his final year on the series, he was writing better stories than he had in years. And he had additional stories in mind that he was never able to tell, and if he told them now, they wouldn’t have the same impact. Paul Smith’s artwork in this issue is hard to recognize as his, perhaps because of Hilary Barta’s inking.

THE MAXX #6 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. The main event this issue is that Maxx fights Savage Dragon’s enemy Mako. There are also some scenes set in the Outback, and these scenes include some beautiful painted illustrations that seem to be inspired by Frazetta.  

ID #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] R. Crumb. This comic consists mostly of sketches of women, with just a few pages of actual comics. Crumb’s draftsmanship is beautiful, but his depictions of women are sexist and misogynistic. Throughout the issue he presents women as sex toys rather than people. It’s no wonder if younger cartoonists no longer see him as an influence.

RINGSIDE #7 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. Another boring crime comic with ugly art. At least the art is less crude-looking than in subsequent issues.  

BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “We Are the Streets Part 5: Down These Mean Streets,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Butch Guice et al. Manifold and some other superheroes fight some armored “Americops.” I never particularly liked this series. With the exception of Shuri, the spinoffs from Coates’s Black Panther were unimpressive.

THE PHANTOM #1075 (Frew, 1994) – “Carlyle’s Good Mark,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. A reprint of a 1958 daily strip continuity. This story contains the first full explanation of the Phantom’s “good mark,” which he uses to designate people worthy of his protection. Tony Carlyle is the descendant of a man who received the good mark. He’s kidnapped while visiting the Bangalla jungle on his honeymoon, and his wife takes advantage of the good mark to save him. This is an exciting and narratively sophisticated story. A notable scene is when a tribal chief wants to let Tony free rather than execute him, but he doesn’t dare, because he’s afraid that the young men of the village would perceive him as weak. The Phantom has to find a way for the chief to let Tony go while saving face. There’s a running joke where a drummer keeps sending the wrong message on the tom-tom.

CEREBUS #227 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 8,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Yet another issue with excellent art and lettering, but a total lack of plot. The letters page includes the second part of Sim’s Mama’s Boy essay. Again, I couldn’t be bothered to read this.

LOVE & ROCKETS #39 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – three stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. I would eventually like to assemble a complete run of this series, though it’s not a high priority, since I already have most of its content. This issue includes chapter 11 of Poison River and the final chapters of Wigwam Bam and Love & Rockets X. Wigwam Bam is a classic, but I never quite understood Poison River. Love & Rockets X is the only major story from the original L&R run that I haven’t read. It’s not included in the Locas hardcover. The chapter in this issue is fascinating, and I want to track down the rest of the story. It looks like both Poison River and Love & Rockets X are reprinted in the volume Beyond Palomar.

2000 AD #1454 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid Part 2,” as above. Slaughterhouse can’t find a job, his neighbor tries to get him to join a protection racket, and someone kidnaps his wife. Savage: as above. Savage rescues Jan again, and plots to assassinate the Volgan president on his visit to Britain. Leatherjack: as above. Again I can’t tell what’s going on here. Breathing Space: as above. Or here either. Robo-Hunter: as above. Samantha Slade fights some kind of robot dinosaur.

UNCLE SCROOGE #88 (Gold Key, 1970) – “The Unsafe Safe,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is reprinted from issue 38. Scrooge’s scientists create an unbreakable variety of glass, and Scrooge uses it as the door for his vault. Magica de Spell discovers that the cry of a bird called the “Tanganyika yeeker” can break the glass. Despite Scrooge’s best efforts, Magica succeeds in using a yeeker to steal Scrooge’s Old Number One dime, and she is only defeated because her stun ray runs out of batteries. I wonder if this was Barks’s only story in which he used both the Beagle Boys and Magica.  

CURSE WORDS SPRING SPECIAL (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. This flashback story begins with Margaret’s birth. Ruby Stitch manages to hide her pregnancy from an oblivious Sizzajee, but as soon as Margaret is born, Clearboy discovers her existence and kidnaps her. Sizzajee kills Ruby Stitch and Wizord, then revives them with no knowledge of their child’s existence, and curses them to never be happy. It’s a rather heartwrenching story, despite Browne and Soule’s humorous approach.

WONDER WOMAN #39 (DC, 1990) – “Poisoned Souls,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. The peace summit on Themyscira turns disastrous as everyone starts fighting everyone else, because Menalippe’s golden apples have been replaced by Eris’s apples of discord. There’s also a subplot with Hermes and Steve Trevor.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #149 (Dell, 1953) – untitled (“Flip Decision”), [W/A] Carl Barks. A quack professor converts Donald to the philosophy of “flipism,” where he makes decisions by flipping a coin. Which is also one of Two-Face’s gimmicks, but I suspect that this is just a coincidence. Anyway, this story is most notable for introducing Daisy’s nephews April, May and June, although they only appear in three panels and are unnamed. The Mickey Mouse story in this issue is a reprint of a Gottfredson newspaper strip sequence in which Mickey becomes the master of a genie. This issue also contains the usual filler material, including a Little Hiawatha strip that’s even more offensive than Four Color #744.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #141 (ACG, 1966) – “Phantom Revenge!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Bob Jenney. In this issue’s first story, two criminals are apprehended by the ghosts of a young couple who were murdered a hundred years previously. The fun part is how the ghosts’ dialogue is the same in the present-day sequence as in the flashback sequence depicting their murder. Next is a rather trite mummy story, and then an adventure of Magicman. The latter character was one of ACG’s few superheroes, although he’s really more of a superhero parody.

HELLBLAZER #25 (DC, 1990) – “Early Warning,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] David Lloyd. Constantine visits a town that has been ruined by Thatcherism, and is trying to restore its civic pride by reviving an ancient masking festival. But some local mad scientist is driving the townspeople insane by bombarding their brains with microwaves. This issue is a brilliant meditation on nationalism and Thatcherite economics, and David Lloyd’s art is beautifully moody. The story meant to appear in Hellblazer #25 was “Hold Me,” perhaps the best Hellblazer story ever, but yet “Early Warning” isn’t that much worse than “Hold Me.”

CAPTAIN AMERICA #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “Winter in America Part VI,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. A boring, slow-paced story that focuses on Alexander Lukin and his wife Alexa. Cap himself doesn’t appear until late in the issue. I should have given up on this series after just a couple issues, but I kept reading it out of a misplaced sense of obligation.

THE PHANTOM #1131 (Frew, 1996) – “The Search for Byron,” [W] Jim Shepherd, [A] Glenn Ford. The Phantom travels to Burma to rescue an old friend, an aviator named Byron whose plane crashed in the jungle. In rescuing him, the Phantom also solves the real-life mystery of the disappearance of Charles Kingsford Smith, Australia’s greatest aviator. “The Search for Byron” is the first Phantom story I’ve read that was an original Australian production. Glenn Ford’s artwork is not nearly at the same level as the art in the Swedish-produced Phantom comics, but Jim Shepherd’s writing shows his love for the Phantom franchise.

CEREBUS #228 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story,” [W] Dave Sim. Finally something actually happens: Rick tells Cerebus that they’ll only meet once more, then leaves the bar. I don’t know if they ever did meet, or, if so, under what circumstances. Then Cerebus tries to decide if he should leave too.

2000 AD #1461 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid Part 9,” as above. Dredd fights Slaughterhouse, who I guess has become a vigilante since part 2. The Red Seas: “Underworld Part 2,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. In the 17th century, some dude leads a party of criminals to a Mithraic temple buried under London. There they find Isaac Newton, some years after his alleged death. This story mentions that there are a lot of underground rivers below London, and this appears to be true. Leatherjack: “Chapter 12,” as above except [A] Paul Marshall. I still can’t tell what this is about. Sinister Dexter: “…And Death Shall Have No Dumb Minions Part 3,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Davis. Sinister and Dexter fight a giant robot. Simon Davis’s painted art is beautiful. Dredd: “Burned Out Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Carl Critchlow. Dredd requests help from a former judge who’s lost all four limbs in the line of duty. This story continues into Megazine #238. I’m not sure why this issue has two Dredd stories.

MIND MGMT #20 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. A flashback story about a group of assassins disguised as a circus freakshow. I must have read this issue in digital form while doing research for my book, but I don’t remember much about it. I’m looking forward to the just-announced new MIND MGMT series with art by various star artists.

BIRTHRIGHT #26 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. This initially seems to be a flashback to Mikey’s failed attempt to defeat Lore, just prior to the beginning of the series. Then we discover it’s really a vision Mikey is having, because Samael has imprisoned him in a coffin in order to try to probe his memories. I miss this series.

BATMAN #484 (DC, 1992) – “Warpaint,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Jim Aparo. Black Mask leads an arson campaign against Bruce Wayne’s buildings. This must be one of Black Mask’s earlier appearances, but otherwise it’s not very interesting, and I’ve never cared much for Black Mask.

HELLBLAZER #68 (DC, 1993) – “Down All the Days,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Steve Dillon. Down All the Days is the title of a famous Irish novel by Christy Brown, but the Pogues borrowed it as a line in the song “Rainy Night in Soho,” and later as the title of a separate song. Ennis’s title could be a reference to any or all of these. This issue, Constantine has somehow become a homeless alcoholic, making him an easy target for a gang of vampires who are killing homeless people. This issue is a brutal and seemingly realistic depiction of life on the streets of London.

POWER MAN #27 (Marvel, 1975) – “Just a Guy Named X!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] George Pérez. Luke Cage fights a superpowered, intellectually disabled ex-boxer and his manager/caretaker. Eventually the boxer kills the manager by accident and is taken to a mental hospital. This is a  more poignant story than I expected from Mantlo, but Perez’s art is seriously hampered by Al McWilliams’s lifeless inking.

BATWOMAN #6 (DC, 2012) – “Drown the World Part One,” [W] J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, [A] Amy Reeder. I’m not sure what this issue is about, and I don’t really care. Amy Reeder’s art in this issue is adequate, but a comic written by J.H. Williams is only worth reading if he also draws it. At least that was the case for his earlier work. Echolands is better written than Batwoman was, but I still might not read it if someone else drew it.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #9 (2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mike Del Mundo. In a Civil War II crossover, Amadeus Cho is confronted by a bunch of other superheroes while he’s in mourning for Bruce Banner. This issue is kind of boring, and Mike Del Mundo’s talent is wasted on such a generic superhero story. Totally Awesome Hulk was an interesting series, but it was completely overshadowed by the next Hulk series, Immortal Hulk.

On March 27 I went to the Charlotte Comic Con. Also, between the convention and my previous Heroes trip, I went to ICFA in Orlando. This was my first in-person conference in two years, and my first trip anywhere other than Minneapolis since the pandemic. It seriously helped to restore my motivation and break me out of the slump I’ve been in. I did not buy any comic books during the trip, though I did win one graphic novel in the ICFA auction. Anyway, here are some of the things I bought at the convention:

THRILLING ADVENTURE STORIES #2 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – [E] Jeff Rovin. This was a massive bargain at just $5. The Atlas/Seaboard issue of Comic Book Artist calls this the best comic the company ever published, and I have no doubt this is correct. It has such a high level of talent that it’s almost like an extra issue of Blazing Combat – and indeed it resembles a classic Warren comic, both in format and in its lineup of creators. It starts with Goodwin and Simonson’s “Temple of the Spider,” a Japanese samurai/yokai story. Besides greatly resembling Manhunter, this comic shows that Goodwin and Simonson had some actual acquaintance with Japanese visual culture and mythology. I wonder what their specific inspiration for this story was. The weak link in the issue is “The Kromag Saga,” a dumb caveman story drawn by Jack Sparling. But next is “Tough Cop” by John Albano and Russ Heath, about an old cop who defeats some assassins from his wheelchair. Heath’s artwork here is incredibly realistic and thrilling, if not quite at the same level of detail as his masterpiece “Give and Take.” He was an incredible draftsman and storyteller, and a pioneer in the use of photo reference for comic art. Steve Mitchell and John Severin’s “Town Tamer” is another beautifully drawn war story, though not so well written. And the most notable story in the issue is “A Job Well Done” by Alex Toth and Richard Meyers. Again, the plot, about an honest cop in a corrupt near-future society, is a bit disappointing, but Toth’s visual storytelling is unparalleled. I’ve been looking for this comic for twenty years, ever since I read that Comic Book Artist magazine in 2001, and it was worth the hype.

CEREBUS #31 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “Chasing Cootie,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The bad issues of Cerebus are so bad that they make me forget how good the good ones are. This issue is Astoria’s second appearance, and her first in the actual series – she was introduced in a new story added to the third Swords of Cerebus reprint volume. In this issue Astoria explains her history with Artemis/Moonroach, and then Moonroach assassinates Cerebus’s business partner. Also, the Regency Elf laughs at Cerebus, but he doesn’t appear to be able to perceive her. This issue includes a flashback scene in which Moonroach r*pes Astoria, but it’s basically glossed over, whereas the other r*pe scene later in the series is given much more emphasis.

LITTLE ARCHIE #13 (Archie, 1960) – “A Spotty Story” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. There are a ton of stories in this issue, but the most important one is “The Flash,” Bolling’s first realistic adventure story. In this story Archie’s dad takes Little Archie camping, and Archie keeps begging his dad to take a photo of him. Archie’s dad never manages to take the photo, but Archie uses his dad’s camera’s flashbulb to save himself from a hungry wolf. I have probably said before that Bolling is perhaps the greatest artist of outdoor adventure stories, and he was good at it from the start. Ironically, one of the Dexter Taylor stories in this issue blatantly contradicts “The Flash,” by suggesting that Archie and his dad are so terrified of the outdoors that they can only camp in their own backyard. There are four other Bolling stories in this issue, all of them in a more humorous style, and some much lesser material by Taylor.

WONDER WOMAN #199 (DC, 1972) – “Tribunal of Fear!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Don Heck. I usually won’t pay more than about $6 for a single comic, but paid $15 for this without even thinking about it, because it has my favorite cover ever. This cover and that of #200 are the only superhero works by Jeffrey Catherine Jones, then known as Jeff Jones. The composition and rendering of #199’s cover are both utterly astonishing, and the subtle linework is even better appreciated in hard copy than in reproductions. Predictably, the interior story is far less memorable than the cover, though it’s kind of interesting. Its plot is that Diana and Jonny Double have to save Fellows Dill, a stand-in for Larry Flynt or Hugh Hefner, from being assassinated by a KKK-esque group of right-wing terrorists.

SKULL #3 (Last Gasp, 1971) – “Tales of the Leather Nun,” [W/A] Dave Sheridan, etc. I think this was priced at $8, but I bargained it down to $6. I bought it from a seller who had a truly impressive selection of underground and alternative comics. The first story in Skull #3, by Dave Sheridan, is underwhelming, but the other three stories are by three of the greatest horror artists in underground comics: Jack Jackson, Richard Corben, and Greg Irons. They all have rather silly and sexually exploitative plots, but they’re gorgeously drawn. Perhaps the funniest one is the Jaxon story, in which a barbarian fights his way through a horde of zombies, and we think he’s trying to stop a beautiful maiden from being married to a “deaf-mute, syphilitic leper,” but he’s really just trying to get to the bathroom. The barbarian in this story wears a helmet identical to the one that Conan wore at the time.

UNCLE SCROOGE #46 (Gold Key, 1963) – “Lost Beneath the Sea,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge decides to buy Mount Everest, the Taj Mahal and Hong Kong. That makes no sense at all, but these purchases don’t play any role in the plot; they’re just an excuse to get Scrooge to go to sea while carrying  the Old Number One Dime for good luck. Though I do wonder how much the Taj Mahal is valued at for insurance purposes. Anyway, Scrooge loses the dime at sea and instantly starts suffering from bad luck, and he discovers that it’s been recovered by Martians who are trying to recover iron from sunken ships. That doesn’t make sense either; the reason Mars is red is because it’s full of iron, so why would Martians need to go to Earth for iron? But this is a thrilling adventure story anyway. This issue also includes two other Barks stories,  one starring Gyro Gearloose, and another where Scrooge outsmarts himself while trying to test his nephews’ honesty.

SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES #15 (EC, 1954/1996) – “Raw Deal,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Jack Kamen. Gregg Bolton and his wife were been lost at sea, and only Gregg survived. Now Gregg keeps shouting “I hate her!” After being given a truth serum, he reveals that after his wife died, he was starving to death, so he did the only thing he could do to survive. And he’s not saying “I hate her,” he’s saying… well, you can figure it out. This is a genuine classic, and the best story in the issue. “The Confidant,” [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Wally Wood. A man visits a small town in order to visit his son, who is being pursued by a lynch mob after murdering his girlfriend. The man visits his son, but refuses to reveal the son’s current whereabouts, and the mob murders him. Afterward, they open his jacket to reveal a priest’s collar – which explains why he couldn’t tell them anything. There have been actual cases of priests being killed for refusing to reveal information they learned in the confessional, but it seems like in this case, the mob would have let the priest alone if he’d told them who he was. “For Cryin’ Out Loud!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Reed Crandall. An escaped criminal murders a woman, then thinks that everyone he sees suspects him of it, until he finally confesses. What he doesn’t realize is that everyone is reacting to the scratches his victim left on his face. This is the least impressive story in the issue. “Well Trained,” [W] Carl Wessler, [A] George Evans. Mike Ferris murders policeman Tom Gibson’s wife. Ferris is caught, and Gibson torments him by telling him gruesome details of the death that awaits him in the electric chair. Eventually the murderer escapes but runs onto a train track, and Gibson never finds out whether he died from being hit by the train or from being electrocuted by the third rail. Really, someone should have gotten a restraining order against Gibson to stop him from harrassing Ferris.  

SERGIO ARAGONÉS FUNNIES #2 (Bongo, 2011) – “A Somewhat Familiar Story” etc., [W/A] Sergio Aragonés. I somehow failed to buy this when it came out, and I’m glad I’ve finally found it. This issue starts with a King Kong parody, whose twist ending is that King Kong is a child, and his parents come to New York and rescue him. “My First Peso” is an autobiographical story about how Sergio earned his first money by doing his classmates’ art homework for them. In “Kira and the Beauty Contest,” a humanoid alien dreams of appearing in beauty contests on Earth, but the twist is that she turns out to be giant-sized relative to Earth people. This was a great series and I wish it had lasted more than six issues.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #144 (DC, 1969) – “Death Takes No Holiday!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Neal Adams. Enemy Ace defeats a squadron of Allied pilots who dress up in  skeleton suits, but at the cost of the life of a fellow pilot. Unusually, this story is pencilled by Neal Adams and inked by Kubert. This was their first collaboration, and their styles are quite well suited to each other. Enemy Ace may be the best American war comic not published by EC.

BIJOU #8 (Krupp, 1973) – “Geek Brothers!”, [W/A] Jay Lynch, etc. I bought this from the same dealer as Skull #3. It’s the first issue of Bijou I have. On the inside front cover is an editorial denouncing the Supreme Court’s Miller decision, which put an end to the underground comics market by allowing local communities to set their own standards for obscenity. Therefore, this is one of the last true underground comics. The gimmick in this issue is that it consists of stories in which one underground cartoonist parodies another. For example, the first story is Jay Lynch’s parody of Gilbert Shelton’s Freak Brothers. Other stories in the issue are by Bill Stout (parodying Skip Williamson), Williamson (parodying Crumb), Denis Kitchen (Dan Clyne), Pat Daley (Bodé), Crumb (Lynch), Griffith (Deitch), Deitch (Griffith), Justin Green (S. Clay Wilson), Willy Murphy (Spiegelman), and Jay Kinney (Trina and Spain). This is a fascinating comic, though the parody aspect makes it a little disappointing. The Pat Daley story is funny because it suggests that Bodé’s Cheech Wizard is Pogo in disguise.

SUICIDE SQUAD #53 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part 1: Dead Earnest,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. After this latest convention, I now have all but two issues of Suicide Squad. However, one of the two that I’m missing is #23, which will be the hardest to find. In #53, Waller accepts a mission to recover some guns hidden in Cambodia. I believe this is some kind of double-cross on Waller’s part, as the person who hid the guns is obviously Captain Boomerang in disguise. This issue is good, but not spectacular.

CEREBUS #36 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “The Night Before,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue consists entirely of a conversation between Cerebus and Jaka, but unlike many later Cerebus stories, “The Night Before” feels substantial. At this point Dave hadn’t yet suffered the curse of decompressed storytelling, and he still knew how to write dialogue that both sounds realistic and advances the plot. This issue has a backup story by Bill Loebs about Benjamin Franklin’s afterlife.

NIGHTWING ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Blood Brothers, “[W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey & Daniel HDR. This was the only back issue of Tom Taylor’s Nightwing that I could find at the convention. I think I missed at least six issues before I started reading it. This annual includes a present-day team-up between Nightwing and Red Hood, plus a backup sequence depicting Dick Grayson’s first meeting and first adventure with Jason Todd. This story again emphasizes Dick’s big-brother role, even referring to him and Jason as “brothers” in its title and its last line. It also helps me sympathize with Jason, who I’ve always hated.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #668 (Marvel, 2011) – “Spider-Island Part 2: Peter Parker, the Unspectacular Spider-Man,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Peter leads a bunch of spider-powered people into battle, taking advantage of the fact that everyone has spider-powers, so he’s at no risk of revealing his secret identity. This is a pretty average Slott issue, but it includes a lot of fun moments, such as Peter having to pretend to be amazed at meeting Reed Richards.

INCOGNITO #1 (Icon, 2008) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This series stars Zack Overkill, a former supervillain who’s now in the witness protection program. Just like Mr. Incredible, he’s having trouble coping with his non-super life, and also his supposedly dead twin brother Xander may still be alive. Incognito is a superhero comic but is drawn in the same style as Criminal, making it a somewhat odd reading experience. As a note to myself, I have all six issues of this miniseries, and I have already read issue 2. I will have to reread it before I get to #3.

GROO THE WANDERER #112 (Marvel, 1994) – “Rufferto Avenged,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A king orders a chemist to make a poison to murder the king’s wife, and the chemist tests the poison on Rufferto. Groo discovers Rufferto’s dead body and goes on a rampage, looking for the person who did it. Everyone in town blames whoever they hate most, and finally someone blames the king, who sends Groo to the chemist. But the chemist reveals that the poison didn’t actually kill Rufferto, it just made him appear dead for 12 hours – and it had the same effect on the queen. In the end, both Groo and the queen wake up in perfect health, but everyone in town now knows that their neighbors want them dead. This issue is a brilliant piece of storytelling. Perhaps the funniest part is the scene where Sergio himself leans out a window and tells Groo “My editor killed your dog!”

VAULT OF HORROR #6 (EC, 1950/1993) – “Terror on the Moors!”, [W/A] Johnny Craig. Jim Ryan visits an old mansion and ends up fighting the owner’s son, a horrible flesh-eating ghoul. “Baby… It’s Cold Inside!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Graham Ingels. An old man insists on having his apartment kept at a freezing temperature. Eventually we discover that the man is already dead, but has stayed alive by freeezing himself – until the air conditioning fails. This story is an unannounced adaptation – or, more bluntly, a ripoff – of Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.” “The Beast of the Full Moon!”, [W] Bill Gaines, [A] Jack Davis. We are led to believe that Tom Kellogg’s brother is a werewolf, but the real werewolf is Tom’s fiancee June. “Vodooo Horror!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Jack Kamen. Basically the same premise as The Picture of Dorian Gray, except with a voodoo doll instead of a painting.

UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES #42 (Gladstone, 1997) – “Treasure of Marco Polo,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge orders a giant jade elephant from the Southeast Asian country of Unsteadystan, but only the elephant’s tail arrives, together with a stowaway named Soy Bheen. Soy Bheen offers to return with Scrooge to Unsteadystan and help him find the rest of the elephant, if Scrooge can protect Soy Bheen from the general Wahn Beeg Rhat. Eventually we discover that Soy Bheen is really Prince Char Ming, the legitimate heir to the throne of Unsteadystan, and Scrooge helps him recover his treasure and his throne. This story is unusual for Barks because of its political subtext. The political situation in Unsteadystan is clearly based on contemporary events in Vietnam, and Unsteadystan’s traditional architecture and clothing are drawn to resemble those of Vietnam.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. After recovering from his possession by Dr. Octopus, Peter has to get his old life back together. Among other things, he reunites with Johnny Storm, punches Captain America (because Cap knew he had been taken over by Doc Ock, but didn’t tell anyone), and needs Anna Maria’s assistance to get his pants off. That doesn’t mean what it sounds like. Also, Peter battles Electro, and then decides to build a supervillain prison. This is a fun issue.

MICKEY MOUSE #248 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Land of Long Ago,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill De Maris. Mickey, Goofy and Professor Dustibones are stuck in the past, where they have to avoid being killed by cavemen before they can get back to their own time. Gottfredson was a storytelling genius, though I don’t like him as much as Barks. A consistent problem with Mickey Mouse stories, in whatever medium, is that Mickey has no personality other than being courageous and good-natured. I suppose this is also a problem with Tintin, but Tintin has a more interesting supporting cast.

SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES #13 (EC/Gladstone,  1954/1995) – [W] Al Feldstein. “Only Skin-Deep,” [A] Jack Kamen. After a bad car accident, Bob Sickles wakes up in hospital with amnesia and a bandaged face. Gloria Anders tells Bob that she conspired with him to help kill her husband Charles, who died in the same car accident that caused Bob’s amnesia. But then “Bob” injures his head and regains his memory, and he realizes he’s actually Charles, and it was Bob who died in the accident. This twist is rather predictable. “Blood-Brothers,” [A] Wally Wood. One of EC’s occasional anti-racist stories. Sid, a disgusting racist, discovers that his neighbor Henry is part black, so he harasses Henry and eventually drives him to suicide. Afterward, the local doctor reveals that when Sid was a child, his life was saved by a black man, so Sid has as much “negro blood” as Henry did. “Upon Reflection,” [A] Reed  Crandall. After killing an opponent in the ring, a boxer mistakenly believes he’s become a werewolf. “Squeeze Play,” [W] Frank Frazetta. Harry murders his girlfriend upon discovering that she’s pregnant (though this is left for the reader to figure out). While he’s trying to escape, some girls lure him out into the water and then abandon him, and he drowns. “Squeeze Play” doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s the highlight of the issue because of Frazetta’s spectacular artwork. His anatomy and draftsmanship and composition are unequaled. I keep saying that Al Williamson is the best draftsman in the history of American comic books, but Frazetta is his one possible rival.

FIRE POWER #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. This comic is actually redundant because it’s the second printing, and the first printing was an FCBD edition, which I already have. I’m not sure if this second printing includes any new content. An Anyway, Fire Power has beautiful art, but it’s also deeply problematic because it’s a wuxia story by two white creators, neither of whom seems to have any deep knowledge of East Asian culture. For instance, comic mentions names like “Chou Feng” and “Ling Zan,” but to Kirkman and Samnee those are just meaningless sounds. In the bonus material at the end, Kirkman writes that “Ling’s original name was Zuan, which, I believe, is pronounced ‘Shu-Ahn’… I decided to go with something that read phonetically, so we wouldn’t have to spend years correcting the pronunciation.” Why is Kirkman writing a comic about Chinese people if he isn’t even sure how their names are pronounced? Why doesn’t he trust readers to pronounce Chinese names correctly? This whole comic just seems like a bad idea.

CEREBUS #83 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Touch Not the Priestess,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Michelle tells Cerebus a long story about her relationship with Weisshaupt, and also tells Cerebus how to use a dustpan. Then she reveals that everything she told him before, presumably in #53, was false. This issue is another long talkfest, but it’s interesting. At the back of the issue is a petition asking Marvel to return Kirby’s artwork.

BATMAN #106 (DC, 2021) – “The Cowardly Lot Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This issue includes a bunch of different subplots, and seems to lack a central theme. The basic point is that Gotham is being terrorized by clowns and the “Unsanity Collective,” and Gotham’s problems are about to get worse because the Scarecrow is preparing some kind of plot. I want to like James Tynion’s Batman, but its plot is hard to follow.

IMMORTAL HULK #14 (Marvel, 2019) – “We Only Meet at Funerals,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Kyle Hotz. The first half of the issue depicts Thunderbolt Ross’s funeral, or rather his latest funeral. Then Bruce visits Betty, but just as they’re reconciling, Bushwacker apparently shoots Betty dead. I like how this comic depicts the other characters’ ambivalent reactions to Ross’s death.  

UNCLE SCROOGE #303 (Gladstone, 1997) – “Rocks to Riches,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This issue’s inside cover includes an editorial explaining Gladstone’s decision to switch from glossy to switch covers. I actually almost prefer the self covers. This issue begins with a ten-pager in which Donald buys a rock tumbler, and there’s a Beagle Boys/Gyro Gearloose backup story by Tony Strobl.

SKYBOUND X #2 (Image, 2021) – “Rick Grimes 2020 Chapter 2,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley, etc. The lead story in this issue is a typical piece of Kirkmanian ultraviolence, but this issue also includes new Birthright and Stillwater stories, plus a Machine Boy story by Tri Vuong and Irma Kniivila. If there was a regular series starring the latter character, I’d buy it. I’m not sorry I skipped buying Skybound X when it came out, because I suspect it will be easy to find the whole series.

THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG VOL. 3 #3 (Dark Horse, 2001) – “Siegfried Part Three,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. This issue begins with Wotan’s meeting with Erda. I’m guessing this scene is based on the Völuspá from the Poetic Edda. Then Wotan tries to stop Siegfried from approaching Brunhilde’s mountaintop, but Siegfried breaks his staff, and Wotan doesn’t appear again in the cycle. Afterward, Siegfried awakens Brunhilde, and they sing a love duet. PCR’s Ring adaptation is probably his greatest solo work, and it makes me want to actually watch or listen to the entire Ring Cycle.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “We’re not friends,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. A team of Guardians tries to protect Gnawbarque, from Ewing’s Rocket Raccoon series, from being assassinated by Rocket. Meanwhile, Moondragon is attacked by her old nemesis, the Dragon of the Moon. This issue is confusing, but very fun. I especially like the robot waiter whose head is a cocktail shaker.

KING’S WATCH #4 (Dynamite, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Marc Laming. The various King Features heroes try to fight Ming’s invasion of Earth. These Dynamite King comics were a lot of fun, though it’s weird returning to American Phantom comic books after having gained a deeper knowledge of the character.

I went back to Heroes on March 31. This was a rather stressful day as I had to take my cat to the vet.

SAGA #57 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. A flashback shows how Alanna had her wings amputated. The Will shows Marko’s head to King Robot. There are more tensions between Alanna and the crooks she’s working with. The best moment in this issue is when The Will says “This little reunion act is a cheap stunt and it’s gonna get us both killed,” and Lying Cat just purrs, indicating that The Will is telling the truth.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #21 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. A girl named Gabi is the only survivor after her family are killed by oscuratypes. A policeman named Carter tries to get her to safety, but she runs away, and Erica finds her. This is just an introductory issue, rather than a complete story of its own.

ASTRO CITY: THAT WAS THEN… SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “That Was Then…”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. After yet another hiatus, Astro City is back again, at the same publisher where it started out in 1995. This issue focuses on a teenage superhero team, the Jayhawks, as they try to enjoy their last summer before adulthood. This sequence reminds me a lot of Tales of the New Teen Titans, but because it’s set in 1969, the Jayhawks are more similar to the original Teen Titans. The issue ends with Samaritan musing about the stagnation of contemporary superheroes, and then the ghosts of the Jayhawks appear. The whole story has a wistful air of anticipatory nostalgia – that is, the feeling of missing something that’s not quite gone yet.

NIGHTWING #90 (DC, 2002) – “Get Grayson Act 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Gerardo Borges. Someone blows up Dick’s building, and he’s rescued by his best friend, Wally West. The best thing about this issue is Dick’s interactions with Wally. There are even some cute moments with Linda, Jai and Iris. I haven’t read any new Flash comics in over a decade, and I kind of miss all these characters. Gerardo Borges’s art is a reasonable substitute for Bruno Redondo’s.

RADIANT BLACK #13 (Image, 2022) – “Accel,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Marshall starts doing YouTube ads for money, but some asshole supervillain blows up the businesses Marshall is advertising. Marshall catches the guy, but he’s completely unrepentant and promises that next time he’ll target everything Marshall cares about, and Marshall apparently kills him. I hope the guy is really dead, because he deserves it. Also, there’s a sad scene where Marshall’s mother acts resentful of him for leaving his dog with her.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Qarin explains why she believes Kamala destroyed her utopian world and killed Marvel-ji, Qarin’s dimension’s version of Ms. Marvel. Incidentally, “ji” is a title of respect, similar to the Japanese “san,” so it kind of is an appropriate translation of Ms. Marvel. Nadia Pym makes a guest appearance, and there’s a reference to balushahi, or Pakistani donuts. I have never had these.

USAGI YOJIMBO #27 (IDW, 2022) – “A Ghost Story,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Yukichi meet an old monk who tells them the story of Midori, a servant girl whose master murdered her after she became pregnant by him. Then Usagi and Yukichi meet another servant girl, Shizuye, who’s in a similar predicament, and he and Yukichi save her from being murdered by her master’s jealous wife. The wife is apparently killed by Midori’s ghost. The twist is that the monk who told Usagi and Yukichi the story is also a ghost. The annoying part of this story is, Shizuye’s boss cheats on his wife with a much younger girl, gets her pregnant out of wedlock, and suffers no consequences at all. Meanwhile, the boss’s wife is depicted as a jealous hag.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Girl and Giant travel through a series of strange landscapes, but finally their pursuers catch up to them. Giant is forced to kill some enemy troops, to Girl’s terror. The farmer from last issue saves Girl’s life and is punished for it. Again, Matías Bergara’s art is utterly stunning.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #17 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Fornes. This issue establishes that the moon landing was indeed a hoax. It also shows how Lee Harvey Oswald replaced Frank Capra as the head of the Department of Truth. Jorge Fornes’s art is much more subdued and unadventurous than that of most of this series’ artists.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #10 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy decides to go with the evil version of her dad, since he promises he can bring her family back. But soon she figures out that this was a bad decision. Meanwhile, Inspector Insector and Lucy’s son find themselves on Black Hammer Farm, where they meet Abraham Slam. This issue is intriguing, though I still think this series has been a bit disappointing.  

WE HAVE DEMONS #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “The Nyeclops,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. After her father’s death, Lam discovers that he was a super-exorcist who used the holy power of “Halo” to fight demons powered by “Horn.” Lam’s father’s partner, a demon named Gus, saves her from some other demons, one of which is disguised as a pregnant woman. So far We Have Demons doesn’t seem to be as deep or as well-written as Something is Killing the Children or other horror titles, but it does have an interesting premise, and Greg Capullo’s art is impressively gory.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #1 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. This comic is also about exorcism, but it’s deeply rooted in Mexican culture, and it has more of a YA style of art. Sara Soler draws some impressively cute and weird creatures. I think the most interesting part of the story is the relationship between the protagonist and her grandmother. Overall this is a really interesting debut issue, and I’m glad that it’s being published in comic book format, or else I might not have read it.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Give Them a Show,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. There’s an opening sequence taking place in the town of Serepa, which is ruled by a witch, and then Naledi herself is taken to Serepa by her kidnapper. This series is a bit slow-paced, but I’m excited about this series anyway. I like how the dialogue includes words in multiple different South African languages.

ROBIN #12 (DC, 2022) – “”Demon vs. Detective,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Damian returns to Gotham and battles his own clone in front of Albert Pennyworth’s grave. Damian throws away the Lazarus serum rather than resurrect Albert in a cursed state. Damian leaves with Talia, and then we learn that Ra’s al Ghul is dying. This issue’s conclusion leads into Shadow War Alpha #1, which I don’t intend to read.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #36 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Miller. This is one of several recent Marvel comics that were printed on an inferior grade of paper – a paper stock that’s very thin and has a rough feel. I hate this paper and I hope Marvel doesn’t use it again. This issue Miles and Shift begin their trip through the multiverse in search of Uncle Aaron, and their first stop is a Wild-West-themed dimension, where they encounter the Western-themed Black Panther from Exiles. They also visit the worlds of Spider-Ham and Marvel Zombies, until at the end they encounter Ultimatum. I loved Saladin’s Exiles series, and I appreciate this issue’s callback to it.

ROGUE SUN #2 (Image, 2022) – “Hunter’s Moon,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Marcus’s ghost helps Dylan fight a vampire/werewolf villain, and Dylan also gets to know his dad and his newly found stepsiblings. Marcus tells Dylan that he gave him the Rogue Sun powers because he suspected it would make Dylan a target, and “I couldn’t do that to Aurie and Brock,” i.e. his “real” children. This decision shows that Marcus is a terrible man, and for that matter, Dylan is pretty terrible himself, but the interesting thing about this series will be seeing how their characters develop.

AQUAMEN #2 (DC, 2022) – “Raging Waters,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. Arthur and Black Manta investigate a series of murders, while Jackson, unwilling to team up with his dad, conducts his own investigation of the same crimes. It was just revealed that this series was downgraded from an ongoing to a six-issue miniseries. That’s too bad  because I was enjoying it.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Left Hand,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue focuses on Mr. Sinister and his attempts to manipulate the Quiet Council. Mr. Sinister is a gleefully evil bastard, and it’s fun to read about him. Kieron’s superhero comics have been a mixed bag; it often seems as if he doesn’t care about them as much as he cares about his creator-owned work. This issue is interesting, though.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #127 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. Donatello accepts Dr. Barlow’s offer to fix his shell, even though the Turtles suspect Dr. Barlow has ulterior motives. While Donatello and Barlow are occupied, Alopex sneaks into Barlow’s lab and finds Venus de Milo, the original female Turtle, with all four limbs missing. There’s also some further development of the alien baby plotline, but that subplot has been going on for three or four issues now, and I still have no idea why it matters.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #37 (Marvel, 2022) – “(B)road Trip,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Julius Ohta. Carol, Monica and the new Binary team up and fight the Snats of the Nine Lives, and then Carol and her friends take Binary dancing. The issue where the Snats first appeared was the best issue of this entire series, and I’m delighted that the Snats are back. I’m particularly glad that Kelly doesn’t explain anything about the Snats or their shirtless witch-hatted riders, because they’re funnier if they’re unexplained. Binary is a cute character, but she seems very similar to Singularity from A-Force.

SLUMBER #1 (Image, 2022) – “Dream Eater,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Our protagonist, Stetson, is a “dream eater” who kills her clients’ recurring nightmares for a fee. Slumber is hardly the first comic about dreams becoming real, but it has an original take on that premise, and Vanessa Cardinali is quite good at drawing bizarre dream creatures.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #5 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Man of My Dreams,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Risa teams up with Genka, the one man from the Risa Training Facility who doesn’t know who she is, and they finally manage to defeat Chub. Somehow this also cures Risa’s curse, and the series ends by implying that Risa and Genka will become couple. I don’t quite understand the ending of this issue, but overall this series was excellent.

WONDER WOMAN #785 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 3,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Rosi Kämpe. This issue consists mostly of conversations between various Amazons, and at the end, Diana decides to enter the trial, not on behalf of any tribe “but for all Amazons.” Perhaps the highlight of this story is the appearance by Diana’s favorite kanga, Jumpa. This issue also has a Young Diana backup. Like the previous Young Diana backups, this story has a boring plot, but very cute art by Paulina Ganucheau.

ROBINS #5 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The four Robins, besides Tim, try to escape from the Escape Artist’s hypnotic gauntlet. I’m confused by this issue’s plot, but I love the sequence where Batman fights a grue. As an interactive fiction fan, I’m delighted by this reference. Baldemar Rivas doesn’t imagine grues the same way I do, but that’s kind of the whole point of grues – that we don’t and can’t know what they look like.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “Nobody Wins,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. The protagonists have a violent showdown with government troops, and only Rose survives to preserve the knowledge of how Oswald died. I don’t like this series as much as She Could Fly or Blue Flame, but it was an impressive achievement, perhaps most of all because of its historical verisimilitude.

SHANG-CHI #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Part Two,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi and his family rescue Shi-Hua and Takeshi, and then they head to the dimension of Ta Lo. This comic is printed on the same horrible paper as Miles Morales #36.

RECKONING WAR: TRIAL OF THE WATCHER #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If the Watcher Had Never Interfered?”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This is really an issue of What If?, and I almost want to file it with that series. In this issue, some other Watchers torture Uatu by forcing him to view an alternate reality where he didn’t help the FF fight Galactus. To his horror, Uatu learns that in that reality, the FF beat Galactus anyway, and though they all suffer awful injuries in the process, they go on to turn Earth into a utopia. This issue’s plot is extremely clever, although given that it’s drawn by Javier Rodriguez, it would still have been worth reading even if it was as badly written as the last few issues of FF.

SILVER COIN #10 (Image, 2022) – “Covenant: Abomination,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. Some girl tries to exorcise the spirit that’s trapped inside the coin, and also she befriends a raccoon. This issue is tough to follow because I don’t remember the details of the coin’s origin. Also, I don’t care much about the story behind the coin; I’m more interested in seeing how the coin drives people to do awful things.

UNTIL MY KNUCKLES BLEED #2 (Behemoth, 2022) – “Extremely Damaged Part 2,” [W/A] Victor Santos. Gabin does his job by protecting one of the girls from some overly handsy clients, but his boss chews him out. Then Gabin goes to work to find the club empty and the girls missing. In order to rescue them, Gabin has to fight his way through a horde of criminals. This is another effective issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. Arlene prepares for her final confrontation with the villains. As stated in my review of #4, this series is vastly inferior to Basketful of Heads. It relies entirely on cheap shock value and gore, and the creators aren’t even able to deliver those affects successfully. The sight of a living, severed shark’s head attached to the hood of a truck should be more terrifying than it is in this comic.

HEATHEN #2 (Vault, 2017/2022) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. The two wolves who are chasing the sun and moon have a conversation, and then Aydis rescues Brynhild, but the other Valkyries kidnap her. After this issue I realize that this series is a sort of lesbian gender-swapped version of Wagner’s Siegfried. The main sellling point of this issue, and this series in general, is Alterici’s unique style of half-drawn, half-painted art.

TRIAL OF THE AMAZONS: WONDER GIRL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 4,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Yara Flor and the other Amazons of Esquecida travel to Themyscira for the contest, and the issue ends at the same point as Wonder Woman #785 did. This issue includes some of Joëlle Jones’s most impressive page layouts yet, as well as her typically excellent draftspersonship.

THE LAST SESSION #4 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. Outside the game, the other group members figure out that their resentment of Cassandra is misplaced, since she’s the only one of them who’s figured out the plot of the adventure. Inside the game, the party finally reaches the lich’s chamber, only to discover that he isn’t doing anything wrong, and the lord who hired them just wanted them to steal the lich’s stuff. With this issue, Last Session’s story finally becomes interesting.

FIRE POWER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. This issue begins with a beautiful action sequence where Owen fights a ninja in his house at night, but neither of them makes any noise. Samnee communicates their total silence to the reader by showing that Owen’s wife and children remain asleep throughout the entire fight, and they only wake up when the dog barks. The intruder reveals himself as Owen’s old frenemy Ma Guang. Again, Fire Power is mostly interesting as a vehicle for Chris Samnee’s storytelling. He may be the best visual storyteller currently working in comic books. However, as noted above, Fire Power is also a blatant example of cultural appropriation.  

UNCANNY X-MEN #445 (Marvel, 2004) – “The End of History Part 1,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Alan Davis. Wolverine and Nightcrawler cope with their involvement in a young mutant’s accidental death. Later, Kurt and Ororo have a conversation that feels kind of like sexual foreplay, and knowing Claremont, I’m not sure he didn’t intend it as such. At the end of the issue, Alan Davis reintroduces one of his classic creations, the Fury. I should track down the rest of this run, because you can never have too many comics by either Claremont or Davis.

UNTIL MY KNUCKLES BLEED #3 (Behemoth, 2022) – “Extremely Damaged Part 3,” [W/A] Victor Santos. Gabin fights an unequal battle against a much more powerful opponent, Mourning Blade, but manages to defeat him and save the girls. The series ends on a surprisingly happy note. This happy ending feels unrealistic, and it also violates the conventions of the film noir genre to which this series seems to belong. Otherwise, this was an entertaining series.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #3 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood Part Three,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Damian fights Nobody, and she knocks his tooth out, but hilariously, it turns out it was a baby tooth. There’s also a lot more plot that I don’t understand. I really ought to read this series in order.

BYLINES IN BLOOD #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “No One,” [W] Erica Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. Someone murders the mayor while disguised as Satya. The police surprisingly believe Satya’s claim that it wasn’t her, but the tabloids have already published a picture of Satya standing over the mayor’s corpse. The coolest thing about this issue is the opening dream sequence that’s formatted like an old Dick Tracy strip.

IRON FIST #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG & Sean Chen. Lin Lie and Mei Min fight some zombies and then some bullies. Sparrow Yu-Ti teaches Lin Lie to use his sword even though he has crippling pain in his hands. This series is an example of disability representation as well as Asian representation. Lin Lie’s hand injuries are especially disabling because his previous superhero identity was based on swordsmanship. This issue also includes a subplot where Danny Rand and his friends are trying to figure out who the new Iron Fist is.

UNCLE SCROOGE #302 (Gladstone, 1965/1997) – “Monkey Business,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge makes a bad investment in some toy monkeys that make a horrible noise. Scrooge has the idea of selling the monkeys to “King Jambok of Siambodia,” so he can use them to drive off the birds that are destroying his country’s rice paddies. While in Siambodia, Scrooge also saves the country from a foreign invasion from “Upper Malaria.” Like “The Treasure of Marco Polo,” this story is inspired by contemporary news events in Southeast Asia. Uncle Scrooge #302 also includes two Beagle Boys stories by Tony Strobl. It’s worth noting that “Monkey Business” first appeared in Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #297. I usually avoid buying Gold Key Disney comics because I assume they only contain reprinted material, but it looks like the early Gold Key issues of WDC&S often included new Barks stories. I should start collecting those issues.

WONDER WOMAN #254 (DC, 1979) – “The Angle in the Stars,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] José Delbo. The Angle Man steals a space shuttle and seals it inside a force field that’s impenetrable to Wonder Woman. The Angle Man should be an interesting villain, since his gimmick is committing crimes with unusual “angles.” But he can only be as clever as his writer is, and in this issue his plot is both stupid (if Wonder Woman can’t rescue the shuttle, then why can’t Superman do it instead?) and poorly explained (how does the force field work?). Also, there’s an unnecessary additional plot twist in which most of the characters in the issue are possessed by Olympian villains.

GROO #2 (Image, 1995) – “The Aquelarre,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A witch hires Groo to accompany her to a witches’ convention. Of course, Arba and Dakarba are also attending the same convention. Fearing a witches’ war, Arba, Dakarba and the other witches test their powers by turning Groo, Rufferto and a sheep into duplicates of each other. The story soon becomes deliberately confusing, as there are multiple different Groos and Ruffertos running around, and it’s hard to remember which are the originals. “Aquelarre” is a real Spanish word, derived from the Basque word “akelarre,” meaning a gathering of witches. I can’t claim I never learned anything from comic books.

NEWBURN #5 (Image, 2022) – “Luck Ran Out,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn finds himself in prison, with a man named Sal as his cellmate. We eventually learn that Newburn had himself sent to prison on purpose, so he could find out whether Sal was responsible for the death of a fellow Mafioso. This is a very clever issue. Also, it has a new backup story which is better than the previous one.

GHOST CAGE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Dragotta. This is one of the most mangaesque American comics I’ve ever seen. If I didn’t know otherwise, I might have guessed the artist was named Otomo and not Dragotta. But Dragotta shows a real understanding of the manga aesthetic, and his draftsmanship is beautiful. Ghost Cage’s plot is somewhat hard to follow, but it appears to be about a lowly corporate employee who has to escort a robotic superhero through a series of floors, each representing a different form of energy (coal, water, etc.).

CEREBUS #112/113 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1988) – “Square One,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is a single issue that counts as both #112 and #113. This seems like a copout on Sim’s part, though IIRC, in Cerebus #0 he complains about how much work it was to put together. Cerebus #112/113 is a mostly silent story in which Cerebus returns to Earth to discover that the Cirinists have conquered Iest in his absence. Cerebus contemplates Red Sophia’s discarded bikini and Bran Mac Muffin’s corpse, then heads to a bar, where he hears a man complain about the Cirinist conquest. This issue is an impressive piece of visual storytelling; the first half feels quite sad and mournful.

SWAMP THING #11 (DC, 2022) “Jericho’s Rose Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Jennifer Reece asks Tefé for help finding Swamp Thing. I don’t know what Tefé’s past history is in this continuity, but she’s an adult, not a child. Jason Woodrue resurrects a man named Mr. Pilgrim. And Jack Hawksmoor discovers that something is wrong with Detroit – well, no shit, Sherlock.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #4 (Scout, 2022) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. Jones saves James from Homewrecker, then as an added bonus, she discovers there’s a finder’s fee for the necklace she recovered. Of course superheroes aren’t supposed to accept rewards, but Jones  isn’t really a superhero. This was a fun series, very much in the spirit of Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, and I hope there will be more of it.

STILLWATER: THE ESCAPE #1 (Image, 2022) – “The Prisoner,” [W/A] Jason Loo, etc. This  one-shot consists of three stories about people who escaped from Stillwater, together with a new framing sequence by Zdarsky and Perez. I think the best one is the third, about a married couple who leave Stillwater in order to reinvigorate their marriage. Andrew Wheeler and Soo Lee’s story about gay Stillwater natives is also rather poignant. Overall the message of this issue is that immortality isn’t much fun because it means nothing ever changes.

MY BAD #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingman, [A] Peter Krause. Emperor King finally reveals that he sent Chandelier the salad shooter in order to figure out his secret identity. This series was frankly pointless and stupid. It wasn’t on the same level as Mark Russell’s previous work, and I suspect this is the fault of his co-writer.

ETERNALS: THE HERETIC #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Thanos’s Grandfather,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Ryan Bodenheim & Edgar Salazar. RIP Ryan Bodenheim. Sad news. This issue Thanos meets his great-uncle Uranos, who is somehow even worse than Thanos himself, and Uranos tells Thanos the story of his revolt against the Eternals. This issue is actually kind of fascinating, and it makes me think that I may have been judging this series too harshly.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #6 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Putting the D in DC,” [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Ryan Kelly. In the first story, Death is elected President. This story is rather silly and illogical. The backup story, a parody of social media written by Paul Constant, is a little better.

THE X-CELLENT #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 2,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The X-Cellent continue their conflict with the X-Statix – I forget which is which – and we also meet Pood, the evil version of Doop. This comic is okay, but it feels kind of outdated. The fact that Edie’s daughter is already an adult is evidence of just how long it’s been since the original X-Statix. I’ve been reading Doop dialogue for twenty years, and I still need to consult a Doop translator every time he appears in a comic.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #3 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce solves the series of killings, but only after his incompetence causes Henri Ducard to get shot. The serial killer is revealed to be an orphan who’s killing other orphans who are happier than him. The parallelism with Bruce himself is obvious. Bruce calls Alfred and tells him “I love you,” which is a really cute moment.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer assassinates Nabil Jebbouri, and also makes some depressing observations about the current state of the world. This series is very cold and emotionally uninvolving, but it’s a quality European comic, so I basically have to read it.

JOE HILL’S RAIN #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. I skipped issue 2 of this series, but maybe I shouldn’t have. This issue, the protagonists travel through a ravaged wasteland until they encounter a cop, but an escaped prisoner murders the cop and kidnaps Honeysuckle. The relationship between Honeysuckle and Templeton is really cute, and I think it’s the best thing about this comic.

MARVELS #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Forgotten War,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Lady Lotus’s nurse, Hana, remembers the history of the Siancong war, in which the Avengers were directly involved. That raises an obvious question – if this war was such a big deal, why was it never depicted in any other comic book? – and Busiek answers that question by revealing that Lady Lotus’s power caused all the superheroes to forget all but the most vague details of the war.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #10 (DC, 1983) – “The Voice!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. I don’t understand this comic’s plot at all, but it does include some striking visual images. This issue also includes a backup story by Tim Conrad about a Dust Bowl-era rainmaker. I forget if I mentioned this before, but the last time I was at Comic-Con, I shook Mike Royer’s hand, and I thought, “I just shook the hand that inked Jack Kirby.”

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #3 (Image, 2022) – “A Long Way from Home,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Fletcher’s contact, Guy, breaks them both out of the POW camp, at the cost of the lives of the other POWs. Fletcher takes refuge at a farm, where he sleeps with a local girl, even though he has a girlfriend back in Columbia. I’ve been kind of unenthusiastic about this series, but this issue is interesting, and Carlos Pacheco’s art is beautiful. On Facebook, Lawrence Watt-Evans mentioned that he wrote some of the backstory of this series.

BOLERO #3 (Image, 2022) – “Chapter 3 (1 Hop Left),” [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. Devin finally discovers a world where she wants to stay, but her alcoholism returns, and she discovers that her boyfriend William has also been hopping between dimensions. This issue has some impressive characterization, but it’s hard to remember who any of the characters are. However, the biggest problem with Bolero is Brandon Graham’s involvement. He drew the backup story in this issue, and I initially thought he wrote it as well. He’s such an unpleasant person that anything he works on feels somehow insincere and dishonest.

ANIMAL CASTLE #4 (Ablaze, 2022) – “Winter Daisies,” [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. In winter, Silvio and the dogs force the animals to collect wood for the fire, then surrender it and buy it back. The animals decide to practice nonviolent resistance by refusing to pay for the wood, even if it means they have to freeze. Instead they shelter in the barn. But the dogs burn the barn down, and to add insult to injury, they refuse to let the animals near the fire because they didn’t pay for the wood. Reading this comic makes me furious at the blatant, horrible injustice of Silvio’s rule. The logic of totalitarianism is, yes, we’re horribly oppressive and unfair, but we have all the guns, so what are you going to do about it? The next-issue blurb suggests that these events are going to force the animals to reconsider their commitment to nonviolence, and I kind of hope so, because I want to see Silvio die.  

HUMAN TARGET #6 (DC, 2022) – “It Were a Delicate Stratagem,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Guy finds Ice and Chance sleeping together and is about to beat Ice. She freezes him, and then Chance murders him by punching his head and shattering it. Of course, the words “one punch” are used. I’ve gotten sick of DC’s constant attempts at reviving the Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League: that series was a classic, but in reviving it again and again, DC is flogging a dead horse. However, the “one punch” reference in Human Target #6 is funny and appropriate.

X-MEN UNLIMITED: LATITUDE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Latitude,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Declan Shalvey. This originated as a digital comic, and you can tell. It’s full of pages that consist of just a few panels, often with only minor differences between them. As a result, though this comic feels thick, it’s actually a very quick read, and I don’t think it benefits from being published in print. In terms of its plot, the best thing about it is the running joke about Wolverine’s love for beer.

HULK: GRAND DESIGN – MONSTER #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Rugg. Compared to X-Men and Fantastic Four: Grand Design, this comic is disappointing. It feels like just a series of plot summaries, and it lacks any organizing theme. It also suffers from a lack of a consistent aesthetic. Jim Rugg makes some attempts at innovative page layouts and techniques – there’s even a page that’s based on My Favorite Thing is Monsters. But there’s no sense of an overarching artistic vision, as there was in Piskor and Scioli’s Grand Design comics. Part of the trouble is that the first 300 issues of Incredible Hulk don’t constitute any kind of a coherent or logical narrative. But one reason X-Men: Grand Design worked so well is because Piskor managed to show how all the classic X-Men stories were logically connected, and Rugg makes no attempt to do the same for the Hulk.

CEREBUS #115 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Jaka’s Story Book 1: Pogrom’s Progress,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus walks into a bar and tries to pay for a drink with a gold coin, only to learn that the coin is worth more than the bar itself, since the Cirinists have confiscated all the gold in Iest. Jaka walks into the same bar, and she tells Cerebus that she miscarried her baby, which we later learn to be false. Jaka’s Story was the last good Cerebus story, and this issue is an interesting introduction to it.

2000 AD #1585 (Rebellion, 2008) – Dredd: “Road Stop Part 4,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd visits a truck stop inhabited by a giant orange monster. I didn’t understand this chapter. Dave Taylor is not to be confused with Dave Cooper, although their art styles are vaguely similar. Savage: “The Guv’nor Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. Savage tries to prevent an assassin named Steak Knife from murdering some children on the steps of St. Paul’s. Dead Eyes: “Part Nine,” [W] John Smith, [A] Lee Carter. This story is about Neanderthals who are celebrating a fertility ritual at Stonehenge, but I can’t be more specific about it than that. Lee Carter’s painted art is interesting, but it’s printed too dark. The Ten-Seconders: “Make Believe Part 8,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Ben Oliver. No idea what this is about. It includes a quotation from the prologue of Paradise Lost, so while I was reading it, I distracted myself by seeing how much of that passage I could remember. I think I can get up to “Above all temples the upright heart and pure” before I have to remind myself what comes next. Dead Signal: “Part Five,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] P.J. Holden. Some mohawked guy in glasses has a vision where he’s in a mental hospital. Unusually for 2000 AD, four of the five pages of this chapter are splash pages.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “I’m in your head,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians assassinate Gnawbarque, and meanwhile Moondragon fights a mental battle with the Dragon of the Moon. The Moondragon scenes in this issue include some innovative page layouts.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16.1 (Marvel, 2015) – “Spiral Part One,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Carlo Barberi. This issue is really more about Wraith, aka Yuri Watanabe, than Spidey. After judge lets off Tombstone scot-free because of a defective search warrant, Yuri tries to prove that the judge is on Tombstone’s payroll. I probably wouldn’t have bought this if I’d realized it wasn’t written by Slott, but it’s not bad. Conway shows understanding of court procedure, and Yuri’s obsessiveness over Tombstone is disturbing. I’m not even sure the judge did anything wrong by letting him go, if the evidence against him was improperly obtained.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #143 (DC, 1969) – “The Devil’s General,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. Enemy Ace is forced to include an old general’s son, Werner, in his Jagdstaffel. When Werner is predictably killed in battle, the general punishes Enemy Ace by sending him and his men on suicide missions. Then Enemy Ace discovers Werner is still alive, and he rescues him from the castle where he’s imprisoned, thanks to his new invention: a parachute. (See https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/8ovqqr/did_pilots_in_ww1_use_parachutes/ for why World War I pilots didn’t use parachutes.) This story is unusual in that it shows Enemy Ace having adventures on the ground as well as in the air. Kubert’s artwork in this issue is stunning, and it looks just as fresh and modern today as when it was published.

THE PHANTOM #1189 (Frew, 1998) – “The Devil’s Anvil,” [W] Donne Avenell, [A] Carlos Cruz. In the time of an earlier Phantom, a jungle tribesman named Looni discovers a stone that attracts lightning. He uses the stone to become a powerful witch doctor and to conquer neighboring villages. Finally the Phantom defeats Looni by stealing the stone and throwing it into the lake, just before the Phantom himself would have been struck by lightning. That explains the origin of the most famous “old jungle saying”: “When the Phantom moves, lightning stands still.” This was Donne Avenell’s last Phantom story, and was published after his death.

2000 AD #1586 (Rebellion, 2008) – Dredd: as above. We learn the origin of “Mother,” the giant orange monster. Savage: as above. Savage defeats Steak Knife, but is unable to prevent an airship crash and the execution of some hostages. Savage confronts a Volgan general in a bar and shoots him dead. Dead Eyes: as above. Some evil general tries to destroy Stonehenge to get rid of the Neanderthals. Dead Signal: as above. The mohawked guy has a vision where he drives his motorcycle into a skyscraper and shoots a bunch of people. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I still have no idea what this is about.

WEIRD SCIENCE-FANTASY #1 (EC, 1953/1992) – [W] Al Feldstein. “The Children,” [A] Wally Wood. Ellen and David Greyson are among the colonists on an alien planet, but their child and all the other children born in the colony are abducted at birth to be raised communally. Eventually, Ellen and the other mothers force the colony government to let them see their children, and we discover that the kids are all hideously deformed, but their parents love them anyway. The payoff panel, showing the mutated kids, is just horrific. “Fish Story,” [A] Al Williamson. Some aquatic aliens use a captured human spaceship to escape their dying planet and travel to Earth, with the intention of conquering it. However, it turns out the aliens are adapted to live in fresh water, so they die when they land their spaceship in the ocean. Besides Williamson’s gorgeous draftsmanship, the best thing about this story is how the aliens don’t understand the difference between atmosphere and water. “The Flying Machine,” [A] Bernie Krigstein. This is based on a Bradbury story. I know that story quite well, and it’s powerful, but also kind of Sinophobic. Krigstein’s adaptation is not very interesting in terms of page layout or storytelling, but he does succeed in making his settings and characters look Chinese. “Fair Trade,” [A] Joe Orlando. In the future, Manhattan Island is a radioactive wasteland. Some advanced humans come to Earth from an alien planet and purchase the island from the nearby primitive humans, in exchange for a string of beads. This is an obvious reference to the legend that Manhattan Island was bought for a string of beads, but that legend is not true.

BATMAN #599 (DC, 2002) – “From the Inside-Out,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. Bruce Wayne is in prison for the murder of Vesper Fairchild, and has to defend himself from his fellow prisoners without revealing that he’s Batman. This is a boring story with unappealing art. It’s clear that at this point, Brubaker was still developing as a writer. This story is also full of the usual prison cliches – gangs, casual violence, and guards who are easily bribed. My guess is that most of these  cliches are not actually true, and that the real horror of prison life is just that it’s boring.

MOCKINGBIRD #6 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Daily Blowhole,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Mockingbird investigates a crime on a cruise ship. The last Chelsea Cain comic I read was Man-Eaters, which is both awful and extremely problematic, so I was surprised at how funny this issue was. As someone pointed out during the controversy over Man-Eaters, Chelsea Cain is a much better writer when she’s working with an editor.

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First reviews of 2022

REVIEWS OF EVERY COMIC I READ IN 2022

This project began in 2013, so it is now in its tenth calendar year.

SKYWARD #7 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part Two,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. While escaping from a company called Barrow, the protagonist, Willa, is saved by some farmers who ride on giant insects. Then they discover that the farmers are employed by Barrow, the same people Willa is fleeing. According to Henderson’s note at the end, this story is based on the theory that the size of insects’ circulatory systems is limited by gravity, hence why insects are so small. Thus, if not for gravity, insects could grow to giant size. I just read that Joe Henderson is mostly a television writer and that he only does comics as a side gig.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Let’s Talk Politics,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Marcio Takara. The Guardians attend a diplomatic conference in space, but the Snark delegate is murdered, and Marvel Boy finds the body and is accused of being the murderer. On the last page, Rocket Raccoon arrives, dressed like a detective and carrying a hip flask. This issue is a good example of Al Ewing in his humorous mode.

CURSE WORDS #23 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending Part Three,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. The war continues. Margaret finally reveals her backstory, and we learn why she can only shapeshift into animals. We are also reminded that Wizord used to be a real jerk. Sizzajee decides to outsmart Wizord by linking his life force to that of the Hole World, so that Wizord can’t kill Sizzajee without killing lots of innocent people. This series was building to a very exciting conclusion.

THE THREE MOUSEKETEERS #1 (DC, 1970) – various stories, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. This  stories in this issue are reprinted from 1956. They’re pretty standard funny animal stories about three mice and their encounters with birds, cats, humans, etc. However, these stories are elevated above typical funny animal comics by Mayer’s brilliant visual storytelling and clever sense of humor. I’ve been feeling lukewarm about Mayer’s work lately, but this issue made me want to read more of his comics.

CHILDREN OF FIRE #2 (Fantagor, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Another chapter of the ongoing Den saga. This issue includes a lot of dialogue written in a substitution cipher. I painstakingly decoded all of this dialogue on my own, only to realize that all of it is already translated on the inside back cover. In the first backup story, “Necromancer,” a mercenary is escorting a nearly nude woman to her future husband, but she’s killed by an evil wizard. The second backup story, “Oteg,” is an adaptation of a Japanese folktale, though it takes place in a generic fantasy setting, and it’s line-drawn rather than painted. It’s a real shame that Corben’s Den saga is out of print and expensive. Dark Horse or IDW ought to publish a modern edition of it.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #18 (Marvel, 1973) – “Where Bursts the Bomb!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Gil Kane. This is one of the few issues of MTU where Spider-Man does not appear. Instead, it stars the Human Torch and the Hulk. The villain is Blastaar, who is a really fun character because he has no depth or complexity; he’s just a brutal, gleefully evil bruiser. Other than that I don’t remember much about this issue’s story, but Gil Kane’s art is excellent as usual.

HIGHER EARTH #9 (Boom!, 2013) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. I was unable to follow this issue’s plot because I haven’t read issues 4 through 8. Also, most of the characters in this comic seem to be alternate incarnations of a single man and woman. This comic is interesting, though, and I’d like to collect the rest of it.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #21 (Marvel, 1975) – “Mourning at Dawn!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Sal Buscema. The Son of Satan encounters a series of menaces based on Tarot cards. This issue is highly bizarre and convoluted, as is typical for Gerber. Son of Satan was not among Gerber’s major works of the ‘70s, but it’s still interesting.

BATMAN #67 (DC, 2019) – “Knightmares Part 5: All the Way Down,” [W] Tom King, [A] Lee Weeks & Jorge Fornes. A mostly silent story in which Batman chases some guy in a mask. At the end, Batman takes off the guy’s mask and discovers that he’s the Joker. I don’t understand how this comic fits into the series’ plot, but Lee Weeks’s action sequences are excellent. He seems like a rather underrated artist.

MICKEY MOUSE #109 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Mystery at Misty Gorge,” [W] Don Christensen, [A] Paul Murry & Dan Spiegle. This is a chapter of the short-lived and regrettable “Mickey Mouse, Super Secret Agent” era. All the Mickey Mouse and Goofy figures are drawn by Paul Murry, and everything else is drawn by Spiegle. In this story, some criminals kidnap a scientist and take her to King Solomon’s Mines in Africa, so she can help them use solar power to create artificial diamonds. Mickey and Goofy rescue the scientist from the crooks. This would actually be a pretty good secret agent comic if it didn’t have Mickey Mouse and Goofy in it. Dan Spiegle’s artwork is crisp and exciting, and the only real problem with this comic is the ridiculousness of putting Mickey and Goofy into a realistically drawn setting. The other annoying thing about this comic is that Mickey and Goofy locate the criminals’ hideout by just traveling all around Africa and asking people if they know a place called Misty Gorge. The writer of this story doesn’t seem to have understood that Africa is really, really big.

CURSE WORDS #24 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending Part Four,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Wizord teleports the entire population of the Hole World back to Earth, so that he can kill Sizzajee without any collateral damage. Sizzajee murders Jacques Zacques in a fit of rage, then destroys the Hole World (in a cool fourth-wall-breaking moment) and teleports back to Earth. I was disappointed to realize that I don’t get to learn the end of the story yet, because there’s one issue after this, and I don’t have it. I will need to look for issue 25.

A MAN AMONG YE #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Craig Cermak. A pirate story starring the historical pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. This comic is forgettable, and I’m not sorry I didn’t buy it when it came out.

BASILISK #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “Blessings of the Chimera,” [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Jonas Scharf. Another series that I declined to buy when it was published, because I’ve been underwhelmed by Cullen Bunn’s work. Basilisk seems to be about people who have basilisk-like powers involving all five senses, so there are some characters who can kill people by looking at them, others by tasting them, etc. Other than that, this issue’s plot is hard to follow, but it feels quite scary, and Jonas Scharf’s artwork is very disturbing and effective. Some of his pages are line-drawn and others are painted. I don’t plan on adding Basilisk to my pull list, but I would buy more back issues of it.

SUGAR & SPIKE #49 (DC, 1963) – “Sugar & Spike’s Halloween Adventure” etc., [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. I’ve been unimpressed by the last few Sugar & Spikes that I’ve read, and I’ve gotten the idea that Mayer was worse than Barks or John Stanley. But after reading Three Mouseketeers #1, I decided to give Mayer another chance, and this issue is really good. The first story is a typical example of a plot based on Sugar & Spike’s misunderstanding of the adult world, or in this case the world of older kids; they sneak out of the house on Halloween, and they think that some children in monster costumes are actual monsters. The next story is about Sugar’s Uncle Charley and his efforts to prove that Sugar and Spike can talk. Then there are two slapstick stories involving a window cord and a watch. Here, as in Three Mouseketeers #1, Mayer demonstrates a mastery of plot and visual storytelling.

DETECTIVE COMICS #824 (DC, 2006) – “Night of the Penguin,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Don Kramer. Bruce Wayne visits the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge and tries to find evidence of the Penguin’s criminal behavior. Instead he ends up fighting another crook named Mr. Zzz, whose gimmick is that he’s always asleep. This issue also includes a perhaps unnecessary appearance by Dini’s pet character, Zatanna. Paul Dini didn’t create the Iceberg Lounge, but he seems to have been responsible for making it a central element of Penguin stories. There’s a curious subplot in this issue where one of the guests at the Iceberg Lounge has a little yapping dog in her purse, and then the dog vanishes. I’m not sure what’s supposed to have happened to it. Addendum: Brian Cronin suggests that the dog was eaten by the leopard seals.

THE GOON #7 (Albatross, 2019) – “The Goon Snatches the Limburger Baby!”, [W] Eric Powell & Tom Sniegoski, [A] Brett Parson. A deliberately gross and vulgar parody of the kidnapping of the Limbergh baby. Funny but not especially susbtantial.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #43 (Marvel, 1976) – “Destroy! Destroy! Screams the Destroyer,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. Captain Marvel battles Drax, who’s angry because Mar-Vell killed Thanos before Drax could do it. The narration describes Drax as an android. Brian Cronin (again) says that this was probably not a retcon but just imprecise language, since Drax has an artificial body. There’s also a subplot where Rick is seduced by a woman named Fawn, who would turn out to be a figment of his imagination. I met Al Milgrom briefly at the convention in November.

FANTASTIC FOUR #135 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Eternity Machine,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Gregory Gideon, from issue 34, kidnaps the FF in order to drain their life force and use it to save him and his son from a terminal illness. He uses the Dragon Man as bait, since Sue (who was separated from Reed at this point) has a rapport with it. Gideon’s plan fails of course, but Reed and Sue remain separated. The art in this issue is better than the writing.

I LOVE YOU #94 (Charlton, 1971) – “Call Me Joe,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Don Perlin, etc. Four unimpressive romance stories. Two of them are by Spanish artists, Ernesto R. Garcia and Luis Avila, and their work is more interesting than that of the two American artists. The second story, drawn by Art Cappello, is about a cad named Terence who keeps calling his love interest “child.” On top of the last page of the story, a previous owner has written “This is dumb.” https://www.instagram.com/p/CYTGytdOEEG/ That’s a pretty fair judgment.

SECRET SIX #32 (DC, 2011) – “The Darkest House Part 2,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jim Calafiore. The Secret Six go to Hell to retrieve a get-out-of-hell-free card. This story feels much darker and grimmer than other Secret Six stories I’ve read, and I didn’t fully appreciate its emotional impact, since I haven’t read most of the previous issues. This is still an enjoyable issue, though. See http://everydayislikewednesday.blogspot.com/2013/04/review-secret-six-darkest-house.html for someone else’s take.

RICHIE RICH CASH #13 (Harvey, 1976) – “Journey to a Hidden World”, uncredited. Richie and his girlfriend Gloria go for a picnic and find themselves in a lost world of dinosaurs and cavemen. At the end, Gloria is terrified by a mouse, even though she was just hanging out with a brontosaurus. There are also some backup stories starring Little Dot and Little Lotta.

LOVE & CAPES: IN THE TIME OF COVID #1 (Maerkle, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. In 2020, Mark and Abby face the challenges of parenting their children and keeping their aging parents safe. This latest Love & Capes comic is the size of a small trade paperback, and was only available through Kickstarter. It’s a heart-rending reading experience because it has the usual tenderness and gentle humor of Love & Capes, but it also reminds me of the constant horror and hopelessness of 2020. The worst part of that year for me was the sense of fear that it would always be like this, that nothing would get any better. Now that the worst part of the pandemic is hopefully over, it’s still hard to think about that time. In any case, Thom Zahler accomplishes an impressive feat by being able to write about the pandemic in such an emotionally intelligent way.

AGE OF X-MAN: THE AMAZING NIGHTCRAWLER #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Juan Frigeri. Nightcrawler finally meets his genetic daughter Tenia, but then Meggan’s powers go haywire and she turns into Mystique. Although this story took place in an alternate continuity, it shows more understanding of Nightcrawler’s character than Simon Spurrier’s Way of X did, and it’s also more fun to read.

DAREDEVIL #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “Through Hell Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Matt tries to save Foggy and a person in a Daredevil suit from being kidnapped. He fails, and Elektra has to bail him out. Meanwhile, the Kingpin attends a meeting of rich power brokers. He tries to behave like he belongs there, but one of the other guests annoys Wilson so much that Wilson beats him to death and stuffs his body in a bathtub. And it’s hard to blame Wilson, because the guy was being a real jerk.

LASSIE #46 (Dell, 1959) – “The Deer Stealers,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Bob Fujitani. Timmy unknowingly takes a photo of some deer poachers, then has to escape from them and recover  his camera. In the backup story, Paul gets sick while out fishing during a storm, and Lassie and Timmy have to rescue him. Both of these are entertaining outdoor adventure stories.

THE FLASH #149 (DC, 1999) – “Chain Lightning Chapter Five: Whirlpool,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Paul Pelletier. Sadly, Brian Augustyn just passed away. In this issue Barry and Wally team up against a bunch of mind-controlled speedsters – including XS, one of my favorite Legionnaires, but she doesn’t get much dialogue. Wally has to avoid telling Barry about Barry’s impending death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wally’s anxiety about living up to Barry’s legacy is the central theme of Mark Waid’s Flash, and it’s nice to see Wally actually interacting with Barry as an adult.

LUCIFER #49 (DC, 2004) – “The Widow: Wire, Briar, Limber Lock II,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross & Ryan Kelly. Elaine Belloc and Mazikeen go on some kind of quest, and at the end they meet Mazikeen’s mother Lilith, who I guess hadn’t appeared in this series before. I want to like Lucifer but I’ve never been able to understand it.

SUGAR & SPIKE #27 (DC, 1960) – “Uncle Charley Tackles the Baby-Talk Mystery” etc., [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Uncle Charley uses a microphone to try to prove that Sugar and Spike can talk, and their nemesis Little Arthur also makes a guest appearance. I don’t remember having read any Uncle Charley stories besides this one and the one in #49. I wonder if Mayer wrote him out of the series later. The next two stories are about a doll’s house, and a baby whose gender can’t be determined. In the last story, Sugar and Spike discover a Valentine’s Day gift from Spike’s mom, and they hide it in Sugar’s house. This may be the best of the stories because of its clever comedic plotting.

AQUAMAN #20 (DC, 1965) – “The Sea King’s Double Doom,” [W] unknown, [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman meets his old mentor Kaltor, who has left Atlantis to go on a quest to kill a giant two-headed monster. Of course it turns out Kaltor is the monster, and Aquaman has to figure out how to destroy the creature without killing Kaltor. As usual in this era of Aquaman, one of the highlights of this story is Nick Cardy’s beautiful renditions of Mera. There’s also some hints of romance between Aqualad and Kaltor’s daughter Starene, but neither Kaltor nor Starene ever appeared again. Speaking of Aqualad and romance, I ought to try to find Aquaman #33, the first appearance of Tula.

CHIMICHANGA: THE SORROW OF THE WORLD’S WORST FACE #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Eric Powell, [A] Stephanie Buscema. A bunch of circus freaks try to save one of their number, a man whose face is totally covered wth hair, from an angry mob. This comic is reasonably fun, but it derives most of its humor from the stupidity of the townsfolk. Also, it’s the last issue of the miniseries, so it’s a little hard to follow.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #37 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Spider and the Shield!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Paulo Siqueira. In their first meeting, Spider-Man and Captain America team up with the Sandman. At the end of the story we see that Cap’s encounter with Spider-Man has given him the idea of recruiting former villains into the Avengers. This is kind of a dumb retcon. “Make Mine Marvel!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Pat Olliffe. This was the real reason I bought this issue. It’s a reunion of the creative team of Untold Tales of Spider-Man, a series I loved when it was coming out. In this story, a young Spidey visits the Marvel offices and meets Stan Lee. But the Marvel Bullpen gets ruined when the Human Top follows Spider-Man there, and Spidey realizes he can’t take the risk of informing the Marvel staff of his secret identity. This issue was a nice nostalgic tribute to a comic I remember fondly.

FOUR COLOR #914 (Dell, 1958) – “No Time for Sergeants,” [W] unknown, [A] Alex Toth. I bought this for a dollar at the November convention, and was pleasantly surprised that it was drawn by Alex Toth. But I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that it was missing eight pages. I ordered a replacement copy from eBay for about $14. No Time for Sergeants is a comedy about a hick from Georgia who gets drafted into the army and has a bunch of silly adventures, ending with his near-death in an atom bomb test. It’s not clear why Alex Toth was assigned this story, because it’s not a good use of his talents. It’s mostly verbal comedy, though there are a few fight scens, and at the end of the story Toth gets to draw some aviation sequences. Still, any comic by Alex Toth is worth reading. Incidentally, it seems like during his lifetime Toth’s notorious bad temper was accepted as an innocent quirk, but lately I’ve heard people talking more about how his meanness damaged his career and cost him friendships.

CEREBUS #213 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1996) – “Guys No. 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim & Gerhard. Bear’s old girlfriend Ziggy comes back for him, and the bar’s regulars start leaving one by one.  I have nothing particular to say about this issue.

ACTION COMICS #413 (DC, 1972) – “The Voodoo Doom of Superman,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. A villain named Dr. Mystir uses a voodoo doll to deprive Superman of his powers. Eventually we learn that Dr. Mystir is Brainiac. This is a rather silly and convoluted story, though the art is good. “The Man Who Destroyed Eclipso,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Alex Toth. Bruce Gordon gets separated from Eclipso, but it’s not the real Eclipso, just “a split freak.” Also, Mona learns that Bruce is Eclipso’s secret identity. This story is a reprint from 1964, six years after Four Color #914. To me neither story looks much like Toth, at least not at first glance, and I couldn’t have identified either one as his work if I hadn’t already known. Metamorpho: “The 7 Sins of Simon Stagg,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] John Calnan. Metamorpho and his supporting characters are trapped in a replica of hell, built by an old enemy of Simon Stagg.  This story is continued from Metamorpho’s own series, which had been cancelled several years before.

IRON MAN #112 (Marvel, 1978) – “Moon Wars!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Keith Pollard. Iron Man teams up with the Knights of Wundagore against the Rigellian Colonizers. I guess Bill Mantlo was sort of an expert on space stories – he wrote Rom and Rocket Raccoon – but I’m not a fan of Mantlo, and I thought this issue was boring.

THE PHANTOM #971 (Frew, 1991) – “Attack of the Witchmen,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. My friend Ian Gould sold me about 35 Frew Phantom comics for $100. This was a serious bargain because Australian Phantom comics are quite hard to find in America. Most eBay sellers who have these comics are located in Australia, so they charge exorbitant shipping costs. This particular issue, like the earlier Frew Phantoms in my collection, has a paper cover – the technical term for this is a self cover – and it reprints a 1990 sequence from the newspaper strip. In “Attack of the Witchmen,” a white doctor, Axel, sets up a clinic in the Bangalla jungle, but an evil native witch doctor tries to sabotage the hospital. Of course the Phantom saves the day. Sy Barry’s artwork is very exciting, and Lee Falk’s story is much less racist than you might think. At least he avoids the obvious trap of depicting all Africans as superstitious heathens who fear modern science. 

THE PHANTOM #998 (Frew, 1991) – “Redbeard… the Traitor,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] George Olesen. This is reprinted from the Swedish Phantom comic. It’s credited to “Michael Tierres,” an anagram of the writer’s real name. It’s a flashback story set in the 17th century and starring the 6th Phantom. Shortly after the founding of the Phantom’s Jungle Patrol, one of its members betrays the Patrol to a villain named Salim Bey. The Phantom unfairly blames the patrol’s commander, a former pirate named Redbeard, and expels him from the patrol. Redbeard then joins Salim Bey. Of course the Phantom and Redbeard have arranged all of this in advance, in order to plant Redbeard in Salim Bey’s organization as a double agent, and Salim Bey is defeated. This is an exciting story, even if its ending is somewhat predictable, and I like George Olesen’s art. He kind of reminds me of Buscema inked by Ernie Chan. Despite his Swedish-sounding name, Olesen was American. He worked as a ghost artist on Sy Barry’s Phantom strips as early as 1962, but was not credited until the ‘90s.

THE PHANTOM #1020 (Frew, 1992) – “The Super-Jet Gang” and “The Weird Webs of Spidera,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. Two daily strip sequences from 1967 and 1965. In the first story, the Phantom defeats a gang of skyjackers. In the second story, the Phantom saves some kidnapped explorers from a gang of spider-worshipping cannibals. Sy Barry’s art here is reproduced much larger than in issue 971, and it’s easier to appreciate his impressive spotting of blacks.

THE PHANTOM #1024 (Frew, 1992) – “Curse of the Granite God! Part 1,” [W] Scott Goodall, [A] Kari Leppänen. This issue and the next one, reviewed below, are my favorite Phantom comics I’ve read so far. Some fishermen discover a giant finger (https://www.instagram.com/p/CYlCMBXshD9/) that proves to be attached to an enormous buried statue. The Phantom starts excavating the statue, but the villain Sidi Mohamed, whose gimmicks are a steel hand and a pet hawk, intercepts the news of the discovery. Sidi Mohamed tries to hijack the exhibition and steal the statue for himself, but the Phantom forces him to flee. The Phantom also discovers that inside the statue there’s a clue to the location of the lost treasure of Carthage. This story is narratively complete and exciting on its own, but it ends with two significant loose ends: Sidi Mohamed escaped, and we still don’t know how the statue indicates where the treasure is. After reading this issue, I couldn’t wait to read #1025, which luckily was also in Ian’s lot. Notably, this issue has a glossy cover instead of a self cover. A later letter column explains that Frew only used the self covers when a story was just 32 pages.

CEREBUS #214 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 14,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Bear leaves, and Cerebus has a dialogue in his head with his various alternate personalities. Mrs. Thatcher shows up and announces that the bar is closed because there’s no bartender, but Cerebus declares that he’s the new bartender. The art in this issue is sometimes lazy – there’s a two-page spread where the same panel is repeated 17 times – but the lettering is very elaborate, sometimes too much so for its own good.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #36 (Gold Key, 1970) – “Canyon of the Lost,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. After an evil ape knocks him unconscious, Korak is saved by the little daughter of a game warden. The ape returns and kidnaps the girl, and Korak has to follow and save her. This is a fairly exciting story, but what rubs me the wrong way is when one of the game warden’s black servants sacrifices his life to save his white employers. I don’t know if there’s a name for this narrative trope, but the classic example of it is Gunga Din.

SUGAR & SPIKE #76 (DC, 1968) – “The Blehh Strikes Thrice!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Sugar thinks Spike has the “blehh,” which causes everything he does to go wrong. Sugar’s dad’s boss, Mr. Cringe, comes for a visit, and thanks to Sugar & Spike’s antics, Mr. Cringe fires Sugar’s dad. Sugar and Spike stow away in Mr. Cringe’s car and accidentally save him from being kidnapped. Unlike the previous two Sugar & Spikes I read, this one is a single issue-length story, and as a result, Mayer has much more room to demonstrate his brilliant plotting.

THE PHANTOM #1025 (Frew, 1992) – “Curse of the Granite God! Part 2: The Hawk’s Revenge!”, [W] Scott Goodall, [A] Kari Leppänen. Melinda Soraya, the curator of the Morristown Museum, discovers the secret of the statue, but Sidi Mohamed reappears and kidnaps her. The Phantom rescues Soraya, and they find the lost ruins of Carthage, but Sidi Mohamed falls into a pool of quicksand along with the treasure. This is another thrilling adventure story, with excellent black-and-white art. Unusually for this era of comics, Soraya is Indian, but her Indian identity is not relevant to the story. In most American comics of the time, Indian characters only ever appeared in stories with an explicit Indian theme.   

POWER PACK #57 (Marvel, 1990) – “Fire,” [W] Michael Higgins, [A] Tom Morgan. A silly and overly complicated story that guest-stars Franklin Richards, Nova (Frankie Raye), and an alien called the Elan. Mike Higgins was the worst Power Pack writer, with the possible exception of Shon Bury, and the series was cancelled not too long after he took over.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY #1 (DC, 1980) – “The Most Important Year of Superboy’s Life!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. On Superboy’s 16th birthday, his parents tell him a flashback story about his eighth birthday, when he encountered two immortal aliens who wanted to die. The aliens offered to trade their immortality to Clark in exchange for his mortality, and Clark pretended to accept the offer, but actually refused it. And it turned out the aliens’ inability to die was just psychological. Clark was then mind-wiped to forget all about this, but in commemoration of this incident, his parents put an extra candle on his cake every year. This comic has cute artwork, but it displays one of Cary Bates’s characteristic flaws: his stories were always pointlessly complicated and confusing.

INCREDIBLE HULK #342 (DC, 1988) – “No Human Fears,” [W] Peter David, [A] Todd McFarlane. In an early chapter of Ground Zero, the gray Hulk battles the Leader’s henchman Half-Life. I first read this comic in 1996, in the Ground Zero trade paperback. I know the exact date because I bought that book when I was in Washington for the National Spelling Bee. What I most remember about this issue is the double-page splash that begins with Half-Life saying “Great Caesar fell!” Half-Life is an interesting character because of his pompousness and his habit of quoting Shakespeare, but PAD wisely avoided using him for more than a couple stories. Something I probably missed when I first read this story is that it ends with the revelation that Betty is pregnant. Todd McFarlane was actually quite an effective artist before he became more famous for feuding with Neil Gaiman and buying an overpriced baseball. By the way, I just heard that Peter David is suffering from kidney failure. I wish him all the best.

CEREBUS #215 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 15,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Cerebus has another long monologue, interrupted by visits from Mrs. Thatcher and Eddie Campbell. An ugly woman visits the bar and asks Cerebus to sleep with her. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be Joanne or not. Again, Sim’s lettering in this issue is beautiful but not always readable.

THE SAVAGE DRAGON/MARSHAL LAW #2 (Image, 1997) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is really a Marshal Law comic guest-starring Savage Dragon and his supporting cast. It’s by the regular Marshal Law creative team, and I can’t tell what if anything Erik Larsen had to do with it. I’m going to file it under M instead of S. This miniseries’s plot is inspired by the movie Se7en, but it’s hard to tell, since Mills’s writing and O’Neill’s art are both extremely convoluted and hard to follow. If there’s one thing that characterizes Marshal Law besides violence and fascism, it’s excessive complication.

UNCLE SCROOGE #371 (Gemstone, 2007) – “How Green Was My Lettuce,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In order to protect his money from theft, Scrooge converts all of it into banknotes which he disguises as lettuce. But the Beagle Boys mistake the money for actual lettuce and steal it. Much confusion results. According to Don Rosa, the Money Bin doesn’t contain all of Scrooge’s money, just the part of it that has sentimental value. “How Green Was My Lettuce” is one of several Barks stories that seem to disprove this claim, because these stories give the impression that Scrooge has no money besides what’s in the bin. When this story was originally published, two pages were deleted to add more room for advertisements. Those pages were later rediscovered, but two panels were missing, and in this reprinting they’re replaced by new panels drawn by Don Rosa. You can actually tell which two panels they are. See https://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=921380. Uncle Scrooge #371 also includes three European stories, the best of which is about Magica de Spell and the gloves of King Midas.

ACTION COMICS #529 (DC, 1982) – “I Have Two Eyes, But I Cannot See!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman discovers that he’s unable to perceive natural disasters that are happening right in front of him. Lois has to act as his seeing-eye dog and tell him how to stop the disasters. Brainiac – who has just been reprogrammed to be good instead of evil –arrives and explains that Superman’s blindness was caused by Brainiac’s planet-destroyer. But the only way to reverse its effects is by turning Brainiac evil again. I think the best thing about this story is some cute Superman-Lois scenes. This issue also includes a bad Aquaman backup story.

SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #9 (Marvel, 1976) – “Pawns of Attuma!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Jim Shooter & Sal Trapani. This is a crossover with Avengers #154, and it includes an excessive number of subplots and guest-stars. One of the many characters in this issue is Rudolfo, the Latverian pretender from Astonishing Tales #1-3. Jim Shooter is credited with the art on this issue. I assume he just did breakdowns, as he did for his earliest Avengers stories.

SECRET SIX #3 (DC, 2015) – “The Nine Levels of Suburbia,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham. The Secret Six have some bizarre adventures in a suburban neighborhood. Most importantly, Catman apprehends a corrupt cop who’s been beating this dog. This comic is funny and entertaining, but I don’t know the context of its story.

REVIVAL #18 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. A lot of different scenes with no real central plot. Some notable developments are that Em confronts her late lover Aaron Weimar’s wife, and Dana yells at Cooper because she thinks he’s making up his story about the glowing man.

CEREBUS #216 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 16,” as above. Cerebus meets Joanne, whose only previous appearance was in a vision shown to him in issue 197. Cerebus has another long internal monologue, or multilogue since there are lots of voices involved, and then Joanne tries to seduce him. My impression is that Joanne lacks the depth of Jaka or Astoria or the Countess; she just seems like a sex object. This issue includes several pages of illustrated text dialogue formatted like a play script.

THE PHANTOM #1040 (Frew, 1993) – “The Drug Sharks,” [W] Nils Schröder, [A] Romano Felmang. The Phantom goes to Morristown to look for a jungle chief’s vanished nephew. He discovers that the nephew got involved with a drug smuggling ring. The Phantom defeats the drug smugglers, but in a poignant scene, he finds the nephew just in time to watch him die from a drug overdose. Romano Felmang’s art in this issue is really impressive. He’s Italian, and his art reminds me of some of the art I’ve seen in Dylan Dog. BTW, I still haven’t read any more of those Bonelli comics I bought a couple years ago. The reason why not is because I suck at reading Italian.

First Heroes trip of the year. IIRC, this time I ate at Bang Bang Burgers, and then afterward I went to Book Buyers to help them pack up, since their landlord is forcing them to move. Since 2020 I’ve had a routine of going to Heroes and then walking to Book Buyers, or vice versa, and I’m sad that I won’t be able to do that anymore.

ONCE & FUTURE #23 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. At the nursing home, the boy defeats the giant by invoking the story of Jack and the beanstalk. The fight between the Arthurs continues. Duncan, Brigitte and Rose go to Leicester to confront its namesake deity Leir, better known as Shakespeare’s King Lear. Leir’s transformation into Lear is an example of eugs’ abduction. hemerism, in which a god is reinterpreted as a real person. Or maybe it’s euhemerism in reverse, I’m not sure. 

STRAY DOGS: DOG DAYS #1 (Image, 2022) – “Dog Days Part 1,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. A sequel to the best miniseries of 2021. Dog Days consists of a series of vignettes, each starring one of the dogs from the original series. These stories take place before, during, and after the dogs’ abduction. I think the funniest one is “Other Henry,” about a dog who’s terrorized by his owners’ cat. But then when the Master murders the owners and steals the dog, the cat is heartbroken. In the original series, Imogene just sat around and did nothing, but Dog Days #1 reveals that before her owner was murdered, Imogene was super energetic and active. One thing I didn’t get when I read the first series is that the Master’s victims were all female; his modus operandi was to murder women and steal their dogs. What a terrifying premise.

MAZEBOOK #5 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Will confronts the minotaur. It forces him to relive the moment of Wendy’s death. Then the red thread reappears and leads him to Wendy herself, but she tells him that he can only reunite with her if he himself dies. Will lets Wendy go, and in a beautiful moment, she dissolves into a squiggle of red thread. Will returns the dog to his neighbor, and she and Will start a romance. Mazebook is a beautiful series, one of the best of Jeff Lemire’s many excellent solo works.

MANIFEST DESTINY #45 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. I’ve been reading this series for almost a decade, and I’m glad it’s finally going to be finished. This issue, the Corps of Discovery members become uneasy about the prospect of sacrificing little Pompey – especially Collins, who is a “warchild” himself. When York expresses his discontent, Clark cruelly reminds York that he’s a slave. Finally the expedition reaches the Pacific coast, where they’re greeted by the creepy Spanish ghost.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Kamala has a series of bizarre visions, and then someone else starts committing crimes while disguised as Ms. Marvel. Kamala confronts the criminal, who proves to be Kamala’s exact duplicate. This issue wasn’t quite as stunningly good as issue 1, but it was still good.

USAGI YOJIMBO #24 (IDW, 2022) – “Ransom Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Kitsune rescue Kiyoko, and Aoki betrays Boss Hasegawa. The boss gets his book back, but Kiyoko reveals that while he held her prisoner, she stole some records that are even more incriminating. This was a fun story arc.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #15 (Image, 2022) – “Deviation Four: Point Pleasant,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] David Romero. Another guest-illustrated issue, focusing on the Mothman, a creature that supposedly appeared in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966 and 1967. It’s associated with a mysterious smiling man named Indrid Cold. This issue consists of splash pages alternating with pages of textual narration, so it barely qualifies as a comic book.

NOCTERRA: BLACKTOP BILL SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “Blacktop Bill Origins,” [W] Scott Snyder & Tony Daniel, [A] Denys Cowan. The origin story of Blacktop Bill, who started out murdering other murderers, and then switched to murdering people who had been saved from disasters. This comic actually makes Blacktop Bill less scary, because his origin story is so ridiculous and exaggerated that it’s hard to take him seriously. Also, Denys Cowan’s art here is worse than Tony Daniel’s art on the regular series.

SAVAGE DRAGON #261 (Image, 2022) – “Into the Hornets’ Nest!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. The most notable moment in this issue is when Malcolm’s kids get vaccinated, but Tierra tells him that she’s “been doing [her] own research” and she refuses to “get the clot shot.” This series will never be a shining example of progressive politics, but at least Erik can be counted on to publicly support things like voting Democratic and getting vaccinated. Other than that, this issue includes more of the usual violence and sex. I must have lost my review of #260.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #6 (DC, 2022) – “Beginnings,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. Jon and Jay work together to destabilize Henry Bendix’s government. Jon discovers that Jay’s mother is still ailve. There’s also a cameo appearance by Robin. The Robin in this issue was originally supposed to be Tim, but in the published version it’s Damian. Apparently that was just a mistake by the artist. https://bleedingcool.com/comics/how-superman-son-of-kal-el-6-came-to-switch-out-robins/ Superman, Son of Kal-El is perhaps the one DCU title that I’m most excited about now. Tom Taylor is just a really entertaining writer.

2000 AD #2221 (Rebellion, 2021) – I’ve been ordering 2000 AD every month but not getting it. I was surprised when on my last trip to Heroes, I found two different prog packs waiting for me. It seems that they’ve been arriving in America almost a year late. Dredd: “Who Killed Captain Cookies? Part One,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Captain Cookies, a harmless local “superhero” who was loved by everyone in his neighborhood, is murdered. The case is low on the Justice Department’s priority list, so Cookies’s friend Noam, who is a monkey for some reason, decides to solve it himself. Slaine: “Dragontamer Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leonardo Manco. Slaine fights the dragon Alban using his ultimate weapon, the Gae Bolg. Pat Mills comes up with an actual reason why the Gae Bolg has to be thrown with the foot, as stated in the myths of Cuchulain. Thistlebone: “Poisoned Roots Part One,” [W] T.C. Eglinton, [A] Simon Davis. The protagonist, Seema, is told about an incident involving a giant monstrous tree. Even though I’ve read this entire story by now, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about. Simon Davis’s painted art is very lavish, though. Proteus Vex: “The Shadow Chancellor Part 9,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. This is a science fiction story of some kind, but I’m not sure what it’s about. I can’t even tell which character is Proteus Vex. Durham Red: “Served Cold 09,” [W] Alec Worley, Ben Willsher. Durham Red is trapped in a prison cell with a man who blames her for his daughter’s death.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #18 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Ace invents a new song based on “Lala Mtoto Lala,” which appears to be a real Swahili-language lullaby. It looks like the good guys have won, but the devil boards their ship and kills Sam. Chang gets him to leave by throwing away the Anything Engine. Ace and Valentina kiss. The Destiny Man reappears and unmasks himself as Charlotte and Daniel’s brother Alexander, who was born after they both left America. The team gets dispersed across a lot of different places. As I write this summary, I realize that a ton of stuff happened this issue – maybe too much stuff?

FANTASTIC FOUR #39 (Marvel, 2022) – “Free Bentley,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Francesco Manna. After a lot of witnesses testify at the custody hearing, a surprise witness shows up: a man who claims that he’s the original Bentley Wittman, and that the Wizard who’s petitioning for custody of Bentley-23 is his clone. After “Bentley-Prime” proves his identity, the Wizard, horrified to discover himself to be a clone, flees the court and abandons his case. Then Bentley-23 reveals that he himself created Bentley-Prime was actually his own creation, and he (Bentley-23) renames himself the Wizard. Meanwhile, Slott continues to inflict pointless torture upon Johnny Storm.

NIGHTWING #86 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. The various Robins and Batgirls team up to fight a bunch of people in battlesuits. I don’t understand what this issue has to do with either #85 or #87, but it’s very exciting. Tom Taylor is perhaps the most purely entertaining writer in comics right now.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #35 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Last of the Marvels Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol rescues the other former Marvels, and they prepare for their final battle against Vox Supreme. The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy show up to assist the Marvels. This issue was mostly action sequences and was not very memorable.

BUCKHEAD #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo, [A] George Kambadais. Tobo and his friends continue to investigate whatever is going on in this weird town. This issue is a predictable continuation of the story from #1.

THE HUMAN TARGET #3 (DC, 2022) – “That We Are Gone,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Guy Gardner beats up Christopher Chance, then Chance and Ice go to visit Booster Gold, who’s engaged in yet another get-rick-quick scheme. Guy continues to harass Chance until Chance gets someone to dress up as Hal Jordan and tell Guy to knock it off. Tom King is a severely inconsistent writer, but so far this series has been enjoyable.

DAREDEVIL: WOMAN WITHOUT FEAR #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt and Elektra sleep together, there are a bunch of flashbacks to Elektra’s past history, and then Kraven the Hunter appears at the end. This is essentially just another issue of Zdarsky’s Daredevil run, only with a new title. Zdarsky is perhaps the only writer besides Frank Miller who can write Elektra well.

2000 AD #2222 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Noam investigates Cookies’s death, with no help from Dredd. Tharg’s 3rillers: “Nakka of the S.T.A.R.S.,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brendan McCarthy. Inspector Nakrosky and his robot sidekick Penny investigate a murder in rural Hampshire. The victim is a scientist who’s invented a cloning process. This comic is funny and visually appealing, as one would expect from its all-star creative team. Thistlebone: as above. Seema finds that a man named Malcolm may be behind the weird stuff that’s been going on, and in another sequence, we encounter Malcolm himself. Proteus Vex: as above. Proteus Vex reveals the origin of an alien race called the Silent, who were forbidden to talk about the destruction of their home planet. Durham Red: as above. Durham Red escapes from her prison cell.

CRUSH & LOBO #8 (DC, 2022) – “Robot Therapists Suck,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush and Lobo escape from prison and kill the evil warden. They go their separate ways. Crush decides to work freelance for the prison, so she can earn money to support her pet space lizards. No real lessons are learned. This was a fun miniseries.

ROBIN #9 (DC, 2022) – “Burn!”, [W] Josh Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. The Lazarus Demon beats Damian senseless. Damian has a vision where Alfred’s ghost tells him that the first thing Bruce did to become Batman was ask for help. Damian rallies his fellow combatants to defeat the demon. Then Mother Soul teleports him into the past, where he encounters younger versions of Ra’s al Ghul, his wife and his mother.

INFERNO #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Death of Moira X,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Valerio Schiti & Stefano Caselli. Mystique and Destiny take away Moira’s powers, but Doug shows up and reminds them that they can’t kil her, because she’s a human now. The battle between the X-Men and Orchis ends in a stalemate. This was a fairly satisfying conclusion to Hickman’s FF run, but his public statements suggest that he’s somewhat disappointed with how it ended. Still, he’s easily the best X-Men writer since Grant Morrison, and he successfully revived a stagnant franchise.

FRONTIERSMAN #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. Frontiersman’s next visitor is Bryn, an Amazon supervillain who can grow to giant size. They have a long talk, and the issue ends with them about to sleep together. This is another interesting issue, though Bryn seems like something of a sexist male fantasy.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #4 (Oni, 2022) – “Now the Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. After some fruitless negotiations with the angels and demons, Kat travels to the world beyond the afterlife, where she meets her own creator. He or it is a giant blue blob with lots of arms and mouths, who’s sitting on a couch playing video games. This series gets weirder and weirder each issue. A funny aside in this issue is the revelation that the current President is a serial arsonist.

THE LAST SESSION #2 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. The game continues, but some tension develops between the new group member, Cassandra, and the rest of the party. An interesting issue, but I don’t have anything new to say about it.

2000 AD #2223 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Noam discovers the murderer, Donny Zickberg, and uses a hallucinogen to drive him crazy. Dredd heads over to investigate the scene of Noam and Zickberg’s fight. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. Nakrosky meets a potential subject, Lady Octavia. Then a robot priest tries to assassinate him. Thistlebone: as above. Seema learns about an event in 1984 when a young Malcolm encountered a plant monster during a Boy Scout field trip. The archaeologist, Mr. Robertson, discovers an ancient deer-bone mask. Proteus Vex: as above. This is the last chapter, which is good, because I don’t understand this story at all. Durham Red: as above. Durham Red is given the opportunity to escape, but chooses not to use it. This is also the concluding chapter.

THE THING #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 3,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben and Amaryllis sleep together (how?!) and then the Champion of the Universe shows up for a rematch with Ben. This sequence is probably inspired by the classic Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7. We also get some hints that Bobby isn’t a normal kid. This series is really weird, yet it somehow seems to capture the essence of Ben Grimm.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #4 (DC, 2022) – “Legacy,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Scott Koblish. Jackson meets Delilah’s adoptive mother, Meeka, and she, Delilah and Lucia tell Jackson conflicting stories about Xebel’s past history. Like Far Sector, this series uses an alien society as an analogy for contemporary American politics, but it does so in a more subtle way, and it’s not really about race.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate fights off some Chapiteau staffers, she and Susan talk about their past with their asshole dad, and Kate realizes that the Circus of Crime is behind the resort. Kate fights Fifi, the Circus of Crime’s archer, and then encounters Pascale Tiboldt, who, based on her name, must be related to the Ringmaster.

STILLWATER #12 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. Daniel and Laura execute their plan to get rid of Galen and take over Stillwater. It doesn’t go well, and Daniel is captured and burned at a stake, just beyond the town border. Laura saves his life by altering the map of the town, so that Daniel is inside the border again. This is the most brilliant plot twist in the entire series.

THE BLUE FLAME #6 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. In a flashback, the Night Brigade saves a kidnapped child, and then we see Sam praising them to the alien jury as model examples of humanity. The prosecutor reveals that all the Night Brigade members had dark secrets in their past. There’s also an appearance by the Crimson Visage’s estranged father, an old Native American man. Meanwhile, Sam realizes that Marco was ratted out to the ICE by Bryan from the support group, in issue 5, and he finds Bryan and beats him half to death. The Blue Flame is a lower-profile series than She Could Fly, but it’s really just as good.

ECHOLANDS #5 (Image, 2022) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. The top halves of the pages depict the characters who are hiding out with the Metaphysicist. The bottom halves tell the story of Rabbit’s visit to a realm of Japanese giant robots – who are hiding out on an island so they don’t accidentally violate the First Law of Robotics. Hope sleeps with Cor, and Rabbit gets a robot to escort him away from the island, with the caveat that the robot can never return. As usual, this comic has better art than anything else on the stands (though see my review of Cursed Pirate Girl below), and the writing is better than I expected.

BYLINES IN BLOOD #1 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Dead and Gone,” [W] Erika Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. I know Van Jensen from when we both worked at Georgia Tech, but I’m not sure if I’ve actually read any of his comics before. Bylines in Blood is about a former journalist Satya, a former journalist (like Van himself, I think) who investigates the murder of her old mentor. There are some light SF elements, and also some references to Satya’s Indian background. So far this is an interesting series.

BLACK WIDOW #13 (Marvel, 2022) – “Die by the Blade Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Rafael T. Pimentel. A flashback story depicting Natasha’s first encounter with the Blade, in Madripoor some time ago. This is perhaps the worst issue yet. It feels like a fill-in issue, and it doesn’t convince me that the Blade is a credible villain.

ICE CREAM MAN #27 (Image, 2022) – “The Morphometasis,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. In a reversal of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a cockroach turns into a human. After a few days as a suburban husband and corporate employee, the cockroach, Greg, is murdered by a disgruntled coworker. The idea behind this comic is a little too obvious, but the execution is effective. I really like the cockroaches’ dialogue.

BATGIRLS #2 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The Batgirls fight some armored villains named after saints, then continue investigating the Saints and the mysterious Tutor. This comic is a lot of fun, and Jorge Corona is a surprisingly good superhero artist.

I AM BATMAN #5 (DC, 2022) – “Goodbye Gotham,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Christian Duce et al. Jace fights some armored guys wearing armor developed by his father. Finally Lucius Fox has a change of heart and remotely disables the suits, saving Jace’s life. Jace and Lucius reconcile. I want to like this series, but it’s really not grabbing me, and I think I’m going to drop it from my pull list.

MARVEL VOICES: HERITAGE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. The only good story in this issue is the third one, “American Eagle: Not Dead Yet” by Steven Paul Judd and David Cutler. It’s a funny depiction of a washed-up old superhero who’s forced to confront a hostage situation. Of the other two stories, the first two are frankly awful. The fourth one, written by Rebecca Roanhorse, is just a tie-in to Phoenix Song: Echo. It’s also unfortunate that this comic is so much shorter than earlier Marvel Voices specials.  That suggests that Marvel could have made more of an effort to recruit indigenous creators.

INKBLOT #15 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. The Seeker encounters the Grove Guardian, who is worried about the encroaching Void, and then she finds herself in the middle of a sea battle. I still think this series is funny because of the cat, but I’m losing patience with its confusing story structure and its lack of narrative progress.

HUMAN REMAINS #3 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Jess tries to escape from her abusive boyfriend, but on the way, she runs over some guy with her car. Anjali’s cousin Trusha is attacked on the street by racists, who are subsequently eaten by a monster. This is a very cathartic moment. Anjali’s son is eaten by monsters, even though children his age are supposed to be immune. For a series that’s all about how people need to conceal their emotions in order to survive, Human Remains demands some very strong emotional responses. However, I have trouble remembering how all the protagonists are connected to each other.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Our protagonist is a Navajo man serving in Vietnam as an artillery spotter. His name is  not mentioned anywhere, but based on the next issue blurb, it’s either Ernie or Sobrat. He’s captured by an older man – I guess if the protagonist is Ernie, this man is Sobrat – who recruits him to find some buried Nazi gold. I’ve been underwhelmed by much of Kindt and Jenkins’s work, but I want to keep reading this series anyway. However, its main point seems to be Ernie (?)’s conflicting loyalties as an indigenous man fighting for a colonial government, and as far as I know, neither author is indigenous, so this is not an #OwnVoices narrative. The pun in the title is that Apache can mean either a Native American nation or a helicopter, though the protagonist is careful to point out that he’s not Navajo.

SHANG-CHI #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Family of Origin Part One,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi’s mom tells him the retconned story of his birth, and then they’re attacked by Shang-Chi’s siblings, who are angry at him for betraying their other brother to the Avengers. And then Shang-Chi’s grandfather shows up. A funny moment in this issue is the comparison of a burrito to a giant egg roll. The furry headless creatures with multiple wings are hunduns. I believe this creature was introduced to American culture by the Shang-Chi movie, which I have not seen.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #2 (Scout, 2022) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. Impossible Jones escapes from the Tech-Arcana site and experiments with her new powers. At the end she’s confronted by a man named the Saint of Knives. In this issue it becomes clear that Impossible Jones is a female version of Plastic Man, both because of her criminal past and her powers. At one point she even says “Almost as if I’m made of rubber or plast—”

JOE HILL’S RAIN #1 (Image, 2022) – “Rain Part One,” [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. The protagonist, Honeysuckle, is about to move in with her lover Yolanda, but then, for no apparent reason, nails start to fall from the sky, and Yolanda is killed. I probably should have skipped this, both because I disliked David Booher’s last series, Killer Queens, and because comics based on Joe Hill stories are never as good as comics actually written by Joe Hill. (By the way, speaking of recent Dark Horse miniseries, I just realized I never got Worst Dudes #4 and #5. I wonder why not.) But this issue is good enough to make me continue with the series. The strongest point is Zoe Thorogood’s art. Her page layouts are creative and her people look very appealing.

2000 AD #2224 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd kills Zonny, and Noam and his friends honor Captain Cookies’ memory by redesigning an old statue to resemble him. In a previous chapter we were told that this used to be a pro-democracy statue but that the judges made it unrecognizable. This Captain Cookies story was excellent; it was a rare injection of hope into a franchise that tends to be very bleak. Thistlebone: as above. More backstory about Malcolm Kinniburgh. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above.  Nakrosky and Penny apprehend Lady Octavia for the murder. Nakrosky reveals that Penny was destroyed on an earlier case, but he rebuilt her. I’d love to see more stories about these characters. Feral & Foe: “II Part One,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Richard Elson. A fantasy story about a D&D-esque adventuring party, including a wizard and a warrior who have been forced to switch bodies. Now they’re on a quest to find a necromancer who can revive their dead member. This story is okay, but it feels as if it’s trying too hard to be funny, and its plot is hard to understand without having read the previous story with these characters.

2000 AD #2225 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “A Penitent Man,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Kyle Asher is a former judge who was exiled to Titan for twenty years. Now he’s back, in a horribly deformed state, and is trying to rebuild his life, but the SJS – the Judges’ internal affairs division – tell Dredd to stay away from him. An intriguing start. Thistlebone: as above. Seema interviews a murderer who both looks and talks like Alan Moore. Visions of Deadworld: “You Give Me Fever,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Dave Kendall. I don’t understand much about this story except that it’s about the Dark Judges. It has some attractive painted art. Terror Tales: “Half Life,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Anna Readman. A black-and-white horror story about a man who’s compelled to commit crimes due to a telepathic link to his deformed, bedridden twin brother. Feral & Foe: as above. The party fights a gang of bandits.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #5 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. For the crime of killing a robot in self-defense, the mother is exiled to the wasteland outside the bubble. Her kids decide to leave the bubble voluntarily and go look for her. They pick up a little boy who’s been orphaned, then they get ambushed by bandits, but Snowball the robot appears and saves the day. Eventually they find Mom, who’s trying to build a new society in the ruins of Bubble Orlando. This ending sort of resembles that of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Not All Robots was one of Mark Russell’s grimmest, most depressing works, but it was a powerful piece of writing.

ROBIN & BATMAN #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Dick beats one of Croc’s henchmen half to death, then at school the next day, he refuses a classmate’s offer of friendship. The classmate’s two friends are named after Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle (https://www.instagram.com/p/CY-wTCTsFxG/). Killer Croc ambushes Dick’s school and kidnaps Bruce, and to rescue him, Dick has to follow Croc to the circus where Dick’s parents were killed. Dick defeats Croc and saves Bruce, and the experience teaches him that he doesn’t have to be a younger Batman, he can be Robin instead. This was a truly excellent miniseries. I think it’s the definitive version of Robin’s origin.

HUMAN REMAINS #4 (Vault, 2022) – as above. General Ryan Sullivan recruits Anjali to help defeat the monsters, and they succeed in capturing a living specimen. But Sullivan has his own hidden agenda, since a monster has just eaten his dad, and the issue ends with him entering the monster’s cell and staring it down.

THE MARVELS #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Communing with the Smoke,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. The Golden Age Vision leads the Avengers into a battle with Lady Lotus. During the fight, the new Warbird accuses Lady Lotus of kidnapping her father. The thing I don’t like about this series is that Kurt’s prose is sometimes very awkward, and it’s gotten more so in recent years. But I’m still willing to read anything Kurt writes.

THE GOOD ASIAN #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. With Chinatown in a state of siege, Lucy Fan continues looking for Ivy Chen and eventually finds her accomplice, Holly Chao. After a tense confrontation, Lucy goes to see Edison Hark, who’s still alive but covered in bandages. My main problem with this series, as I have stated repeatedly, is that it’s very hard to remember who all the characters are.

ORDINARY GODS #6 (Image, 2022) – “God Spark,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. The two teams of gods get into a big fight. This series has a lot of potential, but it’s been consistently confusing and lacking in direction, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll continue reading it.  

DEVIL’S REIGN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. The Kingpin continues taking over New York with his private army of supervillains. The fugitive superheroes decide that their alternative mayoral candidate should be not Tony Stark but Luke Cage. Meanwhile, Dr. Octopus uses Reed Richards’s interdimensional gate to recruit alternative versions of himself who are inhabiting the bodies of Wolverine, Hulk and Ghost Rider. The choice of these particular characters is an homage to the New Fantastic Four, with the original Doc Ock playing the role of Spider-Man.

CEREBUS #218 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 18,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Cerebus and Joanne go to another tavern for a date that ends rather badly. They go back home and have sex, then Cerebus has a bizarre dream. This issue also includes a transcript of a long conversation between Dave and Alan Moore about From Hell. This is fascinating to read, but also annoying because it’s eleven pages. And in order to read Alan’s comments, which are actually interesting, you have to wade through a lot of Dave’s usual bullshit. This entire interview can be found online at https://momentofcerebus.blogspot.com/2015/09/correspondence-from-hell-introduction.html.

DENNIS THE MENACE #13 (Marvel, 1982) – “Real Campy,” uncredited. Dennis and his dad go on a camping trip. There are also a couple of short backup stories. I read this because I was tired and it looked like a quick read, which it was; I finished it in a couple minutes. It’s written and drawn in the same style as the Fawcett Dennis comic books, but the lettering in the first story is hideous. I believe this was the last issue of this series, and also the last Dennis the Menace comic book from any publisher, though the comic itself includes no indication that it’s the last issue. I would be curious to know why Marvel published a Dennis the Menace comic in the first place, and why they stopped.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Timor and Vale combine their powers, becoming Vamor, in order to defeat the Hierophant, who’s been following them around for the entire series. Timor and Vale prepare for their final battle. I still really like this series, even though I don’t know Dragon Ball well.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. The girls go to Rome, where they bathe in the Trevi Fountain and then reenact the climactic scene from Gladiator in the Coliseum. Their next stop is Dorian’s home in Germany. This series is honestly pretty dumb, but I might as well finish reading it.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #2 (DC, 2022) – “Rock Bottom,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. This issue focuses on Minuteman, who has 1/60th the power of Hourman, but who, like Hourman, is a drug addict. When he buys some bad Miraclo, his appearance at a children’s party turns disastrous. Then he goes to a comic convention where he has a table next to Mark Russell, but they throw him out for entering the VIP lounge without permission. Meanwhile, Power Girl stages a hostile takeover and overthrows Red Tornado as the CEO of Heroz4U. I frankly do not like this series at all. It’s mean-spirited and cruel, and it damages Red Tornado and Power Girl’s characters for no reason. I might as well finish reading it just because I’ve already started it.  

MONKEY MEAT #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juni Ba. A creature called Thaddeus Lug tries to break its servitude to a company that sells monkey meat. This comic is confusing and difficult to follow, but also fascinating. It’s drawn in a style that resembles that of Jorge Corona but is even more radical. The artist is originally from Senegal, and I think this comic qualifies as Africanfuturism. This wasn’t my favorite comic this month, but it’sdefinitely fascinating. Now I kind of want to read the artist’s TKO graphic novel, Djeliya.

MY BAD #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Social Tedia” etc., [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingram, [A] Peter Krause. Another collection of pointless superhero satires. At least the tone of this series is gentle and harmless, rather than cruel and bitter, as in One-Star Squadron.

SWAMP THING: GREEN HELL #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doug Mahnke.  Donald and his daughter Ronnie are living in a postapocalyptic world devastated by sea level rise, where they and their neighbors are the only known living humans. During a battle between Donald’s community and a gang of bandits, a murderous Swamp Thing emerges from the sea and starts killing people indiscriminately. To save the day, Ronnie and her elderly neighbor George have to go see a mysterious man living in a lighthouse. The man is John Constantine, and he resurrects the original Swamp Thing. This story is interesting, but kind of tedious to read, because the milieu is so grim and bleak. Also, I’m getting tired of the cliché where postapocalyptic settings are always full of bandits who demand tribute from innocent people. See this Quora answer for some problems with this trope: https://www.quora.com/What-commonly-accepted-post-apocalyptic-plot-devices-do-you-consider-to-be-the-most-inaccurate-to-what-an-actual-post-nuclear-war-world-would-be-like

2000 AD #2226 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Kyle’s apartment is vandalized. While reporting the crime to Dredd, he also tells Dredd about the SJS’s “Welcome Wagon” that harasses returnees from Titan. Thistlebone: as above. A chapter that barely advances the plot, as far as I can tell. Visions of Deadworld: “The Man Who Killed Mortis,” as above. A samurai (who, oddly, has a Chinese name, Sun Yi) tries to assassinate Judge Mortis and fails. Sun Yi looks a lot like Hammerstein, but this may just be a coincidence. Tharg’s 3rillers: “Chorus and the Ring,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Mike Collins. A music-themed ninja is ordered to recover the assassinated War-Pontiff’s ring, which symbolizes control of the “Chorus of Freedom.” This series isn’t nearly as interesting as “Nakka of the S.T.A.R.S.” Feral & Foe: as above. The heroes defeat the bandits and continue their quest for the necromancer.

CEREBUS #219 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 19,” as above. Cerebus has a dream where he marries Joanne. Then Joanne realizes Cerebus has been keeping a tally of the times they’ve slept together. Cerebus lies and says that it’s a tally of the days until he leaves, and Joanne gets angry and leaves Cerebus. In the epilogue, a mysterious man visits the bar and reveals himself as Jaka’s husband Rick. “Guys” was actually the best Cerebus story since “Jaka’s Story.” That is pretty faint praise, but in this story Dave succeeded to some extent in capturing the humor and wittiness of the series’ glory days. However, most people probably didn’t notice this because they’d already given up on Cerebus.

THE PHANTOM #1042 (Frew, 1993) – “The Uranium Wreck,” [W] Sverre Årnes, [A] Heiner Bade. This is another international production; the writer is Norwegian and is best known as a mystery novelist, and the artist is German. Heiner Bade’s art resembles Jim Aparo’s, especially on the splash page. In this issue, a villain, Muhamad Sariq, intentionally wrecks a ship containing uranium, so that he and his men can steal it. The ship sinks near a native village, and Sariq takes the village hostage and orders the local people to help him recover the uranium. The Phantom shows up and saves the day, with help from a little boy from the village. This is a thrilling adventure story, although Sariq is a trite depiction of an Islamic terrorist. I believe this is the last issue in my collection that has a self cover.

TOMB OF DRACULA #24 (Marvel, 1974) – “A Night for the Living… a Morning for the Dead!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. It’s strange to think that this comic is almost 50 years old. This issue, Dracula terrorizes the people of London, but one of his victims, an exotic dancer named Trudy, escapes and goes to Blade for help. Blade goes hunting for Dracula, fights him, and loses. There are subplots focusing on Taj and on Frank and Rachel. The most memorable scene in this issue is when Trudy comes to Blade’s apartment and finds him and his girlfriend Safron wearing the pants and shirt, respectively, from the same pair of pajamas. For the ‘70s, this was a daring reference to extramarital sex.

CEREBUS #220 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 1,” [W/A] Dave Sim with Gerhard. An issue-long conversation between Cerebus and Rick. It seems like Rick is a mouthpiece for Dave himself, but I can’t remember much of what he and Cerebus talk about. This issue includes the end of Dave and Alan’s interview. In this interview Alan mentions a couple of projects that were never realized, and perhaps never will be, given his recent public comments. More on that topic below.

2000 AD #2227 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd collects information on the SJS Welcome Wagon, and also on the man who Kyle murdered twenty years ago. Kyle is attacked by ruffians, and then a judge comes to investigate and shoots Kyle. Thistlebone: as above. Avril wakes Seema up at night and leads her to a giant woman made of wood or deer bone. I have no idea what’s gong on in this series. Visions of Deadworld: “Leigh,” as above. Judges Leigh and Ava are in a secret lesbian relationship. Leigh is kidnapped and murdered. I’m not sure what this story has to do with anything, but offhand I can’t think of any other 2000 AD story that depicted a queer relationship. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. The protagonist discovers that the tyrannical War-Pontiff Pius XLV is still alive. Fearl & Foe: as above. The protagonists reach the lair of Golgone the necromancer, but she takes them prisoner.

THE PHANTOM #1043 (Frew, 1993) – “White as Snow… Red as Blood,” [W] Lennart Moberg, [A] Romano Felmang (misspelled Fermang). The Phantom teams up with a police inspector named Nestor to investigate Morristown’s drug trade. The Phantom’s only clue is the name “Torsen,” which proves to be the name of a circus that’s just moved to town. While investigating the circus, the Phantom is forced to dress up as a clown and fight some other clowns. He eventually learns that the circus is a front for a drug ring run by Officer Nestor himself, which is obvious in retrospect, since Torsen is an anagram for Nestor. This issue has some exciting action sequences, but Felmang’s art is less impressive than in #1040.

IRON MAN #113 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Horn of the Unicorn!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Herb Trimpe. Tony shows off the new Stark International plant to the public, then Iron Man fights the Unicorn. The Unicorn is kind of a cool villain because he’s completely insane. Otherwise this is a boring issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #630 (DC, 1991) – “And the Executioner Wore Stiletto Heels,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim Aparo. A weird story in which Batman pursues three different assassins, one of whom has two heads. The main villain, Stiletto, is also named Saul Calvino, perhaps after Italo Calvino. Like much of Milligan’s work, this story is overly confusing and hard to follow.

HARDWARE #12 (Milestone, 1994) – “No Harm Done,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Rich Buckler. In the aftermath of some sort of crossover, Hardware teams up with a character named Harm, who looks as if he was designed by Rob Liefeld. Harm pretends to be a villain but is actually an undercover cop. I love the idea behind Hardware – a black Iron Man who’s cheated out of his inventions by his white mentor – but most of the Hardware stories I’ve read have been disappointing.

KANE #31 (Dancing Elephant, 2001) – “Killing the Hero!”, [W/A] Paul Grist. Kane encounters a bunch of crazy people who are all dressed up as the same superhero. This issue is funny and Grist’s storytelling is brilliant as usual, but his plot is a bit hard to follow. In particular, the flashback scenes are hard to distinguish from the present-day scenes.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #4 (Disney, 1990) – “The Bees Have It!”, [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald thinks a gentleman should only eat honey for breakfast, but he can’t find any honey everywhere, so he tries to get it by means of a convoluted plot that requires him to dress up like a giant bee. I’ve heard Van Horn described as the other great successor to Barks, besides Rosa. However, unlike Rosa, Van Horn seems to be inspired more by Barks’s slapstick comedy stories than by his adventure stories. (Also, in my opinion Van Horn is not remotely as good as Rosa.) This issue also includes a Barks ten-pager that continues the bee theme: the nephews have a beehive sent to their house, and Donald causes mayhem while trying to get rid of it.

MAD ABOUT MILLIE #16 (Marvel, 1970) – “Chili Gets the Guy!” etc., [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg. A bunch of dumb teen comedy stories. Two of them are reprinted from Millie the Model #163, which I already have. These late issues of Millie the Model are really not worth owning.

INCREDIBLE HULK #341 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Savage Bull Doth Bear the Yoke!”, [W] Peter David, [A] Todd McFarlane. Another issue that I read long ago in trade paperback form. The Hulk encounters Man-Bull, who strongly resembles his own earlier self. I think this is the Man-Bull’s first appearance since he was introduced in the ‘70s. Later, after a meeting with Clay Quarterman’s brother (punningly named Alan), the Hulk has to save Man-Bull from an angry mob. Wizard Magazine used to really like this issue, but I don’t think it’s among PAD’s best single issues of the Hulk.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #148 (Dell, 1953) – “Turkey with All the Schemings,” [W/A] Carl Barks, etc. My copy of this issue is a “subscription variant.” It has a white patch at the lower left corner of the cover, on which the original owner’s mailing address is printed. The GCD includes listings for several other similar variants of WDC&S issues, ranging from #144 to #165. See https://boards.cgccomics.com/topic/37816-show-us-your-ducks/page/319/ for a bit more information. I wonder if any other Dell comics have these variants. Anyway, in this issue’s Barks story, after Donald does his Christmas shopping, he discovers he no longer has any money for a Christmas dinner. So he impersonates a South American oil tycoon in order to get Scrooge to take him out to dinner, but Scrooge doesn’t want to pay the bill any more than Donald does. https://www.instagram.com/p/CZJCm-mudKO/ This story introduces the Duke of Baloni, though he only appears in two panels. He was later used more extensively by other creators. WDC&S #148 also includes stories starring Little Bad Wolf, Pluto, Little Hiawatha, Grandma Duck, and Mickey Mouse. The Little Hiawatha story is very racist even for 1953. The Mickey story is a redrawn version of a daily strip sequence. The GCD credits this story to Bill Wright, but the original sequence may have been by Gottfredson.

2000 AD #2228 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Kyle Asher escapes from the SJS’s assassination attempt and goes to the sewage plant to hide out with his robot coworkers. The irony in this chapter is that the robots are much kinder to Asher than his fellow judges. Thistlebone: as above. Another chapter that’s mostly backstory and talking. The flashback sequences are all drawn in a cartoonish style. Slaine: “Dragontamer Part 10,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leonardo Manco. This chapter was delayed for unexplained reasons, and was published seven issues after part 9. It depicts Slaine’s final battle with Brutus. According to several online sources, this is the final chapter of the entire Slaine saga. If so, that is a shame, because Slaine is probably my favorite 2000 AD feature. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. The Sister defeats the Pope and takes his signet, thus becoming the new ruler of the Chorus. Feral & Foe: as above. The necromancer sends the party on a quest to obtain a cauldron.

WONDER WOMAN #29 (DC, 2009) – “Rise of the Olympian Part Four: A Changed World,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Diana battles the Cheetah, while Zeus fights a Polynesian deity. This is a confusing story with a ton of plot threads, and I didn’t quite understand it. There’s a backup story where Hippolyta visits Diana’s current lover, Tom Tresser, in the hospital.

SUPERBOY #49 (DC, 1998) – “Searching…,” [W] Barbara Kesel, [A] Georges Jeanty. Roxy Leech goes looking for Superboy and her father Rex Leech, both of whom have vanished without a trace. I was expecting to dislike this because it’s not by Karl Kesel, but it’s a surprisingly poignant issue, and it effectively sets up the return of the (Karl) Kesel-Grummett creative team in issue 50.

GRAYSON #17 (DC, 2016) – “You Can Take the Spy Out of the Shadow…”, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. My copy of this issue is the Neal Adams variant, with a cover based on the cover of Batman #237. I’d love to own an actual copy of Batman #237, but it’s not cheap. Grayson #17 guest-stars Grifter, Huntress, Checkmate, and the Grant Morrison version of Frankenstein’s monster, but other than that, I was unable to follow its plot.

MACHINE MAN #9 (Marvel, 1978) – “In Final Battle!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Machine Man spends most of the issue talking with his military superiors, and there’s no real action until the end. This was the final issue of the series, and Machine Man next appeared in Incredible Hulk #235-237, which were not by Kirby. It’s no surprise that the series was cancelled if every issue was as boring as this one. I suspect that this series was not among Kirby’s better comics of the late ‘70s.

ART OPS #8 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Painted Ladies: Part One of Popism,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Mike Allred & Matt Brundage. Some guy hires the protagonist, Reggie, to hunt down characters who have escaped from famous paintings. Mike Allred’s artwork in this issue is spectacular; this issue is full of homages to notable artists, and there’s one extended sequence where Reggie fights a giant painted octopus. However, Art Ops’s writing was consistently disappointing. Shaun Simon seems to have wanted to create an art version of The Unwritten, but I don’t think his writing ability was up to that task.   

TARZAN #213 (DC, 1972) – “Balu of the Great Apes,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. Prior to his first encounter with other humans, Tarzan fights another ape who thinks Tarzan is too interested in the ape’s new baby. Tarzan saves the baby from some leopards, thus getting back in the apes’ good graces, but he feels sad about not having a family of his own species. The backup story is an adaptation of the ERB story “Beyond the Farthest Star,” by Marv Wolfman and Dan Green. The latter was a pretty good penciler before he devoted himself exclusively to inking.

GREEN LANTERN #159 (DC, 1982) – “When Evil Stars Begin to Fall!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Keith Pollard. Hal Jordan battles Evil Star and his Starlings. This story is pretty bad. The backup story – about an aquatic Green Lantern who looks like a giant eye with tentacles – is not much better.

BATMAN #620 (DC, 2003) – “Broken City Part One,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. A trite, overwrought attempt at noir fiction. As I have said before, Brian Azzarello is an awful writer who was successful only because he had the good luck of working with Eduardo Risso. Risso’s artwork is the only good thing about this issue, but it’s lazier and less detailed than most of his work.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #322 (Marvel, 1986) – “The Chasm,” [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Paul Neary. Cap and Flag-Smasher, the leader of ULTIMATUM, are stranded in the snow, and Cap has to save Flag-Smasher despite their completely opposite beliefs. In this issue Cap explicitly states that he’s never killed anyone before – that is, until last issue, when he was forced to shoot an ULTIMATUM agent to save some hostages. As Brian Cronin shows , the claim that Cap never killed anyone until Captain America #321 was a retcon – there were many earlier stories that showed Cap killing people – and this claim was subsequently forgotten. https://www.cbr.com/the-abandoned-an-forsaked-so-did-captain-america-kill-people-during-world-war-ii-or-what/

2000 AD #2229 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and Kyle separately fight the SJS and their robo-judges. I hope I get the next prog pack soon, because I’m curious how this story ends. Thistlebone: as above. After more flashback sequences,  Malcolm finally contacts Seema and arranges to meet with her. This story has been going on too long. Visions of Deadworld: as above. Some Dark Judges invade a chemical processing plant. I still don’t know what this series is about. Future Shocks: “Regarding Henry,” [W] Mark McCann, [A] Glenn Fabry. A confusing one-shot story about a girl who’s subjected to hypnotic visions in order to cure her of bullying. It’s nice to see Glenn Fabry doing interior art again, but his artwork here is below the quality of his early work. Feral & Foe: as above. The party encounter a giant “woodgod” with tusks and antlers.

BIZARRE HEROES #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1990) – “Origins,” [W/A] Don Simpson. Last month, Don Simpson posted a 2020 letter from Alan Moore on his blog, in which Alan explains his decision to take his name off the Fantagraphics reprint of Pictopia. In my opinion, this episode was a discredit to both men. I understand that Alan is very disgruntled after a lifetime of mistreatment by the comics industry. But when he takes his name off his older work, it doesn’t benefit him, and it actively harms his former collaborators. People who might have bought the Pictopia book are not going to buy it because they don’t know it was written by Alan Moore. That does nobody any good. But for his part, Don Simpson shouldn’t have published Alan’s private correspondence to him. Anyway, all of that explains why I felt motivated to read a comic by Don Simpson. Bizarre Heroes #1 is hard to evaluate. It feels like a parody of John Byrne’s Next Men or DNAgents, but it also feels like a seriously intended tribute to Silver Age superhero comics, and I can’t tell whether I’m supposed to take it at face value. Compared to this comic, Madman does a far better job of toeing the line between parody and genuineness.

TARZAN #170 (Gold Key, 1967) – “Tarzan and the Native Boy,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Depressed at not having his own child, Tarzan kidnaps an African boy, but of course he has to give him back. This story feels like a sequel to the one from Tarzan #213, and that’s because it sort of is. “Balu of the Great Apes” was adapted from a chapter of ERB’s book Jungle Tales of Tarzan, and “Tarzan and the Native Boy” was adapted from a later chapter of the same book. The backup story in Tarzan #170, “A Jungle Joke,” is based on yet a third chapter of that book.

2000 AD #1299 (Rebellion, 2002) – Dredd: “Sin City Part 11,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Dredd puts Sin City under quarantine, then blows it up. Thirteen: “Part 11,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Andy Clarke. Joe and Dak defeat the Pan Tot Sef conqueror woman, but decide not to pursue a relationship. Tor Cyan: “No Such Place Part 3,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Jock. Tor Cyan battles Rahab, then in a backup story, we see him, or possibly someone else, investigating Rogue Trooper’s grave on Nu-Earth. Each of the stories in this issue is the conclusion of its story arc.

THE PHANTOM #1045 (Frew, 1993) – “Marsh of the Endless Wind,” [W] Scott Goodall, [A] Jean-Yves Mitton. This is a sequel to #994. Some jungle dwellers discover a hot-air balloon containing a statue of the Phantom in its basket. The Phantom connects this discovery to an incident from the late 18th century, when the 13th Phantom encountered a tribe of tree-dwelling people and helped them build a balloon. Back in the present, the Phantom returns to the tree-dwellers’ village and helps save them from some crooks, who have enslaved the tree-dwellers and forced them to mine jewels. This is another exciting adventure-mystery story, similar to “Curse of the Granite God.” I wonder if Scott Goodall specialized in this sort of story.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #9 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Witch and the Warp,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. Devil Dinosaur is transported into the future, and Moon Boy has to get him back. This issue guest-stars the Hag and her son, who reappeared in the recent Reptil miniseries. This was the last issue of the series. Devil Dinosaur’s plots tended to be repetitive, perhaps because the protagonist had very limited ways of interacting with any other characters. It was a really fun premise, though, and it’s no surprise that so many other writers have tried to revive this character.

LUCIFER #2 (Vertigo, 2000) – “A Six Card Spread,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Chris Weston. The Basanos, the incarnations of the Tarot cards, cause a lot of havoc. Lucifer and Mazikeen go looking for them. This is only the second issue, and it’s already very hard to follow. However, Chris Weston’s art is excellent. In terms of the story, the high point of the issue is a brutal scene where a gay Indian boy is lured into an ambush by neo-Nazis.

PRISM STALKER #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sloane Leong. The protagonist is taken to an academy on an alien world, where most of the other students are nonhumanoid aliens. Prism Stalker, like Brandon Graham’s Phantom, is fascinating because it’s full of truly bizarre alien creatures. I need to read the rest of this series.

On my next Heroes trip, I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers yet again.

SAGA #55 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. This is perhaps the most important and eagerly awaited comic book of the year – it’s the return of the best series of the past decade. Some years after Marko’s death, Alanna is working as a drug dealer while raising Hazel and her adoptive brother, Prince Robot. Meanwhile, the Will encounters Gwendolyn again, and they make love in front of Marko’s skull. I don’t know why Saga was on hiatus for three years, but I’m overjoyed that it’s finally back.

STRAY DOGS: DOG DAYS #2 (Image, 2022) – multiple stories, [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. Another collection of vignettes about the dogs from the first series. Perhaps the best is the last one, about a three-legged dachshund whose murdered owner was a firefighter. The story ends poignantly with some of her fellow firefighters burning the Master’s house down. This issue includes an ad for Fleecs’s next series, Crosshares. This series doesn’t seem to have been announced anywhere else yet, but I’ll be looking forward to it.

ONCE & FUTURE #24 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. While the two Arthurs continue to fight, a third Arthur shows up. Duncan, Gran and Rose fail to liberate Leir/Lear, who has been too thoroughly taken over by his depiction in Shakespeare. Their next stop is the forest, where they meet Robin Hood. I’m surprised Robin Hood hasn’t shown up in this series already.

SEVEN SECRETS #13 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Amon and Canto now have the ability to predict the future, and they use it to hunt down the other secret keepers. Meanwhile, Caspar experiments with his new flying abilities and has a serious talk with his mother, and we learn how a woman of Indian descent became the queen of England.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #10 (Boom!, 2022) – “A Conflict of Belief,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Jason kills Ondine, and he and Marlyn complete their theft of God Malik. Bristow uses the god’s theft to further consolidate his power, and declares war between her cult and the inner worlds. The issue ends with a flashforward sequence that I don’t understand.

SHE-HULK #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Rogê Antônio. It sucks that Runaways was cancelled, but I’m glad we’re getting more Rainbow Rowell comics. This issue, Jen Walters has a pointless fight with Titania, then goes to work with Mallory Book, who has nothing for her to do. Janet Van Dyne sets Jen up in a nice new apartment, but Jen’s rest is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Jack of Hearts. I was unimpressed with this issue at first, but the second half, after the fight scene, was extremely fun.

STRANGE ACADEMY #15 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Emily thinks Doyle has left the school, but then he shows up. At a magical defense class, Calvin demonstrates the new powers he’s gained from Gaslamp. But then his powers vanish, and in order to get more wishes from Gaslamp, he has to sell Gaslamp’s wishes to his classmates. This series is ending with #18 but will be relaunched.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #8 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. This issue is narrated by Colonel Weird, so it’s deliberately confusing and its scenes are not in chronological order. Colonel Weird encounters a parliament of alternative versions of himself. Then Skulldigger asks Lucy to break him and Dr. Andromeda out of prison, so that they can kill Colonel Weird. There’s also another Inspector Insector backup story.

USAGI YOJIMBO #25 (IDW, 2022) – “Crossroads Part 1 of 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I love this issue’s cover: in the background, Usagi and Yukichi are walking and talking, but in the foreground, we see the tip of a drawn sword. In part 1 of “Crossroads,” Usagi and Yukichi encounter a man who was killed by six bandits. They follow the bandits to a crossroads, but can’t tell which path the bandits took. There is an obvious reference here to a certain clichéd Robert Frost poem. Usagi takes one path and finds some more victims of the bandits. Yukichi takes the other path and finds something even worse: Keiko and her uncle Jei.

DEFENDERS #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “3rd Cosmos: The Hierophant,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders reach the Third Cosmos, where they find Carlo Zota, and nothing else except a battle between Existence and Nothingness. Zota kills the Masked Raider and unmasks him, only to discover that the Masked Raider is Zota’s own future self. Zota has to put on the Eternity Mask and use it to become the new incarnation of Existence. That’s the end of a truly fascinating series.

PRIMORDIAL #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. We skip ahead to 2024, when Europe is entirely under Communist rule. The two monkeys and the dog finally return to Earth, and a much older Yelena and her granddaughter prepare to meet them. But the animals’ spaceship is attacked by Soviet planes, and Able is shot, just as Yelena suffers a heart attack. The art in this issue is far more conventional than in earlier issues.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #7 (DC, 2022) – “The Rising Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. Jon meets the other members of Jay’s secret news organization. A giant crab creature emerges from the waters near Gamorra, and Jon and Jackson Hyde team up to convince it to leave peacefully. But the Gamorra Corps arrive and attack the monster, and it kills one of them. The giant monster is actually very cute.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #4 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part Four,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the past, Jessica makes an unsuccessful attempt to separate Aaron and Jace. Then Jace tells Aaron the origin of La Boucherie: it was founded in New Orleans by an enslaved boy from Haiti, and unlike the other monster slayer houses, it was a hereditary lineage. But then the Old Dragon decided to destroy La Boucherie out of pure professional jealousy. This continues a recurring theme of the series – that the House of Slaughter is just as awful as the monsters it fights. Back in the present, Jace shows Aaron some star symbols that point to “freedom.”

KING CONAN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Barbarian Father’s Lament,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. In flashback, King Conan gets depressed because his son is growing up in peace and luxury, so he takes Conn to the Aquilonian border and tells him not to come back until he’s been to every country on the map. In the present, Conan offers Thoth-Amon a truce so they can both survive the night, but Thoth-Amon refuses Conan’s offer and stabs him in the leg. I’d be interested in reading more stories about Conan’s time as king of Aquilonia, or about Conn’s solo adventures.

GETTING DIZZY #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Just before a major skating event, the town mayor shuts down the skate park. (Mayors doing things that grossly exceed their authority is a theme in this year’s comics; see also Devil’s Reign.) Dizzy discovers that she herself is possessed by Negatrixes. As I’ve written in a previous review, this series’ fantasy elements are hard to accept. I have trouble believing in a superhero whose sole responsibility is to defend some random suburb. I would like this series better if it was more obvious that the Burb Defender and the Negatrixes are just metaphors for Dizzy’s personal struggles.

ROBIN #10 (DC, 2022) – “Mother of the Demon,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. This issue’s title is a reference to Ra’s al Ghul’s first appearance, “Daughter of the Demon.” In the ancient Middle East, Damian watches Ra’s’s mother die, then she comes back to life and attacks him. Then he wakes up back in the present, and Mother Soul tells him more of Ra’s’s origin. Then Ra’s himself shows up on the last page.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #5 (DC, 2022) – “Hometown Hero,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Paul Pelletier & Diego Olortegui. Jackson talks with Delilah, then saves some kids from being killed in a clash between cops and terrorists. Jackson meets his boyfriend again. Delilah realizes that Meeka has been lying to her, and apologizes to her mother. But Meeka is already plotting a terrorist attack on the peace conference, which would result in Mera being killed. Jackson declares that Aquaman can save the day. I think I might actually like this series better than Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Aquaman.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #125 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. With the end of the MLP title, TMNT and Usagi Yojimbo are the only IDW comics I’m reading. I think IDW is in serious trouble, especially with the loss of their Hasbro licenses, and I hope they come up with some more comics to publish. TMNT #125 introduces the Punk Frogs, a bunch of assholes who burn down the Turtles’ dojo out of pure spite. It’s a shocking and infuriating moment. There’s also a subplot set on a planet of triceratops people. Idon’t see how this subplot is relevant to the main plot.  

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #3 (IDW, 2022) – “The Fox Consultation,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Machi has to have her head shaved to protect her from a magical attack. As a result she gets bullied at school, but also makes a new friend. Risa finally meets the general who’s trying to find her a boyfriend. Chub invades the Risa training facility and starts killing people. This issue is a bit hard to follow, but I love this series. Paul Tobin is a humor writer at heart, and even his horror series are very funny.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #34 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Michele Bandini & Luigi Zagaria. Miles and Shift invade the Assessor’s headquarters, which is full of doors, much like the Monsters, Inc. plant. The Assessor traumatizes Miles and Shift even further by making them watch recordings of the tortures he previously inflicted on them. Finally he himself shows up. I really hate the Assessor by now.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. This is yet another origin retelling, but it covers Bruce’s high school years, which have been neglected in earlier stories. In this issue the young Bruce goes to Hugo Strange for therapy, only to discover that Strange was scamming his patients, including Bruce’s sort-of girlfriend Dana Dunlop – who I think is a new character. As in Untold Legend of Batman, Bruce wants to be a cop, but gives up on that. Unlike in Untold Legend, the reason is because he discovers that Gotham’s cops are hopelessly corrupt. Much of this issue focuses on Alfred, and we see his frustration at Bruce’s anger management problems and his limited worldview. Overall, in this issue Chip Zdarsky achieves the difficult feat of retelling Batman’s origin in a new and interesting way.

ICE CREAM MAN #28 (Image, 2022) – “The Etymologist Rises,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Brian Gartner, an etymologist, is obsessed with the power of language to shape reality. In an unspecified foreign country, he climbs up a mountain in order to meet with a hermit who knows “the very first word.” After a terrifying journey that results in his guide’s death, he meets the hermit, who tells him that the flowers he’s been eating are poisonous. Brian’s theories about language are really pretty naïve, and while this issue reminds me of Paul Auster’s City of Glass, it’s not as deep. But I particularly like the sequence where Brian imagines the world literally being made of words.

MARY JANE & BLACK CAT: BEYOND #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jed MacKay, [A] C.F. Villa. I can’t remember why I ordered this, but I wish I hadn’t. In this issue, the Hood holds the comatose Peter Parker hostage in order to force MJ and Felicia to recover his hood. In the first place, this is an idiotic premise. The Hood has no powers and is literally just a dude with a gun, and the writer doesn’t even try to explain why Felicia couldn’t just beat him up and take his gun. The sequence where MJ dresses up as Black Cat to help steal the bag is also very problematic. It seems to show MJ doing things she logically shouldn’t be able to do, like bungee-jumping off a building on a rope. Or maybe I’m just reading this scene wrong, because the storytelling is very confusing, and I’m not sure whether the character depicted in each panel is MJ or Felicia. But the biggest problem with this comic is the dialogue, which is annoying and grates on my nerves. I guess this is a one-shot, so I don’t need to drop it from my pull list, but I won’t plan on buying any further comics written by Jed MacKay.

MY LITTLE PONY: GENERATIONS #4 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The Generation 1 ponies explain Grackle and Dyre’s origin. Grackle and Dyre continue to execute their plot, and the G1 ponies accompany the Mane Six to Ponyville to investigate. This issue was uncomfortable to read because the G1 ponies look too much like humans, and so they produce an uncanny valley effect. Otherwise, I liked this issue more than the first three, though that might be because Mary Jane & Black Cat #1 was such a terrible comic that MLP: Generations #4 seemed better by comparison. A running joke throughout this issue is that the G1 ponies keep making references to ‘80s pop culture. There are also some funny Opalescence moments.

WONDER WOMAN #783 (DC, 2022) – “Through a Glass Darkly Part Three,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Steve and Diana finally reunite, only to be attacked by the Shining Knight – but not Grant Morrison’s version of that character. Otherwise this issue is mostly a bunch of fight scenes. In the backup story, the Bana-Mighdall decide to volunteer to guard Doom’s Doorway.

DARK BLOOD #6 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Moisés Hidalgo. Avery escapes the police and fakes his own death. In the last pages, he becomes Martin Luther King Jr.’s bodyguard, and the implication is that in this timeline, he might later save MLK from assassination. Avery also informs his family that he’s still alive, and we learn that his daughter inherited his powers. This is an interesting series, but its confusing narrative structure, with three separate timelines, was more of a liability than an asset.

ROBINS #2 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin, Part 2,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The five Robins go looking for the kidnapped criminals for their past, and they find them guarded by the Junior Supercriminals, a group of ineffective villain sidekicks. A series of flashback sequences depict how each of the kidnap victims was involved in a case that Batman used as a test, or “gauntlet,” for one of the Robins. The flashback to Jason Todd’s “gauntlet” is based on Batman #424, in which Jason was implied to have murdered a criminal who was going to get off scot-free because of diplomatic immunity.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #5 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Most of this issue is taken up with epic battle between the armies of Canto and the Shrouded Man. In the middle of this, we also learn the origin of the three Furies.

THE SILVER COIN #8 (Image, 2022) – “Rising and Falling in America,” [W] Matthew Rosenberg, [A] Michael Walsh. In 1968, the coin has found its way into the office of a Wall Street banker. The banker’s janitor becomes possessed by the coin, goes insane, murders a bunch of people, and finally kills himself. The coin’s next owner is a disabled man who finds it on the street. This issue was not bad, although every issue of Silver Coin has essentially the same plot. I don’t know why I haven’t read more Matthew Rosenberg comics.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “Switcharoo,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. The protagonists are present when Oswald is shot by Jack Ruby, then they smuggle Sonny Germs’s body into the morgue, exchanging it for a Dr. Pepper case containing Oswald’s real body. And then when they’re driving away from doing that, the Dr. Pepper case opens and Oswald gets out, very much alive. I’m curious to see where this goes.

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #5 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ivy Noelle Weir, [W] Kelly Williams. All but two of the kids get killed, and the two survivors fly away on their spaceship, but one of them is contaminated with the evil plant. This was an extremely dark, brutal series. That’s a surprise because of the young age of the cast and because its creator’s previous work was a YA graphic novel.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #4 (DC, 2022) – “The Ties That Bind,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez & Darryl Banks. In a flashback, Nubia fights a manticore in Chicago. Back in the present, the Amazons finally decide to negotiate with Medusa. This series hasn’t been as good as I’d hoped, but I’m going to finish reading it.

ROBINS #3 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin Part Three,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The Robins defeat the sidekicks, but the three kidnap victims are about to be gassed to death. Tim points out that the hostages deserve to die anyway – especially since one of them is the Obeah Man, who killed Tim’s mother – and he unsuccessfully tries to prevent Dick from saving them. We then learn that “Tim” is not himself but was replaced by the “first Robin” from the end of issue 1. 

THE HUMAN TARGET #4 (DC, 2022) – “To this Great Stage of Fools!”, [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance and Ice try to interview Blue Beetle. Instead of actually telling them anything, he spends hours and hours dragging them from one adventure to another. Finally we learn that Ted funded Booster’s business because of a request from J’onn. At the end of the issue, Chance and Ice finally sleep together, resolving three issues worth of obvious sexual tension.

BATMAN/CATWOMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Interlude,” [W] Tom King, [A] John Paul Leon et al. This comic was announced prior to John Paul Leon’s death, but after he died while working on it, it was expanded into a tribute to him. The main story in this issue is a series of vignettes from Selina Kyle’s life, starting with her birth and continuing with her marriage to Batman, motherhood, retirement, and death. It’s a sweet story which also contains a ton of cute cat moments. The issue also includes a reprinted story from Batman: Black and White, and a series of tributes to JPL by various other creators.

WONDER GIRL #7 (DC, 2022) – “Homecoming Part Seven,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Leila del Duca. With the Amazons’ help, Yara fights the gods and finally convinces them to leave her alone. She departs in the company of the two other Wonder Girls. This story will be continued in Trial of the Amazons: Wonder Girl #1.

WITCHBLOOD #10 (Vault, 2022) – “The Mother of the World,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Atlacoya sacrifices herself to kill Paxton. Her death creates a “Magnum Opus Tree” covered with fruits that bleed witchblood. The surviving witches get together again to investigate this phenomenon. This has been an entertaining series, and I hope it continues.

DEVIL’S REIGN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Luke  starts his mayoral campaign. Jessica figures out that the Kingpin is working with the Purple Man, but when the heroes try to find evidence of this, they’re confronted with the Superior Four. At the end of the issue, Fisk’s goons apparently murder Foggy Nelson. This series is a lot better than a certain other current Marvel crossover series that will be reviewed below.

FRONTIERSMAN #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. The issue begins with everyone reacting to Frontiersman’s on-camera sexual encounter with Brynhilde. Then Frontiersman is attacked by the villains who have been making cameo appearances throughout the series. This part of the issue felt pointless.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #1 (Image, 2022) – “In the Cold Morning Air,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. This series has been on hiatus for a long, long time. The previous issue of Arrowsmith was published in 2004, by DC’s long-defunct Cliffhanger imprint. I read the original Arrowsmith miniseries when it came out, but I can’t remember anything about it. This issue reminds me that Arrowsmith is about an American fighting in a fantasy version of World War I, alongside his pet dragon and his troll friend Rocky. Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 is an impressive mix of historical fiction and high fantasy. It’s far less grim than more realistic WWI comics by Joe Colquhoun or Jacques Tardi, but that’s probably an unfair comparison. The high point of this issue is the scene where Arrowsmith defends Rocky from racist abuse by other human soldiers.

BOLERO #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Devyn Dagny is an aspiring tattoo artist, but her girlfriend leaves her, she can’t get her tattooing license, and she skips her best friend’s marriage proposal in order to hook up with some random dude. Just as Devyn is regretting the mess she’s made of her life, her hook-up shows her a way to project her mind into the body of her counterpart in an alternate reality. Who turns out to be male. There are things I like about this comic – especially the talking cat – but Devyn is such an unappealing character that it’s hard to feel sympathy for her. All of her problems are entirely her own fault. It’s also uncomfortable that this comic is lettered by Brandon Graham, especially because it deals with transgender themes, and Brandon Graham’s current state of disgrace is the result of his transphobic behavior.

ANIMAL CASTLE #2 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. We finally meet President Silvio, a giant bull whose hobby is drinking champagne from a bathtub. Silvio blames a certain sheep for the uprising at the end of last issue, and we soon see why: he’s been selling his own subjects’ meat in exchange for champagne and dog kibble. This is even worse than the scene in Animal Farm where Boxer is sold to the knacker’s. Back at the farm, a rat tells a subversive story about Bowser, and the dogs ambush him and tear him half to death. The cat protagonist saves the rat (though it looks for a minute like she’s eaten him) and nurses him back to health, and he gives her advice on resisting tyranny. Animal Castle is one of the best comics currently being published. It has an important political message which is delivered in a deeply emotionally affecting way.

BLACK PANTHER #3/200 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book Three,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal w/ Ibrahim Moustafa. T’Challa fights some more assassins, then goes to visit his ex-wife Storm. “A Tall Tale of Tricks,” [W/A] Juni Ba. T’Challa runs an errand for a trickster deity named Saï-Saï. I don’t know if this is based on a real African folktale, but it feels like it is, and Juni Ba’s art is beautiful and distinctive. “The Wakandan,” [W] John Ridley, [A] German Peralta. The origin story of a new character named Tosin. This feels more like a summary than a story. By coincidence, New Masters #1 also includes a character called Tosin.

ETERNALS #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail Thanos Part 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic & Guiu Vilanova. Thanos goes to Lemuria looking for Phaistos. Thena is forced to kill her Deviant lover. The characters from Eternals: Celestia are reintroduced into the story. Perhaps I’ve been excessively influenced by Charles Hatfield’s bad review, but I’m no longer enjoying this series, and I feel like Kieron is not giving it his full effort.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “A Tale of the Great Plague,” [W/A] Rick Geary. A man hides out in the country to get away from a virus, only for a giant specimen of the virus to crash into his house. In classic Rick Geary style, this story doesn’t make logical sense, but it feels vaguely creepy and disturbing. The backup story is a dumb satire in which Ted Cruz (under a different name) runs for President despite being publicly revealed as a werewolf.

THE RUSH #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Trap,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Mrs. Bridger investigates her son’s claim and discovers that someone has “salted” it, making it falsely appear to be full of gold. She also has a vision of a moose that weeps gold, and we’re introduced to a new character named Tsikamin, a First Nations man who delights in refuting Indian sterotypes.

MAW #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. Marion is turned into an awful but strangely beautiful monster, and she and the other women gather together to eat some guy. Then they perform a ritual that summons a hungry cannibalistic goddess from the water. I have mixed feelings about this series. It’s a powerful depiction of sexual assault, but the solution it proposes for this problem is that women should turn into monsters and eat men, and this solution doesn’t seem to be offered with serious intent.

CURSED PIRATE GIRL: THE DEVIL’S CAVE #1 (Archaia, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeremy A. Bastian. This is a difficult comic. It’s one of the most beautiful, elaborate comic books I’ve ever read. Bastian’s draftsmanship is even denser than that of James Stokoe or J.H. Williams III; his pages look more like Old Master engravings than like most other comics. His page layouts are also extremely radical. Most of his pages don’t follow conventional panel structure, and the reader is challenged to figure out in which order to read them. The high point of all this is a gatefold page in the center of the comic that opens up to reveal a four-page splash. But this comic’s incredibly elaborate draftsmanship and storytelling also detract from its readability. There is a plot to this comic, but it’s tough to figure out what it is, especially when every page takes at least five minutes to read. Overall, I am amazed that Jeremy Bastian can create a comic like this, but I’m also glad he can’t do it on a monthly basis.

THE PHANTOM #1049 (Frew, 1993) – “Son of the Desert,” [W] Ulf Granberg, [A] Jamie Vallvé. This is a flashback story about the 11th Phantom, and as the editor’s note points out, it  conflicts with other accounts about when the 11th Phantom got married and who his wife was. According to this version, while the 11th Phantom and his new bride Renata are traveling to Bengali after their honeymoon, their ship is wrecked by pirates, and Renata is kidnapped and sold into slavery. After convalescing for several months due to his injuries from the shipwreck, the Phantom finally rescues Renata and discovers that she’s given birth to their son. This is the sexiest Phantom story I’ve read, though the sexiness is justified by the fact that the characters are newlyweds. It also includes some beautiful art, particularly the establishing shot of the castle where Renata is held. While this comic includes some trite Muslim villains, it also includes a character named Sulaim whose Muslim faith motivates him to save the Phantom.

PTERANO-MAN! #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Don Simpson. Another faux-Silver Age superhero story about a pteranodon-themed superhero. As with Bizarre Heroes #1, it’s not clear how seriously the reader is supposed to take it. This issue also includes two backup stories, one of which stars Simpson’s signature character, Megaton Man.

CEREBUS #221 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 2,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Rick have a long conversation, part of which is depicted in an illustrated text sequence, and then they play Five Bar Gate. Joanne makes a cameo appearance at the end.

2000 AD #1321 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2002) – Dredd: “Sniping,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. A sniper uses Dredd to commit “suicide by judge.” It’s weird seeing Ian Gibson’s artwork in color and on glossy paper. His artwork here seems old-fashioned. The Red Seas: “Under the Banner of King Death,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. I don’t understand this story at all, except that it’s about the devil. Asylum: “Part 9,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Boo Cook. A story set in outer space. Again, I have no idea what it’s about. Sinister Dexter: “The Off-Lode Experience Part 9,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Davis. Some nice art, but yet again, I can’t follow it.

AVENGERS #303 (Marvel, 1989) – “Reckoning!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] Rich Buckler. The East and West Coast Avengers team up to fight Super-Nova. This is an unmemorable issue, but what makes it interesting is the tension between Captain America and Mr. Fantastic, who was midway through his only stint as an Avenger. Mr. Fantastic is used to being the leader of his team, and he has a notorious habit of making and carrying out plans without explaining them to anyone. In this issue, Reed demonstrates all of these habits, and it makes Captain America very annoyed with him. Ralph Macchio may not be a great writer, but he does have a good understanding of the major Marvel characters.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR #9 (self-published, 1984) – “A Semi-Bummer Weekend” etc., [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] various. In this issue’s lead story, Harvey’s friend Jon comes to Cleveland for a visit, but Harvey fails to make plans for Saturday night and ends up going on a date and abandoning Jon. Another long story is “Free Ride,” illustrated by Dumm, in which Harvey befriends an older coworker who he then discovers to be a “Jewish bigot.” The high point of the issue is “Hypothetical Quandary,” one of Pekar’s finest stories. The panel with Harvey saying “If I lived a different life I could still write about it” is an iconic image, and so is the concluding panel: “Ah, fresh bread!” In a way this comic feels old-fashioned and nostalgic now; it’s like a window into a working-class America that no longer exists. One thing I notice about it, especially in “Free Ride,” is the characters’ extreme awareness of their immigrant roots. This sort of awareness seems less prominent now that most white Americans are so much more assimilated. As a side note, in this issue’s first story, Harvey watches the 1982 World Cup final on TV. It’s surprising that he was even aware the World Cup was going on, and it seems like he only watched it because he was with an Italian friend.

2000 AD #1322 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus, Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. Dredd investigates an infestation of xenomorphs. This is not the first Dredd crossover story, but it’s the first one I know of that was published in 2000 AD. Part one appeared in the Prog 2003 special. (By the way, I once wondered what was the only issue of 2000 AD that was published in the same year. The answer is 2017.) Caballistics Inc.: “Going Undergruond Part 2,” [W] Gordon Reardon, [A] Dom Rennie. A black-and-white story about a paranormal infestation. Slaine: “Moloch II,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Slaine fights a bunch of vampire demons. As is traditional for Slaine, this story includes some beautiful but gruesome painted art. Sinister Dexter: “Relode Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Ben Willsher. The protagonists return to their home reality, but 15 years before they left. Nikolai Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 2,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. A shipwrecked Nikolai Dante is “rescued” by pirates. After defeating them, he meets two children whose mother has just been killed, and they claim their father is a kraken. Like Ian Gibson, John Burns is a classic British artist whose art is perhaps not well served by modern printing techniques.

THE PHANTOM #1052 (Frew, 1993) – “The Final Battle,” [W] Lennart Moberg, [A] Romano Felmang. While visiting America with Diana, the Phantom goes to Watertown, where he went to high school and college. Diana is kidnapped by the Phantom’s old athletic rival Bob Moore. Bob challenges the Phantom to an athletic contest with Diana as the prize. Of course, the Phantom wins, and the contest ends in Bob’s death. This is an exciting story, but it’s too bad that Diana spends the issue as a hostage.

FOUR COLOR #865 (Dell, 1957) – “Andy Burnett,” [W] unknown, [A] Bill Ziegler. In 1820, young Andy Burnett has promised his grandmother that he’ll go buy a farm in Missouri, but he really wants to explore the uncharted American West. This comic is adapted from a Disney TV miniseries. Its plot consists of a succession of cliches – a knife-throwing contest, an attack by hostile Indians, an exotic Mexican beauty. And the Four Color adaptation compresses six TV episodes into a single comic book, making it feel way too fast-paced. Overall, this is a pretty lousy comic. Bill Ziegler’s art looks kind of like Dan Spiegle’s, but I don’t think Ziegler was as good as Spiegle.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1038 (DC, 2021) – “The Neighborhood Part 5,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. The Bat-family fights some bearded dude named Worth who’s angry about his daughter’s death. This comic has some okay characterization, but I’m not sure how it connects to any other Batman titles. There’s also a Penguin backup story by Meghan Fitzmartin and Karl Mostert.

THE MIGHTY ZODIAC #1 (Oni, 2016) – “Starfall Pat 1: The Shadows Have Ears,” [W] J. Torres, [A] Corin Howell. A fantasy story based on the Chinese Zodiac, with a cast of twelve characters representing the twelve zodiacal animals. The idea behind this series is interesting, but Corin Howell’s artwork is lacking in detail, and he’s not great at drawing animal faces. Also, there are too many characters, and it’s hard to tell them apart. And while this comic is inspired by Chinese culture, it otherwise feels like a generic American kids’ TV show.

SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #1 (DC, 2016) – “Dove,” [W] Max Landis, [A] Nick Dragotta. Yet another retelling of Superman’s origin. It includes a poignant scene where Clark watches ET and is shocked to see humans persecuting an alien. And there’s a cute moment when Clark accidentally acquires a red cape. But it’s weird that Jonathan Kent looks just like Clark, even though they’re not related, and Martha also seems off-model. And it’s hard to read a Max Landis comic knowing that he’s an unrepentant sexual abuser.

INVADER ZIM FCBD (Oni, 2018) – “Floopsy Bloops Shmoopsy,” [W] Jhonen Vasquez, [A] Warren Wucinich. Invader Zim executes a successful plot to conquer the world, but he doesn’t realize it, because he’s been sitting on the couch watching a dumb kids’ TV show. Back in college I read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and hated it, and I don’t like this comic any better. Jhonen Vasquez is good at appealing to goths, but I don’t think he’s especially talented. Also, this issue includes too many pages that are just repetitions of the same panel, with only minor differences.

Back to Heroes on Saturday, February 12:

SEVEN SECRETS #14 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Caspar has a bizarre dream, then wakes up in Buckingham Palace. Caspar and Titus (is that his name?) have a romantic moment. BTW, it’s nice that there are so many current comics that depict male same-gender relationships in a really cute way. Canto assaults the lighthouse where all the other Keepers are staying. When Caspar arrives to save the day, Canto opens the briefcase containing the worst secret of all, whatever that is.

RADIANT BLACK #12 (Image, 2022) – “Pink,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Meghan Camarena, [A] French Carlomagno. Eva, aka @EvaPlayys, is a successful video game streamer. But when we see her off-camera, we discover that she’s barely eating, she has to deal with sponsors’ ridiculous demands, and she’s neglecting her girlfriend, who secretly thinks her job doesn’t matter. And then her microphone breaks, forcing her to stop streaming. While searching for a new microphone, Eva meets an old Best Buy technician. It initially seems as if he’s trying to get into her pants, but then he reveals himself as Radiant Orange, and he turns Eva into Radiant Pink. This is the second best issue yet, after #6, the one about the woman with a financially abusive boyfriend. “Pink” is a powerful deconstruction of the supposedly glamorous lifestyle of streaming. After reading this comic, I can’t see why anyone would want to stream video games for a living.

CROSSOVER #11 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. In a flashback, Donny Cates is interviewed by Agent Pendleton, and we learn that he’s being held captive until he writes an ending to his story. Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker take the evil preacher to a baseball stadium, where he’s arranged to meet up with Negan from The Walking Dead. This is another very clever issue.  

THE GOON #14 (Albatross, 2022) – “That Kid with the Duck,” [W/A] Eric Powell. An Irish imp has cursed the Goon to never be able to eat a pork chop. Meanwhile, a kid with a stuffed duck summons a mummy to beat the Goon senseless. The imp summons a bog body to fight the mummy, and while the two creatures are beating each other up, the Goon take the imp to a meat-and-three restaurant in exchange for breaking the curse. But the kid and the mummy burn the restaurant down. The imp takes his revenge by wiping his ass with the kid’s duck. This is sort of a quintessential Goon story: it’s gruesome, nonsensical and vulgar, but it’s also a exciting and cleverly plotted, and it’s told in a completely deadpan style.

SABRETOOTH #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Adversary,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth is confined in a prison underneath Krakoa, where he can have visions of any experience he wants, but can never leave. He’s alone there until five other mutants are thrown into the prison with him. Victor LaValle uses this story as an occasion for a critique of prisons in general. As Charles Ellis pointed out on Facebook, the problem with this idea is that Sabretooth actually deserves to be in prison – not even as punishment, but in order to keep him from killing even more people than he already has. And by reminding the reader of how evil Sabretooth is, LaValle inadvertently makes him into an argument for the continued existence of prisons. Black Tom’s appearance in this issue may be a reference to LaValle’s novella The Ballad of Black Tom.

NOCTERRA #7 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Medal,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. Val, Emory and their new allies are looking for the path to Eos. But when they go to visit the Drive-In, the last place where the location of Eos might be hidden, they discover that almost everyone there has been killed by human shades. That means that the only remaining way to find Eos is to hunt down Blacktop Bill himself. The best moment in this issue is when two of the supporting characters fall into a river, and we think they’re going to be okay, but then a giant whale eats them.

MONKEY PRINCE #1 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 1,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. As a child, Marcus Sun witnesses Batman beating up his criminal parents. This experience leaves him traumatized, and his trauma makes him vulnerable to bullying. Years later, his school’s janitor, Mr. Zhu, tells him to face his fears by jumping into the pool. Marcus does so and finds himself in the realm of his real father: Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. And Mr. Zhu turns out to be Sun Wukong’s companion Zhu Bajie, better known in English as Pigsy. Marcus transforms into the Monkey Prince, but when he’s beating up one of his bullies, Batman and Robin intervene, and then Batman throws a boomerang at Marcus and somehow cuts his head off. Monkey Prince #1 is one of Gene Luen Yang’s best superhero comics to date. It has some obvious similarities to American Born Chinese, but it takes the Monkey King myth in a rather different direction. As a side note, the main bully in this issue is named Rizalino and calls himself “The Riz.” I’d like to beat this kid up.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #8 (DC, 2022) – “The Rising Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon and Jackson manage to save the leviathan, but not before she kills someone. Even though the person’s death is entirely Henry Bendix’s fault, Jon still feels guilty. Bendix uses this incident as an excuse to debut his own team of superheroes who are under his total control. Jon agrees to join the Truth. Next issue is a crossover with Nightwing.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “They’re Watching Us,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. This is one of four comics I bought this week that had an African creator, and that’s not counting Black Panther Legends #1, whose writer is a second-generation Nigerian-American. This mini-boom in African-produced comic books is exciting, and it’s a corrective to American comics’ history of stereotypical and racist depictions of Africa. Land of the Living Gods #1 stars Naledi, an albino girl living in a post-apocalyptic far-future Johannesburg, along with her dying mother and her pet superpowered plant. After Naledi’s mother dies, an old woman tells Naledi to visit the gods and tell them that the human race is dying. But on her way there, she’s kidnapped by a woman who wants to sell her to witches. This is an exciting debut issue. Naledi is an interesting protagonist, and her story is set in a milieu that’s been completely ignored by most American comics, other than some ‘80s stories about apartheid. Also, Santtos’s art is excellent. This issue contains some dialogue in Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho.  

2000 AD #2256 (Rebellion, 2021) – I was excited to receive another prog pack, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t the next one in order. The last prog pack I got ended with #2229, and the current one begins with #2256, so I’ve missed 26 issues. I don’t think this is Heroes’s fault; they tell me that they’ve been having consistent problems getting 2000 AD. I wonder what’s been going on. Anyway, #2256 is another young-adult-themed “Regened” issue. Cadet Dredd: “Full Throttle,” [W] Liam Johnson, [A] Ben Willsher. Dredd and Rico chase two criminals who have stolen a mo-pad. A pretty exciting story. Scooter & Jinx: untitled, [W] James Peaty, [A] Steve Roberts. An android “bone machine” and an anthropomorphic cat become friends. The art in this issue is very creative, with some excellent depictions of aliens, but the story is unconvincing. Enemy Earth: “The Bunker,” [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Luke Horsman. In a postapocalyptic world taken over by plants, a teenage boy is about to be killed by mutated plants. A giant robot battlesuit saves him but then tries to kill him. The suit opens to reveal an even younger child. I’d like to read more of this one. Time Twisters: “Temporal Tantrum,” [W] Colin Harvey, [A] Tom Newell. A social media influencer uses a time machine to make herself the “goddess of all time,” but she gets tired of the job, so she tells her underpaid intern to go back in time and stop her from time traveling. The intern uses the time machine to make herself the “goddess of all time.” I think this was the best story in the issue. Strontium Dug: “No Dogs,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Colin MacNeil. Middenface McNulty’s dog, who looks and talks like McNulty himself, solves a crime at a casino. Actually this might be the best story in the issue.

2000 AD #2257 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Tread Softly Part 1,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. A man named Isaac dies from consuming bad “dream chips” that give him other people’s dreams. Dredd investigates his supplier, Rosewater Vale, who has a habit of killing everybody in sight when her operations go bad. Diaboliks: “London Calling Part One,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. This story stars Jake, last name not mentioned, who resembles John Constantine, and his partner Solomon Ravne. Jake goes to get his magical items back from safekeeping, only to find that they’ve been stolen by “a bunch of right arseholes called the Collection.” Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. The Jovians are trying to destroy Earth. I was surprised to see Scarlet Traces being published in 2000 AD, because I thought it originated as an American comic book series, but I guess it originated as a webcomic and was then reprinted in Judge Dredd Magazine. However, I believe that the second story arc, The Great Game, was only ever published by Dark Horse. Future Shocks: “Keyboard Warriors,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Rob Richardson. Some humans use remote-controlled robots to take over an alien planet, but the aliens turn the tables on the humans by attacking them through their own radio waves. The Out: “Book Two Part Seven,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Harrison. A woman attends a concert by Robert Lustre, who’s basically David Bowie. This story has some beautiful art and coloring, though it’s a bit garish. It reminds me a lot of “The Hyper-Historic Headbang!” from prog 322.

BATGIRLS #3 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 3,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Jorge Corona. Babs goes to a concert where she runs into a rather creepy old flame. Steph and Cass fight the Tutor. Babs gets a booty call from Dick, but it’s really from Seer. I like this series a lot. The characterization and the artwork are both excellent.

BYLINES IN BLOOD #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Out of the Temple,” [W] Erica Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. Satya goes to the mayor’s party and is shocked to see her parents there. When she leaves, the mayor’s goons beat her up. I didn’t like this issue as much as #1. It felt like a generic crime comic. I do like the art, though, especially the page where Satya’s friend is peacefully eating and looking at his phone, and then a car drives by outside the window and dumps Satya on the ground.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate escapes from Mme. Ringleader and Fifi, but only after they’ve set the resort on fire. Kate and Susan prepare to head back to Bishop Manor to stop the villains from obtaining a Cosmic Cube fragment. This was a very quick read, but it was fun.

HUMAN REMAINS #5 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. After his sessions with the monster, General Sullivan finds himself compelled to kill people who are experiencing strong emotions. He decides to communicate telepathically with the monster, using two mediums named Paris and London – we don’t know which is which. Meanwhile, Jessica’s abusive boyfriend finds her in the hospital, but the hospital guards throw him out. Those guards should be given a raise. This is my favorite Peter Milligan comic in recent memory. Unlike most of his work, it has an entirely clear plot and I have no trouble understanding what’s going on.

DAREDEVIL: WOMAN WITHOUT FEAR #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Kraven fights Elektra, then kidnaps “Goldy,” whoever that is. I guess he appeared in issue 1. When Elektra finds Kraven again, she discovers that the Kingpin has deputized him. There are also a bunch of flashbacks, many of which depict Matt and Elektra having sex.

FANTASTIC FOUR: RECKONING WAR ALPHA #1 (Marvel, 2022) –“The Day of Reckoning,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Carlos Pacheco et al. The start of a crossover event in which the universe is invaded by the Reckoning, a race that were exiled from the cosmos after they took the Watchers’ technology and used it for evil purposes. I know that Dan Slott has a lot of detractors, but I generally like his writing. However, I hated this issue. The main problem is it’s too epic for its own good. The Reckoning are such a horrible, awful menace that the reader can’t take them seriously, because if they were really as bad as they seem, how could the superheroes beat them? Also, this issue begins with the moon blowing up, but all the superheroes act as if it’s no big deal. This is hard to swallow when I remember Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 #19, in which the destruction of the moon is depicted as a horrible, tragic catastrophe that claims the lives of several named characters. I also have trouble believing that the Reckoning’s domain consists of 90% of the universe. This issue does have some good dialogue, but other than that, it’s a big disappointment.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #5 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Appropriately, the series ends with a giant fight scene. Vale and Timor fight each other at full strength, and at the end, Vale disappears. The last page says “To be continued?!”, suggesting that there might be a third miniseries. I hope so. In the meantime, this series makes me want to read more Dragon Ball.

NEW MASTERS #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. In far-future Nigeria, a girl named Ola obtains some “obsidium” from an ancient ruin, then takes it to Eko City (possibly Lagos) to sell it. Then we meet Tosin, the governor of Eko City, and we learn about the all-powerful “Eye of Orunmila” that could cure Earth of its dependence on aliens. This is another extremely exciting debut issue. I love the Ola sequence, although I was less impressed by the Tosin sequence, and I had trouble seeing how the two scenes are related. Shof’s artwork is exciting, and Shobo’s story is deeply immersed in Nigerian culture. Some of the dialogue in the issue is in Nigerian Pidgin, and several of the names in the story, like Ase and Orunmila, are references to Yoruba religion.

BLACK PANTHER LEGENDS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Fran Galán. T’Challa enters a tournament whose ruler will become the new king of Wakanda, and he wins. This was a very quick read, and it felt insubstantial.

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Final reviews of 2021

1-22

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #82 (Marvel, 2021) – “Beyond Chapter Eight,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Jorge Fornés. Peter wakes up in hospital, but then Mary Jane has to save him from a cannibalistic nurse. Jorge Fornés draws this issue in the same vein as Chris Samnee or David Aja. I just saw that the new Spider-Man creative team is Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr. That’s too bad because I have no interest in Zeb Wells’s writing.

BATGIRLS #1 (DC, 2021) – “One Way or Another Part 1 of 6,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The title characters are Babs, Steph and Cass. In this issue they move into a new neighborhood and encounter a criminal gang called the Saints. I wasn’t sure whether to read this series or not, but I’m glad I did. The writers capture the three main characters’ personalities very well, and they do a good job of distinguishing them from each other. I especially like Cass, with her extremely clipped speech. I haven’t read many other stories with this character. Jorge Corona’s art is very cluttered and complicated, but in a good way, and the coloring in this issue is excellent. I especially like the Tutor’s graffiti.

PRIMORDIAL #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Most of this issue is devoted to the two monkeys and the dog, but in the other subplot, Donald and Yelena get shot. At the end, the three animals find themselves floating in space in 2024. Andrea Sorrentino has become one of the finest artists in the industry. His page compositions in this issue are stunning.

BRZRKR #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute’s combat team is wiped out in an ambush, and Unute has to carry his sole (barely) surviving comrade to safety. This issue is effective in a grim and gruesome way, but I’m not enjoying this series all that much.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Long Shadow Book Two,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal. T’Challa recalls some of his other sleeper agents, including Kimura, who has a husband and child. T’Challa and Kimura are ambushed by the same people who killed Jhai. Then they make another attempt at T’Challa at the end of the issue. This series is exciting, certainly more so than Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther was.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate solves a little girl’s kidnapping, but discovers that lots of other weird stuff is going on at Resort Chapiteau. Kate and her sister are attacked by “mind-controlled zombie guests.” Another entertaining and funny issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. The local sheriff tries to intimidate Cal and Arlene, and they have to cut his head off. We learn that Cal and Arlene are Department of Defense agents and are not really married. Some crooks kidnap June, the protagonist of the previous series, and bring her to the mayor’s house, where they tell her about their plan to collect four Norse mythological artifacts. This miniseries is less effective than Basketful of Heads, because it’s so farfetched and over-the-top that it’s not scary. It’s still readable, though.

THE THING #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Next Big Thing Part 2,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben’s new love interest, Amaryllis is kidnapped by her superpowered ex-boyfriend, Brusque. Ben and a boy named Bobby Spector go looking for her, and they discover a colony of people living underground – not the Morlocks, a different group of sewer dwellers. Brusque is killed, and Ben, Bobby and Amaryllis escape. This series is bizarre, but it’s impressive that Walter Mosley, who is known for prose fiction in a fairly realistic mode, was able to write such an entertaining superhero story.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Comedy?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. Snelson is visited by a younger comedian who’s also a victim of cancel culture. Snelson helps him build a career. This is an okay conclusion, but I still stand by my claim that Snelson is the worst Ahoy comic yet. It has no real point, and it encourages us to sympathize with a morally bankrupt man.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #3 (DC, 2021) – “What is Truth,” [W] Stephanie Williams, [A] Vita Ayala. Medusa continues possessing various Amazons. This series is readable, and I want to support it, but I don’t like it as much as Wonder Woman or Wonder Girl.

ROBINS #1 (DC, 2021) – “Being Robin Part One,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. I suppose this is the male version of Batgirls, although one character, Steph, appears in both series. In this issue the five Robins – Dick, Jason, Tim, Steph and Damian – encounter a bunch of villains who are connected to their past histories. On the last page we learn that the true villain is a crazy-looking woman who claims to be the very first Robin. As with Batgirls #1, I was unsure whether to buy this issue, but it was worth getting, because it’s very fun to see these five characters interact.

ECHOLANDS #4 (DC, 2021) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. Romulus fights the Wizard’s forces, while the other protagonists drown in the ocean and wake up in the home of the Metaphysicist – the turbaned alien character who appears on the last page of each issue. J.H. Williams’s art continues to be better than anyone else’s, although his story leaves something to be desired.

WITCHBLOOD #9 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The first half of this issue is the origin story of Paxton and his brother Samson. Then the vampires confront Paxton, and in the last panel, Atlacoya stabs both herself and Paxton with one blade. This issue instructs the reader to play “Paint It Black Medley” by War and Eric Burdon while reading the fight scene. Thanks to Spotify this is easy to do.

UNCANNY X-MEN #124 (Marvel, 1979) – “He Only Laughs When I Hurt!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. This was a very kind Christmas gift from Dan Yezbick. Because I had corresponded with him before about buying comics, he knew this was one of the few Claremont-Byrne issues I was missing. This issue is the end of the first Arcade story, and it’s mostly action scenes, but Claremont and Byrne were among the all-time masters of superhero action scenes. The emotional centerpiece of the issue is when Peter, as the Proletarian, is about to kill Scott and Ororo, and they convince him to come to his senses.

NEWBURN #2 (Image, 2021) – “Everything I Told You Was True,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn and Emily investigate a case of arson, which turns out to have been committed by ordinary Chinatown citizens who were trying to rebel against the Triad. The Triad kills the people responsible for the arson, and Emily feels guilty for her complicity in this. There’s a backup story written by Nadia Shammas, about two Arab-American brothers.

THE RUSH #2 (Vault, 2021) – “The Claim,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie visits her son’s claim, kills a man who’s illegally occupying it, and then encounters a giant glowing-eyed moose. Back in Brokenhoof, Nettie tries to get a lawyer to go back to Dawson to investigate the claim, but as soon as the lawyer leaves town, he’s killed by a giant glowing-eyed man with crow wings. I don’t quite get what’s going on in this series, but it’s very creepy, and it also has Spurrier’s characteristic dark humor.

WONDER WOMAN #782 (DC, 2021) – “Through a Glass Darkly Part Two,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Diana and Deadman’s plane is attacked by Wonder Woman clones made of glass. Diana makes it to Sigurd’s grave and returns his sword, but then Washington DC is attacked by more fake Wonder Women. We’re told that a villain called the Image-Maker is behind all this. Also, Diana, Steve and Etta have some relationship drama. The issue ends with a Trial of the Amazons preview story.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. The three protagonists visit Mistress Riellda. She tries to cure Vâle by reawakening his inner anger, but he decides he would rather die than be consumed by rage. This issue is okay, but it’s less visually stunning than other issues of this series.

I AM BATMAN #4 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Ridley, [A] Stephen Segovia. Jace finds Simon Saint dead, and is then ambushed by a person in a battlesuit. I like the characterization in this series, but I’ve had consistent difficulty following its plot.

Resuming on 1/27:

MY LITTLE PONY GENERATIONS #3 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The evil pony teachers cause further havoc. Zecora creates a portal that the Mane Six use to travel to another dimension, where they meet an earlier generation of ponies. This series still feels like an afterthought, not a real IDW pony comic. It’s now official that IDW has lost the GI Joe and Transformers licenses, but they still seem to have the My Little Pony license. I wonder if they intend to do anything further with it.

WONDER GIRL #6 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Six,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Leila del Duca. Yara is imprisoned in Tartarus, but managess to escape. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Amazons and the other Wonder Women are looking for her. This series is ending prematurely after the next issue, but it seems like Jones’s intended conclusion will appear as part of the Trial of the Amazons crossover.

MAW #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. Marion kills the other rapists, but is about to spare the last one, who’s the son of the commune’s owner. However, she shows up herself and shoots her own son dead. The commune women prepare to perform a ritual that will kill all men. This series is very creepy and hard-hitting, but I’m not sure which of its characters we’re supposed to sympathize with, if any.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #6 (DC, 2021) – “Home, Family, and Refuge,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. This issue retells Kara’s Silver Age origin, in which she and the people of Argo City escaped the destruction of Krypton, but then the soil of their city turned into anti-Kryptonite, causing Kara’s mother to die of radiation poisoning. Kara saved some of Argo City’s population by covering the ground with lead sheeting, but the sheeting was destroyed by a cosmic storm, and Kara was the only one who escaped. In the Silver Age, Kara was depicted as having escaped unscathed from all of these traumas. Conversely, Tom King tries to make us feel how horrible all these events were. And I don’t think it really works, because number one, Kara’s origin story is so traumatic it feels almost ridiculous, and second, none of these traumas seems to have had any permanent effect on Kara’s character.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “Sonny Germs,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. The protagonists kidnap a man who looks just like Lee Harvey Oswald, but when he tries to escape, they accidentally kill him. Then they hear that the President has just been shot. By now it’s clear that the protagonists are unknowingly involved in a conspiracy to murder President Kennedy, but I don’t quite understand how the conspiracy is supposed to work.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Edgar Allan Poe’s Gore of Frankenstein,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. A Frankenstein-Mummy-Werewolf mashup story. I don’t remember much about it. “Annabel Leech,” [W] Bryce Abood, [A] Rick Geary. A woman has a bizarre skin disease. She gets two different doctors to treat it, each ignorant of the other. This story is a good example of Rick Geary’s gruesome style of humor.

ETERNALS #8 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hail Thanos, Part 2,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Some of the Eternals visit Lemuria, where they meet Thena and her Deviant lover. Thanos kills Druig. I’m continuing to read this series out of a sense of obligation, but it’s not among Kieron’s best works, and I feel like he could be putting more effort into it.

ROBIN & BATMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Dick meets the Justice League and the Titans, and he and the other Titans have a fun time fighting the Royal Flush Gang. But then we discover that Dick was spying on the Titans on Batman’s behalf. This issue is both cute and disturbing. As usual, Dustin Nguyen is really good at drawing young people.

Older comics:

CAREER GIRL ROMANCES #24 (Charlton, 1964) – “The Cover Girl and the Clown” etc., [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Montes. Three boring and unimaginatively drawn romance stories, all of them starring career women. This series was previously called Three Nurses. My general sense is that Charlton romance comics were on a lower plane of quality than DC or Marvel or ACG romance comics. Of course the same can be said of Charlton comics in any other genre.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #20 (Marvel, 2016) – “Spider-Man’s Superior,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Having just captured Spider-Man, Doc Ock explains how he came back to life. After Superior Spider-Man his mind was trapped in an Octobot, but with the aid of a digitized version of Anna Maria, he recovered his own body and restored his mind to it. This issue is a fun tribute to Superior Spider-Man, which was probably the high point of Slott’s tenure on this series.

RICHIE RICH & JACKIE JOKERS #38 (Harvey, 1980) – “Juggle Madness” and other uncredited stories. Jackie Jokers is a professional comedian, and his stories tend to focus on his efforts to strike it rich, since he’s too proud to accept charity from his friend Richie. One of the stories in this issue is a parody of the then-current TV show Taxi. According to the GCD, every issue of this series included a parody story of this type.

CURSE WORDS #21 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending, Part One,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. A newly repowered Ruby Stitch tries to save Wizord from Jacques Zacques, but a villain named Clearboy intervenes. I forget if Clearboy has ever appeared before. Wizord and Ruby Stitch regain their memories, then they realize they have to return to the Hole World to find Margaret. As its title indicates, this is the final storyline of the series.

WONDER WOMAN #265 (DC, 1980) – “Land of the Scaled Gods,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. Diana Prince is a crew member on a Space Shuttle flight that goes off course and lands in a cave full of dinosaurs. There she meets a paleontologist named Donald Gregory Lute. I’m guessing that this character is based on Don Glut, thanks to the name, the interest in dinosaurs, and the USC affiliation, but I can’t prove this. At the end, Diana and Lute meet the rulers of the cave: some aliens called the Scaled Gods. This may be a reference to Glut’s series Tragg and the Sky Gods. There’s also a Wonder Girl backup story by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ric Estrada, in which Donna investigates the apparent murder of Mr. Jupiter.

SPIDER-WOMAN #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. In the second or third chapter of the maternity ward story, Jessica retrieves the Skrull prince who the villains are looking for, but then she goes into labor. Besides being a lot of fun, this issue includes some spectacular examples of Javier Rodriguez’s visual imagination. There are some beautiful splash pages showing the bizarre things Jessica encounters as she travels through the alien maternity hospital.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1032 (DC, 2021) – “Head Wounds,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Brad Walker. Batman fights Damian, then they team up to look for Hush, who’s kidnapped the rest of the Bat-family. There’s a subplot about a character named Chris Nakano who refuses a prosthetic eye when he learns Bruce Wayne is paying for it. The Damian scenes are the best thing about this issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #342 (DC, 1965) – “The Midnight Raid of the Robin Gang!”, [W] John Broome, [A] Sheldon Moldoff. A villain recruits some juvenile delinquents to commit crimes while dressed as Robin. This story is not especially interesting or memorable. Elongated Man: “The Bandits and the Baroness!”, [W] John Broome, [A] Carmine Infantino. Ralph and Sue Dibny visit a hotel on vacation and discover that the last six guests are all named Ralph Dibny. Nose-twitching ensues. This story is much funnier and more entertaining than the first story.

CEREBUS #81 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Becoming Synonymous with Something Indescribable,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The Roach tries to recruit Cerebus into the Secret Sacred Wars, and we find that he’s already forced Fleagle and Drew to participate in this delusion. Then Cerebus encounters a mysterious floating light and vanishes. At this point in the series, Dave’s parodies of contemporary comics were still very funny, though later they became much less so.

CRIMINAL 10TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A very young Tracy Lawless accompanies his father Teeg on a visit to a small rural town. Tracy is left alone all day while Teeg is off doing God knows what. Tracy befriends a little girl his age, and has some innocent childhood fun for perhaps the first time in his life. But we eventually learn that Teeg came to this town to kill some guy who was a liability to his boss, along with the guy’s innocent girlfriend. Tracy’s story is interspersed with pages from the comic book he’s reading, which is based on Marvel’s ‘70s horror comics. This is a heartbreaking story. Criminal tends to present Teeg as a sympathetic character, making us forget that he was not only a murderer, but a horrible father who denied his children any kind of normal life. It’s just painful to see how Tracy thinks it’s normal to not go to school, and to avoid talking to anyone other than his father, in case they remember him. It’s only Tracy’s ignorance and his unjustified loyalty to his father that prevents him from realizing how cruel his upbringing is. And these childhood experiences must have shaped Tracy’s personality as an adult, as depicted elsewhere in the series.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #578 (Marvel, 2009) – “Unscheduled Stop Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcos Martin. Peter gets on a subway train which is derailed by an explosion. It’s revealed that the train was bombed because it was carrying the jurors in an upcoming Maggia trial. As if the explosion wasn’t bad enough, the Shocker is sent to finish the jurors off. Spidey saves the jurors and the other passengers with the help of a mysterious old man. On the last page, the old man introduces himself as J. Jonah Jameson, Senior. So this issue is the first appearance of that character. Marcos Martin’s artwork in this issue is incredible. He may be the best Spider-Man artist of the past couple decades.

FOUR COLOR #1031 (Dell, 1959) – Fury: “The Night in Ghost Town” and “The Three-Toed Killer,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. Fury is an adaptation of a TV show about a rancher’s young son, Joey, and his favorite horse. In this issue’s first story, Joey, his friend Pee Wee, and Fury capture some crooks who are hiding out in an abandoned town. In the second story, Joey and Fury help hunt down a dangerous mountain lion. The best thing about this issue is Tom Gill’s art. He was one of the most notable comics artists who specialized in drawing horses. However, he seems to have learned horse anatomy from a book, not by studying actual horses.

MICKEY AND DONALD #4 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Man of Tomorrow Chapter II,” [W] Bill Walsh, [A] Floyd Gottfredson. Mickey has an adventure with Eega Beeva, an advanced human from the year 2447. This is the weirdest Gottfredson story I’ve read. Eega Beeva is just a really strange character. He went on to become a fixture in European Disney comics. This issue also includes a ten-pager by Barks, in which Donald enters an auto race and performs disastrously.

RICHIE RICH AND… #1 (Harvey, 1987) – “The Monster Vine!”, uncredited. This series was just called RICHIE RICH AND… On each issue’s cover, AND… would be followed by the name of that issue’s guest star, which, this time around, is Professor Keenbean. In this issue’s main story, Keenbean creates a living plant that goes out of control. In the backup story, he creates a time machine that speeds up time for himself and Richie. See Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #31 for a much deeper exploration of this premise.

CURSE WORDS #22 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending Part Two,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. In order to acquire the power to return to the Hole World, Wizord steals children’s belief in Santa Claus. Wizord and Ruby Stitch arrive in the Hole World, where war is raging between Sizzajee and the tigers. Wizord-as-Santa-Claus is a really cool image.

SPOOK HOUSE #1 (Albatross, 2016) – “Spook House,” [W/A] Eric Powell. A haunted house story that’s a blend of funny, scary and disgusting. “The Frog Monster from Under the Sink,” [W] Eric Powell, [A] Steve Mannion. A little boy fights a frog monster. This story ends so abruptly that it made me wonder if my copy of the comic was missing a page. The last story, also by Powell alone, is a parody of Hellraiser.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – “Year of Blood Part 6,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. A flashback reveals how Damian acquired Goliath as a pet. Damian escapes from Talia, says goodbye to Maya, and returns to Gotham. This whole storyline is very cute.

That’s the end of my reviews for 2021. I read at least 1976 comics this year. The actual number is probably higher, since I lost some reviews when my computer was destroyed. Even then, this number is lower than in 2019 or 2020, but far higher than in any year before that.

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November and December reviews

12-13-21

I had to interrupt my previous reviews because of a horrible personal tragedy that I don’t really want to talk about. These are some more comics from Giant-Size Charlotte Mini-Con:

RICHIE RICH VAULTS OF MYSTERY #45 (Harvey, 1982) – I want to collect more Harvey comics; the trouble is that there are so many of them, and it’s hard to tell one from another. “The World’s Worst Weather”, uncredited: Richie and his robot maid Irona defeat a mad scientist, Dr. Blemish, who’s trying to use a weather-manipulating device to destroy Richie’s mansion. “Sunken Ship Mystery”: Richie’s evil cousin Reggie Van Dough tries to stop Richie from lifting a sunken ship. Both of these are entertaining adventure stories, if somewhat generic. The main stories are interspersed with one-page gag strips.

DETECTIVE COMICS #337 (DC, 1965) – “Deep-Freeze Menace!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. Batman and Robin fight an unfrozen caveman, Klag, who mistakes Bruce Wayne for his enemy Brugg. I don’t know where the “unfrozen caveman” trope originated, but it was enough of a cliché that Saturday Night Live made fun of it. Like most Gardner Fox stories, this one has significnat SFF elements. Elongated Man: “Case of the 20-Grand Pay-Off!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. Sue Dibny tries to figure out why Ralph is pretending that another woman is his wife. This story is unusual because it’s almost a Sue Dibny solo story, though it’s annoying that, as we eventually discover, Ralph replaced Sue with a lookalike to prevent her from endangering herself.

DOCTOR STRANGE #173 (Marvel, 1968) – “…While a World Awaits!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. This issue is mostly a big fight between Dr. Strange and Dormammu. The subplot is that a surgeon wants to hire Doc as a consultant. This issue’s plot is rather unoriginal, but Gene Colan’s artwork in the action scenes is brilliant. I think of him as a great artist of gritty urban stories, but he was also a great artist of supernatural horror, and Tom Palmer was his ideal inker.

STAR SLAMMERS #5 (IDW, 2014) – “The Minoan Agendas Chapter Two: The Empire!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. A continuation of the story where a Star Slammer is trapped aboard a Minoan spaceship. Star Slammers is not as exciting or funny as some of Simonson’s other work, but it is fun, and his artwork is always brilliant.

THE SPECTRE #2 (DC, 1968) – “Die, Spectre – Again!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Neal Adams. The Spectre and Mona battle a criminal magician, Dirk Rawley, and his “etheric double.” Like many Gardner Fox comics, including Detective Comics #337, this issue’s plot depends on a bunch of mystical, vaguely scientific-sounding nonsense. At the same time, it’s also a pretty standard superhero/detective story, while most later Spectre stories are in the horror genre. Of course the real appeal of this comic is Neal Adams’ thrilling artwork.

BATMAN #95 (DC, 2020) – “Joker War Part One,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. The Joker has taken control of Wayne Manor and Wayne Enterprises, giving him access to all of Batman’s secrets, and we discover that he’s also anticipated Batman’s backup plan. I’ve gotten thoroughly sick of the Joker – more on that later, probably – and this is not my favorite issue, though it is quite scary.

TV STARS #1 (Marvel, 1978) – Captain Caveman: “The Shipping Magnate,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. Captain Caveman and his Teen Angels defeat a plot to steal ships. This is an exciting adventure story, much like Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby-Doo stories. In fact, it’s essentially a Scooby-Doo with Captain Caveman substituted for Scooby. This issue also includes a Shake, Rattle and Roll story by Evanier and Owen Fitzgerald, and a Grape Ape story by Evanier and Frank Smith. In the latter story, a character goes to a restaurant that advertises “all you can eat for five dollars” and has a bowl of soup, and then the owner throws him out, saying “A bowl of soup is all you can eat for five bucks!” I believe Evanier reused this gag in an episode of Garfield and Friends.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #794 (Marvel, 2018) – “Threat Level: Red Part 1 – Last Chance,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Stuart Immonen. Norman Osborn’s agents steal the Zodiac Key from its vault, but Spidey and Mockingbird defeat Scorpio before he can reclaim it. However, it turns out the Zodiac Key plot was just a diversion, and what Norman was really after was the Carnage symbiote. I hate Norman Osborn even more than I hate the Joker.

SCOUT #17 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Key to the Hgihway,” [W/A] Tim Truman. This story is named after an old blues song. This issue, Scout and Monday the Eliminator travel west across the country, and Scout has a vision in which he fights a giant monster with help from Mr. Spook and the Chow Sol’jers. A Scout/Beanworld crossover is a bizarre idea, and yet it makes perfect sense in context. The Beans and their dialogue are drawn and lettered by Larry Marder himself. This issue also includes a seemingly unrelated story by Truman and John K. Snyder, which appears between the two parts of “Key to the Highway.”

X-MEN #48 (Marvel, 1968) – “Beware Computo, Commander of the Robot Hive!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Don Heck & Werner Roth. Cyclops and Marvel Girl fight a giant robot named Computo, which, as we later learn, was built by Quasimodo. There’s also a five-page backup feature starring the Beast – more of a feature than a story, since it has no plot and is just a description of his powers. The best thing about this issue is the opening sequences where Jean is at a modeling shoot.

CURSE WORDS #20 (Image, 2019) – “Queen Margaret! Part Five,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Wizord fights a giant Eiffel Tower and loses. Jacques Zacques causes chaos in the Hole World. Margaret finally recovers her memories and calls upon the tiger people to help Wizord out. At the convention I also bought the remaining four issues of this series, but I haven’t had time to read them yet.

DETECTIVE COMICS #425 (DC, 1972) – “The Stage is Set for Murder!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. Batman solves a murder mystery at a Shakespeare-in-the-park festival. The culprit is an actor who’s angry at the director’s departures from tradition. The director is named Del Sartre, after Jean-Paul Sartre, obviously, and perhaps Del Close. I don’t know if Del Close was already famous in 1972. This issue includes a Jason Bard backup story by Frank Robbins and Don Heck. It also has a brilliant cover by Bernie Wrightson, though the cover art only takes up about 75% of the cover, thanks to the gigantic logo and sidebar.

MICKEY MOUSE #220 (Gladstone, 1986) – “Mickey Mouse and the Seven Ghosts Chapter Two,” [W] Ted Osborne, [A] Floyd Gottfredson. Mickey, Donald and Goofy investigate a haunted house inhabited by seven alleged ghosts. The ghosts are rather humorous and are an obvious fraud, yet this story is still rather creepy and mysterious, since the reader can’t tell how or why the fraud is being maintained. This issue ends before the mystery is solved, and I really want to get issue 221 so that I can find out what was going on.

NEW MUTANTS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Space Jail,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Rod Reis. The New Mutants are on trial in space court. The lizard lawyer from Al Ewing’s Rocket Raccoon fails to get them off, but Cannonball and Smasher show up and get the team released to their custody. Then they’re sent to recruit Deathbird. The issue is narrated by Bobby, who Hickman depicts as an egomaniacal jerk. Hickman’s characterization is not his strongest suit – his characters tend to be one-notes – but he’s certainly better at characterization than some writers, cough cough Bendis. Rod Reis’s artwork in this issue resembles Sienkiewicz’s art from the classic era of this series.

RICHIE RICH & CASPER #13 (Harvey, 1976) – “The Return of Dr. Frankenspook,” [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer. Richie, Casper and Wendy encounter Dr. Frankenspook, a villain who terrorizes anyone who looks at him. To defeat him they have to combine their talents. Richie mistakenly thinks the whole story is a dream. The Harveyville Fun Times says that Richie Rich & Casper was a classic series and a good introduction to Harvey in general. That sounds like a fair assessment, and I will be looking for more issues of this series.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #4 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood Part Four,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Damian, Nobody and Ducard fight Deathstroke and then discover a Lazarus Pit. Gleason’s writing and artwork here are both very entertaining. I want to collect more of this series. Besides being interesting in itself, it’s the basis of Tim Seeley’s current Robin series.

HEART THROBS #103 (DC, 1966) – “What About All Those Other Girls?”, [W] unknown, [A] Tony Abruzzo? Linda Waring is obsessed because her boyfriend had other girlfriends before her. Eventually he reminds her that she had other boyfriends too. Being jealous of a partner’s past relationships is an unfortunately timeless problem. “Here to Stay,” [W] unknown, [A] Werner Roth. An unnamed woman decides to give up on love, but then she changes her mind. This story is reprinted from 1960. “3 Girls – Their Lives – Their Loves,” [W] Barbara Friedlander, [A] Jay Scott Pike. This is part two of a long-running soap-opera-esque serial story. Its plot is complicated and lacks a central hook or theme, but the very idea of an ongoing story in a romance comic is unusual. A big thing British girls’ comics had that American ones lacked was continued stories.

More new comics from the previous trip to Heroes:

MADE IN KOREA #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Jesse is back in Korea but is continuing to have nightmares about shooting up her school. Also, she’s traumatized about not being able to grow up. There’s a subtext here about transgender identity, which does not become clear until next issue. Finally Jesse runs away and gets recaptured by people from Wook-Jin. By the time I read issue 6 I had forgotten what happened in this issue, but that’s not the creators’ fault.

ROBIN #7 (DC, 2021) – “The Final Four,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. Damian realizes that Mother Soul is Ra’s al Ghul’s mom. Then he fights Flatline and kills her, to his own sorrow, and advances to the final round. This comic is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but it’s really fun.

INKBLOT #12 AND 13 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. revisits the modern-day old lady and her granddaughter Eliza, from a previous issue. After an encounter with a badly drawn Lovecraftian creature, MOW., Eliza and Eliza’s friend get sucked into a portal to the source of all magic. This series continues to be very confusing because of the lack of any apparent order to the events. I was thinking that maybe the stories were told in the order in which they happened to the cat, but issue 13 ends with MOW. in the ruins of Archylon, and issue 14 begins with MOW. under the sea, and we’re not shown how he got from one place to the other. I lost my review of issue 12.

MY BAD #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Happy Birthday!”, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause, etc. A bunch of rather silly superhero parody stories, written by Mark Russell and an unfamiliar name, Bryce Ingman. This issue is okay, but so far I don’t get the point of this series, and I haven’t gotten around to issue 2 yet (I probably will within the next couple days).

THE RUSH #1 (Vault, 2021) – “The Trail,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. In 1899, Nettie Bridger visits the Yukon Territory in search of her missing teenage son Caleb. She discovers that her son’s dead, and that a demon called the Pale was somehow responsible. This series is very frightening and appears to be historically accurate; in particular, Nettie’s writing feels like Victorian-era prose. It’s been a while since Si Spurrier’s last creator-owned series, and I’m glad he’s publishing another one.

THE BLUE FLAME #4 AND 5 (Vault, 2021) – “The Weight of Sorrow’s Gravity,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. I lost my review of issue 4. This issue, the trial continues. Sam goes to a support group where some asshole yells at him. We start to see more connections between the two plotlines.

DARK BLOOD #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Moisés Hidalgo. The most memorable sequence in this issue is when the protagonist is captured by Nazi commandos during the war. At the end, he confronts the doctor who experimented on him. The annoying feature of this series is its use of three different simultaneous timelines. More on this when I get to issue 5.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #6 (DC, 2021) – “The Source of Freedom Part Six,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo defeats N’vir Free, meets his parents, arranges a date with Denise, and unmasks in public. I liked the parts of this miniseries that were actually about Shilo, and I liked the art, but N’vir Free was an ineffective villain. The writer never explained why a child of Scott and Barda would so thoroughly corrupt her parents’ legacy.

SWAMP THING #9 (DC, 2021) – “Conduit Part 7,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Harper Pilgrim shows Jennifer Reece the body of a previous Swamp Thing. Hedera, aka Jacob Kamei, attacks Pilgrim’s facility. Levi shows up at the end. I was kind of lukewarm about this series at first, and when I read issue 10, I had trouble remembering what issue 9 was about. But this is a high-quality series, and I’m glad it’s been given an extra six issues.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #3 (AfterShock, 2021) – “The Cyclops,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. Sonny strikes a deal with a rival crime family to surrender the Stray, but his boss refuses to accept the deal. Some troops try to kill the dragon, but obviously it doesn’t work. Not a very eventful issue.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #2 (DC, 2021) – “Until Proven Innocent,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Diego Olortegui & Skylar Partridge. Mera helps Jackson escape from Atlantis. Mera herself is harassed by her political opponents. This is an exciting issue, and it includes some really cute Andy moments.

S.W.O.R.D. #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “Friends in High Places,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Ororo and the Imperial Guard fight a group of assassins sent to kill Xandra. There is a secret about these assassins that I didn’t realize when I read this issue; see my review of #10 below. On the last page, we discover that Wiz-Kid is a traitor.

 DAREDEVIL #91 (Marvel, 1972) – “Fear is the Key!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. Matt and Natasha apparently break up, and Matt discovers the identity of the new Mister Fear. This issue is reasonably well-written, but what makes it great is the artwork. As I stated in several previous reviews, Tom Palmer was the perfect inker for Gene Colan.

THE GOOD ASIAN #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark confronts Hui Long and discovers him to be Ivy Chen’s brother. Also, Hui Long’s face is horribly scarred. This is a genuinely excellent series, but its intricate plot makes it very difficult to read in single-issue form.

THE SILVER COIN #6 (Image, 2021) – “High Score,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Michael Walsh. In the early ‘90s, a little boy finds the coin and uses it to play Mortal Kombat – excuse me, “Horror Fighter 2x”. The coin makes him unbeatable at the game, but it also causes him to start killing people in real life, and finally he gets absorbed into the game. This comic gives me nice memories of the era when I started playing video games.

MS. TREE #25 (Renegade, 1985) – “Prisoner Cell Block Hell,” [W] Max Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree is in the women’s prison, I’m not sure why, and one of her fellow prisoners is trying to asssassinate her. Not just one but several, in fact; however, the main culprit is a sweet little old lady whose son Ms. Tree killed. This issue includes an interesting mix of different female characters.

CEREBUS #56 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Origin of the Wolveroach Part 3: The Mystic We,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is one of the rarer back issues of Cerebus, because it’s a Wolverine parody. This issue, Cerebus and the Countess have a lot of relationship drama which ends in a breakup, and Cerebus has some telepathic conversations with Charles X. Claremont. The Countess is a fascinating character. She’s superficially similar to Astoria, but without Astoria’s desire for power.

BATMAN #115 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Bengal & Jorge Jimenez. I don’t understand what this issue is about, but it has various plot threads involving Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Batman and Miracle Molly. It’s entertaining, though not very accessible to a new reader. I’ve been collecting a lot of back issues of James Tynion’s Batman, but I don’t want to add it to my pull list, because he’s about to leave the series.

GOOD LUCK #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. An incomprehensible conclusion to a series that never made any sense. I stand by my verdict that Good Luck was the worst Boom! comic of the past several years.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. We begin with a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque sequence in which two women drive over an opening drawbridge. Then we cut to a flashback in which one of the women, Mag, is cruelly cheated out of her job in medical research. Mag then falls asleep in her car, and wakes up to discover that another woman has stolen it and driven it from Germany to Italy, with her in it. The plot in this issue is somewhat implausible, but as we discover next issue, Mag’s medical research is really not what this series is about. A Thing Called Truth is entertaining and has cute artwork. The one problem is the rather awkward and unidiomatic translation from Italian. Awkward translations are a persistent problem with European comics published in English.

BLACK WIDOW #12 (Marvel, 2021) – “Die by the Blade Part 1 of 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and her friends go to a suspicious charity auction where they fight some animal-themed enemies. Natasha encounters an old enemy of hers named the Living Blade. I don’t remember much about this issue. Like many other Kelly Thompson comics, Black Widow has a single title character but is really a team comic.

INFERNO #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Books of Destiny,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Stefano Caselli. Destiny is finally resurrected. Mystique manipulates the Quiet Council members into adding Destiny to the council, but then Colossus is voted onto the council too. Emma learns Moira’s secret. Some stuff happens with Orchis that I don’t remember. The best thing about this issue is the scene where Mystique manipulates the vote.

SEARCH FOR HU #1 AND 2 (AfterShock, 2021) – “You’ll Have to Change,” [W] Jon Tsuei & Steve Orlando, [A] Rubine. Aaron introduces himself to the Margolis crime family, and there’s a lot of shooting. This issue is again full of action movie cliches; there’s one panel where a guy is holding a pistol sideways. At least it was enjoyable enough that I was willing to try one more issue… but see my review of #3 below. I lost my review of issue 1.

HUMAN REMAINS #2 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Just some more development of the plot and characters from issue 1, with no real surprises. This series has a really cool premise, though.

FRONTIERSMAN #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. The Frontiersman is visited by a cosmic-powered superhero named Galaxie. After a fight scene, the Frontiersman agrees to help Galaxie reunite with his ex-girlfriend, since they have a child together… except it’s actually a solar system and Galaxie is its mother. It’s confusing. This issue is a surprising departure from issue 1, since it’s more about parenthood than environmental politics, but it’s an excellent issue anyway.

LAURA AND OTHER STORIES #1 (Ablaze, 2021) – “Songs” etc., [W/A] Guillem March. Guillem March’s artwork in this issue is beautiful, particularly his drawings of women, although the art is reproduced too small. I think the aspect ratio of the original pages was different from that of an American comic book. However, Laura’s plot is just a bunch of pointless relationship drama, and it’s not nearly as interesting from a narrative perspective as Karmen was. Like Karmen, Laura appears to be set in Palma de Mallorca.

OUT OF BODY #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “The Unquiet Grave,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dr. Dan and Abi defeat August Fryne’s plot, but Dan gets stuck in the body of a dying man and becomes a ghost permanently. I really don’t remember much about this issue. I think Peter Milligan may have difficulty concluding stories in a way that’s satisfying and easy to understand.

WONDER GIRL #3 AND 4 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Four,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. After training with the centaur Chiron, Yara is summoned to Olympus to become Hera’s champion. So far this series has not quite fulfilled the promise of Future State: Wonder Woman. I lost my review of issue 3.

Next Heroes trip:

MAZEBOOK #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Will fails to find the entrance to the maze, locks himself out of his apartment, but spends the night (chastely) with his neighbor, who becomes a new love interest. Will then gets a tattoo of the maze, which allows him to get through a wall that was impenetrable before, and he finds himself inside the maze city, talking to a dog. This is a truly fascinating series.  

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #5 (DC, 2021) – “Who’s Got You?”, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. Jon deals with some problems caused by Henry Bendix, then he and Jay have their first kiss. This was one of the more controversial comic books of the year, but it’s a very cute and sweet piece of work, and only humorless bigots would have a problem with it.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #6 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Much of this issue consists of flashbacks to Reg’s history with Walter. Finally, Reg tells the other characters that he helped Walter design the house, but Walter kept taking away his memory. More importantly, Reg thinks that the world still exists, and that the group  can escape the house and save the world. But then Walter appears and makes everyone forget that Reg told them this. The Nice House on the Lake is a terrific series, even if some of Tynion’s other current works are still better.

SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #6 (Image, 2021) – “Precinct Blues,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The sidekicks discover that Luther Alazar killed Trigger Keaton. After some very funny action sequences, Luther offers to resurrect their careers if they let him go free. What happens next is a little ambiguous, but my impression is that they send Luther to jail anyway, and then Richard produces a new action show starring the five other sidekicks. Then they all learn that Laszlo Wells has been killed, creating a hook for a possible sequel. This was an incredibly funny comic and I hope there’ll be a second volume.

MAMO #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. Jo agrees to become the new witch of Haresden, since she wanted to stay there anyway. Jo and Orla become an official couple, and Jo’s mom is healed. Mamo was a beautiful work, a perfect blend of dark fantasy and tender warmth. It was one of the best miniseries of the year.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The devil character tries to get Ace to use the Zone’s Anything Machine to cure the plague right then and there, which would also mean the devil would defeat all the other zones. At least I think that’s what the offer is. It’s tempting, but instead Ace uses the Anything Machine to create a bunch of heroes to fight the devil. There are also some flashbacks to Ace’s past history. I assume next issue is the end of this storyline.

GROO MEETS TARZAN #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tom Yeates. Groo and Tarzan team up to defeat the poachers. Mark finally rescues Sergio from the safari park. This was a fun miniseries, and I certainly enjoyed it more than Fray of the Gods or Play of the Gods. However, while the Mark-and-Sergio plot was funny, it had nothing at all to do with the Groo plot. The letters page says that the next miniseries will be called Gods Against Groo. I’m impressed that despite his age Sergio shows no signs of ever stopping.  

STRANGE ACADEMY #13 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids leave the school and visit Marie Laveau’s tomb. Zoe tells her origin story, and we learn that a wish-granting creature called Gaslamp gave her more and more wishes until it killed her. Calvin learns the wrong lesson from this story and asks Zoe to introduce him to Gaslamp, so he can wish for his magic back. Back at school, the Imperator tricks Zoe into freeing him from prison, but that might actually be a good thing. I had forgotten that the Imperator was the villain from Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. The entire Strange Academy series is a spiritual sequel to that Dr. Strange run.

EAT THE RICH #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. Joey gets addicted to human meat, but also develops a crush on the servant Petal. Joey sees Astor’s dad trying to murder a servant who wants to terminate her contract. When Joey tries to save the servant, Astor’s dad tries to kill her too, but just as Joey is trying to tell Astor, he proposes to her. Awkward. Eat the Rich would be the best horror comic of the year if it weren’t for Stray Dogs.

GETTING DIZZY #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Fifteen-year-old Dizzy (short for Desideria) discovers a pair of magic roller skates that transform her into the magical Burb Defender, and she has to use her powers to defeat the Negatrixes, who feed on negative emotions. This comic is maybe a little too cute for its own good, but it’s funny, and it reminds me of Rainbow Brite or Strawberry Shortcake. Getting Dizzy is Shea Fontana’s first creator-owned comic. She previously worked on DC Super Hero Girls.

PRIMORDIAL #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Donald and Yelena, Laika’s former caretaker, have to flee from a bunch of secret agents. Meanwhile, Laika and the two monkeys have some bizarre experiences in space. Andrea Sorrentino was already one of the top artists in monthly comics, but with Primordial he’s reaching even greater heights. The Laika and Donald sequences are drawn in totally different styles, and the Laika sequence includes some stunning images, especially the two-page splash with the monkey surrounded by fragmented images of alien creatures.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #78 (Marvel, 2021) – “Beyond Chapter Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sara Pichelli. Ben fights Morbius and loses badly. MJ and Felicia try to convince Peter to wake up. Ben and Janine go on a date, but Kraven is watching them. This isn’t Kelly Thompson’s best comic, but at least it’s a new Spider-Man comic by a writer I like, and those have always been somewhat rare.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Monsters and True Love,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Seven years ago, Risa and Sato Himura participated in an experiment that released dream monsters in the world. Sato was killed, and his and Risa’s daughter Machi witnessed her father’s death. As a result, everyone now has to take pills to avoid being killed by dream monsters. Machi is now a living conduit between the real world and the dream world, and if she dies, the infestation of the real world by monsters will get even worse. The funny consequence of this is that now that Risa is single, Machi’s monster bodyguard accompanies Risa on dates. My Date with Monsters’s premise is somewhat confusing, but it’s a nice blend of Tobin’s humorous and funny styles of writing, and I really like the design of Hethri.

CROSSOVER #9 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. The Powers detectives interview Ellie and Ryan’s dad. The interrogation scenes in this issue are an instantly recognizable parody of Bendis’s style of dialogue; there’s one double-page splash with about 24 interlocking word balloons. https://www.instagram.com/p/CWmLD0CFpbV/ At the end of the issue, the detectives discover that Scott Snyder has been murdered with a Batarang.

ROBIN & BATMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. After Bruce Wayne grounds him, a young Dick Grayson sneaks out of the mansion and runs into Killer Croc, and Batman has to save him. Neither Bruce nor Dick is happy with this. Robin & Batman covers some rather familiar territory, but it has excellent artwork and strong characterization. Robin’s costume is the only thing in this comic that’s brightly colored; it contrasts with the muddy tones in which everything else is rendered.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #32 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Allen. Miles rescues Starling from Taskmaster, but he refuses to reveal who he was working for. The Beyond Corporation serves Miles a cease-and-desist notice telling him to stop calling himself Spider-Man. This story arc was not Saladin’s best.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #5 (DC, 2021) – “The Lake, the Trees and the Monsters,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. Supergirl and Ruthye are marooned on a planet with a Kryptonite sun. Worse, the planet is full of monsters, and Ruthye has to keep them both alive until the sun goes down and Kara gets her powers back. This is an exciting, harrowing read. The problem with this issue’s premise is, if Kara’s powers work the way this issue suggests they do, then why doesn’t Superman lose his powers at night?

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #3 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ivy Noelle Weir, [A] Kelly Williams. On the planet, the kids discover a mysterious temple, and also some disturbing clues about what happened to their spaceship’s sister ships. On the ship, the other kids are in deadly danger. Like Yasmeen or Shadow Doctor, Bountiful Garden is an excellent series that’s probaby going to go ignored because it’s from a minor publisher.

RADIO APOCALYPSE #1 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Anand RK. In a postapocalyptic world, horrible skinless monsters come out whenever the sun goes down. Two survivors try to get to a fortified town, with help from a radio station – a bit like Galaxy News Radio from Fallout 3 – but only one of them makes it there. The writing in this issue is a bit confusing, but Radio Apocalypse is yet another fascinating new series from Ram V. These same two creators were also responsible for Grafity’s Wall and Blue in Green, though I haven’t read the latter. Anand RK’s artwork looks chaotic, in an interesting way; everything in his panels looks as if it was cobbled together from junk.

At this point I had to go to Minneapolis for reasons I don’t want to discuss, but if you’re reading this at all, you probably also read my Facebook wall and so you know what I’m talking about. While I was in Minneapolis I brought some comic books to read, since reading was a nice distraction from what I was going through.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “DAD Inc,” [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Krysta, Vale and Timor visit Krysta’s dad, who’s a robot. I’m not sure how that works. Krysta, Timor and DAD go on a Fantastic Voyage-esque mission into Vale’s body. It doesn’t help, and Timor decides to visit a certain “witch,” against his wife’s wishes. Fico Ossio’s artwork and coloring in this issue are fantastic. I assume he started on this series after he was already done with Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom.

BATMAN #101 (DC, 2020) – “After the Laughter!”, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Guillem March. In the aftermath of Joker War, Batman fights Grifter and has heart-to-heart talks with Catwoman and Lucius Fox. This is sort of a day-in-the-life issue. Guillem March’s art here isn’t nearly as good as in Karmen or even Laura.

CEREBUS #63 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Mind Game IV,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus spends the entire issue drinking and ruminating on various things. Unlike in the other Mind Game stories, Suenteus Po does not appear. There’s something strange about the formatting of this issue. It looks as if all the pages are designed to form a single continuous image, but I can’t tell how they’re supposed to fit together.

MY LITTLE PONY GENERATIONS #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The fake ponies cause further chaos at the School of Friendship. I’m willing to keep buying this series, but it doesn’t feel like a genuine pony comic, perhaps because neither of the creators has done any other pony comics. Also, it seems likely that IDW is about to lose all their Hasbro licenses, so this comic feels like a dead end.

WONDER WOMAN #781 (DC, 2021) – “Through a Glass Darkly Part One,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Diana talks with Etta Candy and threatens Dr. Psycho, then she and Deadman travel to Scandinavia to return Siegfried’s sword to his grave. Steve Brevor battles a zombie Wonder Woman impostor. This issue also includes a backup story set in Bana Mighdall, written by Vita Ayala. In this story, one of the new Bana Mighdall takes the name Yaa Asantewaa, after a historical Ashanti warrior queen.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #3 (DC, 2021) – “Sheltered,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Scott Koblish. Jackon’s mysterious pursuer chases him from one abandoned superhero hideout to another. Finally, the pursuer tracks Jackson down and is revealed as his sister Delilah. There are also some scenes with Mera, Andy, and Jackson’s boyfriend. This series might be my favorite Brandon Thomas comic so far.

S.W.O.R.D. #10 (Marvel, 2021) – “Triple Threat,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Last issue we learned that Wiz-Kid was a double agent working for Gyrich, but this issue we learn that he’s a triple agent and his real boss is Agent Brand. Meanwhile, S.W.O.R.D. and the Imperial Guard fight the Lethal Legion. As I read this issue, I realized that just as the Imperial Guard are based on the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Lethal Legion are based on the Fatal Five. Half-Bot is Tharok, Electric Head is Validus, Mr. Eloquent is the Persuader, Orbis Extremis is the Emerald Empress, and Death Grip is Mano. I was not the first person to point this out.

SAVAGE HEARTS #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. The heroes defeat the villain and his giant bird monster, and the series ends with Bronwyn and Graow kissing. Savage Hearts was entertaining, but Graow’s creepy behavior toward Bronwyn was a serious weak point.

I AM BATMAN #3 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stephen Segovia & Christian Duce. The Seer’s troops lay siege to a Gotham police precinct, trying to rescue Morris Caulfield, the young man who killed Anarky. Batman saves the day, but the other villain, Tyler Arakdine, is assassinated. This series is still rather hard to understand without knowing the history behind these characters, but the Seer plot has fascinating paralels to current events in America.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “October 55th,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. In 1981, Lee Harvey Oswald’s body is exhumed. Then we flash back to early November 1963, when a mysterious government agency recruits four people for a secret mission: to find a person who looks just like Oswald. I don’t know quite what’s going on here, but it’s intriguing, though it doesn’t grab me as much as She Could Fly did.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #2 (DC, 2021) – “Pride of a Lion,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. The new Amazons get settled in, and we’re introduced to the Victors’ Circle, a secret Amazon fight club. Also, the Amazon Clio appears to be possessed by Medusa. This issue is not bad, but there’s nothing in it that’s as exciting as last issue’s scenes with Bia.

STILLWATER #11 (Image, 2021) – “The Drop,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. A year after last issue, Galen is proving to be just as bad as the Judge. Laura returns to town determined to get her son back. Galen and the other kids are very creepy.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #3 AND 4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto negotiates with the Slavers, and the main Slaver reveals himself as the son of Bodil the hermit. The other clockwork people infiltrate the Shrouded Man’s city but gets caught. Canto looks like he’s about to confront the Shrouded Man’s army alone, but then the Slavers show up to help. Canto has only been around for a couple of years, but I’ve already lost track of who all the characters are; for example, I don’t remember anything about Bodil. I wish each issue would have a guide to the characters. I seem to have lost my review of issue 3.

CEREBUS #73 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Fascination & Frustration,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Red Sophia leaves Cerebus, taking her mother with her. Even though Cerebus is better off without either of them, he decides to drink his sorrows away, but then the mysterious light appears and tells Cerebus that Jaka is in the Lower City. Cerebus sends Bear to get Jaka, but when he comes back with her, he tells Cerebus that she wanted to bring her husband too. Bear’s verbal tic of constantly saying “waddayacall” is less annoying when he only appears in a few panels of each issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. Cal and Arlene use the axe to cut the bikers’ heads off. One of the heads escapes, but Cal and Arlene torture the other two into telling them about thefts of Norse artifacts. It’s obvious Cal and Arlene are more than just ordinary vacationers, or else they wouldn’t have fought a shark and a biker gang within minutes of arriving at Brody Island. So far this series is okay, but Rio Youers is not the same caliber of writer as Joe Hill.

THE THING #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Next Big Thing Part 1,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben and Alicia are having relationship problems, so Ben subscribes to an extraterrestrial dating service. He matches with a woman named Mary, but then he gets attacked by Mary’s supervillain ex-boyfriend. It’s surprising both that Walter Mosley is writing comics at all, and that he’s writing this particular character. But Mosley shows a solid understanding of Ben’s character, and this issue is very fun. Tom Reilly’s art resembles that of Chris Samnee or David Aja.

MAW #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. The rapists shoot Wendy while looking for Marion, but Marion turns into a monster and bites the head off one of the men. Maw is a very grim and disturbing horror comic, though I personally prefer Eat the Rich.

ORDINARY GODS #5 (Image, 2021) – “Advaya,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. Christopher and his friends talk with the Trickster. The other gods try to decide what to do about Bri. This series is hard to follow, and it’s not as exciting as Radiant Black. I think all the dog adoption ads at the back of the issue are for the god that keeps reincarnating as a dog.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Wrist Injuries?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. Snelson discovers that one of his fellow alt-right comedians has committed suicide. He goes home, drinks himself into a stupor, and has a near-death experience, but wakes up to find himself alive. Snelson is the worst Ahoy comic and the only one that I regret buying. It had no real point or purpose, and nothing in particular to say.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Chess Player,” [W/A] Dean Motter. A poorly drawn and historically inaccurate story about the Mechanical Turk, the fake chess-playing robot. “Angle of the Odd,” [W] Holly Interlandi, [A] Greg Scott. A stupid metatextual story about how the artist can’t decide what kind of a Poe adaptation to create.

ETERNALS #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hail Thanos, Part 1,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Thanos and Druig manipulate the other Eternals into electing Thanos the Prime Eternal, then Thanos kills Druig. This series has some interesting ideas, as well as effective artwork, but it’s been kind of a disappointment.

HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA #2 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – “The Mobbing Birds,” [W/A] Tim Lane. Steve McQueen spends ten pages wandering around a motel, and the rest of the issue is a detailed examination of the stunt from The Great Escape where Steve McQueen jumped a fence on a motorcycle. This issue suffers from a lack of actual story, but Tim Lane’s art is fascinating. He draws in the same vein as Wally Wood and Russ Heath and Rand Holmes. There are few if any currently active artists who draw like this.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #4 (AWA, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Robot/human relations deteriorate even further, and the issue ends with a violent riot. This issue contains some more of Mark Russell’s brilliant aphorisms, such as: “They’ve been running the show for years. They control the police. So why are they the ones stockpiling weapons? Why are they the ones who are so angry?… They imagined that their bosses’ power was their power, and now that they’ve been abandoned, they arm themselves because all they have is the illusion of that power.”

WITCHBLOOD #8 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Yonna recruits a new ally, Hunger Child. With four vampires, she now has the ability to create the Philosopher’s Stone and defeat Paxton. Meanwhile, Paxton continues his scheming. I didn’t notice any musical puns in this issue.

At this point I returned to Charlotte and read some more comics from the convention:

EMPYRE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Dan Slott, [A] Valerio Schiti. The FF and the Avengers come to odds over the return of the Cotati and Hulkling’s assumption of the Skrull throne. A pointless fight begins, but then the Cotati declare that they’re the new rulers of the cosmos. I didn’t buy this comic when it came out because I don’t read crossover series. Like most crossover titles, Empyre #1 is just an excuse for a bunch of epic fight scenes, and it’s not up to the standard of either Slott or Ewing’s best work. But it’s a reasonably fun read.  

ICE CREAM MAN #4 (Image, 2018) – “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Father-to-be Joel attends the funeral of his old friend Chris. Chris’s father talks with Joel and urges him not to abandon his family. Meanwhile Chris is tormented in the afterlife. This issue has some heartfelt moments, though it’s not as clever as some other stories Prince has written.

DETECTIVE COMICS #937 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part Four: The Great Escape,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez. I just realized that this issue has the same creative team as Nice House on the Lake. In this storyline, the Batcave has been taken over by a bunch of villains who are inspired by Batman himself. This is a fascinating and original premise. The only similar characters I can think of are the Sons of the Batman from Dark Knight Returns. At the end of the issue we discover that the Batmen are funded by Kate Kane’s dad. Like Kelly Thompson’s Black Widow, James Tynion’s Detective Comics is nominally about Batman but is really a team comic.

MADMAN COMICS #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Deus Ex Machina,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Madman and his allies try to save the alien Mott from another alien who wants to marry him and then eat him. Madman meets Astroman, a robot created from Madman’s own brain waves. This is an exciting and wacky comic. Back in 1994, Mike Allred’s art was more detailed and less stylized than it is now. I think he started drawing in his mature style sometime around when he was drawing X-Force, and since then his artwork has hardly changed at all. I kind of prefer his artwork from this earlier, more experimental period.  

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Same Time Next Week,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Marcio Takara. This issue is mostly told from Richard Rider’s perspective, and we see how he’s always felt that he’s personally responsible for everything, and he’s never been able to rely on other people. Also, there’s some development of Rich’s romance with Gamora. The issue ends with a tie-in to the Empyre crossover.

DREADSTAR #11 (Epic, 1984) – “Origin!”, [W/A] Jim Starlin. To be precise, this issue is Papal’s origin story. We see how he came from humble beginnings to become a cardinal of the Instrumentality, but on the way there, he lost the love of his life. Papal bears an obvious resemblance to Thanos (and Darkseid), but his tragic origins make him a substantially different character – though he’s just as much of a monster as Thanos. This is shown at the beginning of the issue when he murders eight hundred prisoners in cold blood. A visual high point of the issue is the scene where Papal makes contact with the twelve gods – and there are twelve of them, I counted.

FIRE POWER #12 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. This double-sized issue is the conclusion to a story arc, so I couldn’t understand what was going on.  Chris Samnee’s artwork here is excellent and is the main reason to read this series. I’m not willing to add Fire Power to my pull list because, first, I’ve gotten disenchanted with Kirkman’s writing, and second, this series is a textbook example of cultural appropriation. I guess you could also say that Orphan and the Five Beasts is cultural appropriation, but in that series James Stokoe only reproduces the generic conventions of wuxia, without making any references to actual Chinese culture. Which may also be problematic, I don’t know.

RICHIE RICH VAULTS OF MYSTERY #47 (Harvey, 1982) – “Our Millions Are Missing,” uncredited. Richie and Cadbury defeat a plot by Dr. Blemish, the same villain from #45. This time he’s trying to suck money out of Richie’s cash storage pits. In the backup story, reprinted from Richie Rich #158, Richie and Irona battle a giant robot called Ultimo. This was the last issue of this series. An annoying thing about collecting Harvey comics is that they’re always uncredited, and usually the GCD doesn’t have credits for them either.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #230 (Dell, 1959) – “Black Wednesday,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Every year on Black Wednesday, Duckburg suffers from bad luck. Scrooge thinks it’s because of a cursed totem pole he brought back from Canada, but when Donald and the nephews try to return the totem pole to the Indians who created it, the Indians won’t take it back. But back in Duckburg, Scrooge has discovered that Black Wednesday’s “curse” is really caused by the mold fumes from his cash. This issue’s portrayal of Indians is somewhat ambivalent. Barks seems to have made an effort to depict Northwest Coast Indian clothing and architecture in an accurate way. The Indians are called “Chilly Boot,” perhaps in reference to the actual Chilliwack people from British Columbia. And yet Barks portrays the  Indians as backward and violent, and they speak in stereotypical dialogue. This issue also includes Scamp and Chip & Dale stories, as well as a Western-themed story by Paul Murry, which is adapted from a 1940 newspaper strip.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1002 (DC, 2019) – “Medieval,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Brad Walker. Batman fights a medieval-themed villain named Arkham Knight, except he doesn’t think of himself as a villain, but as a hero whose methods are incompatible with Batman’s. Also, Arkham Knight kidnaps Damian, so this issue includes some Damian solo scenes.

FANTASTIC FOUR #158 (Marvel, 1975) – “Invasion from the 5th (Count It, 5th) Dimension!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rich Buckler. Quicksilver invades the Baxter Building, but he really just wants to enlist the FF’s aid against a villain named Xemu who’s conquered Attilan. This issue begins with some cute day-in-the-life scenes, but otherwise it’s rather generic.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #19 (Marvel, 2016) – “Before Dead No More Part Four: Change of Heart,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Jay Jameson is dying, and Jonah wants Peter to convince Aunt May to use the New U company’s experimental treatment to save him. Peter’s spider-sense warns him that there’s something suspicious about New U, but he can’t tell Aunt May that. Jay tells Peter to go back to his apartment and pick up an old heirloom clock. While on his way back to the hospital as Spider-Man, Peter has to hang suspended between two buildings for an hour, in order to save a trapped construction worker. While hanging there, he decides to abandon his suspicions and ask Aunt May to use the New U treatment, and also he drops the clock. The issue ends with a silent page in which Peter arrives at the hospital only to discover tears on everyone’s faces, indicating that his indecision has cost Jay his life. The final panel shows the broken face of the clock: Jay’s time has run out. This is a very impressive piece of storytelling. A subtle thing about this issue is that it begins with a scene where Peter webs a criminal to the pavement, along with an innocent person who’s chasing him. This scene may seem irrelevant, but its function is to remind the reader that Peter’s webs last one hour, because it’s necessary to know that in order to understand the climactic scene.

FAIRLADY #1 AND 2 (Image, 2019) – “The Dead Fairman Mystery,” [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Claudia Balboni. I liked the first issue of this series (which I must have lost my review of), but this second issue is just a clichéd private eye murder mystery, and the SFF setting is completely irrelevant to the plot. The story could have been transplanted to contemporary America without changing anything. That’s a problem because Fairlady’s setting is the most interesting thing about it. I’m not sorry I didn’t buy this comic when it came out.

EMPYRE #5 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Dan Slott, [A] Valerio Schiti. In a flashback, we see Teddy and Billy’s impromptu wedding. Then the war with the Cotati continues. Again, this issue is a typical dumb crossover comic, but it’s fun. The wedding scene is obviously the highlight of the issue.

DAREDEVIL #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “No Devils, Only God Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Lalit Kumar Sharma. A bookstore owner invites Matt to have dinner with her family, but Matt soon realizes that her family are infamous criminals. One of them is Izzy Libris, who becomes a major character later in the run. Izzy tells an interesting story about how her mother became a crime boss. The dialogue in this issue is often awkward, as if the characters are lecturing the reader, and I get the sense that Chip Zdarsky took a while to really get used to writing Daredevil.

DOCTOR STRANGE #179 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Wondrous World of Dr. Strange!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. This issue is a Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2. I was disappointed to discover that it’s not an original story, but ASM Annual #2 is a classic story by Ditko at the peak of his career, and I don’t remember having read it before. In this story, Spidey and Dr. Strange team up against a villain named Xandu and his two hypnotized thugs. This issue includes some excellent action sequences and some beautiful otherworldly landscapes. It was Ditko’s only story that starred both Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, although Doc made a cameo appearance in ASM Annual #1. (See https://www.cbr.com/spider-man-sinister-six-homage-marvel-universe-cast/.)

Next trip to Heroes:

ONCE & FUTURE #22 (Boom!, 2021) – “Monarchies in the UK Part 4,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan, Rose and Gran escape from Sir Yvain and his lion, then they go to Stratford to obtain weapons from Shakespeare’s armory. The nursing home is attacked by a giant. Yvain is one of the only Arthurian knights who’s based on a historical figure, the Welsh warrior Owain mab Urien.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part Two,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the present, Aaron and Jace are reunited. In the flashback, Jace transfers his allegiance from the Butcher Shop to the House of Slaughter, which requires him to free the monster from his stuffed animal and then recapture it. This series isn’t as good as Something is Killing the Children, but more stories set in the SIKTC universe are a good thing.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #14 (Image, 2021) – “Deviation Three: Rocket Man,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] John J. Pearson. This is the third in a series of flashback issues by guest artists. In this issue, Oswald and the tinfoil hat guy interview an old man who tells them about Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard and their creation of the Scarlet Woman. Then the man’s young son asks to go with them, and we learn his name: Hawk Harrison. I haven’t heard of John J. Pearson before, but his painted artwork in this issue is excellent, especially the splash pages illustrating Harrison senior’s story. He draws in a similar style to Martin Simmonds.

BUCKHEAD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Shobo, [A] George Kambadais. Toba Adekunle goes to a school in Buckhead, Washington where his teacher can’t pronounce his name properly (even  though it’s pronounced just like it’s spelled) and there’s a computer in the basement with a mysterious simulation game. And at night the people in town turn into motionless zombies, and all of this is somehow related to Toba’s parents’ archaeological discoveries in Benin City, Nigeria. Buckhead is an interesting YA comic, particularly because of its use of Nigerian cultural influences. The writer, Shobo, appears to be a Nigerian-American himself. The name Buckhead has nothing to do with the neighborhood in Atlanta where my former local comic store, Oxford Comics, is located.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #8 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Following the trail of a giant snail, Rainbow and Jonna fall into a cavern where they find some strange eggs. The eggs hatch to reveal some of the monsters we’ve already seen… and in the last egg is a tiny duplicate of Jonna! This is the most shocking moment in the series, and it helps explain why Jonna acts so weird.

SEA OF STARS #11 (Image, 2021) – “The Last Sundown,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Tzitizzimixl (good luck remembering how to spell that) confronts Gil, Kadyn and their friends, and after an epic struggle, the father and son save the day. Kadyn retains Quasarro’s powers, and Gil resumes his old job, with the monkey and Kyle for company. This was a very entertaining and touching series, although it took so long to come out that I had trouble keeping its plot straight.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #6 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. In a flashback, Skulldigger defeats the evil Dr. Andromeda, then he and the good Dr. Andromeda talk about Anti-God’s plans. In the present, Lucy and Skulldigger fight the alternate Sherlock Frankenstein and lose on purpose, so that they can be imprisoned in the Spiral Asylum where Dr. Andromeda is being held. This issue and the previous one include Inspector Insector backup stories drawn by Rich Tommaso.

RADIANT BLACK #10 (Image, 2021) – “Existence,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Marshall travels through the extradimensional realm of Existence to retrieve Nathan’s soul. This issue has the best artwork in the entire series. Marcelo Costa uses a wide toolbox of innovative coloring techniques and page layouts. There’s a two-page spread that’s formatted like a spiral, though it’s hard to tell what order to read it in. Another striking page is the one that’s colored entirely in flat blocks of yellow, orange, pink and black.  

CROSSOVER #10 (Image, 2021) – “I Hate This Whole Fucking Issue! Nothing Happens!”, [W] Donny Cates w/ Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Geoff Shaw w/ Michael Avon Oeming. This issue begins with a character named Pendleton dreaming of being disassembled into pencils, inks and colors. Then he gets up and goes to work investigating the comic book character mystery. Then Deena and Christian interview Brian Michael Bendis, in a scene guest-written and drawn by Bendis himself and Michael Avon Oeming, and at the end of the issue, Pendleton confronts Donny Cates himself. This issue is extremely metatextual, perhaps too much so for its own good, although it’s kind of funny when the Bendis character says “I’m not writing this! I didn’t write it!” and the reader knows that he (or rather, his real-world counterpart) did in fact write this panel. On the last page, Donny Cates looks a lot like Alan Moore. I assume this is intentional.

CHU #10 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. Saffron executes her plot to steal Sylvain Lesant’s painting, or rather she trades it for a Bic lighter, which, to Lesant, is magical. Saffron trades the painting to Don Bucatini for her and Ong Chu’s freedom, but the painting is worthless because it appears to be only one year old. Chu gets the gang back together for the next heist. This was a fun storyline and I’m looking forward to more Chu, even if it’s not as good as Chew.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #123 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. All the other Turtles and their allies have made new friends, but Leonardo feels lonely, since his closest friendship was with his late father. Sheena and Casey introduce Leo to an underground mutant fight club. Meanwhile, Hob is still manipulating the kids, but Lita is starting to have misgivings about him. The best thing about this series is its affectionate characterization. In this issue the reader really sympathizes with Leonardo’s feelings of solitude.

FANTASTIC FOUR #38 (Marvel, 2021) – “Family Crisis,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Francesco Manna. The Wizard sues for custody of Bentley-23, and the FF have to appear for a custody hearing in front of the superpowered Judge Payne, with She-Hulk as their attorney. But the trial goes so badly that Judge Payne is on the verge of taking away not just Bentley, but all of the FF’s children. The court antics in this comic are kind of implausible, but it’s nice to see Dan Slott writing She-Hulk again. His She-Hulk run was where he emerged as a major writer. Judge Payne is an awesome new character.

THE UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. The surviving Unteens finally agree to reunite to save Snapdragon, but all they can do is help Snapdragon and Jack Sabbath go into the afterlife together. Alexis and Carlos become a potential couple. This series was a really sweet tribute to Claremont’s X-Men. Lemire arouses the reader’s nostalgia for the ‘80s and ‘90s X-Men, but refuses to satisfy that nostalgia by letting the Unteens get back together. This effect is what Svetlana Boym called reflective nostalgia.

BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Long Shadow Book One,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal. After fighting some aliens with the Avengers, T’Challa returns to Wakanda, where he’s clearly uncomfortable with his new role as a constitutional monarch. Meanwhile, two Wakandan sleeper agents, Jhai and Omolola, are attacked by some highly prepared assassins, and only Omolola survives. This new Black Panther series continues some of the themes of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther, but it seems to be much faster-paced than that series was.

ROBIN #8 (DC, 2021) – “Robin vs. Hawke! For the Last Time!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov & Max Dunbar. Connor wins the final round and kills Damian for the second time, but Connor’s “prize” is that he gets to be sacrificed to the demon in the Lazarus Pit. Connor and Damian team up against the demon. This is a fun issue.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate has to leave Los Angeles when her sister Susan summons her to a mysterious resort in the Hamptons. Susan Bishop has appeared before, but only a couple times, and I had forgotten she existed. Marieke Nijkamp’s writing is quite funny, and a visual highlight of this issue is the two-page splash showing a bird’s-eye-view cutaway of the Resort Chapiteau. This series takes Kate in a new direction, but I like how it begins by acknowledging the continuity and supporting characters of Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye and West Coast Avengers.

THE LAST SESSION #1 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. A bunch of queer young adults get together for the concluding session of their first campaign of Dungeons & Dragons, I mean Dice & Deathtraps. The second half of the issue shows their gaming session from the perspective of the characters. So far this series looks really cute, and it has an interesting and diverse cast of characters. I bought this comic partly because it’s drawn by a former Lumberjanes artist.

ANIMAL CASTLE #1 (Ablaze, 2021) – “Miss Bengalore,” [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. As the title indicates, this series is Animal Farm set in a castle. The unseen President Silvio rules the other animals in the castle with an iron fist, stuffing himself and hiding behind his army of attack dogs, while the other animals are dying from starvation and overwork. When the animals get sick of this and try to invade the castle, their rebellion is brutally suppressed. According to the French Wikipedia, this series was inspired by Dorison’s disappointment with the unhappy ending of Animal Farm (if I understand correctly). Compared to Animal Farm, Dorison and Delep are less concerned with political allegory than with portraying the human (or animal) cost of dictatorship. The focal character in this issue is the castle’s cat, who just wants to protect and feed her two kittens. The creators powerfully depict her fear and suffering, and the last page, where the cat’s goose friend is hacked to pieces, is horrifying. Overall, Animal Castle is a tremendous piece of work, and I’m glad that Ablaze decided to make it available to American readers.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming,”  [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Steve Pugh & Clayton Henry. We begin with a flashback to Superman’s rivalry with Lex Luthor, and then Jon wins a victory of his own over Luthor. I am not a fan of the post-Crisis Luthor, but this issue was extremely fun anyway. A highlight is the opening scene with Batman and Lois, where we learn that Batman always knocks rather than just showing up in Clark and Lois’s kitchen, because he once did that and saw something he shouldn’t have. Oh, also, Alfred arranges for Earl Grey tea to be delivered to any house Batman might visit.

INKBLOT #14 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. This issue, MOW. gets involved in a war between mermaids and pirates. I still think Inkblot is fun, but its plot never seems to make any progress.

I went to another small local convention on December 12. I was feeling crummy that day, but I still managed to find some good stuff.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #54 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Tentacles and the Trap!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. I was able to afford this because my copy’s cover is missing a giant chunk at the bottom. This issue’s splash page shows Otto Octavius standing at Aunt May’s door, with the shadow of Dr. Octopus extending behind him. Jon B. Cooke once saw me looking at this page in an Essential Spider-Man reprint volume, and remarked what a great page it was. The main plot of this issue is that Doc Ock hides out at Aunt May’s house, and this results in some amazing scenes – I especially like when Doc Ock is all sweetness and light while Aunt May is around, but as soon as he’s alone with Peter, his true ruthless nature is revealed. There’s also a great fight scene between Peter and Doc Ock’s men. I believe this issue is the first time Peter meets Robbie Robertson, who becomes his second surrogate father.

THIRTEEN #5 (Dell, 1963) – “Doodles” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. The best story this issue is “Heap of Trouble.” Evie’s crush Bob parks his car outside the house, and Val unknowingly calls it a “heap of junk” – which it is – and then tries to cover her mistake by create a literal heap of junk, so she can pretend that that was what she meant. Hilarity ensues. I doubt if my mother ever heard of this comic, but I think she would have loved it.

FOUR COLOR #1047 (Dell, 1960) – Gyro Gearloose: “The Gab-Muffler” etc., [W/A] Carl Barks. I chose this over several other Four Color issues featuring Gyro Gearloose. They were $5 each, so I only wanted to buy one. In this issue’s first story, Gyro invents a device that deadens sound, but it prevents him from telling Donald and the nephews that their house is on fire. This issue includes some brilliant gag humor. Because Gyro’s Helper is a silent character, Barks always shows him doing funny stuff that’s not mentioned in the dialogue. This issue includes three other stories that guest-star Scrooge, Grandma Duck and Gladstone. The sad thing about these Gyro stories is that if Gyro would just hire someone to help him market his inventions properly, he would be richer than Scrooge.

POWERS OF X #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “We Are Together Now, You and I,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] R.B. Silva. This issue provides some essential context for Hickman’s X-Men run. It explains Moira’s reincarnation powers and the reason why Orchis is such a threat. Of course it’s also full of Hickman’s typical diagrams and irrelevant infodumps. I didn’t buy this when it came out, because I didn’t predict it was actually going to be good, and I’m glad I was able to find it at a low price.

BATMAN #496 (DC, 1980) – “Murder on the Mystery Ship!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Don Newton. Clayface, Basil Karlo, escapes from prison and sneaks aboard a ship where a horror film convention is being held. A murder mystery results. The real culprit is not Clayface but the convention director, John Carlinger (Carpenter?). A surprise in this issue is that Carlinger actually kills Basil Karlo, and he stays dead; he didn’t appear again until after Crisis. This is a fun story with quietly effective artwork. There’s also a Batgirl backup story.

THE GOON #39 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “Excelsior!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. Faced with declining sales, the Goon and Frankie reinvent themselves as superheroes, and as a result, this issue is full of very funny metatextual jokes. At one point, the Goon splits into multiple different-colored variants. This was a parody of Geoff Johns’s various Lantern Corps. On the letters page Powell complains about the dominance of superhero comics in the direct market. Coincidentally, 2012 was about the time when titles like Saga began to challenge that dominance, at least to some extent.

SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON #19 (Dell, 1956) – “Sergeant Preston and the Fiddler,” [W] Gaylord DuBois?, [A] Alberto Giolitti (the GCD doesn’t have credits for this issue, but DuBois and Giolitti were the regular creative team on this series). A pretty typical Dell Western comic, adapted from a TV show that started out as a radio drama. Its unusual aspect is that it’s set in the Yukon instead of the American West. So snowy weather is a common plot element, and the hero’s sidekick is a husky dog. There are three Sergeant Preston stories in this issue, plus a short story about wolves trapped in ice. Sergeant Preston wears something around his neck that looks like a noose. I couldn’t figure out what this thing was, but Travis Hedge Coke informs me that it’s a pistol lanyard.

TRANSFORMERS #74 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Void!”, [W] Simon Furman, [A] Andrew Wildman. Optimus Prime and Scorponok team up to fight some Transformers who are possessed by Unicron, and then Unicron himself appears. This was perhaps the first comic book I ever bought when it was new. I lost my original copy almost as soon as I got it, and it was a nostalgic delight to find a new copy. I still remember some of the lines of dialogue from it – like, I think this comic book was the first place I saw the words “candid” and “candor.” Unfortunately my current copy is in almost unreadable condition, with both the front and back covers detached, and I’d like to replace it.

THOR #188 (Marvel, 1971) – “The End of Infinity!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Odin is possessed by Infinity, who is a stolen fragment of his own soul. Thor and the Asgardians have to prevent Odin from drawing the Odinsword and triggering Ragnarok. This era of Thor was plagued by repetitive and boring plots, but John Buscema’s art in this issue is brilliant. The late ‘60s and early ‘70s may have been the peak of his career.

WONDER WOMAN #42 (DC, 1990) – “The Silver Wing of Terror,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. By now we’ve all heard the bad news about Gentleman George. He’s not just the greatest superhero artist since Kirby, but also a wonderful man, and I wish him all the best. This issue Diana fights Silver Swan, who’s being abused and manipulated by a man named H.C. Armbruster. This character is a disturbing and plausible portrayal of an abusive boyfriend. More on that when I get to issue 43. This issue’s subplot is that Steve Trevor and Hermes go to a bar.

DAREDEVIL #68 (Marvel, 1970) – “Phoenix and the Fighter!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. I assume this issue is the first time Matt appeared in a boxing ring. But in order to get Matt into that situation, Roy has to introduce a lot of stupid narrative convolutions. Foggy, who was just elected DA, is threatened by a political radical named Kragg. Roy is careful not to tell the reader anything about Kragg’s politics or agenda. Kragg is trying to fund his plans, whatever they are, by rigging a boxing match, so Matt substitutes himself for the fighter Kragg is betting against. The boxing match is the centerpiece of this story, but again, the rest of the plot is pretty dumb. Again, the best thing about this issue is the artistic combination of Colan and Palmer.

YOUNG LOVE #101 (DC, 1972) – “Love Thief!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. Bette, a travel agent, falls for Alan, a client who’s already engaged to be married. It becomes obvious that Alan and his fiancee are incompatible, and he winds up with Bette instead. Do they still have travel agents? “The Wrong Bride!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. Claire deliberately steals her friend Ellen’s fiancee Brad. After Claire and Brad are married, Ellen tells Brad that Claire married him for his money. Brad forgives Claire because he thinks she’s changed – even though the story offers no evidence of that. Claire’s behavior in this story is utterly atrocious and self-centered, and she gets rewarded for it. My headcanon is that after the story is over, Brad divorces Claire and begs Ellen for forgiveness. “Playing at Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. Two understudies on the same TV show fall in love.

SKYWARD #3 (Image, 2018) – “My Low-G Life Part Three,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Skyward seems to take place in a world where gravity doesn’t work. In this issue the protagonist, Willa Fowler, visits her father’s old friend Roger Barrow, but he beats her up and demands to know where her father is. She has to escape Roger’s building and get back to her father. This issue’s plot was hard to follow, but the zero-gravity premise is fascinating, and the creators seem to have thought seriously about its implications; for instance, there’s a scene where some people empty a dumpster by putting the trash into an upward-pointing pipe. I really liked these creators’ latest series, Shadecraft, and I want to collect the rest of Skyward.

SUICIDE SQUAD #36 (DC, 1989) – “In Final Battle,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder. The Suicide Squad conclude their battle with the Female Furies, but Waller’s niece Flo Crawley is killed in battle, and Waller refuses Darkseid’s offer to resurrect her. This is a depressing waste of a good character, but frequent character deaths were a recurring element of this series. Also, Jacob Finley (the good Dr. Light) convinces Arthur Light (the evil Dr. Light) to reinvent himself as a hero, but Jacob is really trying to trick Arthur into getting himself killed, and it works.

DETECTIVE COMICS #821 (DC, 2006) – “The Beautiful People,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] J.H. Williams III. Batman investigates a series of crimes against rich Gotham socialites. The culprit is a new villain named Facade. This issue is a simple detective story, though an effective one. It’s elevated to a classic because of J.H. Williams’s art. As usual, he uses multiple different drawing styles throughout the story, and he deploys a large number of innovative page layouts.

RICHIE RICH AND CASPER #29 (Harvey, 1979) – “A Touch of Magic,” [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer? The Harveyville Fun Times calls this the best Harvey title, although it also says that this issue was an “unqualified dud.” I will need to look for more issues of this series. In this issue Richie discovers a flying carpet, and he and Casper use it to travel back in time to the Arabian Nights era. Even if it’s a “dud,” this story is reasonably fun, though it relies on Orientalist stereotypes.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #218 (Dell, 1958) – “Noble Porpoises” (title from GCD), [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald tries to catch some porpoises and sell them to the aquarium. He succeeds, but only thanks to his incompetence. This story is reasonably funny. This issue also includes Scamp and Chip & Dale stories, and a Fallberg/Murry Mickey Mouse story set in the Andes. The latter story reminds me of Barks’s classic “Lost in the Andes,” though of course it’s not as good.

FLASH GORDON #3 (King, 1967) – “Lost in the Land of the Lizardmen,” [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Ric Estrada. Flash gets trapped among a tribe of lizardmen and their evil female ruler, who wants to be Ming’s consort. In the backup story, Flash teams up with the centaur magician Cazedessus against Ming and his gigantic champion Monolith. This issue suffers from not being drawn by Al Williamson or Reed Crandall, but the creators show a lot of respect for their source material. In the first story, one of the lizardmen says “Dnunia!!! Yeknom miws isutaw!!!”, i.e. “Monkey swim watusi” backwards.

INCREDIBLE HULK #143 (Marvel, 1971) – “Sanctuary!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Dick Ayers. On the run from the police, Bruce is given shelter by a mysterious benefactor who turns out to be Dr. Doom. Doom fakes the Hulk’s death and takes Bruce to Latveria, intending to steal the Hulk’s power for his own purposes. The Hulk’s supporting cast’s reactions to his supposed death are touching. It’s unfortunate that this issue isn’t drawn by Herb Trimpe, although it looks like it is, since it’s inked by John Severin.

MIDNIGHT, MASS #2 (Vertigo, 2002) – “The Edge of Civilization Part One,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Jesus Saiz. The Kadmons tell Jenny a story about a case where they investigated a monster infestation. This issue is funny and strange, but it has a subtle, understated style of humor, which may have limited its appeal. I also wasn’t too impressed with Jesus Saiz’s art.

More new comics:

CRUSH & LOBO #7 (DC, 2021) – “Hello, Dad!”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. We get to see some of what Lobo was doing while Crush was chasing him, and then Crush finds him and forcibly returns him to prison. But as soon as she gets to prison, she’s taken away for experimentation as a test subject. This series is a combination of Mariko Tamaki’s funny style, as seen in the two Double Trouble miniseries, with her central theme of female self-discovery.

ROBIN 2021 ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Robin’s Strike File,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. The first half of this issue is Flatline’s origin story, and then there are some short profiles of Robin’s other tournament opponents, and there’s a longer sequence about Ravager. Like the regular Robin series, this annual is very fun. I’m enjoying what Joshua Williamson is doing with Damian.

DAREDEVIL #36 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 6,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Manuel Garcia. This is really more of an epilogue than a concluding chapter. Matt and Elektra go skinny dipping together, Matt talks with Mr. Fantastic and the Kingpin, and then Wilson and Typhoid Mary are married. But on his honeymoon, Wilson realizes that someone has forced him to forget Daredevil’s secret identity. This development leads to the Devil’s Reign crossover event.

THE SILVER COIN #7 (Image, 2021) – “Tzompanco,” [W] Ram V, [A] Michael Walsh. A gambler, Lou Prado, wins the cursed coin from a Las Vegas slot machine, and uses it to win a lot of money. The casino’s boss invites Lou to his office, where he sacrifices Lou in the Aztec fashion, by pulling his heart out. The boss addresses the coin as “brother.” This issue makes effective use of Aztec imagery, though it could be seen as playing into stereotypes about Aztec culture.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #34 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Last of the Marvels Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol escapes from a cage by reactivating her Binary powers, then she fights an evil clone of Mar-Vell. Phyla-Vell fights Vox Supreme. This issue was a quick and insubstantial read.

BLACK PANTHER LEGENDS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Setor Fiadzigbey & Juan Galán. A retelling of T’Challa’s first encounter with Storm. In this version they’re both so young that their relationship doesn’t seem romantic at all. This issue references the Oromo conflict in Etihopia, which, sadly, has been going on since 1973, so this story is not anchored to a particular point in time.

DETECTIVE COMICS #822 (DC, 2006) – “E. Nigma, Consulting Detective,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Don Kramer. The Riddler reinvents himself as a private detective and “solves” a murder mystery, but his solution is wrong, and Batman finds the real culprit. This issue’s plot was hard to understand, but I love the way Paul Dini writes the Riddler. In the first two Arkham video games he wrote my favorite version of this character ever.

DEVIL’S REIGN #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Out of anger at being forced to forget Daredevil’s secret identity, the Kingpin – who is now the mayor of New York – declares that all superheroes are banned from his city. Unlike in Civil War, none of the superheroes agree with this action, and most of the issue shows various superheroes fighting the Kingpin’s troops. Meanwhile, Wilson tries to force the Purple Man to help him become president. The premise of this crossover series is kind of simple and also implausible – as the story itself points out, the Kingpin’s superhero ban creates all sort of conflicts with federal jurisdiction. But Zdarsky and Checchetto do a good job of depicting the peril that the superheroes find themselves in. A highlight of the issue is the scene where Jessica and Luke are furious at the Shocker for putting their child in danger.

SIR EDWARD GREY: ACHERON #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Mignola. I bought this because it’s the first comic book Mike Mignola has drawn in some years. Mignola’s artwork is as beautiful and creepy as ever, but his style has barely changed at all since he created Hellboy, so this issue offers nothing new. Also, this comic’s plot makes no sense unless the reader is a Hellboy expert.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #3 (Oni, 2021) – “I Think of Demons for You,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. Kat agrees to help the demons because they offer her drugs, but she starts to change her mind when they take her to Belarus, the worst dictatorship in Europe. When Kat goes back into her own head to ask Hannah for advice, she finds Hannah and the other ghosts burying a bunch of angels and demons in a graveyard. This comic gets weirder with each issue, and that’s a good thing.

HUMAN TARGET #2 (DC, 2021) – “We Cry,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. The Human Target’s next suspect is Ice, who Tom King writes as a very sweet, gentle woman, but with some dark secrets. Ice helps reduce Chance’s symptoms so he won’t die even sooner than scheduled. This issue’s plot is maybe more clever and convoluted than it needs to be, but it contains some excellent characterization. Greg Smallwood’s art and coloring are heavily reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The ‘00s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse & Carlos Magno. Reed agrees to become Galactus’s herald in order to save the Earth, but Franklin substitutes himself for Reed and kills Galactus. Reed is left in a persistent vegetative state. Given how much Galactus has been built up over the last few issues, this conclusion is a bit of an anticlimax. By this point Franklin and his Wakandan wife have had two kids, but it’s disappointing that this series doesn’t include any more superhero descendants.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Favors,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. The other mobsters deliver Vinnie the Stray to Campisi, but he’s already dead, and the dragon wanted him alive. Campisi convinces the dragon to kill his own boss, Mr. Rossi, as a substitute, which is good because Mr. Rossi was an asshole. Then another mob boss asks Sonny for help dealing with a kraken. Campisi was pretty fun, and I wouldn’t mind if there was a sequel series. But hopefully the sequel, if any, will be drawn by a different artist, because Marco Locati’s art on this miniseries was sloppy and unfinished-looking.

SHANG-CHI #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and his family fight Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, and Shang-Chi discovers that by using the Ten-Fist Sword, he can fight Thor on even terms. Except it’s not the Ten-Fist Sword at all, it’s the Cosmic Cube that Brother Sabre stole in issue 2. I must have misunderstood what happened in that issue – according to my review, it was Shang-Chi himself who stole the Cube. Shang-Chi surrenders Brother Sabre and the Cube to the Avengers, over the objections of his other siblings. “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe” was an overly formulaic story, but its conclusion in this issue is surprising.

WONDER GIRL #5 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Five,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. Yara refuses to become Hera’s champion, and is forced to flee from a horde of angry gods. Meanwhile, Cassie discovers the Esquecida, a secret third tribe of Amazons in the Brazilian rainforest (I should say the Brazilian Amazon, but that’s confusing). In Esquecida Cassie meets a character I haven’t seen in a while: Donna Troy. This issue’s lack of Joëlle Jones artwork is disappointing, but I like the design of the Esquecida’s city of Akahim.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #3 (Milestone, 2021) – “Silent Partners,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Hardware flees to Singapore and finds shelter with Edwin Alva’s estranged colleague, Asher, but Alva tries to convince Asher to surrender Hardware. I’m not sure if this series is good enough to continue reading. It’s only mildly interesting. Also, I’m glad Denys Cowan is still getting work, but his artwork in this issue is too sloppy.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #1 (DC, 2021) – “Herotunities,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Red Tornado and Power Girl are running an employment service for washed-up superheroes. This issue has solid artwork and some funny jokes, but it feels mean-spirited. Also, I like both Power Girl and Red Tornado, and I feel like they deserve more dignitied treatment. I would say that Power Girl acts out of character in this issue, but she really doesn’t have a consistent character.

SWAMP THING #10 (DC, 2021) – “Conduit Part 2,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Harper Pilgrim destroys his own building with Swampy and Hedera in it, then he goes to consult with Jason Woodrue. Swampy escapes with the help of the previous Swamp Thing, who’s named Vyasa, after the legendary sage who’s traditionally credited with writing the Mahabharata. I forgot to mention that issue 9 included some interesting material about this character’s history. https://www.reddit.com/r/DCcomics/comments/qlt3nw/comic_excerpt_colonialism_hindu_mythology/

KILLER QUEENS #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Claudia Balboni. A boring conclusion to a bad series. Claudia Balboni’s art in Killer Queens was severely lacking in detail, and David Booher’s plot never felt exciting. As a sexy adventure story, Killer Queens was inferior to Money Shot or Kim & Kim or even Worst Dudes. I don’t think it deserves a sequel.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1008 (DC, 2019) – “Greetings from Gotham,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Doug Mahnke. The Joker holds an amusement park hostage, and Batman has to listen to the Joker’s taunting for pages on end, while trying to find a way to defuse the Joker’s bomb. Until I actually saw the bomb, I couldn’t understand why Batman didn’t just beat the Joker up. This issue is a good example of why I hate Joker stories: the Joker is so horribly evil that I’m sick of reading about him, and because he always escapes to kill again, Batman’s refusal to kill him is a crime against humanity. Furthermore, there have been so many Joker stories that it’s become difficult to do anything original with the character.

BATMAN #338 (DC, 1981) – “This Sporting Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas, [A] Irv Novick. Batman fights a sports-themed villain named the Sportsman. We learn at the end that he was an unathletic child, and his father used an experimental treatment that made him a star athlete, but also made him terminally ill. The Sportsman is effectively the same character as the Sportsmaster, and I wondered why they didn’t just make him the Earth-1 version of the Sportsmaster. The likely reason is because there already was an Earth-1 Sportsmaster and Huntress, although they’re hard to distinguish from their Earth-2 versions. This issue includes a Robin backup story with art by Don Newton, in which Robin solves a murder mystery at Deadman’s circus.

MADE IN KOREA #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Jesse is about to be disassembled, but Chul steals her from the factory. Just as she’s about to be captured again, she projects her mind into an adult male robot body, and the new male Jesse returns to her parents in America. So this series ends up as a parable about transgender identity as well as transracial adoption. An earlier scene in this issue shows a robot brothel with multiple “options” for clients to sample, including a man, a woman, and a person with both breasts and a penis.

DARKHOLD: BLACK BOLT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Memory Trap,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] David Cutler. Black Bolt wakes upon an Inhuman prison planet. He gradually remembers that he got here after he discovered Maximus’s plot to surgically alter himself and substitute himself for a member of the Attilan court. Black Bolt’s advisor, Telegar, arrives on the prison planet and reveals that Maximus did something else too: he hypnotized himself to think he was Black Bolt. And Telegar claims the protagonist of this issue is really Maximus, not Black Bolt. But the protagonist doesn’t know whether to believe him, so he’s not sure whether he’s Maximus or Black Bolt, or whether he can safely return to Attilan. This is a very clever story with a surprising twist ending.

FOUR COLOR #401 (Dell, 1952) – “Mickey Mouse and Goofy’s Mechanical Wizard!”, [W/A] Dick Moores. This issue is also counted as Mickey Mouse #25. Goofy somehow invents a sentient calculator robot, Charlie. While Charlie is inept at math, he can do lots of other stuff, including predict the future. Charlie is kidnapped by a phony fortuneteller, and Mickey and Goofy have to help him rescue himself. In the backup story, Mickey inherits a house from a dead uncle, but some crooks are using the house to store their treasure. This issue is entertaining, though Dick Moores was not Gottfredson. Moores is best known as Frank King’s successor on Gasoline Alley.

DARK BLOOD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Moisés Hidalgo. In World War II, Avery narrowly escapes from the Nazis thanks to his comrade’s sacrifice, but just as he’s being recaptured, the prison camp is blown up by an Allied air strike. This explains how Avery got the burn scars on his back. After the war, Avery discovers he has telekinetic powers. In the present, Avery confronts Dr. Carlisle, whose experiments gave him his powers. Dr. Carlisle tells Avery that he was selected for the experiment because of his war wounds, and that the project was run by a Dr. Winston Marshall in Montgomery. Avery kidnaps Dr. Carlisle and heads to Montgomery, with the authorities following. This is an important and well-written series, but its narrative structure is problematic. It has at least four different time frames, and even with the captions explaining when each scene is taking place, it’s hard to figure out the order in which everything happened.

BLACK’S MYTH #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Chapter Five,” [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer discovers that Rainsford Black was the real killer, and Chad punishes him by turning him into a vampire. Strummer and Ben set up their own detective agency. This was a really fun series, and I hope there’ll be more of it.

THE GOOD ASIAN #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. We discover that Hui Long, aka Silas, is Ivy Chen’s half-Asian brother, but after his Chinese father died, he was rejected by his white mother’s family. Silas burns Edison with lye, giving him the same burns Silas himself has. Victoria’s hired assassin shoots Silas and tries to kill Edison too, but Edison blows up the building they’re in. The most striking thing about this issue is the incredible depth of Silas’s self-hatred, as well as the incredible hatred he faces for being a living violation of racial boundaries. A key theme of this series is white Americans’ pathological hatred for people who are visibly different from them.

SEARCH FOR HU #3 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Goodbye Love, Goodbye,” [W] Jon Tsuei & Steve Orlando, [A] Rubine. Another implausible story full of gangster movie cliches. After reading this issue, I decided to drop Search for Hu from my pull list. I want to like it, because it explores the intriguing topic of intersectional Jewish and Chinese identities, but I can’t justify buying a comic as bad as this.

MY BAD #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Salad of Truth” etc., [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingman, [A] Peter Krause. Some more superhero parodies, all of them connected by the character of the villainous Emperor King. This series is reasonably funny, but as with One-Star Squadron, its humor is kind of mean-spirited, and it feels like it’s not one of Mark Russell’s better works. Maybe he’s spreading himself too thin?

DECORUM #8 (Image, 2021) – “With Enemies Like These…” etc., [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. I forgot this series was still running. It’s been about eight months since issue 7. This issue, Neha and the egg creature escape from a bunch of other assassins. Neha’s mentor Imogen intervenes and saves her, and then Neha essentially becomes a god, or at least an emperor. It made more sense while I was reading it. Decorum is one Jonathan Hickman’s better creator-owned series, largely because of Mike Huddleston’s spectacular artwork. I love all the different artistic techniques and media he uses. I just noticed the bespectacled wine-drinking octopus on this issue’s cover.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. The woman who stole Meg’s car is named Dorian Wildfang. After she discovered that she might have the same illness that killed her mother and her brother (who had the improbably awesome name Faust Wildfang), she decided to go and have a lot of adventures while she still could. Meg and Dorian decide to travel across Europe together. This wasn’t where I expected this series to go, but I’m willing to stick with it and see where it does go.

FRONTIERSMAN #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. Ethan fights Trefoil, an antihero who, we eventually realize, is based on Captain America. But Trefoil represents the brutal reality of America, not its high-minded ideals, so he’s more like the Comedian, though the letters page says he’s inspired by Nuke from Daredevil: Born Again. In the end, Frontiersman seemingly beats Trefoil to death. Frontiersman is an unexpectedly brilliant series. While it’s yet another revisionist superhero comics, it has a surprising amount of thematic depth.

LAURA AND OTHER STORIES #2 (Ablaze, 2021) – “Time” etc., [W/A] Guillem March. Laura goes on a trip to Formentera. This issue has excellent artwork, but its story is just a bunch of boring relationship drama. I suppose I’ll keep reading this series, but I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed Karmen.

THE MARVELS #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Reflections in a Lotus Garden,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. This issue focuses on Lady Lotus, a faux-Golden Age villain who was in fact introduced in the 1970s Invaders series. We learn about her involvement with three other significant figures: Jacques Duquesne, the Swordsman; Monsieur Khrull, Mantis’s uncle; and Wong Daochu, an ancestor of Wong Chu from Iron Man’s first appearance. (Kurt said that this is not the same character as Wong Chu: https://community.cbr.com/showthread.php?149466-Kurt-Busiek-s-quot-The-Marvels-quot&p=5838295&viewfull=1#post5838295.) This issue is another example of Kurt’s mastery of Marvel continuity.

MARVEL VOICES: COMMUNIDADES #1 (Marvel, 2021) – various stories, [E] Lauren Amaro & Sarah Brunstad. I admire the idea behind this issue, but the stories in it are of uneven quality. Highlights include the one-page features with recipes for Latin American dishes, and Daniel José Older’s White Tiger story, which is based on the Young Lords’ historical “trash offensive.” I also liked the Miles Morales story where he publicly reveals that he’s Puerto Rican, and the Alex Segura’s flashback to Roberto da Costa’s origin. But the story about Reptil’s cousin is no better than the Reptil series that just ended, and “Latinx and Proud” is more of a tract than a story. In the America story, America and Amadeus go to a restaurant based on the actual  Albert’s in Washington Heights, and they eat mofongo, tostones, and (I think) fried yuca. I owe this information to Carrie Shanafelt.

INFERNO #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jonahtan Hickman, [A] R.B. Silva, Stefano Caselli & Valerio Schiti. It’s revealed that Doug and Warlock know all of the other mutants’ secrets. Moira is captured by Orchis, and we learn that Omega Sentinel is really important somehow. I enjoyed this issue, but now I can’t remember how it actually advanced the plot.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #24 (Marvel, 1972) – “Death in High Places!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Wayne Boring. The evil Dr. Mynde and his assistant Madame Synn kidnap Captain Marvel, in order to use him in their plot to overthrow the government. Dr. Mynde’s plot actually succeeds, but Mar-Vell causes him to shoot Madame Synn dead by accident, and Mynde goes nuts and shoots himself. This story is pretty dumb, and its plot requires Rick to act like an idiot and refuse to turn into Captain Marvel when he needs to do so. I was excited to find this issue because I thought it was part of Jim Starlin’s Captain Marvel saga, but Starlin didn’t start on Captain Marvel until issue 25. This series’ only connection to the Thanos saga is that Lou-Ann appears in it.

LASSIE #16 (Dell, 1954) – “Adrift on the Amazon,” [W] unknown, [A] John Lehti. Lassie and her current owners, Rocky and Gerry, are stuck on a floating island in the Amazon. These floating islands, or matupás, are a real thing, but I don’t know if this story is an accurate depiction of how they behave. In the second story, Lassie, Rockiy and Gerry discover a massive gold deposit, but then they lose track of it, which is a good thing because it would have destroyed the world economy. (Compare the Scrooge story “The Fabulous Philosopher’s Stone”.) In the last story, Lassie and her owners foil a plot to sabotage the construction of a road through the Mato Grosso jungle. This story is a good example of settler colonialism. It depicts the jungle road as an entirely positive development, ignoring its detrimental effects on the environment and the local indigenous people. Overall I didn’t like this issue as much as the later issues of Lassie.

MARVEL PRESENTS #11 (Marvel, 1977) – “At War with Arcturus!”, [W] Roger Stern, [A] Al Milgrom. Aleta’s father Ogord has kidnapped his own grandchildren, Starhawk and Aleta’s children. The Guardians defeat Ogord, but are unable to prevent the children from aging rapidly until they die. This is a rather brutal plot development, and I’m not sure why Rog decided to end this story in this way. In subsequent stories, Aleta hates Stakar because she blames him for the children’s death. Maybe that’s just as well, since Aleta and Stakar are more or less an incestuous couple. This is the first story I’ve read in a long time that featured the original Guardians, and it gave me nostalgic memories of the ‘90s Guardians series. That series was terrible, but when I was reading it, I was too young to know that.

POWERS OF X #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “This is What You Do,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] R.B. Silva. This story begins in the future, when the few surviving mutants are infiltrating Orchis’s citadel to figure out when Nimrod was created. Wolverine recovers this information, gives it to Moira, and then kills her, so she’ll retain that knowledge in her next incarnation. Inferno #3 seems like a direct sequel to this issue, and I think the character who’s with Nimrod in the beginning of Powers of X #3 is Omega Sentinel.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #19 (Marvel, 1976) – “Claws of the Cougar!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. The Thing teams up with Tigra against the Cougar, aka Curt Ranklin, an enemy of the Cat People. The Cougar captures Ben and Greer, but his fiancee Sheila, a Cat Person herself, turns off the power to his containment devices, allowing Ben and Greer to defeat him. I don’t think the writer actually tells us why the power went off; we just have to assume Sheila did it. Almost every Tigra story in the ‘70s was about the Cat People. Later stories about this character have been less narrowly focused.

FOUR COLOR #907 (Dell, 1958) – “Brannigan’s Boots,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Alex Toth. I was shocked to discover who drew this issue. From looking at the art I thought it was Dan Spiegle. Toth’s art here is unusually detailed, with more lines than necessary, but I can recognize his standard narrative tricks, such as using something in the foreground as a frame for something else in the background (https://www.instagram.com/p/CXzRx_YPval/). Sugarfoot is adapted from a TV series about an inexperienced Western hero who’s studying to become a lawyer. Other than that gimmick, the stories in this issue are all standard Western material.

PHANTOM STRANGER #31 (DC, 1974) – “Sacred is the Monster Kang!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Gerry Talaoc. In an unidentified Southeast Asian country, a rogue American officer helps a warlord take command of a monastery, where the monks have to constantly build and rebuild a maze to imprison a demon. When the American officer diverts the monks from their work, the Phantom Stranger has to intervene and defeat the demon. This story is weird, but at least it has good art. For the time, this story is unusually frank about illegal drugs. Black Orchid: “Island of Fear!”, [W] Sheldon Mayer, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. A cruel pirate lures some mining engineers to his remote island, then forces them to work for him while holding their wives hostage. Black Orchid saves the day. The art here is quite good. Black Orchid is a fascinating character who’s rarely been used to her full potential.

WONDER WOMAN #43 (DC, 1990) – “The Armageddon Aria,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. After a lot of fighting, Diana captures the Silver Swan (Valerie Beaudry) and tries to convince her that H.C. Armbruster doesn’t have her best interests at heart. Val refuses to believe her, and then Armbruster’s men recapture her. This story is a sadly plausible depiction of an abusive relationship. Armbruster is a horrible monster, yet Val insists, against all evidence, that he really loves her, and she returns to him on her own initiative. This reminds me of a lot of posts I’ve seen on r/relationships.

BATMAN #264 (DC, 1975) – “Death of a Daredevil,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Ernie Chan. “Devil” Dayre, a stunt motorcyclist, is kidnapped just before he’s supposed to jump across a canyon, and Batman has to substitute for him and perform the stunt in his place. This is a typical Denny O’Neil mystery story. The highlight of the issue is the end, where Batman tears down a poster saying “The world’s bravest daredevil!” There may be a sly reference here to a certain other comic book that Denny O’Neil would later write. It’s hard to read a story like this without thinking of Homer jumping Springfield Gorge.

MICKEY MOUSE #83 (Dell, 1962) – “Frontier Fiesta,” [W] unknown, [A] Paul Murry. While working as a secret agent, Mickey follows Black Pete’s trail to a town that’s holding a Western festival. Mickey participates in a reenacted stagecoach adventure, which becomes real when Pete uses it as cover for his escape. There’s another Mickey story about thefts at a circus, and a third story in which Mickey has to get rid of Morty and Ferdy’s beehive. This last one could easily be rewritten as a story about Donald and his nephews. In addition there’s a Little Bad Wolf story.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #11 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Let’s Have a Party,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Scout and the kids attend “Dr. Portugal’s Traveling Mutation Show,” where they encounter Rosa Winter and her uneasy ally Redwire. Redwire reveals himself as Raymond Vaughn, a preexisting character who I don’t remember anything about, and Rosa has to shoot him to  save Scout. Unusualy, Scout’s younger son has some lines of dialogue in this issue. I had thought he was too young to talk.

DYNOMUTT #3 (Marvel, 1978) – “Mother Goose’s Nursery Crimes,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Paul Norris. Dynomutt and Blue Falcon fight a fairy-tale-themed criminal gang. This story is pretty dumb, but at least it has some funny dialogue. This issue also includes another short Dynomutt story by the same creators, and a three-page preview, by Evanier and Spiegle, of an upcoming Scooby-Doo issue.

THE GOON #4 (Dark Horse, 2003) – “The Sea Hag Demands a Mate!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon fights the Sea Hag, who’s stolen his naked pictures of Ingrid Bergman. While Eric Powell’s most obvious influences are Wrightson, Kevin Nowlan, Kelley Jones, etc., The Goon is also very indebted to Popeye, and this story feels like Powell’s tribute to E.C. Segar. Powell’s version of the Sea Hag is totally different from Segar’s, but there’s a character in this story who looks like an older Popeye. https://www.instagram.com/p/CXz_P6JMS1N/ “Beware the Beast’s Lust for Pie!”, [W] Eric Powell, [A] Kyle Hotz. A giant “skunk ape” rampages through town and wins a pie contest. This story is less interesting than the first one, and Kyle Hotz’s art style is unoriginal.

X OF SWORDS: CREATION #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Pepe Larraz. The forces of Arakko invade Saturnyne’s realm of Otherworld. To save her own realm, Saturnyne arranges a contest between Krakoa and Arakko, where the two sides compete to find ten magical swords and then wield them in a duel. When X of Swords was coming out, I disliked it and had trouble understanding it. This issue makes X of Swords somewhat more understandable, but it still isn’t as good as some of Hickman’s other X-Men material.

EXCELLENCE #1 (Image, 2019) – “Kill the Past,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. In a world where only a small minority of people have magical powers, Spencer Dales is born into a powerful magic-using family. But as he grows up, his meager magical abilities make him an embarrassment to his father, and he barely passes the test that allows him to become a magician-in-training. Just after the test, his grandmother gets sick, and Spencer decides to break the magical fraternity’s rules and use a healing spell to save her. This is the best Brandon Thomas comic I’ve read. It has a fascinating premise, and it explores the theme of father-son relationships in an intriguing way. Excellence is also interesting because all the major characters are black, and while this issue never engages with racism explicitly, it still feels like it’s about blackness. In particular, the top magicians are called the Tenth, a term which recalls W.E.B. Du Bois’s Talented Tenth.

Next trip to Heroes, on December 24:

MAZEBOOK #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Will and his dog companion travel through the maze city. Against the dog’s advice, Will descends into a subway station where, inevitably, he meets a minotaur, because what is a labyrinth without a minotaur? This issue has a fascinating panel structure where all the panels are connected to each other either by threads or by gaps in the panel borders, so reading the comic feels like navigating the maze. There’s even one page where Will gets stuck at a T-intersection, and it’s not clear whether the reader should continue left or right.

ADVENTUREMAN #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. The old Western superhero gives his guns to his grandson, telling him that when the guns start glowing, it’s a signal to pay attention. Claire discovers an abandoned subway station full of ghosts. The ghosts invade Claire’s house and steal one of her few remaining vials of the serum that gives her her powers. At the end, Claire and the cowboy finally meet. This is another very entertaining issue.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part Three,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the present, Jace and Aaron save a little girl whose parents have just been killed by an Oscuratype, and then they have sex. In the past, Jace and the other apprentices prepare for their first hunt. This series is still not as exciting as its parent series.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. This came out last month, but I forgot to get it. This issue the series takes a significantly darker turn, as the monster imprisons Ro in the house, forbidding her to leave and forcing her to paint constantly. It becomes clear that if Middlewest is about child abuse, The Me You Love in the Dark is about domestic abuse. The monster’s behavior toward Ro is that of a controlling, financially abusive boyfriend. At the end, Ro’s agent comes to the house to look for her, and the monster kills him. At this point I was unable to predict how this series would end, and I wondered if Ro would make it out alive.

RADIANT BLACK #11 (Image, 2021) – “Awake,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Marcelo Costa. Marshall wakes up from his coma to find that six weeks have passed, and Nathan has long since awakened from his coma. There’s a funny panel where Marshall is reading all the social media articles he missed out on. Then Marshall and Radiant Pink fight Doppler, who, it turns out, is only borrowing the alien technology from two other guys. Doppler is the first comic book character I know of who’s an adjunct instructor. She grades papers while sitting in her car, and she has to tell a student that she’s not a doctor or a professor. One of this comic’s writers must be familiar with academic labor issues. On page nine, the text under the Nicky’s Gyros sign is completely illegible, even with a magnifying glass.

NIGHTWING #87 (DC, 2021) – “Get Grayson,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I hadn’t planned to get this, but when I heard what it was, I asked Heroes to save me a copy. Nightwing #87 is a brilliant formal experiment. The entire issue is a single panel; the left side of each page connects to the right side of the previous page. Experiments like this have been tried before – the example that comes to mind is Promethea #32, and I think Alex Niño also did a story like this in 1984. But Nightwing #87 is a true Oulipian experiment because its plot is inspired by its formal constraint. The plot is that some crooks break into Nightwing’s apartment and steal his dog, so he has to chase them from west to east across Bludhaven. Another cool thing about this issue is that some pages depict multiple characters moving in different directions, so the reader has to read the same page twice in two directions. Overall, Nightwing #87 is one of the most memorable single issues of the year.

EAT THE RICH #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. While Joey is trying to tell Astor what happened, Astor’s mom drugs her and she wakes up paralyzed. Astor proves to be just as evil as his parents, and when Joey tries to escape from him, he knocks her down. But then Petal shows up and kills Astor, which is just what he deserves. Then Petal reveals that the servants are just as addicted to human flesh as the masters – but that also leads to a solution, because there are more servants than masters. With Joey’s help, the staff revolt against their employers and enslave them, so that they can stay alive by eating their flesh. Also, Joey and Petal become a couple. This is a brilliant twist ending that leaves the reader feeling both thrilled and disgusted. It also explains why the comic is called Eat the Rich, even though it seemed like the rich were doing the eating, instead of being eaten. I didn’t like Sarah Gailey’s novel River of Teeth as much as I wanted to, but in Eat the Rich, it feels as if she’s fulfilled her promise.

STRANGE ACADEMY #14 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids are having time travel lessons. Doyle travels ahead in time to a future where he’s turned evil, and he’s leading half of his classmates in a battle against the other half. After this experience, Doyle decides to leave the school. Meanwhile, Calvin meets Gaslamp, a really cool new villain. This is the first Marvel comic I’ve read that didn’t have a sticker for a free digital copy. I’m glad those stickers are gone, though it feels weird to read a new Marvel comic without removing the sticker.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Kamala visits her cousin Razia, a physicist at Chicago University (which is fictional – the real one is the University of Chicago). Someone robs Razia’s lab and tries to steal her time travel device. We don’t see the thief’s face, so in the tradition of time travel stories, it’s probably a future version of Kamala or Razia or someone else we would recognize. On returning home, Kamala somehow finds herself in a musical number from a Bollywood movie, and she meets Loki riding an elephant. I’m not familiar with this comic’s writer, and I was afraid it would suck, but this first issue is really entertaining. The movie Kamala’s parents are watching is Dil Se, which is from 1998, so it’s not an old movie to me, but it would be to Kamala. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWtz7xtj3w4.

DEFENDERS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Lovers,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue’s focal character is Cloud. In this issue, the Defenders encounter the One-is-Four and its counterpart, the Four-Are-One, and they help the heroes of the Fourth Cosmos overcome their preoccupation with fighting each other. This issue feels like some sort of allegory for the development of the superhero genre. The four-faced Hulk is based on the four colors of CMYK printing, and the battling superheroes look like primitive versions of Marvel characters – for example, there’s a proto-Thor who has a hammer and whose head is a thundercloud. Finally the Defenders meet the conscience of the Fourth Cosmos, who looks like a Lichtenstein painting, and they head further backward to the Third Cosmos, but Cloud stays behind.

GETTING DIZZY #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Dizzy tries to adjust to her new role as the Burb Defender and to learn to skate, but she can’t find any Negatrixes, and she sucks at skating. At the end of the issue she deals with both problems at once. My problem with this comic is that if Dizzy is a superhero, she’s a very minor one; her sphere of activity is limited to a single neighborhood. But I think this comic is really not about the Burb Defender or the Negatrixes; it’s really about Dizzy’s attempts to grow up and develop self-confidence, and the Burb Defender plot is just an allegory for that.  

KING CONAN #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “On Maggot-Infested Waves,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan has conquered the kingdom of Aquilonia and has overcome many other challenges, including his greatest terror in life: fatherhood. But now an elderly Conan finds himself shipwrecked on a desolate island, where he has his first face-to-face meeting with his greatest enemy, Thoth-Amon. Thoth-Amon wants to kill Conan because he needs a king’s blood for a spell, but when he injures Conan and draws blood, Conan reveals that he’s no longer a king. (So who’s the king of Aquilonia now? We’ll see.) Just as Conan is about to kill Thoth-Amon, the sun goes down and a horde of zombies attacks. This is another exciting issue from a great Conan creative team. In particular, in this issue Mahmud Asrar shows that he may be the best Conan artist since John Buscema. Some of his full-page splashes are just stunning.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #124 (IDW, 2021) – “Missing,” [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Ken Garing. A silent issue in which the Turtles celebrate the holidays while looking for the missing weasels and mourning Master Splinter’s absence. The only line of dialogue is Shredder’s note informing the Turtles that the weasels are okay. I didn’t understand everything in this issue – in particular, I can’t remember who the white blue-eyed wolf character is – but overall this issue was very touching. In his editor’s note, Bobby Curnow says that this comic is about celebrating the holidays at a time when something is wrong, or when it feels like someone is missing. I can certainly sympathize with that.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. The monster forces Ro to keep painting and painting. Luckily Ro remembers that paint thinner is flammable. She burns the house down, presumably killing the monster, and manages to escape. It took a while for this series to reveal what it was really about, but considered in its entirety, it’s a powerful depiction of a woman experiencing domestic abuse (I think the specific term is “coercive control”) and then escaping from it. This series is a strong follow-up to Middlewest.  

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #7 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Malachi Ward & Michael Sheean. Colonel Weird and Talky Walky explore the Para-Zone and discover Anti-God in the middle of it. We learn that there are infinite Para-Zones, not just one, but I don’t see how one Para-Zone is any different from an infinity of them. At the end of the issue, Colonel Weird returns to where he was at the beginning. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #81 (Marvel, 2021) – “Beyond Chapter Seven,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carlos Gómez. I read this issue right after seeing the No Way Home film. I did not particularly like that film, although that may be because I haven’t seen any of Tom Holland’s other Spider-Man movies, and I disliked his style of acting. Also, I just don’t watch very many movies in general. I have a short attention span and I prefer to read or play video games. Anyway, this issue Ben Reilly and Miles team up against a villain named Rhizome. They win, but Ben’s boss reprimands him for not telling Miles to change his name.

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #4 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ivy Noelle Weir, [A] Kelly Williams. I told an employee at Heroes that I was enjoying this series, and she said she hadn’t heard of it. That supports my contention that this comic is likely to fly under people’s radar. This issue, the one surviving kid on the ship discovers that she’s trapped, and the kids on the planet are attacked by sentient plants. The text page at the end explains what’s been going on: the plant already ate everyone on the planet, and now it’s attracting space travelers to the planet, so it can eat them too. Creepy.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #33 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled,  [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Michele Bandini. I was going to read this issue before ASM #81, but it clearly happens after that issue. There should have been a note telling the reader this. In this issue, Miles shows Ganke the cease-and-desist letter, and then he and Shift invade the Assessor’s company’s plant.  This issue has a backup story by Saladin and Gustavo Duarte, in which Shift protects an Afghan immigrant’s gyro cart from some racist kids.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #2 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Bad Dates and a Good Dog,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. In my review of #1, I forgot to mention the plot thread where the army is trying to find Risa a new love interest. I can’t remember why, but in this issue Risa goes on a bunch of disastrous dates. Meanwhile, Machi narrowly escapes from a kabuki-masked dream monster. This latter character is extremely creepy and cute at once, partly because of her speech pattern; it says things like “Child, hello. Hello, child.”

S.W.O.R.D. #11 (Marvel, 2021) – “Final Frontier,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Manifold and Cable prevent the SWORD space station from crashing into Australia. Agent Brand murders Gyrich and reveals herself to be even more dangerous than him. Meanwhile, Storm defeats multiple instances of the Fatal Five at once, by depriving them of air pressure.

And now for the first time since late August, I have no comics waiting to be reviewed. This whole semester I had no time to write reviews, and then when I finally did have time, over Thanksgiving break, I was interrupted by the aforementioned tragedy that I don’t want to mention.  

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Reviews for half the semester

10-17

I didn’t read very many comics in September because I was teaching more, I had less energy, and it was tough getting adjusted to being in the classroom again. I read these next comics right after I finished writing the previous round of reviews. I don’t remember them very well.

ENTER THE HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER FCBD 2021 (Boom!, 2021) – “Enter the House of Slaughter,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. A retelling of the first Something is Killing the Children storyline from Aaron’s perspective. This comic is essentially the same as a typical issue of SIKTC, though of course that’s not a bad thing.

CHU #7 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 2 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. Saffron and her team steal a super-valuable bottle of wine, but one of Saffron’s fellow thieves betrays her and locks her in a vault. Luckily, Saffron has learned  that the bottle of wine has time travel powers, and she drinks it and finds herself in France in 1808. As usual this is a very funny comic.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #12 (Image, 2021) – “Revelations,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. We start with a flashback to Cole’s childhood involvement in the Satanic panic hoax, and then Hawk tells Cole about the origins of the “deep state” conspiracy theory. This is one of Tynion’s more direct attacks on the QAnon phenomenon. Then Hawk reveals he’s working for the bad guys.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #2 (DC, 2021) – “The Truth Part One,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. This series has just become the focus of massive media attention. This issue introduces Jay Nakamura, who’s going to be Jon’s boyfriend. Their mutual attraction is obvious from the start, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that they were going to be a couple. I do remember a scene in Super Sons where it was heavily implied that Jon was going to marry a woman, but who cares. This issue also includes a cute heart-to-heart conversation between Jon and Clark, after Jon’s secret identity is blown the first time he tries to use it.

NOCTERRA #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. Val, Emory and Bailey (aka Piper) escape the Refuge by releasing the shadows on purpose. Then Val’s friend Bea saves them by turning on some bright lights, which shows that this series is about brightness as well as darkness. Nocterra is my favorite Scott Snyder comic.

DARK BLOOD #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Walt Barna w/ Moisés Hidalgo. We meet Avery’s daughter and wife, who runs a bookmobile, and we see more of Avery’s wartime experiences, and the prelude to the near-lynching we saw him suffer in issue 1. The individual scenes in this series are fascinating, but it’s hard to understand how they all fit together, or what the overall premise of this series is.

KILLER QUEENS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Claudia Balboni. A series about two rather inept queer space assassins, from the same writer as Canto. This series is a lot like Kim & Kim, but so far I like Kim & Kim better.

SAVAGE HEARTS #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. Bronwyn and Graouw continue their jungle adventures. This is a fun series, and Jed Dougherty’s art continues to remind me of that of Nick Bradshaw or Art Adams, though Dougherty is a less talented draftsman than either of them. The main problem with this series is that Graouw is a massive creep, and yet we’re supposed to sympathize with his desire to get in Bronwyn’s pants. The same character, Billy von Katz, appears on the inside front covers of both Savage Hearts and Worst Dudes.

RADIANT BLACK #7 (Image, 2021) – “Radiant(s),” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. While fleeing from the masked enemy, the Radiants fight each other and then discover an alien armada about to invade Earth. I somehow got the impression that I had missed an issue, but I didn’t. This issue continues the story from #5, and #6 (which I mislabeled as #7 in my review of it) was a digression from the main plot.

ROBIN #5 (DC, 2021) – “Reunion or Rumble?”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. After a heart-to-heart talk with Dick, Damian convinces the other Robin … I forget where this was going to end. See below.

Reviews I lost at this point:

NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #4 – the one about the packages

2000 AD #79? – the one with Sabbat’s origin story

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #2 – the one where we find out what the ghost looks like

MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #5 – Ram V’s best work since These Savage Shores

MONEY SHOT #14 – it turns out the three sex workers and the assassin are all the same person

ECHOLANDS #1 – such amazing art

NOT ALL ROBOTS #2 – I probably said something about Mike Deodato’s use of fake panel borders

OUT OF BODY #3 – can’t remember anything about this one

SECRET SIX #14 – the one where Deadshot shoots the guy who tricked him into shooting a fleeing woman

MAZEBOOK #1 – a lot like Royal City but with more of an architectural theme

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #2? – Quoting myself: “Snelson: Comedy is Dying is a good candidate for my least favorite Ahoy comic yet. It’s not clear whether we’re supposed to sympathize with Snelson or not. If we are, then the comic is morally abhorrent; if we aren’t, then the comic is just preaching to the converted. The interesting part of the comic is Snelson’s *SPOILER* cancer, but in the latest issue that’s only mentioned on the last page.”

CRUSH & LOBO #4 – Crush gets out of prison, but has to find Lobo in 50 hours or be killed

SWAMP THING #7 – the story about Hanuman lifting a mountain to get a plant for Lakshmana

ONCE & FUTURE #20 – they go to Bath, Lancelot fights the other Arthur, and I can’t remember what else happens

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #4 – the bus accident

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #3 (DC, 2021) – I don’t remember

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #7 (DC, 2021) – the one about limbo

CEREBUS #20? – a bunch of crap

ORDINARY GODS #3 – can’t remember what I wrote

BERMUDA #3 – perhaps Nick Bradshaw’s best work ever

WONDER WOMAN #778 – I forget

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #18 – I forget

BLACK WIDOW #10 – I forget

SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY #2 – I forget

COMPASS #3 – I forget

GROO MEETS TARZAN #2 – Sergio’s predicament gets worse

DIE #19 – I think this was the one about transgender identity

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #15 – I forget

DEFENDERS #2 – GALACTUS’S “MOM” SPEAKS IN KIRBY DIALOGUE!!!

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #1 – an interesting new horror comic, largely because of the characterization

CAPTAIN MARVEL #32 – someone is killing Captain Marvels

SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #4 – we meet Richard Brannigan  

WITCHBLOOD #6 – the vampires and witches find Esmeralda

11-9-2021

Yesterday I spilled coffee on my computer and had to take it to the repair shop. I bought a new computer, which I’m using to type this, and I’m currently waiting to see if the data on the old computer can be saved. If not, I’ve lost about a month of reviews, as well as a ton of other important stuff. Oh well.

EAT THE RICH #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. This is even scarier than last issue. The protagonist talks to one of the staffers and finds out that she voluntarily took this job, knowing that it would end with her being killed and eaten. She was willing to take this deal because there was no other way she could get health insurance. Also, Astor’s mom wants to talk to Joey about what she saw last night. This is a terrifying horror comic, precisely because it’s so plausible. Rich people really are this evil, and poor people really would accept being cannibalized, if they were desperate enough.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #6 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Rainbow visits an underground market and gets caught trying to steal food. While running away, she encounters the man and woman who kidnapped Jonna, and the woman gives Rainbow the key to Jonna’s cage. This issue has very little of either Jonna or the monsters, but the market scene is pretty cool.

PRIMORDIAL #1 (Image, 2021) – “1961: Cape Canaveral,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Donald Penbrook, a black MIT faculty member, is hired by the government to salvage material from an abandoned space facility. Dr. Penbrook discovers some mysterious information about Able and Baker, two monkeys who were sent into space. No one will talk to him about his findings, and he is summarily fired. Then a mysterious man tells him that Able and Baker, as well as the Russian astronaut dog Laika, were kidnapped by aliens and are “still out there somewhere.” Another plot thread depicts the two monkeys and the dog in space. This comic is very reminiscent of Gideon Falls, with bizarre page layouts and panels that look like three-dimensional objects. But the scenes with the three animals are drawn in a very different style from Sorrentino’s usual style; the linework is much crisper.

CHU #8 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 3 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. A prologue depicts how in his younger days, Ong Chu used time-travel whiskey to get revenge on an enemy. Saffron Chu takes a trip back in time, but on returning to the present, she discovers that Don Bucatini has killed most of her colleagues and is holding Ong Chu hostage, in order to get Saffron to steal Sylvain Lesant’s painting. A funny Easter egg in this issue is the art gallery that has a ton of famous paintings, plus a picture of One Punch Man.

BUNNY MASK #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Is There Sickness?”, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler and Sheriff Tate go back to the caverns, where they encounter the Snitch, a giant pale-skinned cyclops. Tyler beats up the Snitch, then has a weird conversation with the Bunny Mask lady, and the first story arc ends. There’s a sequel coming in 2022, which is great, because this series is perhaps Paul Tobin’s best work other than Bandette.

USAGI YOJIMBO #22 (IDW, 2021) – “Ransom! Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Yukichi run into Kitsune and Kiyoko, who have stolen a crime boss’s record book. Boss Kitsune’s head henchman kidnaps Kiyoko and demands the book in exchange for her life. This is a standard Kitsune story, but the interaction between Kitsune and Yukichi is funny. By an odd coincidence, this comic and Bunny Mask #4 both include characters named “The Snitch.” https://www.instagram.com/p/CULnQ-OrfcR/   

SEVEN SECRETS #12 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Part of this issue is Amon’s origin story. Also, Eva shoots Boris Johnson, and Caspar discovers he has flying powers. And the cliffhanger is that Caspar is going to be dead within a week.

MAW #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. Two young women named Wendy and Marion visit a women’s commune run by Diana Spiro, the “wizard of feminism.” While Wendy is at the commune performing various feminist rituals, Marion goes out to a bar and gets drugged and date-r*p*d. In a flashback, we see that Marion has been r*p*d before, and the criminal got off scot-free. Since this is a horror comic, there’s also some supernatural weirdness going on. When I read issue 2, I had trouble remembering what #1 was about, but now that I’ve reminded myself, I think Maw is a very powerful and brutal treatment of misogyny and sexual violence. It’s also about how certain types of feminism offer unsatisfying answers to this problem.  

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Fault Lines,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace & Leonard Kirk. The people who died in the bus accident go to heaven, which, just like in the previous Ahoy series High Heaven, is extremely unimpressive. Also, Sunstar solicits advice from the public on what he should do with his powers, and the best advice he gets is “leave the earth and never come back.”

SAVE YOURSELF #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leopard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nicole Matthews. After a giant fight scene, the Lovely Trio are defeated, and things end happily. This was a fun miniseries, though after the initial shock of realizing it was based on the Powerpuff Girls, the rest of it was rather predictable.

ETERNALS: THANOS RISES #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Sins of the Sons,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dustin Weaver. This issue is effectively Thanos’s revised origin story. It proposes that Thanos’s evil is the result of Mentor and Sui-San’s violation of the Eternals’ edict against biological reproduction. This story presents Sui-San as a proactive, interesting character, whereas she’s usually been just a historical footnote. Kirby expert Charles Hatfield has said some uncomplementary things about this series, and I think his criticisms are reasonable. Perhaps it’s better to think of Eternals as a work of Gillen rather than a revision of Kirby. Eternals is yet another step in Gillen’s long investigation of the topic of storytelling and its potential dangers.

NINJAK #3 (Valiant, 2021) – “Daylight,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Javier Pulido. A fairly standard secret agent comic, elevated to brilliance by Javier Pulido’s artwork. Pulido’s page layouts are heavily influenced by Steranko, but his draftsmanship is sort of an extreme, heavily stripped down version of Clear Line. There’s also one panel that seems to be based on Ben Urich’s shocked face from Daredevil #189 or #230. For more on Pulido, see my review of #4 below.

FANTASTIC FOUR #35 (Marvel, 2021) – “Death in Four Dimensions,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] John Romita Jr. In a special anniversary story, four different incarnations of the same man – Kang, the Scarlet Centurion, Rama-Tut and Immortus – each try to destroy the FF at different points in their history. They tell their stories to a fifth incarnation of themselves, named Scion. Each chapter is preceded by a fake cover that’s designed to look like a real FF cover from that era. At the end, Scion reveals that he’s actually Reed, and that he’s assembled a team of FF members from different eras to defeat the four villains. Then Reed discovers the prize that the four villains were competing for: a recording that reveals that he, Reed, has a previously unknown sister. There are two backup stories, one by Mark Waid and Paul Renaud, and another, by Jason Loo, that can be read in multiple different directions.

BATMAN SECRET FILES: MIRACLE MOLLY #1 (DC, 2021) – “Miracle Molly,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Dani. Quoting myself from Facebook: “I haven’t been reading James Tynion’s Batman, but I bought Batman Secret Files: Miracle Molly because people were saying good things about it, and it’s a really good comic. It’s like the good part of Batman: The Killing Joke — the part that depicts how the Joker descended into madness.” The difference is that Miracle Molly’s insanity is specifically caused by sexism. Tynion depicts her as a brilliant woman who’s trapped in a loveless marriage and a job that’s beneath her talents. Her male bosses steal her robotics designs, and her husband and parents-in-law try to pressure her to give up her career to have a baby. The Joker and Miracle Molly are both victims of patriarchy, but in opposite ways: the Joker goes nuts because he can’t provide for his family; Miracle Molly, because she refuses to be just a wife and mother. In short, this is a brilliant comic, and Dani’s artwork is perfect for it.

STILLWATER #10 (Image, 2021) – “A Better Place,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. A series of flashbacks show how the kids have been influencing events throughout the series from behind the scenes. The kids take over the town, while Daniel’s mom leaves town with the youngest baby. Daniel has to stay in Stillwater, which is now ruled by Galen, who may be even worse than the Judge.

RADIANT BLACK #8 (Image, 2021) – “<001>”, [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. The Radiants teleport themselves to Moscow, where they have some (stolen) coffee and then fight the main villain again. This series includes some brilliant characterization and costume designs, but its main plot is not all that interesting so far.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #4 (DC, 2021) – “Restraint, Endurance and Passion,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. Supergirl and Ruthye visit a bunch of planets that have been attacked by Krem and his minions. This issue wasn’t as interesting as the last three. The only really interesting moment in it is the giant woman who speaks in blue word balloons surrounded by Kirby crackle.

FANTASTIC FOUR #36 (Marvel, 2021) – “Flame On,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Nico Leon. Johnny can’t turn his flame off, so he has to be confined to an underground vault. Also, his girlfriend leaves him. And he can’t even cry, because his tears burn up immediately. The torture that Johnny suffers in this issue is so harsh and unwarranted that it’s almost funny. After reading this issue I wondered why Slott hates Johnny so much.

At this point I got some of my files back, luckily including my book manuscript, but I was not able to recover my reviews from after Robin #5, above.  

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #8 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “The Horseless Rider,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] David Rubín. A dying old man named Buck used to be the Horseless Rider, a mystic Western-themed superhero, in his youth. Or at least we think so, but after the orderly at Buck’s nursing home tries to kill him, we discover that the Horseless Rider was Buck’s father and not Buck himself. The main attraction of this issue is David Rubín’s brilliant draftsmanship. By now he seems to have become more associated with the American than the Spanish market.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER-SONS #6 (DC, 2021) – “Like Clockwork,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Evan Stanley. In the past, the boys fight Vandal Savage and Felix Faust, then they’re saved by a medieval version of the JLA. Then Rora sends them back to the present. An average issue.

BABYTEETH #20 (AfterShock, 2021) – “You Can Do This,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. 65 years in the future, Sadie dies, having become the matriarch of Earth’s remaining population of humans. Some years after that, Clark kills God (this reminds me a lot of the Saint of Killers killing God in Preacher), then he talks to his own newborn daughter. This series never lived up to its hype, and its last story arc was delayed for so long that by the time it finally came out, I no longer cared.

DARK BLOOD #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Moisés Hidalgo. Part of this issue is about the protagonist’s experiences in World War II. Back in the present, the police come looking for him, and they’re just as bad as the man who initially tried to kill him. This series is a powerful depiction of racist violence, but I still don’t see where it’s going.

BLACK’S MYTH #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Chapter Three,” [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer and Ben go to visit the Old Man, who’s actually a giant Lovecraftian Old One with a human body attached to its head, anglerfish fashion. This is perhaps the coolest idea in the whole series. The Old Man gives them some information about the bullets, but then someone murders him. This series is very entertaining.

X-MEN: THE ONSLAUGHT REVELATION #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “A Choir in the Wilderness,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. This is effectively an extra issue of Way of X. Nightcrawler, Lost and Cortez fight Onslaught, and to defeat him, Nightcrawler invents his new mutant religion, the Spark. This issue was better than most of the issues of Way of X, and it went some way toward redeeming that series. Anna Peppard writes more about this coimc here: https://www.comicsxf.com/2021/09/22/nightcrawler-finds-a-new-way-in-x-men-onslaught-revelation-1

WONDER WOMAN #779 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Finale,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana confronts the future half of Janus, and she reveals that the future half is just as guilty. The Norns intervene and Diana uses their thread to tie the two Januses back together. Diana goes back to Earth. We learn that the whole story has been narrated by Ratatoskr to his kits. I’m not sure why I started reading this story arc in the first place, since I’m not familiar with either of the writers, but I found it surprisingly enjoyable.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The ‘90s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse. Ben meets Alicia using computer dating software – this explains why his previous girlfriend was Sally and not Alicia. Franklin marries a new character, a Wakandan named Zawandi. The Silver Surfer finally arrives and says that Galactus is coming in ten years. This issue was just okay; there was nothing in it that was as interesting as Reed and Sue’s divorce or Reed’s involvement with Doom.

SAVAGE HEARTS #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. The party members travel through a dungeon and fight a giant ape-thing. Then they get to Graow’s home village and meet his ex-wife, who, contrary to what Graow led Bronwyn to believe, is not dead. Bronwyn is not happy. In my now-lost review of issue 2, I probably again said that I like this series, particularly Jed Dougherty’s artwork, but that Graow’s constant sexual harassment of Bronwyn is very annoying.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #18 (Marvel, 2021) – “Then It’s Us,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. The Guardians defeat Dormammu by shooting him with a giant gun, then they all go hang out in a bar. The name of the bar is Gosnell’s, presumably after founding 2000 AD editor Kelvin Gosnell. This is the last issue, though as I’ve noted before, S.W.O.R.D. is basically the same exact series as this one.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #1 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. This issue introduces Impossible Jones, a spunky supervillain who poses as a superheroine. We also meet her supporting cast, including Even Steven, a riff on Ditko’s Question and Mr. A. I don’t remember much of this comic’s plot, but it’s very fun, as one would expect from Kesel. And David Hahn’s art is playful and colorful, reminding me of Dean Haspiel’s art on The Fox.

MARVEL ACTION SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Phil Murphy. Peter finally fights Dr. Octopus and wins. This was an entertaining series, but I didn’t like it as much as Untold Tales of Spider-Man or Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. IDW has now lost the license for Marvel kids’ comics. It was kind of odd that they had it to begin with, but I do find it a bit distressing that IDW has been publishing very few comics lately.  

KILLER QUEENS #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Claudia Balboni. The assassins break out of prison, and there’s also some queer romance. This series still feels like a bargain-basement version of Kim & Kim.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #6 (Image, 2021) – “Many Happy Returns,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Nicola Scott. Two of the immortals break into a museum in order to steal a child’s rag doll from the Napoleonic era. They deliver it to a third immortal, and we discover that the doll used to belong to his son. “The Bear,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Somewhere in the Arctic, an immortal makes one of his rare trips to town, then on returning home, he gets attacked by a bear. This story has a minimal plot, but includes some beautiful Arctic landscapes. Oddly, this issue features both of the primary creators of Black Magic, but not in the same story.

REPTIL #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balám. At a festival, Reptil fights Sarsen/Megalith for the last time, and wins. I frankly hated this series. It was preachy, overwritten, and trite, and Reptil didn’t seem like the same character as in Avengers Academy. I admire Marvel’s efforts to provide more positive representation of Latinx people, but they need to do better than this.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #2 (AfterShock, 2021) – “An Internal Matter,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. Campisi goes looking for Luthermore’s descendant. Eventually he interviews the Delvecchios – the children of the guy he helped to kill in the previous issue – and they beat him up, and then tell him that Luthermore’s descendant is Vinnie the Stray, the one person Campisi can’t touch. I forget if we know why. This issue is less impressive than the previous issue, since the premise of the series is no longer a surprise.

I AM BATMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Beginning,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Olivier Coipel. The new Batman, Jace Fox, goes on his first patrol. For some reason I ordered this even though it’s the sequel to Next Batman: Second Son, and I gave up on that series. But this issue is good enough that I was willing to read the next one.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #1 (DC, 2021) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Diego Olortegui. Jackson Hyde, the new Aquaman/Aqualad, battles the Human Flying Fish and is arrested on charges of terrorism. This series continues the continuity of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Aquaman series. This issue is okay, but I don’t think Brandon Thomas is quite as good as I want him to be.

BLACK WIDOW #11 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Source,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Continuing their search for Apogee, Natasha and Yelena fight two creepy siblings who have the power to exchange mass with each other. This issue is not bad, but unfortunately all of the artwork is by the less talented of this series’ two artists.

2000 AD #1292 (Rebellion, 2002) – Among the reviews that I lost were reviews of several 2000 ADs in the #790s. Highlights of these issues were Ennis and Ezquerra’s Dredd story Judgment Day; book four of Zenith; and Millar and Casanovas’s Sam Slade: Return to Verdus. I want to mention that the villain in Judgment Day, Sabbat, is based on Walter the Softy from the British version of Dennis the Menace. Anyway: Dredd: “Sin City Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. In Sin City, Dredd and other judges look for a villain named Ula Danser. Meanwhile, we see some of Sin City’s depraved pleasures. Sinister Dexter: “Croak Part 3,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Pingriff. After a big gunfight, the protagonists learn that an alien invasion is coming. That’s the end of this story arc. Thirteen: “Part 4,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Andy Clarke. Joe and Daksha fight an alien monster in a supermarket. I really like Andy Clarke’s art. It reminds me of the later work of Gary Frank. Bec & Kawl: “Beccy Miller’s Diary Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. Two art students investigate the fake death of an artist who looks a lot like Andy Warhol. This is a very fun short story. Judge Death: “My Name is Death Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Frazer Irving. Judge Death kills a bunch of people, and Anderson tries to track him down. This is the only black-and-white story in the issue. Some of its art seems to have been reproduced from pencils.

RED ROOM: THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK #4 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – “Cyclical Terror!”, [W/A] Ed Piskor. In the first of three interconnected stories, a young woman named Raina Dukes discovers that her father was the victim of a Red Room killer, Donna Butcher. I think he may have appeared in an earlier issue. She deliberately gets herself sent to the same prison where Donna is held. The second story is a flashback to Donna Butcher’s past history. In the third story, Raina murders Donna, then gets killed herself, and the footage of their deaths is turned into a Red Room video. The whole story is narrated by an EC-esque horror host and is lettered in fake Leroy lettering.

GOOD LUCK #3 AND 4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. In my now-lost review of issue 3, I said that Good Luck is the worst Boom series in recent memory, because its premise and plot are totally incoherent. This issue does nothing to change that opinion. We’re four issues into the series now, and I still have no damn idea what’s going on. Stefano Simeone’s art and coloring are good, but that’s no use when he has no story to illustrate.

TELLOS #5 (Image, 1999) – “The Battle!”, [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Mike Wieringo. After a bunch of action scenes, the main character’s tiger friend is seemingly killed. Tellos is sort of unoriginal, but it’s extremely fun and well-drawn, and it may be Ringo’s major work.

SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY #3 (DC, 2021) – “Grimdark!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Mikel Janín & Travel Foreman. The Authority rescue June Moone, aka the Enchantress, from a villain who turns out to be her own split personality. Then they try to recruit a superspeedster named Lia Nelson, aka Lightray, but she’s kidnapped by Eclipso. Meanwhile, Superman is ambushed by the Ultra-Humanite. This series is interesting and has great art, but as with so much of Grant Morrison’s recent work, I don’t quite understand it.

COMPASS #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert McKenzie & David Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. Shahidah and Hua fight a dinosaur, then they escape from the cave with the cauldron, but Hua takes Shahidah captive. I think the best thing about this series is that the authors really seem to have done their research. In their column at the end, they discuss how they tried to choose dinosaurs that really existed in Wales.

GAMMA FLIGHT #3 AND 4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Unfinished Business,” [W] Al Ewing & Crystal Fraser, [A] Lan Medina. In issue 3, we learned that Stockpile is Reg Fortean’s daughter. This issue, they figure out how to turn the town’s population back to normal, but in order to do it, they have to fight Skaar. I haven’t been enjoying this series as much as Immortal Hulk, but it’s not bad.  

2000 AD #1293 (Rebellion, 2002) – Dredd: as above. Ula Danser is identified, and the Judges close in on her. Also, a man eats a woman alive.  Thirteen: as above. Joe, Daksha and the alien warrior prepare for a confrontation with the authorities. Dredd: “A Right Royal Occasion,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Peter Doherty. Dredd attends the 50th anniversary celebration of Brit-Cit’s queen, but only for the purpose of arresting a criminal who’s also present. This story is an obvious parody of the actual British monarchy, and it includes a scene where Dredd yells at a character based on Prince Philip. Also, the criminal is from the “Principality of Roy-Lichtenstein.” Bec & Kawl: as above. Bec defeats the Warhol character and his wife, no thanks to her bumbling partner Kawl. Another funny story. Judge Death: as above. Anderson finds Judge Death, just as he’s about to murder some babies, but he gets the upper hand on her.

A1 #1 (Epic, 1992) – [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. This is a revival of the classic Atomeka anthology. Given that A1 is a British series, it’s ironic that the best story in this issue is by an American creator, P. Craig Russell. His adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac’s “A Voyage to the Moon” is whimsical and lyrical, and captures the weirdness of Cyrano’s text. As depicted by Cyrano, the moon is a place where everything is reversed: people feed on smells rather than actual food, and the good are executed, rather than the bad. Most of the other stories in this issue are unmemorable, though the first story has art by Glenn Fabry, who was mostly a cover artist by this time. Other contributors include Scott Hampton, Ilya, and Roger Langridge. In Hampton’s story, he depicts his meeting with John Renbourne [sic], the guitarist from Pentangle. I have created a “Bert Jansch and John Renbourn” playlist on Spotify, but have not listened to it yet.

THE DEMON #13 (DC, 1973) – “The Night of the Demon!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Etrigan fights Baron von Evilstein and his monster. This issue is okay, but nothing spectacular. I just read Tom Scioli’s biography of Kirby. It’s a fascinating piece of comics art, but should not be taken as an objective work of history.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #653 (Marvel, 2013) – “Seeds of Destruction Part II,” [W] Kathryn Immonen, [A] Valerio Schiti. Sif and Beta Ray Bill are stuck in Bill’s crashed spaceship. Sif and Bill had an interesting relationship during Simonson’s Thor run, and it’s nice to see them together again. Kathryn Immonen’s Journey into Mystery was an interesting series but was cancelled after a very short run.

FANTASTIC FOUR #325 (Marvel, 1989) – “A Christmas Tale,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Rich Buckler. This is not a Fantastic Four story at all, but a chapter of Englehart’s ongoing Mantis saga, in which Thing, Ms. Marvel and the Silver Surfer appear as guest stars. Englehart’s career-long fascination with Mantis is hard to understand. I doubt if she was ever as interesting to the readers as she was to Englehart himself.  

SUPERMAN #246 (DC, 1971) – “Danger – Monster at Work!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. This issue mentions Clark Kent’s as-yet-unseen neighbor Mr. Xavier, whose secrets were finally revealed in issues #296-299, in a story written by Bates and Maggin. I wonder if this was the first time he was mentioned. Anyway, in this story Superman fights a giant algae monster, while Clark Kent tries to stop his neighbors from forming a vigilante committee. Krypton: “Marriage, Kryptonian Style!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Rich Buckler. On Krypton, marriages are arranged by a computer called Matricomp. Jor-El and Lara try to get Matricomp to approve their marriage, but the computer’s corrupt administrator forges its results so he can marry Lara himself. He fails, and Kryptonians are allowed to choose their own spouses again. This issue also includes a stupid Golden Age reprint story, about a professor who insists that Superman doesn’t exist, ignoring all the evidence that Superman is real.

CEREBUS #207 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1996) – “Guys No. 7,” [W/A] Dave Sim. I also lost some reviews of some Cerebus issues between #200 and #206. These issues were all pretty bad. One of their lowlights was a letter column controversy where Dave Sim criticized the Friends of Lulu for not caring about censorship of comics written by men. The Friends of Lulu replied to Sim with an open letter, one of whose signatories was Deni Loubert, and perhaps this explains why Sim disliked them so much. Anyway, this issue introduces a character named Kingsley who I guess is based on Norman Mailer, and it includes some massive blocks of text that are very tedious to read.

Next trip to Heroes. If I recall correctly, this trip was on a weekend, and for lunch I went back to Calle Sol and tried the arroz chaufa. I liked it a lot better than their Cuban sandwich.

LOCKE & KEY/SANDMAN UNIVERSE: HELL & GONE #2 (DC/IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Mary Locke defeats the Corinthian and obtains the key to hell. Then she goes to hell and uses the Crown of Shadows to defeat Lucifer’s army, allowing her to rescue Jack and send him to heaven. This issue was delayed a long time, but it was worth the wait. It’s a thrilling story that combines Sandman with Locke & Key in a seamless way, and its ending is a touching finale to the saga of Mary and Jack’s generation of Lockes. This issue has brilliant artwork, as one expects from Gabriel Rodriguez, and it contains some brilliant Easter eggs. Krazy and Ignatz are hiding in Lucien’s library, and later we see that Chamberlin’s weapons closet contains the Fourth Doctor’s hat and scarf, as well as the lamppost from Narnia.

ADVENTUREMAN #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire fights and defeats Baroness Bizarre, and there’s a parallel subplot taking place in the original Adventureman’s era. About a year passed between Adventureman #4 and #5, so this issue is hard to follow. But it’s extremely entertaining, and I’m glad Adventureman is back. Also, Terry Dodson’s art could be criticized as too slick and overproduced, but it’s quite effective.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #20 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Five,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. To Cecilia’s surprise, Erica emerges from her ordeal alive. Then we get an explanation of the different mask colors, and Erica meets the Old Dragon for the first time. This issue is deliberately less intense than earlier chapters of this storyline. Bleeding Cool just revealed that DC rejected this series because of its title. They also mention how its title has inspired the titles of other comics, such as We Only Find Them When They’re Dead and What’s the Furthest Place from Here? However, titles that form complete sentences were already a trend in anime and manga; examples include So I’m a Spider, So What? and If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord.

GROO MEETS TARZAN #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tom Yeates. This issue begins with a brilliant meta joke: Mark says that he has to get back to Comic-Con for his “panel on how no one makes spelling misteaks in comic books anymore.” Also, Tarzan hunts down the slavers, Sergio’s predicament gets more and more embarrassing, and Groo gets lost again. The Mark/Sergio plot seems to have nothing to do with the Groo/Tarzan plot, but I only notice this in hindsight.

CROSSOVER #8 (Image, 2021) – “Meanwhile…”, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. This issue begins with a photo collage of all the pages of the first seven issues, but they’re reproduced way too small to read. Ellie and Ryan are arrested by Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker, from Powers, and he’s taken to a prison where his dad is being held in custody.

DIE #20 (Image, 2021) – “Open Table,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The party finally confronts the god of Die, and it explains how it manipulated the Brontes, H.G. Wells and Tolkien in order to ensure its own existence. They leave Die and return home to their families, but on the last page, we see that Sol’s eye is the twenty-sided die. This series is clearly one of Kieron Gillen’s greatest works, but I feel like I’ll need to read it again someday in order to fully understand it.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. I lost my review of issue 2. Ro gradually falls in love with the ghost, even though we’ve seen that it’s a horrifying collage of eyes and teeth. At the end of the issue they make love for the first time. This series is cute, but it’s much slower-paced than I Hate Fairyland or Middlewest.

ETERNALS: CELESTIA #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “A Pilgrim’s Complete Lack of Progress,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Kei Zama. This issue focuses on Ajak and Makkari, who have been mostly absent from the regular Eternals series. It chronicles their history with the Avengers and Celestials. Eternals: Celestia has some nice artwork that reminds me of Simonson, but its plot is rather boring.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #16 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The villains return to the mythic origin of American popular music: Robert Johnson meeting the devil at the crossroads. The heroes encounter a creature that’s the incarnation of the Funky Drummer sample, which appears in thousands of songs (I also have a “Funky Drummer” playlist on Spotifty). The heroes activate the Anything Machine, but are literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. It’s hard to summarize all of this, but it made sense when I read it.  

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #13 (Image, 2021) – “Hawk’s Inferno,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Hawk takes Cole to the basement of Cole’s childhood school, and explains the origins of the Christian concept of hell and of the Satanic ritual panic. Hawk also tells Cole that he thinks Lee Harvey Oswald is evil. Cole shoots Hawk and escapes. Like many recent issues of Department of Truth, this issue includes some long tracts in which Tynion uses Hawk as a mouthpiece to explain his ideas about conspiracies. However, Simmonds illustrates these speeches so creatively that the reader never feels bored.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #5 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Álvaro Martínez Bueno. After comparing notes, the characters return to the building from issue 3 and rescue Reginald, the painter. And he tells them that “there’s still time to save the world.” This series is truly fascinating, and I’m glad to see that the mystery from issue 3 was more than just a red herring.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #30 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Now wearing a new costume – which is too baggy for my tastes – Miles fights a guy who thinks that a certain taco truck is serving frost giant meat. This is an obvious reference to QAnon and Pizzagate. Then Miles rescues a lost dog and goes on a date with Starling. “The Best Part,” [W] Phil Lord et al, [A] Sara Pichelli. This story is co-written by the producers of the Into the Spider-Verse film, but it’s not a story at all, just a series of vignettes. There’s also a second backup story in which an older Miles stops some teenagers from robbing a store.

MONEY SHOT #15 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. The city is overrun by fast-breeding alien ”fuck turkeys.” To defeat them, the XXX-Plorers have to team up with the alien sex workers and have some really unappealing sex. It makes sense in context. At the end, it looks like things are back to normal, but the Covalence is about to invade Earth. I hope this series is back soon.

INFERNO #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Valerio Schiti. This is the conclusion to Hickman’s X-Men run. Its major plot elements are that one, the X-Men are finally getting ready to confront Orchis, and two, Moira MacTaggert has a mutant power where she’s reincarnated after death, which I guess was already revealed in House of X. I enjoyed this issue, especially the scene with Cypher and Warlock, but I don’t remember much about it now.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #3 (DC, 2021) – “The Truth Part Two,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. Jon fights Fautline, a villain with earthquake powers, then goes to Gamorra and gets arrested in a protest. Clark has a touching conversation with Jon, then leaves Earth. Henry Bendix uses Faultline to blow up Jon’s house. This series is really good, and it’s a shame that it’s made Tom Taylor into a target for politically motivated harassment.

DEFENDERS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The High Priestess,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders go back in time to the Fifth Cosmos, the origin of Mor-i-Dun, who will become the Sixth Cosmos’s version of Galactus. The Fifth Cosmos is also where magic came from. Accordingly, Javier Rodriguez’s artwork in this issue is very dark and Lovecraftian. At the end, the Defenders find themselves in the Fourth Cosmos, which is colored with prominent Ben Day dots, and they meet a creature with four heads. Now that I think of it, the creature is obviously a reference to the four-color process; each of its heads has a word balloon containing one of the four CMYK colors.

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #2 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ivy Noelle Weir, [A] Kelly Williams. Some of the kids travel to the planet, where they find evidence of intelligent life. One of the other kids goes outside the ship on an EVA mission, and then unhooks his cable and gets stranded in space. This is an intriguing series with great characterization. I’m glad that Mad Cave is producing comics I’m willing to read. The more publishers that are putting out quality comic books, the better.  

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #121 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The Turtles beat up Hob and lock him up in a cell, but Hob convinces the weasel kids to help him escape. As usual this is an excellent issue, though it’s too bad that Sophie can’t draw every story arc.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Last of the Marvels Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and Kamala team up against some more Marvel-suited villains. Carol confronts Vox Supreme. It’s nice seeing Carol and Kamala together again, but I wish Kamala still had her own ongoing series.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #1 (Oni, 2021) – “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. Kat Garcia has the power to see ghosts. This is not a good thing because the ghosts drive her crazy. She supports herself by doing services for ghosts, in exchange for valuables that they hid while alive. This issue Kat meets a recently deceased ghost named Hannah, who promptly involves Kat in a war between angels and demons. Dirtbag Rapture is Christopher Sebela’s first new series since Pantomime, and it’s another example of his ability to create brilliant and clever premises. Kat is a fascinating protagonist because of her abrasive personality and self-destructive behavior.

ROBIN #6 (DC, 2021) – “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. The tournament begins, and Damian makes it to the semifinals. Also, he figures out Mother Soul’s identity, but he doesn’t tell us who she is yet. This series is a quick and unchallenging read, but it’s really fun.

ECHOLANDS #2 (Image, 2021) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] Haden Blackman. Rabbit and her pals escape into the sewers, then they go to the pier and steal a ship, but it’s capsized by a sea serpent. This series’ plot is not very original; however, I’m not reading it for the plot, I’m reading it because Williams is simply the finest active artist in American comic books. As I mentioned in my now-lost review of #1, Echolands has an unusual sideways format. This gives Williams a giant canvas on which to execute his innovative page layouts, and he comes up with brilliant visual devices for leading the reader’s eye across each two-page spread. Williams’s other great talent is that he draws in many different styles. Rabbit’s four companions each look as if they were drawn by a different artist – the blue-haired girl seems to have been drawn by Moebius; the black-haired dude, by Chester Gould; and so on. https://www.instagram.com/p/CU_vQBnrlbS/ The ability to vary one’s drawing style is a sign of artistic mastery, and Williams can do it better at it than anyone.

2000 AD #1294 (Rebellion, 2002) – Dredd: as above. Ula Danser goes into hiding, and we learn that her goal is to infect the population of Sin City with a plague. An old villain, Orlok, is sent to Sin City to deliver the plague bacterium to Ula. Future Shocks: “Celestial Bodies,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Shaun Bryan. I don’t understand this one, but it involves a spacefaring cult that worships Margaret Thatcher. Thirteen: as above. Joe nearly suffers a fatal wound, but he, Daksha and the warrior woman decide to go on the offensive against the enemy Agrahar. Sinister Dexter: “House of Whacks,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] David Bircham. A silent story that I don’t understand. Judge Death: as above. Death puts Anderson into a coma and escapes.

HEART THROBS #129 (DC, 1971) – “Substitute Sweetheart,” [W/A] unknown. Sherry falls in love with Roy, who’s still obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Pat. When Pat finally turns Roy down, he turns to Sherry for comfort, but she correctly decides to date a more dependable man instead. “Listen, Darling…”, [W] unknown, [A] Bill Draut. A pop star falls in love with a small-town girl. This one is kind of farfetched. “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” [W] unknown, [A] Jack Abel. Rhoda is obsessed with Dean Starr, who is a womanizing, rude asshole, even though he incongruously wears glasses. Finally Rhoda realizes Dean is awful and falls in love with someone else.

JOURNEY #24 (Fantagraphics , 1986) – untitled, [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. While snowbound in the small frontier town of New Hope, Wolverine MacAlistaire helps solve a confusing murder mystery involving a ton of family drama. To ease tensions within the New Hope community, the local people decide that MacAlistaire and his poet friend, Elmer Alyn Kraft, need to get married. This leads into issue 25, which was the first issue of Journey I read. I bought it on my grad school visit to Bloomington, Indiana.

WONDER WOMAN #296 (DC, 1982) – “Mind Games,” [W] Roy Thomas & Dan Mishkin, [A] Gene Colan. Diana fights a video-game-based villain, Commander Video. This is one of a number of early-‘80s comics that were inspired by early video games. This issue also has a Huntress backup with a plot by Paul Levitz, but unfortunately he did not also write the script.

SUPERBOY #52 (DC, 1998) – “Destination: Unknown!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Superboy takes a bunch of sentient animals from the Wild Lands to Hawaii. On arriving in Hawaii, he discovers that Tana Moon is gone and his own house is deserted. Kesel and Grummett’s second Superboy run was perhaps DC’s most faithful revival of concepts from Kirby’s ‘70s comics.

SANDMAN #45 (DC, 1993) – “Brief Lives Part 5,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Jill Thompson (the full subtitle is very long). This may be the funniest issue of the entire series. The funniest part is when Tiffany dreams of Matthew shouting DRIVE ON THE RIGHT! YOU’LL KILL US ALL!, but there are other great moments. Delirium curses the cop who with invisible insects. Morpheus asks Matthew if he can drive, and Matthew says that he got killed driving drunk, and Morpheus replies “I am not convinced that is any recommendation.” When told that a matriarchy is a society run by women, Tiffany says “Like the Girl Scouts?” But the main plot-related event this issue is rather sad: Ishtar gives Morpheus a clue to Destruction’s whereabouts, and then dances herself to death.

UNCLE SCROOGE #240 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Some Heir Over the Rainbow,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In order to decide which of his nephews should be his heir, Scrooge secretly gives each of them a thousand dollars and watches what they do with it. Donald wastes all the money and goes $1000 into debt, Gladstone neither loses nor gains any money, and Huey, Dewey and Louie give the money to a sailor who’s looking for buried treasure. Scrooge thinks it’s a hoax, but the treasure turns out to be real, and Scrooge names them his sole heirs. This story may have been inspired by the Biblical Parable of the Talents. It also has a motif of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it’s not the story where Scrooge says “there’s always another rainbow”; I forget which story that is. This issue also includes two European stories with art by Daniel Branca and José Colomer Fonts.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #39 (Marvel, 1975) – “Any Number Can Slay!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spider-Man and the Human Torch fight the Enforcers and the Big Man, which is odd since the Big Man is supposed to be dead. And then at the end of the issue they meet the Crime-Master, who’s been dead for even longer. Yvie Perez is credited for translating some Spanish dialogue in this issue, but I have no idea who she is.

BIRTHRIGHT #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. This issue begins with Mickey’s mysterious disappearance. Then he returns years later, having traveled to a magical fantasy world, where he’s grown to adulthood while fighting the God King Lore. But on the last page, it’s revealed that Mickey is possessed by some sort of demon and is actually trying to conquer Earth for Lore. I already had the Image Firsts reprint of this issue, but I prefer to own the original.

2000 AD #1295 (Rebellion, 2002) – Sin City: as above. This chapter is devoted to a subplot involving a former Judge who’s become a gladiator. There’s also another subplot about a current Judge and his criminal brother. Thirteen: as above. Joe and Daksha try to get to the Agrahar base, but are caught by the enemy on the way. Future Shocks: “Warped,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Ben Macleod. Two experimental warp-ships were sent to Alpha Centauri and didn’t return. A third ship discovers that the first two ships traveled through space, not time, and they failed to return because they discovered that the warp experiment was going to destroy the universe. Kind of confusing. Tor Cyan: “Rahab,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Jock. Tor Cyan was introduced in Mercy Heights. I know I’ve read some progs that included Mercy Heights stories, but those may have been among the comics whose reviews I lost. Anyway, in this story Tor and his alien friend Kurjac fight a giant alien blob, and after it’s dead, Rogue Trooper emerges from its corpse.

CEREBUS #208 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1996) – “Guys,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Even less happens in this issue than in a typical issue of Guys, and at the end of the issue there’s a mean-spirited and pointless parody of Don Simpson.

BACCHUS #58 (Eddie Campbell, 2001) – “Metamorphosis,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Eddie dreams about becoming a mosquito-themed superhero. Most of the other material in the issue is by other artists. Notably, there are some Abe stories by Glenn Dakin, and a text feature about a made-up Australian cartoonist named Joseph “Bunny” Wilson.

A DISTANT SOIL #31 (Image, 2001) – untitled, [W/A] Colleen Doran. This series’ plot is hopelessly complicated and I’m never going to understand it. This issue, some of the characters have been captured by the Ovanan Hierarchy, and some of the others are trapped in the sewers below. Also, Niniri confronts Seren, and he accuses her of pimping him out when he was a child. Here Colleen Doran acknowledges the rather bizarre and disturbing sexual subtexts of this series. This issue’s backup feature is a prose story by Jan Strnad, with illustrations by Doran.

RING OF THE NIBELUNG: GOTTERDAMMERUNG #3 (Dark Horse, 2001) – “Double Blind,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. Hagen talks with his father Alberich, who started the whole mess with the ring. Then after Hagen summons his retainers to Gunther’s wedding, Brunhilde realizes that Siegfried has tricked her into pledging herself to Gunther. Siegfried swears that if he’s lied to Brunhilde, then his own spear should kill him – which will indeed happen. The spear itself becomes a symbol of Siegfried’s oath, which is probably a callback to how Wotan’s spear is the embodiment of universal law. Brunhilde, Gunther and Hagen decide to conspire together to kill Siegfried. As usual, PCR’s adaptation is absolutely brilliant. His Ring adaptation is perhaps the culmination of all his opera adaptations. I never quite understood the second half of Siegfried/Sigurd’s saga, the part with Gunther and Hagen and Gutrune/Kriemhild. It almost seems like a separate story from the part with Fafnir and Mime/Regin and the ring. I kind of want to read the Nibelungenlied so I can learn more about this body of mythology. I have a copy of it, but it’s an old translation and I want to get a better one.

DETECTIVE COMICS #545 (DC, 1984) – “By Darkness Masked,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. Having fallen into a sewer, Anton Knight, aka Night-Slayer, is rescued by a blind girl and her dog. The girl mistakenly believes Anton to be Batman. Meanwhile, the real Batman spends the whole issue looking for Anton. Gene Colan’s artwork for DC in the early ‘80s was consistently below his usual standards. This issue’s Green Arrow backup story has good art by Shawn McManus, but a pointless plot.

IRON MAN #240 (Marvel, 1988) – “Ghost Righter!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jackson Guice & Bob Layton. Iron Man is forced to team up with Justin Hammer and his hirelings, Blacklash, Blizzard and Boomerang, for mutual protection against the Ghost. Justin Hammer and the Ghost are among Michelinie’s better creations.

SECRET SIX #10 (DC, 2009) – “Depths Part One: The Measure of a People,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Nicola Scott. A horrible villain named Mr. Smyth is enslaving poor people and forcing them to work in a mine that’s full of deadly gas. He recruits the Secret Six to help him, and tricks Deadshot into shooting an enslaved woman who’s trying to escape. A few issues later, Deadshot executes Mr. Smyth in the exact same way. I read that issue, but it was one of the reviews I lost.

SECRET WARS 2099 #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. This issue has some okay characterization, but it includes so many characters that none of them get any development. Its best moment is the drinking contest between Hercules and Sub-Mariner.

FUTURE IMPERFECT #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. Yet another boring late work by PAD. I don’t remember much of anything about this issue.

FUNNY AMINALS #1 (Apex Novelties, 1972) – [E] Terry Zwigoff. This is an absolute treasure and also a major bargain. I got it as part of an eBay lot with three other underground comics, for a total of $38.82. One of the other three comics was a duplicate, but I don’t even care, since copies of Funny Aminals #1 usually go for over $100. This issue is most notable for including Art Spiegelman’s original three-page version of Maus. The 1972 Maus is rather crude compared to the full version. The mice are drawn in a much more realistic way than in the mature version of Maus, and this lessens their poignancy. (For why it’s improtant that the mice in Maus don’t look realistic, see Andreas Huyssen’s “OF Mice and Mimesis.”) And of course the 1972 Maus is just three pages, so it tells the story in an extremely summarized format. Still, the original Maus is an interesting work in its own right, with some brutal and disturbing imagery. All the other stories in this comic are also about talking animals. The lead story is Crumb’s “What a World!”, a typical example of his obsession with tall women and sexual violence, although it has some nice art. There’s also a four-page Trots and Bonnie story by Shary Flenniken, in which Trots has sex with a poodle. And there’s a four-pager by Justin Green and a five-pager by Bill Griffith, starring his toad character, who’s a link between his early underground work and his Zippy strip. The other contributors are Jay Lynch and Michael McMillan. Overall, Funny Aminals #1 is one of the most historically important underground comics, and I’m very proud that I own it.

GOOD ASIAN #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Most of this issue is flashbacks to Edison’s past history with the Carroway family. In particular, we learn that Edison and Victoria Carroway had a pregnancy scare. Then we finally return to the scene of Frankie’s death. This is an excellent and very important series, but I always find it difficult to read, because it’s hard to remember its plot from one month to another.

CRUSH & LOBO #5 (DC, 2021) – “Searching for Lobo Who is a Jerk,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A]  (Amancay Nahuelpan. While searching for Lobo, Crush befriends some deadly space lizards and meets Lobo’s current girlfriend. The pace lizards are adorable; I especially love the panel where one of them puts on a bib when about to eat some guy.

S.W.O.R.D. #8 (Marvel, 2021) – “Unbroken,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Guiu Villanova. Storm fights a volcano alien, then defeats a challenger to her seat on the Arakko council. In this issue Al Ewing shows a pretty good understanding of Storm’s personality.

BRZRKR #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute tells his psychiatrist about how he fell in love for the first time, but when his lover got pregnant, the child was born dead. And this continued to happen every time Unute tried to reproduce. Or else his lovers always died while he stayed the same age. I like the individual scenes in this series, but its overarching plot is a bit boring.

HUMAN REMAINS #1 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Earth is invaded by aliens who kill anyone who expresses strong emotions in public. In order to survive, everyone has to refrain from revealing any emotion. This is an interesting premise, but by the time I read issue 2, I had trouble remembering what this series was about. Sally Cantirino’s aliens look very creepy.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #1 (Vault, 2021) – “The Monster Serials: A Devil’s Advocate,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. Count Chocula is tied up at a stake, but he’s rescued by the Quaker from Quaker Oats. The Quaker reveals himself to be even more evil and judgmental than Chocula, so Chocula switches places with him and escapes, while the Quaker is killed. The Monster Serials is clearly the highlight of all these Snifter series, and Ahoy ought to spin it off into its own title. The backup story is a silly parody of “The Raven,” written by Stuart Moore and drawn in a cartoony style by Frank Cammuso.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Fake Meat?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. Danica Bakshi forces Snelson to reveal that his cancer diagnosis is fake. This issue is a little bit better than #2, but Snelson still feels pointless and incoherent to me, and I’m only continuing to read it because I’m a completist.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #4 AND 5 (DC, 2021) – “The Source of Freedom Part Five,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo meets Orion and learns N’vir Free’s origin. We learn that N’vir wants to conquer the universe in the name of her parents, which seems odd, because the last thing Scott and Barda would want is for their child to become another Darkseid. I lost my review of issue 4.

THE MARVELS #4 AND 5 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Might Know a Guy,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Aero and Warbird join the superheroes at Stark Tower, they have a conference, and eventually they travel to another dimension and meet Aarkus, the Golden Age Vision. This series feels like Astro City, except without genuine effort or passion. I’m glad Arrowsmith is finally coming back, and I hope Astro City will be back soon too. I lost my review of issue 4. 

SWAMP THING #8 (DC, 2021) – “In My Infancy Part 3,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. The Swamp Thing’s battle with the Suicide Squad continues. In a flashback, we’re told that Levi’s mother is an “Anghom priestess.” I can’t figure out what this means, but it seems clear that Levi belongs to some sort of Northeast Indian tribe. I wonder if it’s a real one or a made-up one. At the end, Levi’s brother Jacob shows up, but now he calls himself Hedera and has horns growing out of his head. In my lost review of issue 7, I mentioned that Swamp Thing #7 tells a story of a warrior lifting a mountain to obtain a medicine for his master’s brother. This is a retelling of a story from the Ramayana. The warrior is Hanuman, and the person he’s trying to save is Lakshmana. I like it when Ram V presents these Indian cultural concepts as if they’re puzzles for the non-Indian reader to decipher.

OUT OF BODY #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “I Dreamed of Strange Lips,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dr. Dan keeps investigating his brother’s murder, but falls into August Fryne’s trap. It occurs to me that this series is rather similar to Deadman, though it wouldn’t have worked as a proposal for a Deadman series, since the protagonist is a psychiatrist instead of an acrobat.

YOUNG LUST #2 (Print Mint, 1971) – [E] Bill Griffith. This was part of the same lot as Funny Aminals #2. As with #1, the stories in this issue are parodies of old romance comics. It begins with Griffith’s story about a woman’s relationship with an abusive, two-timing jerk. Then there’s a story by Roger Brand where the female love interest is a pair of conjoined twins. Brand draws this story in a style influenced by his mentor Wally Wood. In Jay Kinney and Ned Sontag’s “Armed Love” the protagonists are hippie radicals who murder a bunch of policemen. Justin Green’s “Little Sister Loses Her Hymen” is perhaps the high point of the issue, since it explores the same psychosexual themes as Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. Other contributors are Landon Chesney, under the name “Big Daddy ‘Pap’ Shmeer”, and Jim Osborne. This issue is better than #1, which was almost exclusively by Griffith and Kinney, but Young Lust would get more serious and more artistically diverse as it went on.

2000 AD #1296 (Rebellion, 2002) – Dredd: as above. The judge’s brother gets killed, Ula Danser is captured, and Orlok heads to Sin City. Sinister Dexter: “Animal Firm Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Cam Smith. Sinister and Dexter are hired by a mobster to intervene in a gang war, and they find themselves fighting a man with a bulldog’s head. Tor Cyan: “Phage,” as above. Tor Cyan kills the crazy Genetic Infantryman, then removes his biochip from his skull. It says “Rogue.” Terror Tales!: “Scene of the Crime,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Dom Reardon. Detective Richard Webb investigates a series of murders. He discovers that the murders are being caused by a drawing that transmits homicidal impulses to the first person to see it. And then Webb goes to another crime scene where he’s the first to see the latest example of the drawing. Quite scary and clever. One of Webb’s unsolved murder victims is named Frazer Irving. Thirteen: as above. While held captive, Joe gets some background information on the Pan Tot Sef’s war with the Agrahar.

CEREBUS #210 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1996) – “Guys,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Bear play the hockey/tennis game and then go fishing. There’s also a cameo appearance by the girl from Paul Pope’s THB. One of the many annoying things about “Guys” is how Bear is constantly saying “waddayacall.”

UNCLE SCROOGE #29 (Dell, 1960) – “Island in the Sky,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge decides to store his money on an asteroid, only to find that the asteroid is already inhabited by (stereotypical) native people. Scrooge has to abandon his quest in order to help the natives reach another asteroid that’s full of food and water. There are some impressive moments in this story, like when Scrooge and the nephews encounter a field of mysterious carved asteroids, which, unknown to them, are inhabited by bizarre-looking aliens. But the SF aspects of “Island in the Sky” are ridiculously farfetched. Also, at the beginning of the story we’re told that “in Duckburg science has advanced much farther than in other citiies of the  world,” but that’s not true in any of Barks’s other stories. I assume that in creating this story Barks was influenced by the media frenzy over Sputnik and other early space missions. This issue also includes a Gyro Gearloose solo story about a boat race, and then another Barks story, “The Hound of the Whiskervilles.” This story is a sort of sequel to “The Old Castle’s Secret,” which was Barks’s only other story about McDuck Castle. “The Hound of the Whiskervilles” is written as if that other story never existed, and it suggests that Scrooge and the nephews have never been to McDuck Castle before. However, the two stories have the same gloomy, spooky atmosphere.

TARZAN #221 (DC, 1973) – “Return to the Primitive Part 3,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. In an adaptation of The Return of Tarzan, Tarzan and Jane have their own separate adventures, and coincidentally Jane ends up in a boat headed toward Tarzan’s old home in Africa, where Tarzan already is. I think I may have already read the Dell adaptation of this story, but Joe Kubert’s take on Tarzan is unlike anyone else’s. Kubert’s version of the character is much more powerful and less civilized than Marsh’s or Manning’s.

HEROINES #3 (Space Goat, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ted Naifeh. I didn’t understand much about this series’ plot, but it’s an interesting feminist superhero comic with some nice characterization. I ought to have been reading this series more actively when it was coming out.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #58 (Dark Horse, 1992) – [E] Randy Stradley. The only really notable story in this issue is chapter nine of Frank Miller’s Sin City. At this point in the story, Marv and Lucille are trying to escape from a cell. This issue also includes a mildly cute fantasy story by Jo Duffy and Joven Chacon. The other stories are Anthony Smith and Eric Vincent’s Alien Fire, and John Arcudi and Dale Eaglesham’s The Creep.

BATMAN #583 (DC, 2000) – “Fearless Part 2,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. Batman goes looking for an old friend of Bruce Wayne’s named Jeremy, who’s become a villain. Eventually Jeremy dies, just after revealing that he knew Bruce’s secret identity. This is an unimpressive issue, and it gives the impression that Brubaker was still not quite comfortable writing Batman.

LAST GASP COMIX & STORIES #5 (Last Gasp, 1997) – [E] Noah Mass. Noah is a friend of mine; we were colleagues at Georgia Tech, and I used to go to movies with him. I knew he worked for Last Gasp before going to grad school, but I think this is the first of his comics that I’ve seen. His artistic taste is rather different from mine. The stories in this issue often have very impressive artwork, but they’re all very short and almost devoid of narrative. Notable contributors to this issue include Stephane Blanquet, Max Andersson, Steven Weissman, Renée French, Anke Feuchtenberger, Brian Biggs and a Danny Hellman. Perhaps the highlight of this issue is Weissman’s Lemon Kids chapter, which I thought was actually by Seth until I realized it was Weissman parodying Seth.

2000 AD #1297 (Rebellion, 2002) – Dredd: as above. Orlok makes it to Sin City with the bacterium. Tor Cyan: “No Such Place Part 1,” as above. Tor Cyan starts to wonder if he himself used to be Rogue Trooper. Then he lets himself be eaten by Rahab, the blob from #1295, and Rahab enables him to encounter Rogue Trooper within his own mind. This story draws a very clever connection between two seemingly unrelated series, Rogue Trooper and Mercy Heights. Sinister Dexter: as above. Sinister and Dexter fight some more animal people. Thirteen: as above. Joe watches Daksha being tortured. Joe uses his telekinetic powers to free himself, then summons Aden, the Pan Tot Sef warrior.

CEREBUS #211 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1996) – “Guys No. 11,” [W/A] Dave Sim. New characters in this issue include Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man, and Genital Ben from Marc Hempel’s Tug & Buster. I couldn’t tell who Genital Ben was until I looked him up. A consistent problem with Guys is its use of obscure references that make no sense to anyone who wasn’t reading the same comics Dave was. And even if you can identify these references, they’re not very funny. This issue’s letter column includes some more of Dave’s offensive misogynistic diatribes. I assume that after #186, Dave lost so many readers that he no longer got enough letters to run a regular letter column.

VOGELEIN #1 (Fiery Studios, 2002) – untitled, [W/A] Jane Irwin. Vogelein is a clockwork fairy who needs to be wound regularly in order to live. When her elderly caretaker dies, she tries to get a young man named Jason as her new caretaker, but then she gives up on him because of his nosy roommate. Depressed, Vogelein throws away the key to her own mechanism, but it’s returned to her by a dreadlocked pointy-eared creature. This issue ends with some interesting notes that allude to the disability themes of Vogelein’s story. Vogelein is an underrated work that deserves to be better known. I was introduced to it by my friend Greg Hatcher, who sadly just passed away. His students loved Vogelein, and I think he knew Jane Irwin in person.

SECRET SIX #5 (DC, 2015) – “Block Party,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham & Tom Derenick. The Suicide Squad spends the first half of this issue attending an outdoor cookout, and then in the second half, they go looking for the Riddler. I didn’t quite understand this issue.

My next trip to Heroes was on October 25. I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #102 (IDW, 2021) – “Once Upon a Time…”, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. The Mane Six lead the other groups of Elements in a final battle against the Elements of Patriotism, and obviously the good guys win. Appropriately this series’ final issue is drawn by its greatest artist, Andy Price, and it’s full of his trademark Easter eggs. I especially like Pinkie Pie’s steampunk bicycle and Rarity’s comment “Dashie, you should know by now… we never ask about Pinkie!” MLP: FIM was my favorite comic of the past decade other than Lumberjanes, and I’m really going to miss it.

MAZEBOOK #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Will visits his ex-wife, who now has another child with a new husband, and finds his late daughter’s Elena’s maze books. Then Will has a series of visions in which a red thread is leading him to a city built in the shape of a maze. Mazebook is a sort of blend of the bizarre multidimensional narrative of Gideon Falls, and the urban Canadian setting of Royal City. A notable aspect of Mazebook is its coloring: everything is in muted sepia tones except Elena herself and things associated with her.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #9 (Archie, 2021) – “Witch War Chapter Three: The Sacrificial Lamb,” [W] Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, [A] Robert Hack. This is perhaps the most surprising comic of 2021, given that it’s been four years since issue 8. I was not expecting to ever see this series again. Despite the long delay, this issue is written and drawn in exactly the same style as earlier issues. The main plot event this issue is that Sabrina interviews an incarcerated murderer named Richard Speck, and discovers that he’s possessed by a demon.

BERMUDA #4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Bradshaw. After an epic battle with the Mers, Bobby rescues his little sister, then decides to stay on Trangle Island permanently. Bermuda is an exciting comic, and its art is the best of Nick Bradshaw’s career. I really hope we get a sequel soon.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #4 (DC, 2021) – “Proportional Response,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. This issue has the exact same creators as Seven Secrets. Jon saves his parents and Jay from Faultline, then has to defend her from the Justice League. Jon confronts Henry Bendix, who infects Jon with something that overcharges his super-hearing. I thought this was going to be the issue with Jon and Jay’s first kiss, but that’s going to be in #5.

EAT THE RICH #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. Astor’s mom tells Joey about the contracts, and then Joey gets pressured into eating the human meat. The next time one of the servants is executed, Astor’s mom tells Joey that now that she’s eaten human meat, she can’t live without it; she’s become an obligate cannibal. This seems like an unnecessary extra horror element in a series that was horrifying enough already. However, Astor’s mom is a powerful depiction of someone who thinks she’s doing good and solving problems, but who’s really just making those problems worse. And Joey’s acquiescence to cannibalism is scarily plausible. She wants to get the hell out of Crestfall Bluffs, but it’s much easier to just give in to peer pressure.

SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #5 (Image, 2021) – “Marshal Art,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. This issue, the sidekicks fight a huge battle with a horde of stuntmen, and after they win, Richard declares that he knows who killed Trigger Keaton. I met both Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer at Heroes Con, and I told them how much I love this series.

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #6 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Fault Lines,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. This issue begins with a retelling of the Talmudic story of the Oven of Acknai. Russell transplants the setting of the story from ancient Babylonia to medieval Poland, but the point is the same: God is happiest when His children prove Him wrong. Also, Jesus starts a new church, and Sunstar and Sheila’s son is born. I hope there will be a third volume of Second Coming soon.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #122 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. After some discussions on establishing a new government, the Turtles go out trick-or-treating, but meanwhile the weasel kids sneak into Hob’s cell and free him. Hob embarks on a plot to blow up the wall between Mutant Town and the rest of the city. Another touching and exciting issue.

FANTASTIC FOUR #37 (Marvel, 2021) – “There Are Monsters on Yancy Street,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Nico León. Jo-Venn and N’Kalla go trick or treating multiple times in different disguises, but their parents catch them doing it and force them to give back their extra candy. Then the Profiteer shows up to kidnap Jo-Venn and N’Kalla again, and while protecting himself, Jo kills a bunch of the Profiteer’s soldiers. Also, the subplots with Reed’s sister and Johnny’s malfunctioning powers are still ongoing, and we see that Alicia has been using the Puppet Master’s mind-controlling clay. A few issues ago, there was a scene where Alicia was talking to another parent, and the Puppet Master controlled the woman for one panel. I forget which issue that was in.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #3 AND 4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Colonel Weird takes Lucy through a series of scenes in her past and future life. In one of these scenes, Lucy kills Dr. Andromeda to stop him from summoning Anti-God. Then Colonel Weird apparently kills Lucy’s husband and children. This scene reminds me of the end of Animal Man #19, but I’m guessing that Lucy’s family isn’t going to stay dead, any more than Buddy’s family did. I lost my review of #3.

MAMO #3 AND 4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. Orla figures out that Mamo is trying to trap her in Haresden permanently, and then she goes to confront Mamo’s ghost, leaving Jo behind. This issue is mostly plot, with less characterization or worldbuilding than earlier issues, but Mamo is still a brilliant series. I lost my review of #3.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #1 (DC, 2021) – “Paradise Lost,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. A new group of Amazons comes through the Well of Souls, where women killed by male violence are reincarnated on Themyscira. One of the new Amazons is a transgender woman, Bia. Most of the publicity for Nubia and the Amazons has focused on this character, and she’s handled in a sensitive way. Otherwise, this is a reasonably good Wonder Woman story. I met Stephanie Williams at Giant-Size Charlotte Mini-Con. She also did an in-person event at the Heroes store, but I skipped it.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #12 (DC, 2021) – “Dedication and Fanaticism,” [W] Tom King, [A] Doc Shaner & Mitch Gerads. With Adam dead, Alanna rescues Aleea and forces Mr. Terrific to become her adoptive dad. Quoting myself on Facebook: “What a shit comic. An incoherent, pointless mess. Whether due to editorial meddling or just bad writing, this comic exemplifies Tom King’s worst qualities as a writer… I kept expecting that there’d be some big reveal about the Pykkts, and that they couldn’t possibly be as bad as we’d been told. But no, they really were that bad.” Also, this series is probably not in continuity, but if it had been, it would have ruined Adam and Alanna Strange’s characters permanently.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #31 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Allen. Miles and Starling’s date is interrupted when the Taskmaster ambushes them. He kidnaps Starling and flies off with her. That’s the entire issue.

NIGHTWING #85 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 2 of 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I forget why I ordered this, but it includes some cute flashbacks to Dick and Babs’s past history. However, this issue is only average, and I don’t really care whether I get issue 86 or not.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. In 1983, the Norse dagger from Basketful of Heads is stolen in a home invasion. In 1984, a young couple visits Brody Island on vacation, and while running from some hoodlums, the husband jumps in the water and discovers a mysterious axe. Then he and his wife are attacked by a shark, and the husband uses the axe to cut the shark’s head off, but the head stays alive on its own. I’m not sure whether this is a sequel or a prequel to Basketful of Heads, and so far it’s not as exciting as that series. It’s not bad, though.

MAW #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. Marion finally meets Diana, and she discovers that the women in Diana’s commune aren’t as TERFish as they seem, but that they’re still pretty creepy. Then, after another encounter with her rapists, Marion gives birth to some sort of crocodile creature. Maw is a fascinating and disturbing piece of feminist horror.

BLACK PANTHER LEGENDS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Setor Fiadzigbey. This is a fairly straightforward retelling of T’Challa’s origin, but it has some nice touches, like Ramonda asking T’Chaka if the “beautiful things we have made here” are Wakanda or their children. This issue also includes a depiction of apartheid South Africa. I notice that Ulysses Klaw’s surname is now spelled Klaue, just like in the film. I really want to read Tochi Onyebuchi’s novel Riot Baby, but I’m waiting for it to come out in paperback. I suspect this may be the first Black Panther comic by two creators of recent African descent: Tochi Onyebuchi was born in America to Nigerian parents, and Setor Fiadzigbey was born in Ghana.

MY LITTLE PONY: GENERATIONS #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. Two girls named Grackle and Dyre hatch a plot to gain revenge on the ponies. Apparently these characters are the granddaughters of the villain from the 1986 MLP movie. Meanwhile, the ponies decide to hire some new faculty for the school of friendship, but the teachers who respond to the ad are Grackle and Dyre’s minions. This comic is okay, but it somehow doesn’t feel like a substitute for the just-concluded MLP: FIM comic.

UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS #2 AND 3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. In a comic-book-format flashback, Jack Sabbath causes his girlfriend Snapdragon to fall into a coma. In the present, Snapdragon is still in a coma, and Dr. Moniker (Professor X) is dead. Another flashback shows how Jack Sabbath died trying to save Snapdragon. Carlos and Karl refuse to join in Jack’s efforts to revive the Unteens, and the issue ends on a depressing note. I lost my review of issue 2.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. As a refresher, the red-haired guy, Vâle, is the Goku character, and he’s dying. Timór (Vegeta) is married to Krysta (Bulma) but is jealous of Vâle’s obvious obsession with her. This issue they hang out with an old friend who’s a giant mushroom, then decide to see someone named D.A.D. There are also some cute scenes with Timor and Krysta’s kids. I liked the original No One Left to Fight, but it ended on a cliffhanger, so I’m glad we’re getting more of it.

IMMORTAL HULK #50 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. A series of flashbacks throughout the issue depict the origin of the rivalry between the Banner and Stearns families. The various Hulks and Jackie McGee descend to the Below Place and defeat the Leader, then they confront the One Below All, who is revealed as the Hulk counterpart to the One Above All. Banner emerges from hell with a new sense of confidence. Like Action Comics #583, this issue ends with the line “What do you think?” Immortal Hulk was the finest Marvel comic of the past twenty years, and this issue is a fitting conclusion to it. Sadly it’s also the conclusion to Joe Bennett’s career. Given what we now know about his anti-Semitic pro-Bolsonaro cartoons, I hope he never works in American comics again.

KILLER QUEENS #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Claudia Balboni. The assassins descend into a sewer, where they link up with a group of rebels. This comic is honestly not very interesting, either in terms of story or artwork.

PHOENIX SONG: ECHO #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rebecca Roanhorse, [A] Luca Maresca. To quote myself on Facebook, “Phoenix Song: Echo #1 was unreadable nonsense. I like Rebecca Roanhorse’s novels, but she needed more practice before writing a published comic. She doesn’t understand how to show rather than tell.” Also, the dialogue in this issue is full of cliches. After reading this issue I emailed Heroes and told them to delete this series from my pull list.

WONDER WOMAN #780 (DC, 2021) – “Where the Heart Is,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore w/ Steve Pugh. Diana returns to the Justice League, then revisits Themyscira, and there are cameo appearances by a lot of supporting cast members. This issue is a nice conclusion to this whole saga. As an added bonus, it has no Young Diana backup.

BLACK’S MYTH #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. The Old Man survives the attack long enough to tell Black about it, and also reveals that he used to be Jack the Ripper. Black gets attacked again, then visits a vampire bar for more leads.

NINJAK #4 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Beni Lobel & Javier Pulido. This comic was heavily redrawn by Beni Lobel after it was already completed. No one seems to know why. (https://bleedingcool.com/comics/javier-pulido-art-ninjak-4-redrawn-beni-lobel/) The original version can be seen on Pulido’s blog. https://pulidooninjak.blogspot.com/2021/10/on-ninjak-4-farewell.html The first five pages seem to be Pulido’s work, but the rest of the comic is an ugly watered-down version of his original intent. Pulido’s artwork was the only reason I was buying the series, and it’s a shame that Valiant doesn’t appreciate him.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #3 (AWA, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. As human-robot relations continue to worsen, a new line of lifelike robots is introduced, rendering the existing robots obsolete. This is one of Mark Russell’s better series, but it’s extremely depressing. A great line this issue: “ ‘Learn to code’ is a weird way of saying ‘your society has failed you.’ “

SAVAGE HEARTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. Brownyn is pissed at Graow for making her think that his wife was dead, but they make up. The other two characters buy some unicorns that look more like llamas.

DARKHOLD: IRON MAN #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Tales of Suspense,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Guillermo Sanna. This appears to be a What If? story taking place right after Tony’s origin. Tony gets trapped in his suit and can’t take it off. He and Pepper work together to try to improve the suit, but the suit becomes intelligent and decides that Tony would be better off with no body at all. As if liquefying Tony completely isn’t bad enough, the suit then decides to conquer the world. Ryan North is better at writing horror than I’d have expected, and this story is all the more frightening because of North’s accurate depiction of the science involved.

SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY #4 (DC, 2021) – “Widescreen,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Mikel Janín. Superman and the team battle the Ultra-Humanite and Eclipso, then they go on a mission to Warworld, which will be depicted in Action Comics. Also, a mysterious hand writes a message: LIGHTRAY IS. I didn’t entirely understand this series, but I like its overall hopeful aesthetic, and Mikel Janín’s art is excellent.  

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #7 (DC, 2021) – “Death to the Doom Scroll!”, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor. The boys discover why their names are on the Doom Scroll, then f the Justice League shows up and saves them from Felix Faust and Vandal Savage. If I have a criticism of this series, it’s that it felt formulaic. It’s the same basic idea as all the other Super Sons comics.

I AM BATMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stephen Segovia. Jace Fox investigates a villain called Seer and his “Moral Authority.” Seer appears to be inspired by real-life right-wing conspiracy theories. He’s already murdered Anarky, and he tells his minions that they’re “special people” who “must be protected.” This series is interesting enough to continue reading for now.

HARDWARE SEASON TWO #2 (DC/Milestone, 2021) – “Shrapnel,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Hardware continues his terrorist attacks on Edwin Alva’s property. As with many other Brandon Thomas comics, Hardware isn’t as good as I want it to be.

GAMMA FLIGHT #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “We Were Transformed,” [W] Al Ewing & Crystal Fraser, [A] Lan Medina. Gamma Flight defeats the Abomination, and Rick and Del are separated. I didn’t like this series as much as the main Incredible Hulk comic, but it wasn’t bad.

COMPASS #5 (Image, 2021) – “The Cauldron of Eternal Life,” [W] Robert MacKenzie & Dustin Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. Margul Khan bathes in the cauldron and becomes immortal, but Shahidah and Hua defeat him by spilling the water from the cauldron. I really liked this series’ plot and worldbuilding, but the two protagonists were lifeless. This issue includes an essay discussing all the cauldrons that appear in British mythology, including the Cauldron of Annwn and the Holy Grail.

FRONTIERSMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. The Frontiersman, an aging former superhero, is living in retirement in the woods, but his solitude is interrupted when some young activists recruit him to save some Pacific redwoods from being cut down by a giant logging corporation. A series of flashbacks tells us about the Frontiersman’s superhero career and the other heroes and villains he encountered. I didn’t order this, but I bought it off the shelf on a whim, and I’m glad I did. The Frontiersman is an intriguing character, and this series’ exploration of environmental themes reminds me of Concrete.

CATWOMAN #36 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State 2: Sanctuary,” [W] Ram V, [A] Nina Vakueva & Laura Braga. Selena and Ivy fight in a gang war against a bunch of other villains. Somehow I thought Vita Ayala wrote this issue, but I think that was just my misreading of Vakueva. Anyway, this is going to be my last issue of the series for now. It just isn’t at the same level as Ram V’s creator-owned work.

SHANG-CHI #4 AND 5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Part 5,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. This issue’s guest-star-of-the-month is Iron Man, and after his fight with Shang-Chi, we learn that he and other superheroes have been spying on the Five Weapons Society. As an aside here, I have not seen the Shang-Chi movie (because I don’t go to movies), but some of my friends have complained that it’s not like the ‘70s comics. This is probably a good thing. I love Doug Moench’s Shang-Chi, but it’s not acceptable to modern tastes.I lost my review of issue 4.

ICE CREAM MAN #25 AND 26 (Image, 2021) – “Unfortunate Ancestry,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morales. This comic begins with a warning: PLEASE ROTATE YOUR BOOK 90° CLOCKWISE. This is not the first comic that has to be read in sideways format, but it’s more common to signal this by also printing the cover sideways. What is unusual about this comic is that it’s almost an entire issue consisting of a single panel; for most of the issue, each two-page spread is a two-page splash that’s visually continuous with the pages before and after it. This format also inspired the comic’s plot, or vice versa. “Unfortunate Ancestry” is about a man named Michael who literally climbs down his family tree in order to discover the “roots” of his family tree. After Michael gets down the tree, he continues further down below the ground, and the rest of the pages are divided into separate panels. This issue is perhaps Maxwell Prince’s most daring formal experiment yet. It’s a rare attempt to imitate the infinite canvas in print form. It’s kind of like Scott McCloud’s Zot! Online strip with the giant vertical panel. It would be nice if Image would reprint it in an accordion-fold edition, so that the entire comic could be seen at once. I lost my review of #25.

DEADBOX #1 AND 2 (Vault, 2021) – “Can I Have Banana Now?”, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Benjamin Tiesma. A man named Bobby is ostracized from the town for accidentally wearing women’s pants in public. Penny can’t afford her dad’s medication and has to cut it with aspirin. The main story in this issue is intercut with scenes from a romantic comedy film about two scientists studying primate intelligence. Deadbox is very well written, but it’s hard to read because it’s so depressing, even more so than Not All Robots. It feels like an accurate depiction of the horribleness of contemporary rural American life. I lost my review of #1.

ORDINARY GODS #4 (Image, 2021) – “Magic Trick,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. The protagonists try to track down the trickster deity. When they find him, he has a flashback to making a film with Orson Welles, and Welles starts giving him advice. I don’t quite get what’s going on here, but this issue’s back matter consists of an interview with Welles. Also, there’s a subplot about Bri. So far this series hasn’t fulfilled the promise of its first issue. I don’t care that much about the plot, and I’d like to see more focus on Christopher and Bri.

WITCHBLOOD #7 (Vault, 2021) – “Stairway to Heaven,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The main villain, Paxton, drinks the goddess’s blood and becomes a god. The story then skips ahead a year. Paxton has turned the world into even more of a dystopia than it already was, and Yonna has to ally with the other vampires to defeat him. A new spell this issue is House of the Rising Sun.

NEW FUNNIES #223 (Dell, 1955) – various stories, [W] unknown, [A] Dick Hall et al. I ordered a few of these from eBay, but I haven’t read the others yet. This series dates back to 1936 and was previously called just The Funnies. It is not the same as Dell’s 1929-1930 series also called The Funnies, which was a major precursor to comic books. By 1955, New Funnies was officially called Walter Lantz New Funnies and had become an anthology title for Lantz characters like Woody Woodpecker. This issue begins with a story where Woody and his nephews confuse a normal pill with a pill that causes explosions. Then there’s an Andy Panda and Charlie Chicken story, about a mysterious ghost ship that turns out to be a hideout for thieves. One of the shorter stories stars Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who was Walt Disney’s original main character, until the rights to the character were stolen by Disney’s producer Charles Mintz. That incident led Disney to open his own studio, with world-changing consequences. Anyway, the stories in New Funnies #223 are competent, but they’re not nearly comparable to Barks or John Stanley.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #198 (DC, 1983) – “Terrorists of the Heart!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Rick Hoberg. Several years after the end of his solo series, Karate Kid returns to the 20th century to invite his old friend Iris Jacobs to his wedding. While there, he teams up with Batman to fight his old enemy Pulsar. The most notable thing about this issue is Val Armorr’s incredible lack of emotional intelligence; he fails to realize that Iris is in love with him, and he expects her to be happy that he’s marrying someone else.

SILVER SURFER #10 (Marvel, 1988) – “Space is… Eternal!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. Mostly a bunch of conversations between the Elders of the Universe, and then between Galactus and Eternity. Englehart’s Silver Surfer series was partly responsible for domesticating Marvel’s cosmic beings; it helped to turn them into just a bunch of characters like any others, rather than the godlike, awe-inspiring presences they should be. Jim Starlin also contributed to this trend with his Infinity series. This issue includes one of Marvel’s first scenes in which two women kiss, although one of the women is stated to be a male Skrull in a female body.

MARTHA WASHINGTON GOES TO WAR #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Comedy,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] Dave Gibbons. In the midst of a rash of terrorist attacks, Martha tries to get to the “tethered satellite” Harmony. Further disasters strike, the only sympathetic character in the issue is killed, and Martha finds herself falling from the sky. This is an exciting issue, and Dave Gibbons’s artwork is amazing, though it’s hampered by ugly computer coloring. I ought to read the rest of this series.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #13 (DC, 1991) – “Edge of Vision Part III,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. Shade and Troy Grenzer fight each other within Shade’s mind. The Troy Grenzer saga was very long and complicated, and I don’t understand it. Later in this issue, Lenny says “I live in a grotty studio and steal[,] but one call to Daddy would get me an Upper Eastside penthouse with a view of the park.” Probably by coincidence, this line is similar to a line from Pulp’s song “Common People,” released several years later: “’Cause when you’re laid in bed at night / Watching roaches climb the wall / If you called your dad he could stop it all.”

BLACK DOGS #nn (Fantagraphics, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Ho Che Anderson. I thought at first that this was an issue of a miniseries, but it’s a one-shot. Black Dogs takes place in 1992 and stars Monk and Sonjhe, an urban black couple who are expecting a child. They spend most of the issue talking with various other black people about race and the Rodney King riots, and then at the end, Monk gets in a public fight with a white man. It’s too bad that this story is just 14 pages, because it’s a sensitive and interesting exploration of racial issues from an OwnVoices perspective. It discusses topics that were hardly ever mentioned in comics at the time. This issue also includes a preview of Anderson’s King.

ACTION COMICS #556 (DC, 1984) – “Endings,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Vandal Savage executes a plot to make the people of Metropolis think that Superman is a menace. Superman defeats Savage by getting him to admit to the project while he’s on live TV. You’d think that in his millennia of existence, Savage would have learned not to be so easily fooled. This issue includes a cameo appearance by the pre-Crisis Jason Todd, who was a really annoying character.

CHEW #21 (Image, 2011) – “Major League Chew Part 1,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony Chu is transferred to the traffic division, and is surprised to find that his new colleagues actually appreciate him and praise him for his achievements. But on the last page, we see that two days later, some men are beating Tony with golf clubs. This is a typically entertaining issue of Chew.

FATALE #22 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue is mostly about Somerset, a villain who sacrifices babies and whose head is sometimes covered with Lovecraftian tentacles. This issue is very scary, but I don’t quite understand how it fits into the series’ context. I need to read more Fatale, but there are a lot of other Ed Brubaker comics that I also want to read.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #609 (Gladstone, 1997) – “T.V. Stakes,” [W/A] William Van Horn, et al. The main attraction of this issue is part three of Don Rosa’s “The Once and Future Duck.” This and several other Rosa stories were serialized across multiple issues of WDC&S. This was obviously done as a cash grab, to get Rosa fans to buy three issues instead of one. The unfortunate result is that “The Once and Future Duck” is one of the hardest Rosa stories to obtain in English, because WDC&S #607-609 are all quite rare, and the only other place this story appeared was in Fantagraphics’s Don Rosa Library. “The Once and Future Duck” is an interesting story, but it would be nice if I could have read the whole thing at once. WDC&S also includes some stories by Barks, Gottfredson, Murry and Van Horn, but it’s bulked out with some awful filler material, like a Bucky Bug story with rhyming dialogue. Overall, these extra-sized squarebound WDC&S comics are very annoying to collect: they’re hard to find, and when you do find them, you have to slog through a bunch of bad stories to get to the good ones. That was why I quit reading Gemstone’s WDC&S and Uncle Scrooge, back when those series were being published.  

THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG VOL. 1 #1 (Dark Horse, 2000) – “The Rhinegold Chapter 1: The Rape of the Gold,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. “Rape” is meant here in the obsolete sense of “theft.” PCR’s Ring adaptation begins with a silent sequence, probably based on the opera’s overture, in which Wotan trades his eye for wisdom. Then there’s the scene where Alberich steals the Rhinegold from the Rhinemaidens. Then the scene shifts to the heavens, where the giants Fasolt and Fafnir are demanding the goddess Idunn as their reward for building Valhalla. PCR’s Ring is perhaps his greatest achievement, and it makes me want to actually listen to Wagner’s Ring, even though Wagner was extremely problematic.

HARDWARE #3 (Milestone, 1993) – “Confrontations,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Denys Cowan. Like Hardware Season One #2, this issue is mostly about Hardware’s revenge campaign against Edwin Alva. But there’s also a touching scene where Curtis Metcalf talks with his love interest, Barraki, and she tries to get him to reconsider his actions. Overall this comic is much more interesting than the current Hardware series.

TARZAN #36 (Dell, 1952) – “The Threat of Athne” and “The Marsh Dwellers,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. In the first story, Tarzan and his pet lions save the city of New Cathne from a siege. In the second story, Tarzan and his Waziri friends fight some cannibals. There’s also a backup story in which the Brothers of the Spear escape from slavers. I thought As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, Jesse Marsh’s art was much better at this stage of his career. His action scenes and his compositions are excellent, even if his draftsmanship seems crude. This comic is so old that the back cover has a Wheaties ad starring Preacher Roe.  

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #23 (Disney, 1992) – “The Lost Peg Leg Mine,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge and the nephews go looking for a lost gold mine in the desert. Oddly, they never actuallly find the mine; instead, they get some rats to bring them the nuggets in the mine. This story feels like a less satisfying version of Don Rosa’s “The Old Dutchman’s Secret.” There are two backup stories, both drawn by Vicar. In the first of them, Donald spends most of the story disguised as a woman.

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #17 (Marvel, 2014) – “The Accursed Part Five of Five,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino & Ron Garney. Thor and the League of Realms finally defeat Malekith. But the Dark Elves make all their efforts worthless by electing Malekith their king, and Waziria volunteers to serve Malekith’s prison sentence on his behalf, thus ending her relationship with Thor. This sets up all the remaining stories of Jason Aaron’s run. Malekith is the scariest villain in recent Marvel comics, because he’s such a horrible psychopath, and he keeps coming back when he seems to have been defeated. A funny scene in this issue is when Volstagg says that there’s something familiar about the League of Realms, and then in the next panel, we see Screwbeard, Ivory Honeyshot, Waziria and Ud the Troll, standing in the same positions as Volstagg, Fandrall, Sif and Hogun in the previous panel.

TREASURE CHEST #20.16 (Geo. A. Pflaum, 1965) – “Ellie’s Elephant,” [W/A] Frank Borth, etc. Highlights of this issue include a six-page story by Reed Crandall about Canada’s Northwest Territories, and Fran Matera’s Chuck White and His Friends. Treasure Chest included a lot of good art, but also a lot of Catholic propaganda and boring filler material. For example, this issue’s last story is an inaccurate and boring summary of Babe Ruth’s career.

CEREBUS #212 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1996) – “Guys No. 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Genital Ben makes the guests in the bar experience hallucinations. This is another awful issue, with beautiful art and lettering but no plot or purpose. The best parts of Guys are the bottles of liquor produced by Lord Julius, because they remind me of when Cerebus was good.

2000 AD #1298 (Rebellion, 2002) – Dredd: “Sin City Part 10,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Orlok releases the poison. Just as he does so, an elderly couple is about to commit suicide; the woman asks Dredd “Should we jump now?” and he replies “You might as well.” All that can be done now is to stop the plague from reaching Mega-City One. Thirteen: “Part 10,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Andy Clarke. The alien warrior grows herself a new body, but then she reveals that she’s going to destroy the human race. Andy Clarke’s art in this story is consistently excellent. I guess I’ve seen his artwork before, on Tony Bedard’s R.E.B.E.L.S. series, but it’s too bad he didn’t become a bigger star. Sinister Dexter: “Animal Firm Part 3,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Cam Smith. Sinister and Dexter are saved from the animals by a giant alligator. A funny scene in this story is when the animal crooks shout things like “Fry em!” “Cluck them up!” “Leave them dead on the doormat as a present!” Tor Cyan: “No Such Place Part 2,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Jock. Rogue tells Tor Cyan about his forgotten past and his link to Rahab.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #6 (Marvel, 1971) – “Devil-Wings Over Shadizar,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. Conan meets his recurring love interest, Jenna, and saves her from a giant bat monster. I’ve read this story before, but it’s fun to reread it. BWS’s artin this issue is already excellent, though his style wasn’t fully developed yet. There are a couple nice Easter eggs. On page two, Conan beats up two thieves named Fafnir and Blackrat, i.e. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Later, the smith Maldiz mentions that he once forged a falcon, i.e. the Maldiz (Maltese) Falcon.

BATMAN #471 (DC, 1991) – “Requiem for a Killer,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Killer Croc befriends a group of derelicts living in the Gotham sewers. They accept him despite his grotesque appearance, and he starts building them a home using stolen goods. Of course, Batman finds Killer Croc and destroys his idyllic home, which is about to be flooded by new sewer construction. Croc apparently drowns, and the issue ends with his friends singing “Hush, Little Baby.” This is a very poignant story that proves that Grant and Breyfogle were an excellent creative team. The idea of an underground city beneath Gotham was reused in the Arkham video games.

MIDNIGHT, MASS #1 (Vertigo, 2002) – “Bluebeard’s Castle,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Jesus Saiz. Jenny Swan travels to the small town of Midnight, Massachusetts to take a job as an assistant to Adam and Julia Kadmon, a married couple of paranormal investigators. The Kadmons are similar to Nick and Nora Charles, or Frank and Sadie Doyle from Thrilling Adventure Hour: Beyond Belief. Like Beyond Belief, Midnight, Mass is more humorous than scary in tone, but it does include some very creepy supernatural stuff, like a monster with an extra arm instead of a head. I assumed this comic was the basis of the Netflix miniseries Midnight Mass, but in fact the two are completely unrelated.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #2 (Exhibit A, 1994) – “Curse of the Were-House!”, [W/A] Batton Lash. Wolff & Byrd’s latest clients are a married couple whose house turns into a haunted house every full moon. Awkwardly, the wife, Kim, is also an old love interest of Byrd’s. Again, I’ve read this story before, but it’s nice to revisit it. This story is one of Batton’s early masterpieces, mostly because of the subplot with Byrd and Kim. They clearly still have feelings for each other, and it’s disappointing when Kim decides to stay with her asshole husband because she’s pregnant.

On Thursday, November 4, I went back to Heroes to buy new comics and pick up my wristbands for the Giant-Size Charlotte Mini-Con. I had dinner at Emmy Squared. I was not impressed; my sandwich was overpriced and also inconveniently big. I kind of want to go back there and try the pizza, but again, it seems to be priced for multiple people.

ONCE & FUTURE #21 (Boom!, 2021) – “Monarchies in the UK Part 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Rose is touchingly reunited with her parents, but in order to escape, she and Duncan and Gran have to fight both a knight and a gorgon. They defeat them by getting one of them to fight the other. The appearance of a Greek mythological creature in this series is surprising, but it’s based on an actual Roman carving from the city of Bath. At the end of the issue, the nursing home is attacked by either Grendel or Grendel’s mother.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #9 (Boom!, 2021) – “Anything is Justified,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Marlyn proceeds with her plot to steal Malik, but her ally, Ondine Petrikov, turns traitor and stabs her. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Ondine has been Honorhim Bristow’s double agent all along. This is a fascinating story, though it’s kind of hard to remember who all the characters are. The first WOFTWTD story arc was impressive because of the cosmic sense of wonder it created, but the second story arc is more focused on human relationships and motivations. Incidentally, the solicitations refer to Bristow with male pronouns, but I thought this character was female. I lost my review of #8.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part One,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. A spinoff of Something is Killing the Children, with Aaron as the protagonist. In this issue Aaron gets a new roommate, Jace, who seems to have his own agenda. The text boxes tell us that Jace is the first man Aaron ever loved, and that Aaron is going to kill him. This series is interesting, though I don’t expect it to be as good as the parent series.

ADVENTUREMAN #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Clarice wakes up and eats a ton of food, then encounters some ghosts on the subway. Meanwhile, an old Western-themed superhero wakes up from dementia. Not a whole lot actually happens in this issue, but I love Adventureman anyway. I think it’s mostly because the relationships between the two generations of characters are so warm and loving.

PRIMORDIAL #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In 1961, Donald meets Laika’s caretaker, Yelena. Meanwhile, there are more scenes with Laika and the two monkeys. The scenes with the animals include some utterly stunning page layouts. Sorrentino’s trademark is his ability to explode the two-dimensionality of the page, so that it looks like the panels have been set free in three-dimensional space. The scenes with Donald and Yelena are drawn in a much more conventional style, which is useful because otherwise the comic might be impossible to read.

NEWBURN #1 (Image, 2021) – “Carmine’s Apartment,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. A mysterious former cop named Newburn solves the murder of a mobster who stole drugs from his own family. At the end, Newburn reveals that he works for all the city’s crime families at once, and he forces Carmine’s murderer, Emily, to work for him. Newburn has an intriguing setup and is very different from most of Zdarsky’s past work. It seems more like an Ed Brubaker comic, perhaps because the artist is Sean Phillips’s son.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #7 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna and Rainbow escape the cage, and there’s a flashback to Jonna’s disappearance. The flashback includes a repeat of the scene from issue 1 with the giant red monster. This series continues to be quite slow-paced.

USAGI YOJIMBO #23 (IDW, 2021) – “Ransom Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. The Snitch steals Boss Hasegawa’s book from Kitsune and escapes, leaving Usagi and Yukichi with nothing to trade for Kiyoko. Meanwhile, Aoki insists on keeping Kiyoko safe until morning, even though Boss Hasegawa wants her dead. The funniest part this issue is when Usagi realizes the Snitch looks familiar (because he’s appeared in too many other Usagi stories to count) and the Snitch says “Maybe you met my cousin – my distant cousin – he is the disgrace of my law abiding family!” The joke  

RADIANT BLACK #9 (Image, 2021) – “Life and Times,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Eduardo Ferigato. Marshall visits Nathan in hospital every day, but Nathan’s family decides to pull the plug. Marshall threatens to commit suicide in order to force the alien deity to heal Nathan. These scenes are crosscut with flashbacks to Nathan and Marshall’s childhood, mostly focusing on their childhood fandom. These scenes reference Higgins’s earlier series C.O.W.L. The characterization in this issue is superb, and the other characters’ grief over Nathan’s apparent death is touching. I’m going to get the new Radiant Black spinoff series, even though I doubt they’ll be as good as Radiant Black itself. I was briefly confused at the scene where Nathan and Marshall are talking about Wizard Magazine, until I realized it was a flashback. It’s nice to think that Wizard hasn’t been published in over a decade.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #77 (Marvel, 2021) – “Beyond Chapter Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sara Pichelli. This is the first new issue of Amazing Spider-Man that I’ve bought in many years. I’m only ordering the issues written by Kelly Thompson. In this storyline, Ben Reilly is the new Spider-Man and he’s working for the Beyond Corporation. This issue, he trains with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing and then fights Morbius. This is a reasonably fun comic because of Kelly Thompson’s skill at characterization and dialogue.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. A second identical version of Spiral City appears in the sky. Lucy travels there and discovers that the other city’s version of Skulldigger is sending her a signal. Then they’re confronted by the other city’s Sherlock Frankenstein, who appears to be a hero. Also there’s a scene where Lucy and Amanda have just killed Dr. Andromeda, and then Lucy visits her mother for comfort. I’m not sure if this is a flashback or what.

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Stokoe. I had honestly forgotten this series wasn’t finished yet, but I’m glad to see it again. This issue the Orphan encounters the next Beast, Chopper Teng, a restaurateur who serves his own regenerating flesh to his customers. I don’t know how this series can possibly be concluded in just one more issue, since we’ve only just gotten to the third or fourth beast. Again, James Stokoe’s draftsmanship in this issue is incredible, and he shows an understanding of the wuxia aesthetic, but without engaging in cultural appropriation.

CHU #9 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 4,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. This issue is mostly a flashback showing how Saffron became indentured to Don Bucatini. It was mostly the fault of her idiot brother Chow Chu. At the end, Saffron and her surviving teammates use the wine to go back in time again. Speaking of Chew, Rob Guillory said on Facebook that Farmhand is returning next year.

ECHOLANDS #3 (Image, 2021) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. Hope and her teammates escape the wreck of their ship and make it to Treasure Island, whose ruler, Romulus, looks like he was drawn by Kirby in the ‘70s. Romulus betrays Hope to the wizard in exchange for sole control over the island. Meanwhile, Hope’s partner Rabbit is lost in the shipwreck, but washes up at Metamaru Mountain, where he’s greeted by a robot that looks like something out of Shogun Warriors. If James Stokoe is the best draftsman in comic books right now, J.H. Williams III is the best artist overall. It’s too bad his and Blackman’s writing is not the equal of his art.

CHILLING ADVENTURES IN SORCERY #1 (Archie, 2021) – “A Walk Through Hell,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Vincenzo Federici, plus other stories. While trapped on the River Styx in hell, Madam Satan meets Jughead and Archie, and they all tell her how they arrived in hell. The Jughead and Archie stories are both unsatisfying, and the frame story isn’t very interesting either. I wish Archie would publish more actual comic books, though I understand that they probably make a lot more money from digests.

STRANGE ACADEMY PRESENTS THE DEATH OF DOCTOR STRANGE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Mike del Mundo. In a flashback, it’s revealed that the Enchantress traded her firstborn son, Iric, to an evil wizard. Doctor Strange helped her get out of that deal, but with Strange’s death, the deal is back on. Now Amara and her other son, Alvi, have to go to Weirdworld to rescue Iric. They’re assisted by Goleta the Wizard Slayer from Mike del Mundo’s previous Weirdworld series. Del Mundo’s artwork in this story isn’t as good as some of his past work, but this story is really fun anyway. The issue ends with a bunch of vignettes showing what the other kids are doing while the school is closed.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #2 (Oni, 2021) – “If There Are Gods, They Must Be Drunk,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. Hannah gives Kat some backstory: the angels and devils aren’t real angels and devils, they’re “only” two factions of ghosts. Then Kat goes to buy some marijuana, and a ghost possesses the clerk and tries to recruit her. Kat is a fascinating protagonist, and also, her cat is really cute.

HUMAN TARGET #1 (DC, 2021) –  The Human Target, Christopher Chance, is a bodyguard who disguises himself as people who are about to be assassinated. After saving Lex Luthor from assassination (even though Luthor deserved it), Chance learns that he’s been poisoned and is going to die in twelve days. Dr. Mid-Nite learns that the poisoner must have been a member of the Justice League International, so now Chance has to investigate the twelve JLI members and figure out which one of them killed him. Tom King’s recent work has been of highly variable quality, to put it in a nice way. Human Target has a really awesome premise, but I just hope it doesn’t turn into another Strange Adventures or Heroes in Crisis.

DAREDEVIL #35 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 5,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Stefano Landini w/ Francesco Mobili. Elektra finally defeats the Bullseyes with the aid of some other superheroes. Typhoid Mary is badly hurt saving the Kingpin from another Bullseye, and the Kingpin asks her to marry him. This issue is exciting, but it’s mostly just action scenes. I lost my review of #34.

CRUSH & LOBO #6 (DC, 2021) – “Space Vegas Sunrise,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush visits Space Vegas to look for Lobo. An alien named QƐƐ7 mistakes Crush for their Tinder date, and they have a nice evening, which ends badly when Crush beats up a stand-up comedian. This issue includes some effective characterization as well as some funny jokes. Crush’s abortive romance with QƐƐ7 (I think the backwards 3 is an ampersand) is a good example of her self-destructive tendencies.

On November 6 and 7, I went to the Giant-Size Charlotte Mini-Con. This was the biggest comic convention in Charlotte since the 2019 Heroes Con. It was an awkward weekend for a convention, since November is the busiest time of year for me. Still, this con was incredibly fun. Perhaps the highlight was having lunch at Mert’s with Craig Fischer, Mike Kobre, Andy Mansell and a couple other people. It’s been way too long since I was able to hang out in person with friends from fandom or academia. I bought a ton of comics, including:

DAREDEVIL #86 (Marvel, 1972) – “Once Upon a Time – The Ox!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. The main plot this issue is about Daredevil’s battle with the Ox, but this issue is really about the gradual breakdown of Matt’s relationship with Karen. At the end of the issue, Matt and Karen break up, allowing Matt to get together with Black Widow. Matt and Karen were always a terrible couple, and Conway was correct to break them up. While this issue has some convincing soap-opera characterization, the best thing about it is the art. Palmer was the perfect inker for Colan, because his crisp linework kept Colan’s painterly pencils from becoming too abstract and blurry. The #80s and #90s of Daredevil were probably the best period of the series before Frank Miller arrived. For a short time, Conway, Colan and Palmer managed to take one of Marvel’s most pointless titles and give it a real purpose.

SECRET ORIGINS #14 (DC, 1987) – “The Secret Origin of the Suicide Squad,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. This issue explains the origin of both the Silver Age Suicide Squad and its 1980s reincarnation. The character who connects both Suicide Squads is Rick Flag Jr, and this story presents him as a tragic figure, whose whole life was overshadowed by the heroic deaths of his parents and teammates. We also learn about how Amanda Waller rose to power after overcoming the tragic deaths of her husband and two of her children. Much of this information is essential for understanding the later Suicide Squad series, particularly issue #50, where Rick’s supposedly dead teammate comes back. Overall this is an excellent comic. The only problem is that the framing sequence is a conversation between Waller, Sarge Steel and the president, and so Ronald Reagan appears on almost every page.

CEREBUS #25 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “This Woman, This Thing,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus, Chris Claremont, and Woman-Thing visit the castle of an unnamed artist, who’s created his own Sump-Thing creature. The two Things kill Claremont and then start, um, “battling” each other. I like the artwork in this issue, but its plot is kind of dumb. The whole story is obviously a satire of the controversy over whether Swamp Thing or Man-Thing came first, but I’m not sure who the artist is supposed to be, or what exactly Dave’s point was. The artist and the two Things reappear in Church & State, as a merged creature with three heads.

DETECTIVE COMICS #973 (DC, 2018) – “Fall of the Batmen Finale,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jesus Merino. A giant insane Clayface is rampaging through Gotham, and the Bat-family has to defeat him. I don’t remember much about this issue, perhaps because I was exhausted when I read it.

FANTASTIC FOUR #63 (Marvel, 1967) – “Blastaar, the Living Bomb-Burst!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. The FF, Triton and Crystal battle Blastaar and the Sandman. Blastaar is a fun villain because he has no interiority or complexity; he’s just a giant gray bearded bruiser. This issue consists mostly of action scenes, but it does have some cute moments with Johnny and Crystal.

CEREBUS #51 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “Exodus,” [W/A] Dave Sim. I probably read this before when it was reprinted in Cerebus #0, but I don’t remember it, and when I read it, I didn’t have the context to understand it. This story was only reprinted there and not in any of the trade paperbacks. In “Exodus,” Cerebus is trying to escape from Iest by hiding in the hold of a boat. But then he finds that Elrod and Lord Julius are hiding in the same boat, and if that’s not bad enough, other people keep joining him, including Chico Marx, the Roach, Rodney Dangerfield, Drew, Fleagle, and a load of raw potatoes. This is one of Dave’s funnier stories.

LITTLE ARCHIE #17 (Archie, 1961) – “The Big Loser,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Archie and Ambrose compete against Reggie in an ice boat race. Archie loses the race, but wins Ambrose’s friendship. This story is touching, but the next story, “Cougar,” is a masterpiece. While Archie and his dad are visiting a lumber camp, Archie has to escape from a hungry cougar in order to save an injured lumberjack. The cougar has understandable motivations, as she’s just trying to feed her kittens. This story is a notable example of Bolling’s realistic and exciting depictions of wild animals. He may be the single best American cartoonist at telling stories about wildlife. Or at least I can’t think of a cartoonist who does this better than him. There’s only one other Bob Bolling story in this issue. In that story, Betty and Mr. Weatherbee both become obsessed with the same radio soap opera. The GCD points out that in this story Mr. Weatherbee has a wife, though he’s usually depicted as a bachelor.

SUPERBOY #98 (DC, 1962) – Unfortunately my copy of this comic is missing its centerfold, so I am in the market for a better copy. “The Super-Student of Swankhurst Academy,” [W] unknown, [A] Al Plastino. Superboy enrolls in a private school in order to unmask it as a front operation for criminals. This issue is typical Silver Age crap. It includes a scene where Superboy is asked to write out all the digits of pi. The writer seems not to understand that this is literally impossible because pi is an irrational number. “The Boy with Ultra-Powers!”, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Curt Swan. This is the first appearance of Ultra Boy, one of my favorite Legionnaires, and also of Marla Latham. In this issue Jo Nah travels back in time to Smallville and figures out Superboy’s identity, as his initiation test for the Legion. This story seems to imply that penetra-vision is Ultra Boy’s only superpower. The idea that he has multiple powers, but can only use one of them at a time, must have been introduced later. It’s unclear why Jo and Marla wear the same logo on their shirts. I guess Who’s Who in the Legion #4 explained this by saying that Jo modeled his costume after Marla’s uniform.

DEN #7 (Fantagor, 1989) – “The Phoenix Fallen,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. I thought I had this entire series, but it turns out there were ten issues, not six. The booth where I bought this also had the rest of the series, but they were $4 each, so I only bought this issue. In Den #7, Den and Kath rescue their friends Wyn and Zandor from a dungeon. As they’re escaping, another Kath appears and claims that she’s the real one, and the first Kath is an impostor. There’s also a backup story written and drawn by Bruce Jones, and another backup story by Brian Buniak that’s a dumb parody of various other comics. Den is probably Corben’s central work, and it’s a shame that it’s out of print and has never been collected in its entirety.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #272 (Gold Key, 1963) – “Spare That Hair,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald becomes a master barber, and finds himself unknowingly shaving a gorilla. This story has lots of funny gags, especially on the first page, where Donald has a client whose head is completely covered with hair. However, this story raises the question of why Donald gave up being a barber, if he was so good at it. This issue also includes a new story by Fallberg and Murry, though it’s almost ruined by terrible lettering. One of the other stories in this issue, starring Ludwig von Drake, includes some awful Native American stereotypes.

THE GOON #1 (Albatross, 2019) – “A Ragged Return to Lonely Street,” [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon and Frankie return to their hometown and discover that in their absence, it’s been overrun by zombie gangs. I had thought that The Goon was just a piece of low comedy, in the same vein as Section Eight or God Hates Astronauts. It is that, but it’s also a highly effective horror comic. Eric Powell draws in the same vein as Bernie Wrightson and Kevin Nowlan and Kelley Jones. I need to collect more Goon.

CRIMINAL #5 (Icon, 2007) – “Coward Part Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Leo Patterson saves a kidnapped child from the villains, then goes to confront the villains himself. He avenges his lover Greta’s death, but is himself killed. Earlier in the issue, Leo reveals that it was him and not his dad who killed Teeg Lawless. If I’d read this issue before I read the latest Criminal series, I would have had a very different reaction to that series.

SINISTER HOUSE OF SECRET LOVE #2 (DC, 1972) – “To Wed the Devil,” [W] Joe Orlando & Len Wein, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. This was a really awesome find. It’s only the second of DC’s Gothic horror comics that I’ve acquired. In this issue, Sarah, a wealthy heiress, is engaged to  her lover Justin, but when her father goes bankrupt, he forces her to marry Baron Luther Dumont. We eventually discover that the Baron is the leader of a satanic cult, as well as being the son of Sarah’s creepy housekeeper. Justin appears and saves Sarah, and they live happily ever after. For some reason the end of the story is narrated in three pages of illustrated text. It’s also notable that Sarah is Jewish, although you have to read carefully to notice this.

THOR #139 (Marvel, 1966) – “To Die Like a God!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Thor is without his hammer and has to defend Asgard from the trolls, who are aided by Orikal, a mysterious alien from outside the universe. Eventually Thor frees Orikal, gets his hammer back, and beats the trolls. In the Tales of Asgard backup, Thor and the Warriors Three fight a villain called Mogul and his pet genie. Kirby’s artwork in this issue is spectacular. Orikal is an interesting character because he’s a complete outsider; he comes from another dimension, and has no connection to anything else in the Marvel Universe. His only other appearance was in Dan Jurgens’s Thor run in the early 2000s. In this issue Ulik is somehow able to lift Mjolnir even though he’s obviously not worthy.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #11 (Marvel, 1973) – “Doomsday Gambit!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Mooney. In a previous adventure with Kang and Zarrko, Spidey obtained a time bomb that emitted the same sort of radiation that powered the Great Refuge’s barrier. This was back when Attilan was on Earth instead of the moon. This issue, Spidey visits Attilan to inquire into the origins of the bomb, but Zarrko and Kang follow him there, and fighting ensues. This is a reasonably entertaining issue.

CEREBUS #28 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “Mind Game II,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Suenteus Po have their second conversation, covering history, Cirinism and other topics. In hindsight these Mind Game stories are disappointing, because it always seemed like they were building up to a big reveal or climax, and that climax never arrived. Thanks to his descent into madness, Dave was never able to satisfyingly resolve any of his own plotlines.

FOUR COLOR #1003 (Dell, 1959) – Zorro:“The Marauders of Monterey,” [W] unknown, [A] Alex Toth. This was perhaps my best find at the convention. In this story, Monterey, California is starving because bandits keep stealing all the supply deliveries. We’re led to think that Zorro’s host, a benevolent old man, is funding the bandits, but Zorro discovers that the old man’s servants are the real culprits. Alex Toth was probably the best visual storyteller in the history of American comic books. His compositions are consistently perfect; he draws every scene with the maximum of visual economy and expression. His art looks simple, but that’s because every line is in exactly the right place. In the backup story, also by Toth, Zorro stops a tax collector from confiscating a bell that’s believed to be a good luck charm.

MERTON OF THE MOVEMENT #1 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Merton of the Movement Organizes His 1st Demonstration!”, [W/A] Bobby London. This story’s title explains its plot. What’s really notable about it is Bobby London’s art style. He’s one of the few American cartoonists who were influenced by George Herriman. While Herriman is universally considered the greatest artist of American comic strips, he was so weird and unique that few later artists tried to imitate him. London is an exception to that. Every page of this issue’s main story looks like a Krazy Kat Sunday page, and there are explicit Herriman references such as Offissa Pupp’s jail, or a moon that changes shape from one panel to another. This issue also includes stories by the other members of the Air Pirates collective. Two of these stories are similarly influenced by old comic strips. Ted Richards’s “Dopin’ Dan” is a military satire, but it looks more like EC Segar’s Popeye than Beetle Bailey, and Gary Hallgren’s “Pollyanna Pals” is based on Sterrett’s Polly and Her Pals. Then there are four Trots and Bonnie strips by Shary Flenniken, and the issue ends with London’s autobio story “Why Bobby Seale is Not Black.”

I have to stop here and post these reviews.

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July and August 2021 reviews

8/12/2021

I read the following comics before my next trip to Heroes. Some of these reviews may be in the wrong order.

2000 AD #622 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 9,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David A. Roach. Anderson finally defeats Helios in a psychic battle. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity’s ambulance crashlands on the planet, and then she and the pilot are attacked by a giant alien. Dredd: “On Meeting Your Enemy,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. A Japanese assassin kills a robot duplicate of Dredd as practice for fighting the real thing. This strip is full of Orientalist imagery. Zippy Couriers: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna is interviewed for a TV show on women in business. This is a pretty funny one. Future Shocks: “Dead-Line!”, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. Hilary Robinson sends Tharg a script that contains a bizarre alien creature. Daily Dredd: “Guide to Mega-City Law,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. More strips about Mega-City One’s laws and traditions.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #187 (Dell, 1956) – untitled [“Searching for a Successor”], [W/A] Carl Barks. In order to see which of them should be his successor, Scrooge asks Donald to run a mattress factory, and Gladstone to move a house from one mountain to another. I believe Barks did at least one other story where Donald and Gladstone competed to be Scrooge’s heir. This issue also includes Little Bad Wolf and Pluto stories, and the Mickey Mouse story is a chapter of Fallberg and Murry’s “The Phantom Railroad.”

FOUR COLOR #843 (Dell, 1957) – “The First Americans,” [W] unknown, [A] Jesse March. This is less blatantly racist than Four Color #610, but it’s just as offensive, only in a less obvious way. It claims to be a factual portrayal of Native American history, but it portrays Native Americans in a patronizing way, and from a perspective of superiorty. It gives the impression that Native Americans were inferior and uncivilized and that they no longer exist. Also, though it sometimes acknowledges that Native Americans were and are extremely diverse, it just as often describes “the Indian” (or “the red man,” eww) as if “he” was a single monolithic culture. Jesse Marsh’s art in this issue is excellent, but that hardly seems to matter.  

S.W.O.R.D. #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “This is What Comes Next,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. Storm speaks to a congress of alien representatives and tells them that as a result of the Hellfire Gala story, the mutants have colonized Mars. Wanda has a talk with Magneto, who is her father as far as I’m concerned, regardless of any retcons. S.W.O.R.D. is a well-written series, but it doesn’t really have its own plot or cast of characters. It just seems like a vehicle for stories about random characters from the X-Men franchise.

CEREBUS #183 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Endgame,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue’s Cerebus segment consists entirely of a silent fight scene between Cerebus and Cirin. It’s bloody and violent, but it doesn’t advance the narrative at all. The Victor Davis segment is just a bunch of schizophrenic word salad that couldn’t possibly make sense to anyone but Dave. There’s also a preview of Strange Attractors.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #132 (DC, 1973) – “The Second Superman!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] John Rosenberger. Superman tries to set Lois up with a man named Phil Karnes, but he kills himself in an attempt to give himself superpowers. This is another early example of a story about computerized dating (see my review of Creepy #22), and it’s also a typical example of Cary Bates’s cruelty to his characters. There are two backup stories, one starring Zatanna, and another that introduces a new character, a black reporter named Melba Manton. She appeared a few more times, but her last appearance was in 1978.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #12 (DC, 2011) – “Savage Frontier,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Danijel Zezelj. In 1919, Skinner Sweet confronts some old enemies who are reenacting his life story from the Wild West era. This issue is pretty good, and it makes sense out of context, unlike most American Vampire comics.

DETECTIVE COMICS #642 (DC, 1992) – “The Return of Scarface Part 2: Gleeding Hearts,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Jim Aparo. Scarface terrorizes Gotham, and meanwhile, Vicki Vale dumps Bruce Wayne and then gets shot in a drive-by. As a kid I didn’t realize how heavily Scarface was inspired by old gangster films.

THE FOX #4 (Archie, 2015) – “The Snoring Corpse,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. The Fox fights a villain named The Gasser who resembles the Golden Age Sandman. Then he and his wife team up to save their kidnapped son, Ghost Fox. This series was well-executed, but I was never quite able to get into.

CLARENCE #2 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Liz Prince, [A] Evan Palmer. Clarence’s class has to go to a movie instead of a water park for a field trip, and mayhem ensues. This comic is funnier than I expected, but it’s too childish for me.

THE VAGABOND OF LIMBO #6 (Dargaud, 1980) – “What is Reality, Papa?”, [W] Christian Godard, [A] Julio Ribera. The Vagabond of Limbo is a science fiction series starring Axel Moonshine and his annoying kid companion Musky. Axel travels around the universe searching for a woman named Chimeer who he saw in a dream. In this album, Axel and Musky’s quest leads them to a Hollywood film studio, and the characters in the films start to turn real. This series won an Angouleme award in 1976. Julio Ribera’s artwork in this album is pretty exciting, and Christian Godard’s writing is funny; the hostile relationship between Axel and Musky is good for a lot of laughs. However, I’m not in a huge hurry to read the rest of this series. Only one other Vagabond of Limbo album has been translated into English.  

2000 AD #623 (Fleeetway, 1989) – Medivac 318: as above. Verity tries to talk the alien out of attacking, but it stings and poisons her pilot. Tales from the Doghouse: “ ‘Sting’ Ray,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A Strontium Dog is kidnapped by two crooks named Cockles and Mussles, a reference to the song “Molly Malone.”  Dredd: “Banana City,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. Dredd travels to Latin America to look for a criminal. This story has some nice painted art, and is not as blatantly offensive as some of Wagner’s other stories with Hispanic themes. Future Shocks: “Reunion,” [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Ron Smith. A man boasts to his friends about how great his life is, but then we learn that the man is a ghost, and he shows up every year to tell these same lies. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Jim Campbell, [A] Chris Weston. A man travels to an alternate reality to look for his dead wife. This story has beautiful art.

CEREBUS #184 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Dave Sim. As Cerebus and Cirin continue to fight, the throne room colllapses around them. The Victor Davis segment is another load of pointless incomprehensible crap, with a guest appearance by Rick Veitch. There’s a letter from a man whose wife left him, taking the baby, because he lent £3,000 to his parents and never got it back. Good for her. The issue ends with a preview of Steve Bissette’s Tyrant.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. At Taranto’s suggestion, Ahax tows Groo and Rufferto in a boat behind his ship, allowing them all to safely reach the new land of Mexahuapan safely. The people of Mexahuapan are not impressed with the Iberzans or their god. Meanwhile, the pantheon becomes overcrowded with Mexahuapan’s native gods, such Gogee, god of uncertanity (maybe) and Lopi, god of things that start with L.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #22 (Marvel, 1984) – [E] Archie Goodwin. The highlight of this issue is Claremont and Bolton’s Marada the She-Wolf, an exciting sword-and-sorcery story with beautiful art and two intriguing female protagonists. I also have some unread issues of The Black Dragon, by this same creative team, and somehow I’ve never felt motivated to read them. There’s also a preview of Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein, and a story by Laurie Sutton and Charles Vess about subterranean bat creatures. And there’s a story by Goodwin and Phil Hale, which is interesting, except the artwork is often indecipherable because it’s printed too dark. The other stories in the issue are unworthy of note.

OVER THE GARDEN WALL #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Dreamland Memories,” [W/A] Jim Campbell w/ Danielle Burgos. A little boy helps some gnomes resolve their conflict with a giant cat that resembles the earliest version of Felix the Cat. “Homeland,” [W] Amalia Levari, [A] Cara McGee. A girl goes looking for her missing father. This comic is actually pretty cute, but I’m not fond of its Cartoon Network aesthetic.

ART OPS #7 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Modern Love Part Two,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Eduardo Risso. At some point ini the past, the main character’s pregnant mother and her friends travel to Tangier to solve a crime involving fashion. This comic has some excellent art, especially the interiors and the graffiti in the Tangier scene. However, Art Ops’s story never lived up to its potential.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #69 (DC, 2016) – “Hoodrinked,” [W] Derek Fridolfs, [A] Walter Carzon. The gang investigates a mystery at a roller derby game, and Daphne and Velma have to participate in the game themselves. “Fright Ride,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Fabio Laguna. The gang solves a mystery where the paintings at an art gallery keep changing. Fabio Laguna is best known for drawing two issues of Wolverine that were full of blatant swipes. https://www.cbr.com/knowledge-waits-the-two-most-swipe-filled-issues-of-wolverine-ever/

STRAYER #4 (AfterShock, 2016) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Juan Gedeon. The protagonist fights an army of giant four-armed tiger people. This is an entertaining comic, but Juan Gedeon’s art is severely starved of details.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #3 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Josceline Fenton, [A] Chrystin Garland. Steven and the Gems investigate the Glass Ghost. A very quick and insubstantial read.

CEREBUS #185 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Check,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cirin’s throne flies off into space with Cerebus and Cirin on it. The Victor Davis segment is longer than the Cerebus segment, and includes some rather offensive material; for example, Dave refers to “Alan Moore’s wife” without giving her a name. (This was his first wife, Phyllis, not Melinda Gebbie, but you can’t tell because Dave doesn’t name her.) There’s also another Tyrant preview.

CEREBUS #186 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mate,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is a good candidate for the worst comic book in my collection, if it even counts as a comic book, since the Cerebus story is just five pages. The rest of the issue is a rant about how men are Light, women are Void, and “Merged Permanence” is an impossible dream. It’s a pile of sexist MRA garbage that doesn’t deserve a response. Perhaps the most offensive part is when Dave says that not all women are incapable of thinking rationally – there are exceptions, like his collaborators Colleen Doran and Teri Wood. I suppose Dave actually thought this was a compliment. Cerebus #186 is perhaps the greatest self-own in comics history. On the strength of its first 100 or so issues, Cerebus used to be considered one of the great comics of his time. But largely because of issue 186, Dave destroyed his reputation, drove away all but his most hardcore fans, and removed himself from the comics canon. And it was entirely his own fault. All he had to do to prevent it was keep his toxic opinions to himself, but I guess he was too rational and full of Male Light for that.

2000 AD #624 (Fleetway, 1989) – Medivac 318: as above. Verity and her two dying patients are rescued, and Verity applies to become an ambulance pilot herself. That’s the end of the first storyline. Verity is a likeable protagonist. Tales from the Doghouse: as above. Sting Ray captures Cockles and Musses, and the last line of the story is “I took Cockles and Mussles alive, alive-o.” Tales from the Doghouse is a terrible strip, but that joke almost justifies its existence. Dredd: as above. We learn that Dredd’s target is Barry Kurten from “Crazy Barry and Little Mo,” and we witness Barry’s brutal treatment of suspects. Future Shocks: “Just Between Ourselves,” [W] Andrew Donkin & Neal Brand, [A] Josep Gual. A man goes to help an old professor friend, but ends up killing him, only to discover that the professor has made multiple clones of himself. Rogue Trooper: “Cinnabar Part 1,” [W] John Smith, [A] Steve Dillon & Kev Walker. Helm, Gunnar and Bagman go looking for Rogue and find him crucified next to a sign that reads DESERTER.

BATMAN #258 (DC, 1974) – “Threat of the Two-Headed Coin,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. I’m reluctant to read these 100-page specials because they’re so long, they contain a lot of bad reprinted stories, and they’re often in such poor condition that they’re in danger of falling apart before I finish them. The only new thing in this issue is a fairly mediocre Two-Face story. Reprints include a Fox-Moldoff story about crimes themed after the Seven Wonders of the World, and Finger and Moldoff’s “The Guardian of 100 Cities!” In the latter story, Batman fights a gang in a field filled with replicas of various cities, discarded from old movie sets. That’s a pretty cool idea.

My next Heroes trip was on July 19. This was not a fun day, because earlier that week, my cat suffered a severe medical emergency that required an overnight hospital stay. I think he’s fine now, but it was scary. On this trip I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers.

WYND #8 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The faerie capture Wynd and his companions. A faerie girl – the daughter of the faerie who was killed earlier – tells Wynd the origin of Essernel. The vampires and faeries statred out as a single race, the Winged Ones, but then they split into two tribes and went to war. The clear implication is that Wynd is the last of the Winged Ones. Michael Dialynas’s mural-esque artwork in the flashback sequence is very impressive.

RUNAWAYS #37 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Part 6,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Mostly a silent issue. We finally learn how Gib is feeding himself: the cat and its cat friends are bringing him sacrifices. The two Gerts finally confront each other. The issue ends with two Majesdanians coming to Earth in search of Karolina.

SEVEN SECRETS #10 (Boom!, 2021) – “Keep Calm and Carry a Big Scepter,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. We don’t get to see why Sigurd is still alive. Caspar and Eva infiltrate Buckingham Palace and confront the queen, but she turns out to be Eva’s friend, and also she appears to be of South Asian descent. And then she helps Sigurd and Eva kidnap the prime minister, who happens to look a lot like Boris Johnson. So Seven Secrets is one of two current Boom! comics that include unfavorable depictions of BoJo. He’s probably appeared in more comic books than any prime minister since Thatcher.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #99 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Robin Easter. Marble Pie gets accepted to a super-exclusive college – so exclusive that it’s run by former comic book editors. Pinkie Pie is too sad about her departure to throw her a goodbye party, so Cheese Sandwich helps her do it. This is a cute issue, and I’m sad that we’re not going to see the progression of Pinkie and Cheese’s romance.

MAMO #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. In the rural village of Haresden, teenage Jo Manalo asks the local witch, Orla, to help cure her sick mother. Orla denies being the witch, but ends up helping out anyway, and Orla and Jo have to confront a terrifying witch in Jo’s attic. This is yet another really promising debut issue from Boom! Sas Milledge’s characterization, worldbuilding, art and coloring are all excellent. Her art reminds me of Emma Rios, except without whatever it is that annoys me about Emma Rios. Jo and Orla are interestingly different characters, and Orla’s cat is really cute. There are subtle hints that Jo’s family are of Filipino descent, though this series does not appear to be set in the real world.  

THE SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #2 (Image, 2021) – “Sidecar,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Trigger’s will is read, and we learn that he arranged for his own excrement to be sent to various enemies of his. These enemies all show up at the reading of the will, and one of the sidekicks, Tad Haycroft, has to lead a car chase to get away from them. Then some giant Samoan dudes beat up the sidekicks and tell them to stop investigating the murder. This is perhaps the most fun comic being published at the moment.  

EVE #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. Eve meets a colony of children. One of the children escorts Eve to a train that will take her further on her journey – even though he knows he won’t be able to go back. Because of the plague, leaving the colony is an automatic death sentence. Wexler, the teddy bear, follows Eve and massacres the other children. When the train arrives in Chicago, Eve is met by a girl who looks identical to her. This issue is very dark and grim, and in his note at the end, Victor LaValle justifies this by quoting an editor who said that “the best place for the tough subjects is in the world of Young Adult Literature.”

NOCTERRA #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. Val and Emory make it to the Refuge. It seems like a paradise, but Emory is unwilling to stay there. And he’s right to be suspicious of the Refuge, because its owner, Tiberius, is about to betray them to Bootstrap Bill. Also, there’s an overarching plot about a war between beings of light and darkness.

ORDINARY GODS #1 (Image, 2021) – “As the World Turns,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Felipe Watanabe. 22-year-old Christopher still lives at home with his parents and doesn’t have much of a goal in life. After Christopher has a series of weird encounters with a cult that believes in reincarnation, his little sister kills his parents and tries to kill him too. Christopher is saved by a man who tells him that he’s the reincarnation of the Luminary, one of the thirteen gods. This is an intriguing premise, but I couldn’t remember anything about this comic until I looked at it again to write this review. So far it’s not as compelling as Radiant Black.

BUNNY MASK #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Secrets from the Cave,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask kills some jerk who’s about to kidnap his own daughter. Tyler starts to fall in love with Bee, despite their age gap. Then Tyler realizes he can hear people’s thoughts. And then while Tyler is staying over at Bee’s place (in the guest room), some hitmen break in, looking for Bee’s roommate. Bunny Mask might be Paul Tobin’s best non-humorous work. It’s creepy, it has strong characterization, and it makes me curious to read more.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #100 (IDW, 2021) – “The Knights of Harmony,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price & Brenda Hickey. It’s hard to believe that a comic book about pastel-colored ponies, aimed at little girls, has reached issue 100. Sadly it’s going to end soon after that. This issue we visit the bird kingdom, Ornithia, and it initially looks as if this issue is going to go the same way as the stories with the cats and the zebras. But then we meet Ceridwen, “Princess of Cunabula and one of the new Knights of Harmony,” and she announces her plans to invade Equestria. This is an epic story, as a 100th issue should be, and it’s full of great art and Easter eggs – for example, there’s a priest who says “Mawwiage is wot bwings us togedah today!”  

SAVAGE HEARTS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. Another debut issue that I don’t remember very well. (Then again, I had to reread Mamo #1 before I read issue 2, because I couldn’t recall what Mamo was about.) Graow, who is like Tarzan except with horns, falls in love with Bronwyn, a barbarian woman who enters his valley on a quest. They fight a bunch of weird creatures, and we learn that Bronwyn’s lover was killed by the same evil wizard who is the object of her quest. This comic is entertaining, and Jed Dougherty reminds me of Art Adams or Nick Bradshaw; like them, he’s equally skilled at drawing monsters and sexy women. But Graow’s creepy behavior toward Bronwyn is the sort of thing that’s not funny anymore. It’s not harmless flirting, but rather sexual harassment.

ORCS! #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs enter the dungeon, fight a giant plant monster, and recover Drod’s sword. With this treasure in hand, they’re able to convince their chieftain to let them back into the cave. Orcs was a super-fun miniseries and I really hope we get more of it soon.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. The protagonists explore the house while trying to either face or avoid their grief over the end of the world. This series has a fascinating premise and excellent artwork – I especially like the title page, even if it’s used again in issue 3. James Tynion is clearly the top writer in monthly comics at the moment, and he was a shoo-in for the Eisner for Best Writer. I just hope he continues writing his creator-owned comic books after he starts working for Substack.

THE WORST DUDES #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Unverified Number,” [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. Sam and Bang recruit Zephyr Monsoon’s ex-husband, Caligula, and they visit a diminutive crimelord named Bugsy who might know where Zephyr is. This issue is funny but not extremely memorable. I think the best line is “My… my Bang is name.”

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. The symbiote takes over the entire Baxter Building. Reed, MJ and Johnny sneak inside the building, but when they get inside, they discover that Venom has already possessed Reed, and he releases a lot of other symbiotes who take over the other superheroes’ bodies. Spider’s Shadow is one of the best What If? stories ever, because first, it has a top-tier creative team, and second, it’s written like a real superhero comic, while most other What if?s are written like plot summaries.

SKYBOUND X #1 (Image, 2021) – “Rick Grimes 2000 Chapter 1,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. This issue’s first story is a retelling of The Walking Dead, except with superheroes. It includes a scene where Michonne gets the top half of her head ripped off. It’s a good reminder that Robert Kirkman is a severly flawed writer and that his work relies too much on gore and shock value. The reason I bought this issue was for the Ultramega and Manifest Destiny stories. The Ultramega story is a forgettable flashback, but the Manifest Destiny story is told from the viewpoint of Dawhogg, one of the series’ most memorable guest stars, and it’s drawn in a cartoon style. It also has a plot that reminds me of Native American folklore. This issue also includes a Clementine story by Tillie Walden, probably the most talented young cartoonist in America.

HOLLOW HEART #5 (Vault, 2021) – “Universal Monster,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. El goes on a rampage and then gets captured again. This series has been disappointing, and I wish I hadn’t ordered it.

JENNY ZERO #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Little Reminders,” [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Most of the issue is a flashback to Jenny’s training, and then she turns into a giant kaiju. This is another disappointing series. Jenny is a mildly intriguing protagonist because of her self-destructive tendencies, but Jenny Zero’s plot is pointless, and the whole series relies on tired Japanese stereotypes.

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Thor and Loki team up with their female counterparts, have some silly adventures, and finally get back to Asgard. This was an extremely fun miniseries, just like its predecessor, and I wish Marvel would do more comics like this. The highlight of the issue is the following exchange between the two Thors: “How do you find it, being Thor?” “Glorious. How do you find it?” “Glorious as well, obviously.”

CRUSH & LOBO #2 (DC, 2021) – “I’m Fine! aka Travel Mugs are Very Useful in Space,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. On the way to visit her dad in prison, Crush has some flashbacks to her recently ended relationship, and she also fights a creature that looks like Krang from TMNT. I wish Crush were even more like Lobo, because she seems too similar to all of Mariko Tamaki’s other protagonists. But otherwise this series is very fun.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #119 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Nelson Daniel. The Turtles and their allies participate in a rally against Hob, but it erupts into violence. Meanwhile, Lita and the weasels get kidnapped while protecting a non-mutant woman named Lola. Another strong issue.

NINJAK #1 (Valiant, 2021) – “Daylight Part 1,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Javier Pulido. I didn’t order this, but I bought it off the shelf because I like both these creators. Ninjak #1 is a fairly typical secret agent story, with Jeff Parker’s usual strong plotting and dialogue, but Javier Pulido’s art is amazing. His panel structures and compositions remind me of Steranko, while his linework and coloring are in an exaggerated Clear Line style. The combined effect of this is very striking, even more so than in his She-Hulk run. I definitely plan on ordering the rest of this series.

DIE #18 (Image, 2021) – “Lines & Veils,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. In a flashback, we see why Ash blames themself for getting Matt trapped in Die. The characters keep descending until they find a crypt with Sol’s diary. This is of course a reference to the scene with the Book of Mazarbul in LOTR, and the diary ends “they’re not coming” instead of “they are coming.” And then the issue ends with the party encountering a giant fiery monster. Like WicDiv, Die gets more complicated and difficult the longer it goes on, but it’s clearly a major work.

BLACK’S MYTH #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer is a private detective and also a werewolf, and her partner Ben is a djinn. A man hires them to recover some bullets that were cast from Judas’s thirty pieces of silver. This issue has some striking black-and-white artwork, and its plot seems exciting and well-researched; I’ve never heard of a church grim before. But after reading this issue I couldn’t remember much about it.

GEIGER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. While fleeing from the King, Tariq and the kids encounter some organ pirates. This was a forgettable issue, but Geiger has been much better than I expected from Geoff Johns.

THE SILVER COIN #4 (Image, 2021) – “2467,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. In a dystopian future, the lucky people live inside a city while the unlucky ones live in the wasteland outside. A criminal from outside the city discovers the silver coin in some old ruins.  I really don’t understand this issue.

HAHA #6 (Image, 2021) – “Happy Hank the Very Happy Clown,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo & Chris O’Halloran. Happy Hank is yet another unsuccessful clown. He suffers from schizophrenia, which causes him to see imaginary crimes and disasters everywhere. Then he shoots himself. This issue includes references to Ice Cream Man, specifically the “Save Jerry” story. W. Maxwell Prince is a very effective writer of short horror stories. But Haha was less an actual miniseries than an anthology of single issues with a common theme and with occasional connections.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #4 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor. Damian and Jon save Rora from Vandal Savage, and then they use VR technology to rescue Cyborg. This is a fun issue, but this series is kind of formulaic; the scenes where Damian and Jon rescue the other superheroes are all very similar. When I started reading Challenge of the Super Sons, I didn’t even know it was a digital-first series. That’s anecdotal evidence that DC’s print and digital comics are serving two separate audiences.

IMMORTAL HULK #48 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hiding Places,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett.After making love, Hulk and Betty talk about their relationship. Then Betty runs off, and Hulk decides to head to the Below-Place to find Bruce. This issue includes a lot of nostalgic flashbacks to older Hulk comics, notably the reconciliation scene from Ground Zero.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The dogs finally confront the main villain: a spider kami who was traumatized by the atomic bombings, and swore vengeance on all humans. The Shiba Inus convince the spider to withhold judgment untli 300 years from now. This was another fun installment of Beasts of Burden, but I hope that there will be another miniseries soon, and that Jill Thompson will draw it.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Aulaura tries to save Bodil the hermit from the Fury, but he dies. Aulaura and Canto decide to join forces with the Slavers, and they go to Bodil’s old hideout to look for the Slavers’ location. I enjoy this series, but its plot is hard to remember.

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #6 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. In a flashback, while Cthu-Lou’s wife is pregnant with Cthu-Louise, Cthu-Lou’s Great Old One master summons him to build a “Great Machine.” Cthu-Lou sabotages the machine, but his wife gives him no credit for it, and he returns to his squalid life. Sheean and Ward’s art in this issue is reminiscent of Corben, but Cullen Bunn’s story doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t know from Cthu-Lou’s previous appearances.

SWAMP THING #5 (DC, 2021) – “Survivor Bomb,” [W] Ram V, [A] John McCrea. Swampy helps John Constantine defuse an unexploded bomb from WWII that’s turning English people into fascists. This was perhaps the best issue yet, but it’s a lot like Si Spurrier’s Hellblazer. The Nazis really did build concentration camps on the island of Alderney, after the island’s entire population was evacuated.

WAY OF X #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Heirs and Graces,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. Kurt gets Dust to help terraform Mars, then prevents Cortez from murdering Gorgon – not the Gorgon from the Inhumans. Meanwhile, Legion confronts his father, Professor X. This wasn’t as bad as issue 3, but it wasn’t very good either.

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. Dragonfly and Dragonflyman meet their evil counterpart, Man-Dragonfly, though they don’t realize at first that he’s evil. He has a device that can shatter all the mirrors in every reality; that becomes important next issue. Also, Lady Dragonfly teams up with one of the alternate versions of Stinger. By this point I had lost track of the series’ plot, though I was able to figure it out again after reading issue 6.

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #5 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. After an epic fight, the hero defeats the villains and gets killed again, but the last page reveals that his skeleton is still alive. I liked the idea behind this series, and I especially like the artwork. But the series’ plot never made sense. There were too many villains, and I never figured out what they were up to.

THE GOOD ASIAN #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. We begin with a history of Chinese immigration to America, then Edison goes on a date that doubles as an investigation of Holly’s murder. But his date, Lucy, learns that he’s a snitch and punches him. There are some really powerful moments in this issue, but The Good Asian’s plot is very hard to follow. I keep forgetting who all the characters are, or how they’re connected to each other.

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #10 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Scrutiny,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The entire world descends into chaos. Nina finally confronts the main villain, Executrix, who’s also her alternate self. This is another series that’s too hard to follow and has way too many characters. Its ideas are perhaps stronger than its execution.

KARMEN #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Two of Karmen’s seniors debate about what’s going on with her and Cata. Then the power in Cata’s apartment goes out, and as a result Cata’s roommate finds her in the bathtub and saves her life. Cata reconciles with her boyfriend, and also recovers the wedding ring of the man from issue 3. Karmen was a masterpiece, with spectacular artwork and coloring and a touching plot. I’m glad that Ablaze is going to publish another of Guillem March’s solo works.

OUT OF BODY #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Fear of Dying,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. In the astral plane, Dan the dying man meets Abi the psychic. Also he discovers that a nurse is committing necrophilia with his body, though I guess it’s not necrophilia if he’s not all the way dead. Meanwhile, it seems like the villain of the series is Dorian Gray.

INKBLOT #10 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. leads an elf girl into a cave, where she encounters a one-eyed sorcerer. This series’ plot is deliberately confusing because the stories aren’t told in chronological order. They all seem to involve the members of the Seeker’s family, but the Seeker has so many siblings that I can’t remember them all, and I can’t figure out what order the issues take place in. However, the real reason to read Inkblot is because of the cat.

WONDER GIRL #2 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Two,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. Yara is saved from drowning, various Amazon tribes go looking for her, and Eros falls in love with her. This issue wasn’t as exciting as the previous Yara Flor stories.

MOUSE GUARD: THE OWLHEN CAREGIVER #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Tales of: The Owlhen Caregiver, Piper the Listener, and the Wild Wolf,” [W/A] David Petersen. Three short stories: one about an owl and a mouse’s friendship, another about a mouse who listens to different animals’ language, and one about a wolf hunt that ends tragically. My favorite of the three is “Piper the Listener,” because of its plausible attempt to imagine how different animals would talk, but all three stories are touching. David Petersen’s art style is fascinating and not particularly like that of any other artist. I would read more Mouse Guard if it wasn’t published in such an awkward format.

ORCS IN SPACE #1 & 2 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Justin Roiland et al., [A] Francois Vigneault. A bunch of orcs take over a spaceship, obviously based on the Enterprise, and then their ship gets attacked by evil space rats. This series’ jokes aren’t particularly funny, and its art style doesn’t appeal to me. I was willing to give it one more issue, but after reading issue 3, I asked to have this series removed from my pull list.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #32 FACSIMILE EDITION (Marvel, 2021) – “The Stalker Called Moon Knight,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Don Perlin. Last issue, the Werewolf nearly killed Jack Russell’s friend Buck Cowan, who was trying to save a little girl in a blizzard. When Jack gets back to civilization, Moon Knight, in his first appearance, tries to kidnap Jack and deliver him to “the Committee.” This issue isn’t terrible, but Werewolf by Night was not one of Marvel’s better series from this period.

WONDER WOMAN #775 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 6,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy MacDonald. Wonder Woman and Deadman visit a cemetery world and play a riddle game with its keeper. Then there’s a scene in Olympus. As usual, the Young Diana backup story has cute art but a boring plot.

HELM GREYCASTLE #3 (Image, 2021) – “Dear Your Holiness,” [W] Henry Barajas, [A] Rahmat M. Handoko. The party members travel into a dream world to rescue Coyote. I like the idea of a crossover between Aztecs and Dungeons & Dragons, but Helm Greycastle is yet another series with a confusing plot and too many characters. Also, this issue’s story is only 18 pages, and the rest of the issue is an RPG module. This “bonus” feature is of no interest to me, and yet I feel obligated to read it. I wish it had been published somewhere else.

2000 AD #625 (Fleetway, 1989) – Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue remembers his romance with Venus. The soldiers who are searching for him encounter a dying man. One-off: “Ideas,” [W] Jim Campbell, [A] Paul Marshall. Comic book writer Alex Fenland (based on Alan Moore?) invites a woman to his apartment and feeds her to his monster, who actually writes his scripts. Tales from the Doghouse: “Froggy Natterjack,” [W] Stewart Edwards, [A] Mick Austin. An alien shapeshifter hides out in a wax museum. He’s caught when he shapeshifts into a beetle instead of a Beatle. Dredd: as above. Dredd finally kills Barry and Mo. The bigger plot about Banana City’s tyrannical police force is left unresolved. Future Shocks: “A Body Like Dwain Death’s”, [W] David Anderson, [A] Ron Smith. An extended Charles Atlas parody. I wonder if Gene Kannenberg knows about it. One-off: “The Hit,” [W] Larry Watson, [A] Dave D’Antiquis. A hitman assassinates his own future self. Overall this prog was rather unimpressive. 

A DISTANT SOIL #28 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Colleen Doran. This issue is just a series of arguments and reconciliations between various characters. I had been avoiding this series because first, its plot is too complicated and makes no sense. (Rieken, Seren and the Avatar are all different names for the same character.) and second, Colleen’s drawings are rather creepy. She makes her characters look impossibly cute. But the plot really doesn’t matter all that much, because it’s just an excuse for relationship drama. And the overly cute characters become more acceptable if you think of A Distant Soil as an American version of shojo manga. This issue also includes an illustrated prose short story by Ellen Kushner. I enjoy Ellen Kushner’s writing, but I hate it when comic books include prose stories.

ACTION COMICS #437 (DC, 1974) – “Magic is Bustin’ Out All Over!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Dick Dillin, etc. Batman and Green Arrow team up against Effron, the villain from World’s Finest #210. His goal is to steal the Viking village of Valhalla, from Action Comics #260. Superman and Green Arrow defeat him by disguising Kandor as Valhalla. Reprints in this issue include a Sea Devils story with excellent Russ Heath artwork, a Doll Man story by Reed Crandall, a one-shot from My Greatest Adventure, and stories starring Adam Strange and Trail Boss Matt Savage.

THE LEGEND OF KAMUI #3 (Viz, 1987) – “Red Medusa Part 1,” [W/A] Sanpei Shirato. A ninja goes fishing while having flashbacks to a swordfight. Shirato’s art here is very similar to Goseki Kojima’s art in Lone Wolf and Cub. I’ve heard that Shirato’s work had significant Marxist themes, but it’s hard to tell that from such a brief sampling. Unfortunately, though this was a 21-volume series, only two volumes have been published in book form in English.

LIFE WITH ARCHIE #18 (Archie, 2012) – The two stories in this issue are part of a crossover with each other. Archie Marries Veronica: “Progress’s Price Part 6,” [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Fernando Ruiz. Archie and his friends are trapped in a caved-in mine. In a flashback, we see that they got there after Archie met his counterpart from Archie Marries Betty. Archie Marries Betty: [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. Veronica is locked up in a holding cell after a plane crash. On beinig released, she realizes she’s actually in the Archie Marries Betty universe. Then we cut back to the two Archies, who manage to escape from the cave. This comic was a quick and fun read, but it was nothing extraordinary.

2000 AD #640 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Triad Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Arthur Ranson. Anderson tries to protect the two psychic little girls from a nightmare monster. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity helps rescue a cat-like Arcturan alien, then gets her own ambulance. Dredd: “The Amazing Ant-Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd hunts down a scientist who’s been breeding giant carnivorous ants. On seeing the ants, Dredd utters the amazing line “GIANT ANTS ON DOPE!” Appropriately, the scientist is named Henry Pymm, and his favorite ant is Adam, i.e. Adam Ant. Survivor: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. A talking panther tries to escape from a zoo. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 19,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan captures Johnny and reveals himself as Johnny’s half-brother, the son of the anti-mutant bigot Kreelman.

AMBUSH BUG NOTHING SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1992) – “The Book of Jobs” and other vignettes, [W/A] Keith Giffen et al., [W] Robert Loren Fleming. A series of surrealistic short stories, all focusing on Ambush Bug’s attempt to become the main character of a DC title. My old friend Jonathan Bogart loved this comic, and I can sort of see why, because it’s very surreal and metatextual. It’s full of fake ads and bonus features, parodies of other comics, etc. It even includes a short Legionnaires story drawn by Chris Sprouse. However, while this comic was innovative, it was also somewhat tedious and unfunny.

ELFQUEST: NEW BLOOD SUMMER SPECIAL #1 (WaRP, 1992) – “The Price of a Soul,” [W/A] John Byrne, etc. This issue’s main story is about Two-Edge’s screwed-up relationship with Winnowill. It’s full of Byrne’s usual needless cruelty to his own characters. Then there’s a Hansel-and-Gretel story co-written by Terry Beatty, and a troll story written by Nat Gertler. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an actual comic by him before. Other creators in this issue include Barry Blair (ick) and Lea Hernandez.

ECHO OF FUTUREPAST #5 (Continuity, 1985) – “Mudwogs,” [W/A] Arthur Suydam, etc. Suydam’s Mudwogs story is about a grossly fat lady. Suydam draws in a distinctive style that has echoes of Corben, Frazetta and Sam Kieth. There’s also a Bucky O’Hare story by Hama and Golden, and a chapter of Carlos Gimenez’s “Hom,” which is interesting but not at all representative of Gimenez’s work. This story is an adaptation of Brian W. Aldiss’s novel Hothouse, but this is not mentioned in Echo of Futurepast #5. This issue also includes a werewolf story by Neal Adams. Like all of Neal’s post-‘70s work, it’s incoherently written but well-drawn, though it shows a lack of stylistic evolution.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #95 (DC, 1969) – “Lois Lane’s Super-Brain!”, [W] Robert Bernstein, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. A collection of reprint stories with the theme “The Strange Lives of Lois Lane!” All of these stories are typical Silver Age sexist crap. The worst one is the lead story. Lois uses a “brain bank” device to make herself super-intelligent, but it causes her to grow a giant bald head. After Superman restores Lois’s normal appearance and intelligence, Lois thinks: “Any girl would prefer her own pretty face to having a super-brain… if she’s really smart!” To reinforce this point that women don’t need to be intelligent, the “brain bank” works by downloading information from the world’s greatest scientists, all of whom are white men. In another story, Lois tries to catch a serial poisoner without Superman’s help, but it turns out the “poisoner” is really Perry White playing a trick on her, because Superman already captured the real prisoner. As with Wonder Woman, DC was so afraid of Lois Lane’s potential as a feminist symbol, that they did everything they could to turn her into a figure of humiliation.

THE UNEXPECTED #192 (DC, 1979) – “A Killer Cold and Clammy,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] E.R. Cruz. Starting with issue #189, The Unexpected became a giant-size series and absorbed three other titles: Doorway into Nightmare, The Witching Hour and House of Secrets. All of these were among DC’s lower-tier titles, used as a farm system for artists who weren’t ready to draw superhero comics. The Unexpected #192 includes art by E.R. Cruz, Ruben Yandoc, Fred Carrillo and Irwin Hasen, as well as one page by Kaluta, but the nine stories in the issue are all thoroughly boring and unscary.

IZOMBIE #26 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The End Part Two,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. The various characters prepare for an invasion by a Lovecraftian monster. iZombie is not one of Mike Allred’s better works, although maybe I’d like it better if I’d started reading it from the beginning.

JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA ANNUAL #5 (DC, 1991) – “Tomorrow’s League Today!”, [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Steve Carr. In a chapter of Armageddon 2001, Waverider  visits the Justice League in disguise and has glimpses of their future. Each Justice Leaguer’s future is depicted in a sequence by a different artist. The future scenes connect to each other  in interesting ways, and overall this is a funny comic, though I’ve read so much of Giffen and DeMatteis’s Justice League that it’s no longer very exciting to me.

DUCKTALES #9 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Oil Pirates,” [W] Frank Ridgway, [A] Jamie Diaz Studio. Scrooge and friends try to stop the Beagle Boys from stealing oil from Scrooge’s rigs. DuckTales is weird to me because it’s a blend of Barksian characters and themes with non-Barks characters like Webby, Launchpad and Mrs. Beakley. This issue also includes Barks’s “Billions in the Hole,” which I’ve already read, and a second DuckTales story, in which Launchpad and the nephews investigate a mystery involving classic airplanes.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #19 (Marvel, 1968) – “My Father, My Enemy!”, [W] Arnold Drake & Steve Parkhouse, [A] George Tuska. Ka-Zar tries to stop his brother, the Plunderer, from getting his hands on a cache of deadly anti-metal. The story has a touching ending where a dying old man tries to leave Ka-Zar a message saying that Ka-Zar’s father was a peaceful man, not a villain like Ka-Zar thought. But the Plunderer erases the message before Ka-Zar can get to it. This story was Steve Parkhouse’s first professional credit. He’s probably most famous for drawing The Bojeffries Saga and Resident Alien. This issue also includes some interesting Golden Age reprints, with art by Carl Burgos, Bill Everett and Joe Maneely.

CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED #157 (Gilberton, 1960) – “Lives of the Hunted,” [W] Alfred Sundel, [A] Norman Nodel. A series of adaptatons of animal stories by Ernest Thompson Seton. The longest one is about a ram who lives in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, and the (human) hunter who pursues and eventually kills him. These stories are amusing but forgettable.

2000 AD #641 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson examines the two girls’ minds and finds a reference to Orlok, a villain who first appeared in the story “Block Mania.” Moon Runners: “Old Acquaintance,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. I didn’t understand this one, and it has no clear connection to the previous Moon Runners story. It includes a page that’s just black panels with no art. Zippy Couriers: “The Seachers Part 1,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Remember the story where Shauna’s partner Genghis ate an intelligent alien, thinking it was a donut? Well, in this story the alien’s parents abduct Genghis in order to get their child back. Dredd: “The Great U-Front Disaster,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. A four-year-old boy invents a heating device for his dad’s underwear. It catches fire, resulting in an accident that kills nineteen people. Despite the massive death toll, this story is meant to be funny, and it is. Survivor: as above. Henry the panther tries to escape the cage, but can’t. Strontium Dog: as above. Middenface goes looking for Johnny, who’s trapped in an alternate dimension.

HEAVY METAL #6.3 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. These actually have issue numbers, but they only appear in the ads for back issues. This issue starts with an obituary for Philip K. Dick, and then there’s the following: The Incal. Corben’s Den II. Den is perhaps Corben’s masterpiece, and it’s a shame that it hasn’t been completely collected. A half-page strip by a young Ben Katchor. “At the Middle of Cymbiola,” one of Schuiten’s earlier works. A preview of Blade Runner. “Concorde” by Caza, an artist I’m not familiar with. Luis García’s Nova 2, a beautifully drawn sequence based on the last scene of Psycho. A gallery of H.R. Giger art. “The Voyage of Those Forgotten” (AKA The Cruise of Lost Souls) by Bilal and Christin. Also some Druillet and Fernando Fernandez.

ELFQUEST: NEW BLOOD SUMMER SPECIAL 1993 (WaRP, 1993) – “Eclipse of the Heart,” [W] Andy Mangels, [A] Brandon McKinney, etc. This issue’s lead story is a folktale about the origin of the sun and the two moons. The most notable thing in this issue is “Naming Day,” written by Kurt Busiek and his wife Ann, about how Treestump got his name. There’s also a funny story by Nat Gertler, about things not to do when writing Elfquest stories (for instance, don’t mess with Nonna and Adar).

TYRANT #3 (SpiderBaby, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Steve Bissette. A hyperdetailed depiction of the baby T-Rex’s emergence from its egg. This comic has some stunning artwork that recalls Bissette’s Swamp Thing, especially “Rite of Spring,” and Steve must have done a ton of research on dinosaur embryo development. However, Tyrant’s premise is not very interesting to me, and its scope was perhaps overambitious; the protagonist doesn’t even get born until the third issue, and the series was supposed to cover its entire life.

CEREBUS #188 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mothers & Daughters 38,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Finally we’re done with the Victor Davis essays, thank God, and this issue has a full-length Cerebus story again. But all that happens in the story is that Cerebus and Cirin go from beating each other up to arguing over which of them deserves the throne. In the letter column, Dave doubles down on his misogynistic crap. There’s also a preview of David Zapanta’s Hairbat. This series had six self-published issues and then one issue published by Slave Labor.

BALTIMORE: DR. LESKOVAR’S REMEDY #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden, [A] Ben Stenbeck. Another Hellboy spinoff that I shouldn’t have bought because it makes no sense on its own. At least Ben Stenbeck draws some creepy-looking crab monsters. His art reminds me of that of Corben or Kevin Nowlan.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #17 (Marvel, 2015) – “Out the Gate You Go and Never Stop,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. Loki and Verity are trapped in some sort of empty blank world, but Loki escapes by drawing a “Next Issue” blurb. Ironically, this is the last issue. This series’s potential was wasted because it had a confusing, directionless plot and it introduced too many different Lokis. But Al Ewing would go on to bigger and better things.

HELLBLAZER #216 (Vertigo, 2006) – “Empathy is the Enemy Chapter 1 of 7,” [W] Denise Mina, [A] Leonardo Manco. Denise Mina is better known as a crime novelist. This issue was her first published comic; she went on to write twelve more issues of Hellblazer and some graphic novels. In this issue, a man approaches Constantine in a bar and tells him a lengthy sob story that takes up the entire issue. This comic isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t make me want to read the rest of this story arc.

NOWHERE MEN #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Eric Stephenson, [A] Nate Bellegarde. Another incomprehensible story about rock star scientists. This series was nominated for an Eisner, but it’s hard to see why. I do like its graphic design and its clever fake ads and text features.

2000 AD #644 (Fleetway, 1989) – Moon Runners: as above. Cara Ogilvy-Nash’s husband turns into a Jabba the Hutt creature and tries to kill her. This story made little sense, although at least the monstrous creature was a good use of Belardinelli’s talents. Dredd: “Cardboard City Part Two,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Dredd investigates some terrorist attacks on a tent city, and also he encounters his old housekeeper Mad Maria, now a derelict. Future Shocks: “Identity Crisis!”, [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Glyn Dillon. A newscaster reports that a shapeshifting alien is trying to destroy the city. Everyone becomes paranoid and starts suspecting their neighbors of being the alien, until the city descends into civil war. It turns out the newscaster herself is the alien. This is a good one. Survivor: as above. Henry escapes onto a space shuttle, and that’s the end of the story. Henry previously appeared in Mean Team. Fervent & Lobe: “The Issigri Variations 3: The Carny,” [W] John Smith (as “The Grim Brothers”), [A] Mike Hadley. Two dead guys visit a fortuneteller for help retreiving the soul of a person named Laibach. As usual for John Smith, this story has some brilliant prose but is difficult to understand. Anderson: as above. Anderson defeats Orlok, but the girls have to be taken away from their mother and sent to psi school.

VAMPIRELLA #60 (Warren, 1977) – “The Return of the Blood Red Queen,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Gonzalez. Pendragon is kidnapped by some crooks, and while searching for him, Vampi is herself kidnapped by her old enemy, the Blood Red Queen of Hearts. “He Who Laughs Last… Laughs Best”, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Carmine Infantino. Two rich men play a series of deadly pranks on each other, ending with the apparent suicide of one of the men. This is a clever story, but it has too many plot twists in too little space. “Riding Shotgun,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, A] Luis Bermejo. At a truck stop, a trucker encounters a sex worker who’s actually a succubus. He manages to escape death at her hands. “Wish You Were Here,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Ortiz. An obvious parody of Adam Strange, with the twist that the Zeta Beam no longer works because of atmospheric pollution. Also, Earth has become a dystopia where science fiction is illegal, so the kids no longer understand the appeal of Adam Strange’s adventures. This story is interesting, but it perhaps tries to do too much at once. “Fallen Angel,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Esteban Maroto. An adaptation of The Little Mermaid. DuBay’s story doesn’t add anything to the original fairy tale, but Maroto’s art is gorgeous.

ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE #4 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Larry Young, [A] Matt Smith. Some guy tries to hijack a spacecraft as it’s launching. Matt Smith’s art in this issue is good. Larry Young’s writing is mildly exciting, but his dialogue is trite.

CEREBUS #189 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mothers & Daughters 39,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Cirin continue arguing, then an invisible barrier appears and separates them. The letter column includes some effective critiques of issue 186, but unfortunately, Dave chooses to print his response as a column on the outer edges of each of the letters pages. What is this, the Talmud? And Dave’s response is just as awful as the original essay was. This issue includes a preview of Paul Pope’s THB.

INSUFFERABLE #5 (IDW, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The superhero Nocturnus and his former sidekick Galahad separately investigate the same crime. They encounter a villain who’s strapped a bunch of babies to himself as human shields. Insufferable was a digital-first comic, and it shows. In the digital format, each page was published in landscape format. In the print comic, each page of the print comic consists of two of those landscape-format pages, and therefore has a giant horizontal gap in the middle. Also, the lettering in the print comic is the wrong size. As I argue in my book, it is possible to convert digital comics to print (or vice versa) in an intelligent way, but it demands extra effort.

CONCRETE: STRANGE ARMOR #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. Concrete makes contact with the government, and they put him in prison and experiment on him. But he also meets the love of his life, Maureen Vonnegut. Maureen helps Concrete develop a plan to get his freedom back. This is a touching story, and Paul Chadwick’s artwork is incredble. He might be the greatest American follower of Moebius.

Y: THE LAST MAN #52 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Motherland Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Yorick has been kidnapped by Allison Mann’s father, but he escapes. Agent 355 and another woman begin or continue a romantic relationship. Beth is in Paris searching for Yorick. I’ve seen some recent social media conversations about this series, and I get the sense that its reputation is declining. It was groundbreaking for its time, but even though it ended less than 15 years ago, it now seems gender-essentialist. Also, it makes the problematic choice to focus on a male protagonist even though he’s literally the only man in the world.

DREADSTAR #16 (Marvel, 1984) – “The Test,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. Having absorbed the power of his sword into his body, Dreadstar fights two villains named Infra Red and Ultra Violet. I’ve been reading Dreadstar off and on for years, but I’m finally getting interested in it. It has to be Jim Starlin’s best work from after the 1970s, besides Death of Captain Marvel. It has much the same style of draftsmanship and dialogue as his Warlock or Captain Marvel.

CURSE WORDS #18 (Image, 2018) – “Queen Margaret! Part Three,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Margaret changes back to her koala form. Jacques Zacques ccontinues his plot for vengeance on Wizord. Margaret heads to Australia to meet her alleged boyfriend. This is one series I wish I hadn’t quit buying.

LETTER 44 #10 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. The ship tries to repel an alien assault. In Afghanistan, the American base is blown up by a nuclear bomb. This scene is kind of tough to read now, in light of what’s currently happening in Afghanistan. Also, the humans send the aliens a copy of D*n*ld Tr*mp’s Art of the Deal, in order to show that humans are an intelligent species, even though that book is stronger evidence of the exact opposite.

2000 AD #645 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “The Prophet Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Anderson encounters what appears to be an insane combat robot. This comic’s first page includes a reference to Bill Sienkiewicz’s comic Stray Toasters. Night Zero: “Beyond Zero,” [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner tries to defend a city of feminists from an invading army of misogynists. This story has some nice artwork with good spotting of blacks, but it has nothing to do with the previous Night Zero story arc. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 20,” as above. The refugees in the alternate dimension are attacked by a giant bat-winged monster. Dredd: as above. Dredd apprehends the people who are terrorizing Cardboard City, then “arrests” Mad Maria in order to force her into a rehab clinic. The story ends with the line “That’s how you solve a problem like Maria.” Future Shocks: “Birthday Greetings,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A young man receives a letter congratulating him on his 100th birthday, then he has several narrow escapes from death. Thinking he’s destined to live to 100, he runs in front of a truck on purpose and gets killed. In heaven, he learns that the letter was supposed to be sent to another man with a similar name. This plot could have used a little more thought: why would heaven be sending messages to people on their 100th birthday? The plot would have made more sense if the false message had come in a dream. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Excellent artwork and prose, but  the plot makes no sense.

VAMPIRELLA #63 (Warren, 1977) – All the stories in this issue are reprints, although olny some of them are tagged as such in the GCD. “Vampirella and the Sultan’s Revenge!”, [W] Mike Butterworth, [A] José González. Droga, an old enemy of Vampirella, is now married to an Arab sultan, and she tries to use her new power to revenge herself on Vampi. This story is well-drawn, except for a few pages that are badly printed from pencils, but it’s super Orientalist. And it ends with Droga being subjected to force-feeding, “Jenifer,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Bernie Wrightson. A ghastly woman drives a series of men insane. This is one of the greatest Warren stories of all, and it has its own entry in Paul Gravett’s 1001 Comics book. I can’t recall if I’ve read it before. Its fame is well deserved: Jenifer’s deformed face is a horrifying spectacle, and Jones and Wrightson effectively convey the protagonist’s self-destructive obsession with her. “Ground Round,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Rafael Auraleon. A butcher murders his shrewish wife and serves her flesh to his customers. She comes back from the dead and does the same thing to him. “As Ye Sow”: see my review of Creepy #79. “The Parable of the Hermits of Glastonbury Tor,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Luis Bermejo. A scholar goes looking for the treasure of Glastonbury Abbey, and ends up trapped in a marriage to an immortal woman. When he tries to leave the abbey, she erases him from existence. I wish this story had tried harder to seem Arthurian. “The Professional,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Zesar. A professional con man seduces and then blackmails a bunch of married women, only to discover that one of the women is an even better manipulator than he is. “Wings of Vengeance,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Esteban Maroto. A young prince falls in love with his father’s new young bride. When the father finds out, he murders her and disfigures his son. The son tells his story to some birds, and the birds kill his father. This story has echoes of the myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra.

CEREBUS #190 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 40,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue begins with a long-ass essay about the Spirits of Independence tour. The Cerebus story is mostly a flashback to Cerebus’s traumatic childhood, a period that I don’t know much about. The preview in this issue is of Stephen Blue’s Red River.

CONCRETE: STRANGE ARMOR #4 (Dark Horse, 1998) – as above. Concrete appears in some TV commercials, then gets tricked into appearing at a child’s birthday party. Then he saves a bunch of trapped miners from a mine, but fails to save all of them. This story includes redrawn and rewritten versions of at least two older Concrete stories. The birthday party sequence is based on the very first Concrete story from Dark Horse Presents #1, and the sequence about the trapped miners is a remake of the original Concrete #1.

SILVER STAR #2 (Pacific, 1983) – “Darius Drumm,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. In a flashback, we learn about the origin of Darius Drumm, the Darkseid to Silver Star’s Orion. This comic has some excellent art, but it feels like a less original version of New Gods. This issue also includes Ditko’s “The Mocker,” which is a typical example of his late style, except that for some reason it has between twelve and sixteen panels per page.

RINGSIDE #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. A crime comic bout professional wrestling. I regret that I kept ordering this series, even though I never much liked it and stopped reading it after issue 3.

WARLORD #19 (DC, 1979) – “Wolves of the Steppes,” [W/A] Mike Grell. While searching for their son, Morgan and Tara are captured by steppe barbarians and thrown into a bear pit. Machiste and Mariah show up and save them. This was a quick and reasonably fun read.  

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #59 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Sin City,” [W/A] Frank Miller. Marv escapes from a prison cell and kills some goons who are chasing him. This story is a bit hard to follow, but its composition and draftsmanship are wildly innovative. This issue also includes a tedious story about reptilian aliens, by Anthony Smith and Eric Vincent, and a one-page song adaptation by Rick Geary.

REDNECK #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Two feuding clans of redneck vampires have a big fight. This is another comic I wish I hadn’t bought. Lisandro Estherren’s artwork is good, but not good enough to carry this comic all on its own, and Donny Cates’s plot is uninteresting.

MYSTERYMEN #4 (Dark Horse, 19990 – “The Yellow Rider’s Last Big Score…”, [W] Bob Burden, [A] Chris McLoughlin. At a comics convention, an old supervillain, the Tennessee Thunderbird, tells a reporter a story about a crime he was involved in. As a younger man, the Thunderbird and his partners stole some mysterious vials, killing a bunch of people in the process. The Thunderbird’s partner, the Yellow Rider, opened the vial and died horribly as a result. The creepy part is that the Thunderbird shows no remorse about his involvement in these events. This issue is entertaining, and unlike Flaming Carrot, it follows typical narrative logic and is not surrealistic.

REID FLEMING, WORLD’S TOUGHEST MILKMAN #2 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Rogue to Riches Chapter 2,” [W/A] David Boswell. Reid Fleming causes a ton of bizarre mayhem and eventually loses his job. Though it was published by Eclipse, Reid Fleming feels like something out of Raw; it reminds me of the work of Spiegelman or Bill Griffith or Drew Friedman. Perhaps this is because of Boswell’s invocation of mid-century American culture, or his heaviily detailed cross-hatching style, or both.

ANGEL LOVE #4 (DC, 1986) – “Chemistry,” [W/A] Barbara Slate with John Wm. Lopez. Angel can’t decide whether or not to date her new crush, Mike London. This issue is funny, if you appreciate Angel Love’s sensibility, which I do.

CEREBUS #194 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 44,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In a flashback, we learn how Cirin’s ally, Serna, usurped Cirin’s position and eventually assassinated and replaced her. So the character we know as Cirin was really Serna all along. As often happens in this series, Cirin/Serna is more sympathetic than Dave may have wanted her to be. For example, we’re told that Serna assassinated a bunch of men who beat their wives. That sounds fine to me. Instead of a letter column, this issue includes two long essays by Dave, one about comics distribution and another about pedagogy. And there’s a preview of B.C. Boyer’s Hilly Rose.

2000 AD #646 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson encounters the “robot” again and discovers that it’s really a man named Bill Zinkywink. Future Shocks: “You Need Friends,” [W] Larry Watson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A man is bothered by imaginary people following him. A psychiatrist tells him how to stop seeing them. He follows the psychiatrist’s advice, and the psychiatrist vanishes too, because the man is the only person in the world who’s still alive. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Another chapter that makes little sense, though it does include a beautiful, Bosch- or Bruegel-esque full-page depiction of hell. Dredd: “Over the Top,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Vanyo. A reporter publicly criticizes Dredd for abusing his powers. To my surprise, the reporter only gets six months in jail. Night Zero: as above. Tanner smuggles himself aboard the misogynists’  airship, but gets captured. Strontium Dog: as above. McNulty continues his search for Johnny.

STAR WARS #9 (Marvel, 1977) – “Showdown on a Wasteland World!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Howard Chaykin. Han and Chewie assist in a rebellion on a planet called Aduba-3. The writing and art in this issue are both underwhelming, and the new characters don’t feel like Star Wars characters. The most memorable thing in this issue is the scene where Leia is pining after the missing Luke. At this point the comic’s creators must not have known Luke and Leia were siblings.

CONCRETE: THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN #3 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Arms and Boxes,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. Having just gotten involved in an attempt to sabotage logging equipment, Concrete jumps into the water of Puget Sound and has to walk back to civilization. This issue includes some stunning depictions of nature, as well as a meditation on octopus intelligence.

RINGSIDE #5 (Image, 2016) – as above. The younger protagonist gets his contract renewed, while the older protagonist contemplates the impending end of his career. In another sequence set at a later time, the older protagonist gets beaten up. Until I even read this issue, I didn’t even realize that the characters in the two storylines were the same.

FOUR COLOR #1012 (Dell, 1959) – “Last Train from Gun Hill,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Tom Gill. Matt Morgan’s Indian wife is cruelly murdered. Following the killer’s trail, he goes to the town of Gun Hill, where he discovers that the killer is the son of his old partner Craig Belden, now a wealthy rancher. Craig tries to prevent Matt from leaving town with his son, and drama ensues. This comic was based on a movie, but, according to the GCD, “with some of the violence and all of the sexual situations of the original deleted.”

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #16 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Dream Gang Act 3 Chapter 3,” [W/A] Brendan McCarthy, etc. The standout features in this issue are Brendan McCarthy’s Dream Gang and Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder. Besides that, there’s a somewhat interesting superhero story by Shawn Aldridge, who I haven’t heard of, and also Semiautomagic byAlex de Campi and Jerry Ordway.

CEREBUS #198 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 48,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue starts with yet another of Dave’s essays, an open letter to Steve Geppi. In the story, Cerebus’s creator Dave castigates him on his cruel treatment of Jaka, and there’s an extended reference to the injury-to-the-eye motif. This issue is significantly better than most of the last  Bill’s wife, who’s been forced to pretend to be a machine. Then Bill comes home and Anderson kills him. David Roach’s art in this story arc is quite good. Future Shocks: “Brogan’s Last Ride,” [W] Ian Rimmer, [A] Simon Coleby. A prisoner escapes from his cell, but his “escape” is really just part of his execution. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Nothing new to say about this. Dredd: “A Monkey’s Tale,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Paul Marshall. A paralyzed man tries to use his pet monkey to bait Dredd into killing him. But Dredd ends up killing the monkey instead, leaving the man stuck in his useless body. Night Zero: as above. Tanner’s fellow prisoner Adoria escapes from prison. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny is badly hurt fighting the monster, and one of his fellow prisoners is killed.

THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #1 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. This series has such a bad reputation that I never bothered to read it before, but I got this issue last year for just a dollar. This first issue is barely about Batman at all; it focuses on how Batman and his allies rescue various superheroes who have been forced to work for the government. The US government in this series is far more tyrannical than the one depicted in the original DKR. Miller’s artwork in this comic is embarrassing. His draftsmanship is crude and his page layouts are unoriginal, even compared to his Sin City stories from just a few years earlier. Back in 2001, Miller was still seen as a major contemporary creator, but DK2 #1 made it obvious that he had jumped the shark.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #4 (Cartoon Books, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki and the kids continue their quest. Tuki is sort of interesting, but not nearly as much so as Bone or Shazam: Monster Society of Evil, and it’s too slow-paced for a monthly comic. It’s kind of puzzling that Jeff chose to publish it in comic book form when he’d had such massive success with the graphic novel format.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Meg Omac. Steven’s pet pink lion gets in a lot of mischief. This comic is better than the Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems miniseries, but I still shouldn’t have bought it. Unlike, say, the Jem or TMNT comics, it’s not worth reading unless you’re already a fan.

ARCADE #5 (Print Mint, 1976) – [E] Bill Griffith & Art Spiegelman. This comic has an incredible lineup of talent: Crumb, Griffith, Deitch, Noomin, George DiCaprio (Leonardo’s father), Michael McMillan, Rory Hayes, Justin Green, Spiegelman, M.K. Brown, Spain, and Aline Kominsky. As those names indicate, Arcade was a series that bridged the gap between the Zap and Raw generations. The Deitch story is a historically inaccurate account of the Turk, the fake chess-playing robot. The Spiegelman story is a collage of unrelated panels. This issue’s letter column includes one letter criticizing Curt McDowell’s story “Mommy’s Song” as racist. The editors respond by disclaiming responsibility for the content of the story.

SAUCER STATE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. This is the sequel to Saucer Country. Arcadia Alvarado is now President, but Earth is about to be invaded by flying saucers. Also, Arcadia dreams of having an alien baby. I don’t like Saucer Country/State as much as Letter 44 or Department of Truth, but it’s worth reading.

LETTER 44 #28 (Oni, 2016) – as above. This issue is a flashback to the construction of the spaceship that made contact with the aliens. The government manipulates Manesh into joining the Clarke’s crew, since no one else understands the computer systems he’s designed. Meanwhile, they fake an accident that causes Kyoko Takahashi to lose her medical license, just so she’ll have a reason to serve aboard the Clarke rather than stay on Earth. That’s pretty cruel.

BLACK CLOUD #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, [A] Greg Hinkle. Yet another issue that makes no sense. I wish I had given up on this series after the first issue.  

NIGHT’S DOMINION SEASON TWO #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ted Naifeh. A mildly grim sword-and-sorcery comic. I don’t know why I wasn’t more enthusiastic about this series, since I generally like Ted Naifeh’s work. Oni’s output has drastically decreased over the past year or two. I wish they would publish more comic books.

VAMPIRELLA #70 (Warren, 1978) – “Ghostly Granny Gearloose,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. Vampi is kidnapped by an old lady who makes robots, as a gift for the lady’s grandson. The twist is that the grandson is also a robot. Gonzalo Mayo was a very underrated artist. “Mask of U’Gin,” [W] Nicola Cuti & Gerry Boudreau, [A] José Ortiz. A person in an African mask is going around killing people. The culprit turns out to be an old antique shop owner who’s trying to create a ghost bride for her dead son. The son’s fiancee murders the old lady, but then the son comes back to life and murders the fiancee. This story draws upon some unfortunate African stereotypes, but José Ortiz’s spotting of blacks is beautiful. “Swamp Lovers,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Leo Duranona. A mentally ill swamp-dwelling hick falls in love with a beautiful woman who’s actually an awful monster. Duranona’s linework is very detailed. “Reality Twice Removed,” [W]  Gerry Boudreau, [A] Ramon Torrents. A husband and wife prepare to go out while listening to a series of horrifying news stories. Ramon Torrents is another underrated artist. The woman in this story wears a dress with a complicated flower design, and Torrents has to draw it again in every panel in which the woman appears. “The Terrible Exorcism of Agdriennes Pompereau!”, [W] Luis Vigil & Bill DuBay, [A] Rafael Auraleon. A ripoff of The Exorcist, except it takes place in France in 1914, and the demon is really an alien. This story has some more gorgeous art.

2000 AD #653 (Fleetway, 1989) – Rogue Trooper: “The War Machine,” [W] Dave Gibbons, [A] Will Simpson. A long fight scene with no real story, but beautiful painted artwork. This was the story that introduced Friday, the new version of Rogue Trooper. The Dead Man: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. A boy and a zombie fight some primitive cavemen. I’m not sure what this story is about. (After writing this review, I discovered it was an unannounced prequel to the Dredd epic Necropolis.) Dredd: “Young Giant Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Cadet Giant is the son of Judge Giant and the grandson of John Giant from Harlem Heroes. In this chapter he’s forced to shoot a man, then he gets a lead on the crooks who killed his mother. Zenith: “The Best Laid Plans” (Phase III Part 12), [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith and his allies have to blow up the world they’re currently on, so that the Lloigor’s host bodies will be killed, but someone has to stay on that world to detonate the bomb. Slaine: “The Horned God Volume II Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. Slaine’s pet dragon, the Knucker, is killed fighting a “dragon-ghost” conjured by Medb. The Horned God is probably the peak of both the Slaine franchise and Simon Bisley’s career. Bisley’s artwork is stunningly epic and three-dimensional, and his colors are vivid.

HEAVY METAL #2.8 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. This issue includes: Sindbad by Corben and Strnad. Moebius’s “Hit Man,” a rather absurdist crime comic. Gray Morrow’s Orion. Bilal and Dionnet’s Exterminator 17, drawn in a style that greatly resembles Moebius’s. Druillet’s Gail. Zha and Claveloux’s “Off Season.” I already read the first half of this story in Heavy Metal #2.7. I think NYRB is going to reprint their Claveloux collection in paperback, and I ought to get it. Paul Kirchner’s “Tarot,” a story framed around tarot cards. Another short early work by Ben Katchor. A blatant ripoff of Vaughn Bodé by Bob Aull.

CEREBUS #199 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 49,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus, now wearing an eyepatch, finishes his conversation with Dave. As with so many other late issues of Cerebus, this issue has gorgeous art and lettering but a vapid plot. Dave’s artwork improved as his mental health declined. The backup feature was supposed to be Kiss & Tell by Patricia Breen and Robert Wertz, but they broke up while the issue was going to press, so instead Dave ended up printing a four-page collaboration between the two artists, and then four pages of each artist’s solo work.

A DECADE OF DARK HORSE #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Daddy’s Little Girl,” [W/A] Frank Miller. The Sin City story is probably the reason I bought this issue, but I already read this story when it was reprinted in Tales to Offend #1. There’s also a Predator story with nice art by Igor Kordey, and a Grendel story by Matt Wagner. I like Matt Wagner’s art, but there doesn’t seem to be very much of it; most of his Grendel comics were illustrated by less talented artists.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE EARLY ADVENTURES #5 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Princess Leia, Imperial Servant,” [W/A] Russ Manning. A series of newspaper strips in which Princess Leia has a solo adventure. Russ Manning writes and draws Leia quite well, but his style isn’t well suited to Star Trek. Also, his artwork in this issue is reproduced too large, and the panels are chopped up and rearranged.

RINGSIDE #6 (Image, 2016) – as above. Danny, the older protagonist (the younger one is Teddy) is hired as a full-time trainer of new wrestlers. But his evil boss has some kind of hidden agenda. I still don’t think this series was very good, although this issue at least made more sense than some of the earlier ones did.  

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #75 (DC, 2017) – “Swords of Sorcery,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Walter Carzon. Daphne teams up with the actress who plays Zorna the Warrior Woman (i.e. Xena). “Hot Time in the Old Temple Tonight,” [W] Frank Strom, [A] Leo Batic. The kids solve a mystery involving an old Mesoamerican temple. There’s one panel in this story that’s formatted like a maze, but I don’t think the maze is solvable; it’s not clear where the start and end points are.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier. A king named Cuffi is trying to increase his power by making everyone pray to the “Star God” – perhaps this is a reference to the pharaoh Akhenaten – and he tries to manipulate Groo into helping him. I remember being underwhelmed by the earlier issues of this miniseries, and that must be why I didn’t read this issue until now.

LOONEY TUNES #234 (DC, 2017) – “Five-Card Porky,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Robert Pope. Three dumb, forgettable stories. I only bought this comic because DCBS was offering it as part of a package deal. At the time, Looney Tunes may have been DC’s highest-numbered title.

I went to Heroes again on August 2. The restaurant I wanted to visit that day turned out to only be open for dinner, so I ate at Fuel Pizza instead.

BERMUDA #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Bradshaw. This was initially announced before the pandemic, and I wonder why it took so long to come out, but I’m glad it did. In Bermuda, a wealthy inventor’s two children are stranded on an island filled with giant monsters, where they’re rescued by a redheaded adventuress. Like his stylistic father Art Adams, Nick Bradshaw is extremely talented at drawing giant monsters and sexy women; this series is basically Bradshaw’s Monkeyman & O’Brien. A particular highlight is Bermuda’s realistic-looking pet giant chameleon. This comic also has some mild steampunk elements, particularly in the scene set in the kids’ hometown. This series will be a lot of fun.

SAVE YOURSELF #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leonard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nicole Matthews. The aliens explain what’s going on: Mia is the sibling of the Lovely Trio, but the Lovely Trio are preying on planets that aren’t part of the galactic federation. Gigi manages to convince Mia to violate the prime directive and help fight the Lovely Trio. Then Shawn gets kidnapped by a monster. This series is a funny revisionist take on the Powerpuff Girls, and it’s also very entertaining.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #11 (Image, 2021) – “A Hunter’s Diary Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Hawk tells Cole how Bigfoot is connected to the history of Western imperialism and exploitation. This series has included a lot of fascinating meditations like this, explaining why people believe conspiracy theories and how these theories relate to larger themes in history. Then Cole and Hawk find Bigfoot, and the old man finally sees it in person just before they shoot it, so now he can live his few remaining years in peace. The handwritten diary pages in this issue and the previous one are rather difficult to read, but they look just like real diary pages.

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Relics,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. In a flashback, we see how the Crusaders sold fake relics when they discovered that the fabled treasures of Jerusalem didn’t exist. In the present, some rich jerk tries to convince Jesus to work for him, and Jesus obviously declines, but the guy’s intern becomes Jesus’s first disciple. This issue is excellent, but this series has been very slow to come out.

MONEY SHOT #13 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. Half the team gets kidnapped by alien trophy hunters. The other half of the team joins forces with the alien sex trafficking victims, but they’re about to be attacked by the guy who enslaved the aliens. This was an entertaining issue, but I don’t remember much about it.

MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #4 (Boom!, 2021) – “Conversations with God,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. Laila meets the spirit of Mumbai’s only remaining Chinese temple. Then she meets the thirty-year-old Darius, who is finally figuring out who Laila is. And he’s pissed at her for taking his wife and leaving him a single father. Meanwhile, the temple’s caretaker dies, and the temple itself is destroyed in a flood. This issue is a touching meditation on death, though its themes require some effort to unpack. There really is a single Chinese temple in Mumbai, and it really is a relic of the city’s vanishing Chinese immigrant population (https://www.thebetterindia.com/66112/chinese-kwan-kung-temple-mazagaon-mumbai/) . This part of the issue is an interesting investigation of Mumbai’s ethnic diversity.

ETERNALS #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Finale,” W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Ikaris is killed fighting Thanos. The machine reactivates, and Ikaris comes back to life, but Toby Robson dies. The twist ending is that the Eternals’ “immortality” is achieved at the cost of human lives. It looks like the next issue of this series is coming in November, and the upcoming Eternals: Celestia #1 is just a one-shot, not a reboot.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #14 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Valentina destroys the malfunctioning superhero robots by convincing them that she’s a mind-controlling supervillain. There’s a moral here about stories and how they can be used to control minds – a theme also explored in much of Kieron Gillen’s work.

FANTASTIC FOUR #34 (Marvel, 2021) – “Bride of Doom Final Chapter: The Sacred Vow of Victor Von Doom,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. The FF escape Latveria, but Doom overloads Johnny’s powers so that he can’t flame off. It serves Johnny right, since his behavior throughout this storyline has been shameful. Also, Doom tells Zora to “never show your face to me again,” and Zora complies by putting on a mask similar to Doom’s.

USAGI YOJIMBO #21 (IDW, 2021) – “Yukichi Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi discovers that Yukichi is his cousin. Yukichi beats the leader of the other sword school in a duel, and Usagi has to kill the guy when he tries to attack Yukichi from behind. Yukichi delivers the swords to his master’s heir, Daido, who turns out to be a money-grubber with low standards of quality. Yukichi declines Daido’s offer of employment and decides to wander around with Usagi for a while. This was a pretty fun story.

CHU #6 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. Saffron gets out of prison with lots of new abilities. A certain Mr. Ortolan hires her to recover some very old wine from a shipwreck. She kills him and presumably decides to recover the wine for herself. A promising start to the second story arc.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #28 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga Conclusion,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles has his final confrontation with Selim. Shift shows up to help, Selim gets killed, and Miles rescues Billie. Miles addresses Shift as his new brother.  This was a touching conclusion.

GROO MEETS TARZAN #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tom Yeates. This is the first new Groo comic in some time. As with Groo Meets Conan, it has three separate plot threads: one about Groo, one about Tarzan, and one about Mark and Sergio. The Mark/Sergio plot is the funniest and most memorable. It begins at the (fictional) 2020 San Diego Comic-Con, and there’s aspectacular splash page with hundreds of Easter eggs, rangnig from Matt Groening and Scott Shaw to Ranbow and Mighty Magnor. And there’s a running joke where people keep confusing Sergio with Antonio Prohias.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy’s daughter Rose  and her friend sneak into some kind of bizarre place full of flying sharks. Skulldigger rescues them. There’s also a flashback to a previous encounter between Lucy, Skulldigger and Dr. Robinson, formerly known as Dr. Star. This issue was interesting, but I’m not sure where this plot is going.

SHADECRAFT #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Zadie and her mom break Ricky out of the insane asylum, and Ricky wakes up from his coma. This was a really entertaining story arc, and I hope we get more Shadecraft soon.

GOOD LUCK #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. The kids encounter a luck god named Cassiopeia, and then they seemingly get killed, though I’m sure they’re fine. I like the art in this series, but the writing is disappointing so far. I’m still not sure what Good Luck’s premise is supposed to be.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #2 (DC, 2021) – “Wounded, Stranded and Impotent,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. In pursuit of Krem, Supergirl and Ruthye ride a train across outer space. We eventually learn that Supergirl needs to find Krem so she can get a sample of the poison he used on Krypto. This is another very enjoyable issue, and I especially like Ruthye’s narration; her prose style is deliberately wordy and old-fashioned.

WONDER WOMAN #776 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 7,” [W] Michael W. Conrad, [W/A] Becky Cloonan, [A] Jill Thompson. In the realm of Elfhame, Diana and SIgurd rescue some kidnapped children and get a lead on Janus’s next destination. Ratatosk spends most of the issue in the form of a little boy, and is even cuter in that form than as a squirrel. Jill Thompson’s painted artwork in this issue is stunning. She was a perfect choice to draw a story set in Faerie. Not the same Faerie as in The Dreaming, by the way, but it makes sense that the DCU has more than one faerie realm.

ASCENDER #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. All the characters converge on Dirishu-6. Mother kicks Tim’s ass, but Tim summons the giant apocalyptic robots to help him. I assume next issue is the conclusion.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Truth, Justice, and a Better World,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. “A better world” is better than “the American way.” I bought this because I really like Jon Kent, and this issue is an effective introduction to Jon as an adult Superman. In the flashback sequence, Lois looks unusually glamorous for a woman in childbirth.

On August 1st I went to another Charlotte Comicon. This was a really enjoyable convention. I brought about $200 and spent almost all of it.

AVENGERS #66 (Marvel, 1969) – “Betrayal!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. This issue is the first appearance of adamantium. While the Avengers are performing experiments on adamantium, the Vision vanishes, then returns and attacks the Avengers. We then discover that he’s under the control of Ultron, who’s used the adamantium to build himself an indestructible new body. BWS’s art in this issue is excellent, though he seems to be trying to imitate Buscema.

CEREBUS #27 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “The Kidnapping of an Aardvark,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Fleagle and Drew McGrew kidnap Cerebus, but he turns the tables on them and enlists them in his service, and then fakes his own kidnapping so he can collect a ransom from Lord Julius. Then when the ransom is delivered, Fleagle and Drew double-cross Cerebus so they can collect it themselves. It’s all rather confusing, but in a funny way. This issue may also have introduced the card game Diamondback, which Cerebus plays with Fleagle and Drew while waiting for the ransom.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #148 (Marvel, 1975) – “Jackal, Jackal… Who’s Got the Jackal?”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Spider-Man battles the Tarantula and the Jackal, who, in the last panel, is unmasked as Miles Warren. This issue also introduces Miles’s assistant Anthony Serba, though he only appears in flashback. Peter describes him as “one of those pathetic guys – the kind who devote themselves entirely to their work, to the exclusion of everything else,” which hits kind of close to home. At one point it was stated that Anthony Serba was Spider-Man’s clone, but that was later retconned away.

MIRACLEMAN #16 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Book II Chapter 6: Olympus,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this issue, but now I also have the real thing. Miracleman #16 is perhaps the standout issue of the series, even more so than #15, because it depicts how Miracleman transforms the world into a utopia. It’s like Squadron Supreme and The Authority combined, all in the space of one issue. But there are hints that Miracleman’s utopia isn’t all that great: he and his superhero companions seem rather frivolous, especially the dog, and Liz refuses Miracleman’s offer of a superhuman body. The fissures in Miracleman’s new world will be the subject of The Silver Age and The Dark Age, if those stories ever get completed (I hear they’re being held up by disputes over the ownership of the Warpsmiths). This issue is full of classic moments, such as Miracleman’s devastating takedown of Margaret Thatcher.  

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS: FRIENDSHIP IN DISGUISE #4 (IDW, 2021) – I somehow failed to get this when it came out. “Strength in Numbers,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Sara Pitre-Durocher. The Apple family battles the Insecticons at Sweet Apple Acres. “Finale,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Tony Fleecs. The final battle between the Autobots and Decepticons and their respective pony allies. This miniseries was okay, but the regular pony comics are better.

IRON MAN #24 (Marvel,1970) – “My Son…  the Minotaur!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Johnny Craig. Tony and Jasper Sitwell are grieving over their respective love interests, Janice Cord and Whitney Frost. But Whitney/Madame Masque isn’t dead, she’s been kidnapped by an old man as a bride for his son, a mutant minotaur. Tony rescues Whitney, and the minotaur and his dad are killed. Besides Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin was the best Iron Man writer until David Michelinie arrived.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #1 (Image, 2004) – “Flaming Carrot Goes PC!”, [W/A] Bob Burden. The Flaming Carrot invites multiple woman on a date on the same night, and also he fights some pygmies and a zombie. This is the sort of absurdist nonsense I expect from Bob Burden. The issue’s title gives the impression that it’s a satire of political correctness, but it’s really not. I like how Bob Burden draws the highlights on the Flaming Carrot’s head.

CREEPY #58 (Warren, 1973) – “Change… into Something Comfortable,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Richard Corben. A werewolf escapes from a carnival of other monsters, but they trick him into attending a Halloween party, where they kill and eat him. Great art but not much of a story. “An Excuse for Violence,” [W] Don McGregor, [A] Adolfo Usero (credited as “Adolpho Abellan,” his maternal surname). Some vampire murders on a college campus result in a near race riot. This story has some really clumsy and heavy-handed racial politics, including one use of the N-word, and it ends by giving the impression that black people are complicit in racial unrest. “Shriek Well Before Dying!”, [W] W. Eaton, [A] José Bea. A scoundrel tries to steal a young girl’s money, but ends up getting killed. I can’t find any information about W. Eaton, not even what the W stands for. “Soul and Shadow,” [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Reed Crandall. An adventurer visits a dungeon where he acquire a jewel called the “Soul of Shalimar,” and also meets a cute scantily clad girl. But the girl is really the jewel’s immortal guardian, and she leads the adventurer to his death. Crandall’s art here is beautiful. “The Waking Nightmare!”, [W] Don McGregor, [A] Isidro Mones. A virus causes people to act like they’re addicted to drugs. As usual, Don McGregor writes far more text than necessary, and his text distracts the reader from Mones’s dark, moody art.

THE PHANTOM #67 (Charlton, 1975) – ‘Triumph of Evil!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Don Newton. A flashback story showing how the previous Phantom died fighting Nazis, and how he was succeeded by his son, Kit Reed. Joe Gill’s story is better than his usual mediocre work, and Don Newton’s art is terrific. Don Newton’s Phantom comics were probably the best Phantom comic books created for the American market.

CURSE WORDS #11 (Image, 2018) – “The Hole Damn World Part One,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Wizord is still trying to free Margaret from prison, and meanwhile lots of weird stuff is happening on the Hole World. This is a good issue, but nothing about it stands out.

AVENGERS #119 (Marvel, 1974) – “Night of the Collector,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Bob Brown. This was one of the only issues I was missing between #100 and #200. After returning from the Avengers-Defenders War, the Avengers head off to Rutland, Vermont for the Halloween parade. But parade host Tom Fagan has been kidnapped by the Collector, who’s using the parade as an excuse to add the Avengers to his collection. Also, there’s some relationship drama between Mantis and Swordsman, and some Easter eggs. The man with a wife named Jane on page 18 is clearly supposed to be a real person, but I don’t know who.  It would be nice if Marvel and DC could collaboratively publish a collection of all the Rutland, Vermont stories.

CEREBUS #54 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “The Origin of the Wolveroach,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue is more expensive than most Cerebus back issues because it’s a Wolverine parody. In this issue the Countess explains Artemis’s origin, and Weisshaupt tries to convince Cerebus to become Prime Minister again. The backup story is “Night of the Living Teddy Bears” by Greg Wadsworth.

HEAVY METAL #3.2 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchand. One of my notable purchases at the August convention was eight issues of Heavy Metal for $3 each. This issue begins with Corben and Strnad’s adaptation of the framing sequence of the Arabian Nights. Then there’s the following: A preview of McGregor and Gulacy’s Sabre. Mezieres’s one-pager “Colonization,” one of his few non-Valerian works. Moench and Nino’s adaptation of Sturgeon’s More than Human. Denis Sire’s Report V1. Another blatant Bode ripoff by Bob Aull. Voss’s Heilman, Forest’s Barbarella, and Montellier’s 1996.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #548 (Marvel, 2008) – “Blood Ties,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Steve McNiven. Mr. Negative assassinates some Maggia bosses, using a poison that targets their genetic markers, and kidnaps their wives and children. In order to save the last hostage, Peter has to give Mr. Negative a sample of his own blood, so Mr. Negative can make a poison that will kill Peter’s own relatives. Which is not as bad as it sounds since Peter has no living blood relatives – Aunt May is only related to him by marriage. This was the end of the first story arc of the Brand New Day era.

MY LOVE #9 (Marvel, 1970) – “I Loved You Once – Remember?”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Jackie breaks off her engagement with Gary, but then she realizes she really does love him, and they get engaged again. “Someday He’ll Come Along!”, [W] unknown, [A] Dick Giordano or Vince Colletta. A reprint from 1960. A secretary falls in love with her boss, but she can’t date him due to company rules. But then she gets promoted to an executive, so that rule doesn’t apply anymore. Also, her coworkers are a bunch of jealous catty jerks who shame her for not dating anyone besides her boss. “A Teen-Ager Can Also Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Vince Colletta. Another reprint. A girl falls in love with a singer, and then ends up marrying him after he loses his voice. This one is pretty farfetched.

WATCHMEN #4 (DC, 1986) – “Watchmaker,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dr. Manhattan’s origin story, told in a series of discontinuous flashbacks. I know this story very well, but it’s worth revisiting. Quoting my own post on Facebook: “One of the less commonly mentioned innovative things about Watchmen is its near-total lack of motion lines or emanata. Every action scene in the book is depicted as a frozen moment or a series of frozen moments. There are occasional uses of motion lines or multiple images in the book, like when Adrian Veidt moves his hand to catch the bullet, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. This contributes to Watchmen’s “cinematic” aesthetic.”

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #7 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Wooly Bully Part 3: The Hunter,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Rosa Winter leads an assault on Scout’s hideout: an ammo dump inside an ancient cliff dwelling. Scout’s kids get separated from their dad, the younger boy uses his psychic powers to kill a man who’s trying to kidnap them, and then a mysterious mustachioed man offers to lead the kids to safety. This issue also continues the adaptation of the Apache Monster Slayer myth.

IMMORTAL HULK #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Holy or the Broken,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The title must be a reference to Hallelujah, since at one point in this issue we see a copy of Songs of Leonard Cohen in Doc Samson’s office. This issue starts with some flashbacks to after Doc Samson’s recent resurrection. Then Samson fights the Hulk, and then they reconcile and discover that Rick Jones’s grave is empty.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #138 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (Statuesque Spendthrifts), [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge and the Maharajah of Howduyustan compete to build the biggest possible statue of Cornelius Coot, the founder of Duckburg. In the process the Maharajah loses all his money. I assume this is the Maharajah’s first appearance and the first reference to Cornelius Coot. This issue also includes Li’l Bad Wolf and Grandma Duck stories, and a Mickey Mouse story that’s not by Paul Murry.

LONE RANGER #43 (Dell, 1952) – “Before the Firing Squad,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. An unscrupulous Indian agent tries to start a war between Sioux Indians and the government, so he can sell the Indians’ land. The Lone Ranger and Tonto foil this plot. The Indians in this story are the good guys, but they’re depicted in a stereotypical way. In the backup story, Young Hawk and Little Buck find themselves in Tenochtitlan during the Spanish conquest. This is the first Young Hawk story I’ve seen that includes any reference to white people. I assumed that these stories all took place before European contact. In this story, several characters travel all the way from the Rio Grande to the Valley of Mexico in an implausibly short time.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 (Marvel, 2009) – “Firewalled,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike McKone. Spider-Man saves Harry and Normie Osborn and Liz Allan from a vengeful Molten Man. This is an entertaining issue with good dialogue and characterization, although I’ve never much liked Mike McKone’s art.

MICKEY MOUSE #108 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Aircraft Carrier at Two O’Clock High,” [W] Don R. Christensen, [A] Paul Murry & Dan Spiegle. I’d never heard of this comic until I saw it at the convention, and it was so weird that I had to buy it. Mickey Mouse #107 to 109 constituted the brief Mickey Mouse, Super Secret Agent run. These stories were set in the real world, with entirely human casts except for Mickey and Goofy themselves, and they depicted Mickey and Goofy as secret agents working for “Police International.” The images of Mickey and Goofy were drawn by Paul Murry, and the rest of the art was done by Dan Spiegle in a realistic style. “Aircraft Carrier at Two O’Clock High” is a pretty bad secret agent story, and while Spiegle’s art is quite good, it’s really weird seeing Mickey and Goofy interacting with realistically drawn human characters and settings. And unlike, say, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this story is played completely straight, and no one seems to think it’s odd that Police International hired a cartoon dog and mouse. This issue is a failed experiment, but it’s worth owning just because it’s weird.

WATCHMEN #6 (DC, 1986) – “The Abyss Gazes Also,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. One of the finest individual comic books ever published in America. Rorschach’s famous origin story is about as dark as Watchmen gets, especially the concluding line “We are alone. There is nothing else.” Which is later qualified by the epigraph of issue 9: “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Even Alan Moore has rarely if ever written anything else as bleak as this. Part of the genius of Watchmen is how you notice something new every time you reread it. On this latest reading of Watchmen #6, I noticed that as the issue goes on, Malcolm gets increasingly addicted to pain pills.

GROO: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD #1 (Dark Horse, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Pipil Khan is on his deathbed, and he decides that he will be succeeded by whichever of his three sons can bring him Groo’s head. Meanwhile, an unscrupulous newspaper publisher decides to sell papers by printing fake stories about Groo. This is a pretty good issue, though it’s a standard example of the Groo formula.

CEREBUS #58 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “All Lined Up,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus’s mother-in-law drives him crazy. Cerebus and Red Sophia have a pillow talk, and then the dying Pope summons Cerebus for a conversation. But then the pope is assassinated on the orders of the Lion of Serrea, just after Cerebus says “something fell.” Whenever this phrase occurs in Cerebus, something awful happens, but I can’t remember any other instances of it offhand. There’s a backup story by Mike Bannon about how to get a letter printed in Cerebus.

INCREDIBLE HULK #121 (Marvel, 1969) – “Within the Swamp, There Stirs… a Glob!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. In the Everglades the Hulk encounters the Glob, a dead man whose corpse was turned into an animate mound of muck. The Glob is very similar to Man-Thing and Swamp-Thing, both of whom debuted two years later, and also to Theodore Sturgeon’s It. Thomas acknowledges this influence at the end of the issue when Ross tells Talbot to “stop flapping around like a landed sturgeon.” Another character with a similar origin is Solomon Grundy. I can’t remember if the Glob was mentioned in Jon B. Cooke’s Swampmen book, to which I contributed; if not, it should have been.

DREADSTAR #17 (Epic, 1985) – “Revenge,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. About half  this issue is a flashback narrated by the telepath Willow. She reveals that after her mother disappeared, she was sexually abused by her widowed father, who looks a bit like Vanth Dreadstar. Now Willow has a hopeless crush on Vanth. Then Willow discovers that her dad is running an Instrumentality death camp – and that he’s living with her mother, who’s been lobotomized. That’s pretty traumatic. So Willow returns to Vanth’s ship determined to punish her father and rescue her mother.

FOUR COLOR #1226 (Dell, 1961) – “Nikki, Wild Dog of the North,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schafer, [A] Sparky Moore. In the Canadian wilderness, Nikki, a malemute pup, gets separated from his owner, and a bear cub gets caught on Nikki’s leash. Nikki and the bear have a bunch of adventures until Nikki is finally reunited with his owner. This is an unambitious and forgettable comic, but at least it’s cute. Like many other issues of Four Color, Nikki was adapted from a Disney movie.

CREEPY #62 (Warren, 1974) – “The Black Cat,” [W/A] Bernie Wrightson. An adaptation of Poe’s story in which a man is driven insane by his wife’s cat. Wrightson’s artwork in this story is absolutely incredible; his draftsmanship and compositions are unsurpassed. Every panel is a small masterpiece, particularly the half-page panel where the husband splits his wife’s head with an axe, and the concluding depiction of the wife’s corpse. “Buffaloed,” [W] Larry Herndon, [A] John Severin. A buffalo hunter is killed by an old Indian who can turn into a buffalo. Severin’s art here is pretty good. “Firetrap,” [W] Jack Butterworth, [A] Vicente Alcazar. An old slumlord is murdered by his own tenants. Kind of a nice wish fulfillment story. “Judas,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Richard Corben. An astronaut sells out the human race to conquering aliens and becomes the aliens’ leader. But the joke is on him, because he’s already dying of radiation exposure. This story is printed in a special color section. “Survivor or Savior!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. A man travels back in time from a dystopian future world in an attempt to change history. Gonzalo Mayo’s art in this story is quite good, and he makes the female protagonist (oddly namde Chester) look very sexy. “The Maze,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Leo Summers. A man is captured by hideous sewer-dwellers and becomes their new king. This is the worst-drawn story in the issue. “The Demon Within!”, [W] Skeates, [A] Isidro Mones. A woman is about to jump off a building after a life of horrible bad luck. Her husband tries to save her, but falls off the building himself. Overall this was an excellent issue of Creepy.

MY LOVE #36 (Marvel, 1975) – All the stories in this issue are reprints, and the series was cancelled after just three more issues. “My Song and My Sorrow!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Kitt breaks up with her boyfriend because he doesn’t approve of her obsession with music. Kitt later becomes a successful musician herself, and finds a better boyfriend. This story is more progressive than I’d have expected; I thought she was going to end up with the first guy again. “Fanny Falls in Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. Fanny follows her friend’s bad dating advice (about playing hard to get) and almost ruins her relationship with her boyfriend. Eventually she learns the error of her ways, and she and her boyfriend get married. “Yours Alone!”, [W] unknown, [A] Jay Scott Pike. Nan is in love with her first boyfriend, Johnny, but unknown to her, he’s also dating other girls. She decides to date other boys, and ends up marrying one of them. Someone should publish a collection of Jay Scott Pike’s romance comics. He deserves to be remembered for more than just the Dolphin issue of Showcase.

More new comics:

DARK BLOOD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Walt Barna. In Alabama in 1955, a white man threatens to kill a black army veteran for not being subservient enough. The black man saves himself using telekinetic powers, and the white man gets hit by a car and killed, which is no better than he deserves. This is a terrifying scene; it makes me wonder how many other encounters like this have happened in real life, with even worse consequences. The white man believes he’s entitled to do anything he wants to the white man, including killing him for no reason at all, and under the laws and customs of American society, it’s not clear that he’s wrong In the series’ other plot thread, the same serviceman is caught in a plane crash during World War II. I’m not sure just where this series is going. The captions in this issue refer to “the variance,” but we don’t yet know what that means.

RADIANT BLACK #7 (Image, 20210 – “Red,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Cherish Chen, [A] Darko Lafuente. This is Radiant Red’s origini story. Satomi and her boyfriend Owen seem to have an idyllic relationship, but Owen’s about to lose their house because of his compulsive gambling. When Satomi visits the bank to apply for a loan, she discovers that Owen has also forged her signature and drained her bank account, including her savings for school. Satomi confronts Owen about this, and Owen acts all pitiful and pathetic. But Satomi has just gotten her Radiant Red powers, so she robs a bank to get the money to save their house. This issue is an infuriating depiction of financial abuse and of what Reddit calls “setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” Owen is an utterly worthless man, a gambler and a criminal who ruins Satomi’s life, commits serious crimes against her, and then evades responsibility for his actions by appealing to Satomi’s pity. Satomi should have reported him to the police, but instead she becomes a criminal herself for his sake. No matter what Owen does, Satomi not only forgives him, but ruins her own life on his behalf. It makes me furious to think that there really are men like this, and that they succeed in taking advantage of women.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS; THE MAGIC OF CYBERTRON #4 (IDW, 2021) – “The Mightiest Dinobot,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Casey W. Collier. Spike and Smolder team up with Grimlock against Superion, a big Autobot composed of five smaller ones. Spike defeats Superion by getting its component parts to disagree with each other. “Finale,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Jack Lawrence. The final showdown between the good guys and Sombra/Scorponok. During this story the Mane Six become Transformers themselves, but we never get to see what Fluttershy can turn into. It is pretty awesome that Pinkie Pie can turn into a party cannon. The end of this story suggests that if there’s a third MLP/Transformers miniseries, its villains will be the Quintessons.

WITCHBLOOD #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The witches visit the town of Sargasso, which is being drowned by a dead witch’s octopus familiar. This issue wasn’t as exciting as the last few issues.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #11 (DC, 2021) – “Another Job to Do,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. In flashback, Adam and Alanna team up with some giant owl creatures to defeat the last Pykkts on Rann. In the present, Adam and Alanna get in a big fight because of Adam’s attempt to betray Earth to the Pykkts. It ends with Alanna apparently shooting Adam with his own gun. To quote my own Facebook post: “I don’t know what Tom King’s original plans were for Strange Adventures, but it’s gone completely off the rails. I can’t believe the Pykkts are really so dangerous that Superman and Batman can’t save Alanna from them. Or that the Pykkts are completely evil — if that’s true, then why did Adam and Alanna try so hard to prevent Mr. Terrific from reading their language? Strange Adventures’s plot doesn’t even seem internally consistent. Also, Tom King has done even more damage to Adam and Alanna’s characters than Alan Moore did.”

SHADOW DOCTOR #5 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Now, Now, Very Now,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. Capone’s men barge in on Nathaniel while he’s sleeping with a white woman. That relates the title of the issue, which comes from Othello: “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” Then another mobster tries to get Nathaniel to sabotage the cures he’s providing to Capone’s men. It’s quite a moral dilemma, but Nathaniel’s mind is made up for him when Capone asks what his girlfriend’s name is, and is relieved that she’s not Italian: “Can you imagine, a good Italian girl with a n*****?” Nathaniel goes straight to Eliot Ness to inform on Capone, and that’s the end of the series. This ending is rather abrupt; I’d have liked to know what happened to Nathaniel after that. Still, this is one of the best underrated comics of the year. I hope we see more of this writer.

MADE IN KOREA #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Chul tries to convince Jesse’s parents to give her back, and they refuse, but this only makes Jesse even more confused. Jesse helps her two “friends” raid a government armory, and they prepare to shoot up their school. This series is very cute but also surprisingly disturbing. I hope Jesse and her parents are going to be okay.

CEREBUS #66 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Thrill of Agony and the Victory of Defeat,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue includes the notorious scene where Cerebus throws a baby into a crowd. This was pretty controversial at the time, but it was actually far less offensive than the rape scene later in the series, let alone issue 186. Also, Cerebus, who is now the pope, declares that Tarim will destroy the world in two weeks unless eeveryone gives Cerebus their gold. Later, Cerebus and Posey encounter a mysterious floating light. This issue includes a preview of Spaced by Tom Stazer and John Williams, as well as some photos of Dave with a much younger Shelton Drum.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #591 (Marvel, 2009) – “Face Front Part 1: Together Again for the First Time,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Barry Kitson. Reed Richards hires Peter to accompany him and the FF to the Macroverse, a world that they visited together on a previous occasion. (That previous trip is depcited here for the first time; it wasn’t shown in any other comic.) Time in the Macroverse passes far faster than in the normal Marvel Universe, so on arriving there, the FF discover that the local society has completely changed, and also the FF and Spidey are worshipped as gods. Also, Johnny Storm realizes that he used to know Spidey’s secret identity, and that he’s been mindwiped into forgetting it. In this issue we can already see Dan Slott’s excellent understanding of how to write the FF.

DAREDEVIL #32 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bullseye is killing people at random, but on the last page we discover that there’s not just one Bullseye, there are a bunch of them. Meanwhile, the prison warden sends some people to assassinate Matt, but of course they don’t succeed.

Early in August I went to Minneapolis to visit my parents. It was my first trip out of townsince January 2020. While in Minneapolis I went to Dreamhaven Books, a store I first visited more than twenty years ago, when they were in a different neighborhood. During last year’s George Floyd protests, someone tried to burn the store down, but luckily they failed. At the store I took a selfie with the actual book that was used in the arson attempt (https://www.instagram.com/p/CSSYnYZrIJl/). I also bought some comics:

CEREBUS #60 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Sophia,” [W/A] Dave Sim. That’s actually just the title of the first vignette in the issue. There are several others that focus on other characters, including Sophia’s mom, the Regency Elf, and Theresa. The backup story is “Scratch” by an uncredited creator.

KANE #15 (Dancing Elephant, 1997) – “Stripes,” [W/A] Paul Grist. A rather complicated story about a cop named Max Anderson and his complicity in the crimes of his former partner Manny Tate. There’s also another plot thread where Kane and his partner are investigating some shootings. As usual, the best things about this issue are Paul Grist’s brilliant draftsmanship and page layouts.

A DISTANT SOIL #18 (Image, 1997) – “Ascension Part VI,” [W/A] Colleen Doran. Another issue that’s full of relationship drama. The main event this issue is that Rieken/Seren has just slept with Bast while mindlinked to Liana, and Liana was an unwilling spectator for the whole thing. Also, Rieken and Bast are part of a love triangle whose third corner is D’mer.

2000 AD #1643 (Rebellion, 2009) – I bought this and the following issue at Dreamhaven. These were only the second and third issues of 2000 AD that I’ve bought in person. All the other 300-plus progs in my collection were ordered online. Dredd: “High Spirits,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd hunts an alien creature named Symberline. Dave Talyor’s artwork is very bizarre. Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales: untitled, [W/A] Bob Byrne. A silent story in which a pregnant astronaut has an encounter with an octopus alien. Cradlegrave: untitled, [W] John Smith, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Some kind of horror story in a contemporary setting. There’s one really gruesome panel depicting a woman who’s turned into a sluglike creature. Sinister Dexter: “Wish You Were Here,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams & Rob Taylor. The two title characters get in a gunfight in a supermarket. Defoe: “Queen of the Zombies Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. A horror story set in 17th-century England. This story has some striking black-and-white art.

More new comics:

BABYTEETH #19 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Father’s Daughter,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Heather realizes that her mom is raising Satan’s kids in order to offer them to Satan. Heather shoots her mom dead, then gets killed herself. I no longer care very much about this series, and I’m only still reading it because I already started it.  

INFINITE FRONTIER #3 (DC, 2021) – “Infinite Incorporated,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Paul Pelletier et al. A bunch of confusing nonsense. I don’t remember ordering this, and I’m not sure why it was in my pull box. Heroes also put the next issue in my pull box, but I told them I didn’t want it.

BRZRKR #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. In the flashback, while Unute is away at war, his home village is overrun and his mother is killed. In the present, Unute’s interviewer, Diana, promises to finally tell him the truth. I wonder where this story is going.

MARVEL ACTION SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Arianna Florean. Spidey encounters Screwball, who of course is none other than the social-media-obsessed girl from last issue. Meanwhile, Otto Octavius is almost ready to make his debut as Dr. Octopus. This series has been quite fun.

THE BLUE FLAME #3 (Vault, 2021) – “Weather Systems Failure,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Seven months after last issue, Sam is being a real jerk to his sister, who is forced to take care of him while she herself is heavily pregnant. Meanwhile, the other Sam continues his adventure in space. The version of Sam in the Milwaukee sequence is still trying to make a case for humanity, and he mentions the name Yarix. So we can tell that he remembers the events of the series’ other plot thread, but we don’t know whether that plot thread really happened, or whether Sam imagined it.

S.W.O.R.D. #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “Full Spectrum Diplomacy,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In an installment of the Last Annihilation crossover, the SWORD characters team up with Hulkling against an invasion of Mindless Ones. Meanwhile, Storm has dinner with Dr. Doom. This issue isn’t bad, but it could have been an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, except for the Storm/Dr. Doom sequence.

COMPASS #2 (Image, 2021) – “The Cauldron of Eternal Life,” [W] Robert McKenzie & David Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. Shahidah discovers a sect of druids who are guarding the Cauldron of Arawn. This cauldron appears in a bunch of Welsh myths, notably the second branch of the Mabinogi, and was borrowed by Lloyd Alexander for the Chronicles of Prydain. Meanwhile, Hua is also searching for the same cauldron. The characters in this series are uninteresting, but I like how it draws upon lots of different medieval cultures.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brandon Easton, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo defeats N’Vir Free in a fight, but then fights her again and loses. Meanwhile, Shilo’s manager tracks down Oberon, who claims to know what N’Vir’s goal is. This wasn’t the most interesting issue. It’s weird how Mother Box’s captions are in a font that looks like Leroy lettering.

SHADOW SERVICE #10 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. The demons instigate a riot at Westminster Abbey during the national Easter Sunday service. This issue was marginally more interesting than the last few, but if Shadow Service continues after this issue, I don’t plan on reading any more of it.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 (Marvel, 20210 – “Strange Magic Finale,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Carol accidentally lets the Enchantress know that Ove is her future son. Carol fights Ove again, Rhodey shows up to help her, and Carol tricks Ove into drinking a potion that neutralizes his magic. There’s a backup story where Kamala Khan introduces Carol to some people who Carol unknowingly helped. It’s a bit of a sappy story, but it’s cute.

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Davila. Dane reveals that Jacks is his daughter, and is therefore capable of using the Ebony Blade. Jacks and Elsa defeat Mordred. Dane comes back to life, and he and Elsa decide to share the Black Knight identity. This series is okay, but I like Spurrier’s creator-owned work better than his Marvel work.

REPTIL #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balam. Reptil and his siblings fight Megalith, who turns out to be the Hag’s son. This series is preachy and overwritten, and Terry Blas’s version of Reptil has little in common with Christos Gage’s version. It feels as if Reptil was chosen as this series’ protagonist simply because he was a male Latino character who Marvel already owned. If this series didn’t have just one issue to go, I would drop it.

PROJECT: PATRON #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Experiments and Extinction,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. The Luthor character announces his plan to use Woe to hold the world hostage. The Patron’s pilots decide to fight Woe by piloting the Patron collaboratively, rather than one at a time. I assume that issue 5 will be the conclusion.

BLACK WIDOW #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Am the Black Widow Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande & Rafael De Latorre. Natasha and her allies prepare for their final confrontation with Apogee. Like many of Kelly Thompson’s solo series, Black Widow has turned into a team comic.

SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY #1 (DC, 2021) – “All Our Tomorrows,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Mikel Janin. Superman asks Manchester Black for help saving the world. As in most Grant Morrison comics, there’s also lots of random weird stuff in this issue, like Kryptonian thought-beasts and John F. Kennedy. The Authority themselves don’t appear in this issue, or if they do, I didn’t notice.

ROBIN #4 (DC, 2021) – “Way of the Demon,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jorge Corona. Damian spends some quality time with his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul, and then the other Robins show up to take him home. This series has been entertaining, though not spectacular.

HOME #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anna Wieszczyk. Juan leaves his apartment to play soccer with some other kids, and some Karen calls the ICE agents on him. (As pointed out by the Comics Swipes Facebook page, this character is visually based on BBQ Becky.) Juan’s aunt summons his superpowered adult cousins to come rescue him. This series portrays ICE agents as bloodthirsty racists, and I can’t disagree with this portrayal.

2000 AD #1818 (Rebellion, 2013) – This was part of yet another lot that I ordered on eBay. I haven’t read any of the other issues in that lot, because I’m still working my way through some older 2000 ADs. Dredd: “Witch’s Promise,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Dredd gets involved in a battle between two rival witches. In a throwback to the story “Loonie’s Moon” in prog 192, this story shows advertisements being projected onto the moon. David Roach’s art looks better in black and white than in color. Savage: “Rise Like Lions Part 7,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. Savage leads the defense of London against a Volgan invasion. Patrick Goddard’s artwork looks like something out of this series’ early period. Ampney Crucis: “The Entropy Tango Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Simon Davis. Some kind of steampunk story. I don’t understand the plot, but Simon Davis’s painted art is excellent. The Red Seas: “Fire Across the Deep Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. I don’t understand this one either, except that it’s about a battle where Satan is commanding one of the armies. Strontium Dog: “Life and Death of Johnny Alpha Chapter 3: Mutant Spring,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny defends Milton Keynes’s mutant ghetto against an invasion.  

MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #4 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. James continues to act like a creep; he makes fun of Elizabeth’s mother’s religion, and then he assassinates a woman who’s trying to expose his criminal activities. But Elizabeth continues to drink his Kool-Aid, until she discovers that he’s planning to experiment on their unborn child. This has been an entertaining horror comic.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #16 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Last Annihilation,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. Dormammu summons an army of Mindless Ones and sends them to attack the Skrull homeworld. This is part of a crossover with SWORD #7, and I wish I’d known I was supposed to read this issue before that one. As noted earlier, Al Ewing’s SWORD and Guardians of the Galaxy are hard to tell apart.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #4 (Image, 2021) – “How to Make a Ghost Town,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Andromache falls in love with a black man named Achilles, but while she’s out of town fighting, Achilles is lynched by his white neighbors. Andromache comes back home and kills everybody in town. The answer to the title is “first you take a town, then fill it with ghosts.” “Love Letters,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Matthew Clark. During the Civil War, an immortal saves some black people who are being held hostage by white soldiers.

HEAD LOPPER #16 (Image, 2021) – “Of Climbing and Falling,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Nergal and friends climb Mulgrid’s Stair and are given a list of the immortals that Nergal is supposed to kill. Then they go back to Martan, there’s a massive battle that ends with the evil king’s death, and the elf prince Tarf joins Nergal’s party. This was an excellent issue of Head Lopper, and I liked this story much better than the last one.

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Alex Child & Grant Morrison, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls finally defeat the Landlady and rescue the missing boys, and then they attend the Janis Joplin concert, as was their original goal. This series was not Grant Morrison’s worst, but it wasn’t their best either.

SHANG-CHI #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and his sidekicks travel to Ireland to look for another of the Five Weapons, Zhilan. Wolverine is also looking for Zhilan in order to bring her back to Krakoa. Fighting ensues. This is an okay issue, but this current storyline is too reliant on guest stars.

CATWOMAN #33 (DC, 2021) – “Desolation Land Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Alleytown is engulfed in rioting. Selina intervenes in the riots with the aid of a bunch of supervillains. At the end, Batman shows up to save Catwoman from drowning. I’m not enjoying Catwoman all that much, and I think it might be time to drop it.

GAMMA FLIGHT #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Crystal Fraser, [A] Lan Medina. This issue is mostly a big fight scene. At the end, we learn that the Abomination was responsible for creating Stockpile.

KANE #16 (Dancing Elephant, 1997) – “Stripes Part Two” and “Chains,” [W/A] Paul Grist. More of the same confusing plot from last issue. The highlight of this issue is that during a carnival, the clown Mr. Floppsie Whoppsie locks himself in a chest so he can escape from it. But then the carnival is invaded by a sniper, everyone forgets about Floppsie, and on the back cover, we see that he’s still inside the chest.

TOMAHAWK #134 (DC, 1971) – Tomahawk: “The Rusty Ranger,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Frank Thorne.  Long after retirement, Tomahawk gets back in the saddle to fight a gang of criminals, which turns out to be led by an old companion of his. Firehair: “Contest,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. Tomahawk defends a Mandan village from a raid by drunk white soldiers. As in other Firehair stories, Kubert’s sympathies are with the Indians and not the white troops.

2000 AD #654 (Fleetway, 1989) – Chopper: “Song of the Surfer Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. After his old Aboriginal friend passes away, Chopper (from Dredd in Oz) decides to leave the outback and compete in the next Supersurf. Zenith: “Phase II 13: Children’s Hour,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Tammy and Tiger Tom, whoever they are, set off the bomb to destroy the Lloigor. The name Lloigor comes from a Weird Tales story by August Derleth and Mark Schorer. Dredd: “Young Giant Part Four,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd and Giant close in on Giant’s mother’s killer. The Dead Man: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. I still don’t understand this one, but it includes some black people who talk in a stereotypical speech pattern.Slaine: “The Horned God Volume II Part 5,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. A primitive creature called the Avanc invades the city of Falias. This chapter is very reminiscent of Beowulf, with Avanc as Grendel.

TALES FROM THE HEART #2 (Entropy, 1987) – “Later in the Daze,” [W] Cindy Goff & Rafael Nieves, [A] Seitu Hayden. Cathy Grant (i.e. Cindy Goff herself) starts her stint as a Peace Corps worker in a remote part of the Central African Republic. This story makes the CAR look like a really boring place that I wouldn’t want to visit, but I like how the characters depict the volunteers as naïve newcomers, rather than white saviors.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #479 (Archie, 1979) – “Power Struggle,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo, etc. In my closet at my parents’ house, there are a bunch of comic books that I acquired in high school, but never bothered to read. Most of these are early ‘90s junk, or freebies I got at conventions. I left these comics behind when I moved the rest of my collection out of that house, but on my latest visit to Minneapolis, I brought a few of them back with me, including this Archie Giant Series. Its theme is “Sabrina’s Christmas Magic.” It’s not very good, but at least it’s a quick read.

FLEENER #2 (Zongo, 1996) – “The Wisdom of the Canapés,” [W/A] Mary Fleener. A talking knife, Mr. Switch, runs an expensive restaurant with his employees: an eggplant, a tomato and a fish. Switch just has to work one more day before he goes on vacation, so of course all sorts of mayhem happens, ending with a gas explosion that destroys the restaurant. Fleener’s art and storytelling here are excellent, but I was hoping for more of her trademark use of cubism to express heightened emotional states.

HEPCATS #3 (Antarctic, 1997)-  “Snowblind Chapter 1: The Paviliions of Memory,” [W/A] Martin Wagner. This is originally from eight years earlier, which might explain why it feels amateurish. Martin Wagner’s draftsmanship is very detailed, but his story is just a bunch of boring slice-of-life stuff. Martin Wagner was as toxic and arrogant as Dave Sim, but he lacked Sim’s endurance or work ethic, and he never managed to fulfill his ambitious plans for Hepcats. This issue includes a guest list for the 1997 Heroes Con.

2000 AD #691 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: “Necropolis 18,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Cadet Giant and three other young judges rescue a wounded Anderson. Meanwhile, Dredd and former Chief Judge McGruder head back to town. McGruder looks like a man, but is in fact a woman with a beard. Harlem Heroes: untitled, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Steve Dillon. The Harlem Heroes try to escape from an airport. This story has no apparent connection to the previous version of Harlem Heroes, and it’s not very good either. Slaine: “The Horned God Vol. III Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. The land of Tir na nOg is flooding, and Slaine has to muster his armies for the final battle with the Lord Weird Slough Feg. By custom, Slaine has to execute the last person to arrive at the muster, which turns out to be his wife Niamh, and the chapter ends as he’s about to behead her. Again, Simon Bisley’s art here is perhaps his best ever. Medivac 318: “Arcturus Part 9,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity’s crew tries to rescue a captured catlike alien. Dry Run: untitled, [W] Tise Vahimagi, [A] Kev Hopgood. Some sort of a borin postapocalyptic story. Tise Vahimagi was Welsh, though his name sounds Finnish.

VELVET #3 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Velvet heads to Communist-era Belgrade to kidnap/rescue Marina, the mistress of her quarry, X-14. Velvet finds Marina, but then Marina double-crosses her. This is a very well-crafted spy story. I still wonder if Velvet started out as a rejected pitch for Black Widow. In a 2013 CBR interview about Velvet, Brubaker says that part of his inspiration for Velvet was that “Black Widow was almost always more interesting to write than any character she was in a book with.” https://www.cbr.com/ed-brubaker-sets-loose-velvet/

BATMAN #83 (DC, 2020) – “City of Bane Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. This issue begins by quoting Longfellow’s “The Children’s Hour,” a really stupid poem. Then for some reason Alfred sacrifices himself on Batman’s behalf, and most of the issue consists of Alfred’s farewell letter to Bruce. At the end, Batman confronts the resurrected Thomas Wayne.

WONDER WOMAN #113 (DC, 1996) – “Are You Out of Your Minds?”, [W/A] John Byrne. Cassie Sandsmark, the new Wonder Woman, fights a villain called Decay. Then she babysits for Sugar and Spike. There are cute moments in this issue, but Byrne writes way too much dialogue, and his art isn’t as good as it used to be.

BARBIE #45 (Marvel, 1994) – “Practice Makes Perfect,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Skipper plays in an important baseball game, but she’s saddled with an apathetic teammate who just happens to be the mayor’s daughter. There actually is an interesting conflict in this issue, since the mayor threatens to fire Barbie as the coach if she doesn’t let his daughter start, but the conflict resolves itself with no real drama. This series could have been called Skipper instead of Barbie because most of the stories revolve around Skipper. This is because Skipper was allowed to make mistakes and have disagreements, and Barbie wasn’t.

KATY KEENE #21 (Archie, 1987) – “The Surprise,” [W] Susan S. Berkley, [A] John S. Lucas. A bunch of pretty boring stories, with the gimmick that all the characters’ costumes are designed by readers. This is the only Katy Keene comic I’ve read, unless you count Vicki Valentine, which is a Katy Keene fan comic. In the advice column, a girl complains that a classmate is discriminating against her because she’s Korean, and the columnist correctly instructs her to tell an adult.

FLEENER #3 (Zongo, 1999) – “The Wisdom of the Canapés in ‘Along Come Folk!’”, [W/A] Mary Fleener. While waiting for his restaurant to be rebuilt, Switch goes on vacation to Appalachia. There he meets a tribe of hillbillies with bizarre deformed features, and also, the hotel where he’s staying is haunted. This is the last issue of Fleener, and it ends on a cliffhanger that was never resolved. I would have liked to know what happened next.

2000 AD #692 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. The kids manage to save Anderson’s life, and Dredd and McGruder link up with them. Harlem Heroes: as above. More boring action sequences. Mike Fleisher was not really suited to 2000 AD. Slaine: as above. To the dismay of some of his allies, Slaine decides to abolish the sacrificial custom and not sacrifice anyone. Then Slaine asks Medb for assistance against Slough Feg, and there are some beautiful illustrations depicting Medb’s backstory. Medb is named after a legendary queen of Connacht who is one of the world’s greatest mythological villains. Slough Feg’s dialogue is written to sound like ancient Irish poetry. Medivac 318: as above. More of the rescue attempt. I like Medvac 318 but I don’t understand this story arc. Dry Run: as above. Again I don’t know what’s going on here.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #218 (Archie, 1974) – “Silent Night?”, [W/A] Al Hartley. A bunch of holiday-themed stories, some of them with explicit Christian elements. The Christian proselytizing in these stories is probably due to Al Hartley’s influence. One of the stories, “The Last Christmas,” is a rather sad ghost story about a little boy who died on Christmas Eve. I suspect this story may be by Bob Bolling, but I can’t confirm or deny this.

CEREBUS #67 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Day of Greatness / Age of Consent,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue is tedious to read because it contaiins some very long captions in cursive. Cerebus continues extorting the people of Iest out of their money, while Boobah follows him around and transcribes everything he says, although it’s hinted that Cerebus is making the transcript himself. There are also some scenes with Sophia, Weisshaupt and other characters.

HEROES REBORN: YOUNG SQUADRON #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Truth at All Costs,” [W] Jim Zub, [A] Steven Cummings. I declined to order this when it came out, since I don’t much like Jim Zub’s writing, but I bought it from a cheap box at the latest convention. I was right not to pay full price for it. This issue introduces the Heroes Reborn versions of Miles Morales, Kamala Khan and Sam Alexander. It’s not very good, and it includes an unnecessary Deadpool appearance.

BARBIE #48 (Marvel, 1994) – “The Fire That Never Went Out,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Mario Capaldi. Barbie and Skipper visit an old English castle that has a custom of never letting the fire go out. They discover that the reason for the custom is because in the 17th century, the owners hid their treasure under the fireplace so Cromwell’s troops wouldn’t get it. There’s also another story where Barbie helps reunite two long-separated lovers. This issue is okay but not thrilling.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #2 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. We begin with a flashback to Damian’s training with Talia. Then Damian and his giant dragon-bat Goliath fight a giant Mesoamerican stone monster with the aid of Nobody. This is a really fun issue, though its plot is hard to understand at first. Patrick Gleason is Damian Wayne’s defining artist.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #16 (Eclipse, 1989) – “One Last Ride on the Wall of Death,” [W/A] Tim Truman. I believe the title is an indirect reference to a Richard and Linda Thompson song.  Scout finally gets killed in a confrontation with Rosa Winter, but his two sons survive. His older son is adopted by some sort of priest, and his younger son finds and puts on his bandanna. This is a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the series. There’s also a backup story written by Beau Smith.

ACTION COMICS #776 (DC, 2001) – “Return to Krypton Part Four: Escape from Krypton,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Kano. Superman teams up with his father Jor-El against General Zod. I didn’t understand this issue, though it probably would have been a touching story if I knew the context.

I went back to Heroes on August 14 for FCBD, and also to pick up my new comics. On this trip I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers.

WYND #9 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Oakley tries to convince Wynd to run away, but he refuses. After a lot of talk between various characters,  the vampires invade the faerie city, and Wynd’s love interest, Thorn, is apparently killed. Wynd has become one of my favorite current comics.

RUNAWAYS #38 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Pt. IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Chase goes into the future with the older Gert, and Karolina returns to Majesdane for healing. On the last two pages, we see Alex Wilder again, and then Xavin appears for the first time in Rowell’s run. These pages indicate that Rowell had further plans for the series, but sadly those plans will not be realized, because this is the last issue. Runaways was my favorite remaining Marvel title after Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel ended, and I’m sad it’s gone.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. A new series from the creators of Middlewest. A young artist, Ro Meadows, buys a new house where she tries to work on paintings for her upcoming show, but she finds herself unable to get any work done. Also, the house is haunted. Young and Corona’s depiction of artist’s block is convincing, but otherwise I’m not sure where this series is going.  

SEVEN SECRETS #11 (Boom!, 2021) – untitlde, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Part of the team heads to Switzerland, where Canto (the masked guy) betrays his teammates and gives the briefcase to Amon. Caspar and Eva finish with the Queen and Boris Johnson and head to Thailand. Seven Secrets is lacking in serious themes or social commentary, but it’s very entertaining.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #18 (Image, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Three,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. We meet Gary Slaughter, who runs the House of Slaughter’s training grounds, and Erica heads into his barn for her test. Gary is dismayed to realize that Erica has been sent to fight a super-powerful oscuratype, rather than a weak one, because she’s going to be killed. Of course we know already that Erica survives.

THE UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. This is the Black Hammer version of X-Men, but it actually starts with a framing sequence about a comic book artist, Jane Ito. This sequence is obviously based on the writer and artist’s actual experiences, and it shows how Jane’s job is precarious and not very lucrative. After attending a convention, she buys some ramen for dinner and then stays up late drawing. Oh, and then she’s visited by a talking corpse, who tells her that she’s really a character in her own comic. The pages from Jane’s comic are depicted with much brighter coloring than the rest of the issue.

MAMO #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. Jo and Orla have breakfast with Jo’s family, then head out to track down the witch Mamo. This is another beautiful issue with gorgeous art and coloring. A particular highlight is the breakfast scene. The characters are eating tuyo, or dried fish with rice and vinegar, which I guess is a common Filipino dish. Mamo’s Filipino cultural influences are easy to miss if you don’t know they’re there.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #101 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Toni Kuusisto. The Knights of Harmony invade Canterlot, and the Mane Six and the Pillars lead the defense. This is all leading up to the epic season finale in #102, which, sadly, is also the last issue.

THE SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #3 (Image, 2021) – “Spaceboat 3030,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The other sidekicks meet Buffy Sainte-Marie, Keaton’s only female sidekick, and then she beats up a bunch of guys despite being super drunk. This is another hilarious issue. Kyle Starks’s dialogue is hilarious, especially the things Buffy says when she gets drunk: “Yay I dids it I wons.”

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga Fallout,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Chris Allen. Whlie still recovering from the traumatic events of the previous storyline, Miles has to write an essay for an essay contest. He decides to use his experiences as Spider-Man as inspiration. Also, Miles reconciles with Ganke, who’s already broken up with Barbara, and he gets a new costume.

EVE #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. In a conversation with her doppelganger, Eve learns that she’s one of six clones, all of them created in order to recover the seed vault. Our Eve has skills that the previous one doesn’t, suggesting that she might actually succeed – but if she fails, there are no more chances. This series has been extremely grim, but this issue does include a cute hair-braiding scene.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Sam, the photographer, tries to unravel the mystery of the statues surrounding the house. Then he decides that the statues are meaningless, and that Walter just created the statues in order to give his friends something to do. What Sam fails to discover is that his and Walter’s mutual friend, Reg, is held captive in the building at the end of the statues’ trail. This was a fascinating issue. It makes me very curious to learn more about the house’s mysteries.

STILLWATER #9 (Image, 2021) – “A Messy Life,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon Perez. Daniel meets the other Stillwater kids, including one who’s stuck as a newborn baby. Then the two plotlines from the last two issues converge: Ted’s old Marine comrades supplant him and the Judge in their control of the city, and the kids apparently choose to side with the Marines and against Daniel and Tanya. This is a very gripping and intense story.

GEIGER #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. The kids and Geiger are taken to an underground complex that houses the remnants of the United States. But while there, the boy, Henry, is diagnosed with leukemia, and by law, he has to be executed. Geiger is not willing to tolerate that, and he prepares to rescue Henry, but the government activates a robot to track Geiger down. I’m still enjoying this series more than I expected to.  

BUNNY MASK #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Stab It a Little,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler and Bee manage to avoid being killed in a home invasion, then Tyler and the sheriff share their stories about the Snitch. The bunny-masked creature continues to cause mayhem. I don’t have as much to say about this issue as about the last two, but this is a really good horror comic.

DEFENDERS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Eighth Cosmos: The Magician,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Masked Raider, from Marvel Comics #1000 and #1001, asks Dr. Strange to form a new Defenders team. Strange summons the Silver Surfer, the Harpy, and Cloud, and they head back in time to the previous universe, where the planet of Taa is about to be destroyed by Omnimax. Ewing and Rodriguez are Marvel’s best current writer and artist, and this series lives up to its creative team. Ewing’s plot is interesting, and Rodriguez’s page layouts are spectacular. I just wish this was an ongoing and not a miniseries.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #1 (AWA, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. In a grim postapocalyptic future, robots are doing all the work, and humans are an endangered species. While robots are necessary for society to exist, they’re also terrifyingly prone to violence. As the title of this comic indicates, it uses robot/human relations as an analogy for male-female relations. The robots in this comic reproduce all the classic stereotypes about men – like, because the robots are the breadwinners, their human housemates are supposed to forgive their abuse and emotional unavailability. Not All Robots is yet another of Mark Russell’s clever satires.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Road Trips?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. An old comedian goes on tour with some younger ones. Just after being told he might have cancer, he decides to start reusing all his old material that’s no longer considered politically correct. This series has an interesting premise about the intersection of comedy and cancel culture, but Snelson #1 wastes a lot of space on irrelevant material, including a gratuitous sex scene.

BATMAN AND ROBIN AND HOWARD/AMETHYST: PRINCESS OF GEMWORLD SPECIAL EDITOIN FLIPBOOK (FCBD) 1 (DC ,2021) – Amethyst: untitled, [W] Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, [A] Asiah Fulmore. Princess Amethyst is exiled to Earth with her caretaker Citrina so she can attend middle school. This is DC’s third Amethyst revival in the past decade, not counting the YouTube series, and it’s not the same as any previous take on the character, but it’s fun. I especially like all of Amethyst’s little brother’s misconceptions about Earth. Batman and Robin and Howard: untitled, [W/A] Jeffrey Brown. Bruce Wayne forces Damian to attend middle school. Jeffrey Brown started out as an autobio cartoonist, but thanks to the success of his Darth Vader and Son, he’s pivoted to doing graphic novels for kids. I don’t want to suggest that kids’ comics are less valuable than adult comics – the whole point of my current project is to argue the exact opposite – but I like Jeffrey Brown’s kids’ comics far less than his autobio comics, and I wish he would do more stuff like A Matter of Life.

ALLERGIC (Scholastic, 2021) – untitled, [W] Megan Wagner Lloyd, [A] Michelle Mee Nuter. Middle schooler Maggie has always wanted a dog, but when she finally gets one, she discovers she’s severely allergic to fur. Allergic looks like yet another triumph for Scholastic. Lloyd and Nutter succeed in conveying Maggie’s disappointment at not being able to get a dog, as well as her feelings of loneliness as the oldest child.

BITTER ROOT #15 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part Five,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. There are a number of scenes depicting the Sangeryes’ battle against the Jinoo in 1926, and then we jump ahead to 1939, when the Sangeryes raid a German death camp. This is the last issue of this storyline, but not of Bitter Root as a whole, which is good because there’s no reason the series needs to end here. This issue includes an essay by my friend Rebecca Wanzo, in which she touches on the arguments of her book The Content of Our Caricature.

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. The symbiote is defeated, but at the cost of Reed Richards’s life. Spidey is invited to join the FF to replace him. This is a powerful conclusion. In most What If? stories, characters die at the drop of a hat, but Reed’s death in this issue has a real impact. This miniseries was one of the best What If?s ever.

WONDER WOMAN #777 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 8,” [W]  Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Diana and Deadman visit a gender-swapped parallel world, and Diana fights her male equivalent Wonder Man, a villainous MRA. I’m surprised DC is allowed to use the name Wonder Man. See https://www.cbr.com/avengers-wonder-man-dc-marvel-lawsuit-threaten/, plus the other article linked at the bottom, for more on the history of the name Wonder Man. Anyway, it’s too bad that we don’t get to see any more of this Earth besides its superheroes. I’d like to know more about the kind of world that could produce a female Superman and Batman.

THE GOOD ASIAN #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison and Frankie find Donnie Yan’s body, then they fight a man wearing a mask, who turns out to be white and not Asian, and Frankie gets his throat cut. That means America’s Chinatowns are about to explode in race riots. This issue includes more fascinating information about the history of Chinese immigration to America. I’d never heard of the Chinese Six Companies before.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #12 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. After the Faerie plot is resolved, Dream comes to collect Ruin. Heather rebuffs him by beginning to recite Roderick Burgess’s spell from Sandman #1. Appropriately, one of the things Heather doesn’t say is “I give you a name, and the name is lost.” And they all live happily ever after. A copy of Shakespeare’s Tempest appears on the last page, a throwback to Sandman #75. Sadly this is the last issue. I wonder what G. Willow Wilson will write next.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The ‘80s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse. Reed and a scientist named Jose Santini collaborate on Reagan’s SDI system. Dr. Santini is in fact the Mad Thinker (and he calls himself that, which is a mistake – he’s supposed to just call himself the Thinker), and his SDI system leads to a near nuclear war between the US and the USSR. Johnny sacrifices his life to destroy the last nuclear missile. Meanwhile, Reed and Sue’s divorce is finalized. So far there’s no Valeria in this continuity. I was hoping she would be Sue and Namor’s child.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #1 (Milestone, 2021) – “Angry Black Man,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. This is disappointing; it’s basically the same plot as the original Hardware #1, and it also doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t read Milestone Returns #0, unless you’re already familiar with the Milestone universe. I’m going to continue reading this series for now, but I hope it improves.

TEEN TITANS: BEAST BOY LOVES RAVEN SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kami Garcia, [A] Gabriel Picolo. While on the run from Trigon, Raven travels to Memphis where she runs into Beast Boy. This is a promising start, and it makes me kind of want to read the graphic novel it’s excerpted from. Gar and Raven seem like a strange romantic pairing to me, but I guess they were often depicted as a potential couple in the cartoons. See https://www.ign.com/articles/teen-titans-team-on-finally-making-beast-boy-raven-a-couple for more on this.

ARCHIE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE FUN! FCBD EDITION #1 (Archie, 20210 – “Crisis on the Riverdale Earths,” [W] Bill Golliher, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. Archie teams up with a bunch of his alternate-dimensional counterparts against the Mad Dr. Doom and Chester. This was a tedious story, although it’s fun to see Mad Dr. Doom again. “Happy Archieversary!”, [W] Angelo DeCesare, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. An even more boring story.

RENT-A-(REALLY SHY!)-GIRLFRIEND #1 (Kodansha, 20210 – untitled, [W/A] Reiji Miyajima. A shy girl goes to a bakery to order a donut. A 26-page preview of a manga is too short to form any opinions about it, but this manga didn’t impress me too much. There’s also an even shorter preview of a different series.

JENNY ZERO #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Jenny fights a giant robot, and the series ends on a cliffhanger that suggests a possible sequel. Jenny Zero was a frankly bad miniseries, and I regret ordering it.

CRUSH & LOBO #3 (DC, 2021) – “Painful Childhood or Whatever,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush visits Lobo in prison, but he tricks the prison’s computers into thinking he’s Crush and she’s him, so Crush languishes in prison while Lobo strolls out. A funny subplot in this issue is the praying mantis inmate whose mom ate his dad’s head. Later in the issue, his own head is eaten by his son.

ZOM 100: BUCKET LIST OF THE DEAD FCBD 2021 EDITION – untitled, [W] Haro Aso, [A] Kotaro Takata. When Japan is overtaken by a zombie apocalypse, a salaryman decides it’s the perfect time to do everything he always wanted to do. This issue also includes a preview of Demon Slayer, a manga I already wanted to read.

SCHOOL FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL GIRLS FCBD (Papercutz, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Jamie Noguchi. Some girls from the namesake school head to their new home at the School for Extraterrestrial Boys. Jeremy Whitley is one of my favorite current writers, but I haven’t read the first volume of this series. This FCBD issue gives sufficient context to allow me to understand what’s going on, and it makes me want to read both volumes. I don’t like the artwork in this comic as much as the art in Princeless, but Jeremy writes it in a similar style to Princeless or Unstoppable Wasp.

INKBLOT #11 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. This story takes place even earlier than #5, at the very start of the Seeker’s family’s lives, even earlier than issue 5. At this point the youngest, Inos, is a toddler, and thanks to MOW.’s meddling, his older brother has to save him from a giant snow dinosaur. Meanwhile, MOW. spends the entire issue chasing an insect.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “A Fuggin’ Dragon,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. Like Kaiju Score, Campisi is a gangster story set in a world where giant monsters are a normal part of life. Except the monsters in this series are dragons instead of kaiju. Sonny Campisi is a mob enforcer for the neighborhood of Green Village. While Sonny is dealing with some mob drama, a dragon appears in the neighborhood and demands that the people surrender a certain Franceso [sic] Moretti, a descendant of the dragon’s ancient enemy. This looks like another fun series. This issue ends with a fourth-grader’s report on the history of dragons.

BATMAN SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. I don’t understand this story, and it’s a dead letter anyway, since Tynion is leaving Batman. This issue also has a preview of I Am Batman, a series I decided not to read – because it was a sequel to Next Batman: Second Son, which I was equally unable to understand.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: AVENGERS/HULK #1 (Marvel, 2021) – Avengers: “The Tower at the Center of Everything,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Iban Coello. A preview of an epic story with a multiversal scope. Jason Aaron’s Avengers has never felt like the Avengers to me. Hulk: “Ignition,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Ottley. The Hulk fights MODOK. I fear that Donny Cates’s Hulk will be a massive step down in quality from Al Ewing’s Hulk.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 (Marvel, 2021) – Spider-Man: “Test-Drive,” [W] Zeb Wells, [A] Patrick Gleason. Ben Reilly gets a new Spider-Man costume. I do plan to read the new post-Nick-Spencer Spider-Man, but only the issues written by Kelly Thompson. Venom: “Like Father, Like Son,” [W] Ram V & Al Ewing, [A] Bryan Hitch. Not very interesting, despite the all-star creative team.

SUICIDE SQUID SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – Suicide Squad: untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Scott Kolins. A King Shark solo story. It’s only average, but it’s smart of DC to capitalize on King Shark’s current popularity. Joker: untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Alex Maleev. I have no interest in Azzarello’s writing, but this story’s artwork is a nostalgic reminder of Maleev’s work on Daredevil.

ORDINARY GODS #2 (Image, 2021) – “Black Light,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Felipe Watanabe. Christopher wakes up on a private island, where some of the other gods’ incarnations tell him about the series’ backstory. There’s also a flashback to the battle of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, then Volgograd) during the Russian Civil War. I keep forgetting what this series is about, but I like how the dog is also a divine incarnation.  

COPRA #41 (Copra, 2021) – “Nurture Apparatus” and “Tresser Who?”, [W/A] Michel Fiffe. The members of Copra deal with the aftermath of the Ochizon battle, and there’s also a monologue by Tresser, i.e. Nemesis. This issue has some beautiful coloring that appears to be in paint or colored pencil.

THE WORST DUDES #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. The protagonists continue following Zephyr Monsoon’s trail, and they encounter some cop fetishists and some robots in caveman clothing (which reminds me of the Caveman Robot guys who used to attend Comic-Con). The Worst Dudes has a similar style of humor to Curse Words or Grumble, though I’m not sure it’s as good as either of them.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #31 (Marvel, 2021) – “Vacation, All I Never Wanted,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Carol and Rhodey are leaving for a vacation, but then Lauri-Ell appears and summons them to Throneworld II to fight a giant sludge monster. Afterward, Carol and Rhodey have to spend 72 hours in quarantine, which they enjoy just as much as the vacation they’d been going to take. On the last page we see that the sludge monster was created by an unidentified villain.

IMMORTAL HULK #49 (Marvel, 2021) – “All Ye Who Enter Here,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue consists entirely of full-page splashes with narrative captions in Jackie’s voice. Jackie’s perspective is interesting because she’s not used to characters like the Avengers or the FF; she perceives them the way a normal person would. The plot is that the Hulk and his companions invade the Baxter Building and convince the FF to let Hulk take a portal to the Realm Below. The Hulk is going to go through the portal alone, but Jackie follows him. In terms of literary quality, Immortal Hulk is the best Marvel comic of at least the past decade, and it’s a shame that it has to end.

THE SILVER COIN #5 (Image, 2021) – “Covenant,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. In colonial New England, witch hunter Cotton Dudley sentences Rebekah Goode to be hanged for witchcraft. As Rebekah dies, she realizes that her friend accepted a coin as payment for informing her, and she pronounces a curse on the coin. That explains where the coin came from. This story is just a little trite, but it’s not bad for a writer who’s better known as an artist. Until reading this issue I didn’t realize that Michael Walsh was the primary creator of this series.

BLACK’S MYTH #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer sleeps with a female client, then she and Ben go to Rainsford Black’s mansion and meet his servants, the Minotaur and Galatea. And we get some clues to why two of Rainsford’s thirty silver bullets are missing. (The photo on page 5, panel 5 shows 29 bullets, not 28; this must be an error in the art.) I liked this issue, although I had to reread issue 1 in order to understand it. A funny moment is when the minotaur hits his horns on the doorframe.

ON TYRANNY #1 (Ten Speed, 2021) – untitled, [W] Timothy Snyder, [A] Nora Krug. An adaptation of a nonfiction book. This comic includes so much text that Torsten Adair called it “not really comics” (https://www.comicsbeat.com/free-comic-book-day-2021-silver-teen-titles/). The artwork is more illustrative than narrative. It is an interesting book, though, and there are places where the images are used quite effectively – especially on the last page, which quotes Vaclav Havel’s question about what happens if no one plays the game.

DAREDEVIL #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. We start with an explanation of where all the Bullseye clones came from. Then Elektra fights the Bullesyes until Spider-Man and Iron Man show up to save her. Meanwhile, Matt leads a revolt and takes over the prison. It’s too bad that Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil run is ending just as I’m getting into it.

2000 AD #693 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: “Necropolis Part 20,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anderson explains that to stop the Sisters of Death, the progenitors of the Dark Judges, Dredd has to kill the psi-judge Kit Agee. Harlem Heroes: untitled, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Simon Jacob. The Heroes take off in a plane, but the engine catches on fire. Slaine: “The Horned God Volume III Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. Slaine and Slough Feg’s armies engage in an epic battle. Slough Feg captures Slaine and prepares to kill him. This chapter has some more stunning art, including a half-page image of Slaine on horseback that recalls Frazetta’s Death Dealer. Medivac 318: “Arcturus Part 11,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity helps rescue the captured cat dude from Arcturus. Dry Run: “Part 6,” [W] Tise Vahimagi, [A] Kev Hopgood. I still don’t understand what this storyline is about.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. After fighting a giant mechanical kraken, Canto and Aulaura meet a dwarf named Iggle, and he gives them some clues to the slavers’ location. Iggle is a cute character.

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #6 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. By this point I think I finally get which Dragonfly is which. Just as the Dragonflies are about to return to their respective Earths, Man-Dragonfly’s partner Nightsting destroys all the mirrors, and all the characters are stuck on the worlds where they currently are. This has interseting consequences for both Earths Alpha and Omega. This ending implies that a fourth Wrong Earth series is forthcoming.

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #11 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Desperation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The heroes continue fighting the Extinction Society, until the Originator casts the spell “omnisapienteleunification,’ causing everyone on earth to form a uni-mind. That leaves just one more issue. At the Comics Studies Society conference last month, Christy Knopf from SUNY Cortland gave a paper about Commanders in Crisis. I only caught the tail end of that paper, and I’m curious to see what she said.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK (Ablaze, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jérôme Alquié. A French adaptation of a classic Japanese comic. Its plot is convoluted and its artwork is busy, but it is pretty intriguing. However, I would rather read the original Captain Harlock manga (of which I already have the first volume), rather than this adaptation. The character of Professor Reiji in this comic is based on Leiji Matsumoto himself.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 2021) – “What’s Kraken?”, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor & Evan Stanley. The kids save Aquaman, but then they discover that they themselves are the next heroes on the scroll. In a flashback, we see how the kids allied themselves with Rora. The artwork in the flashback sequence is better than in the main story. This series is a bit formulaic, and I wish it was narrated in chronological order (that is, in the order in which Jon and Damian experienced the events).

DUNGEON FCBD 2021 (NBM, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim, [A] Boulet. A preview of the new seventh volume of Donjon Zenith. I haven’t read Dungeon since NBM first published it in English, back in 2002 and 2003. I do have a few volumes of it, but  I haven’t read them. Returning to it now gives me some nice memories. The plot of this installment is that Herbert, Marvin and Isis (who’s pregnant) have to find a magic artifact to save the dungeon. Also, Marvin meets a new love interest.

RED ROOM: THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK #3 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. Hacker Levee Turks has just gotten out of prison, where he was imprisoned for creating the encryption software that made the Red Rooms possible, though it was really his wife Rita who created it. Levee and Rita are horrified to discover what their software is being used for. This story was inspired by the actual case of the darknet market Silk Road. Piskor’s artwork in this issue is, well, number one, it’s extremely gross, but number two, it’s heavily influenced by Liefeld. It’s ironic how Liefeld’s own artwork has not evolved at all since the ‘80s, yet he’s inspired artists like Piskor who have taken his style in new directions.

SWAMP THING #6 (DC, 2021) – “In My Infancy,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. The Suicide Squad travels to Kaziranga to track down Levi Kamei, who’s visiting his brother and his father, a tribal council member. This issue made me wonder if Levi is supposed to be from an indigenous Northeast Indian tribe. That’s what the term “tribal council” suggests, and the actual Kaziranga is partly in the Karbi Anglong autonomous area of Assam. Also, Northeast Indian tribal people are often Christian, which would explain the names Jacob and Levi, and the surname Kamei seems to be associated with Naga people.

ORCS IN SPACE #3 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Justin Roiland et al, [A] François Vigneault. The orcs manage to defeat the rats, even though they spend the entire issue tied to each other. This series doesn’t appeal to me at all, and this is the last issue I’ll be getting.

2000 AD #694 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and the cadets steal a ship and head to Kit’s apartment. Harlem Heroes: as above. The plane crashes, and the character who’s piloting it gets blown up, but the others survive. Slaine: as above. Slaine kills Slough Feg with his last-resort weapon, the Gae Bolg, which is also the ultimate weapon of Cu Chulainn. In a gruesome half-page panel, Slough Feg is eaten by “the bloody maggot, Crom Cruach.” Tir na nOg sinks under the sea. Medivac 318: as above. Verity and her partner are given a slap-on-the-wrist “punishment” for stealing their own ambulance. Dry Run: as above. I still don’t understand this series.

THE DEMON #10 (DC, 1973) – “The Thing That Screams,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. This story is an obvious reference to The Phantom of the Opera. Actor Farley Fairfax was cursed by the witch Galatea, giving him a hideous face. Becoming the Phantom of the Sewers, Farley kidnaps Galatea’s lookalike, Glenda Mark, and the Demon uses Glenda as a conduit to summon Galatea’s spirit so she can restore Farley’s face. But as soon as he gets his face back, Farley dies of shock. I’m writing this on what would have been Kirby’s 104th birthday.

2000 AD #695 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Dredd kills Kit, and the Sisters are returned to their own dimension. Harlem Heroes: as above. One of the Heroes goes nuts and runs into enemy fire. Slaine: as above. In the framing sequence, the elderly Ukko – who is narrating this story – almost dies, but he manages to continue. Ukko explains that the goddess Danu destroyed Tir na nOg because she doesn’t like cities. Medb summons a dragon to avenge Slough Feg’s death against Slaine. Chronos Carnival: “The Caverns of Colony Five Part 1,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. A woman, a man in a wheelchair, and a dragon descend into  a cavern. This was Hilary Robinson’s last story arc for 2000 AD. Dry Run: as above. More of the same.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #23 (Dark Horse, 1989) – “…It All Happened So Fast!”, [W/A] Bob Burden. The Carrot leads some Trekkers and Whovians against an alien invasion force. This comic doesn’t make much sense, but it’s not supposed to.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #37 (Marvel, 1975) – “Moonbound,” [W] David A. Kraft, [A] George Pérez. The Man-Wolf has some sort of adventure on a space station, while back on Earth, his father, JJJ, is trying to save him. This was the final issue, and it ended on a cliffhanger,  but the rest of this storyline appeared in Marvel Premiere #45 and #46. George Pérez’s layouts and compositions are beautiful, but his draftsmanship is ruined by Fred Kida’s inking.

IRON MAN #122 (Marvel, 1979) – “Journey!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Carmine Infantino. I read this years ago as part of the Power of Iron Man trade paperback, but I don’t remember it well, because it’s easily the worst of the issues included in that book. It’s just a boring origin recap. By the way, I used to have Iron Man #128, but I gave it away after I got the trade paperback. I regret doing that, because it’s become a key issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #541 (DC, 1984) – “C-C-Cold!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. The Penguin travels to Antarctica to sell military secrets to the Russians. Batman follows him there and gets stranded with no way back, but the Russians are kind enough to transport him back to civilization. This is a pretty dumb story that doesn’t represent the best work of either creator. The Green Arrow backup story has good art by Shawn McManus.

SAVAGE DRAGON #46 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights Hercules and other demigods, until All-God, the incarnation of the elder gods, makes them break it up. Dragon fails to rescue his old girlfriend Debbie from the gods. Meanwhile, She-Dragon fights Volcanic, and Freak Force has a membership shakeup. Sadly, Beast Boy and Feezle get thrown off the team.

BATMAN #513 (DC, 1994) – “Double Deuce,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Gustovich. Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, the new Batman and the old Robin, fight Two-Face. Dick and Tim’s dialogue in this issue is pretty good. Harvey Bullock was a regular cast member in the series at this point, but it’s notable that he appears in this issue, since Moench created him back in the ‘80s. And I just learned that he’s not Bullock’s official creator. Archie Goodwin created an unrelated character with the same name in 1974, and this is now considered Bullock’s first appearance.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: HULK #14 (Marvel, 2008) – “Small Doubts,” [W] Peter David, [A] Juan Santacruz. The Hulk and Rick Jones travel to a microworld where they fight the Plastic Man. This isn’t nearly as good as any typical issue of PAD’s original Hulk run.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #17 (DC, 2016) – “Uprising Part 1,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Sandy Jarrell & Mirka Andolfo. I expected to hate this comic, especially since it’s about an uprising in the Berlin Ghetto. That seems like an inappropriate topic for entertainment. But this issue turned out to actually be good. While the superheroines are fighting the Axis, a preteen girl named Miriam keeps the younger children quiet by telling them stories of Biblical Jewish heroines. She repeats the heroines’ names – Shiphrah, Huldah, Abigail, Zipporah, Asenath, and Miriam – and turns into Mary (or Miri) Marvel! This is a delightful twist that effectively transplants Shazam into a Jewish cultural context, turning Mary Marvel into a Jewish feminist symbol.

SAVAGE DRAGON #73 (Image, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon goes looking for some kidnapped superpowered children. He finds that Darklord has been keeping them captive in a Covenant of the Sword base, along with some women that he’s using to breed clones. Also, in a funny scene, Dragon leaves Sgt. Marvel a letter to be opened in case he doesn’t return in three days. Sgt. Marvel opens the letter as soon as Dragon leaves, and finds that it begins “You prick – I knew you couldn’t wait three days.” This issue led into the continuity reboot in issue 75. After that point, Savage Dragon’s continuity became so confusing that I doubt if Erik himself understands it.

SUICIDE SQUAD #57 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part V: Dragon’s Blood,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. A lot of different characters are all looking for an old cache of Viet Cong weapons. Eventually Deadshot destroys the weapons, and later, Captain Boomerang is very happy to learn that Amanda Waller has suffered non-fatal but severe injuries. Earlier in the issue, Digger executes a master stroke. While he and the Thinker are being held captive, Digger tells Oracle to activate the Thinker’s powers for five minutes – long enough for the Thinker to free them, but not long enough for him to take his revenge on Digger afterward.

2000 AD #696 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Now that the Sisters are gone, the Judges converge on the four Dark Judges. Harlem Heroes: as above. The character who went crazy is saved from killing herself. The Heroes discover a plane they can use to escape. Slaine: as above. Medb summons demons to attack Slaine and his army. Slaine recites a lover’s charm to the goddess Danu, who responds by putting Slaine into a warp spasm. The charm that Slaine uses is “SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS”, which is a word square – if the words are arranged in a 5×5 grid, then they read the same both vertically and horizontally. The so-called “Sator square” dates back to ancient times, having been found in the ruins of Pompeii, but the meaning of the words is disputed; the word AREPO appears nowhere else. “Chronos Carnival”: as above. The three characters discover a frozen ape that promises to fulfill their desires, including allowing the paraplegic man to walk again. He decides to take the offer. Dry Run: as above. I have nothing to say about this.  

DAREDEVIL #242 (Marvel, 1987) – “Caviar Killer,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Keith Pollard. Factory worker Joe murders his super-rich boss, then goes on to murder a bunch of other rich people. An unscrupulous Daily Bugle reporter decides to give Joe a platform for his crusade against the rich, rather than turn him into the cops. When Daredevil shows up to arrest Joe, he has to fight his way through a crowd of Joe’s supporters, and he gets pilloried by the media as an agent of the rich elite. I like the politics behind this comic, but the problem with Ann Nocenti’s writing is that she’s too heavy-handed and unsubtle,  and this issue is a great example of that. The original murder victim is such a caricature of an rich fat cat that the reader doesn’t believe in him. He literally eats caviar in front of Joe. See Eat the Rich #1 for a much more plausible critique of the idle rich.

ACTION COMICS #432 (DC, 1974) – “Target of the Toymen!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The Toyman comes out of retirement to help Superman defeat a younger crook who’s using his name. There’s also a Human Target backup story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano. I admit I prefer the art in the backup story to the art in the main story, even though the main story is by the Swanderson team. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #230 (Marvel, 1981) – “Firefrost and the Ebon Seeker,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Bill Sienkiewicz. The FF fight the Ebon Seeker, a bargain-basement version of Galactus. They win, but get stuck in the Negative Zone. As I have written before, Doug Moench was the worst FF writer ever. He was good at writing gritty street-level crime and action stories, not epic cosmic adventures.

JLA #23 (DC, 1998) – “Conquerors,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. The JLA defeat Starro with the aid of Daniel, the incarnation of Dream. This was the story that established Starro as one of DC’s most powerful villains. There are moments in this issue where Starro is depicted as a positively Lovecraftian menace. Aquaman describes it as “oceans beyond space and time… gravity sewers… older than time.” At the end of the issue, Daniel puts Starro in a treasure chest that already contains Azazel, the Corinthian’s skull, and a bottle that presumably contains the city of Baghdad.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #139 (Marvel, 139) – “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime!”, [W] Cary Burkett, [A] Brian Postman. Nick Fury’s former SHIELD teammate Dino Manelli gets engaged to a young starlet, Julie Winston, but a Maggia boss sends a Dreadnought robot to kidnap her. Not surprisingly, Julie turns out to be complicit in her own kidnapping. This issue is okay, but nowhere near the level of J.M. DeMatteis’s earlier run on this series.

ADVENTURE COMICS #455 (DC, 1978) – Superboy: “I Can’t Go Home Again,” [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Juan Ortiz. Luthor convinces Superboy that the entire town of Smallville has turned into kryptonite. A bad story by a bad creative team. The Aqualad backup story, by Paul Kupperberg and Carl Potts, is a little bit better. Carl Potts could have been a good artist, but was mostly an editor. This run of Superboy stories  was mercifully short, and was followed by a brief run of Dollar Comics-sized issues.  

KA-ZAR #1 (Marvel, 1974) – “Return to the Savage Land!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Paul Reinman. On returning from New York to the Savage Land, Ka-Zar is kidnapped by the wizard Malgato, whose sidekick is Ka-Zar’s old enemy Maa-Gor. On the last page of this issue, Ka-Zar and Shanna meet for the first time. They didn’t become a couple until the first issue of the next Ka-Zar series. See https://www.cbr.com/ka-zar-shanna-she-devil-romance-off-panel/. Paul Reinman draws this issue in a style that’s very similar to Gil Kane’s.

BARBIE #47 (Marvel, 1994) – “Doing the Right Thing,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, Anne-Marie Cool. Skipper wants to drop out of school and become Barbie’s assistant. But she changes her mind when she meets a cute boy at a car wash, and then discovers that he’s illiterate. Just as Barbie Fashion #26 romanticizes homelessness, this story romanticizes adult illiteracy. The writers make no attempt to explain why Adam is illiterate. Why couldn’t he finish school? Was it because of poverty, a learning disability, or what? Barbie comics did not invite the reader to ask such questions. Instead, it seems as if Adam just happened to not learn how to read, for no particular reason. IDW’s Jem comics included a much better depiction of an illiterate adult.

2000 AD #697 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. The Dark Judges are finally defeated, and Judge Death falls off a building. This is the last chapter of Necropolis that I have. It’s an excellent Dredd epic. Harlem Heroes: as above. More pointless action sequences. Slaine survives his battle with Medb, and he and his people travel to a new land. One of Ukko’s attendants tries to mesmerize a girl by saying SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS, but only gets a slap in return. Chronos Carnival: as above. Neil’s acceptance of the wish results in mayhem. Ron Smith’s art in this chapter is very striking and detailed. Dry Run: as above. Of the stories in this issue, this is one of them.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #7 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Blackvine,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Cap confronts the man who was responsible for Isaiah’s suffering, and discovers that the Super-Soldier Serum was the result of an eugenics project. Cap visits Isaiah’s wife and grandchildren. We learn that Isaiah was jailed for 17 years for stealing Cap’s costume, and after being released, he suffered sterility and mental deterioration. But he did get photographed with many famous black leaders, including Morales and Baker themselves. Cap returns Isaiah’s costume to him. Truth’s conclusion is pessimistic but sadly plausible. Overall, Truth: Red, White and Black was one of the most important Marvel comics of the 2000s, because it was one of Marvel’s first serious attempts to engage with their own racist legacy. It’s a pity that Morales wrote so few other comics.

BATMAN #607 (DC, 2002) – “Death-Wish for Two Conclusion,” [W] Ed Brubaker & Geoff Johns, [A] Scott McDaniel. Batman is trying to prevent Deadshot from assassinating David Cain, but Cain doesn’t want the help and would be happy to be assassinated. This was only an okay issue, and Scott McDaniel’s art is too cartoony for this sort of Batman story.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #49 (Marvel, 1976) – “Madness is All in the Mind!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spidey, Iron Man and Jean DeWolff battle the Wraith, who is in fact Jean’s brother Brian. Jean also has to contend with her sexist father. This issue is better than an average Bill Mantlo comic, but perhaps its best part is the simple yet striking cover by John Romita.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #193 (Fawcett, 1979) – “Saint Santa” and other stories, [W/A] unknown. A bunch of Christmas-themed stories. In one of them, Dennis meets the Dutch Sinterklaas and his sidekick Zwarte Piet. Unsurprisingly there’s no mention of Zwarte Piet’s racist associations. This issue has some mild Christian overtones, but they’re not nearly as obvious as in Archie Giant Series #218.  

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #591 (Marvel, 2009) – “Face Front Part 2: ‘Nuff Said!”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Barry Kitson w/ Jesse Delperdang & Dale Eaglesham. Spidey and the FF manage to resolve the conflict between the Dregan and Kort people. Spidey reveals his secret identity to the FF. Meanwhile, a series of cutscenes, drawn by a different artist, show us what’s been happening on Earth while the FF and Spidey were in the Macroverse. When they get back to Earth, they discover that two months have passed and that JJJ has just been elected mayor of New York.

SECRET WARS 2099 #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. A crossover story starring all the 2099 characters. This comic makes little sense and is not well written.

BARBIE #44 (Marvel, 1994) – “African Adventure,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, [A] Barb Rausch. Barbie and Skipper travel to Niger, where they help a Wodaabe girl find her nomadic family. Later, they visit a chimpanzee park in (the country then called) Zaire. When I saw that this issue took place in Africa, I was expecting it to be terrible. I was pleasantly surprised that the creators seem to have made a genuine effort to depict Niger and the Wodaabe people accurately. However, as usual for this series, they dance around difficult topics. We see that people in Niger use mules for transportation and that they have to get water from faraway wells, but we’re not invited to consider the historical reasons for such poverty and underdevelopment.

SECRET WARS 2099 #5 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. More of the same. I shouldn’t have bought this. Peter David is no longer the writer he used to be.

R.E.B.E.L.S. ’95 #8 (DC, 1995) – “Money,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Derec Aucoin. The infant Lyrl Dox leads half of the former LEGION against the other half, including his own father, Vril Dox. This issue is okay, but it’s not as funny or exciting as the L.E.G.I.O.N. series.

2000 AD #792 (Fleetway, 1992) – Dredd: “Judgment Day Part 10,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Peter Doherty. Dredd and Hershey fight an army of zombies and are nearly overwhelmed, but McGruder rescues them. Kola Kommandos: untitled, [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Anthony Williams. The Okay Kola Korporation’s 200th anniversary gala is invaded by a blue-skinned white-haired terrorist. Zenith: “Phase IV Part 1: Starting Over,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith watches a TV program about himself, then goes to see St. John. Dragon Tales: “Enter the Dragon,” [W] Frances Lynn, [A] José Casanovas Jr. An evil king and queen are destroyed by a dragon. Casanovas’s art in this story is beautiful; he powerfully conveys the king and queen’s greed and decadence, and he makese great use of color. Future Shocks: “We Come in Peace,” [W/A] Tim Bollard. A young boy saves an alien’s life, but the alien turns out to be less peaceful than it claims. Robo-Hunter: “Return to Verdus Prologue,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] José Casanovas Jr. The very first Robo-Hunter story is retold, but from the perspective of the robots of Verdus, for whom Slade is a villain. Then we see that Sam Slade is being held in prison on Verdus.

CEREBUS #70 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Same as It Ever Was,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In her final publisher’s note, Deni Loubert announces that she’s starting Renegade Press and taking all the non-Cerebus titles with her. The Regency Elf leads Cerebus on a long trip back to the Regency Hotel, then she tells Cerebus to stop doing what he’s doing, but she refuses to say what it is that Cerebus is doing. The Regency Elf is one of the most fun characters in the series.

FOUR COLOR #855 (Dell, 1957) – “Apache Dowry” and “Kingdom of Terror,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Howard Purcell. This is based on a TV show that was itself based on a movie. It stars Indian agent Tom Jeffords and his friend, the Apache chief Cochise. The film Broken Arrow was noted for its sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans, at least by 1950s standards, and “Apache Dowry” depicts the Apache in a fairly positive light. Its plot is that a young Apache man steals two horses as a bride price for his girlfriend, and Tom and Cochise have to collaborate to prevent violence while respecting both Apache and American laws. The Apaches in this story are portrayed in a far less stereotypical way, compared to Indians in other Dell Western comics. In the backup story, Tom and Cochise rescue some slaves from an Arizona plantation where slavery is still legal, since it’s still governed by the terms of its original Mexican land grant. (https://www.instagram.com/p/CTDYhznrj6e/) There is no historical basis for this at all.

DC ESSENTIALS: BATMAN AND ROBIN #1 (DC, 2016) – “Born to Kill,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. A reprint of the first issue of the 2011 Batman and Robin series. Bruce and Damian visit the spot where Bruce’s parents were killed, then they stop a theft of nuclear materials from a research reactor. We’re also introduced to a new villain, Nobody.

I went back to Heroes today, August 28. This time I had lunch at the Workman’s Friend.

ONCE & FUTURE #19 (Boom!, 2021) – “Monarchies in the UK,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. As Britain descends into chaos, Duncan, Rose and Gran narrowly escape from some fairies, who are depicted as utterly terrifying insectoid monsters. Meanwhile, Arthur confronts a rival king. I’m not sure if we’ve seen this other king before or not. The highlight of this issue is when Gran says that Rose’s parents can take care of themselves, and Rose says “They’re retired academics! They really can’t!”

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #19 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Four,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Aaron is bullied by two other boys named Tybalt and Paris. All three of these names are from Shakespeare, and the Shakespearean characters by these names all came to bad ends. Meanwhile, the Oscuratype shows Erica a false memory of her parents’ deaths, but she sees through the illusion and defeats it. The full-page depiction of Octo’s true form is very striking.

BERMUDA #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Bradshaw. Bobby runs away to the nearest human settlement, which is full of pirates. Bermuda has to save Bobby from being impressed onto a ship. Meanwhile, the Mers prepare to sacrifice Andi in order to open a portal to the outside world. Nick Bradshaw’s draftsmanship in this issue is spectacular. We’ve already seen that he can draw giant monsters and sexy girls, but he’s equally good at drawing pirates.

STRANGE ACADEMY #12 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. This is one of the last of the fun, kid-oriented Marvel titles. This issue, we realize that Duncan’s coat is Mr. Misery, the villain from Aaron and Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. The kids defeat Mr. Misery by giving it more angst than it can handle.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #5 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. A man tricks Jonna and Rainbow into following him, then imprisons Jonna in a cage and forces her to fight a monster in an arena. The monster in this issue isn’t quite as impressive as the ones earlier in the series, but this issue is faster-paced than the last few.

ASCENDER #18 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Tim and Mother’s conflict is resolved by the intervention of Effie, aka Queen Between, who’s both magic and science at once. Effie absorbs all the magic and science energy and returns it to the galaxy. Effie and Mia are finally reunited. Tim is about to die, but saves himself by downloading his brain into Kanto. And they all live happily after. This was a powerful and heartwarming conclusion to the entire Descender/Ascender epic.

MADE IN KOREA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. The two evil kids start shooting up the school. Once Jesse realizes what they’re doing, she saves the surviving students and kills both the shooters. But she’s so traumatized by all this that she accepts Chul’s offer to return to Korea. This series is a nice combination of cute and grim.

EAT THE RICH #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. It’s going to be even harder to distinguish between Sarah Gailey and Sarah Graley, now that they’re both doing comics. College student Astor invites his new girlfriend Joey to a party at his parents’ beach house. We realize at once that Astor’s parents are offensively rich, and that Joey is out of her element among them. It’s obvious that Joey needs to turn around and leave, regardless of the consequences. And that’s before we discover the twist, which is that Astor’s parents and their friends are slaughtering and eating their own servants. This is one of the scariest horror comics in recent memory, and that’s because it’s so believable. I suspect that real ultra-rich people are just like the ones in this comic, besides the cannibalism. Eat the Rich #1 is a terrifying comic, and an impressive start to Sarah Gailey’s comics career.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #120 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The Turtles defeat the rioters and pursue them to Hob’s place, where Lita and the weasels are being held captive. Meanwhile, Hob has a standoff with his rebellious partner Ray. Raphael and Hob beat each other up, and Hob finds himself facing a horde of angry mutants. This is an exciting issue.

SAVE YOURSELF #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leopard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nichole Matthews. Gigi and Mia try to rescue Shawn from the Lovely Trio, but the Trio’s ship gets blown up with Shawn and Gigi still on it. The little blue alien in this issue is pretty cute.

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OLYMPIC SPORTS RANKED BY HOW MUCH I ENJOY WATCHING THEM AT THE OLYMPICS

TOP TIER

1. Badminton
2. Table tennis
3. Track cycling
4. Rugby sevens
5. Handball
6. Water polo
7. Indoor voleyball
8. Track and field
9. Triathlon

SECOND TIER

10. Road cycling
11. Mountain bike
12. BMX racing
13. Surfing
14. Beach volleyball
15. Skateboarding
16. BMX freestyle
17. Gymnastics
18. Wrestling
19. Trampoline
20. Swimming
21. Canoe slalom
22. Eventing
23. Weightlifting
24. Fencing
25. Archery
26. Women’s soccer
27. Basketball
28. Sport climbing

THIRD TIER

29. Field hockey
30. Judo
31. Diving
32. Karate
33. Softball
34. Canoe sprint
35. Shotgun shooting
36. Jumping
37. Synchronized swimming
38. Modern pentathlon
39. Rhythmic gymnastics
40. Sailing
41. Tennis

BOTTOM TIER

42. Taekwondo
43. Dressage
44. 3×3 basketball
45. Boxing
46. Rifle and pistol shooting
47. Men’s soccer
48. Baseball
49. Golf

Note that this is a ranking of how much I enjoy watching these sports at the Olympics. I love watching baseball, but the Olympic baseball tournament isn’t worth watching because it doesn’t include MLB players. 

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June and early July 2021 reviews

I went to Heroes on June 7. That day I had brunch at The Workman’s Friend. I had the boxty benedict, which was fairly good.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #16 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. As this flashback story begins, a House of Slaughter agent named Jessica has just rescued the child Erica from a monster that killed her parents and best friend. Jessica has imprisoned the monster in Erica’s octopus doll. The House of Slaughter orders Jessica to kill Erica too, but instead she takes Erica home with her, despite knowing that Erica is going to be subjected to awful bullying. This was a good start to the storyline, and it shows that the House of Slaughter is just as terrible an institution as I’d suspected.

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #5 (Image, 2021) – “What Therefore God Hath Joined Together,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. Jael rescues Sharri with help from the serpent, then Sharri kills the old prioress by making her marry God. But Jael is mortally wounded, and has a symbolic wedding with Jael before dying herself. Later, Jael joins up with Cain. This was a gripping miniseries with spectacular art, and I hope there’ll be a third volume of Goddamned someday, though R.M. Guera must be a rather slow artist.

MANIFEST DESTINY #43 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This is the first issue in well over a year, and I’m glad that this series is going to be completed. In this issue the Corps of Discovery climb up a giant cliff, suffering numerous casualties due to some horrible rock monsters. A funny moment is when Sacagawea complains that everyone else is climbing too slow, and Lewis replies that they’re all carrying extra weight, and he has a dog on his back. Then we cut back to Sacagawea, who has a baby on her back.

MADE IN KOREA #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Wook-Jin Industries (named after the cartoonist Wook-Jin Clark?) makes artificial robot children, or “proxies,” for infertile parents. It’s hinted that the entire world is suffering from an infertility plague. Chul, a Wook-Jin employee, makes some mysterious alterations to a proxy that’s being shipped to Texas. The proxy, named Jesse, reads an entire room full of books in one night. This is a really interesting story about adoption and posthumanism, and it’s based on the writer’s own experience as a transracial adoptee from Korea (https://www.comicsbeat.com/interview-process-brave-new-world-jeremy-holt-george-schall-on-made-in-korea/). I like how George Schall’s artwork uses a veneer that looks like fingerprints.

ABBOTT 1973 #5 (Boom! 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Abbott defeats the bad guys, and Detroit elects its first black mayor. But Abbott herself ends up worse off than before. She gets fired from her job – though it was inevitable anyway, since her boss was a sexist asshole. (As noted in my review of #1, the subplot with Abbott’s boss is a good example of how intersectionality works.) And Abbott’s girlfriend leaves her because she’s understandably sick of being a target for magical villains. Meanwhile, Detroit is about to face yet another magical conspiracy. The ending to this miniseries was very inconclusive, suggesting that there’ll be a third volume of Abbott sometime soon.

ASCENDER #15 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A flashback issue showing how Tim became the avatar of both magic and science, which are the two opposing forces of the universe. This magic-versus-science plot is reminiscent of the Legion of Super-Heroes storyline “The Magic Wars.”

MONEY SHOT #11 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. I’m thrilled that this series is back, though Caroline Leigh Layne is a far less impressive artist than Rebekah Isaacs. Former team member Bree is replaced by Dr. Yasemin Blanco, and the team visits a planet that has a plant that can supposedly cure climate change. After some sexy adventures, the team learns that the drug is actually just a narcotic, but that it provides hope for the future.

BITTER ROOT #13 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. Blink unites the various magical families of New York against the demons, while trying to adjust to her new role’s family head. Dr. Sylvester reappears at the end. We still don’t know what it was that Enoch discovered just before he was killed. Sanford Greene’s art in this issue is amazing, especially the two-page splash with Blink’s speech. My problem with this comic is that there are too many characters, and it’s hard to remember who they all are, or how they’re related.

SPECTER INSPECTORS #4 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Well,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The team meets the ghost of a cute little boy, and he directs them to an old diary that explains part of the plot. But it doesn’t mention the demon’s name. Then Astrid deliberately gets herself kidnapped by the main villain, so she can open the barrier that’s keeping her friends in Cape Grace. I really like this miniseries, but by the time I read issue 5, I had mostly forgotten issue 4.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #9 (Image, 2021) – “The Denver Working,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. In a flashback, we learn how Hawk was responsible for Cole’s childhood delusions about Satanic ritual abuse. Hawk makes a big long speech about how magic works; he references Aleister Crowley and Madame Blavatsky and tulpas and a lot of other stuff. His explanation of magic is scarily plausible. As usual, Martin Simmonds’s artwork in this issue is extremely unusual and creative. Hawk’s long speech could have been boring, but Simmonds’s artwork makes it fascinating and evocative, kind of like Daniel’s speech at the beginning of Paul Auster’s City of Glass.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. A group of twenty- and thirtysomethings, most of them unknown to each other, are gathered at a lake house in Wisconsin. The only thing they have in common is that they’re all friends with a man named Walter. Just as they’re getting to know each other… the  world suddenly ends. Someone tweets “I just watched Anderson Cooper burn to death on live television.” Walter explains that everyone on Earth is going to die except the people in the lake house. And… that’s it. This was a powerful debut issue. The Twitter feed detailing the end of the world is chilling; I think Twitter would look exactly like that if the world really did end. One of the Tweets is from Cole Turner from Department of Truth. I’m not familiar with Alvaro Martinez Bueno, but his art is quite good. I voted for Tynion for the Eisner for Best Writer.

X-MEN #20 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lost Love,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Francesco Mobili. On the Orchis Forge, Dr. Alia Gregor tries to resurrect her dead son by programming his personality into Nimrod. Mystique returns to the Orchis Forge in an attempt to assassinate Nimrod, in exchange for Destiny being resurrected. Mystique she succeeds in killing Nimrod’s body that contains Dr. Gregor’s son, but Nimrod survives in another body. So Mystique only ends up making the situation worse, and Professor X and Magneto refuse to bring Destiny back. It’s now clear that they never meant to do so, and that they were just dangling her as a carrot in order to control Mystique. I think this is the last issue of this volume of X-Men. The new writer is Gerry Duggan, who I don’t like.

NOCTERRA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. In a flashback to Val (Sundog) and Emory’s childhood, we see how they were saved from being trapped in their house by monsters. Val and Bailey arrive in Tipton, but it’s already been taken over by monsters, so they head to the next safe spot. Nocterra is a much more enjoyable horror comic than American Vampire.

CRUSH & LOBO #1 (DC, 2021) – “Crush is the Best Girlfriend Ever. Shut Up,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush is Lobo’s daughter, and she takes after her father. Her girlfriend, Katie, is a normal teenage human. Katie breaks up with Crush after Crush ruins her birthday party. Red Arrow, aka Oliver Queen’s sister Emiko, convinces Crush to visit her dad in prison. This is a fun debut issue, but I feel like Crush should be even more ridiculous and over-the-top than she is.

FAMILY TREE #12 (Image, 2021) – unttiled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. Josh and Meg finally defeat the psychotic soldier lady. In the last panel, we discover that their baby has a twig growing out of her hand, implying that the humans and plants have merged. This whole series felt like a less successful rehash of Sweet Tooth. It was Lemire’s second least impressive solo work, after Berserker Unbound.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #98 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Akeem S. Roberts. When Celeste and Luna were children, their dolls were kidnapped by a terrifying kraken. In the present, the sisters confront the kraken again and discover that it wasn’t really evil. This was a generic story that could have been published at any point in the entire run of the series. It didn’t need to be part of Season Ten in particular.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #26 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. The clones beat up Miles until Peter arrives to save the day, then the clones escape. Miles and Ganke reconcile. Miles finds a lab where more clones are being made, and destroys it, but the clones find him there and capture him. An exciting issue, though #25 was more memorable.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Emrys and Mullins meet the grand councli of yokai, but they’re not interested in helping defeat the demons. Then Emrys, Mullins and the two Shiba Inus get attacked by more demons, and Mullins is seemingly killed, though he appears on the cover of the next issue. The best part about this issue is the introduction of the council members, including kitsune, tanuki, kappa, etc. As far as I can tell, this series feels like a respectful depiction of Japanese mythology.

SAVAGE DRAGON #259 (Image, 2021) – “Welcome to North Force!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm joins the North Force, Canada’s homegrown superhero team, and they fight some alien stone men, but then Malcolm refuses to accompany North Force in a mission to the stone men’s home planet. Unfortunately, Heroes also put North Force #1 in my file even though it’s the same content as Savage Dragon #259.

THE WORST DUDES #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. The mortal hitman Sam Sugar is hired by the Eternal Empress – the goddess Hera, more or less – to kidnap her husband’s illegitimate daughter. But Sam has to bring along the Empress’s pampered brat of a son. After reading this comic I found it hard to recall just what it was about. But it’s well executed, and it reminds me of Curse Words because of its raucous sense of humor and its deliberate confusion of genres.

2000 AD #2217 (Rebellion, 2021) – I’ve been ordering 2000 AD from Previews every month, but the June prog pack was the first one I’ve received. It seems like these progs are actually from February. Dredd: “Naked City,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dan Cornwell. Judge Moe has a psychic power that causes her to see everybody naked. She uses this power to save Dredd from a criminal. Also she sees more of Dredd than she wanted to. This is a very funny one-shot story that feels like it could have appeared in any era of 2000 AD, except that in earlier decades it wouldn’t have gotten past the censors. Durham Red: “Served Cold 06,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Ben Willsher. Durham Red tracks down some criminals in a blizzard. I don’t understand this story. Proteus Vex: “The Shadow Chancellor Part Six,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Some kind of science fiction story with an entirely alien cast. I don’t understand this one either. Slaine: “Dragontamer Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leonardo Manco. The new king of Britain, Brutus, is cracking down on Shoggeys, who are alien lycanthropes. Slaine saves some shoggeys from being hanged. The Britons’ prejudice against Shoggeys is obviously a reference to real-world prejudice. Leonardo Manco’s art is very impressive. Hershey: “The Brutal Part 6,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. Former Chief Judge Hershey tracks down criminals at a boxing tournament in South America. In this story Simon Fraser makes really effective use of flat color.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Source of Freedom Part One,” [W] Brandon Easton, [A] Fico Ossio. Mister Miracle is the world’s greatest escape artist, but no one knows he’s really a black man, Shilo Norman. He asks a firefighter named Denise Dorman on a date, but she’s not impressed with him. And then he’s attacked by N’Vir Free, the daughter of Scott and Barda. This was a pretty good debut issue. An impressive moment is when Shilo complains about the racism he faces, and his agent Vito claims he can sympathize because he’s half Jewish and half Italian. This of course is based on actual stuff white people say.

COPRA #40 (Copra, 2021) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. I no longer need to order this directly from the creator, because Heroes can get it from him for me. In #40, Copra finally defeats the Ochizon parents, and then the Deadshot character shoots and kills them both. This issue includes some more of Fiffe’s beautiful and visually radical action sequences.

IMMORTAL HULK #47 (Marvel, 2021) – “Chaotic Terrain,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. An issue-long fight scene with the Avengers on one side, and Hulk, Betty and Gamma Flight on the other. In the end, She-Hulk has to switch sides and help the Hulks escape. On the last page, Hulk and Betty share a creepy-looking kiss that reminds me of https://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=946.

INKBLOT #9 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. In the middle of the war between the two sisters, two little goblins get caught in a fight between giants. As usual, MOW. interferes with them and helps them escape. It’s confusing trying to figure out how all the storylines in this comic are connected to each other. But it also doesn’t matter, since the whole point of the comic is the cat.

SHADOW DOCTOR #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Do No Harm,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. Nathaniel is forced to continue treating Capone’s goons, which makes him an accomplice to their crimes. Meanwhile he’s having no luck establishing his own medical practice, because his black neighbors are distrustful of modern medicine: “For two hundred years the only medicine they… no, we knew was the kinid that either got you back in the fields or got you dead.” This is a very powerful scene, and it reminds me of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which is also about a minority population that has an understandable fear of modern medicine. But then a little boy comes to Nathaniel for help with his dying sister, and he saves her. This convinces the other local black people that he can be trusted, and they show up at his door in droves. That’s a touching moment.

REPTIL #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balám. Following the events of Outlawed, Reptil goes back home to Los Angeles to live with his family. A supervillain attacks him and demands his amulet, in exchange for information about his parents. This comic feels like an effective piece of OwnVoices writing about Latinx culture, and it also has some subtle trans representation. The main thing I remember from this issue is the tacos de canasta, because I’ve never had that.

SHADECRAFT #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. The counselor, Angela, claims that she’s a government agent whose job is to teach Zadie to use her powers. In the next issue we’re going to learn that this is false. Zadie goes to a carnival to stalk her crush, and ends up fighting more shadow creatures. Angela tells Zadie that the shadow Ricky isn’t really her brother. This series has been much better than I expected. Zadie and Ricky (if that’s really who he is) are very cute characters. A funny moment in this issue is when Zadie doesn’t know what “wax on, wax off” means.

ROBIN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Wake Up!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. Robin wakes up from being dead and is introduced to his opponents, including Connor Hawke and Flatline. The latter character first appeared early this year in Detective Comics #1034, by the same creative team as this issue. Ravager agrees to train Damian, and there’s another short excerpt from the manga Damian was reading. This comic is a fairly light piece of entertainment, but it’s fun, and I like Damian a lot.

HELM GREYCASTLE #2 (Image, 2021) – “Meet Me in Mictlan,” [W] Henry Barajas, [A] Rahmat M. Handoko. The adventurers continue their quest to rescue the dragon child from the Aztecs, and we meet a Spanish priest named Francsico Lopez de Gomara. Gómara was a real 16th-century historian of the Americas, but he never went to America himself. This series seems a bit confused about what it’s doing, and I could do without the RPG modules at the end of each issue. But its depiction of precolonial Mesoamerica is fascinating.

THE BLUE FLAME #1 (Vault, 2021) – “Tears of the Geodynamo,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. In one of this comic’s plotlines, the Blue Flame is a Green Lantern-esque space superhero, and he meets some aliens who are trying to decide whether to destroy the Earth. In the other plotline, the Blue Flame is a boiler technician from Milwaukee who moonlights as a local superhero. But while he and his teammates are appearing at an auto show, they become victims of a mass shooting. I don’t understand yet where this comic is going. I can only hope it’ll be more like She Could Fly than like Everything.

BLACK WIDOW #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Am the Black Widow Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and Yelena train Lucy, and Natasha recruits Anya Corazon, aka  Spider-Girl, to help her infiltrate Apogee’s cult. They kidnap one of Apogee’s recriuts, but he liquefies in front of their eyes, traumatizing Lucy. Elena Casagrande’s art in this series has been consistently amazing.

JENNY ZERO #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Jenny turns into a kaiju and fights another kaiju, and there are some flashbacks to her earlier life. This comic has fairly good art, but it’s not all that good, and it’s culturally appropriative.  I might as well finsih fiinish it since there are just two issues left. Otherwise I’d drop it.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #3 (Image, 2021) – “Bonsai Shokunin,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Valentine DeLandro. Noriko assassinates an old Japanese man who used to be a warrior for the shogun. This story was forgettable, and I confused it in my memory with the Mongol invasion subplot from Eternals #4.  “Strong Medicine,” [W] Eric Trautmann, [A] Mike Henderson. In the Old West, some criminals take a doctor hostage and try to make him heal their comrade, even though he’s beyond help already. One of the immortals shows up and kills the criminals. This was better than the first story, despite having less famous creators.

NUCLEAR FAMILY #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Till We Find the Spark,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. The family and Roger escape from a zombie and head to Roger’s house, but the governor finds them there. This miniseries has suffered from too much decompression; not much of anything happened this issue.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #10 (DC, 2021) – “You Rule Supreme,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. The following is quoted from my own Facebook post. From the comments at https://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/9244092.html:

“Honestly this seems like a major pull back from just an unambiguous “Adam Strange is a war criminal for the same mundane reasons real people are war criminals”, here he’s only acting like a war criminal as a cover, its not the “real” him, and while sacrificing Earth to save Rann is pretty bad, it’s also very comic book bad. Going from war criminal to alien collaborator is a pretty big downgrade in terms of villainy. This also seems to center the Pykkts as villains once more, and also have them literally asking Adam Strange to commit war crimes against them (as part of his cover) which is… not a great look, in terms of the inescapable war in the Middle East allegory of all this.”

I agree. The ending of #10 is ridiculous and I hope it wasn’t Tom King’s original intent. Also, if Adam really was trying to make himself appear to be a war criminal, why did he try so hard to stonewall Mr. Terrific’s investigation? It seems easier to believe that Adam really *was* a war criminal and that the ending of #10 is just a clumsy retcon.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS: THE MAGIC OF CYBERTRON #2 (IDW, 2021) – “Stunt Flying,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. Rainbow Dash and the Wonderbolts use a sonic rainboom to defeat some mind-controlled Decepticons. “One-Trick Pony,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Trish Forstner. Applejack teams up with a Wild West-themed Decepticon named Wildwheel. I tend to dislike Sam Maggs’s writing, but this story was rather funny.

HEROES REBORN #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Most Hated Man in the Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] James Stokoe. An insane Dr. Spectrum fights Rocket Raccoon and Ego the Living Planet. I don’t know anything about this crossover, but I bought this issue because of James Stokoe’s art. As usual his draftsmanship is better than anything else in current monthly comics. His depictions of aliens and Lovecraftian cancer-beasts are stunningly detailed and imaginative. There’s also a backup story about the infant Starbrand.

HOLLOW HEART #4 (Vault, 2021) – “Safe House,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. The big revelation this issue is that Mateo’s kidnapping of El was a sham; he’s still working for the company, and he “kidnapped” El to teach him new skills. This is a nice plot twist, but Hollow Heart is even more decompressed than Nuclear Family.

HAHA #5 (Image, 2021) – “Pound Foolish Makes a Casserole,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. An elderly female clown lives a lonely existence in her house. A young boy’s friends dare him to sneak into her house. The boy and the old lady end up becoming friends. This is a very cute story. W. Maxwell Prince is mostly a horror writer, but e can also appeal to other emotions besides fear.  

THE NEXT BATMAN: SECOND SON #2 (DC, 2021) – “Second Son Part 2,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Travel Foreman. The new Batman hunts down the Ratcatcher, and there’s a lot more family drama. This issue has good artwork and character interactions, but I didn’t feel sufficiently interested in this series to buy issue 3. I’ve just been buying this series off the shelf rather than adding it to my pull list; that’s another perk of going to a brick-and-mortar store instead of using a mail-order service.

OUT OF BODY #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Giving Up the Ghost,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dan Collins wakes up in a coma after being mugged. Then he’s contacted by a young girl who has the power to talk to spirits. Peter Milligan has written a huge number of miniseries, but each of them has its own unique concept, and this series looks like another interesting entry in his canon.

2000 AD #2218 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Health & Happiness,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Coleby. Harry Dump is a health nut, but thanks to an accidental encounter with Dredd, he loses both legs and goes bankrupt from medical bills. Harry goes nuts, tries to assassinate Dredd, and is sent to prison. Meanwhile, Dredd discovers that Harry’s insurance company was a fraud scheme that was working with a gang of “organ-leggers.” (I first encountered the idea of organ-leggers in Punisher 2099 #1, which was written by Pat Mills.) This story is eerily plausible, and Williams and Coleby succeed in making the reader feel Harry Dump’s pain. Durham Red: as above. I like the art in this series, but I don’t understand the plot. The alien character Roswell seems to be based on Nien Numb from Star Wars. Proteus Vex: as above. I still can’t follow this story at all. Slaine: as above. Slaine sneaks into Brutus’s palace, and there’s a subplot about Brutus’s relationships with his sons. Hershey: as above. Again, I don’t know what’s going on here, but the artwork and coloring are excellent.  

THE AMAZON #2 (Comico, 1989) – untitled, [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Tim Sale. This is the original series, not the recolored 2009 reprint. In this issue Malcolm the journalist makes it to the Jatapu village and finally encounters Robertson, the Amazon. This comic is a blatant white savior narrative, but it’s exciting. An unusual aspect of this series is that Malcolm has two different sets of caption boxes, one representing the article he writes, the other representing his actual thoughts, and often these sets of captions contrast with each other in ironic ways.

SOCK MONKEY VOL. 1 #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Millionaire. Uncle Gabby finds a shrunken head from Borneo, and he and Drinky Crow decide to take him home aboard a sailing ship. Then they discover the head isn’t really from Borneo. The language the head speaks looks kind of like Quechua, but it could just be gibberish. Sock Monkey has great art,  but its style of humor seems repetitive.

TARZAN: THE BECKONING #1 (Malibu, 1992) – “Love and Rage,” [W/A] Tom Yeates, [W] Henning Kure. In San Francisco, Tarzan tries to track down people who are importing illegal ivory into Chinatown, while Jane advocates for ivory bans. Tom Yeates’s art here is beautiful, and this issue is notable for giving Jane a much more proactive role than she usually has. This comic does include some uncomfortable depictions of both African and Chinese people.

BRIT #2 (Image, 2003) – “Cold Death,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Tony Moore. Brit, an elderly superhero in an undershirt, has numerous adventures while he and his ex-stripper wife await their baby’s birth. This comic is reasonably fun, but it has a very similar style of storytelling and dialogue to Invincible, and indeed Brit was later incorporated into the Invincible universe.

ECHO OF FUTUREPAST #3 (Continuity, 1984) – ‘Bucky O’Hare,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Michael Golden. The highlight of this issue is the Bucky O’Hare story. There’s also a Frankenstein story by Neal Adams. Like all of Neal’s solo work, it has beautiful art but totally incoherent writing. Carlos Gimenez’s “Hom” is a bizarre Corben-esque fantasy story that has little in common with anything else I’ve read by this artist. Jean Teulé’s “Virus” looks interesting, but is damaged by awful recoloring. Teulé seems like a really important and unusual artist, and it’s unfortunate that none of his major works have been published in English. Suydam’s “Mudwogs” looks a lot like Sam Kieth’s work, though the relationship of influence is probably the other way around.

NIGHT MUSIC #7 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Red Dog,” W/A] P. Craig Russell. This issue is also labeled as Red Dog #1. In an adaptation of Kipling’s Jungle Book, Mowgli leads his pack of wolves in a war with a pack of dholes, or Indian wild dogs. PCR’s artwork here is beautiful, as ever, but Kipling’s pseudo-Oriental prose style is very annoying. (For example: “I have seen all the dead seasons and the great trees and the old elephants and the rocks that were bare and sharp-pointed ere the moss grew. Art thou still alive, manling?”)

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #9 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Escalation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. This issue introduces a new character named Dr. Dracula, but otherwise it’s just an escalation of the same plotlines from the last few issues.

2000 AD #2219 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Against the Clock,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Patrick Goddard. Meg Plankhurst is trying to make a living as a delivery girl on a flying skateboard, even though she’s a single mom and she has to take her baby with her. She narrowly avoids missing her delivery time after Dredd stops her to check her safe parenting permit. There’s not much of a story here, but Meg is a cute character. Slaine: as above. Slaine frees Alban, Brutus’s monstrous son, from the prison where Brutus keeps him. There’s an impressive splash page where we see what Alban really looks like. Proteus Vex: as above. Again I don’t understand this story, but there’s a black-clad character who has a really cool-looking costume. Durham Red: as above. Nothing new to say about this. Hershey: as above. This seems like an interesting conclusion to the current story arc, but I don’t know what that story arc is about.

2000 AD #76 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: “Verdus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] José Luis Ferrer & Ian Gibson. This is a key issue since it’s the first appearance of Sam Slade. In this first story it’s obvious that he’s supposed to be a parody of film noir detectives like Sam Spade. He captures a malfunctioning robot, then discovers that its owner, the sexy Mrs. Winters, is also a robot. We then learn that this was all a test, and because he passed, he gets hired to save the planet of Verdus, which has been taken over by robots. The spaceship in this story is a ripoff of a Star Destroyer from Star Wars. Hoagy and Stogie aren’t present yet, which is good, although there’s a character in the story who speaks in an offensive fake Chinese accent. Dan Dare: “Mutiny,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Fleeing his mutinying crew, Dare hides in a shuttlecraft, but his crazy crewman Gunnar steals it and flies awy with Dare in it. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 16: Black Sabbath!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Satanus causes a lot of hilarious and thrilling mayhem. Tweak saves Dredd, and Satanus wanders off to parts unknown. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. Villa and Anteater prepare for the ants’ invasion of Rio.

MONSTRESS #34 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika merges with Zinn to fiight the Ancient Wolf Queen. Maika gets a cool new costume. There’s some impressive artwork and coloring in this issue, but by this point I was getting very tired of Monstress. I will have more to say about Monstress below.

SHADOW SERVICE #8 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, A] Corin Howell. Gina is tortured by some sort of mgaical villain. I’ve completely lost track of this series’ plot, I’m no longer enjoying it, and I’m going to drop it.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE: ASHES OF EDEN #5 (IDW, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Grell. Sable and Maggie the Cat team up to stop an Iraqi terrorist’s plot to blow up Manhattan. The terrorist, Bashira, is presented as a somewhat sympathetic figure – the term “ashes of Eden” is her description of her homeland – but Sable kills her anyway. Grell’s art has barely evolved since the ‘80s, and this issue includes some ugly computerized weather effects.

SATELLITE SAM #2 (Image, 2013) – “The Dirt Nap,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Howard Chaykin. Star actor Satellite Sam has been assassinated, and his impotent, alcoholic son has to deal with the aftermath of his death. This feels more like a classic Chaykin comic than Chaykin’s recent solo works do. Its Hollywood setting and its cast of corrupt businessmen and dishonest women are very reminiscent of a series like American Flagg or Time2. I also think Chaykin’s art looks very nice in black and white.

SAVAGE DRAGON #166 (Image, 2010) – “Emperor Dragon Part 4: Holocaust,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Angel and Mr. Glum make a failed attempt to stop Dragon/Kurr from taking over Earth. It’s nice to see Mr. Glum again. Ordway and Gordon’s Wildstar also makes a cameo appearance.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #3 (DC, 2010) – “Rough Cut,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This story is set in Los Angeles in 1925, though I’m not sure just what it’s about. A cool moment in this story is when a vampire is staked to death by a cactus, since cactus thorns count as wood. “Blood Vengeance,” [W] Stephen King, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. A flashback story in which a vampire invades a small Colorado town in 1909.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2015 PERFECT SQUARE PRESENTS POKÉMON (Viz, 2015) – “Pokemon X·Y, Vol. 1,” [W] Satoshi Yamamoto, [A] Hidenori Kusaka. A reclusive young Pokémon trainer has to be coerced to leave his room. There’s nothing here to make me want to read any more of this manga. This FCBD comic also includes chapters from a couple other Pokémon manga.

IZNOGOUD V1 (Cinebook, 1967) – “The Wicked Wiles of Iznogoud,” [W] René Goscinny, [A] Jean Tabary. I have a huge backlog of French BD albums, and I decided it was time to start reading them. I’m going to count them as comic books rather than books, which I keep track of separately. Iznogoud (rhymes with “he’s no good”), the evil vizier to Caliph Haroun Al-Plassid. Iznogoud’s goal and catchphrase is “I want to be caliph instead of the caliph!” This Iznogoud album consists of several stories, all of which have the same formula: Iznogoud discovers some magical item or spell, and he and his sidekick Wa’at Alahf (“what a laugh”) try to use it to overthrow the caliph, but it backfires horribly. Despite their formulaic nature and their obvious reliance on Orientalist stereotypes, these stories are very funny. Their humor often relies on sophisticated puns and wordplay, which the uncredited translators do a good job of imitating in English. Standout stories in this album include “The Time Machine,” where the artist, Tabary, makes a cameo appearance, and “Chop and Change,” about a cup that causes the last two people who drank from it to switch bodies. It quickly becomes very hard to keep track of whose mind is in which body.

2000 AD #2220 (Rebellion, 2021) – This is an extra-sized “Regened” issue, intended for young readers. Cadet Dredd: “Suboptimal,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Davide Tinto. The young Dredd and his senior partner, Cadet Quinn, have to find some missing kids. They discover that the kids were enslaved by a sentient shopping mall. Dredd and Quinn free the kids, and they return home, where they’re enslaved by their televisions instead. Quinn is an excellent foil for Dredd. Action Pack: “The Radyar Recovery,” [W]  Mike Carroll, [A] Luke Horsman. A salvage team rescues a spaceship that was lost 40,000 years ago, and they recruit the spaceship’s surviving crew member to join their team. We also learn that the members of the Action Pack are enslaved to their employers, and they’re released after completing a certain number of missoins, but they don’t know how long that will take. Viva Forever: “Comstock,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Anna Morozova. Super-thief Viva Forever, with help from an imitator of hers, steals a hard drive containing the entire Internet. Future Shocks: “Geno Firenzo’s Big Comeback,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Silvia Califano. Geeno Firenzo, “the greatest of the emotional influencers,” has disappeared, and none of his fans can remember what happened during the last three months. Two of his young fans have to solve the mystery by tracking down the social network creator Cornelius Zugg. Mayflies: “Precious Cargo,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. In the Rogue Trooper universe, some “mayflies” – military clones with a short life expectancy – escape from the Nort army and head off on their own. Overall this is an exciting issue that succeeds in appealing to young readers without insulting their intelligence. Its bright, primary color scheme marks it as different from a typical prog.

THE MARVELS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Strands and Patterns Stuff,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. A bunch of separate plot threads mostly involving Kevin Schumer, who we learn is the Tinkerer’s nephew. I really hope Kevin Schumer is not named after Arlen Schumer. As I noted before, this series is a lot like Astro City, but it lacks the personal touch of Astro City because it’s not about Kurt’s own characters.

THE MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #2 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. Elizabeth continues working with James, and also sleeps with him. There’s not a whole lot here that wasn’t in issue 1, but the sex scenes are quite sexy.

CEREBUS #42 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “Campaign’s End,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and his team travel around Iest collecting votes, while Cerebus conspires to make Astoria think she has more power over him than she really does. This isn’t my favorite chapter of High Society, but it’s good. There’s a backup story by Michael T. Gilbert, about a little boy who correctly suspects his parents are monsters.

WITCHBLOOD #3 (Vault, 2021) – “The Darkness in the Sheds of Town,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Yonna goes to consult a witch with eye-based magic, and then she gets in a three-way fight with two other witches and the Hounds of Love. This comic is a little hard to follow, but it’s very funny and exciting. I especially like the sound effects such as “what a reveal” and “majestic impressive amazing.” I also like all the musical references. This comic has a somewhat similar aesthetic to Kim & Kim, and Matthew Erman’s writing style reminds me of Magdalene Visaggio’s.

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #6 (DC, 2021) – “The Second Signal,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. Some black kids in “The Hill,” Gotham’s slum neigborhood, build their own Bat-Signal, so they can summon Batman to deal with the Mad Hatter’s attacks on their community. This was a very touching story. “The Abyss,” [W/A] Elsa Charretier, [A] Pierrick Colinet. Three people all witness the same encounter between Batman and Man-Bat, but they all interpret it differently. This story has some nice Darwyn Cooke-esque art, but Pierrick Colinet is a completely incompetent writer. “Opening Moves,” [W/A] Nick Derington. Batman fights some chess-themed supervillains, and fails to convince their youngest member to come away with him. This was another cute story. “Like Monsters of the Deep,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] James Harren. Batman uses Clayface as a decoy to catch a criminal, but Clayface gets too deeply absorbed in his role. Clayface’s dialogue is full of Shakespeare quotations, and James Harren makes him look beautiful and gruesome. “A Thousand Words,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] John Romita Jr. A dying photographer thinks back on all the photos he’s taken of Batman. This is another good one, though I seem to recall disliking it, and I’m not sure why.

DRYAD #10 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. The city starts to collapse as giant trees erupt through the ground, and Yale apparently gets killed. I’ve lost track of Dryad’s plot.

2000 AD #77 (IPC, 1978) – This is the third of the four banned progs. Robo-Hunter: as above. On the way to Verdus, Sam and his pilot are de-aged 35 years. Slade becomes 25 again and his pilot becomes a one-year-old baby. That’s the origin of Kidd. Dan Dare: as above. Dare makes it back to the ship, but thanks to gunfire from Gunnar, he gets trapped in sealing gel. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 17: Giants Aren’t Gentlemen!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Brian Bolland. The chapter title is a P.G. Wodehouse reference. Dredd encounters a mad scientist resembling Colonel Sanders, who’s created replicas of the Green Giant, Planters’s Mr. Peanut, Alka-Seltzer’s Speedy, the Michelin Man, and other advertising mascots. All of these characters were used without permission, which is why this story was banned from reprinting. That’s unfortunate because this story has amazing Bolland artwork, and its parodies of corporate mascots are quite funny. Future Shocks: “The Ultimate Warrior,” [W] Chris Stevens, [A] Pierre Frisano. The warrior Karnok goes on a quest to defeat the android Reaper of Death. The twist ending is that Karnok himself is an android. Ant Wars: as above. The ants invade Rio by using a carnival float as cover.

SWAMP THING #4 (DC, 2021) – “My Green Amaranthine Part 4,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Jennifer Reece talks with Jason Woodrue. Alec Holland tells Levi about the Green. There’s one impressive page with some visual quotations from old Swamp Thing comics. The Suicide Squad appears at the end of the issue. I’m still finding it hard to get into this series, and I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about.

THE SURVIVOR V1 (Catalan, 1985) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Gillon. This artist was heavily influenced by American master draftsmen like Al Williamson and Stan Drake, and he in turn was a major influence on David Roach. His draftsmanship in this album is stunning. The protagonist, Aube Albespy, spends most of the book naked, and Gillon makes her look very sexy, but he also draws beautiful machinery and architecture. The Survivor takes place in a near-future France where most of the population has been killed in a nuclear catastrophe. Only Aube survived because she was diving in a cave. Aube eventually finds another survivor, an astronaut who was in space during the catastrophe, and falls in love with him. (Y: The Last Man also includes astronauts who survived the apocalypse by not being on Earth when it happened, but this similarity is probably a coincidence.) But Aube’s jealous companion murders the astronaut. The second album of this series was also translated into English, but it’s hard to find.

CEREBUS #44 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “The Deciding Vote,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Lord Julius’s goat are exactly tied, and a curmudgeonly old farmer has to decide which candidate will get the last undecided seat from his remote mountain district and will thus become Prime Minister. After locking up Astoria and the Roach in a shed ful of moonshine, the old man makes his decision, but Cerebus has to get back to town in order to learn what that decision was. And of course the bridge back to Iest is out and won’t be fixed for a week. But Cerebus accidentally learns that the old man voted for him, and he’s the new Prime Minister – not that it will do him any good. This is one of the best Cerebus stories I’ve read; it has some amazing dialogue and comic timing. This issue also includes a Neil the Horse backup story.

2000 AD #78 (IPC, 1978) – This is the fourth and last banned prog. Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade and Kidd finally arrive at Verdus, where the robots throw him and Kidd into prison with all the other humans on the planet. The robots refer to Sam as a “sim,” the meaning of which we don’t know yet. Future Shocks: “Nothing on Earth!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Pierre Frisano. Earth is contacted by some horrible-looking aliens. The humans promptly kill them, only to learn that the aliens were actually good, and were trying to warn them of the imminent arrival of some cute but evil aliens. Dan Dare: as above. The lead mutineer, Haskins, steals Dare’s uniform and escapes from the ship. But he’s promptly captured by Gunnar, who mistakes him for Dare and kills him, before being killed himself. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 18: Soul Food,” as above. Dredd helps Dr. Gribbon (Colonel Sanders)’s creations rebel against their creators. Dr. Gribbon and the corporate mascot characters are all killed. This story has some more terrific Bolland art. Ant Wars: as above. The ants take over Rio, and Villa and Anteater’s new task is to kill the queen.

CLEAN ROOM #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Turn That Frown Upside Down,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. In a flashback, we see how the creepy cult leader, Astrid, recruited a scientist named Dr. Hagen. In the present, she has an interview with an ancient demon, and the other protagonist, Chloe, is contacted by a different demon. Jon Davis-Hunt draws in a classic superhero style, but his art is surprisingly well suited to the horror genre.

2000 AD #79 (IPC, 1978) – as above except [A] Ian Gibson. Slade and Kidd are tortured by the robots, but Kidd gets them out of their cell. Ian Gibson’s artwork is extremely detailed, and his spotting of blacks is impressive. Dan Dare: “The Doomsday Machine,” [W] Roy Preston, [A] Trevor Goring & Garry Leach. Dare’s ship is captured by a giant alien vessel. Goring and Leach’s art isn’t as immediately appealing as Gibbons’s, but it includes some impressive visual effects. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 19: Loser’s Leap,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd and his crew arrive in Las Vegas, where everyone is gambling-mad. The local corrupt judges sentence Dredd to be thrown off a building for interfering with their gambling schemes. Mike McMahon’s art is exciting and full of chicken fat, though some of the fine detail is lost due to poor printing. Ant Wars: as above except [A] José Luis Ferrer. Villa and Anteater destroy the ants with help from the Brazilian navy, but some of the ants’ eggs survive, so this dumb story isn’t over yet.

ACHILLE TALON V30 (Dargaud, 1982) – “Achille Talon a un groz nez Ah! Ah! Ah!”, [W/A] Michel Greg. This is the first untranslated French comic I’ve read in a long time. My French is pretty rusty, and this comic took a while to finish. Achille Talon (meaning “Achilles’ heel”) is a self-important French gentleman with a huge nose. This album consists mostly of short stories, ranging from a single tier of panels to a few pages, mostly focusing on Achille Talon’s misadventures and his Homer-and-Flanders-esque relationship with his neighbor Hilarion Lefuneste. There are also some metatextual jokes where Achille visits the offices of the magazines where his stories are published. In the longest sequence of stories, Achille campaigns for president of France. Greg draws in the humorous “Marcinelle school” style that was pioneered by Franquin.

2000 AD #80 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade and Kidd run from the robots and discover some friendly robot appliances. Ant Wars: as above except [A] Alfonso Azpiri again. Villa and Anteater are recovering in hospital when they learn of renewed ant attacks in the pampas of Argentina. They travel to Argentina and are captured by some gauchos. Amusingly, the ants’ first victims are two stereotypical Scottish men who were returning from the World Cup. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 20: The God Judge!”, as above. Spikes saves Dredd, and he participates in the Vegas judges’ annual competition and becomes their new God-Judge. Future Shocks: “Breaking Out,” [W] Jan Garczynski, [A] Carlos Pino. A criminal escapes from a prison on the moon of Titan, but his escape is in fact a drug-induced fantasy. Dan Dare: as above. The alien ship is full of murderous cannibals as well as one sane human, a space prospector named Jebby. This story’s first panel contains several Easter eggs including the USS Enterprise, the robot from Metropolis, and Dan Dare’s original spaceship Anastasia.

CLEAN ROOM #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “All the Wrong Places,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Astrid forces the actress Chrissy Delacorte to work for her, under threat of having her career destroyed. This is a creepy scene that destroys any sympathy the reader had for Astrid, if the reader had any sympathy for her to begin with. In another disturbing scene, a demon warns Chloe that she’s about to be attacked by an assassin called the Surgeon.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #10 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. The dying Angrif Djun launches his last and biggest fleet, there’s more drama between Rayek and Winnowill, and lots of other stuff happens that doesn’t seem to matter. I did not like this Elfquest series at all.

COYOTE #4 (Marvel, 1984) – “How Coyote Drank His Djinn,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. The djinn/gin pun also appears in Midnight’s Children, which Steve Englehart could plausibly have read by 1984. Like most Englehart comics, Coyote #4 has a super-confusing plot that doesn’t make much sense, and also a bit of bizarre sex. The character Lizette in this issue seems very similar to Firebird from West Coast Avengers.

REVIVAL #9 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. The Check brothers execute some kind of plot to smuggle stolen Reviver parts, and Cooper and Dana accidentally stumble upon the brothers as they’re dissecting a corpse. This is a very typical issue of Revival.

SLAINE THE BERSERKER #3 (Quality, 1987) – “Sky Chariots,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. This reprints the Slaine stories from 2000 AD #355-360, in which Slaine becomes Slough Throt’s bodyguard and rides on his cloud curragh. These are good stories – I’ve read three of them in their original form – but Quality’s 2000 AD reprints are some of the worst reprint comics I’ve ever seen. Mike McMahon’s artwork is reprinted too small, rearranged to fit the American page format, and saddled with horrible coloring. Besides being garish and hideous, the coloring makes it hard to see the fine details of McMahon’s art. The result of all this is a comic that bears little resemblance to its original version.

CLEAN ROOM #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Surgeon Walks,” as above. A flashback reveals that Chloe’s boyfriend Philip killed himself because Astrid showed him something horrible, but we don’t get to see what it was. The Surgeon – a demon in the form of a sweet-looking old man – appears and nearly kills Chloe, but Astrid calls and convinces the Surgeon to leave. This is perhaps my favorite of Gail’s solo comics, because it’s such a creepy piece of horror. But it’s unfortunate that Astrid is such an unsympathetic character. She does actually have a good cause – she wants to defeat the aliens or demons or whatever they are – but her methods are so awful that the reader hates her more than the demons.

BADGER #22 (First, 1987) – “Range War,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Bill Reinhold. The Badger gets involved in a feud between two appliance salesmen, one who pretends to be a vampire and another who acts like a stereotypical Irishman. I read this story around the same time that I read George Pelecanos’s A Firing Offense, which is also about corrupt appliance salesmen. This issue also has a Clonezone backup story. The Badger is a funny comic, but I’m not fery interested in collecting it because Mike Baron is such a toxic person.

CEREBUS #47 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Crisis Number Three: Balances,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus deals with a bunch of simultaneous crises, and the Roach acts as his hired muscle and does some illegal stuf on his behalf. The issue ends with Cerebus discovering that the army approaching Iest is not Bran Mak Morn’s long-awaited army, but an invasion force. The backup story is part two of Sech and Cherkas’s “The Missing Schoolgirl.”

TRIDENT #2 (Trident, 1989) – [E] Martin Skidmore. The most notable stories in this issue are the two I’ve already read: Morrison and Grist’s St. Swithin’s Day, and Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus. Rereading this chapter of St. Swithin’s Day, I’m surprised to realize that the protagonist openly admits he’s going to London to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. I remembered that as being a surprise plot twist. Another interesting story is Dominic Regan’s “Dom Zombi,” in which a sorcerer tries to resurrect Morrissey. Other creators in this issue include Mike Collins, D’Israeli and Nigel Kitching.

2000 AD #81 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade has some weird dreams, and then the robot appliances decide to go with him to see SJI, the first robot that came to Verdus. This chapter has a lot of impressive artwork. Ant Wars: as above. Villa and Anteater barely survive an ant attack, and then they encounter some rebel guerillas. Argentina had a ot of guerrilla groups in the ‘70s, though Wikipedia claims that the government exaggerated the threat the guerrillas posed. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 21: Tweak’s Story!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brian Bolland. Tweak tells Dredd and Spikes that he exiled himself from his home planet in order to prevent humans from learning about his planet’s priceless mineral resources. This is a really cute story, and of course Bolland’s art is incredible. Tweak is visually based on a tamandua, an anteater native to Central and South America. Dan Dare: as above. Dare meets another human who shows him that the cannibals worship three human bodies frozen in ice. Future Shocks: “What Hit Tunguska?”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Pierre Frisano. Some time travelers try to find out what caused the 1908 Tunguska explosion, but they end up causing it themselves.

NIGHT MUSIC #1 (Eclipse, 1984) – “Breakdown on the Starship Remembrance,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. Lieutenant Jordon Alexander becomes an astronaut because he’s a fan of Flash Gordon and EC comics. He discovers that actual space travel is much less romantic. There are two alternate endings. This story includes some beautiful artwork, including some amazing alien cityscapes. However, unlike most of PCR’s later work, it suffers from severe overwriting. There are two short backup stories, one which is an adaptation of the first movement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and another which appears to be reproduced directly from pencils.

BUCK GODOT, ZAP GUN FOR HIRE #2 (Palliard, 1993) – “The Gallimaufry Part 2,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Palliard Press was Greg Ketter from Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis. I hadn’t realized that he used to publish his own comics. Much like Captain Confederacy, Buck Godot seems aimed more at SF fans than at comics fans. Buck Godot #2 is set in Gallimaufry Station, a meeting point for thousands of alien species. The eponymous protagonist is a giant-sized human who grew up in high gravity. In this issue Buck helps foil another human’s plot to sell classified information. This comic is quite funny, if sometimes hard to follow, and its art includes a lot of chicken fat.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #2 (Cartoon Books, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki is “the story of the first human to leave Africa.” In this issue, Tuki saves a little boy from a sabretooth tiger, and then they work together to outwit a giant gorilla. Tuki was originally published as a webcomic, which explains its weird sideways page format and its decompressed storytelling. It’s not surprising that Tuki was less successful than Bone or even Rasl, since it was only available as a webcomic and a self-published comic book, and not as a graphic novel. Only four issues of Tuki were ever published, but earlier this year Jeff Smith launched a Kickstarter to publish it as two graphic novels.

ONE FOR ONE: BPRD HELL ON EARTH; NEW WORLD #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Guy Davis. Abe Sapien investigates a Bigfoot sighting in the forests of British Columbia. I haven’t been impressed with any of the BPRD comics I’ve read, and this comic continues that trend.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [WW] Josceline Fenton, [A] Chrystin Garland. Steven and the Crystal Gems fight some sort of glass monster. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic. I watched the first few episodes of Steven Universe once, but I wasn’t able to get into it.

PRETTY DEADLY #10 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. I think this is the end of the War/World War I storyline. Perhaps my hatred of this series is exaggerated. The final scene where the grandmother dies is rather touching, and Emma Rios’s page layouts are often very creative. But I hate the way she draws faces, and I’ve never understood Pretty Deadly’s plot or how its protagonists are connected to each other.

CLEAN ROOM #7 (Vertigo, 2016) – “High Way to Hell,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. In flashback, Astrid meets a girl named Anika Wells who’s also encountered the demons. In the present, we meet Anika again, only the left half of her body is withered, and she wants to die. Also, a detective named Avil Demakos interviews Chloe, and Astrid meets the Surgeon.

LUNA THE VAMPIRE #2 (IDW, 2016) – “Promotion” and other stories, [W/A] Yasmin Sheikh. Luna works at a store called Gröm, attends a fan convention, goes to her mother’s dinner party, etc. This comic is drawn in a Cartoon Network-esque style that does not appeal to me.

My next Heroes trip was on June 21. That day I had an excellent lunch at Euro Grill & Café. I ordered the cevaps sandwich. Sanford Greene was doing a signing at Heroes that day, but there was a long line for him, and I was too tired to wait.  

WYND #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The vampires sink the ship when it’s almost at shore. All the named characters survive, but just barely, and Wynd has to fly off alone to get help. The two giant birds appear and keep him from falling asleep in mid-flight, but then they deliver him into the hands of a fairy who blames him for his mother’s death. Meanwhile, the vampires pick up Wynd’s friends’ trail. This issue reminds us that the villains in this cocmiic are really awful; they’re just totally unredeemable monsters.

SEVEN SECRETS #9 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The heroes hide out in a remote castle in France. Meanwhile, the villains, who we’ve barely seen so far, have some internal disputes. At the end, Eva becomes the keeper of all the remaining secrets, one of which is that Sigurd is somehow still alive. This was the quietest, least action-packed issue yet.

SAVE YOURSELF #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leopard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nichole Matthews. While working as a barista, shy, bespectacled Gigi has a meet-cute moment with a pink-haired muscular person. Then she gets trapped in a fight between the Lovely Trio – adult versions of the Powerpuff girls – and some giant lizards. We soon learn that the Lovely trio are evil, and Gigi’s crush, Mia, is one of the lizards they were fighting, and they’re “an agent of the Cosmic Federation,” apparently sent to deal with the evil superheroines. I never watched Powerpuff Girls, but this series is terrific anyway. It has a simiilar aesthetic and a similar art style to Zodiac Starforce or Another Castle. It’s notable that this comic includes two different transgender or nonbinary characters whose gender presentations are very different.

EVE #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. Early in this issue there’s a great line about how the difference between ideal and actual behavior is about eight billion lives. https://www.instagram.com/p/CQUK6S9B2qG/ Eve and the teddy bear sail through the flooded ruins of Manhattan, where they encounter some zombies and then some human survivors. This series is just as funny and gripping as Destroyer, but less complicated, though that’s not a bad thing.

RADIANT BLACK #5 (Image, 2021) – “Aftermath,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Eduardo Ferigato w/ Marcelo Costa. Nathan is alive, but he’s not well. Marshall  hunts down Radiant Red and beats her up. Then we meet Radiant Yellow and Radiant Pink, and a masked hooded entity appears to challenge all of them. This issue is mostly drawn by a different artist from the first four, but I barely noticed, perhaps because the most important thing about Radiant Black’s art is the costume designs.

SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #1 (Image, 2021) – “Marshal Art,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Trigger Keaton, an awful action movie actor who nobody liked, has been murdered. His six former onscreen sidekicks have to figure out who killed him, even though they themselves have better motives than anyone else. This is a very funny comic, similar in tone to this creative team’s Mars Attacks miniseries, but with an original premise. The creators do a great job of making Trigger Keaton a character you love to hate. Chris Schweizer’s art is detailed and expressive. I love the scene where the mortician says that Trigger looks the same in death as in life, and then the next panel shows Trigger looking horrific. https://www.instagram.com/p/CQUXeZNhfhv/

STRANGE ACADEMY #11 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Someone has shattered Toth into tiny pieces. Luckily he can be reassembled, but while that’s going on, Howard the Duck investigates who did it. Eventually we learn that a single piece of Toth is missing, and Calvin has it. When the other kids confront Calvin, he turns into a giant multi-eyed monster. In addition to the hilarious Howard scenes, a highlight of this issue is the appearance by Toth’s parents, an ice queen and a Man-Thing. I guess that explains why he doesn’t talk. This series was not in Marvel’s latest solicitations, but they did just announce a Strange Academy one-shot that ties into the Death of Dr. Strange event. I hope there will be more Strange Academy after that.

ORCS! #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs spend most of their money on new equipment from the dwarves, and while they’re trying it on, they have some interesting conversations that reveal more about their characters. Then the orcs encounter a party of elf adventurers, and then a mysterious fog leads them to an ominous-looking temple. While waiting for the fog to go away, they pass the time by listening to another story about Drod.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #117 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. Jennika’s band gives their performance, and Bebop and Rocksteady give up the battle without even bothering to play. This is a bit of an anticlimax. Sophie represents the band’s music in much the same way as she depicted music in Jem and the Holograms, and one of the Turtles even makes an explicit reference to that franchise. The older Lita returns to the future, and after some loose ends are wrapped up, the issue ends with the revelation that Shredder is still alive.

USAGI YOJIMBO #20 (IDW, 2021) – “Yukichi Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi meets Yukichi, a young rabbit ronin who looks a lot like him. In a flashback, we learn that Usagi has met Yukichi before, when Yukichi foolishly refused to introduce Usagi to his sensei, Itsuki. Usagi cut a twig in half and asked Yukichi to show it to his master as a token of introduction. Yukichi failed to recognize the proficiency with which Usagi cut the twig, and by the time he went to look for Usagi again, he was gone. (This reminds me of Vasari’s story about Giotto drawing a perfect circle freehand.) Now Itsuki is dead, and Usagi agrees to help him deliver Itsuki’s swords to his school’s next master, but some students from a rival school try to steal the swords. Yukichi is an intriguing and cute new character.

LITTLE ARCHIE #20 (Archie, 1961) – “The Long Walk” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling. This is perhaps the most expensive back issues I’ve bought, at $22.47 with shipping, but it’s worth it. “The Long Walk” is Bob Bolling’s undisputed masterpiece. Betty is jealous that Archie keeps walking home from school with Veronica, so she asks Archie to walk her home the next day. Archie plays a cruel trick on Betty by taking her on a “shortcut” through quicksand, hornets’ nests, barbed wire, etc. When they get home, Betty is humiliated and dirty, but Archie has a change of heart and apologizes to Betty, as well as giving her a lock of his hair. Betty pastes the hair in her scrapbook, then curls up in bed with an expression of absolute bliss. This is a moment of peak emotional intensity; it perfectly sums up Betty’s love for Archie. This story also includes some interesting formal devices. It’s narrated in verse by three of Betty’s toys. Archie and Betty’s walk through the woods is depicted in a sideways splash page formatted like a map. https://ogresfeathers.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/6e909-thelongwalk6.jpg It looks a lot like the Family Circus’s dotted-line Sunday strips. “The Long Walk” is a genuine masterpiece of the art of comics, and it’s a shame that it’s not more widely available. Bolling’s other stories in this issue are “Plesiosaur,” in which Archie encounters a prehistoric monster; “The Strange Case of Crawford Crab”; and “Buzzin’ Cousin.” There are also some stories by Dexter Taylor, who does a reasonable imitation of Bolling.   

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Skulldigger has a series of encounters with Bijou, his version of Catwoman. Except Bijou likes dogs instead of cats, and she’s motivated by her hatred of the evil billionaire Andres Venger. The last time they meet, Bijou is cruelly murdered by Grimjim. This is a simple but touching story, with brilliant art by a very underrated artist.

THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “Up in Smoke,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. The teenage Darius and his friends Zaffar and Danika discover an abandoned building where they hang out and do graffiti. This is a connection to Ram V’s previous work Grafity’s Wall. Darius and Zaffar have a falling out over their mutual passion for Danika. Then the building is destroyed in sectarian riots, and Zaffar is killed. Darius tells all this to Laila at a party in an apartment building. That same night, the building is destroyed by fire, and Laila is the only casualty. The riots that cause Zaffar’s death are triggered when “someone set a train on fire. Someone made an incendiary speech. Some wanted a temple built. Others wanted an edifice torn down.” This could be a reference to the 1992 Mumbai riots triggered by the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, but I don’t know if that fits the series’ timeline. Either way, I appreciate that Ram V doesn’t make this reference explicit. He respects his readers’ intelligence by assuming that they either know about Indian culture, or are willing to educate themselves about it.

BIRTHRIGHT #50 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey confronts Kallista, who commits suicide (I think), thus wrapping up the final loose end. Five years later, Mikey and Rya, who’s pregnant with a son, are playing with Mya in the park. Mya gets lost, but just when we think that Mikey’s history is repeating itself, her parents find her. This is a sweet and satisfying conclusion to a very fun series.

FANTASTIC FOUR #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Bride of Doom Part 2: Royal Wedding,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva w/ Luca Maresca. At the wedding, everything seems to be going well until Zora stops the ceremony and admits that she slept with Johnny. Then everything goes to hell in a handbasket. This issue was rather predictable.

STILLWATER #8 (Image, 2021) – “All the Time in the World,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. In a flashback, small-town policewoman Tanya tries to figure out why Stillwater never sends any prisoners to the state prison. Sheriff Mike tries to assassinate her, as is Stillwater’s usual policy, but he takes pity on her when he discovers that she’s lost her child and been diagnosed with cancer. She arrives in Stillwater, where she becomes the new sheriff. Then we return to the present day, and Ted shoots Tanya and steals her sheriff’s badge. Daniel isn’t in this issue.

FAR SECTOR #12 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo uses her remaining power to defuse the violence, and she makes a speech about how “without justice, we [police] were just hired thugs for the people in power.” As at many earlier points in this series, Jo is really talking about contemporary America. Jo remains in the City Enduring and continues her relationship with Syz, and the series ends with the Green Lantern oath. Like all of Jemisin’s work, Far Sector was challenging and sometimes confusing, but also very important. I hope she writes more comics.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #27 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. The clones reveal their origin, which is connected to the Assessor from earlier in this series. Miles convinces one of the clones, Shift, to let him go, then Miles rushes to the hospital to protect his mother from Mindspinner. But meanwhile, Selim pretends to be Miles so that he can kidnap Miles’s baby sister from right out of her father’s arms. The last page, where Selim holds the baby and promises to keep her safe, is super creepy.

THE GOOD ASIAN #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark continues to investigate Ivy Chen’s kidnapping. His investigations lead him to a nightclub with Asian performers, but while there, he witnesses an assassination. Victoria Carroway, Edison’s racist foster sister, reveals that Mason Carroway knew something about Edison’s mother’s murder. This issue ends with some fascinating historical information about Chinese exclusion, Angel Island, and the “chop suey circuit.”

BABYTEETH #18 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Temple,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie’s mom reveals that she’s hiding some other demon children in the Mormon temple. The Ritters hold a funeral for Sadie’s dad. This series has been on hiatus for so long that it already feels a ltitle outdated, but I might as welll finish reading it since there are only a few issues left.

WONDER WOMAN #773 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 4,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana finally confronts the Valkyries in their castle, but Thor and the Asgardians have followed her there. The Asgardian conflict is finally resolved, Yggdrasil is saved, and Thor declares that it’s Thirsty Thorsday… heh. After spending the night with Sigurd, Diana heads off to Olympus to find out what’s happened to the gods. Ratatoskr goes with her. In the Young Diana backup, an old witch named Magala gives Diana some lost manuscripts. I love Paulina Ganucheau’s art, but Jordie Bellaire’s writing leaves much to be desired.

COMPASS #1 (Image, 2021) – “The Cauldron of Eternal Life,” [W] Robert Mackenzie & David Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. This appears to be a different David Walker from the one who writes Bitter Root. In the year 1242, a young Muslim thief infiltrates a Welsh castle, where she encounters assassins sent by a Chinese former ally. This issue is a bit formulaic so far, but Compass’s concept is interesting. As explained in the essay at the end, this series is an adventure conquest that’s inspired by the social disruptions causued by the Crusades and the Mongol conquest. Its plotline illustrates how even in medieval times, the Western and Eastern worlds were heavily interconnected. I initially assumed that the character of Ednyfed Fychan was made up, but he was a real person, and Powys Fadog was a real kingdom. The authors seem to have done their research.

PROJECT: PATRON #3 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Revenge and Resurrection,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. The Patron fights Mechatron, who looks like an EVA unit from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but claims to be the messiah. The Luthor character brings back the Doomsday character from the moon. Otherwise there’s not a lot here that’s new.

SILVER COIN #3 (Image, 2021) – “Death Rattle,” [W] Ed Brisson, [A] Michael Walsh. Let me just quote my own Facebook post: “I liked the first two issues of Silver Coin, but issue 3 was a pointless, plotless piece of torture porn. Ed Brisson is an awful writer.”

GEIGER #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. In a flashback, the King opens up Geiger’s vault and discovers that Geiger’s family is dead. He finds this funny. Geiger burns the hell out of his face, but somehow refrains from just killing him. In the present, Geiger adopts the two orphaned kids. I like this better than Geoff Johns’s DC comics because it’s an original concept, so he’s not doing damage to other people’s characters. Also, the King is a pretty loathsome villain.

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Peter/Venom kills the entire Sinister Six except JJJ, who discovers his secret identity and helps him escape. There’s a funny reference to Eddie Brock as “Brock-Ock.” Peter finally escapes from the symbiote, but he discovers that his secret identity was revealed when the Kingpin died. Meanwhile, the Venom symbiote has returned to the Baxter Building and released a bunch of other symbiotes. The awful stuff that happens in this miniseries is genuinely impactful, even though none of it is in continuity.

BRZRKR #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. The berserker, Unute, is only two years old but is already full grown (a common mythological trope), and he’s conquering all the neighboring tribes on behalf of his power-mad father. There’s only a brief scene set in the present day. This comic is better than I expected, given that Keanu Reeves has almost no prior writing experience. I assume Matt Kindt is doing most of the actual writing.

BUNNY MASK #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “The Chipping of the Teeth,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bee Foster is being raised by her abusive, schizophrenic father Bee, who believes that a creature called “the snitch” is talking to him. When some CPS agents come to investigate why Bee’s not at school, Leo murders one of them and imprisons the other, Tyler Severin, in a cave. In the cave Tyler encounters a mysterious bunny-masked girl, then wakes up to find that he’s been rescued. 14 years later, Tyler visits an art gallery full of art depicting the same bunny-masked creature. He discovers that the artist is none other than Bee Foster. Meanwhile, some policemen return to Leo Foster’s old house and discover the cave… which contains Bee Foster’s corpse. This is a very creepy and intriguing comic. Paul Tobin is best known as a writer of kid-oriented comics, but he’s also very good at horror.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #1 (DC, 2021) – “Men, Women, and Dogs,”, [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. On an alien planet, teenage Ruthye’s father is killed by a villain named Krem. Ruthye heads off on a quest for vengeance. She goes to a bar and tries to hire a bounty hunter, but he slaps her and steals the sword. Luckily for her, Supergirl is drinking at the same bar, and she agrees to accompany Ruthye on her quest. Unluckily, when they find Krym, he flies away in the spaceship that Supergirl used to reach the planet. Also, the planet has a red sun. King and Evely succeed in creating a world that seems much like Earth, yet subtly different – there are unexplained references to things like “six-legged monogryphs” and the deity Crying Anne. And Ruthye and Supergirl are interestingly different characters. I liked Bilquis Evely’s art on The Dreaming, and I’m glad she’s getting bigger assignments.

WITCHBLOOD #1 (Vault, 2021) – “You’ll Have to Go Sideways,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The title is a song by the Soft Boys. This issue begins by introducing the witch Yonna D’Arc, whose spells are references to songs. She gets in a fight with a bounty hunter who hunts witches, but then they both get attacked by the Hounds of Love, a group of vampires who are hunting for witches’ blood. After reading this issue I understand this series better, and I really like its coloring and its sense of humor.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2021) – “Little Wonders,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Corona & Max Raynor. In the past, Felix Faust’s apprentice Rora gives Jon and Damian the ancient scroll, which predicts Faust and Vandal Savage’s plots against superheroes. In the present, Jon and Damian use the scroll to save Hawkgirl, then they find Rora, but Savage is holding her hostage. This comic is very fun, but the two artists’ styles clash with each other.

KARMEN #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Cata overhears a conversation that reveals that her crush wasn’t really cheating on her, and she committed suicide for no reason. (Though it’s debatable whether there’s ever a reason.) Cata tries to confront her boyfriend Xisco, and the issue ends with them standing across from each other, but he’s unable to see her. Luckily that’s not the ending because there’s one more issue. Meanwhile, Karmen gets chewed out by her boss.

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #3 (Image, 2021) – “Here We Fucking Go Again,” [W] Grant Morrison & Alex Child, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls become persona non grata in their town. They go looking for clues, encounter some ghosts, and nearly get killed in a fire. After a final encounter with an old Native American woman, they decide that their friendship is over. Like many other Grant Morrison comics, Proctor Valley is getting harder to follow as it goes on.

DIE #17 (Image, 2021) – “Total Party Kill,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The party meet HP Lovecraft, and they realize that Lovecraft’s stories were based on visions of people playing Die in the future. The dice are non-Euclidean shapes. The party descend further and find a giant stockpile of the souls of other RPG players. Eventually they find a door that goes further down, and they open it by saying “friend.” One of the essays at the end of the issue is about Nordic LARP, which I’ve never heard of.

HOME #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anna Wieszczyk. Juan’s mom arrives in Guatemala. Gladys helps Juan practice his powers in the park – a very common superhero trope – but they’re immediately attacked by ICE agents. As I’ve noted before, this comic is very unsubtle, but its topic is not one which calls for subtlety. Julio Anta presents the ICE agents as pure evil, and I think this is accurate.

2000 AD #1291 (Rebellion, 2002) – This was part of an eBay purchase, but I haven’t read any of the other progs from that lot yet. I’m trying to read my progs in numerical order. This prog is in a different format from any of the others I’ve read; it’s taller and thinner. Dredd: “Sin City Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Sin City is a floating offshore casino. Judge Prees goes there to investigate who beat up his brother, who was an employee there. Dredd only appears briefly in this chapter. Kev Walker’s art is excellent. Sinister Dexter: “Croak Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Pingriff. This is some kind of blend of the crime and horror genres, but I’m not sure what it’s about, or who the title character is. Thirteen: untitled (Part 3), [W] Mike Carey, [A] Andy Clarke. Joe Bulmer is attacked by some kind of boneless zombie, but is saved by a mysterious woman in black. Then some fake cops try to chase him, but a telepathic woman named Raksha saves him. Bec & Kawl: “And the Mystical Mentalist Menace Part 2,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. The two eponymous protagonists, a man and a woman, fight a giant pink tentacled monster. I’m not sure what this series is about, but it’s funny and it reminds me a bit of Spurrier’s later work. Judge Death: “My Name is Death Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Frazer Irving. This is the only black-and-white strip in this prog. In this chapter Judge Death fights some judges inside a dormitory.

LUNA #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. Luna and the blue god defeat Lux, have some weird mystical sex, and turn into constellations. This was an interesting miniseries with some radical artwork, but I’m not sure I want to read Llovet’s future work.

NIGHT HUNTERS #4 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Ziritt. I couldn’t follow this comic’s plot, and Alexis Ziritt’s atrwork isn’t as exciting as in Space Riders. Ziritt is a terrific and underrated artist, but I wish he would work with a better writer.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #503 (India Book House, 1971) – “The Sons of Rama,” [W] Anant Pai?, [A] Pratap Mulick. When I go to Heroes I often also visit a nearby used bookstore, Book Buyers. On my last visit I was excited to find two issues of Amar Chitra Katha. These are educational comics about Indian mythology and history. They’re very popular in India but are not easy to find in America, or if they are, I don’t know where to get them. I only have two others in my collection. This issue is based on Bhavabhuti’s Uttararamacharita (translated as Rama’s Last Act), which is itself based on the end of Valmiki’s Ramayana. Rama has rescued his wife Sita from Ravana, but his people demand that he exile her because she’s lived with another man, and she complies. In exile she gives birth to two sons, Luv and Kush, who grow up not knowing that their mother is Rama’s wife. Twelve years later Rama encounters Luv and Kush again while performing a horse sacrifice, which will establish him as the greatest of kings. Luv and Kush defeat Rama’s entire army, and Rama finally realizes that they’re his sons. But Sita asks the earth to swallow her as proof of her chastity, and it does. Rama’s abandonment of his wife is a rather problematic moment in Indian mythology, and this comic’s creators at least try to convey Rama’s ambivalent feelings about this decision, although (from my non-Indian perspective) I’m not sure they succeed. Pratap Mullick’s draftsmanship is kind of loose, but he succeeds in conveying the look of ancient India.

I BREATHED A BODY #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Into the Underland,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Lots of bizarre stuff happens that I don’t understand, and Gelbacut/The First American/Mylo takes over the world. This series was easier to follow than Lonely Receiver, but it too eventually descended into incoherence. I don’t especially like Zac Thompson’s writing style, and I think I’m going to skip his Ka-Zar series.  

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #626 (India Book House, 1970) – “The Pandava Princes,” [W] B.R. Bhagwat, [A] Subhash Tendle. This is an adaptation of the early part of the Mahabharata. It depicts the youthful rivalry between the Pandavas and Kauravas, which culminates in the Kauravas’ attempt to burn the Pandavas alive in a palace. Then the Pandavas all marry the same woman, Draupadi – it’s a long story – and the issue ends with Krishna killing Shishupala at Yudhisthira’s inaugural sacrifice. This comic is less enjoyable than #503 because it covers more territory and has less of a central theme, and also Subhash Tendle is a less skilled draftsman than Pratap Mulick.

CATWOMAN #32 (DC, 2021) – “Everything You Know About Selina Kyle,” [W] Ram V, [A] Evan Cagle. A bunch of characters tell stories about Selina, each of which reveals a different facet of their personality. This is probably my least favorite Ram V comic, but I’m not quite ready to quit reading it yet.

2000 AD #83 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: “Verdus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam and Kidd find SJI after some difficulty. This chapter again showcases Ian Gibson’s incredible skill at drawing robots and machinery. Dan Dare: “The Doomsday Machine,” [W] Nick Landau & Roy Preston, [A] Trevor Goring & Garry Leach. A human survivor, “Kid,” leads Dare and his crew through the ship, but Bear is killed fighting a giant sloth bear or something. The supporting characters in these Dan Dare strips were all expendable because they weren’t part of Dare’s classic supporting cast. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 23: Legion of the Damned!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd and friends are almost at Mega-City Two, but they’re attacked by robots left over from the Battle of Armageddon in the year 2071. McMahon draws some stunning-looking robots, though of course in a very different style from Gibson. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. Villa and Anteater make it to the command center where the Latin American generals are assembled. They learn that there’s no more of the pesticide that made the giant ants, so all they need to do is defeat the existing ants. This issue also includes a Future Shock.

ULTRAMEGA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. Noah has an out-of-body experience where a creature with an eye for a head leads him to Atum Ultramega, the creator of all the Ultramega. But Atum is already dead. Despite that, Noah is able to merge with the eye-headed dude and defeat the kaiju that are terrorizing the humans. Noah returns to human form, minus his right head, but then his dead father’s severed head crashes to Earth and speaks to him. This comic is really weird, as that summary suggests, and it includes some very effective body horror.

2000 AD #84 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam convinces SJI that he’s not a simulated human, but a real human who has the authority to command the robots. Robo- Hunter went on hiatus here and resumed in prog 100. Dredd: “The Last Meal,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brett Ewins. This is only half a page, but it’s the most notable thing in this prog. It’s an apology strip that was published to avoid a lawsuit over the portrayal of the Green Giant in progs 77 and 78. In this strip, Dredd and Spikes eat some Green Giant food and meet the real Green Giant, who’s much nicer than the fake one they met before. Dan Dare: as above. Kid and Dare’s crew reach the ship’s original crew’s quarters, and discover that the ship was built by the Golden Ones, who seem to be angels. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 24: Dredd’s Last Stand!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd, Spikes and Tweak fight the Legion of the damned, and Spikes is killed defending his comrades. More beautiful artwork here. Ant Wars: as above. Villa gets caught in the ants’ main nest.

CEREBUS #53 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “The Countess & the Aardvark,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus comes to stay at the Countess’s estate while writing his memoirs, and they have some interesting conversations. The Countess is kind of like Astoria without the lust for power. At the end of the issue, their solitude is invaded by the countess’s uncle, who is none other than the Roach. The backup story, by Don Goodrum, is a stupid parody of “The Raven” where the raven is replaced by Reagan. Goodrum’s jokes aren’t funny, and his verse doesn’t scan. The letters page includes an introduction by Dave where he addresses criticisms of the ending of High Society.

MADMAN COMICS #3 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “Horror on the High Seas,” [W/A] Mike Allred. After a weird adventure with Astroman and other robots, Madman and Joe go for a working vacation aboard a cruise ship. But the ship’s purser is murdered, and Madman and Joe are blamed. I’ve already read the next part of this storyline, but I forget who the culprit was.

NEXUS #64 (First, 1990) – “Seat of Power,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Tony Akins. The new Nexus, Stan, accepts Tyrone’s invitation to found the University of Ylum. Vooper and Crocus get in a fight over who gets to manage Mezz’s band. Brother Lathe, Nexus’s uncle and an Elvonic religious fanatic, plots to infiltrate the new university. The Elvonics are one of the worst things about Nexus. They’re an obvious stand-in for Muslim fundamentalists, and they embody the racist stereotype in which Muslims are intolerant terrorists who hate our freedoms.

IMAGE FIRSTS: FATALE #1 (Image, 2012) – “Death Chases Me,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. At his godfather Dominic Raines’s funeral, Nicolas Lash meets a mysterious woman named Josephine. Then while Nicolas is at Dominic’s house, Josephine saves him from an attack by gunmen, but he loses his leg. Then we cut to 1956, where Josephine – looking the same as in 2011 – is a corrupt cop’s kept woman, and another cop, Hank, is obsessed with her even though he has a wife and a child on the way. I read one of the trade paperbacks of Fatale and didn’t like it, but I should give Fatale another chance, now that I’m more used to Brubaker and Phillips.

JONNY QUEST SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1988) – “Three Trapped Tigers,” [W] Arthur Byron Cover, [A] Richard Howell. The title is a reference to a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. The Quest family encounters Benton’s long-lost grandfather, who’s traveled into an alternate dimension and fallen in love with a cat-girl. This is a pretty stupid story, and it’s not even close to the level of quality of the regular Jonny Quest comic.

BUCK GODOT #3 (Palliard, 1994) – “The Gallimaufry Part 3,” as above. A bunch of alien races go to war over the Winslow, a small lizard that’s inexplicably worshipped as a god. Eventually the humans get blamed for stealing the Winslow. Buck Godot is very fun, but it has so much stuff going on that it becomes cumbersome to read.

COMIC BOOK GUY #4 (Bongo, 2010) – “The Death of Comic Book Guy! Part 4,” [W] Ian Boothby, [A] John Delaney. The Comic Book Guy is dead, and Marge is running his shop instead. This comic’s plot is mostly an excuse for gags, including lots of comic book fan in-jokes. For example, the Comic Book Guy’s secret origin is a hybrid of the origin stories of Green Arrow and Luthor.

FUTURAMA #49 (Bongo, 2010) – “Dummy Up!”, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Mike Kazaleh. Leela goes to yoga to destress. Bender becomes a ventriloquist, using a doll that looks like Fry, but the doll goes insane and tries to kill Fry. This comic is reasonably funny, but it doesn’t have a central plot or theme. I started watching the entire run of Futurama once, but I never finished.

2000 AD #85 (IPC, 1978) – Dare: as above except [A] Dave Gibbons. The last Golden One, who looks a lot like Tharg, reveals his backstory. Dare escapes the ship but is left to drift alone in space. Dan Dare didn’t return until prog 100. Future Shock: “The Fourth Wall,” [W] Mike Cruden, [A] John Cooper. A little boy is killed by an overly realistic TV set. Dredd: “The ursed Earth Final Chapter: Death Crawl!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd makes it to Mega-City Two, and Tweak returns to his home planet. Thus ends the first truly great Judge Dredd story. Tweak’s only other appearance was in a one-shot story in Judge Dredd Megazine. Ant Wars: “In the Hall of the Mountain Queen!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Jesús Peña. Villa and Anteater sacrifice themselves to destroy the queen ant, and that’s the end of this stupid story. It’s notable that Anteater never got an actual name, and we never learned anything about him or his tribe. Future Shocks: “Poacher,” [W] Barry Clements, [A] Jesus Redondo. A poacher accidentally prevents an alien invasion. This plot is reminiscent of old pre-superhero Marvel comics.

2000 AD #86 (IPC, 1978) – This is another key issue: the first issue of the merged 2000 AD and Starlord, and the first appearance of Strontium Dog or Ro-Busters in 2000 AD. Dredd: “Crime and Punishment,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Dredd returns to Mega-City One as a hero, but Judge Caligula frames Dredd for murdering a paparazzo. Dredd is exiled to Luna. This is Judge Caligula’s first appearance and is also a lead-in to the next major Dredd epic, The Day the Law Died. Bolland’s artwork is of course brilliant. Ro-Busters: “Death on the Orient Express!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein rescue some people who are trapped in a cave-in, but there are ten people and only enough oxygen for nine, so Ro-Jaws has to decide which person will die. At this point Hammerstein has a one-eyed inhuman-looking head instead of his familiar human face. Flesh: “Book II,” [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. This first story serves as a reintroduction to the Flesh series, which was last seen in prog 19. Belardinelli draws some incredible technology and prehistoric monsters. Strontium Dog: “The Galaxy Killers,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha, Wulf and Gronk capture a man named Ratface, but then they themselves are captured by a giant alien warship. Overall, this prog was a major step up in quality from the last few. The replacement of Ant Wars and Dan Dare with Strontium Dog, Ro-Busters and Flesh is a huge upgrade.

CEREBUS #174 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Mothers & Daughters 24,” [W/A] Dave Sim. At this point I had finished reading all the good Cerebus comics I had (besides one that I forgot about), and so I went back to reading the bad ones. This issue Astoria and Cerebus finally arrive at Cirin’s palace, and we discover that the black-cloaked hourglass-wearing figure is Suenteus Po. In the letter column, Daniel Livingstone from Glasgow writes a letter that makes some very coherent responses to Dave’s fearmongering about feminist censorship. Dave’s reply is: “Having searched the text of your letter for anything resembling a coherent point (as opposed to misguided male-feminist rhetoric) and come up empty, I find I have nothing to say.” Dave is such a fucking troll.

CLEAN ROOM #10 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Last Breath of an Exile,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Astrid talks to the purple-haired woman, Ms. Capone, who rightly calls Astrid out on her whininess and entitlement. Chloe encounters an awful creep who smiles constantly. The Surgeon confronts Duncan, a character I don’t recognize, and threatens to turn Duncan’s lover into a horrifying human-horse hybrid, as the Surgeon already did to someone else. This was the last issue of Clean Room that I had. I should have kept on reading it, because it’s a very scary horror comic, and as I already said, it may have been Gail’s best solo series.

LETTER 44 #30 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. President Blades makes a speech announcing that the world is about to be destroyed by aliens. To me this seems like a terrible decision. If the world was going to end tomorrow, I’d be much happier not knowing. Meanwhile, Colonel Overholt sacrifices himself to defend the rest of the crew.

PLANET OF VAMPIRES #3 (Atlas, 1975) – “The Blood Plague!”, [W] John Albano, [A] Russ Heath. Russ Heath’s artwork in this issue is excellent, though it’s wasted on a silly story. Protagonists Chris Galland and Craig invade a skyscraper full of vampires, where their wives are held captive. Craig discovers that his wife, Brenda, is already dead. Craig and Brenda are black, so this counts as an example of the trope that TVTropes calls “Black Dude Dies First.” Though Chris’s wife Elissa also dies at the end of the issue. This was the last issue of Planet of Vampires.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo and Rufferto visit the kingdom of Iberza, where the local powers-that-be are very worried about an influx of immigrants bringing their foreign gods. As is often the case with Groo, this plotline is inspired by real-world politics. The kingdom decides to deport the immigrants to a newly discovered continent, and Groo himself boards the immigrants’ ship, thinking it’s going to take him to the world’s best cheese dip. Of course, the captain of the ship is Ahax. This is the most recent Groo comic to date, but the Groo Meets Tarzan miniseries was just solicited.  

STEVEN UNIVERSE #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Rii Abrego. Amethyst and Pearl compete in professional wrestling as a tag team. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

AIR #9 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Mass Transit,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] M.K. Perker. At the Amsterdam airport, Blythe helps reunite a husband and wife who were separated in the Bosnian war. There are also a bunch of secret agent hijinks that are relevant to the overall plot. The husband-wife reunion in this issue is very touching, but Air was not at the same level as Willow’s other comics or prose works, thanks to its less focused plot.

CEREBUS #175 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1992) – “Book Three: Reads,” [W/] Dave Sim. Quoting myself agin: “Having finished reading all the good issues of Cerebus I had, I just read Cerebus #175. Good Lord. To call this comic drivel would be an insult to drivel. Now that I’m familiar with the good period of Cerebus, I can see how bad the bad period was.” To be more specific, at least half of this issue is a minimally illustrated prose story about the writer Victor Reid, a stand-in for Sim, who wants to do some more adventurous work but is being pressured to do more of the commercial work that made him famous. This Victor Reid story is written in awful purple prose, it’s full of pointless in-jokes about the direct market, and it makes the reader hate Victor for his pompousness and entitlement. Quoting myself again: “Also, this issue’s backup story by Colin Upton is a grossly offensive piece of white fragility, about a man who goes crazy because of reverse sexism… The Colin Upton story is about a man who gets made fun of by some straw feminists, and so he decides that he hates being blamed for sexism, and he wishes he was black or female so people would acknowledge his anger, and no amount of allyship is ever enough (this last one is true). And then he threatens and yells at his girlfriend in public. And the reader is supposed to sympathize with this whiny sexist asshole.” If published today, this story would be dismissed as red-pill incel bullshit. I should say that at least it’s well-drawn.

ICON #5 (Milestone, 1993) – “May We Bang You?”, [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] M.D. Bright. I was inspired to read this after reading Rebecca Wanzo’s brilliant Eisner-nominated book The Content of Our Caricature. This issue, Icon fights Blood Syndicate, but the real point of the comic is the two scenes with Rocket. She tells her grandmother that she’s pregnant, and her grandmother refuses to help if Rocket has the baby, since she already raised Rocket’s mother and Rocket herself. Then Rocket tells Noble, the baby’s father, about the pregnancy. Noble says “How do you know it was me?”  and Rocket punches him and repeats that line back to him. Compare the similar scene in Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, which I also read recently. My problem with Rocket is that in 1993, she was not only the best African-American teen superheroine in comics, but almost the only one. Therefore, it seemed like by making her an unwed teen mother, McDuffie was playing into a common stereotype about black girls. However, Rebecca Wanzo’s whole argument in her book is that the deliberate invocation of stereotypes can be a useful political strategy.

COLIN UPTON’S AUTHORIZED BIG BLACK THING #1 (Starhead, 1994) – “The Big Black thing of Doom!” and other stories, [W/A] Colin Upton. I read this because I wanted to see if it was as bad as Upton’s strip in Cerebus #175. Thankfully it’s not. This comic seems to be a collection of earlier minicomics. Some of them are slice-of-life stories about life in British Columbia, while the longest one, “Hotxha the Albanian,” is an Asterix parody about a village of Albanians who escaped the 1945 Communist takeover. The characters in this story are blatant stereotypes, but the story is quite funny. Throughout the issue Upton’s draftsmanship is good and his writing is insightful. I’d be curious to read more of his work, again assuming it’s not like that Cerebus backup story.

ICON #8 (Milestone, 1993) – “Entelechy,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] M.D. Bright. I have a PhD and I still can’t ever remember what the word entelechy means. Britannica defines it as “that which realizes or makes actual what is otherwise merely potential.” This issue Icon tells Rocket his origin story, Noble tells Rocket’s mother that he’s the father of Rocket’s child, and Rocket encounters Holocaust. This issue includes a funny line that’s quoted in Rebecca Wanzo’s book: “I think I just figured out how a black man can be a conservative Republican – you’re from outer space!” The political difference between Icon and Rocket was the driving force of Icon’s plot. BTW, the comic is called Icon, but Rocket was the actual protagonist. The current revival series is called Icon and Rocket. I’m not reading that series because it’s written by Reginald Hudlin.  

CEREBUS #176 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Po,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Mike Prosserman (a hybrid of Dark Horse executives Mike Richardson and Jerry Prosser) offers Victor a 2000-crown advance, making him instantly wealthy, but Victor fails to write anything. As in #175, the Victor Reid section is a load of crap and is extremely cumbersome to read. That’s unfortunate because, for the first time in a long time, this issue’s Cerebus section is actually interesting. Suenteus Po begins explaining why he’s brought Cerebus, Cirin and Astoria together.

CHEW #17 (Image, 2011) – “Flambé 2 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony and Colby investigate a deadly food fight at Olive’s school. They discover that a nerdy student named Pilaf caused the fight, by cooking a recipe that made people insane. Colby defeats Pilaf, but he’s already sent his recipe to a space station, apparently causing the space station to be destroyed. This plot thread is part of the alien invasion subplot that wasn’t resolved until the very end of the series. A highlight of this issue is Colby teasing Olive about Peter being her boyfriend.

WINTERWORLD #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Jorge Zaffino. Scully visits a nomadic tribe and enlists their aid in raiding the greenhouse city from issue 1. Jorge Zaffino’s artwork here is good, but not as impressive as in #1, and it would have been much better without color.

2000 AD #87 (IPC, 1978) – Dredd: “Outlaw,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland & Dave Gibbons. Dredd escapes from the ship taking him to Titan. Judge Cal decides to use a clone of Dredd to track down the original. A clue to Judge Cal’s personality is that he has a picture of Hitler on his wall. https://www.instagram.com/p/CQtxDWbBJv8/ Also, he’s named after Caligula. Ro-Busters: as above. The human survivors’ robots testify to whether their masters should live or die. One of the robots reveals that his master is an abusive father. When the master tries to kill his son, the robot kills him, thus solving the dilemma of which of the ten people should die. The other nine are rescued. This story wrongly claims that the first law of robotics is to tell the truth. Flesh: as above. A one-handed crook named Claw Carver stashes his loot in a nothosaur’s nest, killing the nothosaur’s babies in the process. Then he boards a ship that’s hunting Big Hungry, a giant nothosaur who happens to be the father of the babies. Belardinelli’s monsters, technology, and weather effects are beautiful, though he’s not great at drawing people. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and friends are abducted by warrior aliens known as Wolrogs.

CHEVAL NOIR #9 (Dark Horse, 1990) – Now here are some comics that would have been better with color. Marvano’s Forever War adaptation has some very nice artwork, but adds nothing to Joe Haldeman’s original novel. Indeed, with its slick renderings of military technology, it seems to glorify war, whereas Haldeman’s book is heavily antiwar. Andreas’s Coutoo is written and drawn in a very strange style. I’m curious to read more of Andreas because he has such a unique and weird aesthetic. The highlight of the issue is the first chapter of Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower. This chapter introduces Giovanni, a plus-sized man who, for unknown reasons, is the custodian of a particular level of a giant crumbling old tower. After not hearing from anyone else for months, he decides to descend the tower and find out why he’s been abandoned. The Tower is the story that first got me interested in Schuiten’s work – I’m a sucker for stories about gigantic edifices – but I’ve never read the whole thing. IDW is supposed to be publishing a new edition of it later this year. Druillet and Lob’s Delirius has extremely complicated art and also a coherent story, unlike some of Druillet’s solo work. The issue also includes an Eyeball Kid chapter by Campbell and Ilya.

VELVET #12 (Image, 2015) – “The Man Who Stole the World Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Superspy Velvet tries to turn the tables on the men who are chasing her. Brubaker’s plot is reasonably exciting; a notable moment is when Velvet sleeps with a male spy in order to feed him false information. Steve Epting’s artwork is as thrilling as when he was drawing Brubaker’s Captain America. Velvet feels a lot like Black Widow, and it could almost be turned into a Black Widow comic just by changing some names.

ROGUE TROOPER: THE FINAL WARRIOR #5 (Fleetway/Quality, 1992) – “The Saharan Ice-Belt War,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Simon Coleby. This reprints Rogue Trooper stories from the #730s or 740s of 2000 AD. These stories aren’t especially good, but they’re reprinted much more faithfully than the material in Slaine the Berserker #3. Instead of being chopped up to fit the American page size, the pages are shrunk down to fit the width of the comic book page. This results in a lot of white space at the top and bottom of the page, but that’s an acceptable tradeoff. Also, the paper quality in this reprint is much better than in Slaine the Berserker. This issue also includes a one-shot backup story with art by Chris Weston.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! #60 (Gold Key, 1976) – “The Hidden Face,” [W] unknown, [A] John Celardo, etc. A bunch of stupid and unscary ghost stories with boring art. Even calling them “stories” is giving them too much credit.

CEREBUS #177 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Revelations,” [W/A] Dave Sim. After spending months wasting money and doing no writing, Victor Reid has to go in and see his editor Karen Potts (Karen Berger + Carl Potts), but she keeps him waiting all day. Again, this story is infuriating because Victor Reid is a loathsome character and Sim’s prose is excruciating to read. The Cerebus story in this issue consists of a fascinating discussion between the four major characters. It’s just a pity that it only lasts seven pages, far less than half the issue. This issue includes a letter from my Facebook friend Mikel Norwitz. There’s also a letter from a certain D— E—, who expresses antifeminist sentiments just as vile as Dave’s own, and who seems to have become an MRA activist.

CEREBUS #178 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Changes,” as above. Victor Reid meets with Karen Potts’s assistant Carl Berger, who tells him the obvious truth that his current work is not commercially viable. Victor is forced to create new work in the same style as his earlier Palnu Trilogy. Oh, boo hoo. God forbid he should give his audience what they want, or realize that the world doesn’t owe him a living. Victor also has to accept illustrations by M. Zulli, who he hates. I wonder what Dave’s problem with Michael Zulli was. This issue has ten pages of Cerebus content, which is actually more than last issue. Suenteus Po chews out Cirin, Astoria and Cerebus, and tells Cerebus that he’s never going to be happy even if he gets what he thinks he wants. Then he leaves.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #3 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Proud Mary! Part 1,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Scout and the kids board Captain Mary’s ship, the Empress Jones, which is transporting some of Doody’s followers. Scout and Mary sleep together, then the ship is attacked by Captain “Atuma” Yuma. The issue ends with the first part of Truman’s adaptation of the Apache myth of White-Painted Woman.

2000 AD #88 (IPC, 1978) – Dredd: “Bring Me the Head of Judge Dredd!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Brendan McCarthy & Brett Ewins. Dredd realizes that the real murderer must have been a robot made to look like him. Dredd finds the robot, defeats it, and delivers its head to the chief judge. McCarthy’s art is excellent but, as usual, would have been better in color. Ro-Busters: “Yesterday’s Hero!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. A flashback story in which Hammerstein fights the Volgans alongside a bunch of human soldiers who hate robots. Eventually all the soldiers are killed except for one sergeant, who’s gone blind and doesn’t realize Hammerstein is a robot. Kevin O’Neill’s art here is a bit crude, but has an insane level of detail. Flesh: as above. Claw Carver joins the Atlantis station’s crew and saves the station’s controller from being eaten by a shark. As a reward, Claw is given access to a ship that he can use to recover his stashed gold. Strontium Dog: as above. The Volgans force Johnny and Wulf to fight each other to the death. This is not the last story where Johnny and Wulf are manipulated into fighting each other; see also “The Killing” in progs 350 to 359. This issue also includes a Future Shock by Belardinelli, which ends with a beautiful splash page depicting a corpse.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #2 (Marvel, 1980) – [E] Archie Goodwin. In grad school I bought a bunch of old Epic Illustrateds at a book sale, and I still haven’t read most of them. I bought this one at the Concord convention in May. This issue begins with Roy Thomas and Tim Conrad’s adaptation of REH’s Almuric. Conrad was sort of a bargain-basement version of BWS or Pérez or Corben. Bissette and Veitch’s “Monkey See” is about an intelligent monkey who turns out to have a fish tail. Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey is perhaps the most notable story in the issue, though it’s hard to follow without having read the previous issue. P. Craig Russell’s “Siegfried and the Dragon” is his first attempt at an adaptation of Wagner’s Ring. He would return to this material many years later. Delany and Chaykin’s “Seven Moons’ Light Casts Complex Shadows” has excellent art but is impossible to follow. Goodwin and Robert Wakelin’s “Tarn’s World” is a dumb fantasy story with an “it was all a dream” ending. Other creators in this issue include Druillet, Vicente Alcazar and Ernie Colón. Overall, there’s interesting stuff in this magazine, but it feels like an inferior imitation of Heavy Metal.

CEREBUS #179 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Insights,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue has just three pages of Victor Reid, thank God. Plus three pages of illustrations. Astoria makes the shocking revelation that Cerebus has both male and female genitalia. Then she explains some of her machinations from previous issues, and ends by saying that power is just an illusion. Announcing her intentions to live a quiet life from now on, she leaves Cerebus and Cirin to each other. This was probably the best Cerebus story since Jaka’s Story. At this point the story finally seems to be making progress, after at least thirty issues in which it went nowhere. This issue’s letter column includes more misogynistic MRA bullshit.

THE MAXX #3 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] Bill Messner-Loebs. The Maxx has some weird adventures in both the Outback and the real world. The Maxx was the first good Image comic, and I think it was also Sam Kieth’