Tentative 2023 Eisner Awards votes

Best Short Story

  • “Finding Batman” by Kevin Conroy and J. Bone in DC Pride 2022 (DC)

An unimpressive list of nominees. All but one of the nominees are from Marvel or DC; surely there must have been some good short stories in anthologies from independent publishers? The only one I think I read is “You Got It”, but I have no memory of it. I read “Finding Batman” when it went viral on social media, and it’s the clear winner.

Best Single Issue/One-Shot

  • A Vicious Circle Book 1, by Mattson Tomlin and Lee Bermejo (BOOM! Studios)

An even worse list. I read only two of these, and I hated Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler, so that leaves A Vicious Circle.

Best Continuing Series

  • Nightwing, by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (DC)

All of these are worthy nominees, though I quit reading Killadelphia because it was disappointing. Nightwing is my favorite current comic besides Saga.

Best Limited Series

  • Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age, by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham (Marvel)

A hard choice between Miracleman and Animal Castle. I’m going with Miracleman because I’ve been waiting for it for most of the time I’ve been reading comics.

Best New Series

  • Public Domain, by Chip Zdarsky (Image)

I’ve read three of these and this is my favorite, though I think it should have been nominated as a miniseries. If there is going to be a second story arc of Public Domain, I haven’t heard about it. I can think of lots of series that I’d have nominated instead, such as I Hate This Place, Dark Ride, Kaya, or Damn Them All.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

  • Beneath The Trees: A Fine Summer, by Dav (Magnetic Press)

I haven’t heard of any of these. I’m inclined to vote for this book in order to recognize Magnetic Press’s efforts to translate European comics.

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

  • Swim Team, by Johnnie Christmas (HarperAlley)

An extremely strong category. The only one I’ve read is Swim Team. I have Leviathan and Little Monarchs, but have not gotten to them yet.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

  • Wash Day Diaries, by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith (Chronicle Books)

Another very strong category, though I’ve only read two of them. I bought Clementine but haven’t read it. I loved Do a Powerbomb, but Wash Day Diaries is the more important work, though it seemed like an adult work to me.

Best Humor Publication

  • I Hate This Place, by Kyle Starks and Artyom Topilin (Image Skybound)

But Sarah Andersen and Tom Gauld would also be very deserving winners. I was not impressed with Killer Queens.

Best Anthology

  • The Nib Magazine, edited by Matt Bors (Nib)

Not familiar with any of the others, though Sensory looks interesting.

Best Reality-Based Work

  • Flung Out of Space, by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer (Abrams ComicArts)

These all look excellent, though I haven’t read any of them. I’m inclined to vote for Flung Out of Space because of my passion for Grace Ellis’s work on Lumberjanes. However, But I Live is probably a more deserving work.

Best Graphic Memoir

  • Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly)

Clearly this was the book of the year, though Thorogood’s book was also highly acclaimed, and I look forward to reading it soon.

Best Graphic Album—New

  • Ultrasound, by Conor Stechschulte (Fantagraphics)

I haven’t read any of them, and this is the only one I’m even interested in reading. I guess this category is exclusively for fictional graphic novels, or else Ducks should have been nominated.  

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

  • Days of Sand, by Aimée de Jongh, translation by Christopher Bradley (SelfMadeHero)

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

Best Adaptation from Another Medium

  • Rain by Joe Hill, adapted by David M. Booher and Zoe Thorogood (Syzygy/Image)

This was the only one I read. It was reasonably good.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

  • Blacksad: They All Fall Down Part 1, by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, translation by Diana Schutz and Brandon Kander (Dark Horse)

I’m not familiar with any of these. I suspect there may have been better choices that weren’t on the ballot. Europe Comics must have translated a lot of important works in 2022.  

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

  • Shuna’s Journey, by Hayao Miyazaki; translation by Alex Dudok de Wit (First Second/Macmillan)

I haven’t read any of these either. Shuna’s Journey sems like the obvious choice, though Talk to My Back also seems deserving.

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

  • Bungleton Green and the Mystic Commandos, by Jay Jackson (New York Review Comics)

On the grounds that all the other works on the ballot have already been published at least in part.

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

  • The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Ominous Omnibus 1 (Abrams ComicArts)

This series was nominated for a number of Eisner Awards, but the back is

Best Writer

  • James Tynion IV, House of Slaughter, Something Is Killing the Children, Wynd (BOOM! Studios); The Nice House on the Lake, The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country (DC), The Closet, The Department of Truth (Image)

I would have voted for Tom Taylor this year, but James Tynion is still highly deserving.

Best Writer/Artist

  • Kate Beaton, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team

  • Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)

  • Felix Delep, Animal Castle (Ablaze)

Best Cover Artist (for multiple covers)

  • Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)

Best Coloring

  • Jean-Francois Beaulieu, I Hate Fairyland 2022, Twig (Image)

Jordie Bellaire would be the obvious choice, but I really liked Twig.

Best Lettering

  • Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo (IDW)

They ought to rename this the Todd Klein Award.

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism

  • Comic Book Creator, edited by Jon B. Cooke (TwoMorrows)

Best Comics-Related Book

  • The Charlton Companion, by Jon B. Cooke (TwoMorrows)

I haven’t read this yet, but I greatly enjoyed the Comic Book Artist issues that it’s based on.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work

  • How Comics Travel: Publication, Translation, Radical Literacies, by Katherine Kelp-Stebbins (Ohio State University Press)

I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read any of these either.

Best Publication Design

No vote yet because I haven’t looked at any of the nominees.

Best Webcomic

Best Digital Comic

  • All Princesses Die Before Dawn, by Quentin Zuttion, translation by M. B. Valente (Europe Comics)

Yet again I haven’t read any of the nominees, but this seems like an important work.


April 2023 reviews

2000 AD #1820 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wolves Part 1,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Andrew Currie. Some Sovs are living in Mega-City One as part of an exchange program, but in the wake of Chaos War, they’re all facing racism and violence. This story focuses on one particular Sov emigrant, Dmitri Bystrov, and his family. From the reference to Dmitry and his wife having come to Mega-City One on the same ship, I suspect the Sovs are an allegory for British Caribbean people, who are associated with the ship Windrush. Savage: “Rise Like Lions Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. As the battle continues, Savage begins to realize he’s been betrayed by his own ally, the oil magnate Quartz. Ampny Crucis: “The Entropy Tango Part 9,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Simon Davis. Crucis fights some weird fish-faced people. Simon Davis’s painted art is beautiful. The van on the first page is labeled N. MARSH, perhaps in reference to Ngaio Marsh. Red Seas: “Fire Across the Deep Part 9,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. Another big fight scene. Strontium Dog: “The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha Chapter 3, Part 9,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny leaves the besieged Milton Keynes ghetto to negotiate with the government, but it’s actually a trick to infect them with a toxic parasite. An army of other SD agents arrives to break the siege.

BATMAN ’66 #20 (DC, 2015) – “A Stand-Up Guy,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Rubén Procopio. The Joker reinvents himself as a superhero, only he’s actually in league with all the “villains” he defeats. Batman and Robin become social pariahs, but they reinvent themselves as phony supervillains, the Pillager and Larceny Lad, so they can expose the Joker’s plot. This is a funny and well-plotted issue, and I like this comedic version of the Joker better than the modern homicidal-maniac version.

SECRET SIX #1 (DC, 2015) – “One Less Mouth to Feed,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Ken Lashley. Catman is kidnapped from a bar and wakes up in a locked room with five other people, including Black Alice and a new Ventriloquist. A voice tells them that they have to find out the “secret” or they’ll all be killed. This is a fairly interesting setup.  

CATALYST COMIX #5 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Truth About Mr. Seaver!” etc., [W] Joe Casey, [A] Paul Maybury, etc. I had thought this was an original series, but it’s actually a revival of the Comics’ Greatest World shared universe from the ‘90s. I never had much interest in Comics’ Greatest World, and I don’t remember anything about the plot or characters of Catalyst Comix #5. The only interesting thing about this issue is Ulises Farinas’s art on the first backup story.

VILLAINS UNITED #4 (DC, 2005) – “”A Weapon to Unify,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham. The villains attack Queen Bee’s installation in the Amazon jungle, and they free her power source, which turns out to be Firestorm. Afterward, Cheshire sleeps with Catman, and informs him that she’s trying to get pregnant by him. I’ve already read the two subsequent issues.

LOVE & ROMANCE #24 (Charlton, 1975) – “A Perfect Catch,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Demetrio Sanchez Gomez. The writing in this issue is pure crap, and the artwork in two of the three stories is mediocre. The reason I bought this issue is for the first story, which is drawn by Demetrio Sanchez Gomez, a very gifted and underrated artist. His story is just six pages, but his linework is beautiful, he shows a great sense of fashion design, and the negative space in his panels is often filled with abstract psychedelic designs. These designs have no relevance to the story, but they sure look nice. I’d like to read more of his work, but in order to locate it, I would have to hunt through lots of old bad Charlton romance comics, and I’m not sure that’s worth the trouble.

DAREDEVIL #152 (Marvel, 1978) – “Prisoner!”, [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Carmine Infantino. Maxwell Glenn is laid to rest. Foggy Nelson descends into alcoholism and depression after his wife Debbie leaves him. Daredevil “solves” Foggy’s problem by kidnapping Debbie and forcing her to meet with Foggy. That actually works, because this is a ‘70s comic. Matt fights Paladin and somehow manages to lose, then goes looking for the missing Heather Glenn.

HEPCATS #5 (Double Diamond, 1990) – “Snowblind,” [W/A] Martin Wagner. In the present-day timeframe, Erica recovers from a possible suicide attempt, and her boyfriend Arnie talks to her doctor. In a flashback, a man attempts to kidnap Erica, who he calls Kathryn, from a shopping mall. Hepcats was massively hyped when it was coming out, but there wasn’t much to justify the hype. Compared to similar titles like Cerebus or Omaha the Cat Dancer, Hepcats has very little substance to its story. I think the main reason anyone paid attention to it was because of Martin Wagner’s aggressive self-promotion and his primadonna behavior.

INCREDIBLE HULK #262 (Mavel, 1981) – “People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Hurt Hulks!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. The Hulk encounters a woman named Glazier who can turn people to glass. She tries to use her powers on the Hulk, but instead she accidentally uses them on her pet wolf, and then on herself. In a backup story, the Hulk meets a little boy who thinks he’s an alien and his parents aren’t his real parents. It turns out the boy really is an alien, but that hardly justifies his parents’ abusive behavior. At the beginning of the story, they chase the boy down and shove some pills in his mouth. The creators were obviously trying to fool the reader into thinking that the parents, not the boy, were the villains, and they did too good a job of this.

SIN CITY: HELL AND BACK #2 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. A man named Wallace and a woman named Esther are kidnapped by corrupt police. While Wallace languishes in jail, an unnamed villain tells Esther that he’s going to remake her completely. I’m not a big fan of Sin City. It’s so relentlessly grim and bleak that it seems like a parody of itself. This final Sin City miniseries was perhaps Frank Miller’s last serious work.

Next Heroes trip:

NIGHTWING #102 (DC, 2023) – “Rise of the Underworld Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Travis Moore. Credits and title come from here, since they’re missing from the comic itself. The art looks like Bruno Redondo to me. Dick escapes the morgue, and with his fellow Titans, he defeats the shapeshifter who kidnapped Olivia. Dick and the Titans decide to travel to the underworld and steal Olivia’s contract. As I have said before, the fight scenes are usually the most boring part of any superhero comic, but Tom Taylor has the rare talent of writing fight scenes that are fun to read and that contribute to character development. I just wish he’d give Starfire some more dialogue. In the backup story, by C.S. Pacat and Eduardo Pansica, Dick and Jon try to solve an attempted murder at a circus.

VANISH #5 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Ryan Stegman, [A] Donny Cates. Oliver finds himself in a mental hospital, where the doctors try to convince him that his magical adventures are a delusion. Elyn begs Oliver to stay in the mental hospital, but he refuses, and forces himself to wake up. Whether this was the correct choice is unclear. Oliver finally makes it back to his house, only to find it in ruins.

GROO: GODS AGAINST GROO #4 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. The Groo-worshippers finally figure out that Groo isn’t worthy of their devotion, so the god version of Groo fades away. Ahax, the Sage and Taranto head for home aboard a ship loaded with jewels, and when Groo finds his way aboard the ship, they succeed in convincing him to get off of it. However, Groo has already convinced a bunch of people to stow away aboard the ship with jewels and pottery and statues, so the ship is above its weight limit, and thus, Groo manages to sink the ship without even being on it. At the end of the series the status quo is restored. I was worried that the quality of Groo had gone down, but Gods Against Groo is as good as any other Groo comic. It’s amazing that an 85-year-old man can produce such high-quality art and writing. What’s even more amazing is that the next Groo miniseries has already been solicited.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #24 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. We learn that all the different future scenes were alternative possible futures, though it’s possible we knew that already. Lots of other weird stuff happens, and at the end, the protagonists proceed to the next zone. The big reveal at the end is that Chang seems to be a traitor, because he’s in communication with a giant Chinese fleet that’s waiting off the Pacific coast.

SHE-HULK #11 (Marvel, 2023) – “Girl Can’t Help It”, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Jen and Ben Grimm fight each other as part of their superhero fight club. Jen and Jack have a rather tense conversation. Then Jen and Sue Storm fight a mysterious villain who turns out to be just as strong as Jen. This issue is fun, but the only truly new thing in it is the mystery villain.

I HATE FAIRYLAND V2 #5 (Image, 2023) – “This World,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. This is perhaps the only comic I’ve read that comes with its own song, which is accessed by a QR code at the beginning of the issue. The song is meant to accompany the first part of the issue, which has no dialogue. In this sequence, Gert completes a series of fetch quests and eventually makes it out of hell into Fairyland. When she arrives there, she discovers that her client, Wiggins, has already gotten his son back. Now that Wiggins no longer needs Gert, he’s abandoned her in Fairyland with no way back to Earth, so Gert is stuck in Fairyland for the second time.

KAYA #6 (Image, 2023) – “Kaya and the Magic Arm,” [W/A] Wes Craig. This is a one-shot story that won’t be collected in trade paperback form. It’s a flashback story that explains the origin of Kaya’s prosthetic arm. In the flashback, Kaya is raised by an abusive mother who was determined to turn her daughter into the “Golden One.” Kaya’s mother forces her to endure a ritual in which she’s offered to a giant snake, but the snake bites Kaya, and her arm has to be amputated to stop the poison from spreading. Kaya’s uncle Kova, who actually cares about her, appeals to the “Black Wizards” to help Kaya. Kova obtains the magic arm, which stops the poison, and raises Kaya for the rest of her childhood. There’s also a backup story by an artist named Al Gofa whose style resembles that of Andrew MacLean.

NOCTERRA #12 (Image, 2023) – “No Brakes Part 1: If,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. This story arc is narrated by Emory, and this chapter’s title is the first of his five steps in problem-solving: if, then, how, why, because. Emory and his allies encounter Val, who survived being turned into a shade. Then they travel to Eos, but just before reaching it, they’re stopped by Blacktop Bill. There’s also a series of flashbacks, in which we learn that when Emory was four years old, his parents abandoned him in the middle of a highway.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jordan Ifueko, [A] Alba Glez. Lunella invents a device that can break Olivia’s mind control, and she obtains the ingredients for it with some help from the other Sad Saks. There are some cute scenes revolving around Will’s grandfather and Devinder’s big sister. The kids manage to de-brainwash their fourth member, Tasha, but the only way to rescue Olivia’s other victims is to destroy her hair tie, and their only opportunity to do that will be on the same night Lunella is scheduled to switch minds with Devil. A poignant moment in this issue is when Lunella’s mother says “I wish we lived in a world where a little black girl can roar and stomp around like a T. Rex in public, but some people out there will hurt you long before it occurs to them to help you.”

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. We begin with a flashback to Wren’s idyllic early childhood, and then her abuse at her foster home. In the present-day time frame, Kavita tells Grey that Wren’s monster murdered Grey’s brother. In the future timeframe, Grey gets angry at Wren and yells at her, causing her to go off by herself. This series’ depiction of child abuse and its long-term effects is very strong, but I don’t understand the behemoth-shepherd-scourge business.

FLASH #795 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Part 6: Give Me Liberty,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz et al. The Flash family decide to defeat the villains by shoving them backward in time, which works because of some mumbo jumbo that I couldn’t follow. Jai and Irey think this will also cause Wally to come back to life, and Linda and Barry don’t have the heart to tell them that it won’t work that way. However, on the last couple pages we see that Wally is still alive; he wakes up on a “Planet Flash” populated by various obscure superheroes. According to CBR, the inhabitants of Planet Flash were the same people Wally believed he’d killed in Heroes in Crisis. I didn’t know that, because I gave up on Heroes in Crisis after three issues.  

DAMN THEM ALL #6 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. Alfie’s ghost tells Ellie that he was dying anyway, so he performed a ritual in which he sacrificed himself to free all the demons in hell. This sequence seems inspired by the greatest Hellblazer storyline, “Dangerous Habits.” Ellie defeats Frankie by tricking him into summoning Andras, who promptly kills him. But that’s not the end of Ellie’s problems, and to complicate things even futher, the issue ends with some angels contacting Ellie to offer her a deal.

THE WASP #3 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Kasia Nie. The Creature from Kosmos traps Jan and Nadia in visions of the lives they’d have lived if Hank Pym had never existed. (I don’t know how Nadia could have existed without Hank, but that point is glossed over.) The Creature’s goal is to confront them with their fears that they would have been nothing without Hank, but they prove too strong for the Creature’s manipulation, so it decides to combine their visions into a single scenario where Nadia tries to assassinate Jan.

THE NEIGHBORS #1 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] Letizia Cadonici. Janet and Oliver, a transgender man, have just moved into a new house with their two daughters, a teenager and a toddler. The horror premise is that there’s something creepy about the neighbors, especially the old hag next door. But what’s really interesting about The Neighbors is its depiction of its protagonists and their tense relationships. Casey resents Oliver because Janet left her previous wife for him, and Oliver is paralyzed by his fear that the neighbors will realize he’s trans. I’m not sure how the parents are related to the children – neither child’s biological father is mentioned, and it’s not clear which partner gave birth to the baby – but I suppose that information isn’t relevant to the story.  

MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luca Maresca. Monica escapes from Moonstone’s insane asylum, but discovers that reality is still inconsistent. In order to save the universe, she has to figure out what she desires, so she seeks out someone who knows all about desire: Starfox. This character was rendered almost unusable when Dan Slott, in She-Hulk, established that he was a serial sexual predator, so it’s surprising to see him again here.

LITTLE MONSTERS #11 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. There’s no real plot development in this issue; it’s just about the vampires dealing with the discovery that the adult vampires are gone. I don’t remember much about this issue.

BATGIRLS #16 (DC, 2023) – “Everyone’s Mad Here!”, [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. The Batgirls track down the Mad Hatter, who’s responsible for most of the events of the past few issues. He turns Steph into a “Girl-Bat,” but she gets better. The closing scene, with Steph flying around and then dreaming about flying, is cute, but otherwise I’ve mostly forgotten this issue.

NO/ONE #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Higgins & Brian Buccellato, [A] Geraldo Borges. My copy of this issue has a giant hole in the middle. This is not intentional, and Heroes kindly offered to replace my copy, but on my two subsequent trips to the store I forgot to bring it back. No/One has a rather complicated plot, and before reading issue 2, I had to remind myself what the premise was and who the characters were. No/One’s protagonist is Ben Kern, a Pittsburgh police officer, whose son, Aaron, has been accused of a series of murders. But the murders are continuing even after Aaron is in custody, and Ben decides to solve them himself. A mysterious masked vigilante named No/One is also involved somehow, and there’s a subplot about a reporter named Julia. No/One #1 is a pretty good debut issue, with exciting artwork and a strong sense of local specificity.

BLACK CLOAK #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Meredith McClaren. Phaedra and Pax find Freyal’s last recording, which suggests that he killed himself. We get a brief look at Pax’s wife and child. Phaedra and Pax decide to ask the mermaids for clues. This comic’s plot is finally starting to make sense to me. It’s less accessible than Kelly Thompson’s other work because I’m not already familiar with its universe.

ALL AGAINST ALL #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. V’lmann succeeds in getting her dad out of the crocodile’s body, but Cov’n implants himself in the body of a giant crocodile, and he’s about to kill Helpless. This comic has gorgeous art, and it’s also effective as science fiction; it examines how the aliens’ psychology and culture are affected by being able to switch bodies whenever they want.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #13 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Butcher’s Return Part 3,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Antonio Fuso. Jolie manipulates Sunny into joining the Butcher Shop or Maison du Boucher or whatever it is now. To Sunny, it seems like a much gentler place than it really is. Jace wanders around New Orleans and remembers his past history with Jolie. Sunny wakes up at night to find a monster attacking him. This issue is an evocative depiction of New Orleans. I’ve only been there once, but this issue reminds me of when I was there.

GRIM #9 (Boom!, 2023) – “Sympathy for the Guardian,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano.  The protagonists find the gateway to hell, but it’s guarded by a demon who looks like Siegfried and Roy, complete with tiger. Marcel has a memory of when he killed his lover to put him out of his misery, and then he’s pulled into hell. Grim’s story is all right, but I think my favorite thing about it is its art, and in particular its color scheme. Rico Renzi is one of the premier colorists in comic books. I’m surprised he’s never gotten an Eisner nomination.  

BLUE BOOK #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. Betty and Barney get back home safely, but are still troubled by their alien encounter. This issue was a bit more substantial than the last issue, but this series still feels like a summary of a story, rather than an actual story, and neither Betty nor Barney has much of a personality. The backup story, by Oeming alone, is a retelling of the English legend of the Green Children of Woolpit.

SUPERMAN #2 (DC, 2023) – “The Night of the Parasite,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jamal Campbell. Superman continues his fight with the Parasite, who’s been split up into an army of microscopic Parasites. There’s also a cameo appearance by Marilyn Moonlight, who reminds me of the characters in Adventureman. This series is readable, but so far it’s not particularly great, and its coloring is way too dark. I wish it would focus more on the Superman family, but those characters are mostly appearing in Action Comics, and that series’s creative team  doesn’t appeal to me.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #47 (Marvel, 2023) – “Revenge of the Brood Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. In order to free Binary from the Brood’s machine, Carol has to let herself be trapped by the machine instead. Also, Rogue and Hazmat have a cute conversation. We now know that Kelly Thompson’s run is ending with issue 50, and this storyline is not an ideal conclusion to her run, because it’s kind of boring. I really hope we at least get to see Alriac and the Snats again.

SECRET INVASION #5 (Marvel, 2023) – “Everywhere We Need to Be,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. The Skrulls seem to have won, but Maria Hill (or her Skrull stand-in) plays her trump card: she didn’t actually kill the Skrull agents last issue, but instead enlisted them. Maria’s escape from the Helicarrier was faked, and while the Skrulls were monologuing, Maria was arresting all their agents. Then an army of superheroes arrives to defeat the remaining Skrulls. Squirrel Girl makes a cameo appearance here, but with no dialogue. This issue is a very satisfying conclusion, and this whole series demonstrates Ryan North’s extremely clever plotting. The series ends by suggesting a possible sequel, perhaps in the form of a Skrull Kill Krew revival. BTW, I should try to collect the original Skrull Kill Krew miniseries, because its creators included Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell.

WONDER WOMAN #797 (DC, 2023) – “The Reckoning Part 1,” [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Michael W. Conrad, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. This issue is mostly a tie-in with Lazarus Planet, which is not a very exciting crossover event, even though G. Willow Wilson is writing part of  it. The only really entertaining part of this issue is the brief appearance by Ratatosk. Cloonan and Conrad’s Wonder Woman is running out of steam, and I’m not sorry that it’s about to end. This issue also includes a Mary Marvel backup story by Caitlin Yarsky, which is a sequel to New Champion of Shazam.

AVENGERS: WAR ACROSS TIME #3 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Alan Davis. The Avengers battle Sindri and the Lava Men. This is a very simple and elemental Avengers story, with nothing innovative in terms of plot and characterization. It’s mostly worth reading for Alan Davis’s art.

WHITE SAVIOR #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Nguyen, [W] Scott Burman. Having killed Nathan Garin by accident, Todd has to pretend to be him. Todd battles the opposing champion, who turns out to be his friend Neal from the first issue. My problem with White Savior is that it’s severely overwritten. The jokes are funny, but they’re belabored so much that they stop being funny, and there’s so much text that the storytelling lacks any rhythm. Luckily there’s just one more issue.

BRZRKR #12 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. After the fight scene concludes, Unute loses his powers, and Diana reveals she’s pregnant. She gives birth to two children, who grow to become preteens in a couple pages. The government tries to recapture Unute again, and he gets killed. The kids leave to explore the world. BRZRKR was a very epic series, but it always kind of felt like a pilot for a film or a TV show, and I might not have finished reading it if I hadn’t already started it. I think I might skip the upcoming one-shot, which Kindt is not involved with.

FLASH #770 (DC,  2021) – “Blink of an Eye Chapter 3,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Jack Herbert et al. On this trip to Heroes, they had some $2 boxes, and I bought a few comics from these boxes. They brought the same boxes to the latest Charlotte Comic Con (see below) and between those events, I think I got all the issues of Jeremy Adams’s Flash that they had. The plot of Blink of an Eye is that Wally’s mind is bouncing between the bodies of various speedsters from different historical eras. In this issue, Wally, in the body of a young Jay Garrick, teams up with the Golden Age Ray, Happy Terrill, to recover the Spear of Destiny from Hitler. Wally/Jay and Happy have some funny moments together, but the other Flash family members only make brief appearances, and so this issue isn’t as fun as this Flash run usually is.

MONARCH #2 (Image, 2023) – “Stranger from Above Part 2: Home Sweet Home,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Alex Lins. The protagonist discovers he’s an alien sleeper agent who was sent to be raised on Earth. Monarch has an interesting premise and appears to be a realistic depiction of black life, and this issue includes some impressive page layouts. However, I get the sense that Monarch, like Killadelphia, is not quite living up to its potential.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #138 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. More fight scenes and plot developments that make no sense unless you’re also reading the Armageddon Game miniseries. Also, Seri’s plotline is resolved, but it’s still not clear why she was introduced into the series in the first place. I should have dropped this series several months ago, but it’s too late now, and thankfully Armageddon Game is almost over. The only thing I liked about this issue is that it spotlights the three little weasels, who are among the many great characters who have vanished from the series during the current crossover.

EARTHDIVERS #6 (IDW, 2023) – “Where the Future Comes to Die,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. The guy in 1492 finally kills Columbus just before he steps ashore, but gets killed himself, and history is ultimately unchanged. Meanwhile, the future plotline is resolved, but in an incomprehensible way. Kill Columbus had the potential to be fascinating, but I don’t think SGJ understands how to write comics yet. This series’ next storyline is set in 1776, and I think I might as well continue reading it, just to see if it’s any better than the first storyline.

THE FLASH #771 (DC, 2021) – as above except there are ten different credited artists. Wally travels through a long series of time periods until he finally enters the body of his son Jai, twenty years in the future. The future Irey seems like a wonderful young woman, and she’s married, but we aren’t told who her husband is, while Jai is in a relationship with a female time traveler. I think Jai’s girlfriend may be Gold Beetle from the One-Minute War Special, which I did not read. Anyway, Wally and Irey’s conversation is a very cute moment.

HARROWER #2 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Brahm Revel. The party starts, and of course the Harrower shows up and starts killing people. This is effectively a comic book version of a slasher movie, a genre that doesn’t interest me very much. I like this issue, but I still haven’t truly connected with Justin Jordan’s comics.

FAMILY TIME #4 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Lily Windom & Robert Windom, [A] Asiah Fulmore. The family escapes the past and returns to their own time, where they find that some of the people from the past are still alive. This felt like a conventional YA or middle-grade comic, with little about it that was innovative. The linework in my copy is often very blurry. I don’t know if that’s an intentional effect or a misprint.

IMMORTAL SERGEANT #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Joe Kelly, [A] J.M. Ken Niimura. Sergeant Jim drives drunk, insults his son Michael in public, and says racist things. Michael, despite being a married man and a father, is too much of a spineless wimp to prevent his father’s reckless behavior or resist his cruel bullying. Finally, Jim orders Michael to drop everything and drive to Georgia with him in pursuit of an alleged criminal. At that point, I was like, if Michael says yes to this, I’m dropping this series. And Michael did say yes, so this is my last issue. Just to explain why, the problem with Immortal Sergeant is that Jim is an utterly loathsome character, an abusive, bigoted drunk, and yet we’re supposed to admire him, as if he were some sort of loveable old man. And Michael isn’t much better. He’s so terrified of his father that he’s willing to abandon his family at the drop of the hat, just because his father asks him to. I hope the plot trajectory of this series is that Michael will finally grow a spine and tell his dad to fuck off. But I’m sick of waiting for that to happen.  

THE FLASH #774 (DC, 2021) – “Dream Big,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Christian Duce. Wally takes Irey to her first father-daughter dance. On the way there, they encounter a mad scientist who can turn dreams into reality, so the father-daughter dance turns into a father-daughter adventure. This is now my favorite issue of Jeremy Adams’s Flash. Irey is written in a realistic and age-appropriate way, and her interactions with Wally are just adorable. I especially like when Wally tries to get Irey to stay out of the fight because she’s not a superhero, and Irey repeats back to him his own advice that “being a hero isn’t about powers,” and Wally says “Grah! Remind me not to be such a good dad.” Also, Irey looks super cute in her formal dress. This issue reminds me of Savage Dragon #105, my favorite issue of that series, which is also about a father-daughter relationship.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Stark Realities Part 4: With a Heart of Steel,” [W] Dan Slott & Jim Zub, [A] Valerio Schiti & Paolo Rivera. The Controller tries to take over the world, and Tony is unable to stop him, because he’s stuck in a virtual reality in which the Silver Age never ended. Finally Tony’s mother, or some entity claiming to be her, enters Tony’s vision and tells him that he’s just a simulation of the original Tony Stark. I like this Iron Man run, though this issue is mostly a Silver Age homage and does not include most of Tony’s supporting cast.

THE X-CELLENT #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Unsocial Media Part 1,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. A straightforward continuation of the previous miniseries. This issue is narrated by the villain who’s a giant eye. This issue is entertaining enough, but it feels like a reiteration of an old formula, though I suppose the same could be said of Groo.

AVENGERS #9 facsimile (Marvel, 1964/2023) – “The Coming of the… Wonder Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. A reprint of the first appearance of Wonder Man. I don’t recall having read this story before, but I knew its basic outline. The Masters of Evil give Simon Williams superpowers so he can defeat the Avengers for them, but the superpowers are fatal to him, and just before he’s about to die, Simon switches sides and sacrifices himself to defeat the Avengers. Though it’s actually more poignant than that, because Baron Zemo has the antidote to Simon’s terminal condition, and Simon decides he’d rather die than allow Zemo to continue holding his life hostage. Simon didn’t come back to life permanently until about twelve years later.

DANGER STREET #4 (DC, 2023) – “Lady Cop,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornés. Like the previous issues, this issue is a series of vignettes that are barely connected to each other. The most notable plot point is that Manhunter kills one of the Green Team. I have reason to hope this series will be better than some of Tom King’s other recent works, because it’s not trying anything ambitious; it’s just supposed to be weird and funny, and so far, it is.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #11 (Image, 2023) – [E] Eric Stephenson? The highlight of this issue is Emi Lenox’s Ghost Makers, a Western story in which the heroine rides a giant (Siamese?) cat. I want to see more of this series, if only because of the cat. There’s also a Major Bummer story by Arcudi and Mahnke. It’s not identified as Major Bummer, but that’s clearly what it is. I was surprised by this, because I assumed DC owned the rights to that series, but perhaps they only own the name and not the characters. And then there’s another preview of Layman and Jok’s In Hell We Fight, which looks like a very fun series. The marquee story in this issue is a new chapter of Pretty Deadly, but I’ve always hated Pretty Deadly.

THE FLASH #779 (DC, 2022) – “Vengeance is Mine! Part 3,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin & Matt Ryan. Wally, the kids, and Maxine Baker team up to defeat Eclipso in Starbreaker’s body. Back home, Linda discovers she’s gained superspeed powers. Irey and Maxine’s friendship is a really cute and clever idea. It’s rare for superheroes’ children to be friends with each other, simply because there aren’t a lot of superheroes who have young children. Franklin Richards and Power Pack are almost the only other example of such a friendship.

SPY SUPERB #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue is basically the same type of story that Kindt has been telling in earlier works like MIND MGMT and Super Spy. The thing that makes Spy Superb interesting is the protagonist, who manages to succeed despite beign totally naïve and incompetent. In this issue Spy Superb survives his latest adventure and decides to continue being a spy, so there’s room for a possible squel.

U.S.AVENGERS #8 (Marvel, 2017) – “I Was Once Where You Are Now,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. In a flashback, a young Toni Ho learns of the death of her father, Ho Yinsen, and blames Tony Stark for it. In the present, Toni escapes from a Hydra prison cell, and some of the other USAvengers team up with some European superheroes, including Faiza Hussain from Captain Britain and MI:13. This whole series was extremely fun.

DARK KNIGHTS OF STEEL: TALES OF THE THREE KINGDOMS #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. In the lead story, a young Superman and Batman solve the mystery of Elizabeth Arkham’s orphanage, where she’s been turning orphaned children into monsters. Besides being cute, this story includes a very scary-looking Man-Bat. Caspar Wijngaard is extremely good at drawing monsters, though his monsters look similar to those of Michael Dialynas. There are two other backup stories, one of which is written by C.S. Pacat. I should have started reading Dark Knights of Steel when it came out, but I will try to collect the back issues instead.

IMMORAL X-MEN #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “Four-Letter Words,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Just another far-future story that makes little sense and has no emotional impact, since none of the characters will last more than one issue, and anyway they’re all just clones of other preexisting characters. Indeed, there are so many different characters in Sins of Sinister that it’s impossible to remember which of them are clones, or which of them are on the same side, or anything else about them. I’ll be glad when Sins of Sinister is over.

HEXWARE #4 (Image, 2023) – “The Servant’s Game,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. The kid saves Jesi’s dad from some demons. Jesi/Whichwhere gets trapped by the demons and finds herself in a snowy forest, where she’s back in Jesi’s body, while Whichwhere is an android again. This series is so overcomplicated that I feel reluctant to read issue 5, even though I already have it.

STORM AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MUTANTS #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “No Hope,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Andrea Di Vito. The funny thing about this issue is that it starts with a Star-Wars-style opening crawl, which even begins with “It is a time of civil war.” And this whole issue is an homage to the original Star Wars film. I guess that makes this issue marginally more interesting than most of the Sins of Sinister tie-ins.

INFERNO GIRL RED #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mat Groom, [A] Erica D’Urso. Erica transforms into her Super Saiyan form and defeats the villain, but Ana is teleported away to parts unknown. The issue ends with a black-and-white story which was created for the series’ Kickstarter campaign. Inferno Girl Red was an excellent miniseries, with strong artwork and an effective depiction of a mother-daughter relationship, and I hope there’ll be a sequel.

WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2023) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. All this issue’s stories are connected by a framing sequence in which She-Hulk defends the other protagonists in court. It’s not clear why all the protagonists are being tried together, since their alleged crimes have nothing to do with each other. And the three inset stories are just average. The one where Silk and Black Cat sing karaoke is probably the best. The second story references the 2021 America Chavez miniseries, which I prefer to pretend was never published.

FLASH #780 (DC, 2022) – “The War for Earth-3,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Will Conrad. Wally and the kids return from their Gemworld adventure, but Linda declines to tell Wally about her new powers. In the second half of the issue, Wally fights Mirror Master and the Earth-3 Johnny Quick. This part of the issue is a crossover tie-in, and it’s a waste of space.  

ART BRUT #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. I couldn’t quite follow this issue’s plot, but the issue is full of beautiful homages to famous paintings. A funny line is “Run, get to the Hopper,” a reference to the line “get to the chopper” from Predator. I still think Art Brut relies too much on the famous paintings everyone has heard of. If there is a second story arc, I hope it will display a deeper and broader knowledge of art.

ENFANTS, C’EST L’HYDRAGON QUI PASSE (Casterman, 1984) – [W/A] Jean-Claude Forest. I bought this at the Fantagraphics store at the same time I bought Les Innommables volume 1. In this standalone graphic novel, ten-year-old Jules and his father run away from Jules’s abusive mother and find employment aboard a riverboat, which Jules names the Hydragon after a creature he sees in a dream. They get involved in a complicated Communist spy plot which is never resolved, but the real focus is on Jules’s emotions and his growing maturity. The climax of the book occurs when Jules successfully pilots the boat under a bridge, even though the river is so swollen that there’s barely enough clearance. The whole book is very poetic and wistful, thanks in large part to Forest’s beautiful prose, although his large blocks of text make the book difficult to read. Forest is only remembered in the Anglophone world as the creator of Barbarella, but he was far more than that. As Patrick Gaumer writes in the Dictionnaire mondial de la BD, “”Imaginative scripter, dialogue writer without equal, innovative and original artist, Jean-Claude Forest is an authentic poet.” I agree with Gaumer much more than with the late Maurice Horn, who described Forest as “the classic example of a great talent gone to waste due to a lack of direction and purpose.”

On April 2nd, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Con, where I bought the following comics:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #176 (Marvel, 1978) – “He Who Laughs Last…!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. Spidey harasses JJJ, Aunt May has a heart attack while protesting against ageism, and then Spidey fights the Green Goblin, who I believe is Bart Hamilton and not Harry Osborn. Len Wein and Ross Andru are perhaps this series’ most underrated creative team. Wein’s dialogue was witty, and Andru’s art was exciting. Their run represents the end of the series’ original classic period.  

TEEN TITANS #25 (DC, 1970) –  “The Titans Kill a Saint?”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Nick Cardy. Lilith. In her first appearance, Lilith warns the Titans that they’re going to cause someone’s death. The Titans attend a peace rally which turns into a riot, and someone pulls out a gun. While the Titans are all trying to grab the gun, it goes off, and the keynote speaker, Nobel Prize winner Arthur Svenson, is fatally shot. I assume Svenson is based on Albert Schweitzer. The Titans are so guilty about his death that they decide to give up being superheroes, and Robin leaves the team to go to college. (This issue came out around the same time as Batman #217, which also depicted Robin making the same decision.) Conveniently, Mr. Jupiter, who also makes his first appearance here, appoints himself as the Titans’ new mentor. Teen Titans #25 is a very overwrought and hysterical story, but Nick Cardy’s artwork powerfully conveys the Titans’ tortured emotions, and his action scenes are beautiful.

UNCLE SCROOGE #19 (Dell, 1957) – “The Mines of King Solomon,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge goes on a worldwide tour to inspect his various properties. He brings his nephews along, and Huey, Dewey and Louie cause all sorts of mishaps by practicing animals’ calls. While in Arabia, Scrooge discovers a clue to the location of King Solomon’s mines, but a group of Bedouin bandits are pursuing the ducks, and the nephews have to use their skill at animal calls to save the day. Besides its insensitive depictions of the Bedouins, “The Mines of King Solomon” is a classic Barksian adventure story. This issue also includes a Gyro Gearloose backup story.

HOT WHEELS #4 (DC, 1970) – “Eye of the Storm,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Alex Toth. Team member Hank Jeffries is injured in a dune buggy crash. With him absent, his teammates Jack and Tank have to take his place and deliver some life-saving medication to an old man. By coincidence, the old man is Tank’s estranged grandfather. This is a well-written and touching story, but of course its main draw is Toth’s spectacular visual storytelling. In the two action sequences, Toth makes heavy use of vertical panels that span the width of the page, and in the second of these sequences, which takes place at night in a storm, Toth shows his amazing skill at spotting blacks. The backup story, drawn by Ric Estrada, is a rather sexist spotlight on the Hot Wheels team’s only female member.

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #30 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Treasure of Sierra Fantasma” and “Happy Haunting Grounds,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. My copy of this issue is missing its back cover, but I decided to buy it anyway, since these Gold Key Scoobys are so hard to find. In the first story, a town is haunted by the ghost of the bandit Enrique Ladrón. The twist is that the culprit is Enrique Ladrón himself, who’s still alive at the age of 105. Ladrón means thief, and I wonder if Evanier learned this word from Sergio. The backup story is based on the old cliché where a villainous oilman tries to cheat some Indians out of their land, because there’s oil under it (and sadly, this is a cliché because it happened all the time in real life).

FOUR COLOR #1309 (Dell, 1962) – 87th Precinct: “Blind Man’s Bluff…”, [W] Lionel Ziprin?, [A] Bernie Krigstein. This is one of the strangest comics in my collection. It starts off as a typical mystery story. Four people are murdered after having their portraits painted by the same painter, so Teddy Carella, the deaf wife of detective Steve Carella, decides to pose for the painter to see what’s going on. But then things take a bizarre turn. The painter reveals that he’s blind, but he can still paint because he developed extra-sensory perception after a blow to the head. Then just as he’s about to kill Teddy, she uses telepathy to summon Steve to save her. According to the text feature on the backup cover, the writer seems to have believed that telepathy and ESP were both possible. It’s clear that this story was written by the same writer as Kona and Voyage to the Deep #1, and I’m starting to believe that this writer really was the beatnik Kabbalist Lionel Ziprin. “Blind Man’s Bluff…” is a typical example of this writer’s work because of its bizarre plot twists and its credulous acceptance of pseudoscience. The other notable thing about this issue is that it was Bernie Krigstein’s last comics work. It also may be his longest story, and it’s the only comic in my collection that contains an original Krigstein story. He said in a 1963 interview with John Benson that he hated the script, so he illustrated it in an intentionally bizarre way. Regrettably I can’t find this interview online. “Blind Man’s Bluff”’s artwork, like its plot, starts out very sober but gets weirder and weirder as it goes on. There’s one panel early in the story where Krigstein uses the multiple-image technique he developed in “Master Race.” Krigstein may be the preeminent example in comics history of a great artist whose talents were never allowed to develop. If he had had the opportunity to do more stories like “Master Race,” the entire history of American comics might have been different. But instead he spent his later years as a teacher at the High School of Art and Design, refusing to discuss his comics career.

LOCKE & KEY #6 (IDW, 2008) – “Welcome to Lovecraft Chapter 6,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. One of my best finds at the convention was a bunch of Locke & Keys for a dollar each. This series has become tough to find because of the popularity of the TV show. I’ve read this story before in trade paperback form, but I don’t remember it well. In this issue, Sam Lesser holds the entire family hostage. He apparently kills Tyler, but he does it while Tyler is lying in the ghost door, so Tyler comes back to life and saves the day. Meanwhile, Bode lets Dodge out of her captivity in the well, and Dodge uses the gender-changer key to turn into a boy named Zack. Sam Lesser is just a terrifying villain, a heartless murderer with no concern for anything but himself, though Dodge is even worse. The last panel of the issue is a depiction of all the various keys. One reason why Locke & Key was so successful was because of Gabriel Rodriguez’s stellar design work. He designed the keys so that not only are they attractive, but also their appearance indicatese what they do.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #11 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Invasion from Pal-Ul-Don,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. On a visit to Pal-Ul-Don, the “lost world” introduced in Tarzan the Terrible, Korak fights some dinosaurs and some men dressed as crocodiles. Russ Manning was not a particularly good dinosaur artist – he was better at drawing robots – but his action sequences in this issue are beautiful. In the backup story, also by Manning, Korak and Jad-Bal-La meet Queen La of Opar. There’s also a four-page Jon of the Kalahari story with art by Jesse Marsh.

DAREDEVIL #72 (Marvel, 1971) – “Lo! The Lord of the Leopards!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. Matt fights Tagak the Leopard Lord, a villain who’s in fact a hero from an alternate dimension. Tagak’s only other appearances were in Defenders #62-64, though I wonder if that story explained why he was on Earth rather than in his home dimension. As stated by, the theme of this issue is that it’s wrong to judge others by their looks. This is also demonstrated when a hippie offers to help Matt, and Matt thinks, “Some people would have called him a bum – a worthless freeloader… and yet – that bum offered help to a blind man…!”

TOMAHAWK #119 (DC, 1968) – “Bait for a Buzzard!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Frank Thorne. This issue has a classic Neal Adams cover, showing Tomahawk tied to stakes under the desert sun. But the story that corresponds to this cover is kind of dumb; it’s just a Revolutionary War version of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. There’s a backup story, by Ed Herron and Fred Ray, which is also set in the Revolutionary War era. I thought this story was a reprint, but the GCD indicates that it’s a new story. Ed “France” Herron died in 1966, but it’s probable that he did write this story, and that it was published posthumously.

KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLE #9 (Dell, 1964) – “The Giants of the Desert,” [W] Lionel Ziprin?, [A] Sam Glanzman. Kona and his human companions find themselves in the desert, where they fight giant crabs, a phoenix, and various other creatures. This issue is actually less weird than Four Color #1309, but it still seems to be written by the mystery writer who may or may not be Lionel Ziprin. The GCD attributes the early issues of Kona to Don Segall, but Martin O’Hearn, who may be responsible for that attribution, says that he no longer agrees with it. The problem with attributing Kona to Don Segall is that Segall is known to have written various other comics, including Showcase #73, and I assume his other work doesn’t show the same bizarre tendencies as Kona.

WONDER WOMAN #212 (DC, 1974) – “The Man Who Mastered Women!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. Diana loses her memory and decides to quit the Justice League, but they beg her to stay. Diana agrees as long as the Justice League monitors her next twelve adventures. In the first of these “twelve labors,” Diana saves the “Pamanasian” prime minister Indira Gamal (Indira Gandhi + Gamal Abdel Nasser) from the Cavalier. “The Twelve Labors of Wonder Woman” was an insulting and sexist story that erased most of the progress Diana had made during the no-costume years. Martin Pasko, who wrote the later part of the story, at least tried to mitigate the damage that the story was doing to Diana’s character.

THE PHANTOM #20 (King, 1967) – “The Adventures of the Girl Phantom,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Bill Lignante. While the 17th Phantom is ill, his sister, Julie, dresses up as him. Julie looks really cute in the Phantom costume, and Bill Lignante’s artwork is striking. Julie Walker was created by Lee Falk in 1952, though some sources wrongly give 1969 as the date, and she’s been extensively used by other creators. This issue also includes another Phantom story by Jerry Siegel and Lignante, and a Flash Gordon story drawn by Gil Kane.

TEEN TITANS ACADEMY #1 (DC, 2021) – “Admissions,” [W] Tim Sheridan, [A] Rafa Sandoval. We’re introduced to the new freshman class of Teen Titans Academy. These characters seem interesting enough, but there are a ton of them, and only a few of them get any kind of a spotlight. The issue also devotes a lot of space to the adult Titans. Of course I always love seeing Nightwing interact with Starfire, but this is supposed to be Teen Titans Academy, not New Teen Titans. Overall, this issue is fun, but not as fun as Strange Academy.

THE WALKING DEAD #106 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Negan kidnaps Carl, Rick tries to find him, and if anything else happens in this issue, I didn’t notice. One reason I like to collect this series is that each issue is a very fast read.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #7 (DC, 2003) – “Half a Life Part 2,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Michael Lark. This was the only issue I was missing prior to #28. It’s also one of the best issues of the entire series. At this point, Renee Montoya has just been forcibly outed as a lesbian, and all her coworkers are uneasy around her. The revelation that Renee was gay was more controversial back then (it seems strange to say “back then,” when I can clearly remember buying this series as it was coming out) than it would be now, but this issue’s treatment of intersectionality is still revolutionary even now. Maggie Sawyer tells Renee “I’ve been where you are.” Renee takes exception to that, listing all the ways her Dominican ethnicity makes it more difficult for her to be openly gay than for Maggie, a white woman. Later, Renee’s brother shames her because her elderly parents are suffering for her “choice.” These scenes show how Renee’s Dominican and queer identities are working at cross purposes, making her a minority  of a minority in two different senses, and that’s part of what intersectionality means. Michael Lark’s artwork in this issue is impeccable. I liked his art better in this series than in Lazarus.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #160 (Marvel, 1976) – “My Killer, the Car!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. Spidey’s own Spider-Mobile tries to kill him. It turns out that this is due to a plot by the Tinkerer, who appears here for the first time since issue 2. In that issue it was established that the Tinkerer was an alien, but here the Tinkerer says that his alien nature was just “a ruse,” without explaining further. See here and here for the later history of this retcon. The Spider-Mobile was a terrible idea, but at least this issue includes some well-drawn action sequences, as well as a funny moment when Spidey walks up the walls and ceiling of his apartment. The advertising executives Carter and Lombardo, who appear briefly at the end of this issue, are based on Stan Lee and Roy Thomas.

FLASH #783 (DC, 2022) – “The Search for Barry Allen Part 1,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Mr. Terrific opens a portal into the Speed Force to look for the missing Barry Allen, but Irey and Jay jump into the portal, and Wally and the other speedsters have to chase after them. Then there’s a sequence where Barry is living an idyllic life with Iris and their twin children (Don and Dawn), but somehow Wally and Ace get stuck in the bodies of Barry and his version of Wally.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #2 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This issue’s opening scene is funny: Bode searches the house for something that the head key can open, and then on the splash page, we see that he has a lock in the base of his skull. The issue ends with Bode using the key to unlock his own head. In the rest of the issue, Duncan decides to leave town, Tyler gets recruited for the hockey team, and one of the teachers commits suicide, though I think he was actually murdered by Dodge.

BATMAN #290 (DC, 1977) – “Skull Dugger’s Killjoy Capers!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Mike Grell. Batman fights a murderer who causes skulls to appear on his victims’ foreheads. To defeat him, Batman has to free Dr. Tzin-Tzin from prison. This issue is rather stupid, and Grell’s art is not his best.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #2 (IDW, 2009) – “Chapter 2: In the Cave,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Scot Kavanaugh tells Kinsey that her dad’s name is written on a wall in the Drowning Cave. With two other kids, Jamal and Jackie, they visit the cave to see the inscription, but the caves are flooded with water. Kinsey recklessly goes underwater to read the inscription, and then the stairs to the cave collapse, putting Kinsey and Jamal at risk of drowning. Just as they’re about to die, they find a way out of the water. As the issue ends, we see that Luke ‘Dodge’ Caravaggio’s name is written below Rendel Locke’s name, and below that is a dead body, I don’t know whose. The near-drowning scene is one of Locke & Key’s scarier moments, especially the part where Kinsey and Jamal are about to resign themselves to death.

BATMAN #242 (DC, 1972) – “Bruce Wayne – Rest in Peace!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. In preparation for his final battle with Ra’s al Ghul, Batman fakes Bruce Wayne’s death. Then he recruits some allies, including Lo Ling, Harris Blaine, and Matches Malone. Bruce accidentally causes Matches Malone’s death, but then pretends to be him. Matches Malone would later become Batman’s standard disguise. This story is an integral part of the first Ra’s al Ghul saga, though it’s not drawn by Neal Adams. The Robin backup story, by Mike Friedrich and Rich Buckler, guest-stars Lilith and her cousin Terri. The latter character was Dick’s girlfriend for a short time, but she never appeared again after this issue. There’s also a story reprinted from Batman #7.

MURDER FALCON #8 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. A heavy metal band uses music to defeat some giant monsters. There are some powerful moments in this issue, including the scene where the band sets up their instruments on the deck of an aircraft carrier, with a wall of amplifiers behind them. However, based on this issue, I don’t like Murder Falcon as much as Extremity or Do a Powerbomb, though issue 8 is not the best place to start.

THE FLASH #785 (DC, 2022) – as above. In an alternate dimension, Jai and Irey meet a young boy who tells them that Barry Allen is ruling his city as an evil overlord. But when they meet Barry, they learn that this is false, and the “boy” is a backward-aging villain, Knives Maroney. Max and Jesse meet another alternate version of Barry, and Wally and Linda meet the “real” Barry, who heads off to save the Justice League. That plot thread is continued in Dark Crisis.

PREZ #1 (DC, 1973) – “Oh Say Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?”, [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. Thanks to a string of nonsensical plot twists, a teenager becomes a candidate for President. This comic was published just two years after the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which allows 18-year-olds to vote, and it can be read as a sort of fantasy of how politics might be affected by teenagers’ involvement. (At the time, there were fears that teenagers would outvote adults. It’s too bad that didn’t happen.) However, it’s also full of other random nonsense, including one sequence that’s a blatant example of the “vanishing Indian” stereotype. Perhaps the best part of this issue is the “Boss of Slum City” sequence, which contains depictions of urban squalor that are reminiscent of Kirby’s “Street Code.” Mark Russell’s revival version of Prez, published forty years later, was much better than the original, though both versions were left incomplete.

ADVENTURE COMICS #311 (DC, 1963) – “The War Between the Substitute Heroes and the Legionnaires!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] John Forte. I’ve read almost all the good Legion comics, and even most of the bad ones, so now I’m kind of scraping the barrel. In this issue, the Legionnaires harass the Subs and try to force them to disband. This sort of asshole behavior was normal for Silver Age superheroes, so I was actually kind of surprised by the realization that the “Legionnaires” were actually alien impostors who had kidnapped the real Legion. The only notable piece of characterization in this story is Night Girl’s unrequited love for Cosmic Boy. This issue also includes a terrible Superbaby backup story.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #25 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “Dark City…”, [W/A] Bob Burden. This issue is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover. Raphael leaves his brothers and encounters a strange alien plot. Having been deprived of his memory, he meets the Flaming Carrot, who convinces him to dress up as a superhero called the Dark Avenger. The Flaming Carrot’s stories all seem rather similar to me, so the crossover with the Turtles is a nice way of changing up the usual formula.

FANTASTIC FOUR #149 (Marvel, 1974) – “To Love, Honor, and Destroy!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler. The FF fight Namor, and Sue, who was estranged from Reed at the time, realizes that he really loves her. On the last page, Namor reveals that his attack on New York was just a plot to get Reed and Sue back together. I haven’t read all of the issues leading up to this one, and I’m not sure whether Reed or Sue was more at fault in their marital dispute (see here for some differing opinions). However, their sudden reconciliation is very unsatisfying because they still haven’t resolved any of the issues that led them to separate in the first place. Later writers have had to work very hard to convince readers that Reed is still worthy of Sue’s love.

MIGHTY SAMSON #19 (Gold Key, 1969) – “Day of the Deluge,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Jack Sparling. Samson has to save his friends from the flooded ruins of New York. The flooded cityscape in this city is a striking setting, reminding me of the first Valerian album, and Jack Sparling’s artwork is not bad. I somehow thought that Dan Spiegle drew this series, but I guess not. I’m interested in collecting more of this series, simply because it’s an old and reasonably good comic that I haven’t already collected in its entirety.

 UNKNOWN WORLDS #55 (ACG, 1967) – “The Ghost Gets Even!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Pete Costanza, etc. This issue’s main story includes a funny moment where some mobsters break into a screenwriter’s house and tell him “You writers got plenty of dough and you probably got some of it stashed away in the house here.” This may have been an intentional joke – I’m sure Richard Hughes was aware of how little money writers actually make. The backup story is about a cowardly boy who saves the world from an alien invasion, despite himself. There’s a scene in this story where a giant little girl dresses up the protagonist as a doll. This is probably inspired by Gulliver’s Travels.

DETECTIVE COMICS #384 (DC, 1969) – “Whatever Will Happen to Heiress Heloise?”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Bob Brown. A crook pretends to be a missing heiress who disappeared at age six, but her plans are foiled when the real heiress shows up. This story is a gender-swapped version of either the Tichborne Case or the story of Martin Guerre. There’s a Batgirl backup story by Mike Friedrich and Gil Kane. This story has some beautiful action sequences, and it’s not as sexist as I feared.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #6 (IDW, 2010) – “Beyond Repair,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Nina and Bode find the Mending Key, which unlocks a cabinet that can repair broken items placed in it. Nina has the bright idea of putting her husband’s ashes inside the cabinet. This does not work, but awkwardly enough, Tyler shows up just then, and Nina almost commits accidental incest. Nina has a mental breakdown and breaks Rendell’s urn… and the Omega Key is in it.

MARVEL MILESTONES: BEAST & KITTY PRYDE (Marvel, 1972/1982/2006) – “The Beast!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Tom Sutton. This comic includes a reprint of Amazing Adventures #11, which I had never actually read, although I have the three subsequent issues. “The Beast!” is the story in which Hank McCoy gets mutated into his furry form. It’s essentially a werewolf story – it gives the impression that Hank is now a monster, terrifying both to others and to himself. Tom Sutton was an appropriate choice of artist for this story, given its emphasis on horror. It was only later on that Hank’s blue furry appearance was reimagined as cute instead of scary. The other half of this issue is a reprint of X-Men #153, “Kitty’s Fairy Tale.” I know this story very well, but it was nice to revisit it, since I haven’t reread it in a long time.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #30 (Gold Key, 1968) – “Attack of the Planet Creatures,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The family saves the crew of a spaceship that’s been disabled by sentient carnivorous plants. This comic’s plot is occasionally confusing, and its characterization is wooden, but it’s a fun comic anyway. Like Mighty Samson, Space Family Robinson was a long-running Gold Key comic that was not spectacular, but was consistently readable.

THE WALKING DEAD #114 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Negan wrongly thinks he’s killed Andrea. Rick has a standoff with Negan, and Rick is forced to back down, but then both Rick and Negan prepare for war, and Carl tells Rick to make sure he kills Negan. It seems like Negan is kind of like the Joker, in that he keeps coming back because the hero keeps refusing to deal with him permanently.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – RA’S AL GHUL #1 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Ivan Reis. Ra’s al Ghul decides to kill the thirty oligarchs who are causing the worst damage to the  environment. Batman tries to stop him, but ultimately fails and gets killed himself, though he’s revived in a Lazarus Pit. Batman and Ra’s have a final confrontation, obviously based on the desert fight scene in Batman #244. This is a compelling story because Ra’s is actually on the right side – the people he’s killing actually do deserve to die, and the world would be much better off without them. It’s only Ra’s’s methods and not his goals that are immoral, because Ra’s kills a lot of innocent people in the process of assassinating his targets. To me, some of the most compelling villains are the ones who could just as easily have been heroes instead – and the reverse is also true; often the most compelling heroes are the ones who constantly strive to avoid becoming villains.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #65 (DC, 1966) – “Alias Negative Man!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Dick Giordano. The Brotherhood of Evil captures Negative Man inside a lead coffin. With him out of the way, Garguax executes his plot to turn the human race evil by means of subliminal messaging. The Chief recruits the Flash to masquerade as Negative Man and foil the plot. This is essentially a Doom Patrol story, and the Flash, despite having top billing on the cover, doesn’t show up until page 13. Nonetheless, this issue is a fun piece of Silver Age wackiness.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #5 (Ahoy, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. The old billionaire’s handler manages to get the code to Business Dog’s money, and he proceeds to eliminate anyone else who knows the code. There are a couple tangents, including a historical excursus about the positive economic effects of the Black Death, and a parable about opportunity – the baby birds that survive are the ones that hatch first, because they can kick the other eggs out of the nest.

THE FORGED #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Eric Trautmann & Mike Henderson. The Forged is about a team of cloned space soldiers who fight in the service of a villainous expansionist empress. Military science fiction is not a genre I associate with Greg Rucka, but this series feels like a natural expansion of his interests, because his stories have often focused on female soldiers and secret agents (Tara Chace, Kate Kane, Forever Carlyle, etc.) The thing I don’t like about The Forged is its large format. Comics in this format are inconvenient to store, and while the artwork in The Forged is good, I still wish it was the size of a normal comic book.

SWAMP THING: GREEN HELL #3 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doug Mahnke. There’s nothing very surprising about this issue, but it offers a satisfying conclusion to the New 52 Swamp Thing and Animal Man, and it’s also quite well-drawn. I just wish this series hadn’t been so badly delayed.

SECRET HEARTS #136 (DC, 1969) – “Let’s Pretend Kisses!”, [W] unknown, [A] Ric Estrada, etc. This issue’s first story has a generic plot, but at least it has some cute and modern-looking art. The next story is a reprint from Secret Hearts #37, published in 1957, and it has a clichéd plot in which the protagonist goes to Hollywood to seek fame, but returns home to her original boyfriend. The last story is “Reach for Happiness!” part 27 by Jack Miller and Jay Scott Pike. This story has a soap-opera plot, and its title may be a reference to the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. The lack of recurring characters or plots was a major flaw of the entire romance comics genre, and “Reach for Happiness” was at least an attempt to address that problem.

BATMAN #408 (DC, 1987) – “Did Robin Die Tonight?”, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Chris Warner. This is the first appearance of the post-Crisis Jason Todd, who was an insufferable little jerk, unlike the pre-Crisis Jason Todd, who was very similar to Dick Grayson. This issue includes the famous scene where Jason tries to steal the Batmobile’s tires. There’s also a plot about a school for troubled teens that turns out to be a front for criminal activity. This plot  seems somehow typical of Max Collins. This issue includes a flashback to Batman’s parents’ deaths, and this flashback ends with a swipe of the cover of Batman #404, so just one issue after Year One ended, it had already become part of Batman’s iconography. This issue’s letter column includes an extremely negative response to Batman #404:

CASES FROM THE FILES OF SAM PEZZO, P.I. (Catalan, 1983?/1987) – “The Jockey Rides” and “Shit City 1 and 2,” [W/A] Vittorio Giardino. A series of three interconnected stories focusing on a hard-boiled detective in Bologna (according to the Spanish Wikipedia). The stories focus on horse racing and a Chinese crime syndicate. Sam Pezzo seems to be inspired by Alack Sinner, but unlike Muñoz, Giardino draws in a Clear Line style, though with extensive spotting of blacks. I get the sense that Sam Pezzo is not as important as Giardino’s other major works, Max Fridman and Jonas Fink (aka A Jew in Communist Prague), but it’s interesting. Catalan only released this one volume of Sam Pezzo. There are a bunch more Sam Pezzo stories that haven’t been translated – the Catalan volume corresponds to only the last of the four volumes of the French edition.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #2 (IDW, 2010) – “White,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Kinsey discovers that Erin Voss, whose name is written on the wall in the Drowning Cave, is still alive but is confined in a mental hospital. Kinsey decides to visit Erin, but she’s terrified of white people, thanks to Dodge’s attempt to kill her. But Bode discovers a mirror that can change a person’s race, so Kinsey and Bode turn themselves black and visit Erin in the asylum. Unfortunately, Dodge is also on Erin’s trail, and he kills her, as well as several other people, just after Kinsey uses the Head Key on her. All Kinsey manages to learn from Erin is that Dodge is a person’s name. Kinsey is blamed for Dodge’s murders, since she was a black person at the time. This issue skirts some very dangerous territory in terms of racial representation, but it manages to be sensitive rather than offensive. Kinsey puts on blackface, but by doing so, she learns about all the casual racism that she’s usually able to ignore. And Hill gives the reader the sense that Kinsey and Bode’s use of blackface is an unacceptable thing to do.

AIRBOY #7 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Party Time,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. Airboy discoevrs that his company is bankrolling all sorts of dictators and criminals. He tries to get the company out of this type of business, but his own board members kidnap him. Meanwhile, Valkyrie encounters an old wartime acquaintance, Victor Heller. This issue includes a letter by David Malcolm Porta, in which he seems to argue that America should support dictators as long as they’re not Communist dictators. David Porta was also notorious for his homophobic letters to various comic books. He seems to have passed away in 2021.

FLASH #786 (DC, 2022) – “High Speed Alert,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. This issue is a Dark Crisis crossover, so I don’t understand its plot, nor do I want to. But this issue is fun anyway because Wally, Linda, Irey and Jay all get to go on an adventure together – Linda has powers at this point, and in this issue she appears in a costume for the first time. Also, there are guest appearances by Animal Girl and Klarion.

FELIX THE CAT #6 (Harvey, 1991) – various stories, [W/A] Otto Messmer & Joe Oriolo. This entire issue is reprinted from #65 of the original Harvey series. It consists mostly of an interconnected story in which Felix travels under the sea to find a pearl necklace for Miss Kitty. This issue’s plot and some of its gags are recycled from the 1928 theatrical cartoon Comicalamities, which I know well because I wrote about it in my dissertation. For instance, in both the cartoon and the comic, Felix finds the pearl necklace by visiting some literal “oyster beds,” getting an oyster to laugh, and then removing its teeth, which are pearls. However, this issue does not use the cartoon’s ending, in which Miss Kitty is ungrateful for Felix’s gift, and Felix tears her from the paper she’s drawn on and rips her up.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #13 (DC, 1976) – Orion of the New Gods: “Lest Night Fall – Forever!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Vosburg. This issue includes all the same characters from Kirby’s New Gods, but none of that series’ spirit. Denny O’Neil was completely unsuited to writing a cosmic adventure story, and he seems to just be imitating Kirby’s style of writing, rather than fully buying into it. One example of O’Neil’s misunderstanding of Kirby is that he incorrectly depicts Metron as an ally of New Genesis. Metron doesn’t care whether New Genesis or Apokolips wins, because he only cares about knowledge.

THOR #263 (Marvel, 1977) – “Holocaust and Homecoming!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Walt Simonson. Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three find that some aliens have killed Odin and turned his Odinforce into a living entity. Unsurprisingly, Thor and friends defeat the villains, Odin comes back to life, and the Asgardians return home, only to find that Loki has usurped Odin’s throne in his absence. Simonson’s first Thor run was far worse than his second run, but at least you can tell that he drew this issue; his incarnate Odin-Force looks quite similar to his version of Surtur.

STAR TREK #7 (DC, 1990) – “Not… Sweeney!”, [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. Kirk is pursued by an assassin named Sweeney, who is so feared that whenever anyone mentions his name, someone else says “Not… Sweeney!” When the Enterprise is sent to rescue some colonists from a disintegrating planet, they refuse his help: with so many people trying to hunt Kirk down, the colonists feel safer on the planet than on the Enterprise. R.J. Blaise reprimands Kirk for his sexist attitudes, and Kirk realizes she has a point. Sweeney appears for the first time on the last page, and seems to be just a normal guy. Peter David’s run on this series was clearly the best Star Trek comic ever. I just read somewhere that his characters M’yra and Ensign Fouton were reskinned versions of two characters from the animated series.

LASSIE #9 (Dell, 1952) – “Lassie Horns In” etc., [W/A] unknown (the GCD credits other Lassie issues fom this period to Morris Gollub and John Lehti). Lassie’s current owners, Gerry and Rocky, are attending college, but Rocky’s classmate Cliff tries various tricks to get her to spend time with him, including draining the gas from Rocky’s car. Lassie foils all of Cliff’s plots. This issue is a college humor comic, whereas most other Lassie comics are outdoor adventure stories. I say “humor” even though this comic isn’t very funny by modern standards. Cliff’s behavior toward Rocky qualifies as not only sexual harassment, but also stalking and even kidnapping. If one of my students behaved in this way, I’d want them to be thrown out of college and locked up. But because this is 1952, Rocky has to tolerate Cliff’s appalling behavior, rather than telling him to fuck off (or calling the police).

BATMAN/SUPERMAN: WORLD’S FINEST #9 (DC, 2023) – “Strange Visitor Chapter 3: Fears of a Clown,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Dan Mora. In a flashback story, Batman and Superman team up with the original Teen Titans and a new character named Boy Thunder. At the end of the issue, Boy Thunder is apparently killed by the Joker. It’s later revealed that he grew up to become Magog, a character created by Mark Waid many years ago. Perhaps I should have been collecting this series from the start, but I’ve had a lack of confidence in Mark’s writing lately (however, see my review of Shazam! #1 below). Batman/Superman #9 is a reasonably good issue, but I think Dan Mora’s art is more exciting than Mark’s writing.

LOVE & ROCKETS #44 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “It’s Not That Big a Deal,” [W/A] Jaime Hernandez, and “A Trick of the Unconscious,” [W/A] Jaime Hernandez. In the Jaime story, Maggie and Esther go out for a night on the town in Chester Square, and it turns disastrous. In the Gilbert story, Doralis’s hastily arranged marriage collapses, Casimira runs away from home, and lots of other things happen. I must have read both these stories before, but they’re from near the end of the Locas and Palomar collections respectively, so I don’t remember them well. I had forgotten Doralis was ever married at all, since her marriage is only depicted in this one story. I only have four issues of Love & Rockets vol. 1, though I’d like to have the entire series eventually.

THE BLACK LAMB #2 (DC, 1996) –“Full Moon Fever,” [W/A] Tim Truman. In a futuristic city, a villain named Lykaon is kidnapping babies, and this leads to a war between the city’s werewolves and vampires. This series is very similar to Grimjack – the city looks kind of like Cynosure, and the protagonist looks a lot like John Gaunt.

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #1 (IDW, 2011) – “The Locksmith’s Son,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This is essentially the origin story of the whole series. In 1775, Lovecraft, Massachusetts is a battleground of the American Revolution, and the current Locke children’s parents have just been hanged by the British. Benjamin and Miranda Locke flee to the Drowning Cave, where their fellow revolutionaires are hiding out. They discover that the Black Door has been opened, and the Lovecraftian monstrosities behind it are driving people into a homicidal frenzy. All efforts to close the door again have failed. But when the demons from behind the door try to cross over into the real world, they turn into lumps of metal. Benjamin happens to be a locksmith, so he uses this metal – the “stailinn geal” that also appears in the Hill House comics – to make a more secure lock. And now we know what the Omega Key is for. At the end of the issue, we see Kinsey and Tyler observing all this from the future.

THOR #417 (Marvel, 1990) – “Only Death Can Save Thee!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Ron Frenz. This is one of the first comic books I ever read. I checked it out from the library, so I never owned it, and I haven’t reread it in many years. I still do remember the title, because as a little kid, I found it frightening. I also remember some things from the Tales of Asgard backup story – specifically, the Celtic god Dagda, and the line “Enow, vizier! I say thee, enow!”, which was the first time I ever saw the word “enow.” I know now that Thor #417 is just a generic comic, an unoriginal ripoff of Kirby’s Thor, but when I was seven or eight, it was a window into an unknown world.

ACTION COMICS #876 (DC, 2009) – “The Sleepers,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Eddy Barrows. Nightwing (the Kandorian version) and Flamebird battle Ursa. This issue is from the World Without Superman story arc, so Superman himself doesn’t appear. This story is just a series of excessively violent fight scenes. The backup story, a preview of Amanda Conner’s Power Girl, is far better.

DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #1 (Titan, 2014) – “After Life,” [W] Al Ewing & Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. After her mother’s death, Londoner Alice Obiefune loses her job and her department and falls into depression. These events are depicted in a sequence colored  only in gray. Some color returns to Alice’s life, and to the panels, when she encounters the Eleventh Doctor chasing a multicolored alien dog. Alice helps the Doctor return the pet to its owner, then decides to become his new companion. This is a funny and tender story. I want to get into Doctor Who, but my short attention span makes it hard for me to watch TV shows other than sports, so these comics are a good alternative.

WONDER WOMAN #78 (DC, 1993) – “The Fast Contact,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Lee Moder (who unfortunately died earlier this year). Diana is pursued by a speedster assassin named Mayfly, in reference to how her own superspeed abilities are killing her. Diana has to team up with the Flash to catch Mayfly, even though she hardly seems like a serious threat to either of them. William Messner-Loebs was not really suited to writing superhero comics, and his Flash and Wonder Woman feel more like domestic dramas. However, this does give them an odd charm.

STAR TREK #52 (Gold Key, 1978) – “And a Child Shall Lead Them!”, [W] George Kashdan, [A] Al McWilliams. A criminal gang is exploiting some primitive people by getting them addicted to drugs. The Enterprise crew tries to capture the criminals, but the crooks have an unexpected ally, a young boy with psychic powers. Kirk, Spock and McCoy have to convince the boy, Klwama, to get rid of the criminals. This comic has some reasonably good art, but is otherwise of little interest. Its title is almost the same as the title of a TOS episode, “And the Children Shall Lead.”

THUNDERBOLTS #162 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Valentine De Landro. In a Fear Itself crossover, the Thunderbolts have to defend Chicago from an invasion by Asgardian monsters. This issue consists entirely of action sequences, but it’s full of good dialogue and characterization, and it includes an appearance by a literal giant-size Man-Thing.

Next trip to Heroes:

SAGA #63 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Hazel and Prince Robot meet with Vitch, the woman who says she can resurrect Marko. While trying to steal some ingredients for the woman, the kids are attacked by a feral one-eyed Lying Cat, and Prince Robot has to kill it. Meanwhile, Hazel works at an Amazon fulfillment center, where she has to pee in a grate on a floor, and she’s supervised by floating wraiths in bright yellow costumes. This is probably just a slight exaggeration of what it’s like to work at an Amazon warehouse.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #30 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 5,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. When she realizes Gabi stole her doll, Cutter breaks her cover and goes crazy. Erica comes up with a plan to deal with Cutter and the monster she summoned. Erica also tells Gabi and Riqui about the House of Slaughter, and explicitly states something which I’ve long since realized: “They care more about keeping the secret than they care about people.” The issue ends as two teenagers are about to be eaten by the Duplicitype that’s imitating Erica.

STILLWATER #18 (Image, 2023) – “The Unknown of It All,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. The final battle ends with Ted and Kreegs killing each other (I think). The new elected mayor of Coldwater and Stillwater decides to give everyone a choice of whether to stay there or leave. But Daniel and some other characters still want to lift Clara’s curse, so they decide to alter the map by erasing the border of Stillwater. Instead of breaking Stillwater’s curse, however, this only extends the curse to the entire world. That leaves the door open for a sequel. Stillwater was a very fun series, but I often had trouble following its plot or telling the characters apart.

STRANGE ACADEMY FINALS #5 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. At the commencement ceremony, we finally learn Doyle’s origin – he’s not Dormammu’s biological son, but rather, when he was a baby, his mother used Dormammu’s  magic to heal his brain cancer. Dormammu himself attends commencement, and so does Emily, with an army of Mindless Ones and monsters. The students and faculty have to team up to save the school from both Emily and Dormammu. The issue ends with Emily’s family arriving, though we learn next issue that it’s not really them.

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #5 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Apocalympics,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Maceo participates in the Apocalympics, but fails to score any points, whether in distance spitting, “man-roaring” or golf. And the last competition, which will decide everything, is a battle to the death. Maceo wins by carving a mountain into the shape of Mezzy’s face, since the carving will continue to exist long after his own death. Mezzy reveals that she burned the Wasteland Rangers’ manual, then disbands the Rangers. Maceo and Mezzy kiss for the first time. In the flashforward sequence, an elderly Maceo and Mezzy meet again. This issue demonstrates Jason Aaron’s ability to blend humor with deep emotion and drama.

SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2023) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part 7: Spider-Genesis,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. All the Spiders confront Shathra, and Bagley is forced to draw a ridiculous number of different Spider-people. Shathra is defeated, and Jess, Peter and Ben are restored to existence. But a new character, Spider-Boy, also appears, and he claims he’s been Peter Parker’s partner for a long time, even though none of the other characters can remember him. This issue a target of speculation because of the Spider-Boy appearance.

SAVAGE DRAGON #265 (Image, 2023) – “Samurai Strikes!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm’s missing son Jackson is recovered. Paul and Alex adopt Dart’s son, Billy, only for Billy to be tragically murdered by Samurai, the last active Vicious Circle member. The two-page splash with Billy having his head sliced in half is a shocking moment, but not necessarily in a good way. It’s an example of why this series is not appealing to new readers. Also, Malcolm considers moving back to the States since he’s no longer needed in Canada.

LOCAL MAN #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Fleecs, [W] Tim Seeley. Crossjack tries to solve Hodag’s murder, even though a drone is monitoring him to make sure he’s not being a superhero. It also becomes clear that Crossjack was fired from his superhero team because he was sleeping with the team leader’s wife. Local Man is Tim Seeley’s best current series besides Money Shot. It may be Image’s best attempt to grapple with its own legacy.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: JON KENT #2 (DC, 2023) – “Countdown to Injustice Chapter 2: Out of the Volcano,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Clayton Henry. Jon and the female Red Tornado follow Ultraman to another alternate universe. Ultraman murders Red Tornado and is about to kill Jon too, but the universe’s resident Superman intervenes and kills Ultraman. We then realize that this is the Superman from Injustice. I never read Injustice or played the video game, but I know that it begins with the Joker murdering the pregnant Lois Lane, hence why the Injustice Superman is so shocked to see Jon.

THE FLASH #796 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Finale: One More Minute,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz et al. Wally returns from Planet Flash with an army of other superheroes, allowing the Flash Family to defeat the aliens and change the timestream so that the aliens never invaded Earth at all. Iris accepts Barry’s marriage proposal. Wally and Linda throw a party in their backyard, and Max and Impulse run off together. I just noticed that the boy dressed in blue is named Wade, and having read #798, I now know that that’s the name of Wally and Linda’s third child. So I guess now we know who the mysterious boy is, but how did he get kidnapped by the aliens? CBR says that this isn’t the first hint that Wade is Wally and Linda’s son.

IT’S JEFF! #1 (Marvel, 2023) – various stories, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Gurihiru. A series of pantomime gag strips starring Jeff the land shark. All these stories were originally published online. Jeff is a hilarious character, and Thompson and Gurihiru take full advantage of his comic potential. Gurihiru’s drawings are super-cute and full of chicken fat, and they tell the story with complete clarity, despite the lack of text. I enjoyed this more than DC’s Silent Tales, to be reviewed below.

I HATE THIS PLACE #7 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Joe holds Gabby and Trudy hostage, but they manage to escape and kill Joe’s henchmen, who deserved to die almost as much as Joe himself does. The Horned Man appears, and to escape it, Joe and Gabby both jump through a dimensional portal. Meanwhile, Trudy thinks the ghosts are about to kill her, but one of the ghosts is that of Dante.

SECOND COMING: TRINITY #1 (Ahoy, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace & Leonard Kirk. In a flashback, Sunstar and Cranius, the villain from the previous miniseries, attend their high school reunion. Cranius almost gets a former classmate to date him, but then she realizes he used to be the class pariah. In the present, Sunstar acts as a character witness at Cranius’s trial, and Cranius is freed on the condition that he be launched into space aboard a probe. Jesus and Sunstar’s infant son, Jordan, only appear briefly.

WHERE MONSTERS LIE #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Piotr Kowalski. This issue consists entirely of scenes of hilarious and gory violence. Perhaps Kyle Starks’s most notable talent is his ability to blend humor and horror. There are no notable plot twists in this issue; those all come at the end of issue 4.

DAREDEVIL #9 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 9,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Manuel Garcia. Matt’s allies start to abandon him, and then his headquarters is invaded by both the Hand and the Avengers. Matt suffers a crisis of faith, deciding that God is dead. This volume of Daredevil hasn’t been much fun, and I’m not sorry that Chip is leaving this series, because he seems to have gotten tired of it.

POISON IVY #11 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. The rogue lamia causes everyone at the retreat to go crazy. The good (?) news is it also allows Poison Ivy to control the minds of all the other attendees, so she enlists them to help blockade an oil refinery. Janet reminds Ivy that she’s not supposed to act like this anymore, and then Ivy gives the organizer of the retreat a stern lecture. When Ivy tries to get rid of the lamia, it comes to life and attacks her.

BLOOD TREE #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Maxim Simic. Dario and Maria encounter the wingman killer, but he gets away. Dario realizes where he’s seen the angel painting before: on the ceiling of an old movie theater. This clue allows Dario to identify the killer, Owen Fitcher, and to get into his apartment. For more on this series, see my review of issue 4 below.

HAIRBALL #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. A little girl, Anna, is adopted by a foster family. On the same day, the family also adopts a stray black cat named Bestie. The cat seems to be some sort of demonic hellspawn: when it bites Anna, worms come out of the bite marks, and it vomits up toxic sludge. Thanks in part to the cat, Anna’s foster parents are on the verge of divorce. Hairball is creepy, but it’s also funny because the cat’s behavior is only a slight exaggeration of how cats really do act.

MOSELY #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Rob Guillory, [A] Sam Lotfi. Mosely’s actions last issue cause the city to descend into anarchy. Mosely leaves his ex-wife’s compound and goes looking for his daughter. On the way to her, he gets attacked by a monstrous robot. The robot, in the form in which it appears on the cover, looks a lot like Majora’s mask from the Zelda game of the same name. I noticed that because I’ve been looking at lots of preview images from Tears of the Kingdom.

2000 AD #2306 (Rebellion, 2022) – A Regened issue. Cadet Dredd: “Undertow,” [W] Paul Starkey, [A] S. Califano & G. Welsh. Dredd is getting poor grades in his classes because of his unoriginality and excessive adherence to rules. When Dredd and Rico get captured by Black Atlantic pirates, Dredd uses his armor-piercing rounds to shoot holes in the pirates’ ship, so that the pirates will have to surrender to save their own lives. This shows that Dredd has learned his lesson about being more creative. Bladers: untitled, [W] James Peaty, [A] Leigh Gallagher. A sports story starring a roller derby team. Ulysses Sweet: “Psychobaby,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Paul Marshall. A series of gags about an ultraviolent baby. This seems like a science-fictional version of the classic strip Sweeny Toddler. Future Shocks: “The Planet Breakers,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Karl Richardson. An outer-space miner visits a planet that turns out to be alive and predatory. Then she realizes that “Earth is the predator planet.” Chopper: “All for One,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Gary Walsh. A young Chopper escapes from the police, then decides to rescue his friend Clayts from the cubes. Clayts’s capture was depicted in an earlier Regened issue. I feel like the all-ages issues of 2000 AD are suffering from mission creep, because some of their stories are barely any different from regular 2000 AD stories, except for having brighter colors. In particular, the Future Shocks story in this issue could have appeared in any other prog.

GODFELL #2 (Vault, 2023) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ben Hennessy. While traveling through God’s corpse, Zanzi and Neth meet a villainous tyrant named Avernus, who happens to have a map of the corpse tattooed on his chest. They escape him, but he pursues them, riding a giant multiheaded worm thing. Zanzi defeats Avernus and cuts off the map from his chest. Then Zanzi and Neth arrive at God’s pelvis, which is full of people having sex.

2000 AD #2307 (Rebellion, 2023) – Dredd: “Buratino Must Die 04,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Henry Flint. Anderson battles a creature called the Proletariat that’s made of the collective minds of the people killed when East-Meg Two was nuked. Enemy Earth: “Book One Part 6,” [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Luke Horsman. While stopping for food, the protagonists are captured by some other survivors. Zoe finds a box of breakfast cereal that’s illustrated with a picture of Joko Jargo. Hope: “In the Shadows Part 2, Reel 5,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. This story is totally incomprehensible, which is a shame because Jimmy Broxton’s art is excellent. Chimpsky’s Law: “A Terrifically Exciting Adventure Part 6,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. While fleeing from the two awful kids, Chimpsky teams up with a Hitler lookalike, Mr. Grofaz, who’s immune to the twins’ mind control because he has a plate in his skull. Hershey: “The Cold in the Bones Book 1 Part 6,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. This chapter is just an extended chase sequence.

RADIANT PINK #4 (Image, 2023) – “Space!”, [W] Meghan Camarena & Melissa Flores, [A] Emma Kubert. Kelly and Eva are captured by alien cats, and while escaping, they realize they’re in love. I love the idea of a planet of giant alien cats, but this miniseries is a poorly plotted, themeless mess, and it feels like a waste of its protagonist’s potential. Also, Andy Price, in My Little Pony Movie Prequel #1, created a much funnier depiction of a city populated by cats.

JUNK RABBIT #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Jimmie Robinson. The world of this series is similar to that of WALL-E, except that there are still people living amongst the giant mounds of trash. But it’s only the poor people who live there, while the rich live inside a climate-controlled dome. The junk-dwellers are at the mercy of the dome-dwellers, and their only protection is a mysterious vigilante who looks like a rabbit. This is a pretty good debut issue. Jimmie Robinson has had a long career but has never gotten very much recognition.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: THE ARMAGEDDON GAME – ALLIANCE #4 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. Venus De Milo teams up with the shark mutant Bludgeon. I don’t understand what’s going on in this issue, but Sophie Campbell’s artwork is even better than her writing, and this issue is one of the few good comics that have come out of Armageddon Game. Incidentally, the recent news about IDW is shocking, but it’s also not surprising that IDW has been having problems. IDW was heavily dependent on their Hasbro licenses, and now that they’ve lost those licenses, they’re publishing far fewer comics overall. They’ve also had trouble developing new IP. Black Crown was an exciting imprint, but it ended far too soon. And their recent wave of creator-owned comics have all concluded, and there haven’t been any new launches to replace them. IDW also lost the Library of American Comics and its associated Eurocomics imprint. In short, part of their problem seems to be a lack of creativity or originality.  

AVENGERS: WAR ACROSS TIME #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Alan Davis. The Avengers fight Sindri and the Lava Men. This is just a generic Silver Age Avengers comic, and Alan Davis’s artwork is the only reason it’s worth buying.

BATMAN #134 (DC, 2023) – “The Bat-Man of Gotham Part 4,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Batman encounters the alternate version of the Joker, whose name here is Halladay, as well as the alternate Ghost-Maker. This storyline is much less compelling than “Failsafe.” The regular Gotham City is already dark enough. I don’t enjoy reading about an alternate Gotham that’s even worse. I also don’t like Mike Hawthorne’s photorealistic style of art. Again, the Tim Drake backup story is better than the main story.  

2000 AD #2308 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Buratino is confronted by his fellow Sov agents. Dredd encounters the Sentientoid. I don’t get what’s going on here. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. After some action scenes, Chimpsky reveals that Thruppence, the little girl, is not a real person but a figment of Timmy’s imagination. Hope: as above. More unintelligible nonsense. The previous story arc of Hope was not hard to follow, and it’s too bad that the sequel is such a mess. Enemy Earth: as above. Zoe has a nightmare, which is depicted in a beautiful splash page, and then wakes up to discover that her arm has been amputated. Hershey: as above. Dirty Frank is revealed to be using drugs, there’s some more action, and then Hershey and Frank fall into a cavern of alien spiders, which are being used to produce the drugs.

LAZARUS PLANET: REVENGE OF THE GODS #1 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cian Tormey. Lazarus Planet is not a very exciting crossover, but I ordered this miniseries because it’s written by G. Willow Wilson. Her dialogue is good enough that I enjoyed this comic despite my lack of interest in its plot. There’s also a Nubia backup story by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad and Alitha Martinez.

BULLS OF BEACON HILL #3 (Aftershock, 2023) – “Dissident Aggressor,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Andy Macdonald. Chris stumbles into the apartment of his campaign manager, Sean, and tells her what’s been going on. Chris goes to confront his mother – who’s just as guilty as his father, since she enabled Orin’s abuse – and she summons a couple of Orin’s thugs. In the latest Previews, Aftershock didn’t solicit any new comic books at all. I hope they can recover from bankruptcy, but I don’t know how they can do that if they’re not bringing in any revenue.  

DEAD SEAS #4 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. There’s lots more havoc and violence as the ship begins to sink. I didn’t notice any major new plot twists in this issue. Dead Seas’s pirate subplot is perhaps unnecessary; the ghosts and the high-seas setting were already scary enough, without adding the pirates on top of that. Nick Brokenshire draws some terrifying ghosts.

HEART EYES #5 (Vault, 2023) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. It’s getting late, so I’ll just quote my own Facebook comment: “What on earth was the point of this stupid comic? Lupe literally destroyed the entire world, either on purpose or by negligence, and she gets a happy ending? I liked Dennis Hopeless’s Spider-Woman, but I’ll be very hesitant to buy anything else by him.” I will add that Victor Ibáñez’s drawings of monsters are beautiful, but I wish they had been accompanied by better writing.

MY BAD VOL. 2 #5 (Ahoy, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingman, [A] Peter Krause. Earth is invaded by alien lizards. Emperor King and Lamplighter each build a rocket to use in an attack on the alien mothership, but each of them sabotages the other’s rocket. Earth is only saved by a deus-ex-machina intervention by “intergalactic marshals.” This comic was a lot of fun, precisely because it didn’t try to be much more than a silly parody.

2000 AD #2309 (Rebellion, 2023) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and Buratino manage to defeat the villains. Dredd discovers that Izaaks, the Sovs’ second-in-command during the Apocalypse War, was somehow responsible, and is now terminally ill. Izaaks tells Dredd that Kazan made him play Russian roulette every day, and Dredd asks Izaaks why he didn’t just shoot Kazan. I don’t quite understand this story arc. Enemy Earth: as above. Zoe and Julius discover that their new “friends” are cannibals. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Timmy is so shocked by the discovery that his sister isn’t real, that Grofaz is able to shoot him with a tranquilizer. To his shame, Chimpsky has no option but to keep Timmy locked up. Chimpsky realizes that some unknown adversary is responsible for the events of both this story arc and the last one. I hope Chimpsky will return soon. Hershey: as above. Hershey learns that some Judges were responsible for the alien spiders. Then the spiders escape, prepared to infect the worl.

LAZARUS PLANET: REVENGE OF THE GODS #2 – as above except [A] Cian Tormey & Emanuela Lupacchino. This issue spotlights Billy Batson and Yara Flor, and Diana doesn’t appear at all. Again, I like the dialogue in this comic, but I don’t care about the plot. The backup story is the same as last issue.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #4 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue begins with a depressing monologue about how Thailand has its problems, but at least it tries, while America has stopped trying. It’s hard to argue with that. Then there are more plot developments that are hard to understand. Pornsak Pichetshote’s major flaw as a writer is that his plots are confusing. He introduces so many characters and plot twists that I can’t keep track of them all. Javier Rodriguez’s artwork in this issue includes some nice touches. I particularly like the scene where the detectives are decomposed into cubes and then reassembled. However, this issue also includes some boring dialogue scenes, and these scenes are not a good use of Rodriguez’s talents.

LOVE EVERLASTING #6 (Image, 2023) – “Too Hip for Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. Joan finally agrees to marry Don. After the wedding, Joan runs away, hoping the cowboy will show up and kill her. The cowboy does appear, but lets her live, and Joan is trapped in the marriage that her mother forced her into. I’m enjoying this series more than most of Tom King’s other recent titles. There’s no possible logical explanation for how Joan keeps dying and coming back to life in different settings, but I don’t think this needs to be explained.

IMMORAL X-MEN #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Our Nine-Hundred-Years-and-Counting Mission,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Alessandro Vitti. This issue focuses on Sinister and Rasputin IV, who is supposed to be a significant character, but it’s hard to tell. As I’ve stated above, in this storyline it’s impossible to remember who’s a clone and who’s original, or who’s in which faction, or who or what actually matters. Frankly, this crossover was a terrible idea and I wish I hadn’t read any of it.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #5 (Marvel, 2023) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth fights his son Graydon Creed, and the other Exiles fight some mutant babies. The name Herbert West appears in this issue, in reference to a Lovecraft story. This issue includes an interesting essay about North Carolina Maroons, but it has only a tangential relevance to the plot. That’s the whole problem with this series – it wastes so much space on pointless plot points and action scenes, that it has no space remaining to explore the themes and implications of its plot. By contrast, in Eve or Destroyer, there’s a much tighter integration of plot and theme.

LOCKE & KEY: OMEGA #1 (IDW, 2012) – “Our Regrets,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Dodge has now possessed Bode. He has the Omega Key, and he uses the size-changing key to acquire the Crown of Shadows. In doing so, he knocks over the town’s lighthouse and killing the family that lives there. Scot makes a video for graduation, asking his classmates their biggest regrets, and he elicits some poignant confessions from Tyler and Kinsey. Bode, in Dodge’s body, finally reaches the Black Door, and we finally see the full list of names on the cave inscription. I kind of wish I’d been reading this series as it came out, because Omega seems like a really powerful finale to the main storyline.

ADVENTURE COMICS #400 (DC, 1970) – “Return of the Black Flame,” [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. Supergirl fights a dumb villain named the Black Flame, who is aided by three Phantom Zone prisoners. Sekowsky doesn’t seem to have understood what the Phantom Zone was, because he describes it as “where the criminals of many galaxy’s [sic] are kept,” and the Black Flame’s three allies are not Kryptonian. In every other story where the Phantom Zone appears, it’s depicted as a prison for Kryptoniancriminals only. This comic is one of DC’s most underwhelming anniversary issues. It’s just a generic story that could have appeared in any other issue, and the only indication that it’s a milestone issue is the “35TH ANNIVERSARY – 400TH ISSUE” banner on the cover. Superman #200 and World’s Finest #200 were also rather unimpressive. Later in the decade, DC started doing more to celebrate issue numbers that were multiples of 100.

AREA 88 #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – “The Blue Skies of Betrayal,” [W/A] Kaoru Shintani. I would  normally never buy manga published in single-issue form, but Area 88 is an exception because it was never printed in English in book form. It was also one of the first manga translated into English – in fact, this issue’s inside cover describes it as “the first wholesale attempt to bring the unique and novel world of Japanese comics to English readers in a popular and familiar format.” Area 88 is also a notable work in its own right – it may be the best-known manga about aviation. It focuses on a mercenary pilot, Shin Kazama, who’s fighting in an interminable North African war, and has to balance the danger of each mission with the financial reward it offers. Shintani’s writing is compelling, and his art is effective, though it’s in an older style. There were 42 issues of Area 88, representing only 25% of the original series. I wouldn’t pay very much for the other issues of Area 88, but I would buy them if they were cheap.

MS. TREE #13 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Deadline Chapter 7: Sex and the Singles Slasher,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree investigates a series of murders, and discovers that most of the victims were participants in a gang rape that occurred at a high school party, and the other victims were killed to disguise the pattern. Ms. Tree’s prime suspect is the victim of this rape, Betty Lou, but she discovers that Betty Lou is a trailer-dwelling, chain-smoking mother of eight children by four different men, and that she seems to have good memories of the rape. (However, it’s still clear that Betty Lou is a tragic character, even if she doesn’t connect her current problems with the rape.) The real killer is Jennifer, the journalist who was working with Ms. Tree on the case. Though she was not the victim of the gang rape, she witnessed it and was traumatized for life. After confessing, Jennifer commits suicide.

2000 AD #2310 (IDW, 2022) – Dredd: “The Rematch 01,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Steven Austin. Benny has just finished a seventeen-year prison sentence, having been arrested for participating in a fight against the champion of a rival block. Now that he’s out, some local crooks are trying to force him and his former opponent (as yet unnamed) into a rematch. Terror Tales: “The Vision Thing,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Nick Dyer. A man is driven insane by a psychedelic “vision engine.” Enemy Earth: as above. The kids try to escape the cannibals, but are pursued by a giant wolf. Hope: as above. This still makes no sense. Fiends of the Western Front: “Wilde West” prologue, [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Warren Pleece. While in Omaha, Nebraska for a lecture tour, Oscar Wilde meets Constanta, the vampire from Fiends of the Eastern Front. This is just a one-shot prologue; the rest of the story is coming later. Oscar Wilde’s lecture tour of the American West is also referenced in Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such.

LOCKE & KEY: OMEGA #4 (IDW, 2013) – “Human Sacrifices,” as above. Tyler and Duncan are held captive by shadows. While the seniors are partying in the Drowning Cave, Dodge, in Bode’s body, tries to trick them into following him to the Black Door – I assume he needs to sacrifice them so he can open it. But Dodge breaks his cover, and he’s forced to summon more shadows to attack the seniors. Meanwhile, Duncan, Tyler and the police all try to come to the rescue, but Tyler is accidentally shot. I think I already have #5 of this series, but I really need to find #6.

KID ETERNITY #1 (DC, 1991) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Duncan Fegredo. A grim-and-gritty revival of an old Fawcett character who has the power to summon dead people. This issue is very confusingly written. It assumes the reader already knows Kid Eternity’s origin and powers, and even then it’s hard to follow. Still, I’d like to read the other two issues of this miniseries. Duncan Fegredo’s painted art here is beautiful, but it looks more like Sienkiewicz than Fegredo.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #21 (Gold Key, 1968) – “The Alien Jungle,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak and his ape companion are captured by nonhumanoid aliens and taken to another planet, where the aliens have enslaved some humans (or aliens identical to humans) and are using giant ants to keep the humans captive. Korak and the ape defeat both the aliens and the ants. This issue is much more appropriate to Manning’s talents than #11 was. As in Captain Johner and the Aliens, Manning draws the aliens to look like robots, and they have his trademark slick, clean appearance. Also, the alien girl who Korak encounters is very cute, and the giant ants look more realistic than the dinosaurs in #11. This was Manning’s last issue of Korak. He drew the first eleven issues and was then replaced by Warren Tufts, but for some reason he later returned to Korak for just this one issue.

STEED AND MRS. PEEL #1 (Boom!, 1990/2012) – “Crown & Anchor,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Ian Gibson. This is a reprint of a 1990 Eclipse comic. It’s based on the TV show Avengers, but for obvious reasons, neither Eclipse nor Boom! could use that title. I have no familiarity with this franchise, but this issue seems like an entertaining and well-written espionage story, and I’d like to collect the rest of the series.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #26 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “The Fearless Umpire Killers,” [W/A] Bob Burden. The Mysterymen fight some zombies. The Flaming Carrot and Raphael discover a plot by some evil umpires to steal the Empire State Building. This scheme was thought up by the disembodied head of Frankenstein’s monster. So overall this is a typical Flaming Carrot comic.

SPIDER-MAN: BLUE #2 (Marvel, 2002) – “Let’s Fall in Love,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Tim Sale. A beautifully drawn and entertaining Spider-Man story. It must be set during Amazing Spider-Man #42, since it ends with the “face it, tiger, you just hit the jackpot” line. Tim Sale’s draftsmanship was excellent, and he was a master of panel composition. Like Steranko, he always chose unconventional and surprising “camera” angles. The funniest moment in this issue is this exchange:

JJJ: Listen, kid. I used to have an aunt who worried about money all the time, too.

PETER: Really? What happened to her?

JJJ (slamming his office door): She died!

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #647 (DC, 2006) – “Rack & Ruin Part II,” [W] Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir, [A] Renato Guedes. Emil Hamilton, now the supervillain Ruin, goes crazy and tries to kill Lana Lang and Pete Ross and their baby. This story is exciting, but Emil’s transformation into a villain is a waste of a good character. Lana and Pete’s son, Clark Peter Ross, seems to have never appeared again after this issue.  

FLASH 2021 ANNUAL (DC, 2021) – “Blink of an Eye Finale,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin & Brandon Peterson. In his final trip through time, Wally finds himself re-experiencing the events of Heroes in Crisis. Wally teams up with Roy Harper against Savitar, and Roy has to sacrifice himself to save the day. The issue ends with Wally reunited with his family. As explained here, the purpose of this annual was to retcon the events of Heroes in Crisis. In that series, it was established that Wally had caused the deaths of ten other superheroes. This was an extremely unpopular piece of continuity, and in Flash Annual 2021, it was instead shown that Wally was not to blame for those deaths. Also, as noted above, Flash #795 reveals that the ten victims are still alive. Most of this went over my head. I did notice that the opening page of this annual was in the same format as Heroes in Crisis, but I didn’t recognize that this issue was a retcon of that series. Again, this is because I stopped reading Heroes in Crisis after issue 3. It was a terrible series, perhaps the low point of Tom King’s career, and that’s saying a lot.

U.S.AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2017) – “Let’s Pretend We Won a War,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina et al. While Toni and Sunspot are escaping from prison, the other USAvengers lead a resistance effort against Hydra’s invasion of Europe. The highlight of this issue is Squirrel Girl reciting a squirrel version of the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. The issue ends with Cannonball finding himself in the outer space version of Riverdale. I think I’m only missing one more issue of USAvengers.

RUBRIQUE À BRAC VOL. 4 (Dargaud, 1973) – various stories, [W/A] Marcel Gotlib. Of the French-language comics I’ve read lately, this may have been the most difficult. It’s rather long, and it’s full of obscure references, difficult vocabulary, and giant blocks of text. But it’s worth reading anyway. Gotlib was the master of a particular tradition of French humor comics which is associated with the magazines he founded, L’Écho des savanes and Fluide Glacial. This sort of humor is very brutal and uncompromising, and is directed at adults – Wikipedia says that Gotlib was a key figure in the development of BD for adult readers. Gotlib and his contemporaries were obviously influenced by Mad, as were the American underground artists. Rubrique a Brac volume 4 is a collection of short humor strips published originally in Pilote. These strips have a wide variety of subject matter, but they include a lot of parodies of contemporary culture, as well as metatextual stories starring Gotlib himself. Gotlib depicts himself in deliberately exaggerated form, as a he-man type wearing a laurel wreath. HIs fellow Pilote artists Fred and Gébé make cameo appearances in the first story. (Actually the character is named after Gébé but is visually based on Goscinny.) A recurring feature in many of the stories is a ladybug who offers ironic commentary. One of the stories is explicitly political; its point is that everyone talks about children starving in Africa, but no one does anything to help them. Another story takes a surprisingly personal angle; it depicts Gotlib’s obsession with the gaze of his three-year-old daughter. I also found myself frequently remembering the last story, in which two adult men play a children’s game called the jeu de la barbichette (game of the goatee), but the game quickly turns into an ultra-violent duel. The funny part here is that the two men treat this ridiculous game with the utmost seriousness. Gotlib’s art style is also interesting; he has a unique and fully developed style of linework which is different from either the Clear Line or École de Marcinelle traditions.  

2000 AD #2311 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Benny and Augusto prepare for their rematch. Benny wants to fight, but Augusto is doing it only because some crooks have kidnapped his nephew. In the end, Benny and Augusto are both killed, along with the nephew’s kidnapper, but the nephew survives. This story is a powerful depiction of the hopelessness of life in Mega-City One. Terror Tales: “In the Wood,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Lee Milmore. Kian Edler is driven crazy and then killed by a haunted forest. There is a nice parallelism between the first and last pages, which depict Kian’s crib and his coffin. Enemy Earth: as above. The kids and their robot nanny escape, but one of the cannibals survives and pursues them. Hope: as above. More excellent artwork wasted on an unfathomable story.    

2000 AD #2312 (Rebellion, 2023) – This issue is a “100-Page Mega-Special.” Dredd: “The Last Temptation of Joe,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Lee Carter. Mega-City One is holding the devil in Iso-Block 666. The devil escapes and tries to tempt Dredd into taking over his job. Dredd refuses, and Satan is re-imprisoned in deep space. This story is explicitly stated to be an imaginary story that never happened, but aren’t they all? Rogue Trooper: “Brothers,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Warwick Fraser-Coombe. Rogue and his three sidekicks get in an argument, but then the  sidekicks are kidnapped by an evil AI, and Rogue has to save them. Bonjo from Beyond the Stars: “Solids in the Bile Tube,” [W] Gath Ennis, [A] Kevin O’Neill. A metatextual story in which Tharg has to team up with some other old characters to protect 2000 AD from a monster. This story is a tribute to Kevin O’Neill, and it’s preceded by a series of essays about him, written by various other 2000 AD creators. The Out: “Book 3 Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. Just an introductory chapter that explains Cyd Finlea’s current status quo. Mark Harrison is probably the most progressive artist currently working for 2000 AD. Joe Pineapples: “Tin Man,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. Joe Pineapples and Ro-Jaws have been trapped on an asteroid for billions of years, but now an assassin is hunting them. Hope: as above. See previous reviews of this series. Ace Trucking Co: “Untrenched,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Nick Dyer. Ace and his crew discover the cryogenically frozen body of Alec Trench, a character who appeared in a number of old Tharg stories. Alec finally dies for good. Alec Trench was also Alan Grant’s pseudonym, and Alan Grant appears in this story’s last panel. It’s weird to read an Ace Trucking Co. story that’s not drawn by Belardinelli. This story is followed by a series of tributes to Grant. Dredd: “Troublemaker,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Robin Smith. Dredd meets his co-creator Alan Grant face to face. This is a sweet and touching story, an affectionate memorial to one of 2000 AD’s essential figures. It also includes a cameo appearance by Batman. Proteus Vex: “Crawlspace Part 1,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. I don’t understand this story very well, but at least it makes more sense than Hope.

HOLY CROSS #3 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – untitled, [W] Malachy Coney, [A] P.J. Holden. A slice-of-life story about a young boy growing up in Belfast during the Troubles. The story is not really about the Troubles, although we do see some soldiers patrolling the streets. Rather, the focus is on the boy’s brutally abusive father. Holden’s art and lettering are kind of sloppy, but Holy Cross #3 offers a vivid firsthand depiction of life in Belfast. Ireland has never had much of a commercial comics industry, so works like Holy Cross and Scarenthood are valuable. There are two other issues of Holy Cross, plus a graphic novel. Malachy Coney worked briefly for Top Cow in the late ‘90s, but he hasn’t published very much since then.

RAGMOP #4 (Planet Lucy, 1995) – “A Brief History of Crime Part 4,” [W/A] Rob Walton. A series of vignettes about space dinosaurs, government plotting, and other stuff. I don’t know how all these plot threads fit together. Walton’s linework is appealing, but I preferred Andrew Pepoy’s artwork on the backup story. This issue did not impress me greatly, but Ragmop is included in Paul Gravett’s 1001 Comics book, so I’d like to read more of it.

FLASH 2022 ANNUAL (DC, 2022) – “Best-Laid Plans,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Serg Acuña. Wally finally finds time to read Linda’s novel. Most of this issue consists of a retelling of Linda’s novel, which is a fictionalized version of her real life. It’s very cute, although it reads more like fanfiction, and I don’t think it would work well as an actual novel. At the end, Linda realizes she might be pregnant again.  

ACTION COMICS #732 (DC, 1997) – “The Saving Skull,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Tom Grummett. The Atomic Skull kidnaps Lois, who he mistakes for his lover Zelda. Superman has difficulty fighting him because his powers have gone out of control. This issue was a lead-in to the “electric Superman” story arc. I used to have a far bigger collection of Superman than Batman, but this situation may have reversed itself, now that I’ve been actively collecting Batman comics for a long time. So I’m trying to read more Superman comics now.

LUCIFER #3 (Trident, 1990) – “The Apocalyptic Monster Show,” [W] Eddie Campbell, [A] Paul Grist. An ordinary man gains the powers of Satan and uses them to cause havoc. He appears on a TV show, where he summons a number of other ancient deities. This Lucifer series is far less well known than the Vertigo comic of the same name, but it deserves to be remembered. It’s a funny piece of satire, in the same vein as some of the more lighthearted Bacchus stories.

100 BULLETS: BROTHER LONO #1 (DC, 2013) – “¡El Hombre Respira!”, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. A horribly violent crime story set in Mexico. This comic has some powerful moments, but it sometimes goes beyond the boundaries of the crime genre and crosses over into horror. In the opening scene, some criminals force another criminal to confess by threatening to kill his infant son, and then the criminal is murdered anyway, and the last panel of the issue shows his flayed skull. This isn’t crime, it’s torture porn. A further problem with this comic, and 100 Bullets in general, is that it’s racist. 100 Bullets only ever seems to depict black people and Latine people as criminals, and it gives the impression that Mexico and urban America are cesspools of crime. Perhaps the series also includes more positive depictions of POC, but I’m not sure it’s worth looking for them. Risso, of course, is a world-class artist, but he’s worked with far better writers than Azzarello. It’s too bad that he’s best known for 100 Bullets, rather than for his work with Ricardo Barreiro and Carlos Trillo.

BLUE RIBBON COMICS #2 (Archie, 1983) – “Mr. Justice,” [W] Robin Snyder & Bill DuBay, [W] Trevor Von Eeden & Alex Niño. A revival of an old character from the 1940s version of Blue Ribbon Comics. This story is almost unreadable because of confusing page layouts, although its linework is beautiful. I get the sense that von Eeden did the breakdowns and Nino did the pencils, although the GCD only credits Niño with the inks. The storytelling does get much clearer after about the halfway mark.

AQUABLUE VOL. 1 (Dark Horse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Thierry Cailleteau, [A] Olivier Vatine. As an infant, a boy escapes the wreck of his parents’ spaceship and is raised to about age eight by a robot nanny. At that point he lands on the planet of Aquablue, inhabited by pale-skinned amphibian people. They rename him Tumu-Nao, the son of their whale god. As a young man, Tumu-Nao falls in love with the chief’s daughter, Mi-Nuée. Just after Tumu-Nao gets permission to marry her, Aquablue is invaded by his human relatives, who are trying to exploit the planet’s natural resources. Tumu-Nao and the natives fight off the invasion, and in the process, Tumu-Nao discovers he’s the heir to a vast fortune. Thus, in the next volume he has to leave his girlfriend and travel to Earth to pursue his legal claims. Aquablue is an exciting adventure story with excellent linework and cute characters. Its plot has some obvious similarities to Avatar, so much so that Aquablue’s publishers sued Fox and James Cameron but lost. However, the theme of humans stealing resources fom innocent aliens is also present in many earlier works, including Joan Slonczewski’s A Door into Ocean, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest, H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy, etc. Also, Tumu-Nao’s character arc – shipwrecked, raised by nonhumans, and then identified as the heir to a fortune – is the same as that of Tarzan.

BAREFOOTZ: THE COMIX BOOK STORIES #1 (Renegade, 1986) – “The Boss Bug” etc., [W/A] Howard Cruse. A series of slice-of-life stories about talking cockroaches, pantyhose, plumbing, and other topics. All these stories are reprinted from Comix Book, so it’s possible that this comic is redundant. Barefootz includes no explicit references to gay themes, although in the strip on the back cover, Barefootz seems to be uninterested in Dolly’s sexual advances. Also, the characters are drawn in a cartoony style. For these reasons Barefootz could be considered a minor work in Cruse’s oeuvre, but it still includes some funny jokes and some gorgeous draftsmanship, especially the half-page splash on page 3 of the last story.

DEE VEE #6 (Dee Vee, 1998) – [E] Daren White? An Australian independent comics anthology. Its highlight is a chapter of Eddie Campbell’s Alec: How to Be an Artist. There are also two interrelated one-page strips by Bruce Mutard, both about an encounter between a slacker and a cranky old man. I have a graphic novel by Mutard, but I haven’t read it yet. The other big name in this issue is James Kochalka. Some of the other stories in the issue are amateurish.

ACTION COMICS #327 (DC, 1965) – “The Three Generations of Superman!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Curt Swan. In an imaginary story, an elderly story Superman teams up with his adult son and his young grandson to stop an alien invasion. In a departure from the norm, Superman’s grandson speaks normal English rather than Superbaby talk. I could swear I’ve read another Silver Age story where there are three generations of superheroes, but they all turn out to be impostors created by Mr. Mxyzptlk or something. If this story does exist, I can’t identify it. In the backup story, by Dorfman and Mooney, Supergirl is accused of murder and sent to Dimension Z to face trial. This story is continued next issue.

DNAGENTS #19 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Twice is Not Enough!”, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Richard Howell. Surge tries to revive his dead girlfriend Angela Krell by giving her an energy transfusion from a vampire. It doesn’t work, of course, and the vampire escapes. Surge is by far my least favorite DNAgent; he’s a hotheaded, thoughtless, humorless little jerk. Also, Richard Howell’s artwork is not exciting. However, DNAgents was a really fun series, with funny dialogue and great characterization, and it should be more widely read.

JOURNEY #27 (Fantagraphics, 1986) – “Death Watch,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs.
Wolverine MacAlistaire attends to the dying Mandrell Ross – I forget why he’s dying – and manages to save his life. MacAlistaire repudiates his wife, coincidentally (?) named Mrs. Tree, on the grounds that not only is she cheating on him, but also he’s already married to a number of Indian women. MacAlistaire decides to go west and live with some Indians. Mandrell is shocked, telling him, “You’ve been beaten, chased by wild beasts, shot with arrows, nearly frozen, starved and burned… assailed by insane men of every stripe… dammit, MacAlistaire… you’ll live longer in civilization!” MacAlistaire replies “Jest seems longer.” In the epilogue, sixty years later, an elderly Mandrell realizes that this was a joke. This was the last issue of the original Journey. It was supposed to be followed by a succession of miniseries, but the first of those miniseries ended after two issues. Journey is a brilliant work of historical fiction, and it’s a shame that it was never completed. I just read John Tanner’s autobiography The Falcon, which is set in roughly the same area and historical period.

SMITH BROWN JONES: ALIEN ACCOUNTANT VOL. 2 #3 (SG, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Jon “Bean” Hastings. This series is about an alien visitor to Earth who disguises himself by admitting to be an alien, on the assumption that no one will believe him. I was not overly impressed by this issue. It has too much text, and its artwork is kind of unappealing. I would only buy the other issues of this series if they were cheap.

THE RED STAR #1 (Image, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Christian Gossett et al. A war story set in a futuristic, fictionalized version of the USSR. When it came out, The Red Star was groundbreaking because of its use of digital art. From a contemporary perspective, it looks garish and outdated, and also its story is difficult to follow. I’m hesitant to read any more of this series.

JONAH HEX #39 (DC, 1980) – “The Vow of a Samurai!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. An anonymous samurai visits America to search for his daughter Heejong, who was kidnapped by a bandit while visiting America. The samurai finds the daughter and the bandit, only to discover that they’ve fallen in love and had a child. The samurai commits seppuku, and Hex kills the bandit while he’s trying to flee with Heejong and their child. This is probably the worst Jonah Hex comic I’ve read. First, it’s based on shallow knowledge of Japanese culture. Heejong is a Korean name, not a Japanese name. When the samurai fights some Indians, he shouts at them in complete gibberish, such as “Azumata minimoto hazarawah!” (And the Indians reply with equally meaningless phrases, like “Wahoneh sahapehti! Hahonash!”) There were several Japanese people working in the DC offices, and Fleisher could have asked them for some plausible-sounding Japanese war cries, instead of just making stuff up. Second, the ending of this story is infuriating. Heejong may be suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and her husband does try to hold her hostage so he can escape. But Heejong says she’s fallen in love with him, and we have no evidence that this isn’t true. Instead of letting her escape with her child’s father, Jonah kills the bandit and leaves her all alone in a foreign country. And she can’t go back to Japan either, now that she’s been disgraced. But Jonah seems to have no sympathy for her at all.

2000 AD #1821 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wolves Part 2,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Andrew Currie. While Mega-City One suffers from famine, its Sov inhabitants are rounded up and put in camps. The Sovs offer to provide Mega-City One with food aid in exchange for the forcible repatriation of all their citizens. I’m usually lukewarm about Mike Carroll’s work, but I like this story. I especially like the scene where the villain and his thugs cut in line for food, even though the people already in line have been waiting an hour, and there’s not enough to go around. Savage: “Rise Like Lions Part 10,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. While the battle is stalled, the Volgs start taking revenge on the poor slum-dwellers who are supporting the rebels. Ampney Crucis: “The Entropy Tango Part 10,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Simon Davis. Ampney is confronted by his own father. Red Seas: “Fire Across the Deep Part 10,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. Another big fight scene. Strontium Dog: “The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha Chapter 3: Mutant Spring,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. The SD Agents help Johnny win the battle of Milton Keynes, and that’s the end of this story arc.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #12 (Marvel, 2016) – “Power Play Part 1: The Stark Contrast,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Mary Jane comes to Peter’s charity gala with Tony Stark at her date. Also present is Augustus Roman, aka the Regent. The event is attacked by the Ghost, and while trying to fight him, Spider-Man and Iron Man get in each other’s way and bicker childishly. This is a fun issue, but I don’t like how Dan Slott writes the Ghost. The Ghost doesn’t have the same aura of mystery in this issue as in Parker’s Thunderbolts or Micheline’s Iron Man.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #5 (Eclipse, 1985) – “One of Those Days in Downtown Delta Five,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Alan Davis. A drunk Pressbutton is abducted by giant ants. Pressbutton is saved by two other mercenaries, Boots and Glove, and it turns out that the ants mistook Pressbutton for Boots, who is also a cyborg with a weapon for a hand. This is a fun story with  beautiful art. Alan Davis will be at Heroes Con, and I hope I get a chance to talk to him. There’s also a short story by Hunt Emerson, which is basically a Future Shocks story except that it was published in Warrior instead of 2000 AD, and in addition there’s another Laser Eraser and Pressbutton story with art by J. David Jackson.

Somewhere around here I went to ICAF in Vancouver. It was a great conference.

DOPIN’ DAN #1 (Last Gasp, 1972/1979) – “A Day with the Lifers” etc., [W/A] Ted Richards. This issue’s indicia says “Revised Edition,” and it may have different contents from the original 1972 edition. I decided to read it because Ted Richards unfortunately just died. Dopin’ Dan is essentially a hippie version of Beetle Bailey, with lots of drug references. There are a couple jokes in this issue in which methadone is compared to 3.2 beer. I had to ask my Facebook friends to explain these jokes. Ted Richards was a talented and funny cartoonist, and like his fellow Air Pirates, he was heavily influenced by pre-WWII cartoonists like Herriman and Segar. Sadly Dopin’ Dan has never been collected as far as I know.

COLONIA #6 (Colonia, 2001) – “And Not a Drop to Drink”, [W/A] Jeff Nicholson. A ship comes ashore in America, where its crew finds Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth and some people who have been kept alive by it for hundreds of years. As explained in the letter column, Colonia takes place in an alternate world where the New World was uninhabited when Europeans reached it. I think this idea is extremely problematic. It’s an erasure of indigenous people, and it’s reminiscent of the rejected claim that the country of Australia was terra nullius (land belonging to no one) before European colonization. Also, by getting rid of native Americans, Nicholson foreclosed a lot of narrative possibilities. Besides that, this comic’s art and dialogue are just average.

SECRET MESSAGES #4 (NBM, 2002) – “The Silent Invasion Abductions 4,” [W/A] Michael Cherkas, [W] Larry Hancock. While investigating a string of murders, a detective discovers a secret underground facility, where he sees a man being dragged by thugs while shouting about aliens. When the detective tries to return to the facility later, he finds that its former location is now an empty pit. I like this series, and I want to collect more of it. The Silent Invasion is part of a genre of UFO conspiracy comics that also includes Saucer Country/State and Department of Truth.

NOW: THE NEW COMICS ANTHOLOGY #5 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – [E] Eric Reynolds. This issue is very long, but it can be read quickly because it includes a lot of abstract comics with minimal dialogue. “Selection Process,” by Spanish artist Ana Galvañ, has some beautiful design work but not much of a plot. Eroyn Franklin’s “The Cabin” may be the highlight of the issue. It seems to be about a woman talking to her house, and its coloring and linework are excellent. Eroyn Franklin was the former director of the Short Run festival, but she hasn’t yet published a book with a major publisher. Walt Holcombe’s “The Asshole with the Hat” is a funny history of hats. Walker Tate’s “Nail Clippers” is drawn in a style that reminds me of Ruppert and Mulot. Other artists in this isue include Theo Ellsworth, Keren Katz, Roman Muradov and Jesse Reklaw.

SLOW NEWS DAY #6 (SLG, 2002) – untitled, [W/A] Andi Watson. In the conclusion of a six-part miniseries, two journalists begin a new relationship after their existing relationships end. I would probably have liked this comic more if I’d read the previous five issues. However, I am not a big fan of Andi Watson. His artwork is too cutesy and minimalistic for its own good. Also, in this issue the style of the lettering doesn’t match the style of the artwork.

2000 AD #1822 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wolves Part 3,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Andrew Currie. The deportation order leads to a riot. In the melee, one of the focal characters, Yuri, is shot dead, and Dredd kills the villain, Luka, who’s been exploiting his fellow immigrants. This story feels like an allegory for Japanese internment. If it had been published a couple years later, it could have been read as a critique of Brexit. Ampney Crucis: as above. Crucis’s encounter with his dad is depicted in a flashback. Red Seas: as above. More fighting. I still don’t know who’s fighting or why. Future Shocks: “Intestinauts Are Go!”, [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Pye Parr. The adventures of a team of tiny robots designed to kill intestinal bacteria. This premise is hilarious, although this story would have been better in color. The Intestinauts were funny enough that they’ve reappeared multiple times, and I’ve already read their most recent appearance, in Progs #2275-2278. Savage: as above. There’s more fighting, and Savage decides it’s time to deal with the sniper.

EDGE #1 (Malibu, 1994) – “The New Prometheus,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Gil Kane. This is some kind of a superhero story, but it’s ruined by completely incoherent storytelling. The story is told out of chronological order, but there’s no indication of which scenes are flashbacks and which scenes are taking place in the present, and as a result, I was mystified as to what was going on. Nor did I have a clear sense of how the characters were connected to each other. At least this comic has some good art.

NEGATIVE EXPOSURE #2 (Humanoids, 19992/2001) – “For Your Amusement Park,” [W] Thierry  Smolderen, [A] Enrico Marini. I only know Smolderen as a comics theorist, the author of a brilliant essay on the origin of word balloons. (I have his book The Origins of Comics, which expands on this project, but I haven’t read it yet.) However, he’s also a successful comics writer. Negative Exposure seems to be a translation of his early 1990s series Les dossiers d’Olivier Varèse. This issue has an extremely fast-paced, frenetic plot, in which the  protagonist is dragged around all over the world with little opportunity to catch a breath. Marini’s artwork is heavily influenced by manga, and in particular by Katsuhiro Otomo. Humanoids published four total issues of Negative Exposure in comic book format, and I’d like to get the other three. Both Marini and Smolderen have had several other works translated into English, including their better-known collaboration, Gipsy.

NERVOUS REX #1 (Blackthorne, 1985) – untitled, [W/A] William Van Horn. Two stories about a tyrannosaur and his henpecking wife. These stories are funny and inoffensive, much like old funny animal comics. The backup story, “King Billy,” is about a short king who hides in a box. This story shows a heavy Herriman influence, and its opening line – “Our little drama opens on a scene rife with rage and rant” – is a near quotation from Herriman’s Krazy Kat strip from Christmas 1918.

DETECTIVE COMICS #558 (DC, 1985) – “Strange Loves,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. This is part of the ongoing Night-Slayer/Nocturna plot, and is also a Crisis tie-in, since it shows the sky turning red. Moench was obsessed with Night-Slayer and Nocturna, but no other writer seems to have bothered with them. There’s also a Green Arrow backup story by Dean Traven and Trevor von Eeden. I’m guessing Dean R. Traven is a pseudonym, because first, he has no other GCD credits, and second, he shares his name with B. Traven, a pseudonymous writer whose real identity is still unknown. (Edit: Travis Hedge Coke suggests that he might be von Eeden himself, which makes sense given the similarity of their names.) This story has two characters named Beckett and Ionesco, after two absurdist playwrights.

THE SECRET HISTORY #11 (Archaia, 2010) – “Nadja,” [W] Jean-Pierre Pécau, [A] Igor Kordey. The Secret History is a combination of history, fantasy and various other genres. Its central conceit is that the events of human history have been shaped by four, later five, immortal “Archons.” Each of its albums is set in a different time period. This chapter takes place in World War II, and its focal event is the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. The Secret History has a very complex and intricate plot, but this issue made a fair amount of sense even without any other context. Archaia has translated at least the first 20 of this series’s 37 albums. Igor Kordey has an undeservedly negative reputation in America, because he had the bad luck to succeed Frank Quitely on New X-Men, and, at least according to this post, he had to draw that series on a very tight schedule. However, Kordey has produced a large number of successful works for the European market.

On my next trip to Heroes, I had a huge stack waiting for me, since I’d been away for three weeks.

NIGHTWING #103 (DC, 2023) – “Rise of the Underworld Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Travis Moore. The Titans travel to hell to retrieve Olivia’s contract. Back on Earth, Donna, Babs and Kory take Olivia to Themyscira to teach her self-defense, but then Dr. Polaris and some other villains show up to try to kidnap Olivia again. This is a fun storyline, but I’m more excited about the upcoming issue that will be told entirely from Dick’s point of view. In the backup story, Dick figures out that the boy acrobat cut his mother’s parachute, mistaking it for his own, because he wanted to get out of the circus life. However, there are more mysteries still to be resolved.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #8 (Image, 2023) – “The Last Eight Centuries,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. The last surviving genie from the previous cycle tells his origin story, and in an unsurprising twist, we learn that he’s now the bartender from the start of the series. The last two surviving people with wishes are Daisy and Ting-Shu. Ultimately, Ting-Shu wishes she didn’t have a wish, and Daisy wishes “that everyone would love the way they want to be loved.” Which I’m not sure is a good idea. Still, Eight Billion Genies was probably the best miniseries of the past year, and it should be nominated for an Eisner.

MONEY SHOT COMES AGAIN #1 (Vault, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. The Money Shot team suffers a publicity disaster after an unfortunate bestiality incident. Then the alien jellyfish creatures manifest on Earth, and they inform the Money Shot team about a human billionaire who’s corrupted an alien planet by teaching its people to practice capitalism. In order to get back on the Covalence’s good side, the Money Shot team have to travel to this planet and get rid of the billionaire. On the way to the planet, the protagonists are attacked by a team of robots based on various copyrighted characters. Also, an old underground comics character, Cherry Poptart, makes a cameo appearance at the end. I’m thrilled to see Money Shot again – it’s one of the most fun comics in recent memory. Also, “Money Shot Comes Again” is a hilarious title.

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #6 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. With the help of Hoggoth, Doyle finally defeats Emily, but Iric is killed in the battle. That’s the end of the series, which is unfortunate because Strange Academy was my favorite remaining Marvel comic. A few years ago, Marvel was publising a bunch of fun comics – Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Strange Academy, Patsy Walker, etc. – but now all those series are gone. However, a new series called Strange Academy: Miles Morales has been announced for August. I’m also disappointed that Emily didn’t get a redemption arc. Her initial downfall happened because she was trying too hard to be nice, and until she killed Iric, she hadn’t done anything that was impossible to come back from.  

KROMA #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Lorenzo De Felici. Kroma leads the lizards on a successful siege of the city. The old high priest reveals that he’s Kroma’s father, and she either kills him or he kills himself, I couldn’t tell. Kroma spares the other kids and teaches them how to communicate with the lizards. Kroma’s actions in this issue are harsh, but also entirely justified, since the city was a totally corrupt society. In summary, Kroma is one of the most intelligent uses of color I’ve ever seen in comics, and it deserves an Eisner nomination for Best Coloring, if for nothing else.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES/USAGI YOJIMBO: WHEREWHEN #1 (IDW, 2023) – “Wherewhen Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This story is set just before the Senso miniseries, which I guess implies that Senso is the definitive conclusion to the franchise. In the first half of the issue, Usagi is traveling with Lord Noriyuki’s army to the final battle with Lord Hikiji, when some peasants ask for his help killing an evil kappa. In the second half, the Turtles get transported to the past while chasing the evil Dr. Wherewhen. The first people they encounter are Jotaro and Yukichi, who mistake the Turtles for the kappa they’re hunting. The Usagi part of this issue is much more interesting than the Turtles part, though that’s to be expected, given that Stan only ever writes the Turtles in crossover stories. A sad subtext of this series is that we already know that Usagi is going to die right after it ends.

RADIANT BLACK #23 (Image, 2023) – “More Giant Robots,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Eduardo Ferigato. Nathan, as Radiant Black, has a meeting with his business partners, during which he makes sure Marshall shows up, so his partners don’t know his secret identity. This is a common Silver Age plot device – a superhero protecting his secret identity by pretending to appear in the same place as his alter ego – but the twist here is that Marshall and Nathan are both Radiant Black. Anyway, then the alien robots show up, and Marshall and Nathan have to travel back to Existence to seek help.

FLASH #797 (DC, 2023) – “Misadventures in Babysitting,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Serg Acuña & Tom Derenick. Ace has to babysit Irey, Jai and Maxine. As soon as his head is turned, the kids get kidnapped by Knives Maroney (from #785) and his fellow villains, including “Reverse-Grodd”. The kids are saved by younger versions of Jon and Damian, from their Super Sons period. Meanwhile Ace goes looking for the kids, but gets himself captured, and they have to save him. This is an extremely fun issue. It also sets up the darker plot twist that occurs next issue, because Granny Goodness appears at the end.

DARK RIDE #5 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. The first half of the issue is a flashback to Arthur Dante’s creation of Devil Land and Samhain and Halloween’s birth. While Samhain is showing Summer around the park, they discover a hidden passage which leads to the lair of a mad scientist. This issue felt like an overly quick read.

SHE-HULK #12 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Jen meets some clients, including a man who used to work with Thunderbolt Ross, and is now being sued for creating his own “Bulkhustler” armor (“for when you have an extreme amount of bulk to be hustled”). Then Jen has a rematch with the mystery man from last issue. “The First Rule of Book Club is…”, [W] Rowell, [A] Joe Quinones. A special story to commemorate the 175th legacy issue. Jen hosts a book club at the apartment she’s borrowing from Janet, but no one has read the book – except Captain America, who arrives after the party is over. Also, Sue has to bring Franklin and Valeria because they’re grounded, Volcana comes and the other guests think she’s a villain, and and Jen and Janet have a heart-to-heart talk about how Jen doesn’t like to be dependent on her friend. Janet ends up giving Jen the apartment for free, though that seems like it just makes the problem worse. This story is really fun, and it reminds me of the old stories about the superhero poker nights.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #5 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jordan Ifueko, [A] Alba Glez. The kids manage to get an invite to the gala (presumably based on the Met Gala). After some complicated shenanigans, they manage to defuse Olivia’s mind control technology and save the day, and Olivia is hauled back to the Kree Empire. When Lunella’s parents get angry at her for endangering herself, Lunella points out that they’re giving her mixed messages: “You tell me it’s dangerous, but you always say there’s nothing wrong with me. So which is it? Should I hide? Or should I hold my head up?” Lunella’s parents choose the second option. This miniseries is easily the best Lunella Lafayette story yet. It’s far better written than the ongoing series, yet it still seems appropriate for children. I hope Jordan Ifueko writes more Marvel comics.

THE GREAT BRITISH BUMP-OFF #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – “Blood Red Velvet Cake,” [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. As the hilarious title indicates, this series is a murder mystery that takes place during a British cooking show. It’s in the same vein as Giant Days, but that’s not a bad thing. The Great British Bump-Off is full of Allison’s brilliant dialogue and characterization and Sarin’s appealing art, and it has a fun sequence where one of the co-hosts pretends her cat is talking to her and saying “Le Corbusier’s utopias inevitably became dystopian.” I’m glad the direct-market comics industry still has space for an unconventional series like this one.

VANISH #6 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Netho Diaz. Oliver finally gets back to Elyn, but she’s horrified at the mess he’s made of his life, and she tells him that she’s been keeping him safe instead of vice versa. She asks him to go back to the mental hospital, but he refuses. We then learn that Elyn is pregnant, and that she’s leaving Oliver in order to protect their child. After he leaves home, Oliver is confronted by another superhero/Death Eater. The reader is inclined to sympathize with Oliver simply because he’s the protagonist, but Elyn is clearly justified in leaving him, and I almost wonder if she ought to be the protagonist instead.

W0RLDTR33 #1 (Image, 2023) – “PH34R,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Fernando Blanco. Decades ago, some techbros created a monstrous digital entity. They managed to contain it, but now it’s come back, and it’s possessed a teenage boy and caused him to murder dozens of people. The focal characters are Ellison, the murderous boy’s brother, and Gabriel, the wealthiest of W0rldtr33’s creators. Unlike Blue Book, W0rldtr33 feels like a genuine James Tynion comic, and it demonstrates his skill with the horror genre. As for the art, I like the blurring effect that Blanco uses to represent the digital entity’s influence.

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #5 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. In the present, Kavita kidnaps Wren, claiming she’s safer with her. In the future, Kavita tries to destroy the behemoth, but fails, and Grey has to save both her and Wren. I’m not entirely sure what happened in this issue, but it has some beautiful art, and Kavita being the villain is an unexpected but logical twist.

LOCAL MAN #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Fleecs, [W] Tim Seeley. Crossjack (real name Jack Xavier) visits a former villainess, the Fright, who he suspects of Hodag’s murder. She’s not the killer, but she then gets murdered by the real killer. Crossjack saves a priest from being hit by the car, but declines to tell the priest about a previous adventure in which he met God. Jack tries to kiss the police chief’s wife, but she’s not interested. In the backup story, drawn by Seeley in a ‘90s style, we see the beginning of Crossjack’s affair with Camo Crusader’s wife.

BATGIRLS #17 (DC, 2023) – “From Hell’s Heart Part 1,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Batgirls go to a block party, but it’s interrupted by a sniper who shoots Grace O’Halloran’s cameraman. Grace tries to buy a gun from some crooks to protect herself, but the Batgirls interrupt her meetup with the crooks, and then the sniper starts shooting people again. I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as the last few. Robbi Rodriguez’s art here is not as good as Jorge Corona’s art in the first story arc.

THE NEIGHBORS #2 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] Letizia Cadonici. The neighbors continue to act creepy. Possibly at their behest, Casey, the teenage stepdaughter, destroys Oliver’s stash of testosterone. The Neighbors is a fairly standard small-town horror story, but its transgender theme makes it unique. Doyle’s characterization is really good.

WASP #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Kasia Nie w/ Carola Borelli. Janet, Nadia and Jarvis manage to break out of their visions and defeat both the alien and the android. At the end of the issue, Whirlwind is murdered in prison. This was a really fun miniseries.

KAYA #7 (Image, 2023) – “In the Poison Lands Chapter 1,” [W/A] Wes Craig. The issue begins with a flashback in which a woman sacrifices herself to save Kaya and Jin from an armored dude. In search of the kidnapped Jin, Kaya, Seth and Muska (formerly Zothan) travel through a dungeon and narrowly escape from a giant squid monster. They reach the Poison Lands, where Jin has been taken. Jin is brought before the armored dude from the flashback. This issue is full of beautiful artwork and dynamic page layouts.

BLACK CLOAK #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Meredith McClaren. Phaedra and Pax interview the mermaids, and after a bizarre conversation, they learn who dumped the body. However, they don’t have any admissible evidence that this person (not yet identified) was the murderer. There’s a flashback to the eve of Phaedra’s wedding, when Phaedra discovered that her actual father was not an elf, causing her to abandon the elves’ court. The issue ends with Phaedra confronting her real dad, who seems to be some kind of dragon-human hybrid. I finally think I understand Black Cloak’s plot.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #14 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Butcher’s Return Part 4,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Antonio Fuso. Jace meets Jolie at a bar, and there’s a flashback to how they saved each other’s lives in the past. I don’t understand the chronology here. I’m not sure just when any of these events happened. We then learn that Jolie has betrayed Jace, and that all the people in the bar are Order of St. George agents. While Jace is trying to escape, Sunny is being forcibly inducted into the Order. This issue finally gives me a name for what the Order of St. George is: it’s a cult. It claims to have pure and altruistic motives, but really it’s just a means for its leaders to assert power over their subordinates. It isolates its members from the outside world, and persecutes them if they leave. If that’s not a cult, I don’t know what is. There’s also no apparent reason why its activities have to be secret – if everyone knew about the monsters, wouldn’t it be possible to deal with them more effectively? And so its emphasis on secrecy just seems like a means of enforcing its isolation from the world.

TERRORWAR #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Dave Acosta. In a dystopian future world, Muhammad and his teammates are paid to fight against manifestations of people’s fears. But when they go on their latest mission, they encounter a rival team of terror-fighters who want to take the bounty from them. This series’s premise is only mildly exciting, but I like Terrorwar’s characterization, and it also has an anti-capitalist subtext. The skeleton soldier at the end of the issue looks a lot like Rogue Trooper.

MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON #5 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luca Maresca. To stop reality from degrading, Monica has to find out what she wants. What she wants is to “know with utter certainty that I am fine. I am okay. I don’t have to prove a thing… I am enough. All by my damn self.” This is a satisfying conclusion, but this issue was a really quick read – although I didn’t mind that when I read this comic, because I had very limited time that day.

ROGUE SUN #12 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan fights Hellbent and his father. Dylan’s classmate Reggie tries to stop Hellbent and gets killed. I’m not sure if Reggie is the same kid who Dylan’s been bullying for the entire series. Caleb takes over Dylan’s body, defeats Hellbent, and kills Hellbent’s dad. But afterward, Caleb refuses to return the Sun Stone to Dylan, claiming he can be a better Rogue Sun than Dylan can. That’s a clever plot twist that makes me excited for the third story arc.

ALL AGAINST ALL #5 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. After a big fight, Helpless and V’lmann manage to defeat Cov’n in his gorilla body. But then Helpless tries to kill V’lmann too, and B’tay has to take over the gorilla body and kill his “son” to save his daughter. So I guess humanity is extinct now? This ending is kind of an anticlimax, but overall I really liked this series.

LITTLE MONSTERS #12 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. We start with a flashback to when Finnick, the adult human, was a child. The human girl, Laura, frees the surviving twin vampire, and a confrontation ensues between the two vampire factions. Then Finnick finds the vampires and throws a Molotov cocktail at them. Next issue is the last one.

FANTASTIC FOUR #6 (Marvel, 2023) – “A Shot in the Dark,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Ivan Fiorelli. The Negative Zone bacteria are spreading out of control. Surprisingly, it’s Johnny who comes up with the solution: to turn off the sunlight in the entire area where the bacteria have spread, so that they’ll starve to death from inability to photosynthesize. This solution requires Sue to stay awake for days on end, so she can use her powers to block the sun. Somehow it works, and the bacteria are killed off. But since Sue has now demonstrated that she could kill the entire human race if she felt like it, Maria Hill arrives to arrest her. This issue is a good example of a technique Ryan North often uses: he creates a seemingly insoluble problem, and then he proposes a brilliant and unintuitive solution that the reader would never have thought of. A funny moment in this issue is when Johnny is reading Jane Eyre to Sue to keep her awake, and he’s surprised to discover that Jane Eyre is actually good, but he thinks it should be called “The Mystery of the Murdery Attic.”

BLUE BOOK #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. Betty and Barney can’t overcome the trauma they’ve suffered from their alien encounter. A psychiatrist hypnotizes Barney and gets him to explain some of what happened. This series still reads like an extended plot summary, and Betty and Barney still have no observable character traits besides being scared. I expect better from James Tynion. This issue’s backup story is about Tarrare, an 18th-century Frenchman who had an insatiable appetite and was accused of eating a baby.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #48 (Marvel, 2023) – “Revenge of the Brood Part 6,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. The fight with the Brood continues, and Binary is seemingly killed. This issue includes some effective artwork, but Revenge of the Brood is a pretty boring story arc.

PHANTOM ROAD #2 (Image, 2023) – “Through the Salt,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Dom and Birdie discover they can still see the outside world, but only if they look at it through a window from indoors. A creepy dude tells them that they have to go to a place called Golgotha. Then they get chased by zombies again. This issue has more depth than issue 1 did.

SUPERMAN #3 (DC, 2023) – “A Leap of Faith,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jamal Campbell. Superman fights Livewire and an army of Parasites, and then he gives Luthor a signal watch. This is just an average Superman comic, and it’s not exciting me. I think I’m going to drop this series unless it improves significantly. Also, the first half of this issue is colored in extremely dark tones, and this was annoying because I was trying to read it by the light of a bedside lamp.

NOCTERRA #13 (Image, 2023) – “No Brakes Part 2: Then,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. In a flashback, Emory visits his biological parents, but when he walks into their house, someone pistolwhips him and knocks him unconscious. In the present, Bill explains how he’s still alive, then the heroes make it inside Eos, where they meet some luminous people. This series is heading for an exciting conclusion.

TRAVELING TO MARS #5 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto Dakar Meli. Roy remembers how he met his wife, then tells the story of a legendary fish named Leroy Brown (the baddest fish in the whole damn pond?). Then Roy learns that there are other spaceships chasing him. The trouble with this series is that each issue includes just 20 pages of story, and the remaining space is filled with previews of other much less interesting comics.

NO/ONE #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Higgins & Brian Buccellato, [A] Geraldo Borges. Ben’s police chief tries to get him to drop the case. The local college football coach is murdered. Ben has a tense confrontation with his son. A United States Senator offers Ben the job of police chief, but in response, Ben resigns from the police force. When I read this issue, I had trouble remembering what this series was about, but other than that I enjoyed this issue. The major action sequence in this issue, where the police are chasing No/One across rooftops, is very well-drawn.

GRIM #10 (Boom!, 2023) – “Life,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Jess’s mother meets the incarnation of life. Jess and her companions find their way back to the afterlife, but then their own friend Annabel betrays them. I still like Grim’s artwork better than its writing, but at least it has a fairly intriguing story.

LOVE & ROCKETS #13 (Fantagraphics, 2023) – “I Guess…”, [W/A] Jaime Hernandez, etc. While Ray is out of town with his students, Maggie hangs out with Tonta and some other women. Ray’s license plate says LUFFY, which may be a rare example of Jaime referencing a comic that’s more recent than his own work. Jaime’s other contribution to this issue is a burlesque fantasy story that has no apparent connection to Maggie’s world. Beto’s stories in this issue are all focused on Fritz, as usual.

2000 AD #2317 (Rebellion, 2023) – I still haven’t received the prog pack containing issues #2313-2316. Dredd: “The Hagger They Fall,” [W] Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt, [A] Paul Marshall. Dredd travels to an alien planet to track down a criminal, whose identity is not revealed yet. The fun part in this chapter is that Dredd’s informant is an anthropomorphic cat who keeps saying “furball.” The Out: “Book 3 Part 6,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. Cyd travels to the planet of Zotol to try to recover her forgotten past. Mark Harrison’s artwork here is so beautiful that it’s often hard to read. Joe Pineapples: “Tin Man 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Joe remembers his romance with another robot named Sue, who teamed up with him to kill his ABC Warrior teammate Blackblood. The Order: “Heart of Darkness,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John M. Burns. Anna Kohl escapes from a squid creature made of shadow matter. John M. Burns is 85, just a bit younger than Sergio, and it’s amazing that he can still produce such detailed artwork and lush coloring. His artwork is a throwback to an earlier era of British comics, in a good way. Proteus Vex: “Crawlspace,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. I still don’t understand this story, especially not now that I’ve missed the previous four chapters.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #139 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pé. Shredder gives the Turtles a lesson in some kind of mystical/scientific technique, and then the Rat King attacks them. I like the central sequence in this issue, where each of the Turtles gets a page devoted to him or her. Besides that, this issue is another boring Armageddon Game tie-in.

HARROWER #3 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Brahm Revel. While fleeing from the killer, the heroes descend into the tunnels below their town. Then the main character, who is now the final girl, somehow finds herself at a party with all the town’s adults in attendance. This series is fairly fun, but it’s not the best current horror comic.

WONDER WOMAN #798 (DC, 2023) – “The Reckoning Part II,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Diana fights Ares and Hera but loses, and Mary Marvel has to transfer her powers to Diana in order to save her. In the backup story, by Josie Campbell and Caitlin Yarsky, Mary is depressed over losing her powers. Diana gives her a pep talk, and also gifts her some magical items that restore her super-strength and flight.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY – THE GLASS HOUSE #1 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Can’t they give this series a simpler title? Ken, a minor character from A Doll’s House, is now a high-powered executive, and he rewards his top subordinates by inviting them to some creepy satanic nightclub. A new character, Max, gets invited to Ken’s club, and then Ken introduces Max to a strange man named Morrie. I didn’t realize this until I read this webpage, but Morrie is the angel Moroni, who was introduced at the end of the last volume. Also, the Corinthian hangs out with Madison, who’s now a cat, and at the end of the issue, we learn that Ken’s nightclub is run by Azazel.

SPACE JOB #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] David A. Goodman, [A] Álvaro Sarraseca. Lieutenant Masht is appointed the new first officer, and Travis accepts a job offer that will get him off the ship. The funniest part of this comic is the alien crewman’s dispassionate musings about how his people could exploit the flaws of the human race.

SILVER SURFER: GHOST LIGHT #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Too Much Information,” [W] John Jennings, [A] Valentine De Landro. Al Harper’s house is attacked both by agents of AIM and by the Stranger’s creatures. Then the Surfer and Al are contacted by the “Inner Faction,” a coalition of the sane ones among the Stranger’s many alternate personalities. This plot point reminds me of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, where (spoiler) the plot is driven by a factional division among Anaander Mianaai’s component selves.

X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 1963/2023) – “X-Men,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. In their first appearance, the four original male X-Men meet their new teammate, Jean Grey, and then they have their first battle with Magneto. Lee and Kirby’s X-Men was one of their worst collaborations, partly due to its sexist treatment of Jean Grey. Throughout this issue her teammates are constantly leering at her. (However, X-Men was not the only classic Marvel title that had a sexism problem; see the infamous “Lincoln’s mother” speech from Fantastic Four #11.) What’s impressive about this issue is that it already presents the basic concepts of the X-Men in a fully realized way. It sets the template for many subsequent X-Men stories, in that it begins with a training sequence, and then the X-Men go off and fight Magneto. A surprising aspect of this issue is that Hank McCoy speaks in normal dialogue, rather than in his usual exaggerated and elevated style.

LAZARUS PLANET: REVENGE OF THE GODS #3 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino & Cian Tormey. Yara and Billy are freed from their prison cell on Olympus, and they meet Hippolyta, who’s now a goddess. The heroes team up with an army of gods, then they acquire an unexpected ally, Ares. Then there’s another chapter of the Nubia backup story. The interesting thing about this otherwise generic crossover event is how it connects the Wonder Woman and Shazam mythos.

EXORCISTS NEVER DIE #1 (Mad Cave, 2023) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Sebastián Píriz. Two exorcists, Ellen and Syd, have to fight the living incarnation of Sloth (the sin, not the animal). They defeat Sloth by summoning angels, but they still have to fight the other six deadly sins, starting with Lust. This series’s premise is interesting enough.

MARVEL VOICES: SPIDER-VERSE #1 (Marvel, 2023) – [E] Devin Lewis. The best story in this issue is the first one. As a gift, Miles buys his mother a doll that she always loved, but the doll is damaged before Miles can get it to her. The other highlight is Jason Loo’s “Workin’ It Out,” a sitcom parody in which Peter and Tony Stark are roommates. Jeremy Holt and Eric Koda’s Silk story has the same gimmick as the upcoming Nightwing #105 – every panel is shown from Silk’s POV – but I expect that Bruno Redondo will execute this gimmick better. In general, these Marvel Voices anthologies have included some good stories, but also a lot of mediocre ones. I probably ought to quit buying them automatically.

2000 AD #2318 (Rebellion, 2023) – Dredd: as above. Dredd’s target is revealed to be Keeper Hag, a villain introduced a couple years ago, but based on the much older villain Trapper Hag. Joe Pineapples: as above. Joe confronts Blackblood, and his girlfriend Sue Bananas suggests the possibility of having a child. The Out: as above. Cyd continues to search for her records, but gets arrested, and then she’s attacked by armored pandas. The Order: as above. The Order’s ship is attacked by a shadow kraken. Proteus Vex: as above. Again I’m not able to summarize this story.

DC SILENT TALES #1 (DC, 2023) – six stories, [W/A] Gustavo Duarte. A collection of six silent stories starring various DC characters. Gustavo Duarte’s draftsmanship is very good, but his silent storytelling is confusing at times, and his humor is only mildly funny. The best of the stories is the one about Zatanna, but as noted above, I didn’t like this issue nearly as much as It’s Jeff.

ORDINARY GODS #11 (Image, 2023) – “The End,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Daniel HDR. Christopher convinces one of the evil gods to let him out of prison so he can activate the God Machine, and the series proceeds to its conclusion. Ordinary Gods is perhaps too ambitious for its own good. Because it’s only a 12-issue series, it has to resolve its universe-spanning plot line very quickly, leaving little room for characterization. I would have liked to see more of Christopher’s feelings about his little sister, who’s now his enemy.

DAREDEVIL #10 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 10,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. While the Avengers are arresting Elektra, Matt tries to find the Book of the Fist, which will somehow stop everything from going to hell. Goldie gives Matt the book, and Matt escapes, I think. These past two issues have been relentlessly bleak and depressing, and it’s hard to sympathize with Matt, who seems to have turned into an obsessed fanatic. I’m on the verge of dropping this series, but it’s ending in August, so I might as well see it through.

THE SEASONS HAVE TEETH #1 (Boom!, 2023) – “Spring,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Sebastián Cabrol. I was very hesitant to read this series because I’ve disliked some of Dan Watters’s other comics. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed this debut issue. The conceit of this series is that the four seasons are literal incarnate beings, and they travel around causing havoc. Spring, who appears in this issue, looks kind of like an even bigger version of the forest deity from Princess Mononoke, and now I want to read the rest of the series so that I can see the other three seasons.

STONEHEART #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Emma Kubert. Shayde meets her boss’s younger friend Eldon Redwood, and they have some tame adventures. I’m giving up on this series. Emma Kubert’s linework and lettering are so rudimentary that they seem sub-professional, and Stoneheart’s plot is aimless and boring. Inkblot had the same problems, but I was willing to tolerate them in that case because the cat was so cute, and Stoneheart doesn’t have any equally redeeming aspects.

STORM AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MUTANTS #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Song of the End,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Alessandro Vitti. Storm and Jon Ironfire battle Emma Frost in the form of Mistress Mold. This is another waste of an issue. It compresses so many epic moments into such a small space that none of them have any impact. Perhaps Jon Ironfire is a potentially interesting character, but Sins of Sinister is so excessively fast-paced that it has no space for character development.

THE GIMMICK #2 (Ahoy, 2023) – untitled, [W] Joanne Starer, [A] Elena Gogou. Shane’s girlfriend Bonnie visits his mother, who is shocked to discover she has a grandson. I realize now that Shane and Alicia were never married, and he may not know about his child. The baby seems to have inherited his father’s strength, since he’s able to lift a couch by himself. Meanwhile, in Mexico, Shane meets the daughter of the guy he killed, she shoots a man by accident, and they have to run away together. The issue ends with Shane and the daughter lying on the ground together – the same position in which Shane and Alicia were depicted at the start of the issue.

THE EXPANSE: DRAGON TOOTH #1 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Andy Diggle, [A] Rubine. Between the events of the sixth and seventh Expanse books, Earth is facing a famine, and violence is brewing between the various inhabited worlds. I haven’t seen the Expanse TV show, but I have read three of the books, so I decided I might as well read the comic. I don’t have a very clear memory of the books’ continuity or characters, but this comic does feel like an effective remediation of the books, and I think I will continue reading it.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #12 (DC, 2023) – [E] Eric Stephenson? This issue contains the final chapters of the ongoing stories, including The Blizzard, which was surprisingly good, and Red Stitches, which was a big disappointment because it never made any sense. Also in this issue are a new Science Dog story by Kirkman and Walker; a new Old Guard story by Rucka and Leandro Fernández, which shows how the team got together; and a tribute to the late Vincent Kukua. The unpleasant surprise in this issue is a story by J*s*n L*t**r. Why does Image think it’s okay to work with him again? Has he done anything to make amends for his history of predatory behavior, or to improve as a person? Or is Image trying to sweep his actions under the rug? If I’d known he had a story in this issue, I would have boycotted it.

DEAD SEAS #5 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. Some more awful stuff happens, and we realize that the leader of the ghosts is the dead wife of the company founder. This issue includes some powerful storytelling, but there are too many irrelevant characters in this series. The company owner’s daughter, Isa, is the closest thing to a protagonist, but she gets so little panel time that I had trouble figuring out her name.   

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #6 (Ahoy, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. The old billionaire’s handler gets shot, which he richly deserves, and the billionaire decides to spend all his money on building a giant statue of Business Dog. I guess that’s not the worst possible conclusion, because it does mean he’s putting his money back into circulation. A great line of dialogue in this issue is “I want to live in a world where we don’t need to trick a billionaire into doing the right thing.” Mark Russell’s ability to come up with lines like this is one of his greatest assets.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #5 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Jeff Stokely. The kids go to Thai Town, where they finally meet someone who appears to be the culprit. This series is a fascinating exploration of Thai-American culture, as well as a very gory piece of horror, but as previously mentioned, it’s hampered by a confusing plot.

THE X-CELLENT #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “Unsocial Media Part 2,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. In the previous issue, Myles was reported to have died, but this issue we learn that it was a hoax. Zeitgeist creates a new teammate named Dox (for “doxxing”), who spies on X-Statix, allowing Zeitgeist to tell the media that Myles is alive, and that Edie’s daughter and Tike’s son have broken up but are pretending to still be together. However, Zeitgeist has already killed Dox’s creator, Max, and in revenge, Max blackmails Toodle Pip and Mirror Girl and orders them to kill Zeitgeist. They ought to be trying to do that even without the blackmail, because Zeitgeist is awful.

WHITE SAVIOR #4 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Nguyen, [W] Scott Burman. The three future people save the day by applying skills they’ve learned from movies. They return to the present, where their story is depicted in a movie with a whitewashed cast. Then some people from the future travel back in time to the present, looking for Todd Parker so he can save their world. But when they learn that he’s not white, they decide not to bother with him. This scene is a hook for a possible sequel, but if there is a sequel, I’m not sure I want to read it. White Savior is funny, but it’s also severely overwritten and unsubtle.

NEW MUTANTS LETHAL LEGION #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “Terrible Decisions,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Enid Balám. Some of the New Mutants meet some survivors of the Mutant Massacre, while the other team members try out for Count Nefaria’s Lethal Legion. The problem with this issue is its lack of thematic unity. Half the issue is a lighthearted parody, while the other half is a serious exploration of one of the most traumatic moments in Marvel’s history, and Anders makes no attempt to resolve the tension between these two halves of the issue. It’s not clear what her New Mutants run is supposed to be about. A fun thing in this issue is Count Nefaria’s dinosaur topiary.

DEEP CUTS #1 (Image, 2023) – “High Fidelity,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Danilo Beyruth. In New Orleans in 1917, young Charles Stewart wants to be a professional jazz clarinetist, but his grandmother disapproves of jazz music. On top of that, his professional mentor is a sleazy creep who sleeps with married women. Charles manages to overcome all of this and get his career started. This comic feels like a realistic depiction of the origins of jazz music. According to his Twitter profile, Joe Clark is a musician himself, so I assume this comic is drawing on his expertise.

HEXWARE #5 (Image, 2023) – “The Wolf’s Lament,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. Ron teams up with Jesminder’s dad, and they get attacked by some nationalist terrorists who swear by “the great Donald”. There’s also a plotline about Jesminder and Which-Where, but I don’t remember anything about it. This series is so confusing that I’m considering dropping it.

NIGHTCRAWLERS #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Sacred Heart,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Lorenzo Tammetta & Phillip Sevy. Mother Righteous executes her final scheme, and almost manages to kill Moira in a way that will allow her to dominate the ensuing new timeline. But before she can do that, Mother Righteous is killed by a Banshee clone and a Nightcrawler clone. This issue is a bit easier to understand than some of the other Sins of Sinister chapters.

SINS OF SINISTER: DOMINION #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “∞ Deadly Sins,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Paco Medina & Lucas Werneck. The timeline finally gets reset, but Sinister and Mother Righteous both have access to the knowledge of what happened in the future. Also, Rasputin IV comes back in time to the present. Mother Righteous claims that Xavier, Hope, Emma and Exodus may still be contaminated with Sinister’s DNA, so they all have to be thrown in the Pit. My final verdict on Sins of Sinister is that it was a confusing, pointless mess, and that if I had known what it would be like in advance, I wouldn’t have read any of it.

CLEAR #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francis Manapul.  The issue starts with a flashback to the death of Sam and Kendra’s child in a car accident. While continuing his investigation, Sam fights a man who looks just like him. Then he finds a clue which causes him to go and jump off a bridge. This issue had more effective pacing than issue 1, and Manapul’s artwork is very good.

MONARCH #3 (Image, 2023) – “God Bless the Child,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Alex Lins. Travon’s alien creators try to either kill or abduct him. I really like how Alex Lins draws Travon, but Monarch’s plot is boring and directionless, and I’m going to continue reading it only because there aren’t many issues left.  

BULLS OF BEACON HILL #4 (Aftershock, 2023) – “Before the Dawn,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Andy Macdonald. Chris convinces his mother to call off her minions, but they work for her husband, not her, and Chris has to fight them off himself. Chris’s mom reveals that she refuses to leave Orin because he’s paying for her elderly father’s care, and “How am I supposed to choose? My son or my father?” I’m sorry, but fuck that. She was obligated to choose her son, who wouldn’t exist if not for her, and not her father, who’s already lived his life. She’s just as bad as Orin, because she’s enabled Orin’s abuse. What she says next makes it both better and worse: “When I had to [choose], you… you’re so much like him.” This is a consistent theme of the series – that Chris is just as violent as his father. The issue ends with Orin confronting Chris personally.

DANGER STREET #5 (DC, 2023) – “Manhunter,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornés. Orion fights Starman, the Creeper confronts Batman, and Manhunter continues trying to assassinate the Green Team. By this point in the series, the separate plotlines are starting to come together. Dr. Fate still hasn’t played any role in this series other than narrating it.

LAZARUS PLANET: REVENGE OF THE GODS #4 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cian Tormey. Diana finally beats Hera by drawing on the power of her friends. The climactic page in this story is a reference to the old convention of listing Shazam’s six gods and their associated powers. However, it would have been better if Wilson had used six words whose acronym was WONDER. In the first backup story, by Cloonan, Conrad and Martinez, the Amazons’ powers are restored. In the second backup story, by Josie Campbell and Caitlin Yarsky, Hippolyta restores Mary’s powers and gives her a new list of six patron goddesses. Here, as earlier in Mary’s history, the Z in Mary’s SHAZAM acronym stands for Zephyrus, even though the mythological Zephyrus was male.

2000 AD #2319 (Rebellion, 2023) – Dredd: as above. Dredd summons some other judges to apprehend Keeper Hag and some other crooks. We learn that this whole mission was organized in order to capture Keeper Hag along with a number of other criminals, so as to justify the cost of sending Judges into space. The Out: as above. Cyd escapes from both the Zotols and the pandas, then meets someone named Cheerio. Joe Pineapples: as above. Joe rejects the idea of having a child with Sue, but when Joe is about to shoot Blackblood, Sue holds a gun to Joe’s own head. The Order: as above. The heroes continue to struggle with the shadow kraken, while a tiny Paul Bunyan clone (I think) tries to defeat the infection in Ben Franklin’s intestines. Proteus Vex: as above. Again, I don’t know what’s going on here.

I went back to Heroes just one week later, for their FCBD event. Besides the FCBD comics, I also got this week’s comics, and I bought about 60 back issues for a dollar each.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES/USAGI YOJIMBO: WHEREWHEN #2 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Stan Sakai. After Usagi’s allies discover that the Turtles are mutated humans and not kappa, the Turtles are introduced to Lord Noriyuki, but he can’t spare the manpower to help them find Dr. Wherewhen. However, Noriyuki’s problems and the Turtles’ problems are related, because Dr. Wherewhen arrived in the past many years before the Turtles did, and has already built a power base. At the end of the issue, the heroes are attacked by the Mogura (mole) ninja. Notable moments in this issue: One of the Turtles guesses that Jotaro is Usagi’s son, and Jotaro is quick to deny it. The Turtles are served okonomiyaki, which Usagi describes as Japanese pizza. This is an anachronism, since okonomiyaki is a 20th-century invention. Yukichi says that the reason all the people look like different animals is because of the influence of local kami. This is a rare instance in which the characters in Usagi acknowledge that they look like animals. It’s usually possible to believe that they look like animals only to  the reader and not to each other.

FISHFLIES #1 FCBD EDITION (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Some kids want to visit the convenience store, but the parking lot is full of dead bugs. When one of the kids is  brave enough to go inside, he discovers that the store is being robbed. This is an interesting start to a series that seems to blend two streams of Lemire’s work – his horror comics and his realistic stories about Canada. However, this issue is very short. The forthcoming full version of this issue will be much longer.

THE FLASH #798 (DC, 2023) – “Time Heist,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin et al. Linda gives birth to a son, Wade – where have we heard that name before? But the baby is immediately kidnapped by Granny Goodness, disguised as a nurse. Hourman and Gold Beetle volunteer to help Wally get him back. This is Gold Beetle’s first meeting with Wally from her perspective, but not from his. I hope Wade is going to be okay; since we’ve already seen his older self, it at least seems like he’s not going to die.

STARSIGNS #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Megan Levens. The six Zodiac signs mysteriously disappear from the sky. Then an Arab-American woman, Rana Fawaaz, discovers that she has the power to stop time, because she’s the incarnation of Taurus, which implies that there are other people who are the incarnations of the other eleven signs. This series’s plot feels like a mashup of Sex Criminals (the power to stop time) and The Wicked + The Divine (twelve ordinary people becoming incarnations of deities). Megan Levens’s style of art and coloring in this issue even resembles that of Jamie McKelvie. The main unique thing about Starsigns, so far, is Rana’s Arab-American ethnicity. I like the scene where she talks to her father.

MAPLE TERRACE #1 (Uncivilized, 2023) – “Maple Terrace” etc., [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. A pair of autobiographical stories from the artist’s childhood. In the first one, the eight-year-old Noah is plagued by cockroaches at night. In the second, Noah accidentally damages his older brother’s copy of Spawn #5, but then replaces it with a second copy, which he stole from his friends after they were arrested for starting a fire. Noah’s best work has a unique outlook which is hard to define, but it’s sort of a mix of sarcasm with sincere pathos. We laugh at the young Noah, but we also feel sorry for him. On the inside front cover, he writes, “Whenever I draw stories based on my childhood it fills my family with dread.” It should, because this issue reveals that his parents were abusive and neglectful, and that they deserved to have their kids taken away by CPS. Noah makes it seem funny that his childhood home was full of cockroaches, but it’s only funny in hindsight.

RADIANT BLACK #24 (Image, 2023) – “Return to Existence,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Nathan and Marshall travel through Existence until they finally restore their robot (the Colossal) to life. The Colossal tells them that their powers are glitching out because thy’re not meant to be shared, so only one of them can be Radiant Black. This issue contains some of Marcelo Costa’s most spectacular art. There’s one two-page spread that reminds me of the Möbius strip page from Promethea. While reading this issue, I finally figured out how to read the language of Existence, but I can’t be bothered to reread the rest of the series and decipher all the text in this language.

EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #1 (Marvel, 2023) – Spider-Rex: “Enter: Kravertooth the Hunter!!!”, [W] Karla Pacheco, [A] Pere Pérez. A T. Rex version of Spider-Man battles a sabertooth tiger version of Kraven. This story has the same gimmick as Jurassic League, but I enjoyed it much more. This gimmick is funny enough for a short story, but not for a six-issue miniseries. Also, this story’s creators seem to be having more fun with the concept than Daniel Warren Johnson and Juan Gedeon did. “Enter: Kravertooth the Hunter” even includes a dinosaur version of the Spider-Man theme song. The backup story is “Curse of the Spider-Killer” by Zander Cannon and Guillermo Sanna, whose style here is based on that of Francesco Francavilla.

I HATE THIS PLACE #8 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Having arrived in the future, Gabby is captured by some soldiers, but an elderly version of Trudy rescues her. Trudy tells Gabby what not to do when she returns to the present, then after Gabby goes back to the present, Trudy sacrifices her life to blow up the soldiers’ complex. We also see how the future version of Gabby died, though Trudy doesn’t tell the younger Gert this information. Back in the present, Gabby and Trudy find some kind of device under their floor.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: JON KENT #3 (DC, 2023) – “The Regime’s Paradise,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Clayton Henry. Jon explores the world of Injustice, which seems to be a utopia. But when Jon saves a baby from falling out a window, its mother is terrified of him. Based on this, Jon realizes that this world only seems like a utopia, because Superman has scared its people into total submissiveness.

SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2023) – “Maxed Out Chapter 1: Clear and Present Dangers,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. Peter saves some people from a fire, but fails to save one man who he didn’ t know about. Fires in apartment buildings are an extremely common occurrence in superhero comics, because they provide a convenient way for the hero to do something heroic. Anyway, Peter then tries to amplify his spider-sense so that he can sense danger to other people as well as himself, but it works too well, and he finds himself sensing everyone in New York at once. Spider-Boy also appears in this issue, but it’s little more than a cameo appearance.

ANIMAL CASTLE VOL. 2 #1 (Ablaze, 2023) – “The Night of the Righteous,” [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Félix Delep. The animals have just killed the head dog, but this has done more harm than good, because it’s destroyed any chance of solidarity between the dogs and the other animals. Miss B, Caesar and Azelar decide to have the animals elect their own leader, and they offer the dogs a vote as well. However, Silvio is still in charge, and he suggests that the dogs ought to get rid of Miss B. Animal Castle probably reads better in the original French and atalbum size, but it’s an incredible piece of work. This issue is a very realistic portrayal of the difficulties of creating a democracy.

WHERE MONSTERS LIE #4 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Piotr Kowalski. Most of the villains get killed, but Connor is placed on administrative leave because of all the deaths and property damage he caused. On returning home, Connor is assaulted and tied up by his wife’s parents, who are none other than the two surviving villains. Also, Connor’s wife is pregnant, so his in-laws offer him a choice between being killed, or coming with them and his wife and unborn child. Coming with them where? Why, to Wilmhurst 2, where Lucas is already being held captive. This is a humorously ironic ending, but it also leaves an obvious hook for a sequel, and I hope there will be a sequel.

SHAZAM! #1 (DC, 2023) – “Meet the Captain!”, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Dan Mora. The Captain has tea with some talking dinosaurs, then saves some people from an earthquake, but when they’re thanking him, he insults and curses them on national TV. This is a fun debut issue that evokes the goofiness of Otto Binder and C.C. Beck’s classic stories, and Dan Mora’s artwork is excellent as ever. A serious problem with Shazam/The Captain/Captain Marvel is his lack of a name. DC can’t use the name Captain Marvel on covers, so they have to either call him Shazam, which causes confusion with the wizard Shazam, or come up with a new name entirely. And if they’re going to do the latter, then “The Captain” is a stupid choice.

POISON IVY #12 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy manages to cure herself of the mutated lamia, and she offers the same treatment to the other women from the retreat. But one of the women refuses the cure, and Ivy is unwilling to force her to take it. I think this was absolutely the wrong decision, because antivaxxers are selfish people who care more about their own safety than their duty to others. Anyway, after that, Ivy and Janet return to Gotham, where Ivy reunites with Harley.

LOVE EVERLASTING #7 (Image, 2023) – “Too Hip for Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. Joan and Don are now married with two sons. Joan is supposed to be living an idyllic life, but she’s not content. Also, she notices that it was 1963 when she was married, and now it’s still 1963, even though her first child is old enough to go to school. Finally, Joan gets angry enough that her husband and parents have her institutionalized. Throughout this issue Joan is shown reading the stories of her own past incarnations. As a nitpicky point, in this issue Don listens to a basketball game on the radio, and two of the players are named Turner and Nelson. I assume this is an NBA game, and there was a Nelson in the NBA in 1963 – Don Nelson – but there was no player named Turner in that year.

AVENGERS: WAR ACROSS TIME #5 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Alan Davis. The best part of this issue is the ending sequence, where the Avengers get a glimpse of their onw future incarnations. Besides that, this is another issue with beautiful art but a boring plot.

BATMAN #135/900 (DC, 2023) – “The Bat-Man of Gotham: Conclusion,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne et al. Batman pursues Halladay/Joker across a number of parallel realities, and in each of them, Halladay either creates a Joker where there wasn’t one already, or he makes the existing Joker worse. This story is frustrating to me because I’ve grown to utterly loathe the Joker. I’ve probably explained this before, but the problem is that because of the demands of serial narrative, Batman can never kill the Joker. However, the in-universe justification for Batman not killing the Joker is that it’s against his moral code. This means that every Joker story is essentially the same story: the Joker kills some people, Batman captures him but can’t kill him, and then the Joker escapes to kill even more people. The redeeming feature of this issue is the closing montage sequence, where the artist – either Jorge Jimenez or Mikel Janin – imitates the styles of many past Batman artists. I didn’t like “The Bat-Man of Gotham” nearly as much as “Failsafe,” and I think the strength of the latter story was Jorge Jimenez’s art, rather than Zdarsky’s writing.

FCBD 2000 AD PRESENTS THE BEST COMIC EVER (Rebellion, 2023) – Harlem Heroes: untitled, [W] Ramzee, [A] Korinna Mei Veropoulou. A generic story about a kids’ sports team. Pandora Perfect: “She’s Practically Poison in Every Way!”, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brett Parson. This is  a hilarious Mary Poppins parody. Pandora needs to steal a “universal key” from a security corporation’s CEO, so she can unlock her shackles. Pandora kidnaps the CEO’s children’s nanny (named Miss Travers, after P.L. Travers) and gets hired as her replacement. Then she collaborates with the CEO’s children to steal the key. I hope to see Brett Parson at Heroes Con. Full Tilt Boogie: untitled, [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Eduardo Ocaña. This appears to be a preview of an upcoming graphic novel. It has some well-drawn and evocative art, but it doesn’t make sense on its own.

FCBD 2023 MEXIKID SAMPLER (Dial, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Pedro Martín. A preview of an autobiographical novel about the author’s trip to Mexico with his parents and seven siblings. I like the idea behind this comic; it feels like an authentic #OwnVoices story about Mexican-Americans. However, this preview issue contains way too much text, and it often feels as if the author is telling instead of showing.

PUNCH UP! FCBD 2023 (Oni, 2023) – “Punch Up!”, [W/A] Zachary Sterling. A boy travels to a fighting tournament in order to convince one of the fighters to accept him as a student. Because of its art style and subject matter, this comic reminds me a lot of the French comic Lastman; however, it’s more correct to say that Punch Up! and Lastman are both based on Dragon Ball and other similar comics. This issue also includes a preview of Lights, the third volume in Brenna Thummler’s trilogy that began with Sheets.

GROOT #1 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Damian Couceiro. A young Private Mar-Vell, not yet a captain, encounters a young Groot and his friends Tweeg and Gleef. Mar-Vell obtains permission to take them back to Planet X, but on arriving there, he finds that the planet has been invaded. This is a fun comic, though there have been better Groot comics. As a nitpick, the rank of Private is exclusively used in the army, and it doesn’t seem like Private Marvel is part of an army.

BLOOD TREE #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Maxim Simic. While investigating Fincher’s apartment, Dario discovers a file with his own name on it. The file indicates that Dario is adopted, and his biological parents were serial killers. Therefore, Dario himself and his wife and children are at risk. The mayor suggests that the killer’s potential victims should all be rounded up and put in a secure location, but Dario objects, on the grounds that this would just give the killer a single target. (It would be better to put all the future victims in different secure locations.) Dario meets with his biological mother, who’s about to be executed, and Fincher attends the execution in disguise. This issue is very exciting, but Maxim Simic’s artwork is a detriment. His characters’ faces look completely lifeless.

GODFELL #3 (Vault, 2023) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ben Hennessy. God’s pelvis seems like an idyllic paradise, except that the local boss, Marwaye, is trying to breed demigods by impregnating people with God’s sperm (if I understood correctly). Zanzi saves Neth from being killed by Marwaye, then they continue on their path through God’s body, but Avernus is still following them. A funny line in this issue is “Everything is possible in God,” since “in God” is meant literally. Zanzi is basically a female Conan, except she’s even more brutal and humorless than Conan.

HAIRBALL #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The cat causes Anna’s dad to have a stroke, and then it starts an electrical fire and burns Anna’s house down. Anna’s parents survive, but she has to go live with her aunt. Anna now realizes that her cat is a horrible demon who’s trying to kill her (as is true of most cats), and she tries to drown the cat, but it doesn’t work. I like this series a lot, but my problem with it is the numerous pages where Anna is talking to her therapist. These pages all consist of four photostatted versions of the same panel. Such a use of photostats is lazy, and also it’s bad storytelling.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #11 (Marvel, 2023) – “A Hard Reign,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Now that Sins of Sinister is finally over, Storm has to deal with his aftereffects. She  allows Sinister’s four victims to remain on the Quiet Council, but without a vote. Since her responsibilities are now split between Earth and Arakko, she appoints Colossus to vote for her by proxy. This issue is mostly just dialogue, but at least it makes sense and it includes some good characterization, and to that extent, it’s a massive improvement over Sins of Sinister.

JUNK RABBIT #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Jimmie Robinson. Junk Rabbit kills a bunch of cops, and the dome-dwellers decide to use a giant military robot to deal with the rabbit. We still don’t know who the rabbit is, but this issue presents two characters who are plausible suspects. My favorite thing about this issue is the billboards that say things like YOU ARE UGLY! BUY NEW STUFF.

THE MUPPET SHOW #9 (Boom!, 2010) – “That’s a Wrap,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. Statler and Waldorf both fall in love with the show’s latest guest, an 120-year-old Egyptian hypnotist. This storyline is interspersed with a number of short gag scenes, depicting the Muppet Show’s various acts. Like all of Langridge’s Muppet comics, this issue is brilliant.

SAVAGE DRAGON #147 (Image, 2009) – “Virus,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm and Angel have been kidnapped by the Vicious Circle. Dragon thinks he’s found them, but the “kids” are in fact boobytrapped dummies that explode in Dragon’s face. While he’s recovering in hospital, he’s attacked by an energy vampire that absorbs people’s lifeforce. But when the creature tries to absorb Dragon, it instead turns into an exact double of Dragon, and Dragon’s consciousness is transferred into it, while his original body disintegrates. That’s pretty weird.

AVENGERS #13 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Girl Who Punched the Dragon,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue is the origin story of the prehistoric Iron Fist. It doesn’t feel like an Avengers story at all – rather, it feels like an issue of Immortal Iron Fist. I want to like Jason Aaron’s Avengers, but so far it hasn’t impressed me. Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork in this issue is not at the same level as his art in Gideon Falls or Bone Orchard.

FCBD 2023: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Hunting Bait,” [W] Zeb Wells, [A] Patrick Gleason. Spidey fights a giant gorilla. “January, 1940,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Cafu. The Williams brothers (ancestors of Simon and Eric?) accidentally create a Golden Age version of Carnage. Neither of these stories impressed me much. This issue also includes a preview of Hickman and Hitch’s Ultimate Invasion.

TITEUF VOL. 5 (Glénat, 1996) – “Titeuf et le derrière des choses,” [W/A] Zep. Titeuf is the most popular French comic of the past few decades. It’s about the misadventures of a mischievous eight- to ten-year-old boy. This album consist of one-page gag strips, but there’s some continuity between them – in particular, there’s a running joke where Titeuf has an admirer who’s far too young for him. Part of Titeuf’s appeal comes from Zep’s brilliant humor artwork, but it’s also notable for its constant references to sex. I would almost describe Titeuf as a French Calvin & Hobbes, but with sex instead of imagination. The jokes often depend on Titeuf’s humorous misunderstandings of how sex works. For example, there’s one strip where Titeuf’s friend Vomito’s big sister, Lucie, has acne. Vomito says that this is because she’s going through puberty and her breasts are growing, but Titeuf misinterprets this to mean that Lucie is growing breasts on her face. Due to its sexual aspects, Titeuf would probably not be successful in America, where we think that children are innocent little angels who would be hopelessly corrupted if they even suspected that sex exists. The series did get translated into English in 2005, when it was serialized in the Beano, but it was never collected in book form. The lack of an official translation is unfortunate because Titeuf’s jokes sometimes depend on idiomatic expressions or nonstandard spellings – for example, he often pronounces “pas” as “pô,” and he has a friend who pronounces S as F. Despite that, this comic was far easier to read than Rubrique à Brac.


February and March 2023 reviews


ZOOT! #2 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – various stories, [W/A] Roger Langridge, [W] Andrew Langridge. A collection of short humor strips. They’re quite funny, but I don’t remember much about any of them in particular. One notable story is about a man who’s obsessed with a writer named Derek Seals. There’s a cameo appearance by the man from issue 1 whose car was destroyed because of bureaucracy.

PIRATE CORP$ #5 (Slave Labor, 1992) – “The Young and the Aimless,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin. Halby whines about his ex-girlfriend Elsie, then he, Tigger, and Renensco go downtown, and Halby gets arrested for stealing hot dogs and punching a cop. At this point, Dorkin had moved away from the generic space opera of the Eternity issues of Pirate Corp$, and he was developing more of an original style. This issue includes a Milk & Cheese backup story.

MS. TREE #29 (Renegade, 1985) – “The Other Cheek,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. After being released from a mental hospital, Ms. Tree swears off violence and goes on psychiatric medication. But this doesn’t last long. In the second story, which is narrated by Mike Jr, Ms. Tree, her son, and her partners are targeted by assassins. Mike Jr. is forced to shoot the assassins dead, and Ms. Tree claims responsibility for the shooting so that Mike won’t be implicated. In this issue Ms. Tree tries to act kind and gentle, and it really doesn’t suit her. I prefer her as a mean, violent badass.

WORLD’S WORST COMICS AWARDS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1990) – “World’s Worst Comics Awards,” [W] James Schumeister, [A] Rich Larson. A phony awards show dedicated to satirizing the worst comics of past and present. This issue includes some hilarious stuff, like a sidebar called “When Did Superboy Lose His Virginity?” (the answer is DC Super Stars #12) and a list of Steve Ditko names. I don’t know who James Schumeister is, but he’s a funny writer. My only problem with this issue is that I don’t share the creators’ disdain for Roy Thomas’s dialogue. 

HECTIC PLANET #6 (Slave Labor, 1993) – “24 Hours a Day,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This was the first issue originally published under the title Hectic Planet instead of Pirate Corp$. It was also the final issue. The only subsequent Hectic Planet story was the three-parter from Dark Horse Presents #118-120, later reprinted as The Bummer Trilogy. In Hectic Planet #6, Haley and Renensco languish in jail for a day, then eventually they get released and have a fight. This is a funny issue. The best part might be the scene where two of the jail inmates are arguing very loudly about the purpose of art. However, Hectic Planet has too many characters, and when Evan lost interest in telling space opera stories, Hectic Planet’s science-fictional setting became irrelevant to its plot. It’s probably just as well that he abandoned Hectic Planet and moved on to other series. 

GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY #1 (Rip Off, 1979) – “…Under Observation,” [W/A] Bill Griffith. A collection of one-page strips that are satires of various contemporary phenomena. The strips are linked by a framing sequence in which Griffy and Mr. The Toad are spying on people through a telescope. Griffith’s work tends to be quite absurdist and lacking in narrative content. But it’s interesting anyway, partly because of the contrast between his sober, detailed style and his absurdist characters and settings.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Dark Kingdom Part 2: Opposing Forces,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Mr. Negative enslaves Cloak and Dagger and uses them as pawns against Parker industries. He also reverses their colors, turning Cloak white and Dagger black. That seems like an obvious idea, and I’m surprised it hadn’t happened before. Also, Liz Allan and Norman Osborn encounter Regent, the villain from Renew Your Vows.

SUPERMAN #331 (DC, 1979) – “Lockup at 20,000 Feet!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. In order to impress his old flame Lana Lang, a man named Carl Draper builds an inescapable prison for supervillains. But Lana still isn’t impressed, and Draper goes crazy and becomes a supervillain himself, under the name of the Master Jailer. We’re meant to think that the Master Jailer is Draper’s assistant, but that’s an obvious red herring. This story is interesting in that it revolves around Lana Lang’s relationships with Lois, Superman and Draper. However, Pasko writes Lois and Lana in a somewhat sexist way; when they have a conversation early in the issue, they just act catty to each other.

HATE #29 (Fantagraphics, 1998) – “The Single Life,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy goes on a series of disastrous dates, and ends up sleeping with an intense, intimidating woman named  Nicole. Buddy also runs into his old girlfriend Lisa, who will eventually become his wife, but she plays a minor role in this issue. I keep forgetting how laugh-out-loud funny Hate is, and it’s nice to be reminded.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: FANTASTIC FOUR #40 (Marvel, 2008) – There are two stories in this issue, one about Reed and Sue, and another about Ben and Johnny. “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” [W] Chris Eliopoulos, [A] Scott Koblish. The Mad Thinker steals Reed Richards’s brain patterns, so the Thinker becomes even more intelligent, while Reed becomes stupid. Of course Reed saves the day anyway. “The Image is the Thing,” [W] Joe Caramagna, [A] Matteo Lolli. A little kid plays with Reed’s lab equipment and causes a disaster, which the Thing has to clean up. This is much better than the first story.

ACTION GIRL COMICS #5 (Slave Labor, 1995) – “Godzilla,” [W/A] Patty Leidy, etc. A number of short and frankly amateurish stories, mostly by creators I’ve never heard of. Rebecca Dart’s “The Woman Who Was a Bird” is interesting because it draws upon Bahamian folklore, but her art is rather poor, and she leaves half of each panel blank. The only artist in this issue whose art looks fully professional is Jen Sorensen, and her story is just a two-pager. However, Action Girl Comics does deserve credit for trying to create a space for female comics readers, at a time when the direct market was even more hostile to girls and women than it is now.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #5 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Survival of the Fittest Conclusion,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. I don’t understand this issue’s plot at all. Sean Murphy’s artwork is pretty good, but his architecture, machinery, and page layouts are less impressive than in The Wake.

INCREDIBLE HULK #198 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Shangri-La Syndrome!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. The Collector abducts the Hulk and the Man-Thing and locks them up in his zoo. Bruce discovers that one of his fellow captives is a young woman who’s forced to tell the Collector an endless series of stories. This character is obviously Shahrazad from the Arabian Nights, though her name isn’t mentioned. I wonder if Saladin Ahmed read this issue before he wrote his own version of the Arabian Nights in Exiles #9-10. Anyway, the Hulk leads the Collector’s captives in a revolt, and they escape the Collector’s ship, only to die of old age as soon as they’re free from the Collector’s life-sustaining technology. But they don’t mind, since they’d rather die free than live in captivity.

Y: THE LAST MAN #35 (Vertigo, 2005) – “Girl on Girl Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Goran Sudzuka. Yorick and his companions are involved in a sea battle between a submarine and a yacht. The captain of the yacht, Kilina, apparently sacrifices herself, though the body is not found. I don’t remember anything about this issue, but looking through it again, I notice where Kilina tells Yorick “It figures. An entire planet of women, and the one guy gets to be the  lead.” That’s the fundamental problem with this series.

KAMANDI #18 (DC, 1974) – “The Eater!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Kamandi teams up with some “gopher people,” actually subterranean humans, and they steal supplies from gorillas and then battle a giant worm, the “eater” of the title. Kamandi solves both problems, the worm and the gorillas, by getting the worm to attack the gorillas. This issue includes some impressive action sequences. 

PIRATE CORP$ #2 (Slave Labor, 1989) – “Truth and Goal!”, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. Halby and his friends go to a horribly violent hockey game, in which one of the Pirate Corp$ members, Ron Chitin, is playing as a goalie. After the game is over, Vroom Socko, a character who later got his own one-shot, tries to murder Ron. This is a fun issue full of entertaining mayhem. As noted above, one problem with Pirate Corp$ is that there are too many characters and most of them are irrelevant. I feel like most of the characters could have been dispensed with, except for Halby and Renensco.

KEN PARKER SPECIALE #2 (Bonelli, 1996) – “Ai tempi del Pony Express,” [W] Giancarlo Berardi, [A] Ivo Milazzo. A few years ago I bought a collection of Italian comics, but I only read a couple of them, because I don’t know Italian. Thanks to Google Translate I’m now able to read these comics much more easily, though this is the only other one I’ve read so far. At the moment I’m more interested in reading Franco-Belgian comics. Ken Parker is a Western series. This issue is a flashback to the protagonist’s youth in a remote Western town. After he nearly gets caught sleeping with a married woman, he has to escape town by enlisting in the Pony Express. He then gets caught up in a plot to murder a prospector and steal his claim. Ivo Milazzo is one of the most respected artists of Italian comics, and his black-and-white artwork in this issue is amazing, reminding me of Pratt or Toth. His action sequences are particular highlights, such as the scene early in the issue where Ken is trying to break a high-spirited horse.

DEN #8 (Fantagor, 1989) – “Shuffled Seeds Scattered,” [W/A] Richard Corben. Kil, who may or may not be Kath, competes in an obstacle race against a giant blue guy. More than half the issue is devoted to backup stories. In “The Cure,” written and drawn by Bruce Jones, a werewolf tries to kill a woman, but she turns into a tentacled sea monster and turns the tables on him. I previously read this story in The Razor’s Edge #1, which I reviewed last year (though when I wrote that review, I mistakenly thought I had read “The Cure” before). In “Such Pretty Little Toes,” two boys are captured by a hermit who cuts off people’s body parts, but then the hermit gets killed by a monster whose toe he had cut off. This is sort of a twist on the old Tailypo folktale. Finally, “Damsel in Dragon Dress” is a parodic fantasy story, reprinted from Grim Wit #2.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #215 (DC, 1983) – “Into the Microcosmos Part 3: The Bigger They Are…”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. In a microscopic world, the Atom is enslaved by the local tyrant, and the JLA have to team up with an army of warrior women to defeat the tyrant. This is part three of a four-parter. This story is more interesting than it looks, and it’s a rare example of a DC story set in a microverse. Marvel’s microverses are much more fully developed, and they include recurring characters like Psycho-Man and Jarella.

CEREBUS #125 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Oscar and Withers get in an argument, and then Lord Julius shows up, wearing a dress, and he and Oscar have a funny conversation. I think this character was a like-a-look rather than the real Lord Julius, but still, this is one of Lord Julius’s last substantial appearances in the series. His gradual disappearance was one of the signs that Cerebus was going downhill.

CATWOMAN #16 (DC, 2003) – “Relentless Part 5,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Cameron Stewart. Long ago, Selina Kyle abandoned her friend Sylvie when a heist went bad. Now Sylvie and Black Mask have teamed up and kidnapped Holly and Maggie. In the end, Holly is forced to kill Sylvie, and Maggie becomes catatonic, if she wasn’t already. Then Seilna kisses Slam Bradley. Sylvie is a compelling villain, because you can understand why she despises Selina for abandoning her, and yet her subsequent actions show that she’s a horrible sociopath.

GRENDEL #1 (Comico, 1986) – “Devil in Response,” [W] Matt Wagner, [A] Arnold Pander & Jacob Pander. This is the first issue of the ongoing Grendel series, but it was preceded by an earlier three-issue miniseries (or short-lived ongoing series), as well as a backup feature in Mage. This issue stars Christine Spar, the biographer of the first Grendel, Hunter Rose. After her young son is kidnapped by a vampire kabuki dancer, she becomes the second Grendel in order to rescue him – which, tragically, she would fail to do. I’m not sure if Matt Wagner actually knew anything about kabuki, and the Pander brothers’ art is kind of boring. Christine Spar looks like the woman on the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio album, but the Pander brothers are less talented than Patrick Nagel. Still, Grendel is an interesting concept, and I’m curious to read more Grendel comics. My copy of this issue is signed by Matt Wagner, though I don’t think I’ve ever met him.

GENTLE BEN #4 (Dell, 1968) – “The Derelict” etc., [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Carl Pfeufer. In the main story, Mark and his pet bear Ben get trapped on a derelict houseboat. In the second story, Mark is falsely accused of stealing money, and in the third story, he and Ben teach a young poacher to change his ways. These Gentle Ben comics are not terrible, but they’re mostly worth owning because of the silliness of their premise. They’re a lot like Dell’s Lassie comics, but with a bear instead of a dog.

2000 AD #1823 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Black Kisses,” [W] T.C. Eglington, [A] Karl Richardson. Dredd and a new recruit, Vinson, try to find the origin of a sexually transmitted disease that leaves its victims covered with kiss marks. In the last panel, Dredd relieves Vinson of his badge because Vinson has a kiss mark on his own chin, indicating that he was sleeping with one of the suspects. Savage: “Rise Like Lions Part 12,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. In the last chapter of Book 8, Bill Savage and his allies fight a Volgan army. Throughout this story, Patrick Goddard’s black-and-white art is very realistic and gritty. Past Imperfect: “Rocket de la Revolución,” [W] Montynero, [A] Simon Fraser. Alejandro is a native of Cuba, which seems to be a communist utopia. Alejandro discovers that Cuba was nuked in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and since then, the entire country has been stuck in a time loop. He decides to forget this knowledge. Red Seas:”Fire Across the Deep Part 12,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. A giant two-headed dog fights a giant demon. Not sure what’s supposed to be happening here.

FIRE POWER #18 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. After a lot of fight scenes, the white-bearded villain reappears on top of a giant dragon. The dragon is kind of reminiscent of some of the creatures in Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters. The only reason I read Fire Power is because of Chris Samnee’s art. I don’t understand Fire Power’s plot, and to the extent that I do understand it, I don’t care, because it’s just a rehash of old kung fu cliches. It’s also annoying how Kirkman seems to have done no research at all into Chinese culture.

SECRET MESSAGES #3 (NBM, 2001) – “The Silent Invasion: Abductions 3,” [W] Larry Hancock, [A] Michael Cherkas. This comic is part of the Silent Invasion saga, and is reprinted from an earlier comic book, Silent Invasion: Abductions, which ended after one issue. In 1965, detective Phil Housley (perhaps named after a Hockey Hall of Famer) investigates some reports of alien abductions. I’m not in love with Michael Cherkas’s art or lettering, but he and Hancock succeed in evoking the atmosphere of ‘60s America. I should read more Silent Invasion.

SKYWARD #10 (Image, 2019) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 5,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa breaks Roger Barrow out of Lucas’s base, then sends Edison off on a dragonfly, while she prepares to head to Kansas City on foot. At the end of the issue, we see a mysterious person observing Willa. We later learn that this is Willa’s mother. I only need issues 1, 2, 13 and 14 to finish my run of Skyward.

On February 4, I went to Charlotte Mini-Con at the Grady Cole Center. This was kind of a disappointing convention. First, I was in an awful mood that morning, and second, I don’t like the Grady Cole Center. It’s a tiny and unappealing venue, and it doesn’t allow you to leave and come back. It has significantly less floor space than the hotel ballroom where they hold the Charlotte Comic Con. The 2021 Mini-Con was at the convention center downtown, and I like that venue much better, but I assume it’s also much more expensive.

Some of the comics I bought:

CAPTAIN AMERICA #159 (DC, 1973) – “Turning Point!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Sal Buscema. This was one of the only Englehart Cap issues I was missing. This issue, Cap is jailed on suspicion of being a crimelord called the Cowled Commander, then after he escapes, he and the Falcon fight the actual Cowled Commander and his minions. The Commander proves to be Brian Muldoon, the same police chief who arrested Cap. There’s some good dialogue in this issue, but it’s not one of the highlights of Englehart’s run.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #81 (DC, 1969) – “But Bork Can Hurt You!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Neal Adams. This issue’s odd title makes sense if you look at the cover, where it’s prefaced by “You can’t hurt Bork.” In this issue Batman and the Flash team up against an invulnerable villain named Bork. A notable plot point is that before coming to Gotham, Bork was the leader of a mercenary army in an unspecified “new African nation.” In 1969, most countries in Africa were newly independent. Neal Adams’s artwork in this issue has some old-fashioned touches, but still looks so modern and dynamic that it wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary comic. Bork later became one of the stars of Kurt Busiek’s Power Company, and was perhaps my favorite character in that series.

STRANGE TALES #145 (Marvel, 1966) – Fury: “Lo! The Eggs Shall Hatch!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby & Don Heck. Fury and Sitwell battle the Druid, later known as Dredmund (the) Druid. This story is okay, but the pre-Steranko SHIELD stories were never all that great. Dr. Strange: “To Catch a Magician!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Steve Ditko. Mister Rasputin, a descendant of Grigory Rasputin, tries to incapacitate Dr. Strange and steal his magic. This story is rather formulaic, and Mister Rasputin hardly ever appeared again, but of course Ditko’s artwork is spectacular.

BIJOU FUNNIES #4 (Kitchen Sink, 1970) – [E] Jay Lynch? Bijou has a notably smaller format than other underground comics. It seems like it was largely a vehicle for Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson, with contributions by a rotating roster of other cartoonists, though Crumb also contributed to every issue. Stories in this issue include Nard ‘n’ Pat by Jay Lynch, Pro Junior by Crumb, Snappy Sammy Smoot by Skip Williamson, and stories by Kim Deitch, Jay Kinney and Justin Green. I think the Pro Junior story is the most memorable, but it’s also an example of Crumb’s typical fetishistic tendencies.

SAVAGE LOVE #1 (Bear Bones, 1994) – “My First Time,” [W] Dan Savage, [A] Ellen Forney, etc. A collection of stories adapted from Dan Savage’s Savage Love sex advice column. The longest story, drawn by Ellen Forney, is an account of a young man’s first gay sex experiences. The other stories are drawn by Mark Lang, Jay Stephens and James Sturm. I’ve loved Savage Love ever since I read it in Minneapolis’s City Pages, and adapting it into a comic was a brilliant idea. Too bad the comic only lasted two issues.

THE FLASH #778 (DC, 2022) – “Vengeance is Mine! Part 2,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin & Matt Ryan. While sneaking out at night, Irey and Maxine Baker get kidnappped by Mammoth and Shimmer. Then Jai gets captured too when he tries to rescue them. I like the idea of Irey and Maxine being friends; it’s rare for superheroes to have children who know each other. In fact, that’s the main thing I like about Jeremy Adams’s Flash: its emphasis on the Flashes’ family relationships. There’s also a second plotline where Wally teams up with Amethyst and the Justice League Dark against Dark Opal. It is pretty cool to see Amethyst and Dark Opal in a non-Amethyst title, but otherwise this plotline is the less interesting of the two.

TOTAL WAR #1 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Target: America,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Wally Wood. Every country in the world is simultaneously invaded by mysterious terrorists, and the three members of MARS Patrol – Joe Striker, Russ Stacey and Ken Hiro – lead America’s resistance effort. Wally Wood’s art in this issue is incredible. He draws some beautiful machinery and combat scenes and costumes. Total War is lacking in characterization, but its plot is a compelling vision of a post-WWII nightmare scenario. Total War is also notable for having a multiracial cast of characters. There’s a scene in this issue where Joe Striker, a black man, commands a squad of white soldiers. Such a scene would have been radical in 1965. Total War’s title changed to M.A.R.S. Patrol with issue 3. That was also the last issue drawn by Woody, and without him, the quality of the series went way down.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #5 (Marvel, 1972) – “A Passion of the Mind!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gil Kane. In their first meeting ever (or at least it says so in the issue itself), Spider-Man and the Vision team up against the Puppet Master and an alien robot. This is a formulaic team-up story, but it includes some well-drawn action scenes.

G.I. JOE #111 (Marvel, 1991) – “Probe and Feint!”, [W] Larry Hama, [A] John Statema. This issue has nostalgia value for me because the issue after it, #112, is one of the first comic books I can remember owning. “Probe and Feint!” is part of the Benzheen story arc, a barely fictionaliezd version of the first Gulf War, which was going on at the same time. This issue is a collection of action sequences and political squabbling between the G.I. Joes and the Emir of Benzheen. It also deals with the aftermath of issue 109, when seven Joes were killed (there were probably more named characters killed in that one issue than in the 108 previous issues). Reading this comic feels nostalgic for me, but also a bit embarrassing. Some of the dialogue has aged poorly, and John Statema’s artwork is rather ugly.

THE MUPPETS #3 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Four Seasons: Fall,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. The Muppets’ doorman, Pops, has reached mandatory retirement age. The other Muppets concoct a cockamamie plot to steal and replace his birth certificate, so he can keep his job. The problem is solved when Pops discovers that he’s five years younger than he had thought (and there’s a complicated reason why, but I don’t want to explain it). As usual this issue also includes a number of short gag sequences. Given Langridge’s skill at both short gag strips and longer narratives, the Muppets, with its variety show format, is ideally suited to him. I just learned that Dr. Teeth is based on Dr. John. I should have realized that myself.

NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS #1 (3-D Zone, 1988) – “No Business Like Show Business,” [W/A] Kim Deitch. While digging through Jason Hamlin’s boxes, I was surprised to discover a Kim Deitch comic I had never heard of. This comic was published by Ray Zone, the king of 3-D comics, but is not in 3D. Its unusual gimmick is that each page is a splash page with a decorated border. This issue’s story is narrated by Toby, a pig who’s used in an act in Dr. Ledicker’s act; he’s made to dive off a tower into a bucket of water. Eventually Toby figures out that he’s too big to do the dive anymore, and that he’s going to be butchered, so he decides to go out in a blaze of glory. This story is part of the ongoing Waldo saga, though Waldo only makes a cameo appearance in it. It was reprinted in Fantagraphics’s 2006 Shadowland volume.

THE FLASH #782 (DC, 2022) – “Plans,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin. Wally and the new Kid Flash, Wallace “Ace” West, capture Girder and take him to Iron Heights prison. They also realize that the prison warden is corrupt. I think this is the same warden who deputizes the Rogues Gallery in issue 788. Meanwhile, Linda discovers that she has super-speed powers. Ace West was introduced as the New 52 version of Wally West, but when the original Wally West was reintroduced, Ace was retconned into being a different character.

FOUR COLOR #588 (Dell, 1954) – “King Richard and the Crusaders,” [W] unknown, [A] Matt Baker. This is probably the only comic in my collection that includes non-reprinted artwork by Matt Baker. King Richard and the Crusaders is adapted from a movie of the same name, which is itself adapted from Walter Scott’s novel The Talisman. That novel, set during the Third Crusade, is largely responsible for the modern view of Saladin as a noble hero who had the bad luck of being on the “wrong” side. I also wonder if Saladin is the inspiration for other pagan heroes like Malory’s Sir Palomides. The comic’s plot focuses on the rivalry between two of Richard the Lionheart’s subordinates, the noble Sir Kenneth and the evil Sir Giles, as well as the love triangle between Sir Kenneth, his love interest Edith, and Saladin. Matt Baker is most famous as a romance and good girl artist, and his depictions of Edith are particularly breathtaking. He also draws some exciting fight scenes and jousts.

VELVET #7 (Image, 2014) – “The Secret Lives of Dead Men Part 2,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Two other agents, Colt and Roberts, try to track Velvet down. In the end they realize she’s already in London. Velvet herself appears in this issue only in flashbacks. I think I’d enjoy this series more if I had the time to read the whole thing in order.

WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #14 (DC, 1974) – I’ve heard that this series was better than most of DC’s other horror and mystery titles, but I haven’t read much of it. “Blind Child’s Bluff!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Ruben Yandoc. In a typical EC plotline, a blind orphaned girl’s stepmother conspires with her new lover to murder the girl and steal her inheritance. But the girl’s ghost saves her and murders the stepmother and the lover. Ruben Yandoc, aka Rubeny, was an excellent draftsman, though his facial expressions, at least in this story, are a bit ugly. “The Price,” [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An adaptation of John Russell’s 1916 short story “The Price of the Head.” A poor, alcoholic white sailor, Pellett, is nursed back to health by a native Solomon Islander, Karaki. The twist ending is that Karaki saved Pellett’s life in order to cut his head off and smoke it, since Pellett has red hair, and a red-haired smoked head is particularly prestigious. It’s too bad that this story takes such a racist turn, because Alcala’s art is incredible. His linework was unbelievably beautiful, and his talents were wasted as an inker. “Flight into Fright,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Ernie Chan. Some stupid young people go on a trip to Transylvania and are turned into Dracula’s slaves. As far as I know, I am not related to George Kashdan.

I ordered the following comic from eBay:

COOCHY COOTY MEN’S COMICS #1 (Industrial Realities, 1970) – various stories, [W/A] Robert Williams. This is the only comic book consisting entirely of Robert Williams art. (Other cartoonists who only released one solo comic book include Frank Frazetta, Dori Seda, Alison Bechdel, Victor Moscoso, and possibly Sharon Rudahl.) Williams was by far the best draftsman among the underground artists. His art is so painstakingly detailed and perfectly executed that it’s no surprise he left comics for studio art. He has a particular skill for drawing reflective surfaces, and his linework and even his lettering are gorgeous to look at. Because of the super-high quality of his art, this comic is a time-consuming read, but it’s worth it. The longest story in this issue is “The Gorilla Women of the Third Reich,” in which Williams’s recurring character, Coochy Cooty, is captured by Nazi Amazons. The rest of the issue consists of short sequences, most of which have very little narrative content.

THE FOX AND THE CROW #99 (DC, 1966) – “Gnome, Sweet Gnome!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Win Mortimer. This story introduces Shaughnessy the leprechaun and Schnitzel the gnome. Also there’s an appearance by Napoleon’s ghost. In my copy, a couple of panels have been cut out for some reason – they don’t seem like very interesting panels. The rest of the issue consists of typically formulaic Fox and Crow stories. I don’t quite get why The Fox and the Crow lasted so much longer than the other funny animal comics, when it wasn’t any better. However, it is a shame that neitiher The Fox and the Crow nor Stanley and His Monster has been properly collected.

JOURNEY #5 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Fitzhugh Lives in the Woods,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine MacAlistaire meets some British loyalists, and then they encounter Fitzhugh, a super-violent feral child. In the backup story, MacAlistaire gets caught in a dust storm and finds himself hanging upside down from a tree.

TOR #4 (DC, 1975) – untitled [“Black Valley”] and “Killer-Man,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. Both these stories are reprinted from the 1954 St. John’s Tor series. Thus, Kubert’s art looks somewhat cruder and less confident than in the DC comics he was drawing at the same time. In the first story, Tor saves a little girl from being sacrificed to spirits, but discovers that these “spirits” are just women, because in this place the men and women live separately and hate each other. Tor rescues the girl from a sabretooth tiger, and the women, impressed with his courage, decide to live with the men again. In the backup story, Tor defeats a crippled man who’s been dropping rocks on people.

BATMAN #97 (DC, 2020) – “The Joker War Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A pretty typical Joker story, except that it also guest-stars Punchline and Clownhunter. At the end, Batman has a vision of Alfred’s ghost. I have often stated my distaste for the Joker, and I don’t like Tynion’s Batman as much as his Detective Comics, since his Detective Comics was more of a team comic than a Batman solo title.

ACTION COMICS #783 (DC, 2001) – “The Choice,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Brandon Badeaux. In the midst of a global crisis, Batman seeks out four villains – Stone Emperor, Scorch, Ocean Master and Major Disaster – and tries to convince them to use their powers to help. Three of them refuse to help, but Major Disaster agrees. I didn’t under stand what the global crisis was, until I realized that this comic was published just after 9/11. In that context, this comic is fairly poignant.

DOOMSDAY #1 (Charlton, 1975) – “Doomsday Minus Two,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] John Byrne. Three astronauts, a man and two women, are in space when the entire world is obliterated in a nuclear war. On returning to Earth, they acquire a fourth teammate, an unfrozen caveman named Kuno. Doomsday +1 is a generic post-apocalypse story, with wooden characterization. There’s a love triangle between the three astronauts, but otherwise they’re all interchangeable, and Kuno is the only distinctive character. However, Doomsday +1 is worth reading anyway because it’s one of John Byrne’s major early works.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #612 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Trial of Captain America Part 2,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Butch Guice. Bucky Barnes turns himself in for the crimes he committed while under Soviet mind control. While in jail awaiting trial, he meets his lawyer Bernie Rosenthal, an old character from the ‘80s. Meanwhile, the Falcon goes looking for Dr. Faustus, and there’s also a subplot about Master Man. I’ve always assumed Dr. Faustus was based on Sigmund Freud, but  I don’t know if that’s really the case.

TEEN TITANS ACADEMY #4 (DC, 2021) – “X Marks the Spot!”, [W] Tim Sheridan, [A] Steve Lieber. Three members of Teen Titans Academy – Chupacabra, Bratgirl and Megabat – try to figure out the identity of their mysterious teammate Red X. This is a funny and cute teen superhero comic. It reminds me of Avengers Academy or Strange Academy. I want to collect the rest of this series.

CATWOMAN #10 (DC, 2002) – “Joy Ride,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Brad Rader. Selina Kyle’s old friend Rebecca Robinson is about to be executed for murder, though all she did was steal a car that, unknown to her, had a dead body in the trunk. Selina breaks Rebecca out of prison and sets her up with a new false identity, and in flashbacks, we see the history of Selina and Rebecca’s relationship, and the reason why Selina feels indebted to her. This is a well-done single-issue story. Brad Rader was a good artist, though he was overshadowed by the other artists on this Catwoman run, Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart.

THUNDERBOLTS #139 (Marvel, 2010) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Miguel Sepulveda. The Thunderbolts battle the Agents of Atlas. The Thunderbolts team in this issue includes almost none of the characters from later in Parker’s run, other than Ghost. The rest of the team consists of nobodies like Mr. X and Headman. Therefore, in this issue the Thunderbolts are less interesting than the Agents of Atlas, who are much better developed characters.

WEIRDO #12 (1993) – [E] R. Crumb. This issue is billed as a “Special Loser Issue” focusing on Rory Hayes and Ken Weiner. I had never heard of Ken Weiner before, but it seems that he’s also known as Ken Avidor and he’s a friend of Peter Bagge, and this issue includes a funny story where Weiner and Bagge argue about art. As for Rory Hayes, Weirdo #12 contains a tribute to him by Bill Griffith, followed by an original nine-page story by him. Hayes died ten years before this issue was published, so I wonder why it took so long for this story to see the light. Rory Hayes is one of the strangest artists in the history of comics. His work is profoundly disturbing, and I can’t say I like it. Like Jim Woodring, he drew cute things, but in a sinister way. Besides the Hayes- and Weiner-related material, this issue also includes Crumb’s “Mode O’Day and Her Pals,” a rather sexist story about a stuck-up woman.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #24 (DC, 2006) – “With a Vengeance! Chapter 5: The Price of Our Sins,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. I bought this because of the cover, which depicts gender-swapped versions of Superman, Batman and Supergirl. This is a fun and attractively drawn issue, though the gender-swapped superheroes play a minor role in it. Also, this issue includes a male Big Barda and a female Mr. Miracle. That’s kind of pointless, since Mr. Miracle and Barda are already an inversion of standard gender stereotypes. A funny detail in this issue is that Batwoman’s giant penny has a picture of a woman, rather than Queen Victoria. This gender-reversed Earth is known as Earth-11, and it appeared in a few other stories.

DAREDEVIL #129 (Marvel, 1976) – “Man-Bull in a China Town!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bob Brown. Daredevil tries to defend Man-Bull from murder charges, but Man-Bull is convicted anyway. He escapes, and then a villain named Matador sends him to Chinatown to steal a bull statue. It’s a coincidence that this bull statue looks like the famous Wall Street bronze bull, which was not installed until 1989. There’s also a subplot where John and Robert Kennedy are discovered alive. I have no idea what was the explanation for this. 

REAL GIRL #2 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – [E] Angela Bocage. This is billed as “The Sex Comik for all genders and orientations.” For me the highlight of this issue is “Heat Loss” by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. As far as I know, this is their only work that’s about humans rather than anthropomorphic animals. It’s a cute and tender story about two lovers who remember the sexy times they had on a camping trip in the Boundary Waters (so this story, like Omaha, appears to be set in Minnesota). Other contributors to this issue include Mario Hernandez, Trina Robbins, and Phoebe Gloeckner, and my copy is signed by the latter. There were nine issues of Real Girl, but it seems like a very hard series to find, and maybe it deserves an omnibus edition like the ones for Wimmen’s Comix and Tits & Clits.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #5 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Having just been shot multiple times, Dwight convalesces in a brothel, while some cops try to track him down because of his murder of Damien Lord. I don’t understand this issue’s plot, and I also think this issue is an example of Miller’s typical sexism. All the female characters in this issue are sex workers, and Miller always seems to depict sex workers as incarnations of the “hooker with a heart of gold” stereotype – rather than actual people with their own histories and personalities, as in Omaha or Melody. (I should note that TVTropes says that Miller’s sex workers are not an example of this stereotype.) 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #264 (Dell, 1962) – “Master Wrecker,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald discovers he has a talent for knocking buildings down with a wrecking ball, and is publicly celebrated for it. But when Donald is hired to knock down an old shack at 168 Plush Avenue, he instead knocks down the Top Brass Club at 768 Plush Avenue. It turns out a gnat landed on the sheet of paper with the address and caused Donald to misread a 1 as a 7. And that explains why Donald’s mastery of demolition is never mentioned again. The only other good story in this issue is a Mickey Mouse adventure story by Fallberg and Murry, in which Mickey and Goofy go looking for El Dorado, and two crooks stow away on their plane.

FIRE POWER #21 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. Another issue with good fight scenes and draftsmanship, but trite plotting and characterization. For Kirkman, the Chinese references in this series are just names that don’t mean anything in particluar. He has no knowledge of the actual history or cultural associations of Chinese dragons, for example, and he must have chosen the name “Chen Zul” just because it sounded good. Compare Monkey Prince, for example, which is based on insider knowledge of Chinese culture.

BATMAN #98 (DC, 2020) – “Joker War Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This is better than #97, because it begins with a touching scene in which Bruce has a hallucinatory conversation with Alfred, and Alfred restores Bruce’s motivation. Alfred’s importance in Bruce and Dick’s lives has become even more evident since his death.

Next Heroes trip:

MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “An Alien Walks Among Us,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. A boy attends a service of Miracleman worshippers, which is interrupted by Phon Mooda the Warpsmith. Then Phon Mooda visits the Black Warpsmiths and reports on her uneasiness with Miracleman’s utopia. I know we’ve seen the Black Warpsmiths before, but I forget where. The centerpiece of the issue is Dicky Dauntless’s interview with Mister Master, who is obviously based on Alan Moore, even more so than last issue. He tells Dicky how he got everything he wanted, and was then “left with one simple question: Now what?” and so he retired to his hermitage. Sadly the main story ends there, and the rest of the issue is a reprint of Young Nastyman’s first appearance from 1954. I’m sad that there are only a couple more issues of this series, because it’s just so thrilling to finally read more of a story that’s been on hiatus for thirty years. I imagine that I would feel the same way if The Winds of Winter came out, although I have very low expectations for that book.

SAGA #61 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Gwendolyn has a dream where Marco proposes to her, then wakes up in bed with The Will. Sophie asks Gwen if she’s happy, and Gwen says nothing. The next panel is a close-up of Lying Cat, suggesting that Gwen refused to answer because if she had said yes, Lying Cat would have contradicted her. Alana and the kids go begging for money, and a woman named Vitch tells Alana that she can bring Marco back to life. Also, Petrichor makes a cameo appearance.

MANIFEST DESTINY #48 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. While the other characters are arguing about whether to sacrifice the baby, Collins solves the problem by committing suicide on the altar, since he’s a warchild too. The demon eats Maldonado’s spirit and vanishes. Back at home, Clark goes back on his offer to free York, and Lewis commits suicide. Sadly, both of these things may have happened in real life, though some people believe that York was freed and went to live with the Crow Indians, or that Lewis died by murder and not suicide. Many years later, Jensen’s spirit appears to the architect Eero Saarinen – just as Maldonado’s spirit appeared earlier – and convinces Saarinen to build the Gateway Arch. This issue is a powerful ending to the series. It refuses to offer any easy solutions, and leaves the reader with a sense that American history is irredeemably tainted. And I guess by saying that, I’m violating Florida’s anti-woke law.

SAVAGE DRAGON #263 (Image, 2023) – “The Murderous Menace of Mako!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. At Horridus’s funeral, Jeremiah Youngblood, who looks a lot like Cable, invites Malcolm to form a new superhero team in California. Then, while Malcolm and his family are hanging out on the beach, they’re attacked by Mako. Malcolm’s son Jackson goes missing and is replaced by another boy who looks like him, but is not him. This is the first new issue of Savage Dragon in quite a while. At this point Savage Dragon’s audience must consist mostly of Erik himself and longtime readers like me, but I guess there are enough such fans that the series is still profitable.

RADIANT BLACK #21 (Image, 2023) – “Blackmail,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa & Eduardo Ferigato. Marshall and Nathan agree to work for the government – oddly enough, the government agency involved is the U.S. Postal Service. Then they apprehend Shift and deliver him into government custody. Shift seems to be the breakout character in this franchise —  he’s appeared in quite a number of other Massiveverse titles.

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #3 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Ways of the Strayed,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. This issue is mostly setup. Mezzy and Maceo continue to teach each other, then Maceo sneaks off alone at night, and is promptly captured by the survivalist cultists that Mezzy escaped from. We will see much more of these characters next issue.

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #3 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. In the present-day time frame, Kavita tells Greyson about the origin of the Behemoth, which is always tethered to a shepherd (Greyson) and a scourge (Wren). This infodump sequence includes some beautiful splash pages. In the future time frame, the Behemoth continues to cause havoc. This issue is less exciting than the first two.

LITTLE MONSTERS #10 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In a flashback, we learn the following: Romie can’t speak because their throat was cut. Or else  because of the associated trauma. The humans were all killed in a nuclear war. The adult vampires have all died, because vampires age very slowly, but they do age – unless they never drink human blood. And the elder vampires tried to ensure that the vampire kids would never drink blood, and would thus remain immortal. But now some of the kids have drunk blood, so their immortality is lost, as indicated in the last panel where Romie draws an infinity symbol and then tears it in half.

THE FLASH #792 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Part 3: Impulse Buy,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz. While Barry mourns Iris’s death, Bart and Ace go on a reconaissance mission into the villains’ lair, and they rescue a young boy whose name isn’t revealed yet. Bart and Ace’s interactions are very entertaining. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a good Bart Allen story, but Adams seems to have gotten Bart’s personality right.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Sign Up,” [W] Jordan Ifueko, [A] Alba Glez. After rescuing Devil, Lunella tries to figure out how Olivia’s mind control technology works. Eventually Lunella discovers that Olivia is collecting people’s DNA through a technology app. Olivia mind-controls Tasha, the girl with hair powers, and forces her to straighten her hair. This has been an excellent miniseries.

HELL TO PAY #3 (Image, 2023) – “The Shrouded College Part 1,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Will Sliney. This issue’s first page shows how the Qurrakh led to the Industrial Revolution. Then Sebastian and Maia go hunting for the man who’s making counterfeit Qurrakh, with assistance from two other agents of the Shrouded College. They manage to destroy some of the Qurrakh, but Sebastian is captured. Issue 4 isn’t coming out until April.

BLOOD TREE #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Maxim Šimić. I read issue 2 just before writing this review, and prior to reading issue 2, I had to reread issue 1, because I forgot what it was about. However, now that I’ve refreshed my memory, I can say that I liked this issue. Detective Dario Azzaro and his partner Maria Diaz investigate a series of murders in which the victims have angel wings attached to their bodies. I associate Peter Tomasi with the Super Sons, and Blood Tree is much darker than Tomasi’s superhero work. However, there are some cute scenes where Dario interacts with his wife, children and parents, and these scenes keep the comic from becoming too grim.

MONKEY PRINCE #11 (DC, 2023) – “The Monkey King and I Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang, Marcus finally meets his “father,” Sun Wukong the Monkey King – their actual relationship is made clear in the next issue. The Monkey King gives Marcus a vision of his birth, and teaches him to master the hair-into-clones power. I really like the depiction of Sun Wukong in this issue. Compared to Yang’s previous version of this character in American Born Chinese, this Sun Wukong is much more formidable and scary, and less of a figure of fun.

ROGUE SUN #10 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Marco Renna. Dylan meets the ghost of Caleb Hawthorne, aka Knight Sun, the first holder of the Sun Stone. After some more high school drama, Dylan learns that a demon called Mourningstar is searching for a magical quill. Dylan and Caleb have to travel to an extradimensional “Aviary” to obtain the quill. Also there’s a subplot about the villain from last issue, the one who blames Dylan for his father’s injuries. This was a reasonably good issue, but I had to reread it to remind myself what happened in it.

WHERE MONSTERS LIE #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Piotr Kowalski.  This series is set in the gated community of Wilmhurst, home to eight murderous supervillains. A boy named Linus is captured by one of the villains but manages to escape, and he tells his story to Special Agent Connor Hayes, whose mission is to capture the villains. This is an interesting setup, and it reminds me of a previous Starks series, Assassin Nation, because of its gory but humorous premise. This series may have been inspired by Sandman #14, the issue with the serial killer convention, given that one of the villains quotes the line from that issue about not shitting where you eat.

SPACE JOB #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] David A. Goodman, [A] Álvaro Sarraseca. Danny Sheridan arrives on the spaceship S.S. George W. Bush as its new first officer, only to learn that the ship is a poorly run shitshow. And when he sits down in the first officer’s chair, he’s struck dead at once. Things only get worse from there. This comic is a very funny parody of Star Trek. It goes in a different direction from Outer Darkness, which was also a Star Trek parody. In Outer Darkness, the trouble was that the universe was brutal and terrifying. In Space Job, the universe itself seems to be fine, and the trouble is that the captain and the ship’s crew are completely incompetent.

MY LITTLE PONY: CLASSICS REMASTERED – LITTLE FILLIES #4 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Megan Brown, [A] Jenna Ayoub. This issue wraps up all the dangling plot threads, but stops before Meg, Jo or Amy get married. Instead the emphasis of the plot is on Jo’s career as an author. As Discord admits, “we’ve completely lost the thread of the narrative at this point. I hope none of our readers expected things to adhere too closely to the original work.” This was perhaps the most metatextual of all the My Little Pony comics. It’s full of fourth-wall-breaking moments, and its humor requires the reader to be familiar with both MLP and Little Women. I’m going to mention this miniseries in my revised version of my book chapter on My Little Pony comics. 

FAMILY TIME #3 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Lily Windom & Robert Windom, [A] Asiah Fulmore. I didn’t bother to buy issue 2, but I had already ordered issue 3, and it was in my file at Heroes, so I decided I might as well buy it. Family Time is not unreadable, but it’s nothing special either. I wish Ablaze would stick to translating European comics, instead of publishing original material.

DAMN THEM ALL #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. I was nearly asleep when I read this, and I don’t remember much about it. Ellie and her allies confront the villain Theo Bolster, and Ellie exorcises the demon Andromalus by telling it to fuck off. This somehow results in Bolster’s defeat, but nothing is really resolved. The most obvious gimmick of Damn Them All is that it’s an unannounced sequel to Hellblazer, but another cool thing about it is its use of medieval and Renaissance demonology. I’m glad it’s been promoted to an ongoing series.

DAREDEVIL #8 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 8,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Daredevil fights the Punisher and his pet dragon, Cole rescues Bullet’s son Lance, and the other superheroes decide that “Daredevil needs to be stopped.” This is another underwhelming chapter of the Red Fist Saga. I’m still willing to read this series, but it’s not as good as the previous volume of Daredevil.

JUNKYARD JOE #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Muddy talks with Emily, then introduces Joe to the local VA director. Then the other robot dudes arrive at Muddy’s house looking for Junkyard Joe, and that’s pretty ominous, because earlier in the issue, we’ve been shown that these guys are willing to commit murder to find Joe. I think Junkyard Joe might actually be Geoff Johns’s finest achievement, though that’s not saying much, because I actively hate much of his earlier works. If it’s not his best work, then at least it’s his first comic that feels like a serious artistic effort, rather than a grim-and-gritty rehash of Silver Age comics. I wonder how Johns and Frank got permission to reproduce the Peanuts comic on the first page.

RADIANT PINK #2 (Image, 2023) – “Eva and Kelly’s Complicated Adventure,” [W] Meghan Camarena & Melissa Flores, [A] Emma Kubert. Eva and Kelly visit some alternate dimensions, and in one of them, they climb aboard a cat spaceship. Radiant Pink isn’t the worst Massiveverse title – that would be Dead Lucky – but it’s not quite fulfilling its potential. Also, the artwork in this issue is very crude, and on the two pages right after Kelly and Eva leave the slime planet, the art doesn’t even look professional. A nicer way to say this is that Emma Kubert’s sketchy, crude style is acceptable when she’s writing her own material, but this style does not fit the slick aesthetic of the Massiveverse.

MONARCH #1 (Image, 2023) – “Stranger from Above Part 1: The Truth Within,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Alex Lins. I don’t like Rodney Barnes’s series Killadelphia, but I saw a good review of Monarch #1, so I bought it on impulse. Monarch begins by depicting some kids in Compton on a normal school day, but then the sky turns pink, and their neighborhood is attacked by alien robots that kill all the adults. So this is a postapocalyptic story from an urban black perspective – although I guess that’s not a new idea, since that description could also apply to Parable of the Sower. Still, Monarch seems interesting enough, and I’m going to continue reading it for now.

POISON IVY #9 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Harley visits Seattle, and she and Ivy spend an idyllic few days together before Harley returns to Gotham. This is a cute issue. Wilson’s version of Harley is much more understated and calm than some other writers’ versions, but I like the page where Harley is looking for her cell phone, and she pulls a rubber duck and a gavel out of her purse. I don’t know Seattle well enough to identify all the locations in this issue, but I do recognize the Pike Place Market. I’ve been to Seattle three times in the past decade, and I’ve been to the Pike Place Market and the Fantagraphics store on each of those visits.

BATMAN #132 (DC, 2023) – “The Bat-Man of Gotham Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bruce encounters the alternate-universe versions of Catwoman, Joker, and Punchline. After his battle with Punchline and Selina does not go well, he decides it’s time to become Batman again. Mike Hawthorne’s art is a drop in quality from Jorge Jimenez’s art in the previous storyline. I think the main problem is the coloring, which adds a lot of shades and textures that aren’t in the pencils or inking. Somehow I don’t like this effect. In the backup story, Mr. Terrific and Tim Drake use an alternate-dimensional toy created by Toyman to try to locate Bruce.

ALL AGAINST ALL #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. We begin with a flashback to V’lmann’s birth. The disembodied B’tay possesses a wolf and a crocodile, and begins to forget his own identity. We now realize that the aliens in this series are just heads with tentacles, and they need to attach themselves to an external body in order to do anything. V’lmann travels to Earth (?) to look for her dad. B’tay and Cov’n prepare to dissect Helpless, but he manages to escape because the gravity in the ship (?) is weaker than he’s used to. At this point I can finally tell the characters apart, and I think this series’s plot and artwork are both fascinating. Because of its painted quality, Caspar Winjgaard’s artwork in All Against All is more exciting than his art in Thunderbolt or Angelic.

DEAD SEAS #2 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. The ship’s crew uses one of the convicts as bait to recapture the runaway ghost. The ship’s doctor lets some pirates on the ship in order to secretly sell them some of the barrels the ship is carrying. I assume the barrels are full of the ectoplasm that the ship is extracting from the ghosts. When the shipowner’s daughter stumbles across the pirates, shots are fired, causing a barrel to explode and blow a hole in the ship. I forgot this issue’s plot by the time I read issue 2, but despite that, Dead Seas is a clever and grim piece of horror. It makes effective use of its setting aboard a ship, and Nick Brokenshire draws some very creepy ghosts.

HEXWARE #2 (Image, 2023) – “The King’s Dinner,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. Jesi/Which-Where acquires a sidekick, an urchin named Ron or Basement Boy. Then she has to save him from a hairy demon. Lots of other stuff happens that I don’t remember. Much like West of Sundown, Hexware suffers from excessive complexity. Its plot has too many themes, and it lacks a clear central premise. But at least Hexware has a clear protagonist, Which-Where, while West of Sundown’s main problem is its overly large ensemble cast. I like Zulema Scotto Lavina’s art. She kind of reminds me of Todd Nauck or Humberto Ramos.

HUMAN TARGET #11 (DC, 2023) – “Kill Kill Kill Kill,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance and Ice spend Chance’s last day together, and I think Chance realizes that Ice was responsible for the poison. This seems like a logical solution, but this series has been going on so long that I’ve stopped caring whodunit. I’ve also lost confidence in Tom King, and I don’t think I’m going to bother reading his Wonder Woman run. If not for Greg Smallwood’s art, I might have given up on Human Target.

SECRET INVASION #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “We Got Her,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. Maria murders all of Tony’s Skrull agents, then interrogates another captured Skrull. When Iron Man comes looking for Maria, she deploys the War Machine armor against him. The Skrull, Dani, captures Maria and takes her to her own Skrull faction. I really hope Maria somehow faked murdering the Skrulls, because it seems like an inexcusable act.

SINS OF SINISTER #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Everything is Sinister,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck et al. In a series of flashforwards, Sinister takes over the Quiet Council and goes on to dominate the entire universe. Things go well for Sinister at first, but after ten years, he decides he’s not happy with how things are going, and he decides to kill a Moira clone and reset the timeline. But he discovers that someone’s stolen his lab, with the Moira clones still in it. I suppose this issue is an example of Dr. Manhattan’s maxim that “nothing ever ends,” because it shows that even after Sinister conquers the world, he still has to live in the world he conquered, and he’s not happy with it. Other than that, though, I’m not impressed with this issue. It’s obvious that the events of Sins of Sinister #1 are going to be erased from continuity by the time the crossover ends, and therefore none of these events have any impact.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #2 (DC, 2023) – “Who Says?” etc., [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Jeff Stokely. The kids hunt through Dom and Tanya’s stuff, trying to  solve the mystery and possibly bring Dom back. Also, Charles and Tanya develop a crush on each other. This series includes some effective characterization, but what’s most interesting about it is its depiction of Thai culture and mythology. Thai food is very well known in America, but most Americans know nothing about Thai people other than their food. For more on that point, see this article.

TRAVELING TO MARS #3 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. Roy spends most of the issue ruminating, but on the last page, there’s finally a significant plot development: Roy gets a message from his ex-wife. I guessed that the message was going to be that Roy had a child he didn’t know about, but my guess was wrong. Just before that, there’s a scene where Roy and the two robots watch a movie, and I wonder if this is an homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

SILVER SURFER: GHOST LIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] John Jennings, [A] Valentine De Landro. I know John Jennings casually, but I’ve read few if any of his comics. Instead of the Surfer himself, Ghost Light #1 focuses on young Toni Brooks and her family. They’ve just moved to a small town to live in a house inherited from Toni’s uncle Al, who died under unexplained circumstances. When Toni and her brother Josh go poking around in Al’s shack, they somehow awaken a mysterious green glowing man, and they also do something that summons the Silver Surfer, who describes Al as a “hero and trusted friend.” Ghost Light #1 is a touching and nuanced depiction of black family relationships. The center of its story is not the Surfer plot, but Toni’s difficult adjustment to her new living situation. And I’m curious to learn just how Al and the Surfer knew each other. 

STORM AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MUTANTS #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Storm’s Seven,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. This series is the Sins of Sinister version of X-Men Red. In this issue, Storm, Wiz-Kid, Cable and some other characters go looking for Sinister’s lab, and at the end, Destiny is contacted by an old man with a spade symbol on his forehead. I’m probably supposed to recognize the old man, but I don’t. This issue is just average.

KNOW YOUR STATION #3 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Liana Kangas. Elise and another character continue to investigate the murders. Know Your Station is not nearly as spectacular as Eat the Rich. First, I’ve never liked Liana Kangas’s art style. Second, Know Your Station has the same satirical edge and dark humor as Eat the Rich, but it lacks the latter series’s sense of imminent danger. The murders in Know Your Station just feel gory, rather than genuinely frightening. And Know Your Station’s villains are mostly off-panel, so I don’t hate them as much as I hated the rich people in Eat the Rich. A cute thing in this issue is the stack of pro-capitalist books by authors like “Elon Walton III.”

AVENGERS: WAR ACROSS TIME #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “War Across Time Chapter Two,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Alan Davis. The Avengers invade the Baxter Building and battle Sindri, the dwarf who forged Thor’s hammer. Also, Patsy Walker makes a cameo appearance, though I thought she was Jean Grey at first. War Across Time is a well-executed pastiche of Silver Age Marvel, but it doesn’t do anything very original. However, it’s still worth reading because it’s a unique collaboration between two legends of superhero comics. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #136 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. Another issue full of pointless fight scenes and plot developments that I don’t care about. I’m tempted to just drop this series until The Armageddon Game is over, but I want to support IDW, and they’re not publishing much else besides TMNT.

BULLS OF BEACON HILL #1 (Aftershock, 2023) – “Devil’s Child,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Andy Macdonald. Christopher Boldt, a successful surgeon, is about to run for Boston’s city council.  But it’s an open secret that Christopher is really the son of Orin Paige, Boston’s worst crimelord. And Orin does not want Christopher on the city council, first because Christopher might expose Orin’s crimes, and second because Orin despises Christopher for being gay. The issue ends with Christopher and his boyfriend being attacked by a corrupt cop in Orin’s service. Bulls of Beacon Hill has a fascinating premise, and there’s some moral ambiguity in Christopher’s position, since he partly owes his success to his horrible father. Bulls of Beacon Hill is the only Aftershock comic I’m reading at the moment. I hope Aftershock can recover from its financial problems.

STATIC: SHADOWS OF DAKOTA #1 (DC, 2023) – “Heroes and Myths,” [W/A] Nikolas Draper-Ivey, [W] Vita Ayala. There’s nothing here of any interest at all. This is just a generic superhero comic, with no significant characterization and no surprising plot twists. I love the original Static series because of its endearing and realistically depicted characters, so this issue is a big disappointment. I won’t be buying issue 2.

MINOR THREATS #4 (Dark Horse, 2023) – “The Straight Line,” [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. The villains finally confront Stickman, and the lovable old guy is revealed as the traitor among them. Frankie kills Stickman with a hammer, then she also has to kill Insomniac (i.e. Batman) in self-defense. Brain Tease claims sole responsibility for the killings, and Frankie regains custody of her daughter and becomes the city’s new crimelord or superheroine or both. I thought the first three issues of Minor Threats were kind of boring, but now I think I wasn’t giving enough credit, because issue 4 is a very satisfying conclusion. Also, I was so disappointed by Static: Shadows of Dakota #1 that in comparison, Minor Threats #1 felt like a masterpiece.

MY BAD VOL. 2 #3 (Ahoy, 2023) – “The Inescapable Grasp of Justice,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause. The pizza murderer is finally captured, and so the series’ main plot is over already, even though there are several issues to go. The writers even point this out in the inside front cover of issue 4. Also there are a couple backup stories written by Bryce Ingram. I didn’t much like My Bad volume 1, but I think now I’m starting to get the joke. Basically the joke is just that all the characters are stupid.

LEGION OF X #10 (Marvel, 2023) – “Among Us Stalk the Sentinels,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Netho Diaz. Kurt fights Margali, and she extracts the “Hopesword” from his body, and various other things happen. I can never figure out just what’s going on in this series, and this issue is no exception to that. I’m also disappointed that Amanda Sefton does not appear in this series. Nightcrawler has something in common with Jerome K. Jerome Bloche, whose comic I will be reviewing later: they both have a girlfriend who’s a flight attendant.

PINK LEMONADE #5 (Oni, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. In the afterlife, Pink speaks to O.J. Bot and discovers that he was created by an uncredited black cartoonist, not by Zavi Xarad. Then O.J. Bot sacrifices its life to resurrect Pink. Nick Cagnetti’s normal art style is already fascinating, but in this issue he draws in a variety of other styles: he imitates Tezuka, ‘80s video games, claymation, and early Disney. He’s an impressive artist who deserves more recognition.

INFERNO GIRL RED #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mat Groom, [A] Erica D’Urso. Many years ago, reporter Ana Costa recounted the adventures of the superheroine Inferno Girl Red. Now, Ana’s daughter Cássia is accepted to a prestigious high school in the fictional Apex City. Then the entire school gets transported to an alternate dimension, and Cássia has to save the day by becoming the new Inferno Girl Red. Cássia is a very cute, wholesome protagonist, and her relationship with her mother is adorable. Also, Inferno Girl Red’s debut scene is exciting.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Within the Body My Body is Not,” [W/A] Tradd Moore. This issue’s plot makes no logical sense, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to. On the other hand, this issue, like the previous two issues, contains the most detailed and visually stunning artwork in any recent Marvel comic. Tradd Moore has somehow developed into a major talent. I just read a review that says that when you read Druillet, you’re really reading an art book, and the story is secondary and often incomprehensible. The same can be said of Fall Sunrise.

HARROWER #1 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Brahm Revel. I like Justin Jordan personally, but I’ve had trouble connecting with his comics. Harrower is about a small town with a history of serial killers, a history which is now repeating itself. My favorite thing about this issue is the realistic and witty dialogue. I plan to continue reading this series.

SPY SUPERB #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. Having accidentally killed a squad of assassins, Jay tries to behave like he thinks a spy should behave. Then he encounters an actual spy, and they both get targeted by an asssasin. This series is a funny re-envisioning of Matt Kindt’s more typical spy stories.

AVENGERS #8 FACSIMILE (Marvel, 1964/2023) – “Kang, the Conqueror!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A reprint of Kang’s first appearance. At this point there wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish Kang from any other Lee and Kirby villain, and the one thing that surprised me about this issue is that Kang is explicitly stated to be the same man as Rama-Tut.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Station Three,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth’s team frees the mutants held captive at Station Three, and a disaster is narrowly averted when Orphan Maker’s armor begins to leak. This is perhaps the only comic in which Nanny and Orphan Maker are interesting characters, rather than a pair of running jokes. Otherwise, Sabretooth and the Exiles is far below the level of Victor LaValle’s other work, and I’m losing my motivation to read it.

Another comic ordered from eBay:

WIMMEN’S COMIX #10 (Last Gasp, 1985) – [E] Joyce Farmer. This is labeled as the “Politically Correct International Fetish Issue.” In Virginia L. Small’s “The Feeling is Mutual: Wild Kingdom,” some anthropomorphic lions capture and tag a human male and kidnap his child. This story is a funny satire on hunting. It’s Virginia Small’s only credit in the GCD. Sharon Rudahl’s “Zog Nit Keyn Mol” juxtaposes an old Yiddish song, written by a captive in the Warsaw Ghetto, with a depiction of a modern Jewish woman and her Holocaust survivor grandmother. This story is a touching reflection on the continuity of Jewish history. Joyce Farmer’s “Fetus Fetish Funnies” is probably the high point of the issue. It’s a nearly wordless story in which almost every panel is set in a different year. It depicts the history of a family across 120 years and seven generations. In most of the generations the women are subjected to sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancy. The story begins with a quotation by an opponent of abortion, and ends with the caption “etc.,” suggesting that the struggle for reproductive freedom is ongoing. Cecilia Capuana’s “Modemorphose” is reprinted from the French comic Ah! Nana, and its art style resembles that of Nicole Claveloux. Other artists in this issue include Carel Moiseiwitsch, Mary Fleener, Diane Noomin, Roberta Gregory, Dori Seda, Lee Binswanger, and Krystine Kryttre.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #6 (Marvel, 2012) – “Powerless Part 1,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Alan Davis. Cap has a dream where he loses his powers and gets beaten up by Batroc the Leaper. Hawkeye tries to distract Cap from his dreams by going on a mission with him, but on the mission, Cap encounters the Madbomb from Kirby’s ‘70s Cap run, and it causes him to lose his powers for real. This comic’s story is reasonably good, but I’m willing to read anything with Alan Davis art.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1004 (DC, 2023) – “Medieval: Secrets & Lies,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Brad Walker. This comic is the origin story of Astrid Arkham, aka the Arkham Knight. Her Astrid’s parents both worked at Arkham, and she was born during a riot at the asylum, with the Joker and Harley Quinn as midwives. At the moment of Astrid’s birth, her mother, Ingrid, was killed by a stray batarang. Astrid was effectively raised by Arkham’s supervillains, and grew up blaming Batman for her mother’s death. I’m sure it wasn’t Batman who killed Ingrid, but I don’t know if they ever revealed who really did it. My problem with Astrid is that she was born when Bruce Wayne was already Batman, and she seems to be around twenty years old now, and it’s hard to accept that Batman’s career has lasted that long. Astrid seems to have been created as a replacement for the titular villain of the Arkham Knight video game. I never played that game, though I loved the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games.

SPIROU: LE JOURNAL D’UN INGÉNU (Dupuis, 2008) – [W/A] Emile Bravo. In France, Spirou is comparable in popularity to Tintin or Asterix, though he’s almost unknown in America. This album was part of the series “Le Spirou de…”, consisting of one-off Spirou albums by various notable creators. Most Spirou stories, or at least the ones I’ve read, are lighthearted adventure stories with no reference to real-world politics. Thus, the gimmick of Le journal d’un ingénu is that it situates Spirou within the historical circumstances in which he was created. Much of its poignancy comes from the contrast between the lighthearted, naïve protagonist (the English translation of the title is “Journal of a Naïve Young Man”) and the horrible historical traumas in which he embroils himself. Spirou first appeared in 1938, and Le journal d’un ingénu takes place one year later, when Europe is in imminent danger of war. Spirou finds himself thrown into the midst of the brewing crisis when he develops a crush on a young girl, who turns out to be a Jewish spy working for the Comintern. Also, his hotel turns out to be the site for peace negotiations between Germany and Poland. In the climax, Spirou nearly prevents World War II by coming up with a peaceful revolution to the Danzig Crisis, but his pet squirrel Spip intentionally ruins everything by chewing through the hotel’s phone lines. Also, Spirou meets his future partner Fantasio, who serves as comic relief. Overall, this is an extremely well-executed, funny and poignant comic, and it deservedly earned lots of acclaim in Europe and was a contender for the Fauve d’Or. I suspect that this story would have been even more meaningful if I was more familiar with the classic Spirou series.

PHILEMON: CAST AWAY ON THE LETTER A (Toon Books, 1968/2014) – [W/A] Fred. Farm boy Philémon and his donkey fall down an old well and find themselves in an absurdist world, located on the letter “A” in the Atlantic Ocean. Philémon is one of the absolute classics of French comics, probably because of its whimsical, surrealistic story and art. As a scholar of materiality, I love the idea that the letters “Atlantic” on the map of the Atlantic Ocean could actually have a physical existence. However, this first Philémon album suffers from being extremely short – only about 30 pages. That’s not enough space for any substantial plot or worldbuilding. The French edition of this album is a bit longer because it includes some additional short stories, but Toon Books decided not to include this material, perhaps to avoid confusing their readers. I also have the second Philemon album that Toon Books released, but I haven’t read it yet. There are 16 albums in total.

Another comic I ordered on eBay:

HUP #3 (Last Gasp, 1989) – “The Story o’ My Life!” etc., [W/A] Robert Crumb. A woman with a big butt pushes Crumb around in a stroller, and then Crumb gets out of the stroller and has sex with the woman. This is a typical example of Crumb’s gruesome, disturbing, fetishistic tendencies. When I read a story like this, it makes me understand why younger generations of cartoonists have disavowed him. Crumb’s adaptation of Sartre’s “Nausea” is much much better. It uses creepy artwork and lettering, together with shakily drawn diagonal panel borders, to convey a sense of the protagonist’s growing anxiety. “Point the Finger” includes some panels that went viral several decades later, because it’s Crumb’s satire on a young Donald Trump. The story has one ending where Trump humiliates Crumb, and a second, more optimistic ending where Crumb has Trump arrested, then sleeps with his two female companions. Crumb is forced to admit that the first, pessimistic ending was more realistic. The issue ends with a Mr. Natural story which is another exercise in sexism and fetishism.

CEREBUS #135 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story 22,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Mrs. Thatcher bullies Jaka into accepting responsibility for Pud’s death. It seems that in issue 130, Pud was murdered by Cirinists because he hired Jaka as a dancer. This issue is very emotionally intense, but it also suffes from too much decompression. If Sim had left out all the illustrated-text flashbacks, he could have finished Jaka’s Story in far fewer chapters. 

Starting again on March 21 after returning from ICFA:

2000 AD #1824 (IDW, 2013) – Dredd: “Cypher Part 1,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dredd prevents an assassination attempt on a visiting Sov dignitary, and chases down the assassin. Dandridge: “The Copper Conspiracy Part 1,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Warren Pleece. A story about a ghost who looks kind of like Nikolai Dante, but has mind contorl powers. 3rillers: “Survival Geeks Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, [A] Neil Googe. A young woman wakes up in bed with a nerd, and on trying to leave the house, she discovers she’s been transported to another dimension. Then she gets abducted by an armored demon riding a dragon. This is very funny, and I like Neil Googe’s art style. Stickleback: “Number of the Beast Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. In a steampunk world, Stickleback, so called because of all the things sticking out of his back, is resurrected. D’Israeli draws this story in a black-and-white painted style that looks completely unlike any of his other work. I especially like how he avoids the use of solid outlines, and instead uses differences in color to separate one thing from another. This effect reminds me of Alberto Breccia’s late work.

DAREDEVIL #142 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Concrete Jungle!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bob Brown. Bullseye shoots Daredevil from a crossbow into the river, but Nova saves Matt from drowning. By no coincidence, Wolfman was writing Nova at the time. Then Matt fights Cobra and Mr. Hyde, who are trying to steal Bill Rotsler’s collection of rare books. The most noteworthy thing about this issue is its guest appearance by Bill Rotsler and his writing partner Sharman DiVono. Rotsler was an SF writer and a Hugo-winning fan artist, as well as the fan GoH at the 1973 Worldcon.

KONG THE UNTAMED #3 (DC, 1975) – “The Caves of Doom,” [W] Jack Oleck & Gerry Conway, [A] Alfredo Alcala. Kong and his older friend Gurat have a return encounter with the people who killed Kong’s mother Gurat. Kong the Untamed is a fairly generic caveman story, but it has some excellent art, and it would be worth reprinting.

SWORD OF SORCERY #3 (DC, 1973) – “Betrayal!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Howard Chaykin w/ Ronn Sutton. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser’s ship is sunk by pirates, who are intent on capturing a princess. With a wizard’s assistance Fafhrd and the Mouser recapture the princess and kill the pirate captain, only to discover that the princess and the captain were lovers. This is an enjoyable sword and sorcery story. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser have been adapted into comics a couple times, but they haven’t had as much longevity in comics form as Conan or Elric.

WILDC.A.T.S #29 (Image, 1996) – “Fire from Heaven Chapter 7,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Travis Charest & Ryan Benjamin. This issue is tied to a stupid crossover, in which WildC.A.T.s was the only good comic involved. Therefore, the plot of WildC.A.T.s #29 makes no sense, but its dialogue is brilliant. One of the two artists in this issue is much better than the other, and I assume the better artist is Travis Charest.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #22 (Marvel, 2004) – “Second Coming,” [W] Peter David, [A] Aaron Lopresti. In the future, Genis discovers that he’s remembered as a villain. In the past, Moondragon fights the Magus. This issue’s plot is way too complicated, and Peter David himself realizes this: in the summary at the beginning of the issue, PAD includes a paragraph that’s written in the style of a soap opera recap, and that references events and characters who aren’t mentioned anywhere else.

KOSHCHEI THE DEATHLESS #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Ben Stenbeck. The origin story of the Hellboy villain Koshchei. This story is creepy and whimsical, and Stenbeck does a good job of imitating Mignola’s style. But otherwise this is no different from any other Hellboyverse comic, and I’m not even sure why I have this issue.

EX MACHINA #26 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Power Down Chapter 1,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Tony Harris. We start with a flashback to September 11, and then Mitchell proposes rebuilding the towers exactly as they were. A mysterious man in a diving suit causes New York’s power to go out, and Mitchell realizes he’s lost his own powers too. Like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina feels somewhat dated now, but it’s impressive how Vaughan has continually evolved as a writer and has managed to stay at the top of the industry.

HOUSE OF SECRETS #6 (Vertigo, 1997) – “Meeting,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Duncan Fegredo. A man named Tony goes to an AA meeting, but then runs away in embarrassment, and his wife Angela finds him at the House of Secrets. Tony tells Angela about being tried by the Court of Secrets, but he neglects to tell her that he began drinking because of childhood sexual abuse by a priest. The story ends on an ambiguous note. This issue is an effective depiction of alcoholism and sexual trauma, but its fantastic elements are kind of tacked-on.

BLACKHAWK #248 (DC, 1976) – “Vengeance is Mine! … Sayeth the Cyborg,” [W] David A. Kraft, [A] James Sherman. This issue includes some effective artwork, especially the splash panel that shows a giant missile taking off. However, DAK’s story is pointless. This Blackhawk run was a revival after the series was cancelled in 1968, but the revival only lasted seven issues before being cancelled again. Blackhawk was revived again by Evanier and Spiegle in 1982, and lasted much longer.

FANTASTIC FOUR #367 (Marvel, 1992) – “By Reed… Betrayed!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Paul Ryan. In an Infinity War crossover, the Thing fights his own Magus-created duplicate. This is a pretty dumb comic, and it’s full of guest appearances by characters in hideous ‘90s costumes. But at least DeFalco and Ryan’s FF felt like the FF, unlike Englehart’s run, which I will be discussing later.

INCORRUPTIBLE #20 (Boom!, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcio Takara. Max Damage is held captive by villains, but his partner Jailbait saves him. However, she also learns about a horrible crime he committed in the past. I feel lukewarm about this series. It’s okay, but it’s not truly compelling. Marcio Takara’s artwork has improved tremendously since 2011.

KINGSWAY WEST #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mirko Colak. A fantasy Western story set in a world where California is ruled by Chinese people. A Chinese lawman, Kingsway Law, marries a Mexican woman and tries to retire, but some of his old associates come looking for him and kidnap his wife. Kingsway West has a fascinating premise which is based on the shared history of Chinese- and Mexican-Americans. Unfortunately it was cancelled after just four issues. A cool thing I noticed in this issue is that on page one, Washington state is labeled “Murrieta Territory,” perhaps after Joaquin Murrieta, an outlaw who may have been the inspiration for Zorro.

JOURNEY #9 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Near Spring” etc., [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. MacAlistaire and Crawfish Martin go hunting, they get attacked by a bison, and then Crawfish falls under the ice. Part of this sequence is narrated by their dog. Meanwhile there’s a subplot set in Fort Miami. I don’t know how historically accurate Journey is, but it’s a very believable  depiction of frontier life in the early 19th century, and it’s also extremely funny.

2000 AD #1825 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: as above. Dredd chases down the Sov assassin, who proves to be a cyborg. The Judges discover that the cyborg was hired by the Sov envoy  who seemed to be his target, and his real target was Judge Hershey. Dandridge: as above. Dandridge is kidnapped by some planes shaped like fat people. In exchange for being rescued, he has to track down a certain dagger. 3rillers: as above. The girl, Sam, discovers that her kidnapping was part of some other geek’s fantasy scenario. Her hook-up, Simon, arrives to rescue her. Again this story is very funny. Stickleback: as above. Stickleback is hired to prevent a revolt by “sorries,” or saurian hominids, who have become an oppressed race of  slaves. Then he goes to see his son. The artwork in this story is so fascinating that I don’t care much about the plot. Zombo: “Planet Zombo Part 1,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Henry Flint. Zombo is resurrected in order to defeat an insane president. I don’t know the context behind this story, but it seems extremely fun. The president speaks in unintelligible Kirby dialogue such as “In strange eras – against ‘killer-dillers’ beyond the limits of imagination – the ‘war-cries’ of previous eras no longer hold their function!” I wonder how many readers understood what this dialogue was making fun of.

MOTHER PANIC #7 (DC, 2017) – “Victim Complex Part 1,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] John Paul Leon. I still have no idea what this series is about, and its plot and characters are of no interest at all. I wish I’d given up buying this series after the first couple issues.

ACTION COMICS #503 (DC, 1980) – “A Save in Time!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman encounters an alien creature called Null-O that looks like a vacuum cleaner, and there’s also a subplot about Lana Lang and a psychic named Kolzer. I forgot about this story as soon as I finished reading it.

SHE-WOLF #3 (Image, 2016) – “Ancient Incantations”, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Most of this issue is the origin story of a werewolf. This part of the issue is drawn in a different style from the framing sequence. This issue has some excellent artwork and publication design, but I couldn’t follow its plot.

EX MACHINA #28 (DC, 2007) – “Power Down Part 3,” as above. In a flashback, Mitchell and Kremlin do a training exercise. In the present, a bald, bearded terrrorist kidnaps Kremlin and Mitchell’s mother and invites Mitchell to a rendezvous. It’s an obvious trap, and Mitchell’s powers aren’t working, so he comes with a gun instead. I believe that I have the next issue, but have not read it yet.

ERMA JAGUAR V1 (Catalan, 1988/1990) – untitled, [W/A] Alex Varenne. A very strange and disturbing work. The title character, a tall, short-haired blonde, picks up a naïve young woman named Charlotte and her boyfriend Arthur. Erma and Arthur go off together, and Erma comes back alone. We’re not told what happened to Arthur. Then Erma and Charlotte have a series of erotic and violent adventures, ending with a party in an old mansion. When Erma wakes up, it seems as if the whole thing was a dream, and Charlotte reappears as Erma’s maid. Varenne draws some very sexy women, and his spotting of blacks is beautiful. But this album has an eerie, threatening mood, and the sex scenes it depicts are unsavory and sordid. It makes for a strange but memorable reading experience. Catalan also translated the second album of Erma Jaguar, as well as a collection of Varenne’s short stories. Erma Jaguar volume 3 has not been translated, and neither has Varenne’s other major work, Ardeur.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #12 (Pacific, 1983) – “Origin ‘2’”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. The art in this issue is very striking, but Kirby’s pencils are poorly served by Mike Thibodeaux’s crude inking. As usual with Kirby’s Pacific comics, this issue’s story doesn’t make much sense. Also, Captain Victory’s vehicle is a ripoff of Orion’s Astro-Harness. This issue includes a backup story written by Bruce Jones, with excellent artwork by Kent Williams, in a style that resembles that of Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #34 (DC, 1995) – “In Memoriam,” [W] Kelley Puckett, [A] Mike Parobeck. Hugo Strange suffers from disabling migraines while trying  to build a machine that can remove and store memories. Meanwhile, Batman and Catwoman go through some  relationship problems. In the climax, Catwoman destroys Strange’s memory machine, and we learn that Strange was trying to remove his own memory of witnessing this son’s murder. This explains both why Strange is having migraines, and why he keeps talking to a person named David who we can’t see. This issue is confusing, demanding some effort from the reader, and I had to read a summary of it in order to remind myself of its plot. But this is also a very poignant story. It continues into issues 35 and 36, which were the last two issues of this series.

WONDER WART-HOG AND THE BATTLE OF THE TITANS #1 (Rip Off, 1985) – “The Battle of the Titans!!!”, [W/A] Gilbert Shelton with Tony Bell and Joe E. Brown. This is reprinted from five issues of Rip Off Comix, which explains why it’s so long. In this story, Wonder Wart-Hog encounters three other versions of himself: the caveman Piltdown Pig, the evil Paranoid Punkpig, and the Hog from the Future. And of course lots of wacky stuff happens. This comic is funny, but its length is rather tedious, and I don’t like Wonder Wart-Hog as much as the Freak Brothers.

2000 AD #1826 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Suicide Watch,” [W] Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, [A] Paul Davidson. Mega-City One is troubled by a suicide cult. I don’t remember anything about this story. Dandridge: as above. Dandridge goes looking for the dagger and finds the severed head of his friend Shelley. 3rillers: as above. Sam escapes from the dark lord and the dragon, but is still stuck with the three geeks in their dimension-traveling house. They find themselves in a world ruled by cannibalistic amazons. Survival Geeks was well-liked enough that it graduated from 3Rillers to become an ongoing feature. It last appeared in 2020. Stickleback: as above. Stickleback tries and fails to get custody of his son. More stunning artwork. Zombos: as above. The Sc4rabs, i.e. the Beatles, return, and Zombo wakes up.  

BIJOU FUNNIES #6 (Kitchen Sink, 1971) – [E] Jay Lynch? This was in the same order as Hup #3. My copy is in such awful condition that when I read it, my biggest concern was making sure it didn’t fall apart. As a result, none of the stories in it stand out in my memory. Creators in this issue include Lynch, Skip Williamson, Crumb, and Justin Green.

IT’S SCIENCE WITH DR. RADIUM #1 (Slave Labor, 1986) – “The King of the Kings,” [W/A] Scott Saavedra. Dr. Radium and his assistant Roy travel back in time to the 20th century to look for some Elvis-impersonating aliens. They and the aliens both go to San Francisco instead of Memphis, and to make matters worse, there’s an Elvis convention in town. This comic was funny, but only to a moderate degree.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #103 (Dark Horse, 1995) – [E] Bob Schreck. I probably bought this issue because of the One-Trick Rip-Off chapter by Paul Pope, but it’s not understandable on its own, though it has some good draftsmanship. There’s also a pinup by Kirby, inked by Mike Royer. None of the other strips in this issue are of any interest.

RAGMAN: CRY OF THE DEAD #6 (DC, 1994) – “Cheval Blanc!!”, [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Gabriel Morrissette. The other day I saw a student reading an issue of this miniseries at the university cafeteria. I wonder why he was reading that comic in particular. Anyway, this issue is the conclusion of a story that tries to connect Ragman to voodoo mythology. It doesn’t make sense out of context. Ragman is a fascinating character, but besides his original creators, Kanigher and Kubert, no one else has been able to take advantage of his potential. Speaking of voodoo mythology, I saw Nalo Hopkinson at ICAF, and I finally got a chance to tell her how much I enjoyed House of Whispers.  

GHOST SHIP #1 (Alternative, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Jon Lewis. There are two stories in this issue, one about pirates, and another about a frog talking to a strange creature consisting mostly of a head. This comic could have been interesting, but it’s ruined by incompetent visual storytelling. It’s frequently impossible to determine the correct order in which to read the panels, and I don’t think that’s deliberate. Also, the second and longer story has no plot to speak of.

Next Heroes trip:

NIGHTWING #101 (DC, 2023) – “Rise of the Underworld,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Travis Moore. Neron goes looking for the soul of Olivia Desmond, Blockbuster’s daughter, who was introduced in issue 98. Luckily, Olivia is under the protection of Dick and the Titans. In a related development, the body of the king of Vlatava is found in the ruins of Titans Tower. When Dick goes to see the body, a Vlatavan investigator knocks him unconscious and shapeshifts into a duplicate of him. There’s also a backup story written by C.S. Pacat from Fence. I am eagerly looking forward to Tom Taylor’s Titans series. Kory appears on just a few pages of this issue, but those pages are enough to show that Taylor understands her personality, unlike so many other writers.

SAGA #62 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. The best evidence for how much I enjoy Nightwing is that I’m willing to read it before Saga. The only other comic that took precedence over Saga was Lumberjanes. This issue, Alana rejects Vitch’s offer to revive Marko, because she doesn’t believe it’s possible. Then Alana discovers that D. Oswald Heist’s writing is no longer compatible with contemporary values, since Heist uses the R-word. Finally, Gale horrifically murders Ginny and her family. This last scene is a shocking, brutal moment that establishes Gale as perhaps the most disgusting character in the series. I can’t wait for him to die, and I hope his death will be very painful.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #7 (Boom!, 2023) – “The First Eight Decades,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Too much stuff happens to summarize it all. Most of the issue takes place in year 21, when the Idea Man launches his final assault, and then finally gets his comeuppance. Ting-Shu and Robbie finally meet. Then the series skips ahead in time to year 80, when most of the main characters have died of old age, so I’m not sure what next issue will be about. Eight Billion Genies is perhaps Charles Soule’s finest work.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #29 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica escapes from the police station and finally finds a way to start turning the situation in her favor. Most of the issue is set at the House of Slaughter, where the Old Dragon basically tells Cecilia to let Erica kill Cutter, and then kill Erica herself. Cecilia sets off to do that. This conversation shows, again, that both the Old Dragon and Cecilia are complete sociopaths who care about nothing but increasing their own power.

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #4 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Wild, the Woke, and the Wasteland Rangers,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. This issue focuses on the Wasteland Rangers, the brutal Boy-Scouts-based cult in which Mezzy was raised. We start with a flashback in which Mezzy’s best friend and love interest, Jennie, is driven to suicide by the Rangers’ abuse. There’s also a funny and creepy page where we see all the Wasteland Rangers’ merit badges, in things like snitching, manhunting, and not masturbating. The Wasteland Rangers are kind of like the Lumberjanes, except with exactly opposite values. In the present, the Rangers torture Maceo and force him to compete in the “Apocalympics,” while Mezzy continues to look for him.

SHE-HULK #10 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Jack has to leave Earth because his containment suit was destroyed. In his absence, Jen throws herself into her work and is comforted by Patsy. Then Jack returns, but in fully powered form. This series sometimes seems to be more about Jack of Hearts than Jen, but this issue, for example, is not really about him, it’s more about how Jen copes with his disappearance and sudden return. Romantic relationships are a major theme of Rowell’s work, as seen in her novel Landline, and Jack’s inclusion in the series allows Rowell to explore that theme.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #23 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Again this issue is hard to summarize because it has such a dense plot. Some of the heroes finally reach the leader of the History Zone, a head in a jar on top of a robot dog’s body. I don’t know if this character has a name. The other heroes are finally about to learn the biggest secret in America’s history, but they’re interrupted before they can learn it. I hope next issue will provide some clarity as to just what’s going on here.

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids have their final exam, which requires them to survive in Limbo for an hour. Then they have to protect New Orleans from a hurricane. Emily finally loses all her allies from the school, but she finds a new ally in Dormammu, and she leads his army in an invasion of New Orleans. It’s odd how Emily has taken such a complete face-heel turn – her descent into villainy happened in the first place because she did something nice, but now she’s become thoroughly evil.

GROO: GODS AGAINST GROO #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. The armies of Tlaxpan and Mexahuapan go to war, while back in the other continent, Kayli is thrown into her dad’s prison cell. My favorite moment in this issue is when Groo is listing his favorite foods, including “putrid pelts in dung water” (a callback to Groo Meets Tarzan) and “one piece of asparagus.”

FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Baxter Initiative,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Iban Coello. A flashback story that finally reveals why everyone hates the FF now. Due to a Negative Zone invasion, Reed was forced to send the Baxter Building a year into the future, along with all the people in and around it. That seemed like a good solution to Reed, but it meant that all those people were forced to be absent from the world for a full year, missing a year of their loved ones’ lives. After all the recent anti-superhero hysteria (see Devil’s Reign), that was the last straw, and the FF were exiled from New York. Back in the present, the FF are finally reunited. In the flashback sequence, Franklin and Val seem to be children of about the same age, even though they should be adults now. Marvel has again given up on trying to determine how old Franklin and Val are.

THE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Kasia Nie. Jan and Nadia go looking for the alien creature that killed Jan’s dad, and they fight an army of androids wearing Jan’s old costumes. Again, the main appeal of this issue is its detailed depiction of Jan and Nadia.

LOCAL MAN #1 (Image, 2023) – “Heartland,” [W/A] Tim Seeley & Tony Fleecs. Crossjack, a failed superhero, is forced to return home to live with his parents. And he has to walk ten miles to get to their house, because the only Uber driver in town refuses to pick him up. When he goes out to a bar, he gets assaulted by an old supervillain, and then when he defends himself, his former superhero teammates serve an injunction against him for violating the terms of his contract termination. And then someone murders the supervillain. Local Man is a fascinating exploration of the legacy of ‘90s Image comics, and it also draws upon Tim Seeley’s central theme of rural Midwestern life. This issue includes a flipbook backup story drawn in a parody of the ‘90s Image house style.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #12 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Butcher’s Return Part 2,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Antonio Fuso. While Jace is trying to save the other kids, one of them, a boy named Sunny, is kidnapped by House of Slaughter agents. They use him as bait to attract some monsters and kill them. Then they take Sunny, now thoroughly traumatized, to the Butcher Shop, i.e. the former House of Boucher. The focus of this issue is on Jace’s desire to protect the kids, and his inability to save Sunny. Protecting children is also the theme of Tate Brombal’s other current series, Behold Behemoth.

BLACK CLOAK #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Meredith McClaren. Phaedra continues to investigate Freyal’s murder, she meets with a human who’s next in line for the throne after Freyal’s death, and then she decides to somehow see what Freyal can tell her himself. This series has some cute and intriguing writing and art, but its plot and setting are very complicated, and I’m sometimes confused as to what’s going on.

BLUE BOOK #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. In 1961, an African-American husband and wife, Barney and Betty Hill, drive home from Montreal to New Hampshire. On the way they’re chased by an alien spaceship. There’s also a backup story with art by Klaus Janson (pencils as well as inks). Sadly this is the worst James Tynion comic I’ve read lately. Nothing really happens in the main story. Barney is a civil rights worker, so he could be an interesting character, but in this issue he doesn’t do or say anything of interest. I hope issue 2 will be an improvement.

SUPERMAN #1 (DC, 2023) – “Voices in Your Head,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jamal Campbell. Superman captures Live Wire, Lois Lane takes Perry White’s old job, and Lex Luthor gives Superman his entire company. Superman is forced to accept this unwanted gift because if he doesn’t, the company will be dissolved and all its employees will be put out of work. If I were Clark, I wouldn’t believe that without talking to a corporate lawyer. I have trouble accepting that such a legal arrangement could actually work. In general this seems like a good start to the new era of Superman, but Superman, Son of Kal-El will be much missed.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE BOOK OF LOVE #4 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. The two main plots, about the mobster and the burglary, are finally resolved. Then Asta discovers that she’s pregnant, even though she believed that she and Harry were unable to interbreed. This ending makes me excited for the next miniseries, The Book of Life, which has not been announced yet.

KAYA #5 (Image, 2023) – “Kaya and the Lizard-Riders Chapter 5,” [W/A] Wes Craig. We learn that when lizard people shed their skin, they’re considered different people. The fish people try to force Seth to marry their princess and give up his adventuring life. When Jin reveals that he already knew about Seth’s arranged marriage, Jin and Kaya get in a fight, and Jin runs away. While Seth and Kaya are looking for him, they’re captured by some monsters, and the issue ends with a two-page splash depicting the hideous “poison lands”. The best thing about Kaya is Wes Craig’s fascinating and unique art style, but the series is also worth reading because of its complex depiction of the three main characters’ relationships.

DAMN THEM ALL #5 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. A continuation of the same story as last issue. Ellie finds the man who killed Frankie’s wife, but his demon protects him from being harmed by magic, so she kills him by throwng a hammer in his face. Ellie summons Alfie’s spirit and asks him who killed him, and he claims to have killed himself. Damn Them All is brilliant, but also often quite hard to follow. I keep forgetting who all the villains and supporting characters are.

BATGIRLS #15 (DC, 2023) – “Dead Wrong,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. (The same Neil Googe who drew Survival Geeks and ‘Splorers in 2000 AD.) Cassie finds Steph and her father Cluemaster, but Cluemaster shoots Steph dead. Luckily Cassie stole some Lazarus serum last issue, and she uses it to revive Steph. I was pretty sure Steph wasn’t going to stay dead.

JUNKYARD JOE #5 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Muddy and Joe return home to find that the villains are holding the kids hostage. Joe manages to escape with the kids, but Muddy is hit on the head. Joe and the kids escape into the snowy wood, with the killers following. At the end of the issue, we’re told that the Junkyard Joe project had to be shut down because the robot killed everybody it met – although if Joe really is planning to kill everyone he meets, he’s not in any hurry to do it. I still think Junkyard Joe might be Geoff Johns’s best work ever.

PETER PARKER & MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MEN DOUBLE TROUBLE #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki & Vita Ayala, [A] GuriHiru. Peter and Miles capture Thanos in the pocket-universe can, then they shoot the can into space, where it’s picked up by the Collector.  This is another very fun issue. Notable moments include: After the cleaning crew has finally cleaned up the mess from the villain convention, Thanos, Peter and Miles run through the building and make an even worse mess, and one of the cleaners says “This is my villain origin story!” The AIM agent who was Thanos’s handler is thrilled to receive a signed photograph from him. Items in the Collector’s collection include Jeff the land shark, Alligator Loki, and a pair of boxer shorts.

SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2023) – “It’s a Spectacular Life,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. In a flashback sequence, we see how history has been revised so that Peter never becomes Spider-Man, and instead Cindy Moon is bitten by the radioactive spider. Peter is shot by the burgler and is left disabled, but both May and Ben survive. Peter then becomes Spider-Man/Silk’s assistant and pursues a career with Oscorp. At the end of the issue, Peter gets a message saying “help.” This issue is a digression from the main storyline, but it’s an effective use of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” story structure. As an example of Dan Slott’s mastery of continuity, this issue includes a cameo appearance by Jason Ionello from Untold Tales of Spider-Man.

MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON #3 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Ivan Fiorelli & Luca Maresca. Monica discovers that her world isn’t internally consistent: she’s been told that her mother is dead, yet when she calls her childhood home, her mother answers the phone. Monica discovers that the shifts in reality are being caused by the Stone of Hala. Then she traces the stone to its origin with a race of alien relic-keepers, and she saves the aliens from extinction. Back on Earth, Monica is told that she herself has broken the universe. The scene with the aliens is fairly touching.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #7 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jody LeHeup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless and Silva finally defeat Ursa Major, and Shirtless’s mother returns to his life. This is a  predictable but satisfying conclusion. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is kind of a one-joke comic, and it’s impressive that the creators have managed to keep it interesting for this long. I wonder if they have enough ideas for a third miniseries.

ACTION JOURNALISM #5 (Oni, 2023) – “We Are the Champions,” [W] Erik Skillman, [A] Miklós Felvidéki. We learn that the Volunteer is an intelligent meme, a superhero that anyone can become if they believe in him. The villain, an evil general, intended to use the Volunteer to create superhuman armies, but the original Volunteer escaped their control. Kate gives an inspiring speech (ending in “They are the eggmen, but we are the walrus”) that causes the entire city’s population to turn into Volunteers. As a result, the city is saved and the villain is defeated, but now everyone in town is a superhero. So maybe this comic is an unannounced prequel to Top 10. This was a really fun miniseries, and I hope I’m not the only person who was reading it.

IMMORTAL SERGEANT #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Joe Kelly, [A] J.M. Ken Niimura. We are introduced to Sergeant Jim’s son Michael and his daughter-in-law Val. Michael and Val go to visit Jim, and Jim subjects Michael to severe verbal abuse in front of Michael’s wife and children. A nice moment in this issue is the two-page splash where Jim completely dwarfs Michael. However, it quickly becomes clear that Jim was and still is an abusive father, and that Michael, despite being an adult and a father himself, is terrified of him. And Val hates her father-in-law, and with good reason. I don’t understand why they’re willing to expose not only themselves, but also their children, to this awful old ogre. Also, as Brett Schenker pointed out on Facebook, it’s not clear what the point of this comic is. I’m willing to keep reading it, but only because it’s the follow-up to the classic I Kill Giants.

WONDER WOMAN #796 (DC, 2023) – “Before the Storm Finale,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Diana and her allies fight Eros, and Hera is revealed to be collaborating with the wizard Shazam. This issue is just okay. We’ve now learned that Conrad and Cloonan are going to be replaced on this series by Tom King. Conrad and Cloonan have been doing a great job, but perhaps this series could use a new writer. However, I’ve had enough of Tom King (see my review of Human Target #12 below), and I’m going to drop Wonder Woman when he takes it over.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #5 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. The two Eves save the day by proving that they have people depending on them, just like Selene and Endymion do. The story ends peacefully, and the second Eve goes off to have adventures with Akai, while the first Eve decides to see how the rest of the world is getting along. So maybe there’s a third miniseries coming. At ICFA I was on a panel with Constance Bailey from Georgia State, who has taught Destroyer before, and I was able to inform her that Destroyer and Eve are set in the same universe.

I HATE FAIRYLAND V2 #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. Gert decides to take a bath, but she mistakenly goes to the Lake of Sacrifice instead of the Lake of Eternal Life, and she gets eaten by a giant fish. While inside the fish, Gert has a vision of sleeping with a handsome man, but then her sidekicks rescue her, and we discover that Gert created the “man” herself out of rotten flesh. The fish dies from being infected with Gert’s filth, and Gert continues on her quest, but the Blue Fairy comes along and brings Gert’s “lover” to life. Brett Bean is an effective artist for this series because he shares Skottie Young’s skill at gross-out humor.

GODFELL #1 (Vault, 2023) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ben Hennessy. Some time ago, God died, and his body fell onto the land of Kerethim. As a result Kerethim was plunged into a massive war. Now the war is over, and the protagonist, a soldier named Zanzi, is ready to return home to her family. Her commander announces that the war isn’t really over, and there’s one more campaign left. Zanzi decides to desert from her army and go home anyway. On the way she acquires an unwanted companion, a young woman named Neth, and the issue ends as they start their journey through the giant corpse of God. Godfell has some interesting worldbuilding, and it tells a compelling story about what happens to soldiers when the war ends. I’m not in love with Ben Hennessy’s art, though. The idea of a giant divine corpse reminds me of We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, of course, but also James Morrow’s novel Towing Jehovah.

MOSELY #2 (Boom!, 2023) – “Belly of the Beast,” [W] Rob Guillory, [A] Sam Lotfi. Mosely “liberates” some people from their enslavement to virtual reality, but the people are thoroughly ungrateful, since virtual reality is much better than their actual lives. Then Mosely goes to see his estranged wife, who lives in a survivalist compound. There’s a backup story which is both written and drawn by Guillory. Mosely is an interesting character, but Mosely (the series) still isn’t as compelling as Chew or Farmhand.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #129 facsimile (Marvel, 1974/2023) – “The Punisher Strikes Twice!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. I’m not sure whether or not I’ve read this story before. This, of course, is the Punisher’s first appearance. From the start, he’s depicted as an ambiguous and troubling character, a villain with heroic motives. Perhaps this is why Gerry Conway hates the appropriation of the Punisher’s symbol by the far right, or by cops or soldiers. Conway never meant for the Punisher to be an admirable figure. This issue includes some excellent action sequences, as well as some nice characterization. At this point Peter was still recovering from Gwen’s death, and a poignant moment is when he puts on a false smile before entering the Daily Bugle offices. This facsimile edition is recolored in a very garish style that makes it look quite different from original comics of this era.

THE DEAD LUCKY #6 (Image, 2023) – “There’s No Shame in Surrender,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. This issue is mostly a giant fight scene. At the end, Bibi agrees to work for Morrow in exchange for full amnesty for the Salvation Gang. She’s willing to accept this awful deal so she can defeat Morrow from the inside. I certainly hope this is the last issue of Dead Lucky, but if there’s a second story arc, I’m not going to bother reading it. There are worse things than not having a complete Massiveverse collection.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #137 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. Yet another tedious Armageddon Game crossover. I’m tempted to just drop this series for now, and to start reading it again when Armageddon Game ends. The things I liked about this series – its strong characterization and its diverse ensemble cast – have completely fallen by the wayside.

GRIM #8 (Boom!, 2023) – “Into the Void,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Jess’s mom escapes from prison. Her old boss, Adria, claims that it’s Jess’s fault that no one is dying, and she sends the other Grim Reapers to hunt down Jess. Then Jess meets three women who look like the three fates, and one of them says “You can’t kill what is not living,” which is very close to Judge Death’s catchphrase “You cannot kill what does not live!” I had been feeling lukewarm about Grim, but I really like its style of art and coloring, and Jess is an enjoyable protagonist.

ICE CREAM MAN #34 (Image, 2023) – “Two Tramps,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. This issue’s title may be a reference to Robert Frost’s poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” which I find problematic because of its elitist, classist depiction of the two migrant workers. Anyway, this issue is about two hobos riding the rails. One of them is killed by a creature from an urban legend, but the other one captures some sunlight in a bottle, and the story ends on a happier note than most issues of Ice Cream Man. This is a well-constructed short story. According to an article I found, traditional hobos have become uncommon because of better railroad security, and because traditional train cars have been replaced by sealed shipping containers.

SPECS #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Chris Shehan. Ted is cleared of the murder charges, but he and his family are forced to move away. Kenny confesses his love to Ted, who does not share Kenny’s feelings, but they remain friends. In a flashforward sequence, Kenny speaks at Ted’s funeral, and we learn that Ted became a well-respected sports coach before dying of a stroke. The series ends with some far-future kids finding the spectacles. Specs was pretty good, and it proves that David M. Booher can write other things besides Canto. However, I hope there won’t be a sequel miniseries about the next people who find the glasses, because that would be too similar to Silver Coin.  

RADIANT PINK #3 (Image, 2023) – “The World’s Worst Love Story,” [W] Meghan Camarena & Melissa Flores, [A] Emma Kubert. Eva and Kelly travel through some more alternate universes, and they meet the giant four-eyed cat again. This issue has some cute artwork, but it completely loses track of Eva’s character arc. The original Radiant Pink story was compelling because it illustrated the toxic nature of the streamer lifestyle. I want to read more about how Eva balances her superhero career with her job, not about Eva’s journeys through weird alien worlds. Also, I still think Emma Kubert’s art is inappropriate for the Massiveverse.

IMMORAL X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Bond Age,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lan Medina. Mr. Sinister fights Emma Frost and continues to search for his missing lab. This whole crossover feels like a waste of time, because we can already see how the status quo is going to be restored at the end. Also, I’m getting bored with Mr. Sinister and his cartoonish villainy.

ART BRUT #3 (Image, 2016/2023) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Our hero travels inside Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and there’s a backup story about American Gothic. It’s a little annoying that this series only involves the most famous, cliched paintings, but otherwise Art Brut is another effective work by Prince and Morazzo.

SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #3 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. Pa Kent dies of old age. Batman is forced to sacrifice his life to defeat the Joker, and as a result, Luthor  takes control of Wayne Enterprises. But Luthor’s victory is worthless because the entire universe is about to be destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Superman is unable to save the universe, but he resurrects the human race on another planet. This ending is an anticlimax, and it’s also too close to what happens in FF: Life Story, where Reed spends the whole series trying to prevent the end of the world. The only difference this time is that Superman fails where Reed succeeded. Besides the ineffective ending, Superman: Space Age was an excellent miniseries overall.

DANGER STREET #3 (DC, 2023) – “Metamorpho,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornes. All the separate plotlines continue, but nothing truly significant happens. I can’t tell where Danger Street’s plot is going, but maybe that’s okay. Regardless of where it’s going, Danger Street gives Tom King an opportunity to write about a large cast of weird characters, and maybe that’s enough. I especially like the contrast between Danger Street’s mundane setting and its strange protagonists. The series has the same aesthetic as the scene in Ambush Bug where Darkseid is eating at McDonald’s.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #10 (Image, 2023) – [E] Eric Stephenson? “Lucky Coin” by John Layman and Jok is a preview of both a new upcoming series, In Hell We Fight, and the third story arc of Silver Coin. There’s also a preview of the next Bitter Root story arc, though this preview is more a series of pinups than an actual story. Simon Roy’s “The Ansible” includes perhaps his best art yet. I thought at first that it was drawn by Chris Schweizer, and that counts as praise. The other stories in this issue are the same as usual. Fletcher and Henderson’s “Red Stitches” has been a huge disappointment. I don’t understand it at all, and I don’t have the patience to read all ten chapters in order, so as to see what I’ve been missing.

HEXWARE #3 (Image, 2023) – “The Drowning Hymn,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. Which-Where fights a green-skinned horned man wearing a tiger-skin cloak. Hexware has some interesting themes, but it’s still too complicated and I can’t make sense of it.

EARTHDIVERS #5 (IDW, 2023) – “Can You See the Indian?”, [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. Another confusing issue. The guy in the past starts killing people and tearing up the ships’ sails, but he hasn’t gotten to Columbus yet. And who knows what’s going on with the people in the future. Rather than writing this series by himself, Stephen Graham Jones should have co-written it with someone who had more comics experience.

BULLS OF BEACON HILL #2 (Aftershock, 2023) – “Beyond the Realms of Death,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Andy Macdonald. In a flashback to Christopher’s childhood, Orin catches Christopher “playing doctor” with a male friend, and Orin is furious. In the present, Orin’s goons try to convince Chris to quit the race, but Chris beats them up brutally. Chris’s boyfriend, Bill, is understandably terrified by this and decides to leave Chris. This is another strong issue.

INFERNO GIRL RED #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mat Groom, [A] Erica D’Urso. Cássia battles a series of villains and monsters, with her mother coaching her. In the climax, another villain kidnaps Ana. This is another entertaining issue, though it’s still too long; this miniseries should have been split up into four issues instead of three. As before, the best part of this series is Cássia’s relationship with Ana. Cássia loves her mother, but sometimes chafes at Ana’s smothering presence.

DEAD SEAS #3 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. Things go from bad to worse, as the ghosts get free, the ship catches  fire, and then the power goes out, causing the ship to turn straight into a giant wave. Dead Seas continues to be a very scary piece of horror, though this issue just continues the existing plot without adding anything new.

MY BAD VOL. 2 #4 (Ahoy, 2023) – “Home Sweet Home,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause. As noted in my review of #3, this issue begins by acknowledging that the pizza killer plot is already over, “so there’s really nothing you need to know.” The “heroes” spend this issue preparing for an imminent alien invasion. It just occurred to me that Mark Russell may be the new Steve Gerber. Russell certainly has Gerber’s talent for blending poignancy and profundity with random weirdness.

[LES INNOMABLES V1]: AVENTURE EN JAUNE (Glénat, 1986) – [W] Yann Le Pennetier, [A] Didier Conrad. I bought this at the Fantagraphics store in about 2013. This series has a complicated textual history. The title on my copy is just Aventure en Jaune, but it became the first album of the series Les Innommables. Then there was a new edition of the series where Aventure en Jaune instead became the second album. And there’s also a zeroth album, which was never published on its own. On top of that, the sixth album, Alix-Noni-Tengu, exists in two versions, one with a happy ending and another with an unhappy ending, which is canonical. Anyway, Les Innomables is set in Hong Kong in 1949. Its protagonists are three American deserters, Mac, Tim and Tony. When they save a Chinese sex worker named Alix from being drowned, the three deserters get involved in a complex plot involving a villain named Colonel Lychee, and Mac’s girlfriend, Roseau Fleuri, is murdered as a result. Meanwhile, the entire city of Hong Kong is preparing for a Red Chinese invasion, which in real life never happened. Les Innommables is a fascinating but difficult work, not only because I’m reading it in French, but also because of its multi-layered and complex plot. Also, this album is full of stereotypical depictions of black and Chinese people. Despite all that, this is a really interesting work, and I would really like to read the rest of the series. Of course there are lots of other French comics I also want to read…

NOW #12 (Fantagraphics, 2023) – [E] Eric Reynolds. This is quite long, but its length is deceptive because many of the stories in it are abstract, and so they can be read very quickly. The highlight of this issue for me is one of the more representational stories, Noah Van Sciver’s “Mellow Mutt,” about when he was a child and was misinformed about what Jurassic Park was. I also liked Tim Lane’s “Li’l Stevie,” which seems to be part of his ongoing Steve McQueen saga, and is drawn in the style of antique comic strips. Kayla E.’s “Precious Rubbish” is a combination of old comics pages, from Harvey comics or Matt Baker’s Canteen Kate, with preexisting texts from the Bible or elsewhere. Kayla E. was at Heroes Con last year, and I looked through some of the stuff she had at her table. Her style is really interesting, but she has yet to publish a major work. The book version of Precious Rubbish is supposedly forthcoming from Fantagraphics next year. One of the other artists in this issue, François Vigneault, is also the letterer for Pink Lemonade.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #2 (DC, 1975) – “The Green Team,” [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. The Green Team are three extremely rich young boys who have decided to spend their money on worthy causes. A fourth boy, Abdul Smith (who is black, unlike the first three), wants to join the Green Team, but he can’t because he doesn’t have enough money. But he deposits $5.00 in the bank and is mistakenly credited with $500,000. Before the bank discovers the error, he invests the $500,000 to invest in stocks and earns $1.5 million dollars, so he’s allowed to join the team. This issue includes some interesting splash pages by Grandenetti, who was a devoted disciple of Eisner, but it’s one of the dumbest DC comics of the ‘70s. It has a boring premise which is executed in a ridiculous, implausible way. DC somehow decided that these characters were worthy of an ongoing series, but that series was cancelled before it was published. Two issues were completed and were only ever published as part of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade – and by the way, that’s a comic that deserves a reprint. The Green Team’s next appearance wasn’t until the 2013 series The Movement.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #3 (Ahoy, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. In the opening sequence, an old couple’s house is repossessed, and the couple put all their stuff in their car and drive away… straight into the ocean. Then the guy on the island finally manages to escape with Business Dog, but his plane is shut down. We also meet some people who are living in an abandoned mall. I still don’t think this series’s premise makes sense. If only one person had any money, and everyone else was broke, then surely all the other people would invent some alternative currency that they could use to buy stuff.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “Station Four,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth and his team head toward the station where all the kidnapped mutant babies are kept, but on the way there, Sabretooth is captured by his son Graydon Creed. This series has been a big disappointment. It has some interesting themes, but LaValle has no chance to explore those themes because he’s too busy with getting all the plot points out of the way.

SWAMP THING: GREEN HELL #2 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doug Mahnke.  It’s been more than a year since issue 1, and I’ve completely forgotten what that issue was about. Luckily issue 2 makes sense on its own. Swampy tries to protect the man and the little girl from the forces of the Green, but he’s fighting an uphill battle, because he’s lost his power to generate new bodies. And then the forces of the Black and the Red also get involved. To save the day, Constantine and Deadman have to go looking for Animal Woman, i.e. Maxine Baker.

PINK LEMONADE #6 (Oni, 2023) – untitled, [W] Nick Cagnetti. Pink Lemonade hosts a free concert and movie premiere, in direct competition with Zavi Xarad’s “official” movie premiere. To Zavi’s embarrassment, his own star, Starla Swanson, admits that she’s not the real Pink Lemonade. Then Pink tells everyone about how Zavi screwed over Smithee McClarence. The series ends happily. This was a very fun comic, and I hope it got the attention it deserved. Oni’s comic books tend to get insufficient publicity.

NIGHTCRAWLERS #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Voices of Fire,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Paco Medina. Kurt now leads a team consisting of other superheroes with Nightcrawler genes. Their goal is to collect mystical artifacts in order to acquire enough power to break into Sinister’s lab. Again, it’s hard to care about any of these Sins of Sinister chapters, because I already know that nothing that happens in these stories is going to remain in continuity.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION #1 (IDW, 2023) – “Written by Spike,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Most of this issue is a reprint of MLP: FIM #1. I bought this issue – at a rather exorbitant price – because it also contains a new story available nowhere else, and this story is directly relevant to my research. In “Written by Spike,” Spike is established as being the in-universe writer of the My Little Pony comics, and a fanboy asks him why the My Little Pony comics are incompatible with the show’s continuity. He gives several examples of this, including the inconsistent depiction of King Sombra. In response, Spike points out that he was writig the comics as the show was still going on, and someone else says that the comics are “party canon” rather than actual canon. I will have more to say about this topic elsewhere.

WHIZ COMICS #2 facsimile (DC, 1940/2023) – “Captain Marvel,” [W] Bill Parker, [A] C.C. Beck. Captain Marvel’s origin is a classic scene which is repeated almost verbatim in every later retelling of it. All the classic elements are there from the start, like the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man, or the giant block hanging over Shazam’s head. In the second half of the story, Captain Marvel defeats Sivana for the first time. This issue also includes such other features as Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher and Golden Arrow. The latter character is a sort of hybrid of Green Arrow and Li’l Abner. There’s also a story about an adventurer named Dan Dare, not to be confused with the much more famous British character created a decade later.

Y: THE LAST MAN #36 (DC, 2005) – “Boy Loses Girl,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. This issue focuses on Yorick’s lost girlfriend Beth. It consists of a series of sequences from Beth’s perspective, narrated out of chronological order. At the end, Beth wakes up somewhere in the Australian desert and says “Yorick.” A rather offensive moment in this issue is where Beth is talking to some Aboriginal Australians, and one of them says “ ‘Magic’ is just nonsense we made up to keep the children occupied and the whites scared… the dreamtime is over.” Another Aboriginal woman does disagree with her. But Vaughan lets the first woman have the last word, and that creates the impression that he’s casually dismissing Aboriginal people’s spirituality.

FRENCH ICE #3 (Renegade, 1987) – “The Club” etc., [W/A] Jean-Marc Lelong. A series of stories about Carmen Cru, a hideous old battleaxe who maintains her independence despite her extreme age, and who has no patience for all the people who try to “help” her. Carmen Cru is a very distinctive character, and Lelong’s draftsmanship is beautiful. However, Carmen Cru’s stories employ a very French style of humor, and they also probably lose a lot in translation. As a major contributor to Fluide Glacial, Lelong represents a tradition of French comics which is completely unknown to American readers. All of this means that Carmen Cru was a strange choice of a comic to translate into English. As proof of that, I’ve probably owned French Ice #3 for at least a decade, and I didn’t get around to reading it until just now.

CONGO BILL #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Message,” [W] Scott Cunningham, [A] Danijel Zezelj. I probably bought this because Danijel Zezelj is a well-known European artist. However, Congo Bill #1 is blatantly racist, or at least that was my impression on first reading. It’s set in the Congo during the Second Congo War, and it reproduces all the stock African stereotypes. It depicts Congolese people as ignorant savages who believe in fetishism and who enjoy monkey meat, especially the penis. The protagonist, a black American, observes the ugliness of Kinshasa and says “This is hell. Can’t blame Satan, though. Blame the locals – black faces from sea to shinin’ sea. This is their land, and they still can’t control it.” It’s a character saying this, not the author, but there are no authentic Congolese voices in the issue that could contradict him. (BTW, I assume Scott Cunningham is neither black nor Congolese, though I can’t find much information about him.) When dealing with a character like Congo Bill who has deeply racist and colonialist origins, it’s important to be sensitive. It is possible for a white creator to write an anti-racist story about a character who originated as a racist stereotype. As proof of this, see Animal Man #13, where Grant Morrison turns B’Wana Beast into an anti-apartheid freedom fighter. But Cunningham and Zezelj seem to have instead chosen to just lean into the racist stereotypes behind Congo Bill.

THE FLASH #765 (DC, 2020) – “Finish Line,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Howard Porter. In the last issue of Joshua Williamson’s run, Barry has his final confrontation with Reverse Flash, and then he attends a barbecue with the rest of the Flash family. Wally is absent because he’s missing, and Barry promises to find him. Until just recently, I hadn’t read the Flash since Mark Waid’s last run, and one reason is because I just don’t care about Barry. I grew up reading Mark Waid’s original Flash run, and to me Wally has always been the Flash, while Barry seems like a boring and generic character.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “A Faith for All and None,” [W/A] Tradd Moore. Again this issue’s story makes no sense at all, but its artwork is stunning. Tradd Moore’s draftsmanship and page layouts are maybe a little less radical than in earlier issues, but Fall Sunrise is still the best-drawn Marvel comic in the last few years. Tradd Moore was just added to the Heroes Con guest list, and I look forward to telling him how beautiful Fall Sunrise was.

MARVEL VOICES: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2023) – [E] Will Moss. This issue’s first story is a boring waste of space. The second story is a bit better, in that it situates Wakanda in the context of the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. It’s one of the few occasions where Wakanda assists other African nations, although the assistance is unofficial. Then there are a couple more boring stories, one of which is based on a folktale about Anansi. “The Last Black Panther” is the best story in the issue by far, since it’s by Juni Ba. In the paper I just gave at ICFA, I cited Juni Ba’s work as a standout example of Africanfuturism in comics. Most Black Panther comics are Afrofuturist, which is not the same thing.

FRENCH ICE #6 (Renegade, 1987) – as above. More stories in the same style and format as those in issue 3. In this issue’s last story, Carmen Cru looks at her photo album, and we see that she’s always been hideous. This is the last issue of French Ice in my collection, but somehow the series made it to issue 13.

ANNA & FROGA/PIPPI LONGSTOCKING COLOR SPECIAL #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013) – multiple stories, [W/A] Anouk Ricard and Ingrid Vang Nyman. Half of this FCBD comic consists of Anna & Froga stories by Anouk Ricard. These stories are drawn in a style resembling children’s drawings, and they seem aimed at small children. The other half of the issue consists of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s Pippi Longstocking comics from the ‘50s. Her writing seems to be in a similar vein to Astrid Lindgren’s original works, but her dialogue is unfunny, and her art style is bizarre and, in my opinion, rather ugly.

THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #4 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Another issue full of frenetic violence and gore. Tradd Moore’s art here is not bad, but it’s not spectacular either. He’s grown tremendously as an artist over the past decade.

DIAL H #10 (DC, 2013) – “On the Side of the Angels,” [W] China Miéville, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. Another issue with some mildly interesting character concepts, but no clear plot or theme. The only notable plot twist is that one of the dials is meant to be used to dial SIDE, for sidekick, instead of HERO. I previously said that Stephen Graham Jones would have been better off working with a more experienced comics writer, and that’s also true of Miéville.

2000 AD #1814 (Rebellion, 2013) – After reading #1826, I realized I had skipped a bunch of earlier issues, so I went back and started reading those issues. I do have prog 1827, and I’ll get to it later. Dredd: “Heller’s Last Stand Part 2,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Peter Doherty. This is th one about the corrupt judge. In this one, Dredd deliberately gives Heller an opportunity to shoot him, and reveals that he knows Heller is corrupt. Red Seas: “Fire Across the Deep Part 3,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. The heroes encounter some of the biblical giants in the earth. Savage: “Rise Like Lions  Part 3,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. This issue begins with a spectacular two-page splash depicting an army of Hammersteins. Then Savage  decides to lead the resistance against the Volgans, and the chapter ends with him saying the title of this story arc. Ampney Crucis: “The Entropy Tango Part 3,” [W] Edginton, [A] Simon Davis. Ampney meets the Martian investigator, and also a giant creature with an axolotl’s head. The title “The Entropy Tango” comes from a 1987 Jerry Cornelius novel by Michael Moorcock, which suggests that Ampney is an example of the Cornelius archetype. Strontium Dog: “The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha Chapter 3: Mutant Spring,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny gets Sir Pelham Grenville to admit on national TV that he’s been  sterilizing people on purpose. Ezquerra’s art in this story is not his best, and it’s made worse by inappropriate coloring.

LASER ERASER & PRESSBUTTON #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Sins of the Flesh,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] David Lloyd. Axel and Mysta investigate a compound made of synthetic flesh, where eyes and nipples are constantly appearing on the walls. Also they encounter Zirk, who reproduces into eight copies of itself. The backup story is “Twilight World” by Steve Moore and Jim Baikie. It’s a shame that there isn’t a complete reprint of all the Pressbutton stories, both British and American.  

Y: THE LAST MAN #37 (Vertigo, 2005) – “Paper Dolls Chapter 1,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. A reporter investigates rumors that there’s still a man alive somewhere. Yorick and Agent 355 are now aboard a submarine, but they disembark in Sydney to look for Beth. Yorick disguises himself by wearing a burqa that covers his face. That makes no logical sense, because in my understanding the burqa is only supposed to be worn in front of men, and the premise of this series is that Yorick is the only man left. I remember that other characters in this series were previously shown wearing the burqa, and I wonder if BKV ever explained this. Anyway, Yorick discovers a message left for Beth by someone named Margo, but then the aforementioned journalist unmasks him and photographs him naked.

BATMAN #33 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Savage City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Batman fights the Riddler, though, appropriately, it’s less a fight than a riddle contest. Then Batman is forced to electrocute himself to defeat the Riddler’s plot and stop Gotham from being nuked. Alfred arrives in time to rescue Bruce, and later Bruce imagines himself marrying Julie Madison, but instead decides to devote himself to being Batman full-time. This was a happier, more positive story than I expect from Snyder.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. Luna Snow is a superstar K-pop singer, but she also has superpowers, and she has to use them to defeat a villain that invades her concert. This is just an okay story, though it does suggest the writer has some knowledge of the K-pop industry. This issue includes a Future Avengers backup story with art by Alé Garza and Cory Hamscher. Until now I didn’t realize that Luna Snow debuted in a mobile game and only later appeared in comics.

GREEN ARROW #38 (DC, 1990) – “The Black Arrow Saga Part 4: Hunters and Killers,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Mark Jones. Ollie, Eddie Fyers and Shado team up, and they confront the people who  framed Ollie for trying to blow up the Panama Canal. The villains try to justify the frame-up by saying that the government needed an excuse to increase troop levels in Panama, even though Bush’s invasion of Panama was unpopular. I remember when America invaded Panama, though I was only seven years old at the time, and I didn’t really understand what was going on. At the end of the issue, Ollie declines to kill the main villain in cold blood, but Eddie does it instead. Grell has confirmed that Eddie Fyers’s appearance was modeled on Archie Goodwin.

MOEBIUS’ AIRTIGHT GARAGE: THE ELSEWHERE PRINCE #1 (Epic, 1990) – “The Jouk,” [W] Moebius & R.J.M. Lofficer. This series was published in both English and French at nearly the same time. In this issue, a party of soldiers passes through a village, and one of the villagers, a young artist, follows the soldiers and tags along with them. Then all the soldiers are killed in a fight with an insect (the “jouk” of the title), except the youngest one. Eric Shanower has a rather different style from Moebius, but his art is very detailed and Clear-Line-esque, so it makes sense for him to illustrate an Airtight Garage spinoff. However, the idea of an Airtight Garage spinoff is kind of silly, since the original Airtight Garage has no real plot or worldbuilding to speak of.

THE OTHER SIDE #1 (Vertigo, 2006) – “If You’re Lucky, You’ll Only Get Killed,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Cameron Stewart. In his first major work, Jason Aaron tells two parallel stories about an American and a Vietnamese soldier. Since this is a Vertigo story, there are also some horror themes. Jason Aaron deserves credit for trying to tell this story from the Vietnamese perspective, unlike so many Americans who write about the Vietnam War. (Viet Thanh Nguyen has complained about the American media’s tendency to focus only on the American perspective on the Vietnam War.) However, Vo Binh Dai, the Vietnamese protagonist, feels like a trite character. I don’t think Jason Aaron had enough cultural knowledge or experience to write in the voice of a Vietnamese man.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #91 (Charlton, 1970) – “Too Little Time,” [W] Willi Franz, [A] Sam Glanzman. Willy Schultz and an Italian partisan, Elena, hide out in a farmhouse, only to discover that the farmers hate the partisans as much as they hate the Nazis. Willy manages to save himself and Elena despite being betrayed by the farmer and his wife, and he restrains himself from killing the two of them. This story is a gripping and realistic depiction of the hardship and moral ambiguity of war. “The Lonely War of Willy Schultz”  was one of the few great comics Charlton published, and Dark Horse is to be praised for bringing it back into print. The other stories in this issue are of no importance, though one of them is drawn by Pat Boyette under the pseudonym Sam Swell.

JEROME K. JEROME BLOCHE VOL. 1: THE SHADOW KILLER (IDW, 1985/2017) – [W] Pierre Makyo & Serge Le Tendre, [A] Alain Dodier. Jerome K. Jerome Bloche (named after the English author Jerome K. Jerome) is a naive aspiring detective whose hobby is listening to recordings of police sirens. And somehow he (like Nightcrawler) has a beautiful girlfriend who works as a flight attendant. This issue he investigates a series of mysterious killings. Dodier’s artwork in this album is moody and super-realistic, but what really stands out to me about this book is its protagonist. Jerome is so adorably naïve that it’s no wonder Babette loves him. IDW also published the second volume in this series, and there are at least 26 more albums that are only available in French.

LITTLE ARCHIE #150 (Archie, 1980) – “The Sail Car,” [W/A] Dexter Taylor, etc. The Dexter Taylor stories in this issue are boring as usual, but the first one is interesting in that it mentions the 1979 oil crisis. The reason I bought this issue is the new Bob Bolling story “Winning Ways.” In this story Veronica follows Archie all over town, and he ignores her and tries to drive her away – until she saves him from a gang of bullies. This story is another example of Bolling’s mastery of short-form storytelling. I continue to think it’s a travesty that no one has published a complete collection of Bolling’s Little Archie stories. They could even do it in a few thematic volumes – one volume for outdoor stories, another one for school stories, and a third for stories starring the Mad Dr. Doom and Chester.

BATMAN #107 (DC, 2021) – “The Cowardly Lot Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Another chapter of the Ghost-Maker/Clownhunter saga. This issue has good artwork and a large ensemble cast, but there’s not much to distinguish one issue of this storyline from another. This issue also includes a Ghost-Maker backup story with art by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz.

CHEVAL NOIR #13 (Dark Horse, 1990) – [E] Terry Nantier, Randy Lofficer & Jean-Marc Lofficer? This issue includes chapters of some excellent European comics, including Andreas’s Rork, Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower, Rosinski and Van Hamme’s The Great Power of the Chninkel, Cosey’s Voyage to Italy, and Tardi’s Roach Killer. There’s also a short story, “Adrift,” by Richard Forgues, who I haven’t heard of. He draws in a style resembling that of Pratt or Comès. He seems to have mostly worked for American comics, and it’s possible that “Adrift” is an original story and not a reprint. The problem with Cheval Noir #13 is that it’s entirely in black and white. For most of the stories this isn’t a problem, but The Great Power of the Chninkel, in particular, is nearly unreadable without color. And that’s a shame because Cheval Noir was the only place where this series was ever published in English. Cheval Noir seems to have focused on the type of stories that appeared in Casterman’s À Suivre magazine, although I don’t know if there was any direct connection between the two magazines.

2000 AD #1813 (Rebellion, 2013) – Another issue I skipped by mistake. Dredd: “Heller’s Last Stand Part 1,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Peter Doherty. Here we see why Heller is trying to kill Dredd: because he’s fallen in love with a sex worker, and some sex workers have kidnapped her and threatened to kill her unless Heller kills Dredd. Savage: as above. The British establishment decides to launch an offensive against the Volgans. Savage promises not to get involved personally, because his life is too valuable, but in #1814 we see that this promise was a lie. Ampney Crucis: as above. Crucis finds a woolly mammoth in the barn, then he’s summoned to meet with the Martian ambassador, which he mishears as the Mauritanian ambassador. Red Seas: as above. No idea what this story is about. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny escapes from some pursuing government troops, taking Pelham Grenville with him.

SWAMP THING #149 (DC, 1994) – “The Root of All Evil,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Phil Hester. All I can remember about this issue is that Sargon the Sorcerer appears in it, or maybe it’s not Sargon himself but someone else inhabiting his body. Also, there’s an old man who looks like Odin. Not a particularly notable issue.  

IN HIS STEPS (Fleming H. Revell, 1977) – “In His Steps,” [W/A] Al Hartley. An adaptation of In His Steps, the novel that popularized the slogan “What Would Jesus Do?” The original novel is from 1896, but Hartley’s adaptation is set in contemporary America. This issue’s plot and characterization are very basic. It’s mostly about how the WWJD slogan inspires people to clean up their lives, and also to close down strip clubs and dive bars, though in my opinion those things are perfectly fine. In His Steps is not a great comic, but at least it’s not blatantly offensive, as was the last Spire Christian Comic I read, The Hiding Place.  

ADVENTURE COMICS #431 (DC, 1974) – “The Wrath of… the Spectre,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Jim Aparo. I already had this issue, but my copy was missing some story pages. Fleisher and Aparo’s first Spectre story is the beginning of an absolutely classic one, although I think their best story may be the one where the guy gets turned to wood and sawed into pieces. The backup story, “Is a Snerl Human?” by Sheldon Mayer and Alex Toth, is also a classic. Snerls are pink furry aliens who have been enslaved by humans. After they free themselves from slavery, we learn that the answer to the title question is, sadly, yes – because the Snerls proceed to enslave the humans just as brutally as they themselves were enslaved.

FEARLESS DEFENDERS #6 (Marvel, 2013) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Will Sliney. Some superheroines get possessed by evil Valkyries and fight some other superheroines. The word “shieldmaidens” is used far too many times. I like the idea behind this series, but I haven’t read any Cullen Bunn comics that I really liked.

HOUSE OF YANG #6 (Charlton, 1976) – “The Shogun of Karu Island,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Warren Sattler. One of Yang’s ancestors travels to a fictitious Japanese island and is held as a slave, and I don’t remember what else happens. This comic’s writing and art are boring, and it shows no knowledge of either Chinese or Japanese culture. I don’t think this story could have been set in any period of Japanese history, because it includes samurai, but also modern ships and clothing. House of Yang was most notable for including the work of Sanho Kim, the first artist to draw in an East Asian style for American comic books. He didn’t draw this issue, but he’s discussed on the letters page. The editor acknowledges that Kim had insider knowledge of the stories he was drawing, but also kind of implies that Kim had access to some sort of mystical Asian essence: “When he draws China, he captures the spirit of the land and its people.”

BLACK WIDOW #2 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nathan Edmondson, [A] Phil Noto. This issue has some striking painted art, but a trite story. Of the four Black Widow ongoing series since 2014, this was probably the worst, though I haven’t read the 2010 volume. Nathan Edmondson is a notorious predator, and his career seems to have ended as a result; he has no GCD credits after 2016.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #5 (Rip Off, 1988) – “Grass Roots” et al., [W/A] Gilbert Shelton. This issue begins with a Fat Freddy’s Cat story, and then there are some Freak Brothers one-pagers. Throughout the issue, Fat Freddy’s Cat strips appear at the bottom of each page (though confusingly, this sort of feature is called a “topper” strip). The bulk of the issue consists of a long story, “Grass Roots.” Due to some bizarre circumstances, the Freak Brothers’ house burns down, but they’re left with two pounds of pure cocaine. They sell most of the cocaine and use it to buy some land and move to the country. The land they’ve bought looks beautiful at first, but that’s because they’re high on cocaine when they first see it. When they come down, they realize it’s a desolate wilderness. Then they discover some gold, triggering a massive gold rush. Soon the Freak Brothers realize there was no gold at all, and then their parcel of land is wiped out by a flash flood. This issue is a classic piece of countercultural humor, but it’s a very lengthy read, and the Fat Freddy’s Cat strips are printed  so small that they’re hard to read.

HATE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “My Pad and Welcome to It,” [W] Buddy Bradley. Buddy introduces the reader to his new apartment and his roommates, and he explains what happened to him after the end of Neat Stuff. I’ve read this story before, but that was a long time ago. There’s also a backup story where Gary Groth and Kim Thompson (RIP) help Bagge develop ideas for his new comic.

LASER ERASER & PRESSBUTTON #4 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Death,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Mike Collins. Pressbutton and Mysta go on a mission against some raiders who are terrorizing a frontier planet. This story is somewhat poignant, because Pressbutton and Mysta’s clients are a group of pitiful old women, but otherwise it’s forgettable. This issue has another Twilight World backup story.

2000 AD #1815 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: as above. Heller shows Dredd’s badge to the gangster as “proof” that he killed Dredd, but the gangster doesn’t believe him, and he and Heller shoot each other. Then Heller’s lover reveals that she was working with the gangster, and Dredd, who is obviously not dead, has to shoot her. Heller asks Dredd to remove his painfully tight boots, then dies. Savage: as above. The fight against the Volgans continues, but Heller is unknowingly caught in a sniper’s crosshairs. Ampney Crucis: as above. Crucis saves the Martian ambassador from being assassinated by a “Babbagist.” Red Seas: as above. More stuff I don’t understand. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny shoots Pelham Grenville dead, and the humans and mutants prepare for war.

B.P.R.D.: HELL ON EARTH #112 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “Lake of Fire Part 3,” [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Tyler Crook. I’ve given up on collecting this series because I can’t tell one issue from another. I don’t remember anything about this issue, even after looking through it.

THE BEEF #4 (Image, 2018) – “Cowboys & Indians,” [W] Richard Starkings & Tyler Shainline, [A] Shaky Kane. The issue begins with an account of the horrors of factory farming. Then the Beef fights a villain in a top hat, and Mahatma Gandhi appears at the end of the issue. The Beef’s story is not particularly compelling, but it’s worth reading anyway because of Shaky Kane’s striking artwork and design.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM A.D. #3 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Another series where there’s nothing to distinguish one issue from another. I can’t remember anything specific about this issue. It has a Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn backup story, drawn by Paulina Ganucheau, but this story is just a three-pager and it has no real plot.

THE BEEF #5 (Image, 2018) – “Peace Meal,” as above. Gandhi gives us some more information on factory farming. Then the Beef’s enemies slice him up and turn him into hamburgers, but his meat contaminates the food supply, causing other people to turn into human beef cattle. The most interesting thing about this issue is the text feature at the end that explains how the cover image was created.

SECRET SIX #9 (DC, 2016) – “The White Gate, the Black Sun,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Tom Derenick. This issue begins with Aquaman fighting Catman at the bottom of the ocean. I guess the overarching plot is that the Secret Six are looking for a series of alabaster columns, and the next column is in a remote New England town. When the Secret Six go there, they find that the column is guarded by M’Nagalah from Swamp Thing v1 #8. M’Nagalah’s appearance is a clever throwback to a classic story.

THE LEGACY OF LUTHER STRODE #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Luther and Petra investigate a ruin in the desert, and they learn the history of Petra, an immortal woman. This issue has far less blood and guts than a typical Luther Strode comic, and it also has some effective draftsmanship and coloring, though Moore’s art is still not nearly as good here as in Fall Sunrise.

WE ALL WISH FOR DEADLY FORCE #1 (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2016) – various stories, [W/A] Leela Corman. A collection of previously published stories. Some of these stories are about Corman’s reactions to her baby daughter’s tragic death. This same story is told from her husband Tom Hart’s perspective in his book Rosalie Lightning. Other stories are about Corman’s memories of her Jewish heritage, her passion for Eurovision, and modern life in Egypt. One of the Egypt stories presents Egypt’s current president, Sisi, as a refreshing antidote to Mubarak and Morsi. This story seems unfortunate now that Sisi has established himself as an even worse dictator than Morsi. Combined, these stories demonstrate great power and stylistic versatility. I really should read Corman’s graphic novel Unterzakhn.

GERONIMO STILTON AND THE SMURFS FCBD 2011 (Papercutz, 2011) – “Dinosaurs in Action,” [W] Andrea Denegri, [A] Giuseppe Facciotto? (There are multiple people credited with the art, and I’m not sure which one is the penciler.) A trite, insipid story about anthropomorphic cats and mice, drawn in a similar style to an Italian Disney comic. This issue also includes a Smurfs backup story by Peyo.

VILLAINS UNITED #5 (DC, 2005) – “Victims of Aggression,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham. The new Secret Six fight a number of other villains, and Cheshire claims to be pregnant by Catman. Then she reveals that she’s betrayed the Secret Six to the Society, and that was why she wanted Catman to impregnate her – because the Society was holding her child hostage, and she wanted a replacement child. One fun part of this issue is identifying all the minor villains in the splash page at the end.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #22 (DC, 1980) – “Plight of the Human Comet,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Dick Dillin. Superman and Captain Comet fight a comet-powered villain named Starstriker. Captain Comet is a boring and generic character, and Barr does nothing to make him interesting. His main claim to fame is that he was one of the few superheroes created between the end of the Golden Age and the beginning of the Silver Age, and that explains his appearance in the last issue of James Robinson and Paul Smith’s The Golden Age.

BIJOU FUNNIES #5 (Kitchen Sink, 1970) – [E] Jay Lynch? As with issue 6, my copy of this issue is difficult to read, because its cover is about to split in half. Most of the stories in this issue are by either Jay Lynch or Skip Williamson. The exceptions are a hard-boiled detective story by Jim Osborne, and a Little Lulu parody by Justin Green.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1040 (DC, 2021) – “The Weekender,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Dan Mora. Bruce Wayne finds himself in jail. His drunk cellmate tells a story of an encounter with Batman and the Joker, and at the end of this story, the cellmate claims to know that Bruce is really Batman. Meanwhile, the Penguin and some other villains form a group called the Jury that’s supposed to kill Batman. Until I checked, I thought the Jury was the name of the guy on the last page. In the backup story, written by Dan Watters, Batman visits Kirk Langstrom’s grave. I like Kirk Langstrom, and it’s sad how according to this story, he hit rock bottom and then died.

DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR YEAR TWO #6 (Titan, 2016) – “The One Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. I don’t understand most of this issue, but at the end of it, the Doctor and his companions go to Shada. This planet is the namesake of a TV episode that was meant to have aired in 1980, but wasn’t completed until 2017. One of the companions in this issue is Abslom Daak, the Dalek Killer, a character who was created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon, and who made a cameo appearance in an Axel Pressbutton story.

2000 AD #1816 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Sealed,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] John M. Burns. While chasing some looters, Dredd discovers a young boy whose parents were obsessive neat freaks. As a result, they raised their son in a bubble, with no exposure to the outside world. Savage: as above. The sniper misses and hits the guy next to Savage. Then Savage’s allies sing a Russian folk song – since the Volgans are obviously supposed to be Russians – but Savage rebukes them, saying, “They’re not humans. They’re Volgs.” This line makes Savage even more unsympathetic than he already was. Ampney Crucis: as above. Ampney helps chase down the Babbagist assassin. Red Seas: as above. Another extended fight scene. Strontium Dog: as above. Due to Johnny’s revelations about the sterility poison, riots erupt all over the country.

ARCHIE #252 (Archie, 1976) – “Retirement Blues,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey, etc. Archie tries to do his father’s chores for him, with disastrous results. This is a rare example of a classic-period Archie story where Archie is depicted as a clumsy klutz, as he was in his earliest appearances. There are several other stories, none of them especially notable.

HEPCATS #4 (Double Diamond, 1990) – “Into the Pavilions,” [W/A] Martin Wagner. The other characters visit Erica in the hospital, and then there’s a flashback scene where they go shopping at the mall. As I’ve probably said before, Martin Wagner was as toxic and egotistical as his inspiration, Dave Sim, but he lacked Sim’s work ethic.

On my next Heroes trip, there were only 30 comics in my file, which, for me, is a very small number.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: JON KENT #1 (DC, 2023) – “Countdown to Injustice Chapter 1: Into the Multiverse,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Clayton Henry. While trying to prevent some satellites from falling on Earth, Jon meets an extradimensional Superman named Val-Zod. We then learn that Ultraman is killing every version of Kal-El he can find. This issue is okay, but I liked Superman, Son of Kal-El better, and I’m disappointed that this series is just a miniseries and not an ongoing.

RADIANT BLACK #22 (Image, 2023) – “L.A.”, [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Eduardo Ferigato & Zé Carlos. Nathan visits Los Angeles to meet with some producers about a new TV project. Nathan discovers that in order to proceed with the project, he’ll have to work with his old friend Brayden Fox. This is a problem because by this point in the story, we’ve learned that Brayden is a talentless hack who’s built his entire career on stealing Nathan’s ideas. Nathan decides to go back home, but at the airport, he meets a producer who really does want to work with him, and he decides “Fuck, I need to move back to L.A.” This issue is a powerful demonstration of the dishonest, backstabbing culture of Hollywood. I wonder if it’s based on personal experience. In particular, Brayden is perhaps the most loathsome character in the whole series, other than Radiant Red’s boyfriend. Brayden made me think, “What’s even the point of having superpowers if you can’t use them to kill somebody every so often?”

I HATE THIS PLACE #6 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Trudy and Gabby hire two new farmhands, just in time to deal with an attack by an army of spiders. (One of the farmhands uses “say less” to mean “I agree,” which I don’t understand.) That evening, the farm is invaded by an even worse menace: Trudy’s father, Joe. In a flashback, we see that Trudy’s father is a murderous cult leader and that Trudy barely managed to escape from him alive. As with Gale in Saga, I am eagerly looking forward to Joe’s death. At the end of the issue, the cabin is attacked by an army of zombies, led by the main villain from the previous storyline. I do have to wonder why Trudy never made an anonymous police report against her father. After all, she did witness him murdering two people.

PHANTOM ROAD #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. A truck driver and his passenger are attacked by an army of zombies. I like the idea of a comic focusing on truck drivers, because I know very little about this lifestyle. But there’s not enough narrative content in this issue to determine what this series is going to be about.

SAVAGE DRAGON #264 (Image, 2023) – “The Book of Paul!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. This is Paul Dragon’s origin story. It’s based on Larsen’s memories of the unpublished comics he created as a child. Some of Paul’s origin is familiar from the reprints of Graphic Fantasy #1 and #2. “The Book of Paul!” doesn’t quite work as a story because it’s written like a plot summary, and I still think Paul is a less interesting character than Malcolm.

SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Once and Future Queen,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. I believe Slott and Bagley are the most prolific Spider-Man writer and artist ever, if you don’t count the daily strip, and even if you do. In this issue we’re back to the main plot of End of the Spider-Verse. After a lot of fighting, Silk slashes Morlun with the magic dagger, and that somehow causes all of reality to reset. A funny moment in this issue is when Silk disguises herself as Spinstress and tries to sing a song. I also like how Peter Palmer, Spiderman is colored with Ben Day dots.

THE FLASH #793 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Part 4: Thunder in Your Heart,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz. Irey and Jesse Quick strike up an adorable friendship. In this continuity Jesse is still married to Rick Tyler, but there’s no evidence that they have a child.  Wally appears to sacrifice his life so that the other Flashes can get inside the villains’ base. We now know that Jeremy Adams will be replaced by Simon Spurrier after issue 800. I’m very disappointed that Adams’s Flash run is ending just as I’m getting into it. I love Si Spurrier’s writing, but I don’t think he’s an appropriate writer for the Flash, and I’m not sure if I want to continue reading the series after he takes over. At least Adams will be writing Green Lantern instead.

WHERE MONSTERS LIE #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Piotr Kowalski. In a flashback, we see how Connor Hayes, the super-cop, was orphaned by the eight villains. Now his purpose in life is to hunt down those same villains. In the present, Connor leads an army of police into Wilmhurst, but all the cops get killed instantly. Maybe he should have brought the army instead, or at least some better-armed cops.

MONKEY PRINCE #12 (DC, 2023) – “The Monkey King and I Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus masters the hair-into-clones discipline, but forgets which of him is real and which are the clones. To regain his sense of identity and also save the day, Marcus has to realize that he himself is not the actual son of the Monkey Prince, but a clone created from the Monkey Prince’s hair. Then Marcus returns to his existing lifestyle of moving around with his parents, and the series is over. I really liked Monkey Prince, and I’m sorry it didn’t last longer. Marcus’s character arc is still incomplete, in that he surely realizes his parents are criminals, but he’s still dependent on them.

FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (Marvel, 2023) – “Up to Scratch,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Ivan Fiorelli. During a battle with Nicholas Scratch and Salem’s Seven, the FF get rotated through the fourth dimension. This means that their bodies are the wrong handedness relative to the rest of the world, so they can’t eat any food. To save themselves, they have to travel to the Dark Dimension and rotate themselves back. But on the last page, we see that some of the bacteria from the Dark Dimension has made it back to earth, and this has apocalyptic implications. This is a clever story. The idea of reversing a person’s chirality was previously used in Roger Zelazny’s novel Doorways in the Sand, and, even before that, in James Blish’s Star Trek novel Spock Must Die!

THE FLASH #794 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Part 5: Thunder in Her Heart,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz. With the other Flashes absent, Irey has to singlehandedly defend her brother Jai and some other superheroes. I think the reason they can’t defend themselves is because the events of this series are happening at superspeed, so from the speedsters’ perspective, all the characters who aren’t speedsters are moving at a glacial pace. That would explain the title of this story arc. Irey saves the day, but learns that her father has been killed. It seems unlikely to me that Wally really is dead.

FEARLESS DAWN #4 (Asylum, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Steve Mannion. Fearless Dawn battles a zombie army. Also, a girl is shot in the head, but survives because she had no brain to begin with, and goes on to marry Brad Pitt. This comic has a silly plot, but is worth reading anyway because of Steve Mannion’s gorgeous art. He deserves to be working for a better publisher than Asylum.

ROGUE SUN #11 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan misses his prom because he’s busy gaining information in the Aviary. The Aviary scenes are all presented in landscape format, which makes them tedious to read. Caleb tells Dylan a story about how Caleb, like Dylan, yearned for but never received his father’s approval. Then the villain Hellbent – who is also seeking his father’s approval – invades the prom at Dylan’s school.

BLOOD TREE #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Maxim Šimić. Dario investigates another murder, and figures out that all the people with wings are the innocent family members of criminals. So by giving them wings, the killer is symbolically sending them to heaven. The next day, Dario interrupts his priest at church in order to ask him about a clue. Then he walks out of a family barbecue while following up on that clue. The main point of interest in this issue is the conflict between Dario’s family obligations and his rather gruesome job.

BATMAN #133 (DC, 2023) – “The Bat-Man of Gotham Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bruce fights a series of awful villains, and also meets this universe’s version of Alfred. This storyline is much less exciting than the last one, both because of the lack of Jorge Jimenez art, and because the alternate Gotham is so unrelentingly bleak and grim. The backup story, where Tim Drake battles the Toyman, is perhaps more entertaining than the lead story.

POISON IVY #10 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy and Janet visit a retreat led by a health guru, Gwendolyn Caltrope. Ivy soon realizes that the guests at the retreat are being given poisonous hallucinogenic mushrooms, and that the mushrooms have already escaped into the wild. Having worked at Whole Foods for a summer in high school, I am rather skeptical of things like juice cleanses and outdoor yoga and raw foodism, and this issue is an effective satire on that sort of lifestyle.

WHITE SAVIOR #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Nguyen, [W] Scott Burman. The main plot point in this issue is that Nathan Garin reveals himself to be an impersonator, not the real Nathan Garin, and then he gets killed. But the humor in this issue is more important than the plot. And I’m not sure how I feel about White Savior’s style of humor. It’s often way too obvious and unsubtle, like on the page where the creators talk to each other about not wanting to ruin the artwork with unnecessary narration. I still think I like this series, but I’m not 100 percent sure.

ORDINARY GODS #10 (Image, 2023) – “What It Takes,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Daniel HDR. I finally know what HDR stands for – it’s in his Lambiek Comiclopedia entry. Half of this issue is a flashback scene in which a murdered black woman’s ghost speaks to a young priest, telling him to be a hero for justice rather than peace. The priest’s name is Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, and the reader is expected to know that he grew up to become Joseph Stalin. Back in the present, the good gods prepare to unlock the God Machine, but they’re prevented by the evil gods.

SPACE JOB #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] David A. Goodman, [A] Álvaro Sarraseca. The captain, whose name I forget, tries to get a new first officer, but his preferred candidate (whose name I can’t figure out) refuses because the ship’s first officers keep dying. Meanwhile, Rick McIntyre’s marriage is falling apart because he’s not Rick, but an alien duplicate. Space Job and White Savior seem like very similar series – they both debuted the same month, from the same publisher, and they’re both four-issue miniseries with two-word titles – but I like Space Job better.

STONEHEART #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Emma Kubert. The issue begins with a black-and-white flashback sequence. In the rest of the issue, which is in color, a young woman named Shayde Whisper travels to a new town to work as a blacksmith’s apprentice, but she encounters a werewolf and an evil sorcerer. This comic is reasonably cute and entertaining, but I have problems with Emma Kubert’s art. Her art style is so sketchy that it seems unfinished. Perhaps she ought to work with an inker.

HUMAN TARGET #12 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. For this series’s entire run I’ve been wondering how Chance was going to save himself, and the answer is he doesn’t. He dies from the poison, Fire and Ice escape accountability for murdering him, and then Ice kills Luthor, successfully this time. At least I think that’s what happens, but the ending is ambiguous enough that I might be wrong. In any case, this is a stupid and anticlimactic ending that makes the entire series feel pointless, and for Tom King, that’s par for the course. Tom King has written some excellent comics – specifically, Vision and Mister Miracle – but he seems completely incapable of ending a story in a satisfying way. In future will be very hesitant to read his work.

THE GIMMICK #1 (Ahoy, 2023) – “The Gimmick,” [W] Joanne Starer, [A] Elena Gogou. This series is nominally about professional wrestling, but it has nothing in common with Do a Powerbomb. Our protagonist, Shane, murders an opponent in the ring, apparently because he developed superstrength without being aware of it. The opponent deserved to die for being a racist, but Shane is forced to flee into Mexico. Shane’s wife and baby go looking for him, and so does the daughter of his victim, who was Hispanic but pretended to be a Nazi. This is another solid debut issue from Ahoy.

SILVER SURFER: GHOST LIGHT #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “Darkness,” [W] John Jennings, [A] Valentine Di Landro. The Surfer tells us that Al Harper sacrificed his life to save Earth from the Stranger, as depicted in Silver Surfer vol. 1 #5. I haven’t read that story, but I assume Jennings’s recap is accurate. Al’s mother nearly dies of shock when she sees her son alive again, but recovers. Al gives himself a new superhero costume, just in time to fight some alien leeches, but the leeches have already infected Al’s young niece and nephew. This is another strong issue, and it provides a logical explanation for Al’s connection to the Surfer.

I read most of the following comics while on the plane ride back from ICFA:

TRAVELING TO MARS #4 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. Roy’s ex-wife’s announcement is that she’s not his ex-wife, but an impostor representing the Trubond Paste and Seal Company, and Roy’s ex-wife will be killed unless he claims Mars in the name of her sponsors. Roy defuses the ship’s self-destruct device so that his employers can’t kill him, and then he learns that the woman was lying about having kidnapped his ex-wife, so we’re back to the status quo. Also there’s a mention of Olber’s paradox.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – CATWOMAN #1 (DC, 2023) – “No Small Scores,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jamie McKelvie. When Catwoman was a child, her mother was forced to sell a valuable brooch at an exorbitantly low price, because she was told it was a forgery. In the present, Catwoman discovers the same brooch being exhibited at a museum as if it were authentic, so of course she decides to steal it. We gradually discover that the brooch was indeed a forgery, but it was created by a new villain called the Forger. Wilson and McKelvie are an all-star team, and this comic lives up to its creators. The Forger is an intriguing new villain, and the creators have an excellent understanding of Catwoman. McKelvie makes her look and act like a cat in human form. Also, whenever we see Catwoman’s apartment in this issue, it’s full of cats, as it should be.

CLEAR #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francis Manapul. A science fiction series set in a dystopian future where everyone uses “veils” to make the world look prettier than it is. Veils are a sort of variation on wearable technology, as depicted in Vernor Vinge’s novel Rainbows End. The first half of the issue, up to the point where the protagonist discovers his dead wife’s final message, is very tightly plotted and exciting (although the lunatic asylum joke is stupid). However, the issue continues for a long time after that, to the  point where it becomes tedious. I think this comic should maybe have been split into two separate issues. A cool trick in the artwork is that Manapul sometimes draws part of a panel as if it were being viewed through a veil, so that the entire panel depicts a single scene, but in more than one style.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #3 (DC, 2023) – “Little Golden Boys” etc., [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Jeff Stokely. This issue’s first chapter’s title refers to an amulet made of a mummified fetus. I wonder if this is related to the Cambodian kun krak talisman that appears in Warren Ellis’s Fell. This issue, the kids continue their investigation, lots of scary stuff happens as usual, and we learn that Melvin was murdered by other children in a hate crime. There’s also a flashback about a boy named Pim, but I can’t figure out who Pim is or why he’s relevant to the story. As demonstrated in The Good Asian, Pornsak Pichetshote’s major flaw is his unclear plotting.

NEW MUTANTS: LETHAL LEGION #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Vampire Heist,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Enid Balám. Despite the new title, this is a straightforward continuation of the previous New Mutants story arc. Some of the characterization in this issue is really good, especially Shela’s line “You can’t erase the bad things that happened. All you can do is make them part of a bigger story.” On the other hand, Anders’s Wolfsbane doesn’t feel like Wolfsbane to me, and she doesn’t speak in her traditional Scottish accent. Like Sabretooth and the Exiles, New Mutants feels disconnected from X-Men continuity, though that may not be a bad thing, since I’m not enjoying the current X-men storyline.

KNOW YOUR STATION #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Liana Kangas. Elise takes another dose of drugs and then meets up with her coworkers, but none of these coworkers have had any development at all, and I can’t remember their names. Then there are some more murders. Know Your Station has too many unnecessary characters, and it also has overcomplicated plot. As a result, the basic point of this comic gets lost in the shuffle. What this series should be about is how rich people have ruined Earth and then abandoned it, accompanied by a few poor people who are no better than slaves. But Gailey fails to put enough emphasis on her critique of economic inequality, and instead, Know Your Station is mostly an uninteresting murder mystery. My favorite thing in this issue is the sequence that  visually depicts the effects of Blue.

NIGHTCRAWLERS #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Apostate,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Andrea Di Vito. The original Nightcrawler, now horribly mutated, is rediscovered, and the Nightcrawlers figure out that Mother Righteous has been manipulating them. Maybe it’s time I stopped reading Si Spurrier’s Nightcrawler stories, because they have some good aspects, but they’re also very confusing and unfocused.

GIRL #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – “My Life as a Social Engineer” etc., [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Girl is set in the fictional English town of Bollockstown. The protagonist, fifteen-year-old Simone Cundy, lives in a slum with her violent, barely literate family. When Simone’s parents find her suicide note, they barely care. (Simone doesn’t commit suicide, though.) Simone’s dad kills the family dog and throws it out the window, and while burying the dog, Simone saves a girl from being raped. Then she discovers that the other girl is her exact duplicate, only with blonde hair. It’s not clear yet where Girl’s plot is going, but it’s a hilarious satire of lower-class English life. Milligan makes it clear that Simone’s family’s awful predicament is partly their own fault, but it’s also partly the fault of the government for not caring about the poor – at one point in the issue, we see that Bollockstown’s sewer system has been privatized.

JUPITER’S LEGACY 2 #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. I don’t know what this issue is about, but it’s more enjoyable than a typical Millar comic, mostly because of Quitely’s beautiful art. This issue ends on a positive note, with the superhero community restored to power and respectability. However, the next miniseries after this one is called Jupiter’s Requiem, suggesting that things are about to take a darker turn.

CAMELOT 3000 #5 (DC, 1983) – “The Tale of Morgan Le Fay!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Brian Bolland. Sir Kay subjects Sir Tristram to transphobic bullying. Morgan Le Fay explains her origin. Guinevere and Lancelot start their old affair again, so Arthur decides to coerce Guinevere into marrying her, in order to be able to punish her for adultery. Brian Bolland was clearly not capable of maintaining a monthly schedule, and Camelot 3000 was not up to his usual level of draftsmanship, but his compositions are excellent. I usually dislike Barr’s writing, but this issue was not bad. However, Barr still had only a surface-level understanding of Arthurian mythology. I’ve already cited Once and Future as a far more insightful take on Arthurian myth, but I also just read Nicola Griffith’s novel Spear, which is another very clever and original reimagining of those same myths. At ICFA I got the chance to talk to Nicola Griffith about that book.

JEREMIAH: BIRDS OF PREY #1 (Malibu, 1979/1991) – untitled, [W/A] Hermann. It turns out this comic is redundant because I already have the 1982 Fantagraphics edition of this album, and that Fantagraphics book is in color. Also, Dark Horse published an omnibus edition of the first three Jeremiah albums, and it included all of the Jeremiah albums that Malibu published. Maybe I should order that omnibus volume… oh, but it goes for $300 on eBay. It would probably be cheaper to get the original French editions. Anyway, Jeremiah is a post-apocalyptic Western story in which a young man tries to hunt down the wealthy raiders who have destroyed his village. Jeremiah has an interesting setup, and Hermann’s draftsmanship is beautiful and hyperdetailed, but it suffers from being reproduced in black and white.

BIRDS OF PREY #49 (DC, 2003) – “The Chaotic Code Part 3: Family Matters,” [W] Terry Moore, [A] Amanda Conner. I have no idea what this issue’s plot is about, and I don’t care, because the plot is just an excuse for Amanda Conner to draw sexy women. She does that quite well in this issue, but her draftsmanship is less refined and intricate than in her recent work.

AZTEC ACE #14 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Cleopatra Exchange,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Harris et al. Aztec Ace is perhaps the most confusing comic book of the 1980s, but this issue is a fairly straightforward story, in which Caza and his sidekicks try to make sure that Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s deaths occur as recorded in history. Dan Day is less well-known than his brother Gene, but his pencils and Nestor Redondo’s inks were essential to Aztec Ace’s visual aesthetic, and without them, this issue barely looks like Aztec Ace.

1602: WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “In Which Something Wicked This Way Comes,” [W] Marguerite Bennett w/ Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans w/ Marguerite Sauvage.  In one sequence, Angela assassinates King James I. In another sequence, Angela and Serah hunt down Bucky Barnes, and they also encounter the Enchantress. Marvel 1602 was a good idea, but Gaiman’s original miniseries wasn’t even that great, and none of the spinoffs by other writers have been much good at all. 1602: Witch Hunter Angela #1 does have some excellent artwork.

FANTASTIC FOUR #309 (Marvel, 1987) – “Danger on the Air!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] John Buscema. Steve Englehart was one of the worst FF writers ever, if not the very worst. His FF was confusing and incoherent, and it barely felt like the FF. It was hampered by dumb villains like Fasaud, and by an overemphasis on peripheral characters like Crystal and Sharon Ventura, rather than Reed and Sue. This issue, Ben and Sharon travel to a fictional Arab country to investigate Fasaud’s threat, and Shary is offended by having to cover her face and legs. (I believe that in at least some Arab countries, female tourists are not required to cover up.) Meanwhile, Alicia plans an intimate dinner with Johnny, but due to his complete lack of emotional intelligence, Johnny invites his old girlfriend Crystal to join them. And they start making passive-aggressive comments to each other, to the point where Johnny gets uncomfortable. This scene is excruciating to read, and it decreases the reader’s respect for all three of the characters involved.

THE ATOM #25 (DC, 1966) – “The Man in the Ion Mask!” and “The Spy Who Went Out for the Gold!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Gil Kane. The first story is about an ionic-powered criminal, and the second story is about a Communist country’s plot to destroy the West by paying its national debt in irradiated gold. I usually think of Gardner Fox as a straitlaced, serious writer, so I was surprised at the amount of humor in these stories. The captions in this issue are full of jokes and asides directed at the reader. For example, when Ray thinks about what to do if he’s there when the ion-masked man attempts another robbery, the caption says “Is Ray kidding? If that doesn’t happen – poof! There goes our story!” These jokes make this issue much more fun than a typical Fox comic. As expectd, The Atom #25 also includes some excellent art.

THUNDERBOLTS #27 (Marvel, 1999) – “Flight Plans,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts fight Angel (wearing the Angel costume, but with blue skin), and meanwhile, San Francisco is terrorized by flying looters. We discover at the end of the issue that the people are flying because of Graviton. The thing that annoys me about Thunderbolts is its constant emphasis on the team’s internal politics. This emphasis exists mostly because of Moonstone, one of the most manipulative and power-hungry characters in any Marvel comic. But I can’t deny that Busiek’s characterization of Moonstone is very effective.

SUPERMAN FAMILY #216 (DC, 1982) – “Victory is Only 5,000 Centuries Away!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Win Mortimer, etc. In the first story, Supergirl changes places with her far-future counterpart, whose costume looks really cool. The Mr. and Mrs. Superman story, written by E. Nelson Bridwell, is insultingly silly, and the Superbaby story by Rozakis and Calnan isn’t much better. The Lois Lane story, by Tamsyn O’Flynn and Bob Oksner, is interesting because of its depiction of a newspaper office. Superman comics of this era are a nostalgic reminder of a time when the newspaper industry was thriving, unlike now, when it’s on its last legs. Tamsyn O’Flynn was a noted letterhack, but she only worked as a comics writer for two or three years. The Jimmy Olsen story revolves around an unpopular comic strip called Zonker’s World. I assumed that this was a mean-spirited reference to Doonesbury, but the story’s writer, Paul Kupperberg, stated on Facebook that he just made up the name Zonker. The creator of Zonker’s World appears in the story, and he doesn’t look like Garry Trudeau.

VILLAINS UNITED #6 (DC, 2005) – “At the End of All Things,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham. The Secret Six have their final confrontation with the Society. Luthor is revealed as Mockingbird, and we learn that he chose each of the Secret Six’s members because each of  them could defend him from a particular villain or category of villains. Parademon sacrifices his life to save the rest of the team, and in the epilogue, Catman and Deadshot decide to get the band back together. This miniseries led into an ongoing Secret Six title.  

2000 AD #1817 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Closet,” [W/A] Rob Williams, [A] Mike Dowling. “Closet” focuses on Taylor Cook, a young gay man. His father rejects him for being gay, and then dies in the Day of Chaos. Significantly, the direct cause of Taylor’s death is Judge Fear: ”Fear took away his life.” Taylor later starts attending a gay club where people dress up as Judges and pretend to arrest each other. Inevitably, the actual Judge Dredd raids the club and arrests all the customers for impersonating Judges, but Taylor doesn’t mind: “I can do five years… then I’m out.” When it came out, this story caused a media furor because people thought that Dredd himself was going to be outed as gay. Althoguh that doesn’t happen, “Closet” is perhaps the first story that acknowledges that Dredd is a queer sex symbol, and it does so in a sensitive and powerful way. It’s the best Dredd story I’ve read lately. Savage: as #1816 above. The fight on the bridge continues, and the Volgans shoot a dying British soldier in cold blood. Ampney Crucis: as above. Ampney meets with the Prime Minister and is then taken to Bletchley Park, where he’s shown two computers named Gog and Magog. Red Seas: as above. Another pointless fight scene. Strontium Dog: as above. The mutant rebellion explodes into open warfare.

MICHEL VAILLANT VOL. 31 (Dargaud, 1977) – “Les jeunes loups,” [W/A] Jean Graton. I bought this at Dreamhaven some years ago. It’s an installment of a long-running series about a Formula 1 driver. I haven’t read any of the previous volumes, but that’s not really a problem, because this issue focuses mostly on a group of new characters. The “young wolves” of the title are the drivers in Formula 2 and 3 and Formula Europe, who are aiming at a place in Formula 1 for the next season. The story focuses on two of these characters in particular. Serge Mauduit is a brilliant driver, but he’s hampered by his fragile ego and his love of the night life. Eventually, he shows up for a race while drunk and is prevented from starting, after which he repents and reforms his ways. The other focal character, Alfredo Fabri, is financed by an uncle who appears to be a mafioso. Terrified of his uncle’s wrath if he loses, Fabri wins his last race by committing a rule violation. He’s disqualified, but in an ironic twist, his uncle is proud of him, and he uses his massive wealth to get Fabri a place in Formula 1 anyway! The nominal main characters, Michel Vaillant and his British teammate/rival Steve Warson, play a subordinate role. Overall this is a really fun read. Graton draws some thrilling auto racing sequences (and he somehow got permission to use the names and logos of actual F1 sponsors), but he’s also very good at characterization, and this album is less about the actual races than about the personalities of the drivers.

GIRL #2 (Vertigo, 1996) – as above. Simone dresses up as her blonde duplicate and gets a boy to take her virginity. With her father in a coma (having fallen on to a spiked railing at the end of issue 1), Simone has to deliver her unmarried sister’s baby, fathered by the sister’s abusive boyfriend. Simone promptly drops the baby on its head and thinks she’s killed it, but the “good” news is that the baby was already dead from being strangled in the womb. Finally, Simone is arrested for the murder of the man who tried to rape her duplicate in issue 1. I think the joke of this series is that it’s an extreme but plausible exaggeration of the squalor of British lower-class life. I forgot to mention that Duncan Fegredo is an excellent artist.

THUNDERDOGS #1 (Rip Off, 1981) – untitled, [W/A] Hunt Emerson. I was hesitant to read this because of its great length and Hunt Emerson’s heavily detailed style. This comic is a somewhat difficult read, but it’s worth it. It starts out as a satire on American militarism, but it gets much weirder than that. The prtoagonist, Major Mongrel, gets flattened into two dimensions, while his soldiers remain three-dimensional. So there are some pages where Major Mongrel is on the “surface” of the page, while his soldiers are standing on top of him. I don’t recall ever seeing this effect before. There’s also a sequence where another character leads Major Mongrel into the wooden framework behind the pages. I find it hard to get into Hunt Emerson, both because of his style and because his work has been published in so many different and obscure venues. But now I want to read more of his stuff.

INCREDIBLE HULK #94 (Marvel, 2006) – “Planet Hulk: Exile Part III,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Carlo Pagulayan et al. The Hulk and his friends fight in some arena battles, and the Hulk saves the arena from being bombed into oblivion by the Red King. At the end of the issue, the Hulk and his companions decide to become Warbound, that is, they become sworn brothers in combat.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #288 (DC, 1976) – “Defend – or Destroy!”, [W] Bob Kanigher, [A] John Lehti. Easy Company encounters a British soldier who is the last survivor of his unit, and has gone insane. He sacrifices his life to help Easy Company defend a bridge. The backup story, drawn by Golden Age veteran Norman Maurer, is about Medal of Honor winner Edouard Izac. Izac’s story is fascinating: his ship was sunk by a German U-Boat, and was taken prisoner aboard the boat. Unknown to the boat’s crew, Izac understood German, so he was able to learn lots of information about German naval operations. He decided to escape back to Allied territory so he could pass on this information to his superiors, and after several failed attempts, he finally made it to Switzerland. He later served six terms in Congress, and when he died at age 98, he was the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War I. To return to the comic, I’m not familiar with either of the artist in this issue, but they’re both quite good.

2000 AD #1819 (Rebellion, 2013) – I already read issue 1818 when I first bought this lot of 2000 ADs. Dredd: “Save Him,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] James Harren. Dredd narrowly avoids being assassinated by a telepathic veteran of the Day of Chaos. James Harren gets a chance to show off his talent for drawing monsters. Savage: as above. The battle continues, but the cavalry – the Hammersteins – fail to arrive, because their path leads them through some valuable real estate, which their programming prevents them from destroying. Ampney Crucis: as above. Crucis tracks down the Babbagist assassin’s address, and then there’s a scene set in Limehouse that I don’t understand. Red Seas: as above. Another chapter that makes no sense. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny sends out the women and children from the besieged city of Milton Keynes, and admits to having killed Pelham Grenville. The government claims that Grenville was coerced into admitting to the sterilization plot. The siege continues.

KUNCKLES THE MALEVOLENT NUN #2 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – untitled, [W/A] Roger Langridge & Cornelius Stone. A bizarre story that’s set in hell and involves Satan, Jesus Christ, and a nun who’s almost as ugly as Carmen Cru. I’m not sure just what’s happening in this comic, but it’s wacky and it’s got great art. Cornelius Stone is a well-known New Zealand cartoonist, but I’m not sure just what he’s published.

GATECRASHER #3 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Power to the Puppet,” [W] Mark Waid & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Amanda Conner. This comic is actually older than Birds of Prey #3, but its artwork is far superior. Conner draws with much more detail. This issue is mostly about the protagonist’s rivalry with his teammate Trystan, who blames Alec for the loss of his girlfriend Teah in an alternate dimension. Black Bull was the comics imprint of Wizard Entertainment, and I believe this issue’s story includes a photo of Gareb Shamus.

STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #1 (Image, 2014) – “No Take-Backs,” [W/A] David Lapham. Young Eli Goldburg likes to hide out in the car when his dad goes to the strip club. One day, Eli’s dad is about to get a lapdance when he realizes that the stripper is Eli’s babysitter, Caroline. Mr. Goldburg flees in terror, and it’s implied that he then murders Caroline, though this is hard to determine because of Lapham’s elliptical style of storytelling. Eli tells this to Spanish Scott, the bouncer at the club. Then Eli tries to take back what he said (hence the title), but it’s too late, and Spanish Scott murders Eli’s father in revenge. This issue also shows how Eli is viciously bullied by his “friends,” and how he’s parentified into caring for his baby sister. This issue is a good example of Lapham’s storytelling virtuosity. See here for a more detailed analysis.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #75 (DC, 1993) – “Sovay,” [W] Charles de Lint, [A] Charles Vess. I may have bought this issue because of the first story, but I’ve already read it in an issue of The Book of Ballads and Sagas. It’s an adaptation of a ballad about a woman who dresses up as a highwayman to test her lover’s faithfulness. The other notable story in the issue is a chapter of Moebius and Jodorowsky’s Madwoman of the Sacred Heart. It’s an interesting story, but I’d prefer to read it in its complete form, and in color. The third story is “The Chairman” by  Charles Moore and Andrew Robinson.

YOKO TSUNO VOL. 3 (Comcat, 1973/1989) – “Vulcan’s Forge,” [W/A] Roger Leloup. This was published as “The Adventures of Yoko, Vic and Paul, volume 1.” Comcat made the odd choice not to translate the first two albums, even though Vulcan’s Forge references events in those books. Also, Vic and Paul don’t deserve to be included in the series’ title: in this album they’re just Yoko’s sidekicks, and they were sidelined even further as the series went on. The plot of this album is that Yoko teams up with an old ally, a blue-skinned Vinean alien named Kani, to prevent the Earth from being blown up from within. The first notable thing about this album is that Yoko is an awesome protagonist. She’s brave to the point of foolhardiness, and she’s willing to fight and to do physical stunts, but she’s also a caring friend. Second, Leloup’s artwork is beautiful, particularly his drawings of underground caverns and machinery. He was an assistant to Hergé, and you can see how he inherited Hergé’s skill at detailed renderings of backgrounds. This album is also an effective piece of science fiction. I can’t tell if all the geological information in this book is accurate, but it seems accurate to me. Finally, this book’s ending is a surprise. At the end, the villain is hanging from a piece of debris over a lava pit, and one of the other Vineans decides to drop him in the lava and kill him, rather than try to save him. That wouldn’t have happened in a Code-approved comic.

THE FLASH #79 (DC, 2019) – “Death and the Speed Force,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Part of a storyline in which the Speed Force is challenged by three other forces. This premise is not exciting to me, because I think the Speed Force is a silly and poorly defined idea to begin with. The only thing I liked in this issue is the scene where Golden Glider is teaching some kids to ice skate.

EL DIABLO #2 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Danijel Zezelj. I must have bought this comic because of the art, but perhaps I’ve been unfair to Brian Azzarello, because his writing in this issue is actually good. El Diablo #2 is a compelling piece of Western horror, and Zezelj’s dark, moody art complements the grimness of the writing.


First review post of 2023


This is the eleventh calendar year of this project.

I read some of the following comic books after midnight on New Year’s Eve, 2022, so I’m counting them for 2023.

BIRTHRIGHT #33 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Brennan tells Kallista about how he felt abandoned after his brother disappeared. He uses his feelings of rage to power his magic. Mikey finds Brennan, and they fight. In the flashback, the younger Mikey, Rya and Zoshana arrive at a lost city.

AZTEK, THE ULTIMATE MAN #10 (DC, 1997) – “A League of Their Own,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] N. Steven Harris. While preparing for his JLA audition, Aztek has to save the JLA from Amazo. Aztek had some potential, but it never developed much of a distinctive identity or premise. N. Steven Harris’s artwork in this issue seems heavily influenced by Walt Simonson.

BIRDS OF PREY #48 (DC, 2002) – “The Chaotic Code Part 2: Crash & Burn,” [W] Terry Moore, [A] Amanda Conner. I can’t remember anything about this issue’s plot, except that it was silly and unoriginal, and Amanda Conner’s artwork is not her best. By this time she was already very good at drawing sexy women, but her visual storytelling and her use of Easter eggs were less impressive than in her later work.

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #7 (Pacific, 1984) – “The Ballad of Hardcase Bradley,” [W] Stephen Perry, [A] George Evans. An Old West werewolf story written in verse. George Evans is the only major EC artist who’s not in the Eisner Hall of Fame, and I’m not sure why not. Western stories were not his best genre, though. Next is “Goldyn” by Walter Stuart, a stupid story about time travel and barbarians. Walter Stuart also published another Goldyn one-shot with Blackthorne, but that seems to have been the entire extent of his comics career. The third story is the first appearance of Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr. Monster. This chapter was meant to be the first part of a three-parter, but Pacific went out of business after this issue, so all three parts were published together in Eclipse’s Mr. Monster #1. The fourth story, “The Singular Case of the Missed Universes” by Bill DuBay and Vince Argondezzi, is most notable for being full of Mexican stereotypes.

BLACK BEETLE #3 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “No Way Out,” [W/A] Francesco Francavilla. This series contains some of Francavilla’s best artwork. His draftsmanship, page layouts and coloring are beautiful, creating a powerful sense of mood. But as for its story, Black Beetle is just a ripoff of Batman or the Spirit, with nothing original about it.

EXTREMITY #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Rollo and Thea leave Mother Dierdre’s enclave to look for a component to repair Shiloh’s damaged battery, but they get attacked by a giant insect. The insect is a stunning piece of design, as is the two-headed griffin that Rollo and Thea ride. Meanwhile, the Paznina prepare for their assault on Mother Diedre’s home. There are four more issues of this series, and I really want to read them.

FIRST YEAR HEALTHY (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014) – “First Year Healthy,” [W/A] Michael DeForge. This is a hardcover book, but it’s only 32 pages, so it feels more like a comic book than a graphic novel. It tells the story of a man who is released from the hospital and moves in with a coworker and the coworker’s infant son. Each page is just a single panel with a caption. First Year Healthy is full of DeForge’s usual absurdism and body horror. But although it’s gruesome and disturbing, it also feels lyrical, and the narrator’s affection for his coworker’s son is touching.

300 #4 (Dark Horse, 1998) – “Combat,” [W/A] Frank Miller. The Spartans fight the Persians, then they pause to negotiate with Xerxes, then they fight some more. This issue has some striking page compositions, but the crippling problem with 300 is its combination of racism and sexism. In 300, moral virtue is linked to masculinity and whiteness. The Spartans are the good guys because they’re the whitest and manliest. Xerxes, meanwhile, is presented as dark-skinned and effeminate, with thick red lips and piercings all over his face. 300 was published before 9/11, but it fuels the sort of racist Orientalism that became widespread after 9/11. Also, the series presents the Spartans as the freest of all men, ignoring the fact that the majority of the Spartan population were not Spartiates but helots, who were treated so horribly that they were in a constant state of revolt. Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly’s Three was intended as an explicit response to 300’s politically motivated abuses of history.

JONAH HEX #15 (DC, 1978) – “Sawdust and Slow Death,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Vicente Alcazar. Jonah joins a circus freakshow, but when he discovers that the circus’s ringmaster is a crime boss, the ringmaster frames him for the murder of the beautiful Sally Colter, the knife thrower’s assistant. Jonah defeats the ringmaster by feeding him to the circus’s lions. It’s strange reading a classic Jonah Hex story that’s not written by Michael Fleisher. “Sawdust and Slow Death” is kind of trite, and it lacks the sarcasm and raucousness of the best Jonah Hex stories.

SCATTERBRAIN #4 (Dark Horse, 198) – [E] Scott Allie & Phil Amara. A collection of humor stories. Aragonés and Evanier’s “Bugged!”, an astronaut gets sick of his wife’s habit of collecting bugs. He murders her, then heads off on a space mission, only to discover that the spacecraft is conducting experiments on bugs. The other stories are by Jay Stephens, Evan Dorkin, Dave Cooper, Daniel Torres, Scott Morse, and Craig Thompson. There’s a lot of beautiful art in these stories, but only the Aragonés story has any narrative depth.

TWO-FISTED TALES #34 (East Coast Comix, 1953/1974) – This was the ninth in a series of EC Comics reprints published in the 1970s. I believe these were the first EC reprints in comic book form, before Russ Cochran undertook the task of reprinting the entire EC corpus. This is the same issue that Russ Cochran reprinted as Two-Fisted Tales #17. “Betsy,” [W/A] Jack Davis. In the Old West, a criminal steals an old man’s horse. The old man goes to his cabin to tell “Miss Betsy” about the theft. The old man returns to town and shoots the criminal dead with his rifle, and the twist ending is that “Betsy” is the rifle’s name. “Trial by Arms!”, [W/A] Wally Wood. One knight accuses another knight of murder and kills him in a trial by combat. The original “murder” victim then turns up alive, and the accuser murders him for real. This story includes an impressive silent combat sequence. East Coast Comix did a brilliant job of recoloring both these stories. “En Crapaudine!”, [W] Jerry De Fuccio, [A] John Severin. During a war against desert natives, a French soldier deserts his post and is punished by being made to lie “en crapaudine” – that is, face-up in the sun with his limbs bound under him. After he dies, we learn that when he allegedly deserted, he in fact went and killed the rebels’ leader. There is some evidence that the French Foreign Legion really did use the crapaudine as a punishment. “Guynemer!”, [W] Harvey Kurtzman, [A] George Evans. An account of the career and death of Georges Guynemer, France’s greatest World War I flying ace. Aviation stories like this are why George Evans should be in the Hall of Fame.

THE DESERT PEACH #3 (Thoughts & Images, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Donna Barr. Rommel needs to locate some Allied submarines offshore, and Pfirsich (not Pfirsch, I’ve been spelling it wrong) comes up with the idea of looking for the submarines while surfing. This silly idea becomes viable when Pfirsich’s men capture a Hawaiian soldier. The soldier doesn’t know much more about surfing than the Germans do, but the Rommel brothers try surfing anyway. This leads to a lot of hilarious chaos and casual nudity. Desert Peach is a brilliant humor comic. The only reason I haven’t read more of it is because the issues are rather long, and the lettering can be difficult to parse.

STARSTRUCK #3 (IDW, 2009) – “Mirage à Troi” etc., [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. The sexy androids turn their attention to Ronnie Lee; Mary Medea’s baby sister is born; and the Galactic Girl Guides build their robot. The difficulty with reading Starstruck is that there’s a ton of unnecessary worldbuilding, and it’s not clear how the various parts of Starstruck’s universe are connected to each other.

2000 AD #422 (Rebellion, 1985) – Anderson: “Four Dark Judges,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. Anderson’s battle with the Dark Judges continues. After this there’s a pinup depicting a statue of Glyph, the character from Halo Jones who no one can remember. Slaine: “The Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Slaine and Murdach continue their battle against the Cythrons and Orgots. Dredd: “Casey’s Day Out,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Casey Steech completes a twenty-year prison sentence, but his old enemy Champagne Charlie tries to assassinate him. The Judges can’t protect Casey, so he deliberately punches Dredd in the face so that he’ll be sent back to prison. This is sadly not a farfetched story at all. I think I’ve read that it’s common for ex-convicts to intentionally reoffend and get returned to prison, because they can’t cope with life on the outside. Rogue Trooper: “Antigen of Horst,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. While Rogue is asleep, Gunnar, Helm and Bagman hold off an invading army without his help. Strontium Dog: “Big Bust of 49,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf pursue Xen, a mind-controlling alien who can leap from one human host to another.  

THUNDERBOLTS #168 (Marvel, 2012) – “The World at the Jilted Cage…”, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Matthew Southworth. Luke Cage tries to round up a number of escaped villains. The most memorable scene in this issue is the one with Ghost, who, as usual, is the most intriguing character in this Thunderbolts run. Meanwhile, Mach V accuses the Thunderbolts of not caring about rehabilitating criminals, since they recruited people like Mr. Hyde and Crossbones. There’s also a clever moment where a representative of Lloyd’s of London gives the Thunderbolts a message that was deposited by their time-traveling teammates in 1888. I suppose if you wanted to deliver a message to a distant point in the future, Lloyd’s would be the safest place to drop it off.

SERGIO ARAGONÉS FUNNIES #6 (Bongo, 2011) – “The Kachina Prophecy” etc., [W/A] Sergio Aragonés. (Sergio wrote this series himself without Evanier’s assistance.) A newspaperman flees Chicago for New Mexico to avoid the mob. While in New Mexico, he photographs a secret kachina ceremony, and is then murdered by the kachinas themselves. I believe it is true that certain Pueblo Indian ceremonies are kept secret from outsiders. There’s also an autobio story, “My Friend Julio,” where a young Sergio and his friend are playing on a train car, and it starts to move and doesn’t stop until they’re in the middle of nowhere. The place where the train stops, Amecameca, is still a pretty small town today, though it’s not far from Mexico City.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #36 (DC, 2015) – “Robin Rises: Chaos,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. On Apokolips, the Robins fight the armies of Darkseid, and Darkseid himself makes an appearance on the last page. This issue isn’t very interesting outside the context of the Robin Rises crossover, though Patrick Gleason’s artwork is excellent. I’m glad that Peter Tomasi is finally doing some creator-owned work for Image. He has done one previous creator-owned title, House of Penance, but I’ve never heard of that comic until just now.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #7 (Dark Horse, 2010) – “Labyrinth of the Lost,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. The Playtown army fights the forces of King Death, and Joe finally reaches the Fountain of Life, i.e. the refrigerator, and collects his soda. But before he drinks it, he goes down to the basement, where the Iron Knight is buried. I assume the Iron Knight is Joe’s father, but besides that, I’m not sure why he has to go to the basement. I haven’t located my copy of issue 8 yet.

DIAL H #7 (DC, 2013) – “Strategies of Multitude,” [W] China Miéville, [A] David Lapham. Dial H was one of the only New 52 titles that attempted to do anything new or original, but it was disappointing anyway. China Miéville had some great ideas for superheroes – for example, this issue introduces the Planktonian, the Tiny Many Champion. But Dial H’s plot is incoherent, and I can’t even tell who its protagonist is. Miéville also did not know how to structure a monthly comic book. The more recent Dial H for Hero series was far more successful.

BOX OFFICE POISON #2 (Antarctic, 1996) – “Horrible as Are the Dead,” [W/A] Alex Robinson. We meet Irving Flavor, the Golden Age cartoonist who Ed is assisting, and Irving tells Ed some depressing things about the comics business. Back in 1996, lots of cartoonists of Irving Flavor’s generation were still alive and working. Now almost all those people have passed away, and the Irving Flavor scenes are even more nostalgic than when originally published. There are some funny metatextual moments in this issue. Ed tells Irving that the best-selling black-and-white comic, Bile (i.e. Hate), sells 30,000 copies, when Irving thinks that a low sales number is 100,000 or 150,000 copies. Stephen does a crossroad where one of the clues is a 15-letter word for “cinematic bomb element”; the answer is not stated, but must be BOX OFFICE POISON. I much prefer the black-and-white version of Box Office Poison to the color version, because the coloring obscures some essential details. In particular, Robinson often embeds hidden messages in the titles of books on bookshelves, and these messages are hard to see in color. This issue’s backup material includes some one-page science fiction strips drawn by Robinson.

UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #13 (Marvel, 1989) – “Double Cross,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] Mike Vosburg. “Double Cross,” an Atlantis Attacks crossover, is the only story published during Claremont’s original run that Claremont did not write. However, it feels like a Claremont story, because it begins with a scene where Dazzler catches Diamondback trying to seduce Wolverine, and when Dazzler gets angry over this, Diamondback responds by implying that Dazzler has been sleeping with Longshot. There’s nothing else of interest in this story. The backup story, “Jubilation Day,” actually is written by Claremont, under the name Sally Pashkow. This name is an inside joke whose meaning is unknown (source). “Jubilation Day” shows Jubilee exploring the X-Men’s outback base. I’ve always thought Jubilee was kind of annoying, but she’s grown on me over time. There’s also a second backup story that narrates part of the history of the Serpent Crown.

BIRTHRIGHT #34 (Image, 2018) – as above. In the present, Mikey and Brennan continue their fight, but Mikey refuses to fight back. In the past, Mikey, Rya and Zoshana continue their magical training, and Zoshana is trapped in a monstrous form. Maybe that explains why Mikey didn’t marry her.

ACTION COMICS #468 (DC, 1977) – “Terra at Nine O’Clock!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Terra-Man starts his own television show and forces Superman to appear on it. This story is continued in the next issue. The Superman stories of the ‘70s offer some interesting depictions of the television industry of the time, though I can’t tell whether these depictions are accurate. “My Son, the Orphan!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Swan. Just as Morgan Edge is scheduled to receive an award, his estranged mother tracks him down and convinces him to reveal that his real name is Morris Edelstein. Based on this name, as well as Morgan’s mother’s stereotypical Jewish-mother behavior, it’s obvious that Morgan changed his name because he was ashamed of his Jewish heritage. This is perhaps the only story ever in which Morgan Edge is depicted as a sympathetic character. This story also reveals that Morgan won the ownership of Galaxy Communications in a poker game.

OUR FIGHTING FORCES #148 (DC, 1974) – “The Last Charge!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] John Severin. While the Losers are fighting in the North African desert, Johnny Cloud falls in love with a native woman. She’s mortally wounded in a battle, and she’s married to Johnny just before she dies. This story is touching, I guess, but also rather trite and implausible – for instance, the native people don’t seem to mind that Johnny isn’t a Muslim. John Severin’s art here is quite good, though his draftsmanship is not his best. Sam Glanzman’s backup story, “Toro,” is about an effeminate young sailor who kills himself because he can’t stand violence. Toro is heavily implied to be gay, though of course the Code would not allow Glanzman to state this explicitly, and this means he’s one of the earliest depictions of a queer character in Code-approved comics. See here for a bit more on this story.

2000 AD #425 (IPC, 1985) – Strontium Dog: “The Slavers of Drule Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Some humans set up a colony on a utopian planet, but are promptly abducted by slavers. One of the colonists, Mrs. Keeble, survives and decides to hire Johnny Alpha to rescue her abducted children. Slaine: as above. Slaine and Murdach finally make it back to the Cythrons’ planet, where they team up with a woman warrior named Tlachtga. Dredd: “Midnight Surfer,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. Chopper prepares for Supersurf 7, which will be held in Mega-City One, while Dredd prepares to arrest the illegal surfers. Chopper is one of Dredd’s best antagonists, though I can’t call him a villain. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue tries to rescue the scientist Dr. Moho, who’s been working on the antigen, from a Nort base, but Dr. Moho is in fact a willing collaborator with the Norts, not a prisoner. Anderson: as above except [A] Cliff Robinson. The Dark Judges continue their assault on the city. Anderson finally gets the Justice Department to allow her to lead the resistance to the Dark Judges. I probably said this before, but Cliff Robinson is the one artist who can most easily be mistaken for Brian Bolland.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #9 (Renegade, 1985) – “Play Ball,” [W/A] Bob Burden. This issue is signed by Bob Burden, but the signature is dated 1986, so it must have been obtained by a previous owner. I have met Bob Burden, though. This issue is mostly full of typical absurdism, but there is one poignant scene where the Carrot visits his former girlfriend and his illegitimate son. The trouble with this series is that if you’ve read one issue, you’ve read them all.

2000 AD #427 (IPC, 1985) – Anderson: as above. Anderson forcibly returns the Dark Judges to their own dimension, and her fellow Judges discover that when she returned to Deadworld, she was acting under the Dark Judges’ psychic influence. Thus, Anderson’s reputation and career are saved. Slaine: as above except [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine fights a giant Orgot in the arena, and prepares to use his warp-spasm to defeat it. Slaine’s warp spasm and gae bolga are both borrowed from Cu Chulainn, a character who Slaine greatly resembles. Glenn Fabry is a vastly better artist than David Pugh. Dredd: as above. The Supersurf 7 race begins. Strontium Dog: as above. Slaine and Wulf discover a farm where the enslaved humans are kept. One-shot: “Judge Grexnix,” [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] Anthony Jozwiak. A 2000 AD reader, Carl Coogan, thinks he could be a better judge than Dredd. Tharg sends Carl to Mega-City One in order to prove him wrong.

AZTEK: THE ULTIMATE MAN #7 (DC, 1997) – “Hey Diddle Diddle the Japed and the Japer,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] N. Steven Harris. Aztek and Batman team up against the Joker and some other minor villains. This issue is exciting and has some well-crafted dialogue, but again, there’s little to distinguish Aztek from any other superhero comic.

BATMAN #34 (DC, 2014) – “The Meek,” [W] Gerry Duggan w/ Scott Snyder, [A] Matteo Scalera. Batman goes looking for a serial killer who’s been targeting Leslie Thompkins’s patients. The killer’s motivation seems to be that he doesn’t think poor people should be treated with dignity. This story is unnecessarily grim and depressing.

BOX OFFICE POISON COLOR CLASSICS #3 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Alex Robinson. This issue actually takes place before Box Office Poison #2, reviewed above. This is because the original Antarctic series of Box Office Poison was preceded by some minicomics, which Antarctic later collected as a zero issue. BOP Color Classics #3 reprints the last bit of the minicomics, the first bit of the Antarctic series, and also some new pages. Anyway, in this issue Sherman and Penny meet for the first time at a party, and then again at the bookstore where Sherman works. Sherman’s bookstore job is another aspect of this series that feels obsolete now. Also, Ed meets with an editor at a major comics publisher. The editor claims to love Ed’s work and promises him a contract, only to cruelly reject that promise because he didn’t have the authority to offer it. That explains why Ed instead ends up working as Irving Flavor’s assistant. As noted earlier, these comics were not meant to be published in color, and the recoloring causes some essential details to be lost.

UNSUPERVISED EXISTENCE #5 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “Bob Takes a Trip Part III: The Business,” [W/A] Terry LaBan. An American, Bob, runs out of money while traveling in Europe. A street vendor advises him to go to Istanbul, buy some cheap jewelry, and resell it in Paris. Bob does as she says, and to the reader’s surprise, he actually makes some money doing this, but then Bob meets the same street vendor again and sleeps with her, and she runs off with all his money and merchandise. Bob swallows his pride and calls his parents to beg for money to pay for his trip home. But while waiting to go home, he starts dancing his sorrows away, and some bystanders give him so much money that he decides to go to Nepal instead. This is a really entertaining story, mostly due to Bob’s stupidity. At one point, Bob gets lost in Istanbul, and some local people invite him into their home, excited to meet an American – but then Bob flees in terror, thinking they’re going to rob, murder or rape him. Terry LaBan is an extremely underrated cartoonist.

I was in Minneapolis from January 4 to 7. While there, I bought some comics at Half Price Books and DreamHaven, including:

THE WOODS #4 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. My database indicated that I had this issue already, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t in my drawerboxes, where I put comics after I read and review them. So it could only have been in my boxes of unread comics, but I couldn’t find it there, and if I ever did have it, I think I would have read it. Therefore, I assumed my database was wrong, and when I saw another copy of it for $2, I was happy to buy it. This issue, the kids finally confront the fascist gym teacher, and he murders the principal before fleeing. I forget if he ever appears again. Meanwhile, a second group of kids investigates the pyramid, and a third group encounters a party of human warriors. As soon as I can, I need to reread issues 5 through 10, so I can continue my read-through of this series.

CEREBUS #55 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Origin of the Wolveroach Part 2: The Why & the Are,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This was the only issue I was missing between #36 and #112. Because it’s a Wolverine parody, it’s unusually expensive, and I thought $5 was a fair price for it. In this issue Cerebus talks with Michelle and the Wolveroach while continuing to write his memoirs. Throughout this issue the Roach constantly smokes, and a hilarious moment occurs when Cerebus asks the Roach what he’s smoking, and the answer is “A small bundle of toothpicks.” In this era, Cerebus was hilarious and brilliantly plotted. When you read these old Cerebus issues, you understand why people stayed with Dave Sim for so long, even after he had abandoned everything that made Cerebus worth reading.

GAY COMIX #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1982) – [E] Howard Cruse. At just $1, this (as well as #5, reviewed below) was an incredible find, although it’s in very low grade. I never see Gay Comix at conventions, and on eBay it tends to be absurdly expensive. Gay Comix #3 includes stories by Howard Cruse, Roberta Gregory, Lee Marrs, and the Dutch artist Theo van den Boogard, as well as some lesser talents. Howard Cruse’s work is at a totally different level than anything else in Gay Comix, at least in terms of draftsmanship. His linework and lettering and pontillist shading are just exquisite. Of the stories by lesser-known artists, by far the most interesting is “I’m Me!” by David Kottler, an account of his transition from AFAB to male. This is the earliest known transgender autobiographical comic, and one of the earliest comics of any kind by a transgender creator. Its art is a bit amateurish, but it’s extremely honest and brave, especially for the time. Sadly we don’t know anything about David Kottler. According to this story, he also did some comics for Gold Key, but they must have appeared under a different name, if they were signed at all.

I went back to Heroes on January 8:

MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trapped… in a World He Never Made!”, [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. This comic’s existence itself is a miracle. The last new issue of Miracleman was published in 1993, when I was just getting into comics. Even if I’d been aware of Miracleman’s existence at the time, I’d have been too young to read it. For imuch of the next few decades, Miracleman seemed permanently unpublishable because of copyright disputes, and even after its ownership was cleared up, no new Miracleman material appeared for many years. The 29-year gap between Miracleman #24 and Miracleman: The Silver Age #3 must be the longest such gap in the history of comic books. I should note that some of the pages in Miracleman: The Silver Age have been published before, in George Khoury’s Kimota! The Miracleman Companion. I recognized the line “by now he’ll have screwed Kay and Qys-only-knows what he’ll have turned into.” As for my reaction to this  comic, I was mostly just in a state of awe at the fact of having a new Miracleman story to read.   

I don’t think it quite lived up to the hype, but nothing could have. The main event this issue is that Dicky Dauntless has a vision of Johnny Bates, then meets a retired superhero, Mister Master. Given this character’s long dark hair and beard and his retired lifestyle, it’s hard not to  identify him with Alan Moore, though that may not have been the creator’s original intent – in 1991, Alan Moore was still active in comics. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to finish reading one of the great unfinished comics, and I can’t wait for the next issue.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #15 (Boom!, 2022) – “In Your Image,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In a flashback, we see how the gods were first harvested for resources. In the present, Thierry reaches the gods’ realm and learns that the gods are just the dead bodies of the people who have reached that place, projected back in time. Thierry chooses to instead become a living god, and the series ends. This was an excellent series, but its major flaw was that its timeline was hard to follow. The dates at the beginning of each  sequence are useless if the reader can’t remember whether these dates are earlier or later than the series’ primary time frame.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #12 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Interspersed with this issue’s main story are messages between Walter and some people who apparently declined their invitations to the house. Or maybe they accepted, and the house in this series isn’t the only one, I’m not sure. The housemates decide to execute Walter and live out their lives in the house. In a final dialogue between Walter and Norah, we learn that Walter is still alive, and that his plan was to get the housemates to think they’d killed him on their own initiative, without realizing he had manipulated them into doing so. This is a rather contrived and depressing ending, though it’s redeemed somewhat by the caption “End of Cycle One” at the end. So there will hopefully be a future Nice House on the Lake miniseries, and maybe the survivors will find a way out of Walter’s prison.

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #2 (Boom!, 2022) – “Love in the Wasteland Chapter 2: The Proverbs of Survival,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Mezzy and Maceo travel together, and there’s a funny montage of all Mezzy’s survival skills, while Maceo appears to know nothing useful. But then the two of them get buried by a sandstorm, and Maceo builds a working generator from scratch. This experience teaches Mezzy that she doesn’t always have to follow the survival skills she learned from the Wasteland Rangers. But meanwhile those same Rangers are following the two of them. Mezzy and Maceo are brilliant foils for each other.  

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids hold a school festival to raise money to repair the damage they’ve already done. Inevitably the festival causes even more damage, because while trying to make fried calamari, the kids summon Shuma-Gorath. There are some hilarious moments in this sequence, but the main plot point is that Emily tries to recruit Calvin back to her side by returning his jacket to him, and Calvin refuses it. Then Emily and her two remaining allies go to visit Dormammu.

SHE-HULK #9 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Jen and Jack fight April and Mark, and Jack seemingly dies from using his powers without a containment suit. Also there’s a scene where Jen breaks the fourth wall, in the vein of John Byrne’s version of the character. Rowell’s She-Hulk comics tend to feel quicker and more insubstantial than her Runaways comics, perhaps because She-Hulk has fewer characters, or because Miyazawa’s art style is less detailed than Andres Genolet’s.

DAMN THEM ALL #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. Ellie and her allies continue investigating Alfie’s murder. Meanwhile, an African immigrant, Abshir, uses a demon’s power to become Mayor of London, but what he doesn’t realize is that several other people are using their own demons to gain similar positions of power. What I remember most from this issue is how no one knows what the word “xenopilus” means. Damn Them All’s mythology seems to be based on actual medieval and Renaissance demonology.

BOOK OF SLAUGHTER #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. In the aftermath of Aaron Slaughter’s death, which occurred in SIKTC #10, Maxine Slaughter decides to retrain from a White Mask to a Black Mask. Maxine’s story acts as a frame for an illustrated text sequence that serves encyclopedic description of the Order of St. George. Nothing in this encyclopedia really explains why the Order is so obsessed with its own secrecy, to the point where it cares more about keeping itself secret than about its actual mission. Also, it’s interesting that the Order has six Houses in western Europe, but only one each in sub-Saharan Africa and China.

SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part 4: The Unraveling,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. This is my favorite issue yet, because it’s full of brilliant and funny variations on Spider-Man. The Spiders in this issue include a living Spider-Mobile (from the same issue that introduced Songstress), a video game character, a giant monster, and Spiders-Man, who’s a colony of spiders in a costume. But the best of all is Peter Palmer, the Amazing Spiderman with no hyphen, which is what Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, was erroneously called in Amazing Spider-Man #1. This issue’s main plot point is that with Peter Parker erased from existence, Peter Palmer takes his place as the Chosen One. This is the sort of clever idea that Slott is so good at.

2000 AD #2293 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Special Relationship 05,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Patrick Goddard. Mega-City One and Brit-Cit’s standoff over the Atlantis colony continues. Dredd reveals that he booby-trapped the base on his way in, and threatens to blow it up unless the Brit Judges evacuate. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 22,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] INJ Culbard. A worker, Evan, takes Nolan Maslow into the station’s ducts. At last this overlong story is drawing to a conclusion. Skip Tracer: “Valhalla Part 7”, [W] James Peaty, [A] Dylan Marshall. While investigating the Valhalla base, Nolan Blake seems to blow himself up. Confusingly, the protagonists of Brink and Skip Tracer are both named Nolan. Dexter: “Malice in Plunderland Part 5,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. While Dexter is trying to escape from the new crimelords with his life, he gets a call on the phone from his own crimelord. Also, Dexter keeps having arguments with his own thought balloons. This is not a piece of Deadpool-esque fourth-wall-breaking, but has an in-story explanation which will be revealed soon. Jaegir: “Ferox Three,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Simon Coleby. I can’t make head or tail of this story. All I know is that it’s set in Rogue Trooper’s universe.

NIGHTWING #82 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo, Rick Leonardi & Neil Edwards. I bought this and #83 on eBay. I now need only one issue to complete this run. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence, drawn by guest artists, which explains Meili Lin and Melinda Zucco’s history. Meili was Tony Zucco’s kept woman, but escaped and joined Haly’s Circus. There she had a brief relationship with John Grayson, resulting in Melinda. This was before Dick’s parents were a couple, so Dick’s dad wasn’t a cheater. But while Meili was pregnant, Tony Zucco kidnapped her again, and she escaped just in time for Tony to kill the Graysons. This is a touching story, and it underscores what a horrible monster Tony Zucco is.

FANTASTIC FOUR #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “A Shoptastic Day,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Iban Coello. Johnny Storm disguises himself with dyed hair and a mustache and gets a retail job. His boss, Merrill, is a tyrant who pays starvation wages and endangers his employees’ health, and they can’t do anything about him or they’ll be fired. And Merrill figures out who Johnny is, but isn’t  afraid of him, because he knows Johnny isn’t willing to kill him. Johnny manages to defeat Merrill with the help of his fellow employees. This is another very clever story, and it shows a good understanding of Johnny’s personality. A major flaw of Dan Slott’s FF run was his very unsympathetic depiction of Johnny.

MOSELY #1 (Boom!, 2023) – “Phisher of Men,” [W] Rob Guillory, [A] Sami Lotfi. This is Rob Guillory’s first work as a writer but not an artist. Mosely is set in a world where robots have taken all the good jobs, and most people spend all their time immersed in virtual reality. Our aging protagonist, Marvin Mosley, perceives this world as dystopian, though his adult daughter Ruby is fine with it. On the way home from visiting Ruby, Mosley is mugged by a toddler and his robot drones, and suffers a heart attack. Then he has a vision where he’s told “Free my people!” and he’s given a giant hammer and a suit of armor. This series looks interesting, but it’s not as immediately captivating as Chew or Farmhand. BTW, I hope we get the last Farmhand story arc soon.

BATMAN #131 (DC, 2023) – “The Bat-Man of Gotham Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. After his battle with Failsafe, Batman finds himself in an alternative reality where there’s no Batman, and Gotham is even bleaker and more horrible than usual. Mike Hawthorne is a capable artist, but without Jorge Jimenez, this series is much less exciting. In the backup story, Tim Drake tries to defend Gotham in Batman’s absence, while insisting, against all evidence, that Batman is still alive.

POISON IVY #8 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Atagun Ilhan. Ivy is slowly turning into a plant, and she has to convince Crawley’s employee, Janet, to disobey Crawley and save her. I really like the scene where Crawley accuses Janet of having no loyalty, and in return, Janet accuses her of being “super feminist until it’s time to give employees maternity leave.” Crawley is an example of the toxic “lean in” mentality, which “encourages women to promote themselves individually as “marketable consumer object[s]” for professional advancement, while discouraging solidarity and downplaying the damaging effects of systemic gender bias felt collectively by women in the workplace” (Wikipedia). The problem with this issue is that Atagun Ilhan is very good at drawing plants, which must be why he was hired, but very bad at drawing female faces.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #6 (Marvel, 2023) – “Game of Rings Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shen Kuei is possessed by the Wyrm of Desolation, and Red Cannon is forced to shoot him. Then Red Cannon reveals herself as Shi Hua, the character who replaced Fah Lo Suee. Shang chooses to save Shen Kuei’s life rather than steal his rings, and this proves his worthiness as the new keeper of the rings. Unfortunately this is the next-to-last issue.

STILLWATER #17 (Image, 2023) – “Hearts and Minds,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. The protagonists prepare for their final confrontation with Galen. Daniel tries to stop the fight between Galen’s troops and the people of Stillwater and Coldwater, but he’s torn apart by both sides. I had trouble following this issue because I’ve forgotten who some of the characters are, or which side they’re on. There’s just one issue left.

2000 AD #2294 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. There’s a flashback to an encounter between a Sov agent and someone else, I don’t know who. Then the standoff ends with Brit-Cit ending its alliance with Mega-City One and entering into negotiations with the Sovs. Dredd says “It was only Brit-Cit.” On the next page is an obituary for Alan Grant. Brink: as above. Nolan starts having hallucinations, Evan tells Nolan his plan to use Nolan as a scapegoat, and Nolan says “Vovek sent me.” Who’s Vovek? Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan’s comrade Nerin wakes up in the afterlife. Nolan prepares for a suicide mission.  Dexter: as above. Dexter and his team escape from Plunderland, but I think Sinister is following them. Jaegir: as above. I still have no idea what’s going on here.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #45 (Marvel, 2023) – “Revenge of the Brood Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and the X-Men fight their way out of the Brood’s captivity. A rather quick and forgettable issue.

FEARLESS DAWN #3 (Asylum, 2010) – “The Case of the Monster Frog!”, [W/A] Steve Mannion. This is a very expensive signed edition, and I think I paid too much for it, but it was almost worth it because of Steve Mannion’s brilliant artwork. He’s like a cross between Dave Stevens and Kevin Nowlan. I do think that the giant frog which is the villain in this issue is kind of unimpressive, and the other Fearless Dawn comics I’ve read were even better drawn than this one.

NIGHTWING #83 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick escapes from Blockbuster in a brilliant action sequence. One of the great things about Bruno Redondo’s art is that his action sequences are a key selling point of each issue, whereas in so many other superhero comics, the action scenes are mere filler. Then Dick talks to Superman, who mentions Jon for the first time in this run, and then Dick announces the creation of the Alfred Pennyworth Foundation. This issue’s cover shows Dick rapidly changing from his costume to a suit, and belatedly realizing his mask is still on. This cover is a sort of prototype of issue 87.

FOUR COLOR #1024 (Dell, 1959) – “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” [W] unknown, [A] Alex Toth. I ordered this on eBay after learning that it was drawn by Toth. It’s an adaptation of a film which was itself adapted from a book of Irish folkloric short stories. The plot is that Darby O’Gill, an old estate caretaker, captures a leprechaun who can grant three wishes – just as Darby is being forced to retire from his position, and his daughter is being pursued by an immoral young man. Darby makes clever use of the leprechaun’s powers to save the day. This story is charming and clever, but what makes this comic memorable is Toth’s art. Unlike in his disappointing story from Four Color #1041, his art here is highly detailed while still being elegantly simple. He creates what seems like a historically accurate depiction of rural Ireland, with realistic-looking settings and clothing, and he clearly reveals his characters’ personalities through their facial expressions. Toth’s Zorro is justly famous, but it’s too bad that most of his other work for Dell has fallen into obscurity.

THE ROADIE #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. Joe discovers he’s not Shelby’s father, but he saves both her and himself by helping her mother overthrow Satan. This series would actually have benefitted from at least one more issue. The most compelling thing about it is Joe and Shelby’s relationship, but with all the plot points that Seeley had to get through, he had limited space in which to develop this relationship.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pax Mohannda Part 2,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva. The Mohannda civil war continues, and Dr. Nightshade returns. This is another boring and insubstantial issue, and it contributed to my loss of patience with this series.

X-MEN RED #10 (Marvel, 2023) – “The New Age,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli & Jacopo Camagni. Storm succeeds in defeating Vulcan, but Agent Brand escapes. At the end of the issue, we meet a clone of Mr. Sinister who has a spade symbol on his forehead instead of a diamond.  This issue is okay but not amazing.

PETER PARKER & MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MEN DOUBLE TROUBLE #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki & Vita Ayala, [A] GuriHiru. Mysterio takes the transporting can to a supervillain convention held in the Javits center. Then he opens the can, and Miles comes out and has to flee from a horde of supervillains. Besides being hilarious, this issue is impressive for the sheer number of different villains (or people cosplaying as villains) who appear in it. There’s even one person who cosplays as Ego the Living Planet.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #134 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. For some reason I got #134 after #135, and I didn’t get #136 at all. I don’t think I’ll even bother to look for a copy of #136, because this series has gone badly off track. There is some good characterization in this issue, but its plot is impossible to follow if the reader isn’t also reading the Armageddon Game miniseries.

2000 AD #2295 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Naked Lunch,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dan Cornwell. Another story about Moe Hallam, the security guard who perceives everyone as naked. She was introduced in prog 2217. This issue she helps Dredd prevent a suicide bombing at a ”sausagefest,” i.e. a literal convention of sausage enthusiasts, so of course this story is full of innuendos. This story shows why Ken Niemand is the best current 2000 AD writer. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan encounters his old enemy Djinndorah, the King of Hell. Brink: as above. Nolan has a horrific vision, then gets murdered, and the story ends with a news broadcast. I don’t understand the appeal of this story. To me it was just a boring talkfest that was about four times as long as it had to be, and I never quite understood its plot. Jaegir: as above. I remain unable to understand this story.

GAY COMIX #5 (Kitchen Sink, 1984) – [E] Robert Triptow. Notable stories include: A Leonard and Larry story by Tim Barela, in which the protagonists come out to their parents. Tim Barela is almost as wordy as Don McGregor, but his art is excellent. Roberta Gregory’s “Just Because,” in which two lesbians get a lesson from a black woman in how to deal with prejudice. This story would not be considered politically correct today. One of the protagonists tells the other that things could be worse, because she could be a blind black lesbian blind terminally ill single mother who lost her child, and then they encounter a woman who meets that exact description. Gregory’s intentions were good, though. Howard Cruse’s “Cabbage Patch Clone,” a reference to the contemporary Cabbage Patch Kids fad. Also lots of interesting material by other artists, though nothing as significant as “I’m Me!” from #3.

MY LITTLE PONY #8 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Shauna Grant, [A] Andy Price. This is the best issue yet, but only because of the art. The story is pointless and it could have been done better with the characters from the previous generation. All of Andy’s previous pony stories have included a cameo appearance by an Observer from Fringe, but if there was one in this issue, I couldn’t find it. This will be my last issue of this MLP series, unless something changes.

JUGHEAD #211 (Archie, 1972) – “I Gotta Be Me!”, [W] Dick Malmgren, [A] Samm Schwartz, etc. This was included for free with Four Color #1024. In this issue’s lead story, Jughead has a dream where he steals Archie, Reggie and Moose’s girlfriends (Veronica is defined here as Reggie’s girlfriend). In the second story, Jughead is revealed to have an amazing memory. In the last story, Jughead makes his dog sleep outside in the cold, but then regrets it. These stories are the definition of average comics, as Bart Beaty has argued, but they’re not bad.

GOTHAM CITY: YEAR ONE #4 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. Slam Bradley gets beaten senseless by the police, then gets in a fight with Richard Wayne. At this point Slam has been beaten up so many times that he ought to be dead already. It’s very frustrating to see him keep suffering all this undeserved corporal punishment. After that, Slam sleeps with Constance Wayne, which suggests the predictable and boring twist that Slam is Bruce’s grandfather. Not that this matters, since we didn’t know anything about Bruce’s grandparents to begin with. Then Slam goes and beats up the corrupt police commissioner, in a scene that’s a blatant ripoff of Gordon’s attack on Flass in Batman: Year One. And this scene also includes a swipe of the trashcan page from Spider-Man #50. During this sequence, Tom King references a lot of old Batman creators, but misspells the names Goodwin, Roussos and Staton. This series is neither original or fun, and I’m not going to read the remaining issues. As another review states: “From Slam’s Korean War backstory to the rehash of Jim Gordon beating Flass in Slam’s beating of the commissioner, it feels like there’s no real verve or zip to the story.”

SECRET INVASION #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Now I Know You’re Human,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. Maria discovers that Tony has been employing a number of Skrulls, and that they’ve been using subcutaneous human blood packs to pass blood tests. Maria comes up with the gross but effective idea of taking a blood sample from Tony’s tongue instead. This proves that he’s human. Then Maria shoots all of Tony’s Skrull employees. This miniseries is another example of Ryan North’s very clever plotting.

ACTION JOURNALISM #4 (Oni, 2023) – “The Superhero Beat?!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklós Felvidéki. Much to her annoyance, Kate Kelly gets put on the “superhero beat” and has to report on the activities of the local superhero, the Volunteer. Her assistant, Grant Russell, is a dorky reporter with glasses, so we’re obviously supposed to assume that he’s the Volunteer. But the twist ending is that Kate herself is the Volunteer – or rather, anyone can become the Volunteer if they act heroically. This story will be completed next issue. The backup story is drawn by Dave Baker, who I haven’t heard of.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #5 (Aftershock, 2023) – “The Message,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. Douglas sacrifices his life to save his home reality, and nine months later, Maddie gives birth to his posthumous child. This was an interesting series, but I think I preferred Campisi and Kaiju Score because of their funny premises.

BLINK #5 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. Wren talks with the ruler of Blink, then he shoots himself, and lots of other weird stuff happens. Finally Wren escapes from Blink, but is left even more traumatized than before. This ending doesn’t feel like a conclusion. Hayden Sherman’s page layouts in this issue are amazing.

2000 AD #2296 (Rebellion, 2022) – This is another Regened issue. Cadet Dredd: “Two Tribes,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Luke Horsman. Dredd helps rescue some slaves from mutant slavers, and is forced to acknowledge the unfairness of Mega-City One’s treatment of mutants. Renk: untitled, [W] Paul Starkey, [A] Anna Readman. In an epic fantasy city, Renk, a one-armed dwarf detective, investigates the kidnapping of a king and queen. His client, the princess, proves to be the real culprit. This story includes a disturbing scene with a husband-and-wife pair whose bodies are conjoined. Otherwise it’s pretty standard. Future Shocks: “Leveling Up,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Steve Roberts. A super-rich man gives all his money away, causing money to become worthless, which leads to social collapse. The twist is that he did all this in order to sell Earth to aliens. I think if everyone on Earth really did get a billion dollars, then in the long term, the effect would be the same as if no one received anything. Money only has value if some people have it and others don’t. Department K: “Crisis on Infinite Estabons,” [W] Rory McConville, [A] Nick Dyer. Department K is invaded by alternate versions of the robot judge Estabon. This is rather funny. ‘Splorers: “The Big Splash,” [W] Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, [A] Neil Googe. The same plot as Fantastic Voyage, except the body into which the protagonists travel is that of their alien pet. Overall this issue was unimpressive compared to earlier Regened issues.

EARTHDIVERS #4 (IDW, 2023) – “Ladies Man,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. The 1492 plotline continues, but by the end of the issue the ships haven’t reached America. The future plotilne also continues, but it still makes no sense. As stated in my review of #3, I think this series would have been better off without the future plotline. I can’t understand it at all, and it’s a distraction from the series’ focus on the colonial encounter.

SACRAMENT #5 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Vass and Rais finally manage to exorcise the demon, and they continue their career despite Vass’s loss of faith. This series is an effective depiction of religious faith. What makes the demon in this series so demonic is that he tells Vass the worst possible things about himself. He accuses Vass of having selfish motives for everything he does, and of acting in ways that contradict his own values. Everything the demon says is true, yet unfair, in the sense that no one – not even a priest – can be expected to have pure motives or to behave in a consistent way. The interesting thing is that this is also how depression works. When you’re depressed, you listen to the internal voice that tells you what an awful person you are.

MY BAD VOLUME 2 #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – “The Pizza Man Cometh,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause. The pizza murders continue, and in the backup features, the former Emperor King goes on a disastrous date. I like this series better than the previous volume, partly because the pizza murder storyline is more compelling than whatever was happening in volume 1. However, I do think My Bad would be better if it had just one full-length story per issue.

2000 AD #2297 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Sentientoid’s Big Idea,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Jake Lynch. A Sov war robot arrives in Mega-City One and starts assassinating people. Sentientoid is an interesting character, but I’d forgotten all about him by the time I read the subsequent story he appears in. Tharg’s 3rillers: “The Crawly Man Part 1,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Lee Milmore. Near the remote Welsh town of Cudd, a creepy man abducts a little girl, Cris. Rather than go to the police, the people of Cudd ask the wizard Herne and his talking dog to rescue the girl. Meanwhile, Caris summons some kind of monster. Skip Tracer: as above. Eden teleports to Valhalla to try to save her father. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 11: The End of the Pier Show Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Steve Yeowell. Dexter and his allies visit a seaside resort village to obtain transport to their next destination, but some assassins are looking for them. Steve Yeowell’s art is somewhat lacking in detail, but he’s an eminent 2000 AD veteran, and it’s nice to see his art again. Jaegir: as above. More incomprehensible nonsense.

SPY SUPERB #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. Spy Superb is known worldwide as the ultimate spy. The trouble is he doesn’t really exist – he’s a myth created by his country’s intelligence service, and his alleged actions are performed by a succession of anonymous people. The latest Spy Superb is a stupid-looking man named Jay Bartholomew, who has no idea he’s supposed to be a super-spy. In a funny sequence, some assassins are sent to kill him, but he kills them all by accident. Spy Superb is off to a good start, but it feels quite similar to Kindt’s earlier series, like Superspy and MIND MGMT and Fear Case.

2000 AD #2298 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. To help against Sentientoid, Dredd consults a character named Buratino, who I don’t remember seeing before. 3rillers: as above. Caris directs a monster, the Crawly Man, to attack her kidnappers, but it also attacks Herne and his dog Shuck. We also learn that the people of Cudd want Caris back so that they can sacrifice her. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan saves Eden, but then has to sacrifice his own life to complete his mission. Dexter: as above. Dexter learns that the voice speaking in his thought ballons is an artificial intelligence, Lilith, the rival of the rogue AI who’s the villain of this whole storyline. Then the two assassins arrive. I like how this chapter provides an in-story explanation for what seemed like fourth-wall breaking. Jaegir: as above. See earlier reviews.

NEW MUTANTS #33 (Marvel, 2022) – “Let It Burn,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Alberto Alburquerque. After some action scenes, Morgan falls off the roof as predicted, but Shela swaps positions with him, and they’re both saved. Shela’s power is clever, though its effects can be confusing. Then we learn that the entire mission was a setup created by Emma Frost and Destiny, which explains why the adult X-Men never tried to rescue the kids. This is the last issue under the present numbering, but Anders’s New Mutants run will continue as a miniseries.  

WEST OF SUNDOWN #7 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. I can’t summarize this issue because it has a ton of different plotlines, and I’m not sure how they’re all connected. It does seem like the primary villain of this storyline is Dr. Moreau. The best part of this issue is the argument between Dooley and Constance. I wish this series would focus more on them and less on its increasingly bloated supporting cast.

A CALCULATED MAN #4 (Aftershock, 2023) – “The Numbers Boy,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque. It really is spelled Alburquerque with an extra R, unlike the city in New Mexico. Jack finishes wiping out the enemy crime family, but then we discover that Jack was actually behind both crime families from the start, as part of a plan he created when he was seven years old. This is frankly hard to believe, and it gives me the sense that Jack is an unrealistic wish fulfillment fantasy (though the above could also be said of most superheroes). A Calculated Man was a disappointing series because it was marketed as being about math, but it really wasn’t.

PINK LEMONADE #4 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. All the characters visit an abandoned film set, where Zavi Xarad reveals that he’s created a robot version of Pink Lemonade. Chaos results, and the factory blows up with Pink still in it. This series is exciting and beautifully drawn, though it still feels like a gender-swapped version of Madman.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES: NAUGHTY OR NICE #1 (Scout, 2022) – “All I Want for Christmas…”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. My copy of this issue has a printing error in which pages 3 and 4 of the main story are transposed with pages 5 and 6 of the backup story. Until I figured this out, I was extremely confused as to what was going on. Anyway, in this issue, Impossible Jones battles a holiday-themed villain, Holly Daze, while also trying to steal the same thing Holly Daze is attempting to steal – a set of rare Jingle Belle puppets. The reference to Jingle Belle in this issue is appropriate because she’s a rather similar character to Impossible Jones. This was a fun issue, and I hope we see more of this character.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #1 (DC, 2022) – “Swords of Arkhane,” [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Jeff Stokely. The two dead detectives, Rowland and Paine, are hired by a young boy to investigate a neighbor who was abducted by ghosts. In their investigation, thy meet a Thai “ghost doctor” who tells them about the different varieties of Thai ghosts. Also, there’s a subplot about Thessaly. This issue is entertaining and creepy, but I especially like its invocation of Thai culture. The key point the Ghost Doctor mentions is that in Western culture there’s just one kind of ghosts, but in Thai culture there are lots of different kinds, all horrible in different ways. This series is a good example of a horror comic that draws upon non-European cultural influences.  

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “To Those Who Would Destroy Me,” [W/A] Tradd Moore. I bought this off the shelf because the artwork is utterly stunning. I only know Tradd Moore from Luther Strode, where his art is notable mostly for its high degree of gore. But here it’s as if he’s become a new artist. His renderings are hyper-detailed and super-weird and they make fantastic use of color. This comic is a good example of what I mean by “visual imagination” – that is, the ability to conceive of things the reader hasn’t thought of before. The only other Dr. Strange comic that has this level of visual creativity and daring is P. Craig Russell’s What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen?, and Fall Sunrise is a worthy successor to that comic. Fall Sunrise’s plot is hard to follow, and may not even make rational sense, but Moore’s writing creates a powerful sense of weirdness.

SHANG-CHI: MASTER OF THE TEN RINGS #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Fathers and Sons,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Michael YG. Shang-Chi and his allies travel back in time to the past, where they meet a kind, noble version of Zheng Zu. Then Shang-Chi and his new girlfriend decide to pursue their relationship further. Sadly this is Gene Luen Yang’s last issue. I was really enjoying this series, and it’s clear that Yang had plans for future stories. Master of the Ten Rings #1 seems like it was condensed from what was intended to be a longer storyline, as the scenes in the past feel rushed, and there’s never any explanation of why Zheng Zu changed from a good man to a villain. I’m glad that DC, unlike Marvel, is willing to support Yang’s current work, as Monkey Prince is playing a major role in DC’s latest crossover.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #9 (Image, 2022) – [W/A] various. The major attraction of this issue is Brubaker and Phillips’s new Criminal story “Teeg’s Christmas Carol.” On Christmas morning, Teeg wakes up in an unfamiliar woman’s bed. Feeling guilty for being a cheating deadbeat dad, Teeg steals the woman’s kids’ Christmas presents and gives them to his own young sons. But the presents turn out to contain dolls, because the women’s children are girls, and Teeg’s attempt to become a good father is an utter failure. This is a well-crafted story that reminds us what an awful man Teeg is. This issue also includes the conclusion to “Closer,” in which the protagonist sends her creepy stalker ex to hell. The other stories in this issue are mostly the same as usual. Since this issue includes a story set in the Frontiersman-Antioch universe, I will mention here that Antioch #3 and #4 were cancelled. I’m not sorry about this at all, since I was not enjoying Antioch.

2000 AD #2299 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Sentientoid tries to join the mob, but he has to kill the assembled mob bosses instead. Buratino turns Sentientoid off and takes it into custody. 3rillers: as above. The two kidnappers claim that they were trying to save Caris from being sacrificed, though this claim is rather dubious, given their abusive treatment of her. The Crawly Man kills the kidnappers, and then Herne sends it through a portal back to Cudd, so that the two problems can take care of each other. I liked this story. Dexter: as above. Lilith saves Dexter and crew from the assassins, who are just extensions of the evil AI, by blocking the assassins’ senses. Dexter’s group escapes to Mangapore to continue their battle with the rogue AI. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan dies, and the rest of Eden’s life is summarized very quickly. Eden dies of old age and wakes up in the previously seen afterlife, where both her parents are together. This is a cute ending, but it seems to preclude the possibility of a sequel, and that’s unfortunate because I liked Skip Tracer. Jaegir: as above. More stuff happens that I don’t understand, and that’s finally the end of this pointless story.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: THE ARMAGEDDON GAME – THE ALLIANCE #3 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Juni Ba. A solo story starring the dog mutant Alopex. I don’t understand how this story fits into continuity, but Juni Ba’s art is extremely effective, and he emphasizes Alopex’s dog-like way of thinking. I ordered Juni Ba’s graphic novel Djeliya, and I plan on reading it soon, since I’m giving a paper on Africanfuturist comics at ICFA.

BLACK BEETLE #4 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “No Way Out,” [W/A] Francesco Francavilla. Another issue with beautiful art and coloring, but a trite and pointless story. It is pretty cool how the villain’s costume is a giant maze. A second Black Beetle miniseries was announced for 2013, but has never appeared, though Francavilla sometimes claims to still be working on it. I frankly think his time would be better spent drawing other comics.

GINSENG ROOTS #3 (Uncivilized, 2020) – “The 3 Sovereigns,” [W/A] Craig Thompson. This issue starts with a description of Shennong, the Chinese agricultural deity, and his connection to ginseng. Then Craig describes his visit to a ginseng festival in Wausau. Thompson’s previous book Habibi, which I have not read, was accused of Orientalism, but in Ginseng Roots it seems like he’s making a good-faith attempt to understand Chinese texts and perspectives. I also like his account of the insularity of rural Wisconsin. I haven’t read Thompson’s latest two books, Habibi and Space Dumplins, but I can easily believe that Ginseng Roots is his best work since Carnet de Voyage.

THE BLACK DRAGON #3 (Marvel, 1985) – untitled, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Bolton. I bought this back when I lived in Atlanta, but I never read it because the previous two issues were kind of tedious. The Black Dragon is a fantasy story set in medieval England. Its plot is too complicated to easily follow – a list of characters would have been useful – and its major appeal is John Bolton’s gorgeous art. In typical Claremontian fashion, this issue is full of nude scenes, and Bolton is very good at drawing female bodies. Two of the characters in this issue are named Jamie and Brian. Those names are also used in Claremont’s Captain Britain and Excalibur.

CATWOMAN #25 (DC, 2004) – “Fire with Fire,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. Selina fights a lot of other villains and criminals for control of the East End of Gotham. This issue consists mostly of action sequences, but Paul Gulacy is very good at action sequences – they’re the thing he’s best at, now that he’s stopped doing Steranko-esque page layouts.

NEW GODS #8 (DC, 1972) – “The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This is obviously an absolute classic. I’ve read it before, but only in black and white. This issue introduces Dan Turpin, the ultimate tough cop, who insists on trying to arrest Kalibak despite being totally outmatched by him. Also, I think this issue reveals Orion’s real face for the first time. This issue’s action sequences are utterly stunning. It occurs to me that I sometimes think of Kirby’s art as looking like that of Steve Rude and Tom Grummett, when it’s actually the other way around: Kirby is the inspiration for those artists, as well as every other artist of superhero comics. This issue includes a short Fastbak story and a Golden Age Manhunter reprint.

WEIRD WORLDS #3 (DC, 1973) – “Into the Valley of Death,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Murphy Anderson. An adaptation of part of The Gods of Mars. Murphy Anderson’s artwork here is very competent, but a bit boring. For some reason DC’s adaptations of John Carter were much shorter-lived than Marvel’s John Carter title. This issue also includes a Pellucidar story by Len Wein and Alan Weiss, whose art is a bit more exciting than Anderson’s.

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #5 (Pacific, 1984) – “Quark,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Rick Burchett. A rather boring superhero story, starring a character who never appeared again. The backup feature is “A Friend in Need” by Ron Harris, about an astronaut stranded in space. This one is also rather unimpressive. Then there’s a two-pager by Rick Geary, and finally there’s a story by Tim Burgard about an alien spaceship that crashes in the Amazon. I thought Tim Burgard was an underground artist, but I was confusing him with Tim Boxell. Probably the best thing about Vanguard Illustrated #5 is the beautiful cover by Michael Kaluta.

DIAL H #8 (DC, 2013) – “Dozens,” [W] China Miéville, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. Another issue with a confusing plot and no clear protagonist. This time around there are also no interesting new superhero concepts. This issue promises to reveal the “secret history of telephones,” but it never really delivers on that.  

MASTER OF KUNG FU #119 (DC, 1982) – “Brynocki’s Marauders,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Marc Silvestri. Shang-Chi, Leiko, Reston and Dark Angel battle Brynocki and his robot minions. After reading Gene Luen Yang’s Shang-Chi, it’s hard to return to the original MOKF series, which was revolutionary for its time, but also deeply immersed in Orientalist cliches. Marc Silvestri’s storytelling in this issue is not good. He uses lots of unnecessary inset panels that should have been regular panels, and on one page he has to use arrows to indicate the order of the panels. That device is not necessary if a page is laid out properly.

MARVEL MILESTONES: BLADE, MAN-THING AND SATANA #nn (Marvel, 1973/2005) – [W/A] various. This issue reprints Tomb of Dracula #10, which I already have in facsimile form, and Fear #16, which I have in its original form. Why they chose Fear #16 is unclear, since it’s neither Man-Thing’s first appearance, nor Gerber’s best Man-Thing story. The only  thing in this issue that’s new to me is the Satana story from Vampire Tales #2. The recoloring of the Dracula story is really ugly.

CHASE #5 (DC, 1998) – “Better Days,” [W] D. Curtis Johnson, [A] Bob Hall. A flashback story in which Chase teams up with Klarion. The main reason I’m interested in Chase is because of J.H. Williams III’s art, but in this issue he only did a four-page framing sequence, and those pages are all drawn in a very conventional style.

THE BLACK DRAGON #4 (Marvel, 1985) – as above. Even though I read this issue shortly after reading issue 3, I still found it impossible to follow. It’s hard to see how the two issues are connected. This issue introduces Robin Hood into the series, as if there weren’t enough characters already. As with #3, the main appeal of this comic is Bolton’s beautiful art.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #17 (DC, 1994) – “The Scorpion Act 1,” [W] Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, [A] Guy Davis. Wesley Dodds investigates the murder of a German businessman. At the end of the issue, while the businessman’s partner is beating his servant, he’s interrupted by a masked man carrying a whip. Sandman Mystery Theatre was one of the finest DC comics of its time, and I wish I had time to read the entire run in order. This issue’s murder victim is introduced as Karl Dechert, but later he’s referred to as Harry.

SOLO #8 (DC, 2006) – various stories, [W/A] Teddy Kristiansen, [W] various. This issue begins with a real gem: “On the Stairs,” written by Gaiman, in which Deadman conducts a recently deceased soul to the afterlife. This story is reminiscent of “The Sound of Her Wings,” and it includes an allusion to Death. The other stories in this issue include some beautiful painted art, but are not nearly as well-written. The last three are written by Kristiansen himself, and are mostly pointless.

THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #5 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Mostly a series of gruesome action sequences whose context I don’t understand. I want to like Justin Jordan’s work more than I actually do. As stated above, Tradd Moore’s art in this issue is completely different from his recent work in Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise.

THE SMURFS FCBD (Papercutz, 2013) – “The Ogre and the Smurfs,” [W/A] Peyo, etc. Gargamel tries to get an ogre to destroy the Smurfs, but his plan backfires. This story is a fun example of the Marcinelle school of French comics, though it seems to have been recolored or redrawn or both. The other features in this issue include Annoying Orange, which is aptly titled, and Ariol, by Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant. The latter story is kind of cute. I have Papercutz volumes of both Smurfs and Ariol – in fact, I probably got both those books at the same convention – and I should get around to reading them at some point.

2000 AD #2300 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Judgment Days,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Henry Flint, etc. In an alternate-reality version of “Judgment Day,” the Judges decide to defeat Sabbat by dropping dimension bombs on him. This works, but causes an even worse problem: the entire multiverse gets infected with zombies. The remaining vignettes in the issue depict the zombies’ battles with various other 2000 AD characters, including Rogue Trooper, Robo-Hunter, Mean Arena, and Sinister and Dexter. I don’t have the energy to list the creative teams for all these vignettes. This issue is kind of silly, but it’s fun, and it’s full of nostalgic references to old 2000 AD stories.

GO WEST (Le Lombard, 1979) – ten stories, [W] Greg, [A] Dérib. I’m going to count this as both a book and a comic book, because it’s published in the French album format, but it’s twice as long as a standard album, at 112 pages. It’s a collection of a serial which appeared in Tintin magazine in 1971 and 1972. Go West is about two unemployed New Yorkers who decide to travel to California. On the way they pick up many other companions and have adventures with outlaws, Indians, more outlaws, etc. In the concluding story, they negotiate a peaceful resolution to the 1867 Medicine Lodge council, which really did happen. Go West seems to be less well-known than other works by its creators, but it’s impressive anyway. It’s exciting and funny, and the many different characters are given distinctive personalities and appearances. The traveling party includes three children who not only act as comic relief, but often play a major role in the plot. Go West is a story about settler colonialism, but the creators do their best to depict Indians in a sympathetic light. There is one Indian character who speaks in Tonto talk, and one black character who’s drawn in a stereotypical style. But there’s also a story where the protagonists are pursued by Osage Indians, and at the end they admit that the Osage people were just defending their territory. Finishing this comic was quite tough, due to its unusual length and its use of dialects and nonstandard French phrases. Indeed, I bought this book back when I lived in Gainesville, but never felt up to reading it – until I discovered the Google Translate app.  

REVIVAL #5 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. Em and May Tao have to escape from an insane kidnapper. Dana only makes a brief appearance. I think this was the last issue of Revival that I hadn’t read.

MS. TREE #11 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Deadline Chapter 3: Dancing in the Dark,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree investigates the murder of journalist Sid Hargis. She discovers that Hargis and a number of other recent murder victims all went to the same high school, and that Dominic Muerta is involved somehow. This was just an average Ms. Tree story. In the letter column, a reader complains that the guns in the series aren’t depicted correctly. In response, Collins says that he once asked Donald Westlake why Parker’s hair color was inconsistent from one book to another, and Westlake replied “shut up or I’ll throw you down the stairs.”

2000 AD #2301 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Half Smart,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Dave Taylor. Two “very smart persons” meet for a public debate, but the audience mistakenly thinks it’s going to be a prizefight, and a riot breaks out. This story is silly, but has some nice art and coloring. Chimpsky’s Law: “A Terrifically Disturbing Adventure,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Noam Chimpsky is my favorite character in recent progs. He only appears briefly in this chapter, which is devoted to introducing Timmy and Thruppence, a pair of terrifying murderous children with mind-control powers and no sense of morality. Enemy Earth: “Book One,” [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Luke Horsman. Young Zoe Lincoln is one of the few human survivors in a world where all the plants and animals have turned into man-eaters. In this chapter she discovers another survivor, an even younger orphaned boy named Julius. Future Shocks: “Echo,” [W] Honor Vincent, [A] Liana Kangas. An unsuspecting man is turned into a human host for a pop idol who’s really an artificial intelligence. Hershey: “The Cold in the Bones Book One,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. Former Chief Judge and her sidekick Dirty Frank travel to Antarctica for reasons I don’t understand. Simon Fraser’s art here resembles that of his near namesake Frazer Irving.

LUBA #6 (Fantagraphics, 2002) – “Meeting Cute, Fucking Cuter” etc., [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Fritz falls in love with an awkward guy named Hector, who encountered two of Luba’s younger kids in an earlier issue. Fritz instead sets Hector up with Petra. This comic is called Luba, but it’s really more about Fritz and Petra. In this issue Hector refers to Petra as “Tondelayo,” a name I recognize from the Al Williamson story in Creepy #83. The original source for this name is the 1942 film White Cargo.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #31 (Marvel, 2017) – “Secret Empire Part 3: End of an Empire,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stuart Immonen. In order to defeat Dr. Octopus’s attempt to take over Parker Industries, Peter has to destroy all of Parker’s intellectual property. This issue is exciting, but its conclusion is very disappointing and anticlimactic. One of Peter’s coworkers even says that she was close to discovering a “perfect green energy source,” and she had to sacrifice all her research. Couldn’t Peter have found a way to defeat Doc Ock without destroying everything he was trying to protect from Doc Ock?

SUPERMAN #51 (DC, 1991) – “Mister Z!”, [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Superman encounters a villain named Mr. Z who has the power to steal people’s souls and imprison them in a gemstone. Superman defeats him by destroying his gem, but a fragment of the gem survives. Also, Perry White resigns as the editor of the Daily Planet. Ordway’s art in this issue is very good.

SUPERBOY #51 (DC, 1998) – “The Last Boy on Earth Part 2: The Test!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. My copy of this issue is signed by both Kesel and Grummett, though I can’t remember if I got them to sign it, or if the signatures were there when I bought it. In this issue, an amnesiac Superboy finds himself in Kamandi’s world, where he’s forced to take a series of tests, and then he recovers his costume. This Superboy run is probably DC’s best attempt at reviving Kirby’s less-prominent ‘70s characters. As an Easter egg, in the warehouse where Superboy’s costume is kept, there’s also a lifebuoy from the SS Minnow, the ship from Gilligan’s Travels.

WONDER WOMAN #260 (DC, 1979) – “A Warrior in Chains!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. Wonder Woman’s bracelets are stolen, causing her to go berserk, and she gets arrested. This is all part of a plot by Mars, the god of war, and his servant Hercules. Eventually Diana manages to overcome the madness and remain sane with her bracelets removed. I guess it was well-established at the time that “if [the bracelets were] ever broken or removed, the Amazon would go into an uncontrollable destructive frenzy, as Dr. Marston’s allegory for the unfettered destruction by the human ego” (Wikipedia). Also, Diana used to lose her powers if a man chained her bracelets together. Both these curses have rather disturbing implications, and were retconned away after Crisis. This issue’s art is very mediocre, but that’s probably thanks to the inker-who-must-not-be-named.

RICHIE RICH AND CASPER #18 (Harvey, 1977) – “Forty Thieves,” uncredited. Richie Rich, Casper and Wendy encounter Ali Baba and the forty thieves, who have been scared out of Casper’s storybook by the Ghostly Trio. I’m losing my interest in these old Harvey comics because of their stupid and illogical plots. Ali Baba is not included in the earliest versions of the Arabian Nights. The earliest source for his story is Antoine Galland’s 18th-century French version.

AVENGERS VS. ATLAS #3 (Marvel, 2010) – “Earth’s Mightiest Super Heroes Part 3,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Gabriel Hardman. The members of Atlas travel back in time and help the original Avengers fight the Hulk. Venus defeats the Hulk by singing him a lullaby, but this also causes Thor to start making out with Namora. There’s a funny backup story where Venus answers mail from various other Marvel characters.

2000 AD #2302 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Pitch,” [W] Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt, [A] Boo Cook. Accounts Judge Maitland suggests that Justice Department should spend money on education and social services, rather than on locking people up. Surprisingly, Dredd endorses this idea, and Maitland is allowed to implement her plan in a single district for one year. This story is very unusual in that it suggests the possibility of a brighter future for Mega-City One. Boo Cook’s painted art is quite good. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Timmy and Thruppence compel two unrelated adults to become their new parents. Then they decide they want Chimpsky to become their new pet. The panel where Chimsky is falling between buildings is a possible homage to the famous opening scene of The Incal. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel Two,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. A creepy woman visits a diner and orders Salisbury steak. What is going on here is not yet clear. Enemy Earth: as above. Julius’s bunker is invaded by evil insects. BTW, this story is a continuation of a one-shot story from #2256, a Regened issue. I can’t think of another example of a Regened story being continued in the regular progs. Hershey: as above. There’s a flashback to Hershey’s past history, and then a present-day scene in which nothing much happens.  

CEREBUS #139 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Melmoth Zero,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Normalroach sits outside Dino’s café, makes ugly faces, and tries and fails to order a glass of tonic water, and that’s literally the entire issue. Melmoth is the point where Cerebus really lost its way. Earlier Cerebus storylines had very fast-paced and dense plots, but starting with Melmoth, or possibly with Jaka’s Story, it became common for multiple issues to go by without anything happening at all. Perhaps the best proof that Cerebus used to be really good is that people were willing to continue reading it even long after it jumped the shark, in the vain hope that it would get good again. This issue’s backup feature is a segment of a 24-hour comic by Steve Bissette.

MEGATON MAN #10 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “Overkill!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. Megaton Man swallows the Cosmic Cueball (i.e. the Cosmic Cube) and then fights an equally powerful villain. This story is rather pointless and unfunny, and none of its pages has more than three panels. There’s also a Border Worlds backup story, which is almost more of an illustrated prose text than a comic; it consists of four double-page splashes with captions. I’m not sure if I’m going to order Don Simpson’s new version of the 1963 Annual. His work doesn’t appeal to me all that much, and it’s misleading to describe this comic as the 1963 Annual, given that it wiill be totally different from the original plans for that comic. I don’t think the original 1963 Annual can ever be published, although at one time I would have said the same thing about Miracleman #25. I just realized that the president in Megaton Man is based on Orson Welles.

LUBA’S COMICS AND STORIES #7 (Fantagraphics, 2006) – “Fritz After Dark,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. An account of Fritz’s relationships with Mark Herrera, the balding motivational speaker, and various other men. This issue is even more focused on Fritz than Luba #6 was. I think Fritz is a far less interesting protagonist than Luba, and I don’t understand Beto’s fascination with her.

TARZAN: A TALE OF MUGAMBI #1 (Dark Horse, 1995) – untitled, [W] Darko Macan, [A] igor Kordey. This issue begins with a prologue claiming that the black warrior Mugambi is Tarzan’s best friend and foil. This is hard to accept, given that Mugambi only seems to have appeared in one original Tarzan novel, The Beasts of Tarzan. In this issue, an itinerant storyteller visits an African tribe and tells them a mythological story about Tarzan and Mugambi. During the story, a little boy wanders off on his own and is nearly killed by a panther, but Mugambi appears and saves him. We then learn that the old storyteller is Mugambi’s father, the little boy is his illegitimate son, and both are also named Mugambi. Disturbingly, no one in the story seems to care that Mugambi (the second) is a deadbeat dad. Igor Kordey’s art and coloring in this issue are fairly effective. Whenever I see his art, I involuntarily remember how people hated his art on Morrison’s X-Men.

BIG ASS COMICS #2 (Rip Off, 1971) – “Eggs Ackley in Eggs Escapes” etc., [W/A] Robert Crumb. As the title indicates, most of the stories in this issue are blatant gratifications of Crumb’s leg and ass fetish. There’s also a one-pager, “A Word to You Feminist Women,” in which Crumb argues that people who criticize his work’s sexual politics are just trying to  censor him. The further we get from the underground comics era, the more Crumb’s reputation will suffer. He’s a brilliant draftsman, but his work is undeniably sexist and racist. The major virtue of his work is his willingness to reveal his darkest fantasies and compulsions, but I’m not sure if that’s a worthwhile thing to do. And anyway, in most of the stories in this issue, Crumb seems to be just indulging his fantasies, without acknowledging their darker or more disturbing qualities.

SKYWARD #6 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 1,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa and Edison board a train heading to Kansas City, but Barrow knows Willa is on a train, so he has all the trains stopped. Willa and Edison escape from the train into the forest, but this is an awful idea because the forest is full of man-eating giant dragonflies. There’s an actual in-story excuse for why the dragonflies were selected as the primary monsters in this storyline, but I assume the real reason is because they look cool.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #205 (DC, 1982) – “The Final Hand!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. With most of the Justice League rendered comatose by Hector Hammond, the few remaining Leaguers have to fight the Royal Flush Gang. Meanwhile, Martin Stein defeats Hammond in a mental battle. This issue is very average.

IRON MAN #107 (Marvel, 1978) – “And, in the End…”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Keith Pollard. In the conclusion to a six-part story, Tony defeats Midas, but his old mentor Abe Klein is killed, and his girlfriend Marianne Rodgers goes insane. Klein had betrayed Tony to Midas because Midas  claimed to know the whereabouts of Klein’s wife and daughter, who vanished in the Holocaust, but in this issue Midas reveals that Klein’s family are dead. Midas has a very annoying habit of calling everyone “sir.” This issue is better than I expect from Bill Mantlo, but I still have not overcome my distaste for his work.

On my next trip to Heroes, I had lunch at the newly opened Menya Noodle Counter, which is now the best ramen restaurant in Charlotte.

NIGHTWING #100 (DC, 2023) – “Power Vacuum Part 4: The Leap,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo et al. Blockbuster releases all the inmates from Bludhaven’s private prison. In a powerful sequence, Dick jumps off a building, and the next five or six pages are all drawn by different past Nightwing artists, so Dick is symbolically “leaping” from childhood to adulthood. I just wish George Pérez could have drawn one of these pages. With the assistance of the Titans, Dick defeats the escaped prisoners, and then Superman and Wonder Woman offer him the position of leader of the JLA. Which would make sense, because Dick is one of the two superheroes who are most noted for their leadership ability, along with Captain America. Dick and Bruce visit Alfred’s grave, and Dick tells Bruce “I love you, Dad.” I don’t remember Dick ever calling Bruce “dad” before. Then Dick turns down the position of JLA leader, and instead rebuilds the private prison as a new Titans Tower. This scene sets up Taylor’s upcoming Titans series. I would normally be skeptical of any attempt to revive the classic Wolfman/Pérez Titans, since other writers, particularly Devin Grayson, have tried to do this and failed. But if anyone can do it and succeed, it’s Tom Taylor.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #28 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Cutter murders a bunch of police officers, beats up the sheriff, and then announces her plan to frame Erica not only for the policemen’s murders, but also for the continuing deaths of children. Because Cutter is going to let the Duplicitype go free, and she knows that Erica is going to remain in town to capture it, since Erica, unlike anyone else in the Order, actually cares about saving children. Cutter’s actions in this issue are utterly contemptible. She kills multiple people for no other reason than to make Erica look bad and to satisfy her own passion for violence. With every issue of this series, it becomes more and more clear that the Order is far worse than the monsters it’s supposed to hunt. It has abandoned its original mission and now only cares about maintaining its own secrecy. To quote something I said on Facebook, a constant theme in James Tynion’s work is how organizations forget their original purpose and become devoted entirely to their own survival. We can also see this in Wynd, the faerie general Eks is willing to sacrifice his own men in order to have an excuse for war, and in Department of Truth, the title organization is willing to sink to any depths to protect itself, to the point that it’s not even clear that they’re any better than their opponents. However, in the latest issue of the latter title, the department finally realizes it’s time to make itself public, because its secrecy is doing more harm than good.

GROO: GODS AGAINST GROO #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. The human and the divine Groo both cause a lot of havoc. The Sage arrives in the new continent with Queen Isaisa’s army, and makes an alliance with some local people in order to invade Mexahuapan, which I believe is the kingdom of the Groo-worshippers. Queen Isaisa condemns the Minstrel to execution. The names of the two kingdoms, Mexahuapan and Tlaxpan, are meant to sound like Nahuatl, and at one point in this issue, a woman is shown  making tortillas on a metate.

BLACK CLOAK #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Meredith McClaren. Black Cloak is set in the city of Kiros, which is inhabited by elves, mermaids, and various other creatures. Our protagonist, Phaedra Essex, is a former elf princess who is now as a “Black Cloak,” or detective. In this storyline she has to investigate the murder of her former fiancé, Freyal. This issue ends on a cliffhanger when Phaedra is stabbed. I love Kelly Thompson’s work-for-hire comics, and I’m very glad that she’s now doing a creator-owned comic. So far Black Cloak has an interesting premise, good dialogue, and a strong ensemble cast. Meredith McClaren’s art in this issue is better than anything I’ve seen from her before.

KNOW YOUR STATION #2 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Liana Kangas. Elise conceals the murder of the cop from last issue, she experiences withdrawal symptoms, and then she discovers another murder. I had trouble understanding this issue. It doesn’t seem to follow logically from last issue, and it doesn’t reference the theme of inequality.

I HATE FAIRYLAND VOL. 2 #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. Between issues, Gert and the rat have managed to escape from hell. Now they plan to use a “Skipping Bird” to skip all the boring parts of the adventure – this is a really funny idea – but the bird dies before it can get them anywhere. Then Gert accidentally creates a giant army of clones of herself, and has to kill all of them. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much, but it’s very funny.  

LITTLE MONSTERS #9 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In a flashback, one of the kids, whose name I forget, is fatally wounded by skinheads before one of the vampires saves him. Then there’s a scene with the surviving twin and his human captor, then the good kids help the human kid escape the city, and finally the non-monstrous kids confront Romie and ask him to tell them the truth. Which should be hard since Romie can’t talk.

DARK RIDE #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Summer and Samhain investigate the Devil’s Due ride and discover Owen’s corpse. A blogger, Theo, is given backstage access to the park, but the mascots force him to put on a mask which is alive and full of teeth, and it eats his head. Then we see that Halloween is responsible for Theo’s murder.

IMMORTAL SERGEANT #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Ken Niimura. An old police sergeant prepares for retirement. This comic is the much-delayed follow-up to the classic I Kill Giants, but it’s in a very different vein. So far it’s more satirical than serious. Due to Niimura’s manga-influenced style, this issue is a very quick read. However, I have faith in these creators, and I look forward to seeing where this series is going.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “Sign Up,” [W] Jordan Ifueko, [A] Alba Glez. Olivia uses her shampoo to kidnap and mind-control people, and when Lunella tries to use Devil Dinosaur as a distraction to escape from the school, Devil is captured and carted away. This is another good issue. I especially like how one of Olivia’s friends has the power to control her hair, but her mother forces her to use hair relaxer so she’ll be “more presentable.” I just ordered Jordan Ifueko’s novel Raybearer.

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #5 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Trish finds herself in the fantasy setting from the first couple issues. She defeats an antler-headed monster and rescues Jack from a cage. I’m not quite sure what happened here. I assume there will be a sequel to this miniseries, but it hasn’t been announced yet. I haven’t read the Passageway graphic novel.  

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #6 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. The humans lead a revolution against the bears, which is useless until an army of alternate-reality Shirtless Bear-Fighters appears. (Also an army of salmon, but all they can do is slap people and drown.) One of the alternate Shirtlesses has his torso where his genitals should be, and… we can assume vice versa, since the upper half of his body is blurred out. The cavalry has arrived too late, and Ursa Major turns himself into a god. One more issue left.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. We start with a sequence where Akai meditates on the destruction of the oceans. Then Eve A convinces Selene to heal Eve B’s injuries, but afterward, one of Selene’s kids stabs Eve A in the back. Akai has to use nanotech to save her. A confusing aspect of this series is that the two protagonists are identical and have the same name, so it’s hard to distinguish between them.

WASP #1 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Kasia Nie. This series’s covers are designed to resemble those of the recent Ant-Man miniseries. However, Wasp has a different narrative structure from Ant-Man. There are only two Wasps (not counting Hank Pym) and so this issue focuses on one of them, whereas the previous miniseries featured a different Ant-Man in each issue. In this issue, Jan and Nadia hang out and fight Jan’s obsessed stalker, Whirlwind, and then we learn that Nadia’s maternal grandfather, Janos Trovaya, is possessed by the same alien creature that killed Jan’s father. This monster appears to be the same one from Tales to Astonish #44, and it’s made a surprising number of appearances since then. I really like how Al Ewing writes both Nadia and Jan, though Kasia Nie is a less exciting artist than Tom Reilly.

BATGIRLS #14 (DC, 2023) – “The Rest is Silence,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jonathan Case. In a silent issue, Cass invades GCPD headquarters, pursues a criminal, and discovers Steph’s letter to be opened in the event of her death. On the last page, Cass finds Steph’s apparently dead body. I really hope Steph isn’t dead – she’s already been fridged once. Jonathan Case’s draftsmanship and page layouts in this issue are stunning, but I had some difficultyGiga  following his panel-to-panel continuity.

GIGA #5 (Vault, 2023) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] John Lê. This comic is shockingly late – it’s been more than two years since issue 1, and more than six months since issue 4. Vault has had chronic problems with lateness, but Giga’s lateness is egregious even for them. Because it’s been so long since Giga #4, I’ve forgotten all but the basic outline of the series’ plot, and I don’t understand the way it’s resolved in this issue. This issue does include what feels like an explanation of the Autobot-Decepticon conflict. I was excited about Giga when it was announced, and I still think it was a good idea, but I would have enjoyed it more if it had come out on time.  

MY LITTLE PONY: CLASSICS REIMAGINED #3 (IDW, 2023) – “Little Fillies,” [W] Megan Brown, [A] Jenna Ayoub. This issue covers Beth’s “death” and the start of Jo’s writing career. I’ve been wondering how the series was going to deal with Beth, since characters don’t die in pony comics. What happens instead is that Fluttershy suffers severe exhaustion while rescuing animals from a flood, and is written out of the story, but Discord acknowledges that the reader knows what’s supposed to happen to Beth. Really the best part of this series is the metatextual jokes. On the first page, Twilight Sparkle complains that one of her newspaper’s reporters missed a deadline, and Rarity replies, “It’s not as if we’re putting together twenty-page issues for release on a monthly schedule.” Also, instead of seliing her hair, Jo sells the color out of her hair.

NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM #4 (DC, 2023) – “The Last Battle of Mary!”, [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. In a twist that I predicted correctly, the evil professor is revealed as Georgia Sivana. Mary defeats her and becomes the new Shazam, which means she can’t say her own name. The issue ends with a tie-in to Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods. This miniseries had excellent art, as I expect from Doc Shaner, and I also grew to appreciate Josie Campbell’s writing.

DARK WEB: MS. MARVEL #2 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sabir Pirzada, [A] Francesco Mortarino. Kamala battles the Inventor and a group of other talking birds based on famous scientists. Meanwhile, the people inside the mosque manage to calm them (i.e. the mosque) down, after they reveals that they’re sick of their congregants’ constant arguments. One of these arguments concerns the date of Eid. From Googling, I learned that the date of Eid is a subject of great controversy, since it depends on the date when the new moon is sighted, and this happens on different dates in different communities. Kamala’s potential love interest, Arjun, does not appear. This was an excellent two-parter that was very much in the spirit of G. Willow Wilson’s original run. I hope we’ll see Kamala again soon.

MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON #2 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Ivan Fiorelli & Luca Maresca. The Beyonder sends Monica back in time to an alternate-reality version of the era when she was the Avengers’ leader. She discovers that in this reality, her parents are dead, and she’s married to Brother Voodoo. Also, her fellow Avengers constantly question her leadership ability. This may be a reference to how in real life, Mark Gruenwald allegedly wanted Captain America to be the leader instead, at least according to a Facebook comment. This issue’s cover is a swipe of Avengers #279, the issue where Monica was elected leader.

WHITE SAVIOR #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Nguyen, [W] Scott Burman. I  bought this off the shelf because Henry Jenkins recommended it on Facebook. In this issue, Todd Parker, an Asian-American with an assimilated name, is transported into the past, where he encounters Nathan Garin, an obnoxious white samurai. This issue is a funny parody of white savior narratives like The Last Samurai. I might as well continue reading this series.

THE FLASH #788 (DC, 2022) – “Rogues to Redemption,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin. Wally and Linda discover that they’re having another child, and then Wally fights the Rogues Gallery, who have been deputized into the Central City police. Just as Wally is getting his ass kicked, the Pied Piper arrives to save him. I never considered reading this series before, but I bought it because I heard someone recommend it, and also because Wally West is “my” Flash. I don’t have any kind of nostalgia for Barry, and it was nice to see Wally and Linda again – and also their kids, though Jai and Iris only make a brief appearance this issue. I’m going to keep reading this series.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE BOOK OF LOVE #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry’s neighbor Don is in debt to the mob. The local police chief is owed a favor by a mob boss, and he considers calling in the favor to help Don. Meanwhile, two women break into a third woman’s office, I’m not sure why, and a struggle results in which one of the burglars is shot. I previously said that this comic was a slice-of-life story, but that is not true of this issue, since some exciting stuff happens in it.

PETER PARKER & MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MEN DOUBLE TROUBLE #3 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki & Vita Ayala, [A] GuriHiru. Miles escapes from the villains, but Peter is captured by Mysterio’s junior protégé. Also, the keynote speaker arrives at the villain convention, and it’s Thanos. That’s not a surprise, since he was shown as the keynote speaker in issue 2. This is another very fun issue. The Family-Circus-esque two-page splash, where Miles is dodging all the villains, is a brilliant idea, but it’s very hard to read in the correct order.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #9 (Marvel, 2023) – “Pax Mohannda Part 4,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva. This issue has no interesting plot developments, no significant characterization, and no political content. I wanted to like this series, but it’s going nowhere, and this will be my last issue.

CRASHING #5 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. I somehow missed issue 4, but it appears that in that issue, Rose dug herself into a deeper hole: she operated on a child while high on drugs, causing his death. In this isuse Rose at least manages to save her husband, but she lets the villain, Gordian, go free, even though she has a perfect opportunity to shoot him. It’s pretty bizarre that Rose is too high-minded to kill someone who deserves it. Like, what good does it do her to try to act morally, when her character is already tarnished beyond repair? As long as she’s already committed so many unforgivable sins, what further harm can it do her to commit another sin which would have had a positive outcome? Anyway, afterward, Rose’s husband divorces her and she loses her medical license, so she starts a new job running secret clinics for superpowered people. The trouble with Crashing is that Rose is one of the most unsympathetic protagonists I’ve ever seen. She killed her future husband’s sister while driving under the influence, then married him under false pretenses, and she went on to do all sorts of other horrible stuff. It’s kind of hard to read a story where the protagonist is a complete monster, unless it’s a redemption narrative. And Crashing is not that, because it takes until the end of the series for Rose to even start redeeming herself, and her crimes may well be unredeemable.  

MONKEY PRINCE #10 (2023) – “The Monkey King and I Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus and Supergirl battle the Ultra-Humanite, and then a person who’s been turned into a gorgon by “lazarus rain.” To win these fights, Marcus has to master his power to turn his hair into clones. At the end of the issue, Marcus meets a number of other superheroes. As mentioned above, I’m glad DC is making Monkey Prince a flagship character, because I really like him. However, it takes Marcus quite a long time to realize his grandfather is the Ultra-Humanite, and he still doesn’t seem to acknowledge that his parents are professional criminals. I’m not sure if he’s ignoring their crimes because of filial piety, or if he’s just oblivious.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #11 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Butcher’s Return Part One,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Antonio Fuso. Jace spends most of this issue taking care of the children at his camp for monster victims. But the Order of St. George can’t stand the thought that anyone actually cares about protecting children from monsters, so at the end of the issue, an army of White Masks descends on the camp. I’m glad that this series is readable again, after a run of five awful issues.

DAREDEVIL #7 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 7,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre & Marco Checchetto. Matt and his villain allies save some people from being unjustly evicted, and there’s some further development on the Hand/Fist plotline. The best moment in this issue is when Stilt-Man gets a chance to be a hero for once, by using his height to catch a falling child. The eviction sequence takes place in Charlotte, but the city depicted looks nothing like Charlotte at all. (When I bought this comic, the clerk at Heroes called my attention to this scene.)

KAYA #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Wes Craig. Jin has a divine visitation, Seth reveals to Kaya that he’s betrothed to someone else, and the party have to talk their way into a walled city of fish people. This issue has some gorgeous art. I especially love the panel where a shining hand, wreathed in a snake, comes from above the panel border to touch Jin’s hand. However, I have trouble believing that Kaya and Seth are a couple, since she’s human and he’s a lizard.

WONDER WOMAN #795 (DC, 2023) – “Before the Storm Part 2,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Diana and Wonder Girl battle Eros and Hyperion, both of whom seem to be working for Hera. At the end of the issue, Diana is assaulted by a horde of admirers. This was a lackluster issue, and I’m annoyed that the boring Young Diana backup stories are still continuing. I still love Paulina Ganucheau’s art, but I wish these stories were written by a better writer.

ALL AGAINST ALL #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. The human survivor, who the aliens have nicknamed Helpless, continues his singlehanded battle against them. The problem with this issue is that it focuses heavily on the aliens’ internal politics, and this part of the issue makes little sense, because I can’t tell the aliens apart. However, Caspar Wijngaard’s art is still excellent. Some of the aliens seem to be named after famous writers like Borges and Pynchon.

ZOOT! VOL. 2 #1 (Hotel Fred, 2017) – various stories, [W/A] Roger Langridge. I ordered this and the following three issues from Langridge’s website. Each issue of this new Zoot! series consists of various stories, of which some are autobiographical, and others are about recurring characters such as Fred the Clown, the Fez, and Art d’Ecco. This issue’s high points are the two autobiographical stories. In the first, Roger meditates on the Brexit vote, and in the second, he and his family visit his native New Zealand for the first time in years. I especially like the moments when Roger’s older child acts like a typical thirteen-year-old. Another highlight is “Venus in Fur,” about a man who tries to capture a yeti. When he opens up a book called HOW TO TRACK AND CAPTURE A YETI, it’s blank except for a note that says “If you work out how to track and capture a yeti, please write it down on the blank pages provided.” Roger Langridge is one of the world’s best cartoonists, and this series includes some of his best work. It’s a pity that it’s not easier to find. I never heard of it until I saw a Facebook post that mentioned one of his other recent self-published comics. In this issue’s editorial section, Langridge states he can’t get any work in commercial comics anymore. Given his level of talent, that is very very sad. However, by the time of issue 4, his career had picked up again slightly.  

OLD DOG #3 (Image, 2023) – “Back Into the Cold,” [W/A] Declan Shalvey. Jack and Retriever visit Russia, where Jack meets an elderly lover of his, Flower. Jack’s purpose is to find out whether Flower is going to be targeted by his enemies, but Flower solves that problem for him by committing suicide. These last couple issues have not fulfilled the promise of issue 1.

SPECS #3 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Chris Shehan. Kenny visits the address where the spectacles were shipped from. There he has a vision in which the spectacles’ previous owner tells him that after he finishes making his wishes, the glasses will kill him. Kenny returns to his hometown, where Ted is being interrogated by a racist cop. Kenny breaks Ted out of jail, but a mob chases after them. They decide to burn the spectacles. Specs is an entertaining series that has much more real-world relevance than Booher’s previous work.

ART BRUT #2 (Image, 2023) – “Key of Dreams Chapter 2”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Detective Margot Breslin investigates a case in which some student artists killed themselves by cutting their own tongues out, in a literal realization of a saying by Matisse. Meanwhile, Art Brut and his companions travel through the interior of the Mona Lisa. This issue includes some gorgeous art and coloring, especially in the opening dream sequence where Margot imagines paint coming out of her shower nozzle. However, this issue’s plot is rather mystifying.

NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “Soul of the Machine,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Namor battles the original robot Human Torch, but there’s no particular reason why the reader should care who wins. This series is so boring and pointless that I’m not going to bother finishing it, even though there’s just one issue left.

THE DEAD LUCKY #5 (Image, 2023) – “A Shift in Power,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Bibi teams up with the Salvation Gang and Shift – who has become the Massiveverse’s flagship villain – and they prepare for a final confrontation with Morrow. This is still the worst Massiveverse title. Each issue of The Dead Lucky includes a phone number and URL for the Veterans Crisis Line, but that gives the false impression that The Dead Lucky is primarily about veterans and PTSD. In fact, Bibi’s veteran experiences are usually not this series’ main focus. It’s more about gentrification in San Francisco, which is a much less exciting topic.  

GRIM #7 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Stephanie Williams, [A] Flaviano. In a hospital, all the dying patients suddenly come back to life. Then Jess has a talk with a priest, and a voice tells her that to save life, she has to save death. This issue is much grimmer and more gruesome than the rest of the series, and its only apparent connection to issue 6 is the red marks on everyone’s foreheads.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #10 (Marvel, 2023) – “Hated and Feared,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue’s POV character is Professor X. In Xavier’s monologue, he confronts his fundamental creepiness. He admits that he makes people suspicious, and that people are right to be afraid of mutants – especially himself personally, since he’s put a psychic block on all of humanity to prevent nuclear war. The greatest virtue of Kieron Gillen’s X-Men is how it delves very deeply into each of its characters. As for the plot, the Quiet Council seems to defeat Mr. Sinister, but on the last page, Professor X takes off the Cerebro helmet, and we see that he has a diamond on his forehead. This is a shocking revelation, and it makes me excited about Sins of Sinister.

AVENGERS: WAR ACROSS TIME #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “War Across Time!”, [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Alan Davis. Sometime between Avengers #4 and #16, the original Avengers fight a robot Hulk created by Kang. Paul Levitz’s late-career work has mostly not been at the same level as his ‘70s and ‘80s comics, but it’s still exciting to see him writing the Marvel characters for the first time. However, the real attraction of this series is the art by Alan Davis, who is probably the most distinguished active artist of superhero comics. His art here is up to its usual level, but seems cruder and less slick than usual. It occurs to me that this may be because he inked himself, rather than being inked by Mark Farmer. What I think of as Davis’s distinctive style of draftsmanship is really Farmer’s style.

ZOOT! VOL. 2 #2 (Hotel Fred, 2018) – as above. This issue introduces a new recurring character: William McGonagall, the world’s worst poet. Also there’s an autobio story in which Langridge attends an anti-Brexit march, and some wordless Fred the Clown stories. In addition to his other virtues, Langridge is an excellent wordless storyteller.

KROMA #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Lorenzo De Felici. I had to order this on eBay because Heroes didn’t have it, thanks to a computer error. This issue, Kroma escapes from the crazy old bird-man, then goes looking for her alleged father, the King of Colors. The King lives on top of a crystal mountain, so Kroma climbs the mountain, and while she does, we start seeing evidence that the crocodile creatures are intelligent. When Kroma finally meets the biggest of the crocodiles, she has a cut on her forehead, so her face has the same blue-red-green color sequence as the crocodiles’ eyes. Thus, the crocodiles perceive her as one of them, and she’s able to communicate with them using the old man’s colored pouches. This is another fascinating issue. I especially like the two parallel splash pages where the crocodile and Kroma look at each other.

HUMAN TARGET #10 (DC, 2023) – “Then Kill,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. This issue reintroduces G’nort, perhaps the most pathetic Green Lantern. Chance gets G’nort to take him to Oa so he can find out where Guy Garnder is. Back on Earth, Chance fights Guy, and there are some panels that seem to be homages to the famous “one punch” scene. TBH, I think that  scene has become a cliché, and because it’s so well remembered, it’s caused people to forget that Giffen and DeMatteis’s JLA often had a very serious tone. I’ve gotten kind of sick of this series, and I’m glad it’s almost over.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Fall Sunrise,” [W/A] Tradd Moore. More absolutely stunning artwork, with brilliant detail, bizarre costumes, vivid coloring, and complicated page layouts. Besides Defenders Beyond, this is the most beautiful Marvel series in recent memory. Like issue 2, this issue has a complicated and difficult plot, and it’s hard to see how it connects to issue 1. But the plot is of secondary importance when the art is this incredible.

DANGER STREET #2 (DC, 2023) – “The Green Team,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornes. I really like the idea of doing a single comic with all the First Issue Special characters. However, now that the novelty of that idea has worn off, I realize that the problem with Danger Street is that thirteen protagonists is perhaps too many. Danger Street #2 has a ton of different plotlines, and it’s not clear how or if they all relate to each other. And all these plotlines seem to be equally important, which means that this issue is lacking a central focus.

HIGHBALL #5 (Ahoy, 2023) – “Revolutions Per Second Part 2,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball’s teammates rescue him from the Mentoks’ torture, and then the Mentoks go after the guy from last issue’s cover. Assuming this is the last issue, it doesn’t offer much of a resolution, and I didn’t like Highball as much as Captain Ginger or Bronze Age Boogie.

LEGION OF X #9 (Marvel, 2023) – “A Voice in the Wilderness,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Netho Diaz. Kurt confronts Margali, who’s working with Orchis, and meanwhile Professor X visits Legion inside the latter’s mind. I want to like this series, and it has its good moments. But it also has an excessively large cast and a lack of plot direction or theme. It’s not clear whether Nightcrawler or Legion is its real protagonist, and I’m also not sure how their stories are supposed to fit together.

ZOOT! VOL. 2 #3 (Hotel Fred, 2019) – as above. This issue has a framing sequence in which Roger thinks of various story ideas while lying awake at night. The first of these is a haunted house story starring Art D’Ecco and the Gump. In the next story, William McGonagall is defrauded by a person claiming to be Dion Boucicault, the celebrity actor and theatre producer. Langridge presents McGonagall as an idiot who’s blind to his own lack of talent, as well as a neglectful husband and father. However, Langridge also seems to admire McGonagall’s perseverance in the face of failure and mockery.

AVENGERS: EVERYDAY HEROES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paco Diaz. I got this for free at Walgreens when I went there for a vaccination. It’s a free public service comic – the first such comic I’ve seen in a long time – and it was sponsored by Pfizer in support of COVID vaccination. For a free promotional comic, it’s not bad. At first it doesn’t seem to be about vaccination at all. Instead, most of the issue is a conversation between patients at a vaccine clinic, on the subject of the Avengers’ constant battles with Ultron. The patients talk about how Ultron constantly adapts himself to become more dangerous, and how the Avengers have to adapt their own strategies to keep defeating him. The reader is expected to realize that this is a clever metaphor, where Ultron and the Avengers stand for diseases and vaccines. According to Brian Cronin, Paul Allor received a lot of criticism from anti-vaxxers for writing this issue, even though if Allor hadn’t written it, someone else would have.

VIOLATOR #2 (Image, 1994) – “The World,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Bart Sears. The Violator tries to escape from his four brothers, as well as another character who’s a parody of the Punisher and/or Nuke from Daredevil: Born Again. This miniseries is one of the less distinguished of Alan’s ‘90s comics for Image, but it’s necessary for an Alan Moore completist like me. This issue’s editorial page mentions a forthcoming Angela miniseries written by Neil Gaiman. This miniseries actually was published, and somehow I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing of it.

2000 AD #2303 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Buratino Must Die 01,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Henry Flint. In a flashback, Dredd has to decide what to do with two captured Sov agents, Buratino and Izaaks. Henry Flint’s rendition of Judge Anderson is gorgeous. There’s one particular page that’s built around a giant close-up of her face. Chimpsky’s Law: as #2302 above. Timmy and Thruppence try to mind-control Noam, but it doesn’t work because he’s not human. Then Noam beats up a criminal who’s a Wally Squad judge in disguise, and Timmy and Thruppence force the criminal to shoot himself. Hope: as above. A coven of witches purchases the former Trinity site in New Mexico, and President Truman comes to visit. One of the characters in this chapter is Norma Desmond, the villain from Sunset Blvd. Enemy Earth: as above. Zoe refuses to help Julius and runs away, but then she changes her mind and comes back for him. Hershey: as above. The judges in Antarctica City are looking for drug dealers. Hershey introduces herself to them, calling herself Julia Wagner.

THE MARQUIS OF ANAON T.1 (Dargaud, 2002/Cinebook, 2015) – The Isle of Brac, [W] Fabien Vehlmann, [A] Mathieu Bonhomme. I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, but I finally got around to it. It was so good that I finished it in one sitting, even though I was exhausted at the time. In the 1720s, our protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Poulain, travels to a remote island in Brittany in order to tutor the local baron’s son. But when he arrives, the son is found dead, and he can’t get transportation off the island. Poulain discovers that the baron is responsible for the murder, and that he’s been kidnapping local children and subjecting them to cruel and fatal medical experiments. In the climax, the baron chases a wounded Poulain into the water, only to be sucked into a pool of quicksand that appeared out of nowhere. The people of the island give Poulain the name “Marquis of Anaon,” the last word being Breton for lost souls. This story has no actual supernatural content, yet it has a constant mood of mysticism and magic. Mathieu Bonhomme’s art is not flashy, but it’s very atmospheric and moody, and his visual storytelling is excellent. I already have the second volume of this series, but I want to read some other BD albums first.

THE PHANTOM #1505 (Frew, 2008) – “The Great Deception Part 2,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Cesar Spadari. In the 16th century, the first Phantom’s son is falsely accused of a conspiracy, thanks to the machinations of the Singh Brotherhood, and the Phantom has to save him. This is a typically exciting Phantom story, but the confusing part is that it includes two characters who look very similar and who both use the title Don. One of them is much fatter than the other, but I still wasn’t sure at first if they were the same person or not. In the editorial column, Jim Shepherd discusses how this story may contradict Lee Falk’s version of the early Phantoms’ history.

ZOOT! VOL. 2 #4 (Hotel Fred, 2020) – as above. This issue begins with a silent story about a ventriloquist and his animate dummy. In the other long story, McGonagall receives five pounds – a large amount at the time – from the real Dion Boucicault, as an apology for the deception that was practiced upon McGonagall in Boucicault’s name. Like the asshole he is, McGonagall uses the money to travel to London, giving his wife only one shilling for his children’s upkeep. What happens to him in London is not shown. Langridge has continued doing a regular webcomic on his blog, but there hasn’t been another Zoot! comic since 2020.

2000 AD #2304 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd confronts Buratino and his talking horse, and discovers that Buratino has the deactivated Sentientoid in his possession. There’s a gratuitous but cute scene with Anderson, and then a mysterious hooded man enters Mega-City One. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Timmy and Thruppence frame some random guy for the murder of the undercover Judge, and then they get another person to throw Chimpsky off a building. Enemy Earth: as above. Julius’s robot, Nanni, is about to be destroyed by carnivorous plants, but Zoe uses an armored vehicle to rescue Nanni. Hope: as above. The witches assassinate President Truman. I have no idea what’s going on in this series, and it has nothing to do with the previous Hope story arc. Hershey: as above. Hershey and Dirty Frank continue looking for the drugs. This story has some nice painted art, but it’s boring, and it requires knowledge of Hershey’s prior history.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: ZERO’S JOURNEY #0 (Tokyopop, 2018) – untitled, [W] D.J. Milky, [A] Kei Ishiyama. A manga sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas. This comic is stupid, and I just read it because it was short.

KOBRA #2 (DC, 1976) – “Code Name: Gemini!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Chic Stone. Kobra battles another villain named Solaris, and we learn that Kobra and his twin Jason Burr can feel each other’s sensations. That must make it awkward when Jason has sex with his girlfriend. Kobra was a pointless and stupid concept, and this issue is a chore to read. Pasko said that he “wrote all of Kobra with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek—it was a preposterous exercise dumped in my lap” (Wikipedia). According to that same Wikipedia page, Kobra #1 was fully written and drawn by Kirby, but before it was published, it was extensively rewritten and redrawn. It would be nice if Kirby’s original version of that issue could be published. Some of the original pages from that issue were reprinted in Jack Kirby Collector #22, but I don’t know if the rest of the pages have survived.

BIRTHRIGHT #35 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey uses his magical talents to defeat Brennan and Kallista, because as much as he hates magic, Mikey is still willing to use it to save his brother. In the flashback, Zoshanna turns herself into an even worse monster. I can’t remember if she ever appeared again, or if so, what happened to her.

HARLEY QUINN #27 (DC, 2016) – “Tool Boxed In,” [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] John Timms. Harley battles Red Tool, an obvious stand-in for Deadpool. There are some funny jokes in this issue, but Harley and Deadpool are the two most annoyingly overexposed characters at their respective companies, and they’re even more annoying together than alone.

THE FLY #1 (Archie, 1983) – “The Return of the Sinister Spider!”, [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] James Sherman. I didn’t even realize who drew this story until now – I thought it was Rich Buckler, because his name appears second in the credits. Now that I realize it’s Sherman, I actually appreciate the art more. When I thought it was Buckler, I assumed that every panel in the issue was swiped from some other artist. However, I still think this story is rather boring. The first backup story reintroduces the Shield, another old Archie hero. Rich Buckler both wrote and drew this story, and his art is blatantly ripped off from Kirby. The second backup story, starring Mr. Justice, is by Chris Adames and Trevor von Eeden, and it has some extremely awkward page layouts.

CHEVAL NOIR #42 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “Suburban Nightmares: Secrets,” [W/A] Michael Cherkas, [W] Larry Hancock, etc. The highlight of this issue is Cherkas’s disturbing story set in ‘50s America. I’ve never read much of this creator’s work, but maybe it’s worth seeking out more of it. This issue also includes a boring manga chapter by Masashi Tanaka, and “Soup Line” by Antonio Cossu and Michel Jasmin, in which some poor people are served soup which is heavily implied to be made with human meat. By this point in its run, Cheval Noir had mostly abandoned its original mandate to publish high-quality French comics.  

SGT. ROCK #312 (DC, 1978) – “No Name Hill!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Frank Redondo. Rock and Easy Company are ordered to defend a hill. When they arrive there, they find no hill at all, but then they create a hill of enemy corpses. In the backup story, a pious soldier saves his unit from some Japanese soldiers. This story is uncredited, but I correctly identified its artist as Tom Yeates, and I’m very proud that I got this right.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #280 (DC, 1982) – “General Scar’s Army of Crime!”, [W] Cary Burkett, [A] Rich Buckler. Superman and Batman fight General Scar and his team of military-themed villains (Major Disaster, Captain Sulfur, etc.). This story is just average. The highlight of the issue is Joey Cavalieri and Trevor Von Eeden’s Green Arrow story, in which Ollie saves a woman from a cult. The cult appears to be based on the Moonies, since it holds mass weddings  between strangers. Von Eeden’s draftsmanship is much better here than in some of his other comics, and his unusual page layouts are exciting rather than confusing. Next there’s a terrible Hawkman story by Rozakis and Saviuk, and a Captain Marvel story by E. Nelson Bridwell and Don Newton, which retells Kid Eternity’s origin.

2000 AD #2305 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. A young Judge, Huang, is hailed as the greatest Psi-Judge since Anderson, but she’s assassinated by a Sov agent, Vasilisa. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky saves himself from a fatal fall, but then he’s chased by a mob of Timmy and Thruppence’s mind-controlled slaves. Hope: as above. This chapter reintroduces Hope himself, or at least I think it does, but I have no idea what he’s doing. Enemy Earth: as above. Zoe and Julius travel to the Scottish Highlands in pursuit of a signal from government forces. Hershey: as above. Hershy and Dirty Frank use a tracking device to follow a drug dealer. This is the last issue in the most recent Prog Pack that I received.

SECRET SIX #28 (DC, 2011) – “The Reptile Brain Part 4: The Skull Just Beneath the Flesh,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jim Calafiore. Two different Secret Six teams battle each other in hell, and then they team up to fight ̨Machiste from Warlord, who is possessed by Deimos from the same series. At the end of the issue, Amanda Waller manipulates the team in her characteristic fashion. Then Giganta assassinates Dwarfstar, who murdered Giganta’s boyfriend, Ryan Choi,  during the Brightest Day crossover. This issue has some good scenes, but it’s hard to understand.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #26 (DC, 1995) – “Night of the Butcher Act 2,” [W] Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, [A] Guy Davis. Wesley meets Dian Belmont after a long separation, but she doesn’t want to see him. Wesley and the police separately investigate some murders where the criminal appears to have escaped through the sewers. Throughout the issue, Wesley meditates about two of his father’s servants who seemed to have a perfect marriage. A funny moment in this issue is when a sewer worker tells a cop that it’s impractical to travel through the sewers because of the fumes, and the cop replies “Yeah, those fumes’ll kill you” while lighting a cigar.

THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #3 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Another issue full of ultraviolent, gruesome mayhem. Again, I want to like this series, but it’s too gory for my tastes.

ANNIHILATION #4 (Legendary, 2014) – “None More Dark,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frazer Irving. This issue includes some excellent painted art, but like many of Morrison’s recent comics, it makes absolutely no sense at all. The only way I’d be able to understand this series is if I read the whole thing in order, and even then I doubt I’d be able to follow it. Its plot seems to revolve around two supernatural entities called Nomax and Vada.

JLA/HITMAN #2 (DC, 2007) – “On the Darkside Part 2,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. When the Justice League are depowered by Bloodlines parasites, Hitman is the only one who can save them, since he’s not a superhero, and therefore he’s able to kill enemies. I hate Hitman’s own series, so I was prepared to hate this issue too. But its ending, in which Superman reflects on the now-deceased Hitman’s memory, is surprisingly poignant. Garth Ennis is capable of being a good writer when he’s not wasting his talents on vulgar low comedy.

A VOICE IN THE DARK #1 (Image, 2013) – “Blood Makes Noise Part 1,” [W/A] Larime Taylor. This creator is mostly famous because he’s disabled and he draws by holding a pen in his mouth. However, that’s not the only notable thing about A Voice in the Dark – it also has an intriguing plot. The protagonist, new college student Zoey Aarons, is a murderer, having killed a high school classmate who was bullying her best friend. Now Zoey has constant intrusive fantasies of murdering other people. This issue is an effective piece of psychological horror, and I’d like to read more of this series.

JUNKWAFFEL #4 (Print Mint, 1972) – various stories, [W/A] Vaughn Bodē. This issue is a miscellany consisting of many different features, including a Cobalt-60 story and a series of diagrams of “Tongball” vehicles. None of the stories in this issue are effective uses of the comics medium. They’re either static diagrams, or they consist of illustrations interspersed with excessively long blocks of text. Vaughn Bodē was a brilliant draftsman, but I get the sense that he wasn’t much good at panel-to-panel continuity.  

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #6 (Pacific, 1984) – [E] David Scroggy. The best thing in this issue is a four-pager by Joey Cavalieri and George Pérez, a wordless story about teenage graffiti artists. “Struggle’s End” by Rex Lindsey is a boring science fiction story with an art style that’s derivative of Ditko. Peter Milligan and George Freeman’s “The God Run” has some interesting art, but its story feels like an inferior prototype for Milligan’s Sacrament. Bill DuBay and Vince Argondezzi’s “Hump Hammersmith, Buttkicker-at-Large” is as silly as its title suggests.


Final review post of 2022


Time to write the last set of reviews for 2022, even though it’s already 2023:

RADIANT PINK #1 (Image, 2022) – “Meet Cute/Horrible,” [W] Meghan Camarena & Melissa Flores, [A] Emma Kubert. Radiant Pink, or Eva, was previously seen in issue 12, where she was was killing herself because of her unsustainable livestreaming job. In this issue, we see that Eva’s friend Maddie is helping Eva maintain her secret identity, and also making sure Eva sleeps and eats. But Maddie is actually collaborating with a villain, and at the end of the issue she conspires to trap them both on an alien planet. Eva is a compelling character because her passion for her job is the reason why she’s so good at it – and yet this very passion causes her to neglect her own health.

FIRE POWER #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. The protagonist and his wife go on a date, and we learn that she’s still jealous of his relationship with his childhood love interest, but then the restaurant gets invaded by villains. The interesting part of this issue is the main characters’ family dynamics. This comic feels like a realistic portrait of a strained marriage. However, the main plot of Fire Power is still a stupid piece of cultural appropriation, and this comic still wouldn’t be worth reading if not for Chris Samnee’s art.

DETECTIVE COMICS #978 (DC, 2018) – “Batmen Eternal Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Javier Fernandez. The Batman family fights a group of villains called the Colony, who are somehow associated with Jacob Kane, and Kate Kane takes sides with her father, even though he’s still an awful man. Other than that I’m not sure what this comic is about.

POISON IVY #7 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Atagun Ilhan. Ivy goes to work for a fracking company in Montana, run by a certain Beatrice Crawley. She discovers that Crawley is using Jason Woodrue’s formulas to create some awful monsters. Crawley is an interesting villain because of her moral ambiguity. She’s obviously evil, yet she makes a convincing case that she had to do it in order to succeed as a female CEO in a sexist world. She’s a good demonstration of how the Lean In mentality is actually anti-feminist. The guest artist, Atagun Ilhan, is a significant step down from Marcio Takara. Ilhan is good at drawing plants and monsters, which must be why he got this job, but he’s not good at drawing realistic female faces.

GOLDEN RAGE #5 (Image, 2022) – “Funeral,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. Rosie and the protagonist (whose name I can’t remember) leave the island in the boat, but then they decide to turn around and build a better society on the island. This miniseries was a big disappointment. The writer was more interested in making old-lady jokes than in exploring the implications of her premise. Golden Rage could have been another Bitch Planet, but it wasn’t.

GOTHAM CITY YEAR ONE #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. After some investigation, Slam finds baby Helen’s dead body. This issue is less objectionable than the rest of the series. A poignant scene occurs when Slam hears a baby crying and thinks he’s found Helen’s kidnapper, only to discover that the “kidnapper” is an innocent man, and the cries are coming from the man’s own child. Since the man is black, this scene shows that Slam is guilty of the same prejudices as all the other white people in the series. However, this issue was not enough to keep me from giving up on this series. See my review of #4 below.

SECRET INVASION #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Full of Surprises,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. Working freelance for Maria Hill, Nick Fury investigates a report of a dead man who was allegedly a Skrull. Fury discovers that the man’s wife and children were all Skrulls. Then we learn that the “Fury” who’s telling this story to Maria Hill is himself a Skrull, part of a much larger Skrull conspiracy. This issue is probably an improvement on the original Secret Invasion, because Ryan North really digs deep into what might happen if anyone could potentially be a Skrull. The scene at the beginning with the dead man is powerful: his wife is happy that her husband’s dead, because she’s convinced himself that her husband’s body is that of a Skrull, and therefore her real husband must still be alive somewhere. (Of course we don’t know yet that the woman is a Skrull herself.)

FAMILY TIME #1 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Lily Windom & Robert Windom, [A] Asiah Fulmore. An American family visits rural Ireland, where they get sent back in time to the remote past. This comic is reasonably well done, but when I saw issue 2 on the shelf, I had to think seriously about whether to buy it or not. And I decided that if I was that unsure, I had better not buy it. The first issue just didn’t do enough to arouse my interest.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 (Marvel, 2007) – “The Death of the Dream Part 1,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. This is the one where Sharon Carter is manipulated into assassinating Cap. At the time this issue came out, I had stopped reading this series, and I thought Cap’s death was a stupid publicity stunt. At the tail end of the Bush years, it also felt like a sign that America was finished. In hindsight, both Captain America and the nation of America had far worse times ahead. Like all of Brubaker and Epting’s Cap run, this issue is very well-crafted, but the entire issue is just setup for the climactic moment of Cap’s death.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #134 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. There’s some good characterization in this issue, but the overall plot is hard to understand since I’m not reading the Armageddon Game crossover series. This series has been in a slump for quite a while.

BATMAN: DARK VICTORY #10 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Tim Sale. Bruce and some Gotham police fight Two-Face and Mr. Freeze in the sewers, and Dick Grayson, not yet Robin, goes on an investigation. Tim Sale’s lettering and colors create a very striking, moody effect, and even a month after reading this comic, I still remember the panel where Gordon discovers the hanged corpse of one of his fellow cops. I need to collect more of Loeb and Sale’s collaborations.

THE VARIANTS #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica finally defeats all the evil duplicates. This was a pretty fun series. It was a touching exploration of Jessica’s character and relationships, and I like all the alternate Jessicas, especially the Vision Jessica who engages her “regret subroutine.”

ALL AGAINST ALL #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. This is based on the Predator franchise, which I’m not familiar with. It seems to be about some alien hunters who travel to a postapocalyptic Earth and encounter a primitive human, who proves to be a much more formidable opponent than they expected. What’s really impressive about this comic is Caspar Wijngaard’s art. I think I’ve only encountered him before on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, but his art here is even better. He draws some weird-looking aliens and savage animals, and his coloring and linework are striking. I didn’t have this on my pull list, but I’ve added it.

THE ROADIE #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. The father and daughter do some bonding. We learn about Joe’s penny, which serves as the locus of his power – I had forgotten all about this by the time I read issue 4. And then of course the demons show up and start hunting Joe and Shelby again.

KAYA #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Wes Craig. The protagonists spend the issue hunting a horrible two-headed monster. This issue has some beautiful artwork, especially the splash page where we first see the Magron. However, so far Kaya’s writing is less successful than its art.

SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part 3: Spinning Out of Control,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. After a long series of action sequences, most of the Spider-Men (and others) get corrupted, and Spider-Gwen stabs Peter with a magical dagger, causing him to vanish from existence. Again the most fun part of this issue is Spinstress, who continues to sing even after she turns evil.

STILLWATER #16 (Image, 2022) – “For Eternity,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. This issue finally gives us Stillwater’s origin story. In 1842, a woman named Clara has triplet sons, but she loses one of them at birth, and another in the Civil War. To protect her surviving son, she performs a ritual that makes everyone in Stillwater immune to death. But it backfires horribly, and Clara buries herself in the ground, which causes the immortality curse to end. She wakes up again in 1985 and creates the Stillwater we know today. Some of this didn’t make sense to me until after I read issue 17. This issue confused me because  it shows a Civil War battle taking place in Stillwater, and I somehow thought Stillwater was in Maine, where there weren’t any Civil War battles. I thought I remembered a scene where some people in Bangor or Lewiston were talking about Stillwater. Maybe I was thinking of a similar scene in Stephen King’s Needful Things.

HEXWARE #1 (Image, 2022) – “The Puppet Tree,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. Hexware is set in a dystopian future world where the richer you are, the further you live from the ground. The android protagonist, Which-Where, is the servant to a rich family, and when the family’s daughter, Jesminder, is murdered, Which-Where summons some kind of demon to get revenge. This comic is an interesting blend of cyberpunk and dark fantasy, but I don’t think that’s an original idea; it was done before in Shadowrun. Also, I had trouble figuring out just what was going on in this issue.

THE BLUE FLAME #10 (Vault, 2022) – “How Do You Plea?”, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Sam calls himself up to testify, and a verdict is finally reached. We don’t get any clear answers as to what the verdict was, or whether the trial was real to begin with, but the series ends with Sam’s baby niece finally being born. Christopher Cantwell is an inconsistent writer, but Blue Flame was his best work since She Could Fly.

DAREDEVIL #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 6,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Daredevil tries to integrate his prisoners into the Fist, with assistance from Doc Samson. There’s a somewhat touching scene where Daredevil talks to Bullet, although I  don’t know this character’s history. Meanwhile, Elektra tries to assassinate the President. I don’t like this volume of Daredevil as much as the previous volume. Its plot isn’t quite as exciting. Why should I care about the conflict between the Hand and the Fist?

300 #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – “Fury,” [W/A] Frank Miller. At the last convention I bought all the issues of this series except for #1. 300 is unquestionably a beautiful comic, full of striking visual compositions. However, it’s also a morally repugnant work, and it represents the point where Frank Miller went completely off the deep end. I will have more to say later about 300’s sexism and homophobia, but in this issue, it’s also notable how Miller distorts the historical record. In this issue Leonidas has to apply to the ephors, a group of deformed old men, for permission to lead his army against the Spartans. After asking their oracle for a prophecy, the ephors refuse this permission because the Carneia festival is still going on, and so Leonidas has to go to Thermopylae with just his personal guard of 300 Spartans, not his entire army. Then we learn that the ephors made this decision after receiving a bribe from the Persians. There is no historical evidence that the ephors were bribed in this way. All Herodotus says is that “the Carneia was in their way, but once they had completed the festival, they intended to leave a garrison at Sparta and march out in full force with all speed.” So the purpose of the scene with the ephors is just to show how Leonidas is noble and courageous, unlike the dishonest, ugly old ephors. And their ugliness is significant because in this series’ ideology, manliness is the greatest virtue, and ugly men are less manly.

EARTHDIVERS #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Kill Columbus Part 3: Yellow Woman,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. This issue takes place almost entirely in the future timeframe, rather than in 1492. That’s a problem because we still don’t understand just what the hell is going on in this future timeline. Who are the future characters, and what are they trying to do? Why is their world post-apocalyptic? How does their time machine work? None of this has been explained to my satisfaction. While I was reading issue 4, it occurred to me that Earthdivers would have been much better if the future timeline was entirely omitted, and if the entire story took place in 1492. This is the same problem I have with the Assassin’s  Creed series, where the Desmond sequences are just a distraction from the real game.

BATGIRLS 2022 ANNUAL (DC, 2022) – “Vice Versa Part 1 of 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Steph and Cass get their bodies switched, in Freaky Friday fashion. This is inconvenient because Steph, in Cass’s body, is then kidnapped by Cass’s mother Lady Shiva, while Cass, in Steph’s body, is kidnapped by Steph’s father, Cluemaster.  This story is continued in the next regular issue of Batgirls, and there’s no backup story, which makes me wonder why this was an annual and not a normal issue. It’s nice to see Robbi Rodriguez’s art again.

SO BUTTONS #12 (self-published, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Jonathan Bayliss. I ordered this directly from Bayliss because Paul Gravett promoted it on his Facebook page, and I was impressed by its roster of artists, including Jesse Lonergan, Carol Tyler and Noah Van Sciver. This comic is a collection of short anecdotes from Jonathan Bayliss’s life, each drawn by a different artist. The exception is that the Carol Tyler story is an unpublished one-pager which is not about Bayliss. The stories in this issue are funny and charming, in kind of the same vein as True Story, Swear to God, and I like the diversity of artistic styles. I’d be willing to read more of this comic, and I’m glad to see that self-published comic books are not a completely dead format yet.

X-MEN RED #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “Return of the King,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. The resurrected Vulcan invades an intergalactic peace summit and beats everyone up, until Storm arrives to confront him. Al Ewing’s Guardians of the Galaxy, S.W.O.R.D. and X-Men Red are all really a single long series, with Storm as its dominant character.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “The X Lives of Moira VI,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Mr. Sinister has created a clone of Moira, with Moira’s power to reset the timeline. He uses it to make repeated attempts to assassinate the Quiet Council, but keeps failing to assassinate Hope, who is his primary target. Finally he does manage to kill Hope, but Kitty Pryde has figured out what’s going on, and she leads the rest of the council against him. This issue’s POV character is Kitty, but the story isn’t really about her; she just acts as the narrator. I’d have liked to see more of Kieron’s take on Kitty.

ABSOLUTION #5 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina overcomes the child killer and tortures him to death,  to the great delight of her audience, but she still hasn’t quite reached absolution. She finds another criminal to assassinate, only to discover that he wants her to kill him. She decides to wash her hands of the whole situation, and allows her timer to expire, accepting her own death. This ending is disappointing because it does nothing to change the dystopian Absolution system. In this series Milligan seems to be critiquing how the media appeals to people’s lowest desires, but he offers no solutions to that problem.

ORCS: THE CURSE #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs and their allies finally team up and defeat the wizard and his curse. This is an entertaining conclusion to the miniseries, though it doesn’t leave much room for another sequel.

NOCTERRA: VAL SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “The First Ferryman,” [W] Scott Snyder & Tony Daniel, [A] Francis Manapul. In a flashback, Val and her mentor Raleigh Royce visit a place called Denton which turns out to be full of cannibals. Val escapes, but Raleigh is killed. In the present, Val finds Diggs, who betrayed her and Raleigh to the people of Denton, and takes him hostage. (This summary is courtesy of this review.) This is an okay issue, but it doesn’t advance the series’ plot.

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francesco Francavilla. The twist ending is that the people running the asylum are actually the good guys, and it’s the old film director who’s trying to resurrect the Ghoul. Orson survives and defeats the old man, only to be captured by the ghoul cult, and in typical horror fashion, the series ends with the suggestion that the ghoul has only been defeated temporarily. This was a very gruesome and creepy piece of horror, but Francesco Francavilla’s art was more conventional and less exciting than earlier in his career.

THE DEAD LUCKY #4 (Image, 2022) – “They Sit Like Scars,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. After a bunch of random stuff happens, Bibi decides to ally herself with the Salvation Gang, since she and the gang have a common enemy in the Morrow corporation. The Dead Lucky is my least favorite Massiveverse title because of its lack of an overarching theme, or rather because it has too many themes at once, and they don’t fit well with each other.

NEW MUTANTS #32 (Marvel, 2022) – “Swap Out,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. In order to escape from the U-Men, Escapade has to stretch her powers beyond safe limits. Then she finds herself on the rooftop where she foresaw herself killing Morgan. This series is passionately written, but I’m not in love with it. I think the best part about it is the Young Shela & Morgan segments, which are drawn by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt. BTW, it seems like Ro Stein and Ted Brandt are almost a single creator, since they only ever work with each other.

MY BAD VOL 2 #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause. A year after the previous miniseries ended, a murderer disguised as a pizza delivery man is going around killing people whose names resemble those of superheroes (e.g. “Mort Spidderman”). I was disappointed with the first volume of My Bad, so I was surprised at how much I liked this sequel. The pizza murders provide an intriguing plot hook that turns this series into more than just a collection of silly superhero parodies. Also, the pizza murderer seems like an homage to Steve Gerber’s Elf with a Gun. They both have the same modus operandi of knocking on people’s doors and then shooting them dead.

SECRET INVASION #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “All I Need to Do is Kill It,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. Maria Hill develops a blood test that can distinguish between Skrulls and humans. She makes all the Avengers take the blood test, and Black Widow fails it and is revealed as a Skrull. But then we discover that Tony Stark is also a Skrull, and that he somehow outsmarted the blood test (in issue 3 we find out how). The blood test scene reminds me of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh novels, where constant blood testing is accepted as a fact of life.

HEART EYES #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Víctor Ibáñez. The other protagonist saves Lupe, only to realize that she’s really the monsters’ queen, not their victim. I think this series is mostly interesting for Víctor Ibáñez’s depictions of monsters. Its plot and characterization aren’t all that great, especially now that we know its protagonist is a murderer.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Alien and the Amphibian!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. I bought this at the December Charlotte Comic Con, only to discover that my copy was missing several pages. I ordered another copy on eBay to replace it. The centerpiece of this issue is Mar-Vell’s fight with Namor. I forget what the pretext for the fight is, and at this early point, there wasn’t much to distinguish Mar-Vell from any other Marvel hero. Gene Colan’s fight scenes in this issue are not bad, but his draftsmanship is ruined by the inker who must not be named.  

REVIVAL #1 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. I already had this issue, but only as an Image Firsts reprint. In fact, my current copy of this issue is also a reprint, but at least it doesn’t have the Image Firsts trade dress, and that’s good enough for me. See here for my previous review of Revival #1, to which I have nothing to add.

AGE OF BRONZE #1 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Shanower. Young Paris is a poor herdsman, content to raise his famous white bull and make love to his girlfriend Oenone. But then the bull is confiscated by servants of Priam, king of Troy, to be offered as a prize in some upcoming games, and Paris decides to go to Troy and win the games, so he can get the bull back. This is an inconvenience to Paris’s parents, since Paris’s real father is Priam himself, and if Paris goes to Troy, he’ll never come back. I’ve read this story before in trade paperback form. On rereading it, I notice how Shanower decided to begin his epic story in a very humble, low-key way – the first three panels of the issue show Paris being awakened from a nap when his cow licks him. This is kind of like how LOTR begins with some quiet scenes in the Shire.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #62 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Sin City Episode 13,” [W/A] Frank Miller. Unlike any other issue of DHP that I’ve read, this issue consists of just one story: the last chapter of the first Sin City storyline. In this issue, Marv teams up with Wendy, the sister of his dead lover Goldie, and they finally take their revenge on Goldie’s killer, Kevin. Then Marv confronts Cardinal Roark, who was an accomplice to Kevin’s crimes. But after Marv kills Roark, he’s coerced into confessing to all of Kevin’s murders, under the threat that his own mother will be murdered if he doesn’t. The story ends with Marv’s execution. Sin City was probably Miller’s last great work, but it’s so grim as to be emotionally manipulative. Miller expects us to believe that Sin City is completely corrupt, to the point that everyone is too terrified to try to challenge its corrupt power structures. This was also how Miller depicted Gotham City in Batman: Year One, or New York in Daredevil: Born Again. But each of those stories ended on a hopeful note, because there were people who were willing to fight to change things. In Sin City, the heroes aren’t much better than the villains – in “Episode 13,” Marv takes a sadistic joy in torturing Kevin and Roark to death. And all Marv achieves in the end is revenge, not justice or change. I don’t enjoy reading stories that are this dark and hopeless.

HOUSE OF X #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Once More Unto the Breach,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Pepe Larraz. Emma springs Sabretooth from prison, the X-Men attack the Orchis base, and we get an explanation of Orchis’s endgame and the hierarchy of different types of Sentinels. Jonathan Hickman seems to have a passion for organizing and classifying and numbering things. This issue also includes a key to the Krakoan script.

BATMAN #104 (DC, 2021) – “Ghost Stories Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Ryan Benjamin et al. A flashback explains the origin of Ghost-Maker, who is the same character as Anton from Batman: The Knight. This was revealed in Batman: The Knight #9, but I didn’t notice. In the present, Clownhunter has kidnapped Batman and Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy and Spoiler search for them.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #4 (DC, 1997) – “On the Stump,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider hires Channon Yarrow, a former stripper, as his new assistant, and they try to get an interview with the corrupt President, who Spider calls the Beast. Spider finally  confronts the Beast in the bathroom, and in a famous scene, he shoots the Beast with a “bowel disruptor.” This results in the line “Help! The President’s shat himself!” Transmetropolitan is a very funny and clever comic, but Warren Ellis’s entire body of work has been tainted by the #MeToo allegations against him. His work has a cynical, grim sensibility, a sort of “fuck your feelings” attitude, and his protagonists tend to be anoral jerks. And now we know that Ellis exhibits this same amoral, uncaring attitude in his dealings with other people.

FOUR COLOR #1245 (Dell, 1962) – Sherlock Holmes: “The Derelict Ship” and “The Cunning Assassin,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Bob Fujitani. This series is billed as “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” but both stories are in the same style as Arthur Conan Doyle’s original prose stories. In the first story, a ship owner hires Holmes to investigate the disappearance of his cargo. The predictable twist is that the ship owner stole the cargo himself, and hired Holmes to try to cover it up. In the backup story, Holmes saves a visiting Indian prince from being assassinated by anarchists. This story is less satisfying than the first one because it’s not a mystery. Bob Fujitani is a forgotten artist, but he was a very skilled draftsman.

MIRACLEMAN #18 (Eclipse, 1990) – “Skin Deep,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. A lonely man has an affair with Miraclewoman, and she helps reawaken his interest in the world. In the backup story, we see how Kid Miracleman has become a fashion icon for rebellious youth. I’ve read both these stories before, and neither of them is among my favorite stories from this run. This issue’s letter column includes some fascinating responses to Miracleman #16.

SKYWARD #5 (Image, 2018) – “My Low-G Life Part 5,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A Lee Garbett. Willa saves her dad (Nathan) from the giant floating thunderstorm, but thanks to Roger Barrow’s meddling, Willa’s dad has to sacrifice himself in order to get her back to the ground. This scene would have had a greater impact if I didn’t already know that Nathan was going to survive.

BIRTHRIGHT #31 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan.  In a flashback story told by Kallista to Brennan, we see how Lore tried to teach Mastema to be a wizard, but Mastema killed all her teachers. Also, Mastema was given Kallista as a pet. This issue is full of brutal moments.

RUMBLE #3 (Image, 2018) – “Soul Without Pity Part III: Minds in Ferment,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] David Rubín. I don’t quite understand this issue’s plot, but the most memorable scene is when a man in a red hat hijacks a town meeting in order to campaign against monsters. David Rubín’s art is the main selling point of this issue. He successfully combines monstrosity and cuteness (one of the main characters in this issue is a little orange-and-white-striped tentacled blob).

GHOST RIDER #7 (Marvel, 1974) – “…And Lose HIs Own Soul!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Jim Mooney. Johnny Blaze battles the Zodiac member Aquarius, who’s bargained with the devil to obtain the powers of all twelve Zodiac members for a year. Over the course of the fight, Aquarius uses all twelve Zodiac members’ powers. The devil decides that this counts as a year, and drags Aquarius to hell. I reread the issue carefully, and I think the number of powers he’s shown using is less than twelve. I’ve never collected Ghost Rider actively because I don’t think it was ever all that good, although it had a long run. My copy of this issue is in extremely low grade.

EUGENIC #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eryk Donovan. In a dystopian future, hideous-looking “Numans” are now the dominant species, and regular humans are confined to a ghetto. The humans’ only hope for social advancement is to take a test which, if they pass, will entitle them to have their genes used by the Numans. The protagonist, Bekk, discovers that even the test is fake, and the humans who pass it are put into test tubes. Bekk broadcasts this information and foments a rebellion against the Numans, but is killed before she can see if it succeeds. This is a very grim, bleak story, and the Numans look terrifying. Eugenic was part of a trilogy of three series, with Memetic and Cognetic, but I don’t know if the three series’ plots are connected.

THE WAKE #6 (Vertigo, 2014) – “The Wake Part Two,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. Many years after the first story arc, most of America is now flooded, and a cruel dictatorship rules what little of it remains. Our protagonist, Leeward, discovers a radio signal coming from underwater, but while she’s listening to it, she’s arrested by government troops. As they’re dragging her off, the voice on the radio says that she’s Lee Archer, the protagonist of the first volume, and that she’s still alive and knows how to save the world. This series has an interesting plot (though its ending is anticlimactic, see below), but the best thing about it is Sean Murphy’s striking renderings of technology and cityscapes. He makes the reader feel immersed in a different world. I particularly like his panel compositions and camera angles, which make the page seem vaster than it really is.

STARSLAYER #7 (First, 1983) – “A Case of Do or Die!’, [W] Mike Grell, [A] Lenin Delsol. This was the first issue published by First rather than Pacific. After a flashback, Torin Mac Quillon and Tamara go on a new adventure. Starslayer was more important for its backup features (Groo, Rocketeer and Grimjack) than for its main stories, and the quality of the main stories went way down when Lenin Delsol replaced Grell as the artist.

AZTEK, THE ULTIMATE MAN #2 (DC, 1996) – “Too Many Crooks,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] N. Steven Harris. Aztek and Kyle Rayner team up against Major Force, who murdered Kyle’s first girlfriend. I guess Aztek didn’t really have any high concept or premise; perhaps it was just supposed to be a reaction against the hyperviolent superhero comics of the time. The best part of this issue is Aztek’s application for federal registration as a superhero, which takes up the last two pages and is full of funny jokes, like “Have you been bitten by anything radioactive? (yes/no)”

JULIUS CORENTIN ACQUEFACQUES T.5 (Delcourt, 2004) – La 2,333^e Dimension, [W/A] Marc-Antoine Mathieu. This series is probably the most advanced example of metatext in the comics medium. Each volume is a very deep exploration of the formal properties of comics. In this volume, the eponymous protagonist discovers that the system of linear perspective has stopped working, and his world is stuck between two and three dimensions. To fix the problem, he has to travel into the third dimension. When he reaches the third dimension, the reader has to put on a pair of 3D glasses, which are included, to continue reading. This comic predates The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, which also included 3D glasses as a similar narrative gimmick. Also, Jules discovers that his world is just one of many worlds, and the other “worlds” include an earlier album of his own series, as well as Trondheim’s La Mouche and Schuiten and Peeters’s Fever in Urbicand. The latter book was a major influence on Mathieu because of its focus on metatext and architecture. Julius Corentin is a very, very important work, and any scholarly account of the use of metatext in comics would be incomplete without it. If I’d had easier access to these books when I was writing my own first book, I might have written about them. The trouble is that none of these books have been translated into English, and some of them have unusual features, like pop-up pages, that would make them expensive to publish in physical form.  

THE WAKE #7 (Vertigo, 2014) – “The Wake Part Three,” as above (though that title is misleading since issue 5 wasn’t part one). Leeward and her mentor Pub are now galley slaves aboard an ocean liner. A villain, Marlow, promises to kill not only the two of them, but also everyone else who might know about Leeward’s signal. After this sequence, I was furious at Marlow, and I was very disappointed that he’s still alive after issue 10. Before Marlow can kill Leeward, a giant Mer capsizes Leeward’s ship and eats her, and inside its mouth, she meets some human pirates. Again, this issue is full of spectacular renderings of landscapes, vehicles and creatures.  

THE SANDMAN #13 (DC, 1989) – “Men of Good Fortune,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Michael Zulli. This is the issue that introduces Hob Gadling. I think it was the first issue that was set in the past, unless “Tales in the Sand” counts. I know this story very well, but it was still worth revisiting. On rereading, I notice that when Gadling went into the printing trade, his partner was William Caxton, the first English printer. It’s also interesting to notice how the inn’s architecture and décor change with each century, even though it remains in the same place, and how Morpheus and Hob dress in period-appropriate clothes. The most powerful moment of the issue is in 1689, when Hob is at his lowest ebb, and Morpheus asks him whether he still wants to live, and he pauses for two panels before saying “Are you crazy? Death is a mug’s game. I got so much to live for.”

MEGATON MAN #7 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – “No Bad Guy Shall Escape My Patrol!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. This issue is mostly a series of parodies of various other comics – Elfquest, Green Lantern and Green Arrow (including a reference to the “black skins” page), and the Spirit, specifically P’Gell. Stella Starlight and the other Ann Arbor characters don’t appear in this issue, and as a result it’s not very interesting. Megaton Man, like certain issues of Cerebus, is not going to age well, because its jokes are only funny to readers who are familiar with all the things it’s parodying. This issue also includes a Border Worlds story which is composed mostly of talking heads. I just saw that Fantagraphics was going to publish a print version of the never-published 1963 Annual. That’s exciting, though I can’t imagine how they got permission to do it.

THE SPIRIT #42 (Kitchen Sink, 1949/1988) – four stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. “The Vernal Equinox” is a cute and cleverly plotted story where some criminals try to recover some loot from under a dam. “Foul Play” is an acknowledged classic, in which a man falsely believes he’s going to be accused of murder. There’s one brilliant sequence in which the man decides he’s worrying about nothing, and then the phone rings. The sound effect RING takes up most of the middle tier of the page, and it causes the man’s entire body to tense up in shock. “A Pot of Gold” is about a female leprechaun and a group of three villains, including Mr. Carrion. “Introducing Lovely Looie” is a parody of the wrestler Gorgeous George, who was a pivotal figure in the history of both television and professional wrestling, although he’s barely remembered today.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #294 (DC, 1981) – “The Darkness!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Carmine Infantino. A rich man is afraid of the darkness because of a voodoo curse. His assistant murders him, only to be claimed by the curse himself. Very boring art. “Old Haunts,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Tom Yeates. Jud Hershel, the sole inhabitant of a creepy old house, meets a young woman named Gretchen who claims she’s a ghost. Gretchen says that she committed suicide when she found her husband cheating. The twist ending is that, first, it was Gretchen who was cheating, and second, she’s still alive, and Jud is a ghost. This is a far better story than I expected from this era of House of Mystery. “Congratulations, Mr. Bates – It’s a Warlock!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] George Tuska. A new father tries to get a court order to prevent his newborn son from being raised as a warlock. However, the baby is already intent on becoming a warlock, and he turns his father into a teddy bear.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #3 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Big Worm,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. We finally find out why the ranch is named after Oscar Wilde: because the owner met Oscar Wilde on his lecture tour of America. Oscar Wilde really did visit Texas on a lecture tour, although I can’t find any proof that he gave a lecture in Austin, as stated in this issue. Also, the origin of the worm creatures is explained.

MS. TREE #22 (Renegade, 1985) – “Right to Die Chapter One: Death Factory,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree is facing murder charges and her license is suspended, but of course she gets involved in a case anyway, when an old associate of her husband’s asks for her help in blowing up an abortion clinic. Obviously Ms. Tree refuses to do this, and when she investigates the would-be arsonist’s house, he knocks her unconscious. Sadly this story is just as relevant now as 28 years ago.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #5 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Free,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. I still don’t understand this series. I can at least recognize some of the characters now, but this issue has way too many characters, and I have no idea who they are or how they’re connected. The most enjoyable thing about this issue is Gabriel Bá’s artwork, which is reminiscent of Mignola’s but also quite different, especially in terms of coloring.

GROO #9 (Image, 1995) – “Arfetto,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo and Rufferto encounter Rufferto’s long-lost brother Arfetto. The two dogs look completely  identical, so as one would expect, the two of them get mistaken for each other. Groo takes Arfetto on his adventures, while Rufferto is imprisoned for offenses that were in fact committed by Arfetto. After the mix-up is resolved, there’s a hint that we’re going to see Arfetto again, but I don’t think he ever appeared again. No one in the story seems to notice that Rufferto has a jeweled collar and Arfetto doesn’t.  

THE WAKE #8 (Vertigo, 2014) – as above. The pirates prove to be friendly, and Leeward tells them about Lee’s message. But the government troops – “the Arm” – have implanted a tracking device in Lee, and they lead an assault on the pirates. Not much to say about this issue.

THE WAKE #9 (Vertigo, 2014) – as above. Long after issue 8, Leeward and the pirates get to the source of the signal. In a flashback sequence, Leeward alludes to a lot of other adventures that happened between issues 8 and 9, none of which are narrated in detail. This sequence suggests that Snyder had more stories he wanted to tell in this milieu, but that he only had ten issues to work with. By comparison, in his current series Nocterra and Undiscovered Country, Snyder is free to make his story as long as he wants. Anyway, the Arm troops arrive just as Leeward is decoding the signal, and the issue ends as Leeward encounters Lee’s ghost.

THE WAKE #10 (Vertigo, 2014) – as above. Lee reveals to Leeward that the mers are the original inhabitants of Earth, and that humans are a shapeshifting invasive species. Marlow kills the evil President, though he unfortunately survives himself, and the series ends happily. This ending is kind of a disappointing anticlimax. In the final reveal, so much information is dumped at once that it’s hard to understand it all. Overall, I think the best thing about The Wake is Sean Murphy’s spectacular artwork. As a story, it’s not awful, but it doesn’t have the same impact as Snyder’s later work.

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #24 (1993) – “Impact!”, [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jon Bogdanove. I only have a few issues of Man of Steel, while I have lots of ‘90s issues of Superman, Adventures of Superman and Action Comics. Man of Steel felt like the least important Superman title. I read this issue when it came out, though I never owned it, and I remember it quite well, especially the sequence where Graham grows absurdly fat and yells “hammer slammer!” That sequence has always creeped me out.

EXTREMITY #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. In a battle between the Paznina and the Roto, Thea chooses to save Rollo rather than pursuing the enemy. When Thea tells Jerome that she won’t kill her own brother, Jerome slaps her, further proving that his singleminded desire for revenge has turned him into a heartless monster. Jerome is an example of what Yeats meant when he said “Too long a sacrifice / can make a stone of the heart.” After this scene, Hobbie sacrifices himself so Thea and Rollo can escape, but their vehicle is shot down.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2014) – “Darkest Hours Part 3: Dark Embrace” (title only appears in the trade paperback reprint), [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. Doc Ock/Spidey merges with the Venom symbiote and becomes the Superior Venom, though he still calls himself “I”, not “we”. Peter/Otto, Anna Maria and Aunt May have some relationship drama, and there are some other scenes with the various Goblin characters. This is just an average issue with no truly memorable moments.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #4 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Autumns of Our Discontent,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. Jonah sleeps with Hildy, the Autumn brothers visit Big Worm, the good guys sing a song about hunting worms – regrettably we don’t know the tune to the song – and then the Autumn brothers invade the farm. This series is much more humor-oriented than any other Jonah Hex comic I’ve read, and its humor is often very sexual and scatological.

300 #3 (Dark Horse, 1998) – “Glory,” [W/A] Frank Miller. The Spartans prepare for battle, and Leonidas rejects the assistance of Ephialtes, a gruesome deformed misfit. As noted in my review of #2, in this series, a character’s physical fitness is directly proportional to his manhood. As we know, Leonidas’s rejection of Ephialtes will come back to bite him in the ass, as Ephialtes will betray the Spartans to the Persians. When a Persian ambassdaor says that the Persians’ arrows will blot out the sun, a Spartan replies “Then we’ll fight in the shade.” Unlike some things in 300, this line is historically accurate; it’s quoted by both Herodotus and Plutarch. This series’ letter columns are rather depressing, because the letters are uniformly positive, and they ignore the series’ toxic politics.

SGT. ROCK #396 (DC, 1985) – “A Piece of Rag… a Hank of Hair!” and “The Pied Piper of Peril!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. Two reprinted stories, from Our Army at War #208 and #215, both focusing on children. In the first story, Easy Company encounters an abandoned child, and they almost get killed when some Nazis take the girl hostage. In the second story, a Nazi officer manipulates some children into trying to assassinate Rock and his men, by threatening to kill the children’s fathers if they disobey him. This is a far better story, since the Nazi is a plausible and frightening villain. Russ Heath’s artwork in both stories is brilliant. It occurs to me that all of Sgt. Rock’s stories must have taken place in a very limited span of time, since the European Theater of World War II was only active from 1944 to 1945.

THE EXTREMIST #4 (DC, 1993) – “January, Nineteen Ninety-Four,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Ted McKeever.  Jack and Judy’s neighbor Tony listens to their audio tapes and becomes obsessed with the Extremist and the Order, to such an extent that his wife leaves him. At last Tony finds Judy, and she kills him, apparently at his own desire, and disappears with Patrick. Along with Enigma, The Extremist was one of Milligan’s best works of the ‘90s. It’s a disturbing examination of the connection between sex and violence.

Next trip to Heroes:

NIGHTWING #99 (DC, 2022) – “Power Vacuum Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo & Gerardo Borges. Having gotten out of prison, Tony Zucco visits “the Hold,” a mysterious underground bank, to retrieve a jewel called the Eye of Kahndaq. Dick follows Tony, defeats his minions Double Dare, and brings him to justice. Dick also learns that he himself has some property in the Hold’s keeping. Also, Heartless launches his plot to take over Gotham. The climactic two-page spread, where Dick is pursuing Double Dare through the Hold, is impressive, but it’s hard to read it in the correct order.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #27 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This is not so much a new storyline as a continuation of the previous one. We see some of the history of Randi’s family, and Cutter captures the Duplicitype and intentionally feeds a little boy to it, in order to turn it into a  duplicate of Erica. After reading issue #28, I realize the true horror of what Cutter does here.   She’s an agent of the Order of St. George, whose whole reason for existing is to protect children from being killed by monsters. Yet in this issue Cutter murders a child by feeding it to the Duplicitype, just for the sake of making Erica look bad.

GROO: GODS AGAINST GROO #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. At the end of Play of the Gods, the people of the new continent began to worship Groo as a god, causing a divine version of Groo to manifest in heaven. Now the divine Groo is driving the other gods crazy. Meanwhile the human Groo is lost at sea, but he manages to make it back to the new continent, just as Queen Isaisa is sending an invasion fleet there. Also there are subplots involving Taranto, the Sage, and the Minstrel and Kayli. Sergio is now 85, yet his artwork is as detailed and hilarious as ever, and he continues to challenge himself creatively.   

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The good humans reach Strawberry’s lair, but are too late to save Wynd from being abducted by the vampire lady. When Oakley tries to defend Wynd, the vampire woman cuts his hand off. Wynd’s parents appear briefly on the last page. This miniseries ends on a very grim note – and by the way, James Tynion’s stories tend to be very grim in general, though The Backstagers is a notable exception. It’s going to be tough waiting for the next miniseries. During his fight with the vampire woman, Wynd asks “I don’t understand why you won’t just leave us alone! We’re only kids! We just want to live!” This is the basic question of this series. All the kids want is to be left alone to grow up in peace, yet all three factions – the humans, vampires and faeries – are constantly pursuing Wynd in order to take advantage of him for their own purposes. It’s infuriating. And I have the same question about certain factions within real-world America – like, it’s okay if people want to be homophobic or transphobic in private, but do they have to impose their bigotry on the rest of us? Why won’t they just leave us alone?

KROMA #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Lorenzo De Felici. Zet really is dead, but Kroma manages to escape from the city. In the woods, she encounters an old man dressed like a bird, and he tells her how he’s able to manipulate the color-sensing demons by changing the color of their necks. But when Kroma goes to sleep in the old man’s house, she wakes up to find him about to cut her eyes out with a knife. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a comic that uses color as intelligently as Kroma does. In this series, color is not just a decorative element, but the very basis of the narrative. Unfortunately Heroes did not have Kroma #3 available due to a computer error, and I’ve had to order it on eBay.

RADIANT BLACK #20 (Image, 2022) – “A Giant Goddamn Robot,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Radiants Black and Pink fight a giant robot, and Pink breaks Red out of prison so she can help. I’m glad Satomi’s story arc is continuing, even though her miniseries is over. Besides that, this was one of the less notable issues of the series.

VANISH #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. While Oliver is fighting another of the superheroes/Death Eaters, Halcyon battles Deacon Dust and murders him in gruesome fashion. Then, in a very creepy moment, he appears outside Oliver’s window while Oliver’s wife is at home.  

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #4 (Image, 2022) – utitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The police blame Trish for killing both Jackie and Casey Dubois (the murder suspect from last issue),  but while Trish is in custody, a crow monster invades the police station and kills everyone but her. Trish goes back to Jackie’s basement, the only place she feels safe, and she’s transported into some kind of postapocalyptic wasteland. There’s some more graffiti which appears to be a list of deities, including the Badb, an Irish crow goddess.  

HELL TO PAY #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Will Sliney. The issue starts with a flashback to 17th-century Amsterdam, where the modern system of finance got started. Sebastian and Maia are unable to get out of their debt to the Shrouded College, so they have to keep looking for coins. Their next stop is a private prison in Mexico, whose owner has been selling convicts’ souls to the devil. Then we learn that their ally, the Penitent, is really Alexander the Great. This series has some very complex and ambitious worldbuilding, but it avoids straying too far from Sebastian and Maia’s storyline.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #12 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna battles the biggest monster and saves her father and sister, but in an epilogue sequence, we see that Jonna herself has been turned into a statue. But then the statue’s stone covering falls off, and Jonna returns to her family. This series was endearing and beautifully drawn, though its narrative was a little too decompressed.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE BOOK OF LOVE #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry and his girlfriend decide to move in together, and there are a lot of other subplots. Because Harry’s alien nature is not relevant to its plot, The Book of Love is less of a science fiction story than a slice-of-life story. It’s just a warm, tender depiction of some normal people and their developing relationships.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #18 (DC, 2022) – “Kal-El Returns Chapter 6: Security,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey & Ruairí Coleman. The JLA rebuild Ma and Pa Kent’s house. Jon battles a new villain named Red Sin, who somehow manages to turn off Jon’s powers, but Jon survives thanks to a failsafe device that Brainiac 5 built for him. By the way, Tom Taylor would be an absolutely perfect Legion writer, if DC would just give up on their failed experiment of having Bendis write the Legion. Jay Nakamura is curiously absent from this issue, but I don’t think it’s because something happened to him; rather, this issue focuses mostly on Jon’s relationship with his father. I’m really going to miss this series, although the upcoming Jon Kent miniseries will be some consolation.  

MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luca Maresca w/ Ivan Fiorelli. Monica Rambeau teams up with Spider-Man and Dr. Strange to fight a new villain called Hinge. Yelena Rosario, from Ewing’s Marvel Team-Up run, prophesies that Monica will destroy the universe. Monica and her father commisserate about Monica’s ne’er-do-well cousin. I’m glad to see Eve Ewing writing for Marvel again. This series doesn’t make as much of an immediate impression as her Ironheart run did, but it includes some strong characterization. As I read this issue, it occurred to me that Monica Rambeau may have been the first African-American superhero who did not come from the ghetto or from a broken home. In her first appearance, Monica had a comfortable job as a harbor patrol captain, and she had two parents who were still alive and married. At a time when most black superheroes came from a background of poverty and oppression, as is still often the case today, Monica helped to expand the range of options available for depicting black people in comics.

BATGIRLS #13 (DC, 2022) – “Vice Versa Part 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jonathan Case. Cass and Steph are still stuck in each others’ bodies. Zatanna makes a guest appearance and helps figure out that a villain named Madame Zodiac is responsible for the body swap, and Madame Zodiac returns Cass and Steph to their own bodies. Cass and her mother part from each other peacefully, but Steph is still in her father’s clutches. Madame Zodiac is not a new character, but I can’t remember her at all.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. The bears have now enslaved humankind. Shirtless’s mother has an unsatisfying encounter with his father Ursa Major. Some of the other characters travel to the netherworld to look for Shirtless’s soul, but after a funny scene with the Self-Care Bears – a parody of the Care Bears – they fail to accomplish anything. This issue is full of funny bear jokes.

COPRA #44 (self-published, 2022) – “Reckoning Device,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. The Copra team goes hunting for Compota, the Count Vertigo character. There’s also a backup story that’s a sweet tribute to Michel Fiffe’s dog, who recently passed away. Copra is extremely expensive at $10 an issue, but I’m willing to keep buying it because of its super-high level of artwork and publication design, and because of my sentimental affection for the periodical comic book format.  

ROGUE SUN #9 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Marco Renna. At the beginning of this issue, Dylan can’t find his sun stone anywhere, and it turns up between the cushions of the couch where he sits while playing video games. This is an extremely typical teenage boy moment, although we later learn that his brother and sister stole the sun stone and lied about finding it in the couch. Dylan asks his love interest to prom, but learns that she has a new boyfriend. Then Dylan fights the villain from last issue, the petty criminal’s son, and suffers a humiliating defeat that leaves him badly wounded. Finally, Dylan’s brother and sister use the sun stone to summon their father’s ghost, but the ghost that appears is a different man entirely.

I HATE FAIRYLAND VOL. 2 #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. The “villionaire,” Wiggins, sends Gert and a talking rat companion to Fairyland, but they find  themselves in hell instead, and it takes them many years to escape. Brett Bean’s artwork here is very similar to Skottie Young’s art in the original series.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. The two Eves flee from Selene and Endymion, and they manage to convince Selene to switch sides. Then, in a shocking twist, Akai from Victor LaValle’s Destroyer shows up. I think this is the first indication that Eve and Destroyer take place in the same universe.  A  number of academics have either taught or written about Destroyer, and I hope these people will realize that it’s connected to Eve.

MY LITTLE PONY: CLASSICS REIMAGINED #2 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Megan Brown, [A] Jenna Ayoub. The adaptation of Little Women continues. Rarity/Amy burns Rainbow Dash/Jo’s manuscript, then nearly drowns in a frozen pond. This series is notable for its large number of metatextual references. On the very first page, Discord points to where Applejack is obviously hiding, and says that he sees a poorly concealed plot device. By the way, I just saw the MLP tenth anniversary special at the store, and I didn’t buy it, since it has no new content except for a four-page story. However, I admit that I read the new story, and it’s a very funny postscript to the past ten years of the series. I especially like the explicit acknowledgement that some of the continuity of the comics was contradicted by later events in the TV show.

DARK WEB: MS. MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sabir Pirzada, [A] Francesco Mortarino. Kamala gets an internship at Oscorp, where she encounters a new potential love interest, Arjun, and an old villain, the Inventor. This issue is far better than Jody Houser’s Moon Knight specials, because it focuses on Kamala’s supporting cast and her ethnic and religious identity, all of which was entirely absent from Jody Houser’s stories. I have no idea what the Dark Web crossover is about, but this issue made sense anyway.

TRAVELING TO MARS #2 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. This issue begins with a retelling of an Irish myth, in which several princes are competing for a kingship, and they decide that the first of them to touch the soil of Ireland will be the king. One of the princes wins the race by cutting off his own hand and throwing it from his ship to the shore. In Russell’s retelling, the successful prince is named Erimhon, but according to Wikipedia, there are other versions where the hand-thrower is Niall of the Nine Hostages, or an anonymous O’Neill chieftain. Anyway, other than that, this is a wasted issue in which noting interesting happens.

SPECS #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Chris Shehan. Ted wishes that Skunk hadn’t disappeared, and for a while everyone forgets about him. But then the wish seems to wear off, and everyone remembers Skunk existed. Just after throwing a no-hitter, Ted is arrested for Skunk’s murder. Even though he really is sort of responsible, it’s obvious that he’s being targeted because he’s the only black kid in town.  

TRVE KVLT #5 (IDW, 2022) – “Unauthorized Discounts,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. The good guys manage to escape from Satan, but Satan is now free to walk the Earth. This comic was stupid, and I wish I’d given up on it after issue 2. The only joke in the series was that Marty and Alison took their fast food jobs much too seriously, and the whole series was devoted to repeating that joke. A comic can survive for quite a long time with just a single joke (examples include Krazy Kat, Spy vs. Spy, and Groo), but only if the joke is funny to begin with.

DARK RIDE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Samhain visits his daughter, who is in the hospital after slicing her own wrists. Samhain and Halloween meet with their father. Summer, the sister of Owen from issue #1, sneaks into the park to look for clues to her brother’s disappearance. It seems now that Owen was a decoy protagonist, and this series is really about the Dante family. All the main characters in this series, besides Arthur, are named for seasons or holidays – Summer’s full name is Summer Seasons.

DEAD SEAS #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. Dead Seas’s world is similar to contemporary America, except that ghosts exist. Our protagonists are prison laborers working on a ship that processes ghosts into ectoplasm, which has medical uses. The processing has to be done at sea, since ghosts can’t cross moving water. But when the prisoners try to collect ectoplasm from the captured ghosts, they (the prisoners) go insane. Therefore, the remaining prisoners decide to take over the ship. This series has a pretty interesting premise, and Nick Brokenshire’s art is quite good. I’ve seen his work before on the first volume of Amelia Cole, but he’s gotten better since then.

JUNKYARD JOE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Junkyard Joe settles into Muddy Davis’s house, but appears to be suffering from PTSD. Meanwhile, the Munn kids are subjected to racism and bullying at school, especially the middle daughter, Emily, who has artistic inclinations. The scene with Emily’s first day at school is brutal to read, and it makes me furious at Sam Munn for moving his children to a shithole rural town with no other people of color. I have serious problems with most of Geoff Johns’s work, and I think he’s had an awful influence on DC Comics. However, Junkyard Joe shows that he can be a very strong writer when he wants to be. The three central characters – Muddy, Joe, and Emily – are all very powerfully depicted. In terms of the art, I much preferred the style Gary Frank used on Incredible Hulk to the style he uses now. His art on the Hulk was elegantly simple, but later he started drawing with much more detailed linework. He’s been using that style at least since his 2003 Supreme Power run, and I don’t like it nearly as much.

WONDER WOMAN #794 (DC, 2022) – “Before the Storm Part 1,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Diana and Siggy investigate the milk conspiracy and discover that the god Eros is involved in it somehow. Also, Yara Flor appears at the end. There’s also a Young Diana backup story, which I hope will be the last such story for a while. I love Paulina Ganucheau’s art, but I wish she were working with a better writer than Jordie Bellaire. Oddly, this issue is printed on newsprint, which I thought was more expensive than glossy paper.

DANGER STREET #1 (DC, 2022) – “Atlas the Great,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornés. This series is a tribute to the 1975-1976 series First Issue Special, which consisted of thirteen one-shot stories, each starring a new character or a new take on an old character. Over the course of Danger Street #1, all thirteen protagonists from First Issue Special either appear on-panel or are mentioned. I still have deep doubts about Tom King’s work, but this issue is actually fun. The stars of First Issue Special included some familiar characters like Metamorpho and Dr. Fate and the New Gods, but also some ridiculous characters like the Green Team and the Dingbats of Danger Street. Tom King has set himself the task of combining all these characters into a single coherent story, and it’ll be interesting to see how and if he can do it. BTW, one of the First Issue Special characters is Mikaal Tomas, who played a significant role in James Robinson’s Starman, but I expect that Tom King will be ignoring anything that happened to him after his debut.

HIGHBALL #4 (IDW, 2022) – “Revelations Per Second Part One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball, his friend Chuck, and a new character named Rekkt lead a conspiracy against the Mentoks. I barely remember anything about this issue, and it seemed unusually short.

NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Monsters of the Past,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Namor discovers a colony of humans who are able to reproduce. This is a grim and boring series, and Pasqual Ferry’s art is good, but not good enough to independently justify reading this comic. I should have dropped this series after the first or second issue, and I’m going to rectify that error now.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Chimera Protocols,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth and his team investigate the Orchis base. I feel obligated to read this comic, but I’m not enjoying it. Its plot feels directionless, and its characters are not grabbing me, although I suppose Nanny and Orphan Maker are kind of an interesting duo.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Two different teams of mercenaries go hunting for Business Dog, but they only succeed in killing each other, as well as the dog’s butler. Also, Mark Russell tells a story about how Peter the Great showed his dinner guests a dissected corpse. I can’t find any source for this story, although it does appear that Peter the Great was interested in anatomy.

ART BRUT #1 (Image, 2016/2022) – “The Winking Woman,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. This series is a revised version of these creators’ first series, The Electric Sublime, published by IDW in 2016. I have one issue of Electric Sublime, but I haven’t read it yet. It will be interesting to compare it to Art Brut. In this first issue, the Mona Lisa inexplicably closes her left eye, and a mental patient, Arthur Brut, is summoned to investigate. Art Brut reminds me a lot of Art Ops, but so far it’s much, much better than Art Ops. Maxwell Prince seems to have more than a casual knowledge of art and the art-historical profession. And the “sublime” in the series’ original title is accurate, because Art Brut demonstrates how art can inspire terror.

BRZRKR #11 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute fights some kind of a giant bird entity, and then he loses his immortality. This series is thoroughly average, and I kind of regret that I started reading it to begin with.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erica Schultz, [A] Carola Borelli. In a flashback we learn that it was Rose who murdered Jasmine, having mistaken her own mother for an intruder. Rose didn’t tell the police because Jasmine’s house was full of incriminating evidence. Violet throws a knife at Rose and cuts her throat. She claims this was an accident, but it’s not entirely clear. Violet is imprisoned for Rose’s murder, and the only sister left alive and out of prison is Poppy. Given that this series is set in 1998, it would make logical sense to do a sequel with Poppy’s children. I do think Deadliest Bouquet could have explored the characters’ traumatic histories in greater depth.

GRIM #6 (Boom!, 2022) – “Devils & Dust,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Jess attends a music festival in Vegas, where a strange red symbol begins to appear on people’s heads. I don’t understand this issue, and I’m not sure how it’s connected to the previous storyline. I do like Grim’s artwork and coloring.

LOVE EVERLASTING #5 (Image, 2022) – “Trapped by Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. Joan talks with Penny Page, who gives dating advice. In their conversation, which takes place alternately in the 1970s and the Victorian era, we discover that Joan’s mother is responsible for all the weird stuff that’s been happening. It seems that Joan’s mother is trying to force her to accept a conventional version of romantic love. So at least we finally have a partial answer to what’s been going on in this series, although I’m not sure if it’s a very interesting answer.

LEGION OF X #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Family Ties,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Metho Diaz. Kurt and Jackie Chopra, the new Black Knight, battle a hyper-mutated Archangel. At the end of the issue, we learn that Kurt and Warren’s mutations were both caused by Kurt’s stepmother, Margali Szardos. I hope this means Margali’s daughter Amanda Sefton is also going to appear in this series, because I like Amanda, and she never gets enough exposure. It’s nice to see Jackie Chopra again. Her reappearance shows that Spurrier has created his own small corner of the Marvel Universe.

ICE CREAM MAN #33 (Image, 2022) – “The Kind of Story I Want to Write,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. This issue tells two parallel stories, the kind of story that the author (not necessarily Prince himself) wants to write, and the kind that he does write. The former story is happy and cheerful and is colored in bright tones, while the latter story is grim and horrific and is colored in shades of grey. The former story ends with the protagonist, Brad, helping to lift a car off an injured man, while the latter ends with Brad being crushed to death under the same car. Like many previous issues of Ice Cream Man, this issue is a creative narrative experiment.

GINSENG ROOTS #11 (Uncivilized, 2022) – “Red Thread,” [W/A] Craig Thompson. Craig and his brother visit China, where they tour some ginseng farms. This issue is full of gorgeous art,  although the linework feels a bit less gorgeous and evocative than in Thompson’s earliest work. As a travel diary, this issue is fascinating. Thompson shows some detailed knowledge of Chinese culture, and he visits places in China that most tourists wouldn’t get to see. Because of its focus on travel, this issue reminds me of Carnet de Voyage, which may be my favorite work by Thompson.

A VICIOUS CIRCLE BOOK 1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mattson Tomlin, [A] Lee Bermejo. In the civil-rights-era South, a black man, Shawn Thacker, is keeping another man locked up in his basement for some reason. The prisoner gets free and murders Shawn’s wife and son. Then Shawn finds himself in a dystopian future, and we learn what’s going on: Shawn was sent into the past to destroy a doomsday device, while his enemy was sent to the same past time period to activate the same machine. The issue ends with Shawn in the prehistoric era. Lee Bermejo’s artwork in this issue is extremely skillful. He draws this issue in two very different styles: the past sequence is black-and-white and is drawn in photorealistic painted art, while the future sequence is in color and is drawn in a cel-shaded style. In a two-page splash at the end where the hero and villain are chasing each other through different time frames, Bermejo uses eight other different styles in as many panels. I do think that Bermejo’s art is a bit too photorealistic, and in particular, his characters’ veins are too prominent. Also, A Vicious Circle’s plot is too similar to that of the Terminator franchise.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #293 (DC, 1976) – “It Figures!”, [W] Bob Kanigher, [A] Frank Redondo. Rock goes on a spy mission with some British commissioned officers. The officers all think they’re too good to work with a mere sergeant, but Rock saves them all because of his superior practical expertise. This story is kind of dumb, although it’s clever how Rock avoids the Nazis’ traps. The backup story, “Between the Pages” by Sam Glanzman, is far better than the main story. “Between the Pages” is just a collection of a sailor’s drawings, with no real plot, but it has a lyrical and wistful feeling to it.

REVOLVER #3 (Renegade, 1986) – “The Expert,” [W/A] Steve Ditko. This story is poorly written and confusing, in that it’s hard to even figure out which names correspond to which characters. It’s also printed sideways, which is annoying. But Ditko’s art is very striking, with lots of weird abstract design elements. This story was originally published in a different form in Questar, a science fiction magazine that included some occasional comics content. The backup story, “The Icarus Assignment” by Rich Margopoulos and Tom Mandrake, reads like a piece of student work.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #5 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Cataclysm in Worm Town,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. The heroes travel to the worms’ underground lair, where they finally defeat both the worms and the Autumn brothers. Truman’s art in this issue is vivid and gruesome, and Lansdale’s writing is both exciting and very funny. Overall this was a strange but brilliant series. Maybe I should read some of Lansdale’s prose fiction.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #5 (Vertigo, 2010) – “From Never to Always,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. I finally understand what this comic is about: Joe is diabetic and is in a hypoglycemic coma, and he needs to get to the fridge downstairs to get some soda, so he can raise his blood sugar. All the supernatural events in the comic are hallucinations caused by Joe’s coma. It would be nice if any of this had been mentioned anywhere in any of the later issues. I guess the plot was explained in issue 1, but I read issue 1 so long ago that I can’t remember it. In this issue Joe continues his quest and fights a monstrous dog. Sean Murphy’s artwork in Joe the Barbarian is okay, but not nearly as good ash is art in The Wake.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Stark Realities Part One: The Rollout,” [W] Dan Slott & Jeremy Whitley, [A] Valerio Schiti. The new Stark corporation has created an addicting VR technology called the eScape, but it’s suffering from some kind of sabotage, and at the end of the issue we learn that the Controller is responsible. This is an exciting issue with an interesting supporting cast, and I like Valerio Schiti’s renderings of the eScape, especially the kid-focused Retro Arcadia.

SPIROU & FANTASIO T.5 (Cinebook, 1954/2013) – The Marsupilami Thieves, [W/A] André Franquin. I was going to read Emile Bravo’s Spirou: Le Journal d’un ingénu, but I decided I wanted to read another regular Spirou album first. I’ve only read one previous Spirou album, Z is for Zorglub, which at the time was the only one available in English. In Europe, Spirou is comparable in population to Tintin or Asterix. But in America, if anyone’s heard of Spirou, it’s only because his supporting character, Marsupilami, was spun off into a 1993 TV cartoon. The Marsupilami Thieves is the second album in which Marsupilami appears. It begins with a sequence in which Spirou and Fantasio try and fail to stop the Marsupilami stolen from the zoo. The theft sequence is the highlight of the album because of its brilliant choreography and comic timing. Afterward, Spirou and Fantasio have to chase the stolen Marsupilami all over Europe. Along with Hergé, Franquin is one of the two master artists of Franco-Belgian comics, and the two artists represent two opposing styles – respectively, the “clear line” and the “school of Marcinelle.” According to Wikipedia, the Marcinelle style is characterized by caricatural art, big noses, and round word balloons. As part of my effort to learn more about Franco-Belgian comics, I need to read more work by Franquin and his contemporaries and protégés.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “Stark Realities Part Six: End of Service,” [W] Dan Slott & Jim Zub, [A] Valerio Schiti. The Controller acquires superhuman powers thanks to his subversion of the eScape. Tony defeats him, but learns that he’s not the real Tony Stark but a copy. The issue ends with conversations between three couples: Tony’s mom and Andy Bhang, Machine Man and Jocasta, and Tony and Janet Van Dyne. Also, there’s a talking cat. I am not a huge Iron Man fan, for reasons discussed in other reviews, but I want to read more of Dan Slott’s Iron Man.

GROO #10 (Image, 1995) – “The Sinkers,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A port town is blockaded by pirates, but a man named Hundes (Spanish for “you sink”) boards the pirate ship and sinks it for a fee, despite Groo’s attempts to interfere. Then the same ship reappears, intact, at the next port town, and Hundes sinks it again. Of course, Hundes is in league with the pirates, and they’re using hydraulic pumps to refloat the ship every time it sinks. But then Groo boards the ship and sinks it for real, in such a way that the pumps won’t prevent it. This issue is a funny variation on the trope where Groo sinks every ship he boards. Groo is such a proficient ship-sinker that even when he boards a ship that’s supposed to sink,  he can sink it even more.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #5 (Marvel, 2015) – “I’ll Always Be There for You,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. Peter, MJ and Annie team up to defeat Regent and save the world, and Peter manages to beat Regent without killing him. This is one of the better Secret Wars crossover titles. It feels like an actual addition to Spider-Man’s mythos, not just an interruption to normal continuity.

BIRTHRIGHT #32 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In the present, some shamans amputate Rya’s injured wings. I forget if she ever got her wings back. In a flashback, the young Mikey and Rya are traveling with Rook and a princess, Zoshana, who is Mikey’s intended bride. Rook is kidnapped by “hex hellions”, leaving the kids alone. Back in the present, Brendan’s face turns into a glowing mask. I don’t remember what happens to Zoshana, but I assume she must have died, because I don’t recall her appearing in the present-day sequences.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Doc and his allies battle a very disturbing-looking monster whose entire body is made of hands. The monster’s origin is revealed in a beautiful two-page splash which is colored entirely in purple, white and blue. I don’t know how to describe the artistic technique that Rodriguez uses here, but it’s striking. The heroes seemingly defeat the monster by crumpling it up into a ball, but then it abducts them into its own world. This series is not badly written, but I’m interested in it because of Rodriguez’s art.

WELCOME BACK #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Claire Roe. I didn’t quite understand this issue’s plot. I do like this series, though. Welcome Back has a similar premise to Ordinary Gods, but I think Welcome Back executes its premise more effectively.

AVENGERS #312 (Marvel, 1989) – “Has the Whole World Gone Mad?”, [W] John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. In an Acts of Vengeance crossover, the Avengers battle Freedom Force, a.k.a. the second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This issue is most notable for including what may be the first meeting between Magneto and the Red Skull. Since Magneto is a Holocaust survivor and the Red Skull is a Nazi, they almost fight each other before being separated. In Captain America #367, a later chapter of Acts of Vengeance, Magneto got his revenge on the Red Skull by throwing him in an inescapable prison – though of course the Skull did escape. According to this page, “Mark Gruenwald was upset about how other writers in the “Acts of Vengeance” events had written these two as working together with no hint of their core ideological conflict, and wrote this issue [i.e. Captain America #367] to correct this oversight.”  

ADVENTURE COMICS #458 (DC, 1978) – “The Superboy Who Wasn’t,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Joe Staton. A demagogue named Lester Wallace leads a campaign of bigotry against Superboy, on the grounds that Superboy is an alien. I’m guessing that Lester Wallace is named after the segregationists Lester Maddox and George Wallace. After discovering that he was being manipulated by Phantom Zone villains, Wallace projects himself into the Phantom Zone. This is better than a typical Silver/Bronze Age Superboy story because it has an actual political message. There’s also an Eclipso backup story by Len Wein and Joe Orlando. In the first panel of this story, the name “Eclipso” is spelled out by fallen rubble, possibly as an homage to Will Eisner’s Spirit title pages. This was the last issue of Adventure Comics before it converted to the Dollar Comics format.

GRAYSON #15 (DC, 2016) – “Robin War Part 2: The Originals,” [W] Tom King & Tim Seeley, [A] Mikel Janín. Dick trains an army of new Robins, but then gets them arrested on purpose, under the reasoning that they’ll be safer in jail than out. This plot twist is really stupid, because this sort of deliberate betrayal is unworthy of the Dick Grayson I know. This issue’s artwork is notable because of the huge number of different faces and costumes that Mikel Janín has to draw. This Grayson series was well liked at the time, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the current Nightwing series.

EXTREMITY #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Stranded in the wilderness after last issue, Thea and Rollo are taken to a refugee colony run by Mother Dierdre, who presided over Thea’s initiation ceremony in issue 3 (if I recall correctly). But the Paznina have been following Thea and Rollo, and they prepare for their assault. Meanwhile, Jerome gives Thea up for dead.

STARSTRUCK #2 (IDW, 2009) – “Change is in the Heir,” [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. Kalif Bajar is attacked by an army of lovestruck androids, and Mary Medea goes off on a mission, just as her baby sister is about to be born. At this point it’s already been foreshadowed that Mary is going to die. In the backup story, the Galactic Girl Guides build a robot. I think I finally understand Starstruck’s plot, at least sort of. I wonder if Kaluta’s art style on this series was influenced by that of Moebius.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #154 (DC, 1978) – “I’ll Kill You in My Dreams!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Dillin. The JLAers attend the opening of a new Gotham City hotel, but when they go to bed in the hotel, they all have nightmares in which their powers go wrong. The next day, all the nightmares come true. This is because Dr. Destiny is using his materioptikon to cause the JLAers’ dreams to become real – not that this is a surprise, because it’s spoiled on the cover. BTW, that cover is by Kaluta, though I wouldn’t have known it without the signature. ThAlso, the way that Dr. Destiny uses the materioptikon in this issue helps explain the later retcon where the materioptikon was really the Sandman’s ruby. In this issue the creators are careful to show that Iris and Barry are sharing a room, but that Ray and Jean, as well as Ollie and Dinah, are sleeping separately. Six years later, when Dick and Kory were shown sharing a bed in New Teen Titans vol. 2 #1, it caused major controversy.

THE MIGHTY MAGNOR #5 (Malibu, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Magnor encounters an alien woman who mistakes him for a real superhero. Also there are a lot of funny gags and Easter eggs, including a Groo statue. Magnor is probably a better superhero parody than Megaton Man.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #6 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Our Lady in Mourning,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. Joe continues his quest, despite the Queen of Playtown’s efforts to convince him to stop. The army of Playtown is composed of Joe’s action figures, who include Batman, Luthor, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, and recolored versions of several characters DC doesn’t own, such as He-Man, Storm Shadow and Optimus Prime. This issue kind of reminds me of my childhood delight in playing with action figures.

That was the last comic I read in 2022. I read a few comics after midnight on December 31, but I’m going to include them on my list for 2023. My final total for the year was 2246 comic books, my second highest total ever. My record was 2262 in 2019.   


November and December 2022 reviews


2000 AD #1846 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: ”Bender Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ben Willsher. Al Lock reveals that he killed his own father, and his partner Bender continues engaging in police brutality. Defoe: “The Damned Part 11,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe and Faust fight atop the mast of the ship, and Defoe wins and throws Faust into the ocean. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 8,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Another chapter that makes no sense. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 7,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. The one-eyed lady turns into a werewolf while looking for their daughter, and the evil wolves show the daughter the tree-city of Yggdrasil. Slaine: “Book of Scars Part 3,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mick McMahon. A flashback to the “Sky Chariots” story where Slaine was assisting one evil drune against another. Lots of great dialogue here, such as “I will cut out your windpipe because your conversation is not pleasing to me!”

MERCURY HEAT #4 (Avatar, 2015) – “The Long, Slow Dawn,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. A serise of flashbacks shows that Luiza went to Mercury because her “personality classification” made her unemployable on Earth. In the present, Luiza escapes from Mercury’s freezing surface and discovers a plot to destroy the planet’s human settlements. Mercury Heat is interesting, though it feels like Kieron wasn’t as committed to it as to his higher-profile creator-owned work. However, the problem with this series, as well as other Avatar comics, is the low standards of artwork. Avatar comics always look like they’re pornographic, even when they’re not.

PROVIDENCE #7 (Avatar, 2016) – “The Picture”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. Robert returns to Boston in the middle of riots caused by the 1919 police strike. This strike really did happen, and then-governor Calvin Coolidge’s hardline reaction to it helped him become President. Escaping from the riots, Robert visits the photographer Ronald Pitman, who shows Robert his paintings of gruesome subterranean ghouls. One of these ghouls, King George, appears and speaks to Robert, though Robert has his back turned and assumes that the visitation is not real. Robert leaves Pitman and visits the writer Randall Carver. I still haven’t read any more of this series, because, again, the annotations at the end of each issue are very difficult to get through.

SIMPSONS COMICS #70 (Bongo, 2002) – “Greek to Me,” [W] Ian Boothby, [A] John Costanza. A series of parodies of Greek myths. The backup feature is a series of parodies of Aesop’s fables. This comic is funny, but it doesn’t make me feel motivated to read more Simpsons comics – other than the Treehouse of Horror specials, which are very hard to find.

STARTLING STORIES: BANNER #3 (Marvel, 2001) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Richard Corben. This comic’s artwork is excellent, with lots of Corben’s trademark body horror. However, Corben’s art is wasted on Azzarello’s pointless, stupid plot. Early in this issue, Bruce Banner visits a gas station, and we see that two criminals have held the place up and taken a woman hostage. Neither the criminals nor the hostage ever appear again, either in this issue or in the next one, and it’s unclear why Azzarello introduced them at all. This issue is more evidence that Azzarello was never a good writer. He got lots of high-profile assignments because people mistakenly thought it was him, not Eduardo Risso, who was responsible for the success of 100 Bullets.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #4 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Inventoria,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. I think I have this entire miniseries, but I’ve never felt motivated to finish reading it, because I have no idea what it’s about. It seems to be a grim-and-gritty version of Toy Story. Grant Morrison’s work is always very confusing, but most of his miniseries are easier to follow than this one. Sean Murphy’s art here is good, but not as stunning as in The Wake.

GREEN ARROW #75 (DC, 1993) – “Auld Acquaintance,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. This was the comic book that I’d had for the longest time without reading it. At a New Year’s Eve party, Dinah witnesses Ollie kissing another woman named Marianne. Then the party is crashed by Shado, who is trying to save Ollie from a yakuza assassin. While trying to hide the injured Ollie, Marianne, Dinah and Shado have a long conversation about him. Then we learn that the assassin is Roy Harper, making his first appearance in this entire volume. The yakuza are holding his daughter Lian hostage to force him to kill Ollie, but Ollie helps him turn the tables on them and rescue Lian. Afterward, Dinah breaks up with Ollie, having decided that she’s sick of sharing him with other women. I already have over half of this volume of Green Arrow, and I’d like to have a complete run of it someday, but it’s not high on my priority list.

BOX OFFICE POISON COLOR COMICS #1 (IDW, 1996/2017) – untitled, [W/A] Alex Robinson. A color reprint of the first issue of Box Office Poison, in which we meet most of the key characters. Box Office Poison feels a bit dated now, especially its depiction of bookstores, but it’s a charming slice-of-life comic. However, its artwork was not meant to be seen in color, and the colorization obscures some important details. As an artist Alex Robinson was heavily indebted to Dave Sim, though he’s developed a more independent style in later work. The back of the issue includes some interesting commentary. In particular, Sherman’s bedroom has a weird layout with nonfunctional doors near the ceiling, and in the commentary, Robinson says he can’t remember why he designed the room like that.

PERHAPANAUTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2006) – “Night of the Aswang!”, [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Craig Rousseau. Some superheroic monsters encounter an aswang, a creature from Filipino mythology. Speaking of Filipino mythology, I have the first volume of Trese, and I ought to read it soon. Anyway, Perhapanauts has an interesting style of art and coloring, but it feels too similar to Hellboy.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #2 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli, [W] John Barber. This issue consists mostly of combat scenes. Unlike later issues of the series, it has a conventional plot with limited weirdness, and so the main appeal of this issue is Tom Scioli’s art. I think Transformers vs. G.I. Joe was the first series where he developed his own unique sensibility, rather than just imitating Kirby’s style. In particular, in Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, he stopped trying to draw in a slick, professional way, and instead embraced a deliberately crude style of linework.

SKYWARD #15 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 5,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. In the final issue of the series, Willa convinces the underground city of Crystal Springs to accept Barrow and his marauders as citizens, and she and her love interest (Lucas?) confess their mutual attraction. I still have a bunch more issues of this series to collect, but this ending is very sweet, and Joe Henderson is an excellent writer. I wish he would write more comic books – either a sequel to Shadecraft, or soemthing else. Also, I’ve grown fond of Lee Garbett’s art style.

MOTHER PANIC #6 (DC, 2017) – “Broken Things Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Shawn Crystal. I don’t understand what happens in this comic, and I don’t care. The only interesting thing about Mother Panic is the main character’s conflicted relationship with her mother, and even that’s not very interesting.

While looking through my boxes of unread comics, I discovered two that I bought earlier this year, but misplaced without reading them. One of them was Marvels #12, which I had completely forgotten about – until I rediscovered my copy of it, I didn’t realize I hadn’t read it. The other was Batman: The Knight #7, and I did know that I hadn’t read this issue (see my review of issue 8), so I’m glad I found it.  

THE MARVELS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “What Happens Now,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Threadneedle shows up to resolve the situation with the incarnation of Siancong, and the two of them walk off into the sunset. This was a really strange miniseries. It felt almost more like a fairy tale than a superhero story. Like many of Kurt’s other recent comics, The Marvels is weird, but in a whimsical instead of an eerie way. They makes the reader think “Hmm, that’s strange, I wonder what it might mean,” but without threatening the reader’s sense of ontological security, as horror or dark fantasy tends to do.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #7 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 7,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce trains in magic with John Zatara, and of course he also meets his childhood friend Zatanna. The three of them team up to exorcise a demon. Bruce’s friendship with Zatanna is an important addition to his character. I believe Paul Dini was responsible for the idea that they knew each other as children. This idea was first introduced in the animated TV show (which I never watched, BTW, but the news about Kevin Conroy is very sad), and then incorporated into the comics in Detective Comics #833.

FOUR COLOR #976 (Dell, 1959) – “Gypsy Warning,” [W] unknown, [A] Alex Toth. Zorro helps Captain Garcia foil a plot to replace all of Los Angeles’s gunpowder with charcoal. This issue has a complicated and exciting plot, and of course Alex Toth’s artwork is absolutely impeccable. His Zorro run was one of his greatest works, although I would say that his masterpiece was Bravo for Adventure. A notable element of Toth’s Zorro is the bumbling Captain Garcia, who seeks to capture Zorro, but would be helpless without him. William Nericcio published an article about Toth’s Zorro which is available here.

COYOTE #15 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Left Stuff!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. My copy of this issue is signed by Chas Truog, though I think the signature was already there when I bought it, because I don’t recall ever meeting him. This issue’s main plot revolves around a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in Moscow, and much of the issue is narrated from the perspective of a KGB agent named Braditov. There’s also a cameo appearance by Scorpio Rose, and there’s another plot involving a villain who’s missing one-quarter of his skull. Coyote was even more hopelessly convoluted than most of Englehart’s ‘80s work, and it’s mostly interesting because of its animalistic protagonist.

THE JUNGLE TWINS #18 (Whitman, 1982) – “Royal Warriors,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Paul Norris. This is the last issue of the series, and was published seven years after issue 17. It consists of a reprint of issue 1. By 1982, Whitman’s comics were no longer sold separately, but only as part of bagged packages of three comics each, and these packages were distributed not in newsstands but in toy stores and other unconventional venues. Some of these “pre-pack comics” are very rare and valuable, but mostly just the ones published in late 1980, I guess because they had poor distribution. As for the actual content of Jungle Twins #1, it’s pretty conventional jungle-adventure material. This issue is the origin story of the two protagonists, a pair of white youths who were raised by a lost African tribe after their parents were killed in a plane crash.  

TANK GIRL 2 #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – various stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Jamie Hewlett. This was an eBay purchase. I believe that all the stories in this and the previous miniseries were reprinted from Deadline, and so these Dark Horse comics are probably not the best way to obtain this material. Perhaps the best way to read Tank Girl would be in the three Color Classics volumes. The original stories were black and white, but Jamie Hewlett’s artwork really benefits from color. Anyway, Tank Girl has a fairly incoherent plot, but it’s more notable for its anarchic punk aesthetic – as Lisa Fernandes wrote, “The ultimate “point” of Tank Girl is brashness and impoliteness, with a cheeky and wild sense of humor.” The other “point” is Jamie Hewlett’s spectacular art. His pages are full of fascinating detail, and their layouts are often radically unconventional. He should be recognized as a major comics artist, but I think he’s mostly known today for his involvement in Gorillaz.

WEIRD WAR TALES #123 (DC, 1983) – “Captain Spaceman Will Be Waiting!”, [W] Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Rich Buckler. In this issue’s lead story, the memory of a dead Flash Gordon-esque hero inspires his fans to resist an alien invasion. I interviewed Dan Mishkin over the phone for my research on Amethyst, but I finally met him in person at CSS in East Lansing. It was great to meet him face to face. This issue’s second story, by Robert Kanigher and Ric Estrada, is a silly and inaccurate retelling of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. In the last story, by Howard Post and Jerome K. Moore, a young Nazi rejects the Christian religion, only to be crushed by a statue of Moses with the Ten Commandments.

HUMAN TARGET #1 (DC, 2000/2010) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Edvin Biukovic. This is a “What’s Next” reprint, intended for readers of Watchmen who want to know what else to read. The 2000 Human Target miniseries had the same premise as other versions of the character: Christopher Chance makes a living by impersonating people who are about to be killed. In this issue, his client is a black preacher who’s on a crusade against crack. There’s also a subplot where someone else is impersonating Chance himself. The best part of this comic is Edvin Biukovic’s art. HIs draftsmanship is very clear and crisp, and his visual compositions are exciting. Sadly this was one of his last works. His early death was a great loss, though his fellow Croatian artists, like Goran Parlov and Tonci Zonjic, have carried on his legacy.

GRASS KINGS #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The protagonist (Bruce?) investigates a long-ago murder. I still don’t understand Grass Kings’s plot, and I’m not sure it’s worth trying to understand.

STINZ #3 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Breaking In,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Stinz excels in his military drills, despite being constantly targeted for abuse by his drill sergeant. Finally, Stinz comes up with a way to accomplish a task that seems impossible for a centaur: climbing over a vertical wall. Actually he jumps straight over it. Stinz is a really cute series with lots of historical detail, and I need to read more of it. I sometimes feel reluctant to read it because of its very ornate art and lettering, but that’s not fair.  

THE WAKE #5 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Source” etc., [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. A creature invades the undersea installation. While the protagonists are trying to escape to the surface, they discover that other creatures have invaded the surface world. Shockingly, the protagonists don’t make it out alive; they all drown, and the creatures go on to destroy the surface world. Then the story resumes many years later, with a new protagonist named Leeward. This shift to a new cast and setting, halfway through a ten-issue miniseries, is a stunning twist, and it makes me want to read the other five issues ASAP. However, my copy of issue 6 is buried somewhere in my boxes of unread comics, and I haven’t found it yet.

APACHE SKIES #3 (Marvel, 2002) – “Trust,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Leonardo Manco. Apache Skies is not to be confused with Desperadoes, another Western comic published around the same time. This issue stars the Rawhide Kid and Rosa, the new Apache Kid and the widow of the old one. After meeting Lozen, the historical Apache woman warrior, they try to rescue some Apache children from being kidnapped by a priest. That’s as far as I can follow the plot. Apache Skies reminds me a bit of Grimjack and Scout. Leonardo Manco’s painted art in this issue is kind of stiff-looking, and not as effective as his more recent work in 2000 AD.

TREASURE CHEST #23.5 (431) (Pflaum, 1967) – “Search and Rescue is Their Business,” [W] Helen L. Gillum, [A] Pete Hironaka. That artist’s last name made me do a double take. According to his obituary, he was a Japanese-American who grew up in California and was interned during World War II, but he spent most of his career in Ohio. Someone needs to document the history of Japanese-American comics creators of earlier generations. Others who come to mind are Ben Oda, Irv Watanabe and Morrie Kuramoto. Anyway, his story in this issue is a nonfiction piece about the Coast Guard. Then there’s another nonfiction story about a missionary in St. Louis; a mystery story with art by Frank Borth; and a chapter of Matt Christopher and Fran Matera’s Chuck White. Every issue of Treasure Chest that I’ve read has included a Chuck White story. It’s a reasonably exciting and well-drawn adventure story, and it’s the main reason to read Treasure Chest.

CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #5 (DC, 1976) – “Grimstone Quest,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Ernie Chan. A wizard hires Claw and his swashbuckler sidekick Ghilkyn to retrieve two eyes from a statue, in exchange for the magical Grimstone. The quest requires them to save a woman from a giant crustacean monster, but after they defeat the monster, the woman duplicates herself and attacks them. They kill her and retrieve the eyes, but when the wizard looks into them, he goes insane, like Mastermind in X-Men #134. Claw is not unreadable, but it’s a second-rate Conan ripoff.

DETECTIVE COMICS #661 (DC, 1993) – “City on Fire,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. Batman fights Firefly in an abandoned amusement park, but the villain gets away. Tim Drake convinces Batman to accept some help for once, and he tracks down Firefly’s next target while Batman is busy with other Arkham escapees. I must checked this issue out of the library when it was published, but all I remember about it is the Firefly scene. Knightfall is still the only Firefly story I’ve ever read, as far as I know. This issue also includes a scene with the quack psychiatrist who wrote the book “I’m Sane and So Are You.”

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #605 (Gladstone, 1996) – “Pachyderm Up Your Troubles,” [W/A] William Van Horn. The story in this issue that interested me most was the first chapter of Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot.” This story is perhaps the best demonstration of Gottfredson’s mastery of storytelling. The plot takes all sorts of unexpected twists – for instance, in part two, Mickey tries to steal a camera from a little girl, and he has a good reason for it. The Phantom Blot is a scary and enigmatic villain, and his deathtraps for Mickey are as cunning and Goldberg-esque as any of the traps devised by Dick Tracy’s villains. There’s one scene in part one where the Blot ties Mickey to a table with a gun pointing at him. The gun’s trigger is tied to a dead fish… and there’s also a cat in the room, so Mickey has to escape before the cat gets hungry and pulls the fish down! The reason I don’t like Gottfredson as much as Barks is because Gottfredson’s characterization is less interesting. Mickey’s only notable character traits are that he’s courageous and well-intentioned, and he has no real flaws. This issue also includes part two of Rosa’s “Universal Solvent,” a story I’ve already read, and a Barks story in which Gyro Gearloose makes everything in Duckburg work by automation. There’s also a Van Horn story where Donald and the nephews try to return a stolen elephant, and the rest of the issue consists of filler material.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #441 (DC, 1987) – “The Tiny Terror of Tinseltown,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman meets Mr. Mxyzptlk again, but this time, getting him to say his name backwards is not enough to get rid of him; instead, Superman has to make him paint his face blue. Byrne must have felt that the classic Mxyzptlk stories were too formulaic, and so he (i.e. Byrne) decided that Mxy would impose a different challenge on Superman every time. This change to the character did not stick, because I can’t think of any other Mxyzptlk stories where he didn’t play the “name game,” as Wikipedia calls it.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #11 (LGY #578) (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. I bought this mistakenly thinking it was written by Matt Fraction. Since 1996, the major Marvel titles have been relaunched and renumbered so many times that it’s hard to figure out which volume any given issue belongs to. For instance, there have been three different comics called Invincible Iron Man #11. This problem is especially acute in the case of Amazing Spider-Man, where it’s hard to distinguish the 2014 volume from the 2015 volume. I had to resolve this problem by creating my own chart of all the volumes of all the major Marvel and DC titles, together with their respective legacy numbers. Anyway, this particular Invincible Iron Man #11 is an early Ironheart appearance, and it has less of Bendis’s annoying dialogue than usual, but it’s still not much good.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #607 (Gladstone, 1997) – “Number 401,” [W/A] William Van Horn, etc. I ordered this on eBay because it contains the final chapter of the Phantom Blot story. In this segment the Phantom Blot puts Mickey into another deathtrap and escapes with the camera, but Mickey escapes the trap and chases down the Blot’s plane. Then we finally learn why the camera was important: it contained the chemical formula for a cheaper alternative to radium. This is a thrilling conclusion to a great story. The secret of the camera is a bit disappointing, but whatever was in the camera, it couldn’t possibly have lived up to the hype that Gottfredson built up around it – that’s why we never learn what’s in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. The other important story in this issue is the first chapter of Don Rosa’s “The Once and Future Duck.” This is one of the only Rosa stories I haven’t read, because its only American printings were in WDCAS #607-609 and in Fantagraphics’s Don Rosa Library.  I already read #609, and I just ordered #608, but I haven’t read it yet. “The Once and Future Duck” is Rosa’s retelling of the Arthurian legends. He tries to depict King Arthur in a historically accurate way, as a poor, scruffy barbarian chief. This is in contrast with “The Quest for Kalevala,” where he establishes that the magical legends in the Kalevala are actually real. This issue also includes “Maple Sugar Time,” a story drawn by Daan Jippes based on an unpublished Barks script, in which the ducks compete to see who can produce the most maple syrup. The other notable feature in WDCAS #607 is Bob Foster’s illustrated set of instructions for aspiring Disney comics artists. (Added later: A different Disney artist, Carson Van Osten, claimed the “Comic Strip Artist’s Kit” was his work, and I’m thinking it probably is by Van Osten, not Foster, because I can’t find any only evidence for Foster’s authorship other than WDCAS #607 itself.)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #11 (Marvel, 2016) – “Scorpio Rising Part 3: Signs from Above,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Spidey and Mockingbird battle Scorpio for control of the Zodiac Key. Spidey “wins” by forcing Scorpio to travel one year into the future. At the end, we discover that Dr. Octopus’s mind is residing inside the Living Brain. This issue is entertaining, but Scorpio Rising is not one of Slott’s best storylines.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #24 (DC, 1974) – “The Point Pyrrhus Aftermath! Part 1: Blind Man’s Buff,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Noly Panaligan. Jonah Hex is residing in a small town while recovering from temporary blindness, but Hex’s old enemies keep coming to town to try to kill him. The townspeople get tired of that and force him to leave, with a Shakespearean actor as his guide. But some of Hex’s enemies are still chasing him, and the actor sacrifices his life to save Jonah. In a poignant moment, he recites Hamlet’s soliloquy as he dies. Noly Panaligan is one of the lesser-known Filipino artists, but his art in this issue is very exciting and detailed.

DETECTIVE COMICS #846 (DC, 2008) – “Heart of Hush Part 1: First Families of Gotham,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Seth Mnookin just wrote an article analyzing the crippling flaws of the original Hush story. I completely agree with him that Hush’s plot was a load of nonsense and that Hush was a lousy villain. In “Heart of Hush,” Paul Dini has the difficult task of turning Hush into an interesting character, and I’m not sure he quite succeeds. The best thing in Detective Comics #846 is not Hush but the new character Doctor Aesop, who commits crimes based on Aesop’s fables.

SUICIDE SQUAD #59 (DC, 1991) – “Legerdemain Part 1: Forces in Motion,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. Superman discovers that the Suicide Squad are trying to either capture or kill President Marlo of Qurac before he can stand trial. Batman is also investigating the Suicide Squad, and while doing so, he meets Barbara Gordon in her Oracle identity for perhaps the first time. Batman, Superman and Aquaman all meet and compare notes on the Squad, thus justifying this issue’s memorable cover, which shows the three Justice Leaguers standing next to each other. John Ostrander would have been a great Batman writer, and it’s a shame that he rarely got to write Batman.

2000 AD #1847 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: as above. Bender and Lock continue their investigation into illegal drugs. Defoe: as above. Defoe bids Tomazine farewell, then decides to give up spying or fighting zombies, and the story arc ends with an enigmatic image that I don’t understand. The Ten-Seconders: as above. More nonsense that I don’t understand. Age of the Wolf: as above. The werewolves reveal their plot to use lunar energy to destroy the human race, but before they can execute it, Keira challenges the lead villain, Sigrid, to a duel. Slaine: “The Book of Scars Part 4: Elsewhere,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine fights a group of faerie women who are trying to seduce and kill him. I don’t know where this story fits into Slaine’s continuity. Interior art by Glenn Fabry is always a treat.

GRENDEL: BLACK, WHITE & RED #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – various stories, [W] Matt Wagner, [A] various. A collection of short stories by different artists, in the same vein as Batman: Black and White – except that as the title indicates, the only color used is red. I’ve never understood the premise of Grendel, so I was unable to follow any of these stories. The most memorable one is the one that’s narrated by the editor of Hunter Rose’s novels. The artist for this one is Stan Shaw, who I’m not familiar with. Of the other artists in this issue, the best are Mike Allred and Guy Davis. The latter artist’s work in this issue is very impressive, and his bodies and faces look more photorealistic than usual. In his other comics, like Sandman Mystery Theatre, his art is  very detailed and moody, but the tradeoff is that his bodies and faces look weird.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM AD #1 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Another boring issue of a bad series. Mother Panic is set in Gotham, but it’s a Young Animal title, not a title produced by the Batman office, so it has no meaningful links to Batman continuity.

UNCANNY X-MEN #462 (Marvel, 2005) – “Season of the Witch,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Alan Davis. This issue is a House of M crossover, but it mostly takes place in Otherworld, where Captain Britain and Meggan have to fight two old enemies, James Jaspers and Saturnyne. This issue is a nice throwback to Claremont and Davis’s classic Captain Britain and Excalibur stories, but it’s most notable for introducing X-COM, Saturnyne’s male versions of the female X-Men. This scene is an entertaining example of Claremont’s playfulness with gender.

RICHIE RICH VAULTS OF MYSTERY #31 (Harvey, 1979) – “Much Closer Encounters of the Udda Kind” etc., [W/A] unknown. In two separate stories, Richie Rich fights a mind-controlling alien robot and a mad scientist with a light bulb for a head. Compared to other Richie Rich titles, Vaults of Mystery seemed to focus more on adventure stories. The two stories in this issue are entertaining enough, but not on the same level as other kids’ adventure comics, e.g. Uncle Scrooge or Little Archie.  

PIRATE CORP$ #2 (Eternity, 1987) – “The Source of Strife,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This was Dorkin’s first major series, and it shows. At this point in his career he was still maturing as both a writer and an artist. “The Source of Strife” is a science fiction adventure story in a comic vein, but it fails to be either exciting or funny. Dorkin uses far fewer panels per page in this issue than in his mature work, and he seems to be trying to draw like John Byrne. He does include some of the Easter eggs and hidden messages that are a key feature of his work.

AIR #2 (Vertigo, 2008) – “Letters from Lost Countries Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] M.K. Perker. The protagonist, Blythe, tries to find the inaccessible country of Narimar. Air has a very different aesthetic from anything else. G. Willow Wilson has written, but it does draw upon her interest in South Asian and Islamic culture. I ought to try to finish my run of Air, because it’s one of the only G. Willow Wilson comics that I haven’t read in its entirety.

TREASURE CHEST #19.9 (355) (Pflaum, 1964) – “The Return of the Enchanted Flivver,” [W] Frank T. Moss, [A] Frank Borth, etc. This issue’s lead story stars Henrietta, a semi-intelligent flying car. Henrietta first appeared in this series in 1960, four years before Ian Fleming published his book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It’s even been suggested that Fleming was inspired by Henrietta, though I don’t know how he would have read Treasure Chest comics. This issue’s next story is about a bishop who negotiated with Japan in 1941 to try to prevent World War II. That sounded like nonsense to me, but it really did happen. Japan’s prime minister at the start of 1941, Fumimaro Konoe, wanted to prevent the war, although of course he failed. The next story is about the building of Mount Rushmore. As one would expect, this story is written from a white perspective and maskes no mention of the Lakota people who traditionally own that land. This issue also includes the usual Chuck White chapter.

ALIEN WORLDS #1 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Phony Express” etc., [W] Bruce Jones, [A] various. After  Jones’s anthology series Alien Worlds ended in 1985, Eclipse tried to revive it as a semiannual prestige format series, but only this one issue was ever published. Alien Worlds #1 includes six stories by different artists, all of which are horror or SF stories in the classic EC style. The best of the six is the first one, in which a man takes a job as a mailman to support his wife, but after going through mortal perils in order to deliver a single letter, he discovers that the letter is from his wife to her affair partner. The last scene, where the man tries to decide whether to kill his wife, is reminiscent of Jones’s classic Warren stories. Another good one is “Boots and Jackets,” drawn by Eric Shanower, in which two old enemies decide to spend their waning years together. Some of the other stories are kind of silly.

MEGATON MAN #4 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – “News of the World,” [W/A] Don Simpson. The first half of the issue focuses on Megaton Man himself, as he “works” at a newspaper job – though his stories are actually written by his government contacts – and then encounters Wall-Man, a funny parody of Spider-Man. At the end of the issue, Stella Starlight, the Sue Storm character, registers for classes at the University of Michigan. I have mixed feelings about this series. Stella Starlight is an intriguing, well-rounded character, and the plot thread about her life in Ann Arbor is quite compelling. But the superhero parody parts of Megaton Man are outdated and only somewhat funny.

I went back to Heroes after three weeks:

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. We begin with a summary of the events of the previous storyline, then Calvin gets dragged off by Gaslamp, and the two conflicting groups of students prepare for their confrontation. In the previous storyline, Emily was the most conscientious and caring of the kids; the start of the present conflict was when she stood up Doyle in order to comfort Calvin. So it’s rather shocking that in this issue, she turns into an obsessive, controlling villain.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #11 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martínez Bueno. The houseguests deal with the aftermath of Naya’s death, and in a somewhat implausible twist, we learn that her death was part of Walter’s plan. He and Norah were trying to manipulate the other characters, only Norah didn’t know that, because Walter kept erasing her memories. What I don’t know is what Walter’s goal is. Norah says “We need to know there’s no going home… but we need to feel like we’re doing it without your help.” But why does Walter want all of this to happen? I guess we’ll see.

DO A POWERBOMB! #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. A series of flashbacks explains how Cobrasun and Yua became a couple. Frank and Maggie, the two members of FYSO, kill each other, so Lona and Cobrasun win the tournament by default. But then the necromancer reveals that he doesn’t have enough power to resurrect Yua, so in order to get her back, Lona and Cobrasun have to fight one last match – against God. This series gets more epic with each issue.

RADIANT BLACK #19 (Image, 2022) – “Radiant^2,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Nathan and Marshall have their first adventure with their new shared powers, and then Marshall and Radiant Pink go to Brazil to fight an alien invasion, while Nathan visits Satomi in prison. The prison sequence is a satisfying coda to the Radiant Red miniseries. I especially like the line “How is prison? It’s awful, Nathan. Prison is awful.” At least she finally divorced her asshole husband.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #17 (DC, 2022) – “Kal-El Returns Chapter Four: Unguarded,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Most of this issue is narrated by Clark. His meditations about Jon are very touching, but the emotional heart of the issue is when Jon formally “comes out” to his father. Jon’s sexual orientation is already public knowledge, but Clark’s final speech to Jon, ending “I will always, always be your father,” is a beautiful moment. I love this series, and I’m sorry that it’s ending because DC has other plans for these characters. Tom Taylor is writing a new series starring Jon, but it’s just a miniseries.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #14 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Present and the Past,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. We begin with Newdawn/Odessa Bristow’s origin story. She was the product of a political marriage between Honorhim Bristow and the governor of Delta Pavonis, but when Delta Pavonis was attacked by the Inner Worlds, Bristow refused to honor their alliance. Leaving Odessa’s mother to die, he took Odessa into his custody, groomed her as his heir, and gave her a new name. All of this underscores what a monster Bristow was, and no matter how bad Odessa/Newdawn is, at least she’s better than her dad. We then learn that Odessa is responsible for Thierry’s creation, and she and Thierry escape Malik’s Flight and fly into the realm of the gods. This is the next to last issue.

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francesco Francavilla. In the movie, Johnny discovers that Kurt is the victim of an ancient corpse-eating cult. In the “real-life” sequence, it becomes clear that Dr. Skeen’s asylum is run by the same cult. Inman is thrown out of the asylum, but insists on going back in, leaving his young son Orson alone and in deadly danger – clearly this man is not a father-of-the-year candidate. And we also learn that Orson’s mother is terminally ill. While trying to get help, Orson is lost in a cavern full of monsters. Meanwhile Inman tracks down the last part of Merrit’s film. This comic is difficult to summarize, but the convergence of the main story and the story-within-the-story is an impressive feat of narration, and the ghouls are terrifying. The one thing I don’t like about this comic is that Francesco Francavilla’s page layouts and compositions are much more conventional than in his earlier work, though his coloring is excellent. In particular, at the end of the comic, it must be significant that the folder of patient histories is the same purple color as the growths in the cave.

SHE-HULK #7 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. Jen’s latest clients are Victor Mancha and his Doombot friend. It’s nice to see some characters from Rainbow’s Runaways series again, although I’m still sad that that series was cancelled. Then Jen meets April and Mark, who appeared briefly in an earlier issue, and Mark beats Jen up.

VANISH #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. In a flashback, we see that on September 11, 2001, the Dumbledore character saved one of the twin towers but not the other one. (See also Ex Machina.) Then we meet the Ron character, Deacon Dust, who is now a professional stage magician, and the Hermione/Ginny character, who is Oliver’s wife. This issue is entertaining, but it lacks the novelty of issue 1, now that we know what’s going on. Harry Potter presents a difficult ethical quandary because on one hand, it had a massive impact on all of popular culture, so it’s a natural source of inspiration for any creator who grew up in the ’90s and 2000s. On the other hand, due to its creator’s subsequent actions, Harry Potter is now permanently tainted. Maybe Vanish could be read as an attempt to deal with that problem.

FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Last Town on the Left,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Iban Coello. Ben and Alicia find themselves in a small town where nothing’s changed since the 1940s, and no one knows who Ben is. Then they realize that the town is trapped in a Groundhog-Day-esque time loop, because one inhabitant of the town unknowingly has superpowers, and when his girlfriend dumps him, he keeps wishing to “do it over again.” Ben and Alicia convince him to stop making this wish and to break the time loop, and in a two-page sequence, we see the next six decades of the man’s life, including his marriage to a different woman. This is a very sweet and satisfying story. The Groundhog Day influence is obvious, but it also reminds me of an earlier classic FF story, “Terror in a Tiny Town” from #236. The key problem that confronts any FF writer is how to avoid repeating what’s already been done, and Ryan North’s solution is to tell smaller, more human-scale stories. I look forward to seeing what he does with the other FF members. At the end of this issue, we learn that there’s a giant hole where the Baxter Building was, and it’s Reed’s fault somehow.

EARTHDIVERS #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Kill Columbus Part 2: The Storm,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. “Kill Columbus” is not actually part of the indicia title. This issue just offers some more development of both the present and past plotlines, with no major plot twists. SGJ seems to have done a lot of research into Columbus’s voyage, and his depictions of his Native American protagonists feel accurate. The problem with Earthdivers is the lack of setup. I still don’t feel I understand who these characters are, or why or how they’re trying to change the past, or what the characters who are still in the future are trying to accomplish. In a prose novel, all of this information could have been provided in an infodump, but that’s not as easy to do in a comic.

THE NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM! #3 (DC, 2022) – “Don’t Read the Comments!”, [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Mary becomes a victim of online trolling, then she meets Dudley, aka Uncle Marvel, who tells her that lots of homeless people have vanished lately, only no one has noticed. Then Mary fights a villain who’s like a living comment section, in that he repeats back to her all the mean things that people are saying about her online. Mary finally figures out that her biology teacher, Dr. G., is responsible for the disappearances, only her little sister Darla has figured this out too, and is determined to confront Dr. G. herself. I’m pretty sure that Dr. G is Georgia Sivana. I hated this series at first, but my opinion on it has changed for the better.

HELL TO PAY #1 (Image, 2022) – “The Shrouded College Book 1,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Will Sliney. Our protagonists, Sebastian and Maia, are in debt to the “Shrouded College,” and they have to pay it back by collecting 317 demonic coins. They finally recover what they think is the last coin, only to discover that there are more coins they didn’t know about. And they have to get them all back soon, because Maia is pregnant, which is a violation of their deal with the College. This comic is a really impressive feat of worldbuilding. I like the suggestion that the coins are responsible for every financial crisis from the tulip bubble onward, or that the demons in hell have names like “Lord Six-Percent-Year-over-Year Growth.” The note at the end suggests that this is the first of seven planned Shrouded College miniseries, and it seems like the ideas in Hell to Pay are deep enough to support such an ambitious plan.

DARK RIDE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. This issue is not nearly as long as issue 1, and is mostly about the internal conflicts within the Dante family. There are some cute moments with Dante’s son Sam and his daughter Autumn, followed by a terrifying moment when Autumn cuts herself. Andrei Bressan is a very gifted draftsman and designer, and his depictions of Devil Land are very effective.

LITTLE MONSTERS #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The two factions of vampire kids continue their conflict. A flashback shows that Romie has been concealing something from the other kids, and at the end of the issue, Romie leads some of the other kids into a crypt containing the bodies of the adult vampires. Other than that, this issue doesn’t tell us anything new.

DAMN THEM ALL #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. Ellie Hawthorne is the only relative of the late Alfie Hawthorne, England’s greatest magician. At the start of the series, Alfie’s funeral is invaded by a demon. When Ellie investigates where the demon came from, she discovers that there’s been some major upheaval in hell, and all the demons are now enslaved to humans, and they actually want to be exorcised. Damn Them All falls into the category of creator-owned comics that are thinly disguised sequels to their creator’s earlier works done for hire. (I guess the earliest example of this was Destroyer Duck.) Alfie Hawthorne is an obvious stand-in for John Constantine, and this series is essentially “what if Constantine died and his niece Gemma took over his job?” Simon Spurrier’s John Constantine: Hellblazer was a masterpiece, and it’s nice to see him arol’writing another Constantine-adjacent story, even if it’s not official. I also like the detailed worldbuilding Spurrier has done for his version of hell.

BATGIRLS #12 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Conclusion,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. The Riddler gives the Batgirls a clue that helps them track down the real murderer, a sociopath named “Mr. Fun.” He also hints to Steph that her father, Cluemaster, is still alive. And for some reason Cass flies through the city clinging to Killer Moth. This was a fun storyline, and I like Cloonan and Conrad’s version of the Riddler; almost everything he says in this comic is a riddle. The disappointing part of this issue is that Maps Mizoguchi doesn’t appear in it.

KAYA #2 (Image, 2022) – “Kaya & the Lizard-Riders Chapter Two,” [W/A] Wes Craig. Kaya and her love interest, the lizard prince Seth, go on a boar hunt, there’s a lot of interpersonal drama, and then at the end of the issue, we see some cows that seem to have been killed by a vampire. I really like the art and coloring in this series; the characters are very cute, the settings are immervsive, and there’s an impressive number of panels per page. Perhaps this is why the characters are so cute –because the panels are so small, and so the characters themselves are depicted at a small size. However, I’m not quite convinced by Kaya’s storyline, and I find it hard to see how a human and a lizard can be a couple.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #43 (Marvel, 2022) – “Revenge of the Brood Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and Rhodey’s date is interrupted by a distress message from Rogue. Carol teams up with a group of X-Men to respond to the distress call, and they find that Rogue has been turned into a Brood. This issue brings back nostalgic memories of Claremont’s stories that featured both Carol and the Brood, but it’s not as exciting as the last storyline was.

NEW MUTANTS #31 (Marvel, 2022) – “Fate & Consequences,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Alberto Albuquerque et al. This issue stars a new New Mutants team, all of whose members are LGBTQ. The two focal characters are Shela and Morgan from Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1. The other key character is Martha, the former No-Girl, who’s adjusting to having a body again after being just a disembodied brain. At a public appearance, the new New Mutants are kidnapped by the U-Men, a group of anti-mutant bigots. It seems dubious that the U-Men were able to kidnap the kids in broad daylight, right in front of a Krakoa gate. Other than that, this issue is reasonably good. I enjoy Charlie Jane Anders’s novels, and I’m hoping her style will translate well to comics.

WONDER WOMAN #793 (DC, 2022) – “Walk Among Us,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Wonder Woman, Batman and the newly returned Superman have a reunion in the old JLA Watchtower, and they fight the Imperium, who appear to be the same characters as the Hyperclan from Grant Morrison’s first JLA storyline. I don’t know why the Hyperclan were renamed; maybe they’re not compatible with the current DC Universe’s version of Mars. This is one of Conrad and Cloonan’s better WW stories, because they show a keen understanding of the three Trinity members and the relationships between them. A nice touch is Diana’s discovery of J’onn’s hidden stash of Oreos behind a wall.

SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part Two: The Last Spider-Man Standing,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. Peter and Morlun escape to Earth-616 Beta, which, humorously, is colored with Ben Day dots. There they team up with some other Spider-people, including Spinstress from Edge of Spider-Verse #4. Spinstress’s lyrics don’t always scan, but I love her anyway.

OLD DOG #2 (Image, 2022) – “Extraction,” [W/A] Declan Shalvey. Lynch rescues a spy from an undisclosed location, only for Lynch’s daughter to kill the spy; it seems that Lynch and his daughter were given different orders. Also, Lynch’s old friend Frankie gives him some mysterious photos. The plot twist, with the daughter killing the spy, is surprising, but otherwise this issue wasn’t as exciting as #1. It was just a typical spy story with limited SF elements.

SURVIVAL STREET #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. The government-controlled media leads a propaganda campaign against all puppets. But the Cookie Monster character gives false information about the other protagonists’ location, and when the government sends troops into the abandoned amusement park where the puppets are hiding, the troops walk into a death trap. After this horrible spectacle, the public finally starts to turn against the government. Survival Street was not just a funny Sesame Street parody, but also a powerful piece of satire.

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. Our protagonist is Greyson, a child protective services investigator who was himself abused as a child. Shortly after his brother’s death, Greyson visits a group home for children and discovers a silent little girl, Wren, who seems to have been beaten. That same night, the home is crushed by a tree, and Wren is the only survivor. It becomes evident that Wren has the power to cause disasters. The story then resumes many years later, when Greyson and Wren are traveling together through a post-apocalyptic world. Tate Brombal’s story arc on House of Slaughter was just okay, but Behold, Behemoth #1 is a very sensitive take on child abuse, and its two protagonists are fascinating. Also, Nick Robles’s art and coloring are gorgeous, especially in the dream sequences.

DOGS OF LONDON #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Gravediggers Arms,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. Frank recruits some old criminal allies and goes to the rendezvous with the revenants, who have kidnapped Frank’s son. (Since the son is a Tory politician, Frank ought to have let the revenants keep him.) Frank succeeds in killing the revenants, and as their bodies burn, he thinks that his upbringing left the Dogs no choice but to become criminals. Dogs of London is another excellent miniseries, maintaining the high standard that Milligan set with Human Remains.

BLINK #4 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. Wren and the Static fight their way to the window that leads out of the building, and it’s hinted that one of the Static is Wren’s father or mother. Wren finally confronts Oz, who created the Static and Signal. Hayden Sherman’s page layouts in this comic are brilliant, though his art in Dark Spaces: Wildfire is even better.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #5 (Image, 2022) – “There Must Be an Angel,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Sebastian finally confronts Thorndike Scar, who apparently kills Sebastian with the devil’s tooth. But Sebastian has managed to give the angel Ezekiel a fragment of the tooth (by concealing it in his mouth and then kissing Ezekiel), and Ezekiel uses the tooth to free himself and kill Scar. Ezekiel vanishes, and Sebastian, Abel and Ofelia live happily ever after. This comic was cleverly plotted, sexy, and intense, and I hope it will return, as promised on the last page.

BATMAN #129 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part 5,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Failsafe chases Batman to Atlantis, then the JLA Watchtower (which appears in two comics this month). Then Batman forcibly teleports Failsafe to the Hall of Justice while staying at the Watchtower himself, but Batman’s plans go wrong, and he’s stuck floating in space with no spaceship to save him. As noted before, Failsafe reminds me of the Fury because it’s an implacable robotic monster. This issue is also a bit like X-Men #143. The backup story is another chapter of “I Am a Gun,” which appears to depict the origin of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.

X-MEN RED #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Mission to the Unknown,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Madibek Musibekov. This artist is from Kazakhstan, like Abylay Kussainov. During a peace conference on Arakko, Cable discovers that Abigail Brand is working with Orchis and the Progenitors, and he organizes a team of X-Men to counter Brand’s plot. But then we learn that Brand has another powerful ally: Vulcan. This issue is effectively a continuation of Ewing’s S.W.O.R.D. and Guardians of the Galaxy. Blackjack O’Hare, who makes a cameo appearance at the beginning, looks like a ripoff of Bucky O’Hare. In fact, Blackjack was introduced in 1976, long before Bucky. However, Bucky was first created in 1977 or 1978, for a DC title that was never published because of the DC implosion. And Bill Mantlo, Blackjack’s creator, was a known plagiarist, so if he somehow saw the early designs for Bucky, it’s possible that he decided to rip them off. I wonder if anyone’s asked Larry Hama or Michael Golden about the relationship between these characters.

THE RETURN OF CHILLING ADVENTURES IN SORCERY #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Blood Moon Lilith,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Vincenzo Federici. Another issue full of unfrightening, unsatisfying non-stories. With the sole exception of Chilling Adventures of Salem #1, every Archie comic this year has been a severe disappointment. These one-shots are an embarrassment to Archie’s legacy. If they can’t be bothered to do any better than this, then instead of pretending to be committed to the direct market, they should just stop publishing direct-market comics entirely.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #10 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part 5,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. Something finally does happen in this issue, unlike in issues 7 through 9. However, I can’t understand what happens or why. There’s a concluding scene in the House of Slaughter, but this scene does nothing to advance the overall plot of the franchise. Overall, “Scarlet” was just a complete waste of space, and I hope it will be Sam Johns’s last work for the Slaughterverse.

MY LITTLE PONY: CLASSICS REIMAGINED #1 (IDW, 2022) – “Little Fillies,” [W] Megan Brown, [A] Jenna Ayoub. A retelling of Little Women, with Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Rarity as Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. It’s really nice to see these characters again, after the cancellation of MLP: FIM, and this issue is extremely funny. Rainbow Dash seems initially like an odd choice for Jo, but it makes sense given Rainbow Dash’s interest in literature. Applejack is “played” by Laurie, which is appropriate since Jo and Laurie are frequently shipped with each other, just like Rainbow Dash and Applejack. Fluttershy is also a sadly appropriate casting choice for Beth; if there’s one pony who I’d expect to get sick and die a pathetic death, it’s Fluttershy. Oh, and the Civil War is reimagined as a war between cats and dogs. If IDW continues this series, an obvious choice for the next story arc would be Bridle and Prejudice.

ACTION JOURNALISM #2 (Oni, 2022) – “Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Science!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklos Felvideki. Kate attends a conference of mad scientists, where she has to find a way to defuse an out-of-control anti-gravity device. This is another fun issue, but it’s not really about journalism, like issue 1 was; Kate doesn’t use her journalism skills to save the day. This issue has a backup story drawn by Max Sarin. I’m glad Oni hired Hunter Gorinson as editor-in-chief, because that suggests that they intend to continue publishing comics. Previously it was unclear if that was the case.

VARIANTS #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica defeats Purple Man’s influence with the help of Professor X, but afterward Jessica realizes that her pink-haired duplicate is the real villain. And then the pink-haired Jessica summons an army of other evil Jessicas from other realities. Jessica’s defeat of the Purple Man is a powerful moment, but I wonder how many times she’ll have to beat him before he stops coming back.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “The Parade,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. Douglas wakes up in a world where his mission worked. In this world he’s a hero, and his wife is still alive, and she doesn’t care that he’s not her husband. It seems like a happy ending, but Douglas still feels guilty about accepting it. At the end of the issue, he’s told that his own reality might still be saved. The cool twist in this issue is that Douglas’s superiors realized that their mission might save other alternate realities but not their own. This idea makes perfect sense, given how alternate realities work, but I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. Astronaut Down is by far the grimmest of James Patrick’s three series.

The following comics were from an Atomic Avenue order, my first order from that website in a while:

2000 AD #382 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw Part 20,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf, Middenface and Gronk try to save Johnny from some kind of trap. Halo Jones: “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo and Rodice return home from shopping to discover that their roommate Brinna has been murdered. This is a brutal moment, and what’s worse, we will later learn that Halo’s robot dog Toby was the murderer. Dredd: “Dredd Angel Part 6,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd teams up with Mean Machine Angel to rescue some Judge fetuses. Mean Machine is one of Dredd’s best recurring villains, though that’s not saying much; in my opinion the only real classic Dredd villain is Judge Death. Rogue Trooper: “Death Valley Part 3,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue teams up with some Norts against a common enemy. Ace Trucking Co: “On the Dangle 5,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. To avoid criminal charges, Ace has to rescue an alien who resembles Miss Piggy. I again note that I hate this series because of Ace’s annoying dialogue.

VAMPIRELLA #54 (Warren, 1976) – “The Day the Music Died,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. A very complicated story involving an evil crystal ball, a death cult, and a musician named Paul Daltrey (Paul McCartney + Roger Daltrey?). These Vampirella stories are typically okay, but not great. The characters are only mildly interesting, and neither Vampi nor her friends have much of a character arc. This issue has just one backup story, though it’s a good one: Strnad and Corben’s “Bowser,” about a little boy with a monstrous pet. This story feels familiar, but I’m not sure where I could have read it. Perhaps I’ve read a different story with a similar theme.

BATMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – “I Am Suicide Part 1,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. This issue’s main plot seems to be about Bane, but he himself just appears briefly, and most of the issue is devoted to Batman’s visit to Arkham Asylum. This issue includes a scene with an Arkham inmate whose name is unknown, but she looks like Saturn Girl, and she breathes on a glass pane and draws a Legion logo in the fog. This mystery was explained in Doomsday Clock, which I don’t ever want to read, even if it has Legion connections.

WONDER WOMAN #99 (DC, 1995) – “The Rest of the Story,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. This issue has several different plots, all of which lead into the conclusion of Loebs’s run in issue 100. There’s one uncomfortable moment where Diana harshly rebukes her own mother, I’m not sure why. The best scene in the issue is when Julia Kapatelis is undergoing physical therapy and realizes she can feel her injured legs again. Mike Deodato’s art in this issue is an example of the worst excesses of ‘90s comics art. His women are scantily clad and unrealistically posed, and he draws a monster that’s covered in bulging veins. He’s become a better artist in his later career, though I still don’t love his work.

THE BLACK MAN’S GUIDE TO GETTING PULLED OVER (Microcosm, 2021) – untitled, [W] Johnny Parker II, [A] Felipe Horas. This comic’s subject matter is sadly relevant, and Parker succeeds in conveying the fear that black people experience when being pulled over, as well as the basic unfairness of the police’s treatment of black people. The problem is that this comic is only 20 pages, and the artwork is rather minimal. Otherwise, this is an effective use of comics to address a serious social problem.

POISON IVY #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara & Brian Level. Ivy fights and defeats Woodrue, then sends a letter to Harley, and we see Harley reading it. This issue, like #5, is less engaging than the rest of the series, because it’s just a long fight scene. Brian Level’s art in the fight scene is not bad, but I’ve seen better depictions of monstrous plants.

PINK LEMONADE #2 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. An alien film producer called Barzibelly Jr manipulates Pink Lemonade into signing a contract to appear in a movie. In the movie, Pink Lemonade hs has to fight a retired superhero named Ron Randall. Eventually Barzibelly Jr is dragged back to his home planet by his parents. This plot device is borrowed from either Fantastic Four #24 or the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos”.  Pink Lemonade is an excellent series, although it’s very reminiscent of Madman, due to both the art style and the protagonist’s naïve personality.

MONKEY PRINCE #8 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus finally gains control of Ruyi Jingu Bang and uses it to defeat the Trench. In the splash page when Marcus smashes the villain with the stick, I believe that the giant Chinese characters say Ruyi Jingu Bang. After the adventure, Marcus’s parents decide to move to Metropolis. Monkey Prince is a very fun series, and I’m glad that this character is going to play a bigger role in the DC universe.

TWO GRAVES #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Genevieve Valentine, [A] Ming Doyle. An incoherent mess of a comic. The first half of the issue, in which a young woman and a supernatural creature take revenge on a murderer, is fairly clear. But then the rest of the issue consists of pseudo-profound bullshit about the myth of Persephone and the death of stars, and we’re never told who the characters are or what they’re doing. This comic seems kind of like Pretty Deadly, only with even less of a plot – and I hate Pretty Deadly. I asked Heroes to take this series off my pull list.

MY LITTLE PONY #6 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Amy Mebberson. The ponies explore Canterlot and discover Fluttershy’s cabin, and there’s a flashback with Fluttershy and Discord. I’m vaguely curious about what happened to the Mane Six and Discord after MLP: FIM ended, but I still don’t care about any of these new ponies.  

2000 AD #388 (Rebellion, 1984) – Nemesis: “Book Four,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Such sad news about Kevin O’Neill. He was a great talent. I was lucky enough to meet him at Comic-Con once. In this story, Nemesis and Torquemada arrive on an alien planet whose society is based on pre-WWI Britain. Of course O’Neill depicts this setting in obsessive detail. Helltrekkers: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Horacio Lalla. I believe this is the same Helltrekkers story that I’ve read parts of before. In this chapter, some of the Trekkers cause a preventable tragedy. Rogue Trooper: “To the Ends of Nu Earth Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue continues his search for the Traitor General. Dredd: “Error of Judgment,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd uses city funds to purchase a new body for a little girl who’s been reduced to a disembodied brain. But the girl is horrified with her new body, and she commits suicide. Then Dredd punches a bureaucrat who questions the money spent on the girl. Because of all this, Dredd has to have a psychiatric evaluation to see if he can continue as a judge. Ace: “Strike,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Ace’s employees go on strike. See my previous comments on Ace Trucking Co.; I have nothing to add.

LOVE EVERLASTING #4 (Image, 2022) – “Nothing Left But Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. The new version of Joan is a singer in WWI France who entertains soldiers. She befriends one particular soldier, Dane, and their affair continues as every other member of Dane’s unit is killed in action. This is a powerful and grim war story, but I have no idea what it has to do with the rest of the series. Has Tom King given up on telling a continuing story, or explaining what’s going on with all these Joans? I guess we’ll see.

THE ROADIE #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. Joe saves Shelby from being killed by zombies, and is shocked to discover the difference between his and Shelby’s musical tastes. This is fun, but so far I don’t like it as much as West of Sundown. I wish this issue had fewer subplots and more Joe and Shelby. Ike Zimmerman, who is mentioned briefly in this issue, was a real person. Unlike Robert Johnson, he lived long enough that he could have been rediscovered in the ‘60s, but his music was never recorded.

GOLDEN RAGE #4 (Image, 2022) – “Art,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. Some of the ladies put on a theater performance, and then some of the other ladies reveal that they’ve built a boat to escape the island. This is a boring issue. The key problem with Golden Rage is that the island itself is less interesting to me than the larger society that produced it. If this society exiles infertile women to an inaccessible island, then what must women’s lives be like on the mainland? In contrast, Bitch Planet had a very similar premise to Golden Rage, but it showed us both the prison planet and the world below.

TRAVELING TO MARS #1 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. Valuable natural gas has been discovered under Mars’s surface, and the entire world agrees that whoever steps on Mars first can claim the entire planet. An unnamed company chooses Roy Livingston, a chronic ne’er-do-well, to make a solo trip to Mars in order to stake its claim. Roy is chosen because he has a rare cancer whose progress will be temporarily stopped by weightlessness. This is a really clever premise, and I’m curious to see what twists it takes.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS AFTERSCHOOL #4 (Image, 2022) – “The Club,” [W] Leon Hendrix III, [A] Eric Zawadzki. In a mashup of Dead Poets Society and Fight Club, a high school teacher organizes a student club that quickly turns into a fascist terror squad. At the end, the teacher tries to disband the club, but the club members reject his authority and murder him. This issue is a creepy depiction of how fascism starts, but it also feels unoriginal, and its ending is no surprise.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #7 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? To my disappointment, this issue does not include a chapter of The Pro. I guess the Pro story last issue was just a one-shot. Instead, this issue includes a new Wytches story by Scott Snyder and Jock. There’s also the first chapter of “Closer” by Kieron Gillen and Steve Lieber, about a woman who’s the incarnation of the song “Close to You”: for instance, birds suddenly appear every time she’s near. Most of the other stories in this issue are no better nor worse than in issue 6. I now realize that Dutch is an actual preexisting character, not a newly created parody of ‘90s Image comics.

2000 AD #389 (Rebellion, 1984) – Dredd: “A Case for Treatment,” as above. Dredd has a mental health exam in which he has to relive his earlier life. The cause of his lapses in judgment is unclear, so to cure him, he has to go on what will be his toughest mission since the Apocalypse War. Nemesis: as above. Torquemada meets some rebels who want to modernize the Goth society, and then Nemesis and Torquemada prepare for their duel. The shift in art styles since last issue is jarring, but Bryan Talbot draws excellent London scenes. Helltrekkers: as above. The Helltrekkers fight some tyrannosaurs. I don’t know if the dinosaurs in this story were part of the same continuity as Old One-Eye and its relatives. Ace: as above. Ace makes a delivery to a diseased planet, but it still leaves him in debt to his own crew. Rogue Trooper: as above. The Traitor General explains what he’s been doing since his last appearance.

HUMAN TARGET #8 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Rocket Red kidnaps and tortures Chance, correctly suspecting Chance of Guy’s murder. Chance convinces Rocket Red that Guy is still alive, and then beats his up. I thought at first that Chance’s attack on Rocket Red was unjustified, but Mordechai Luchins pointed out that he does this as revenge, since Rocket Red had previously lifted him into the air and dropped him. I like the characterization of Rocket Red in this issue, but this series is getting repetitive, and I think it could have been shorter. A further problem with this issue is that it includes untranslated Cyrillic text, so I had to download a translation app to finish reading it.

SPECS #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Chris Shehan. In 1987, young friends Kenny Holcomb and Ted Reynolds face homophobia and racism respectively. Kenny orders some magical glasses from an ad in a comic book, and discovers that the glasses really do have the power to grant wishes. When the local bully, “Skunk,” threatens Kenny with a knife, Ted puts on the glasses and says “I wish you’d leave Kenny alone,” and Skunk vanishes. 35 years later he’s still missing. This isn’t the most exciting current Boom title, but it’s a complicated and intriguing take on queer identity and nostalgia.

ANTIOCH #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. In prison, Antioch and Frontiersman fight some of their fellow prisoners. So far this series feels less deep than Frontiersman. Antioch seems like just a Namor clone. I wish this series was still called Frontiersman, so I could keep filing the two series together – I have switched to filing all my comics in strict alphabetical order, with a few exceptions like Ascender.

HEART EYES #3 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. Lupe goes out shopping in an abandoned grocery store, where she meets an old lady, but the monsters kill the old lady, ignoring Lupe’s halfhearted efforts to save her. Then Lupe meets two abandoned children who are hiding out in a bus, but while the children are trying to make Lupe leave, the area is struck by an atomic bomb. After reading this issue, I lost my sympathy for Lupe. She knows her monsters are deadly to everyone but her, and she’s too naïve or stupid to care. I do like Victor Ibáñez’s depictions of the monsters. It’s fascinating how we can’t even distinguish between one monster and another; rather, it’s as if Lupe is surrounded by an aura of monstrosity.

ABSOLUTION #4 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina and Ann’s next target is a serial killer named Andrew Roth. They seem to have found him, but it proves to be a trap set by one of Nina’s own fans. A nice trick with this series is that Nina’s audience’s reactions parallel those of the comic’s actual reader: the reader wants Nina to kill Andrew as much as the audience within the comic does.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “X-Isle,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth and his team arrive at an island where they find a mass grave full of mutant bodies. I don’t quite remember or understand what happens in this issue. So far this series seems more exciting than the previous volume of Sabretooth, but only barely.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #6 (DC, 2022) – “Run This Town,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] ChrisCross. The Blood Syndicate beats Holocaust by using teamwork to overcome his superior power. If the previous issues of the series had been more like this one, I would have been less frustrated with this comic. Unlike the writers of the original Blood Syndicate, Thorne doesn’t seem to understand how to write a team comic without giving undue exposure to a single character. (The absolute master of this craft was Paul Levitz.) This series focused way too much on Holocaust and not enough on anyone else.

DETECTIVE COMICS #38 facsimile (DC, 1940/2022) – “Robin, the Boy Wonder,” [W] Bill Finger, [A] Bob Kane. In Robin’s first appearance, the essential aspects of his character are already well developed. The familiar origin story, in which Dick’s acrobat parents are murdered by Boss Zucco, is presented for the first time, and Robin is depicted as a cheerful, friendly foil to the dark, grim Batman. Robin even seems to make Batman himself more Robin-like; at a couple points in the story, Batman is shown smiling and cracking jokes. I honestly can’t remember any of the other stories in the issue, although a couple of them have recognizable protagonists: the Crimson Avenger and Slam Bradley.

MINOR THREATS #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Clinical Empathy,” [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. This comic has some interesting artwork and character concepts. I particularly like the two-page splash where the heroes hallucinate that they’re walking on top of an original art page. However, Minor Threats suffers from a lack of originality or thematic unity – in other words, there’s nothing in particular to distinguish it from any other superhero parody title – and that makes it hard for me to want to read it.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Thanks to the events of the previous miniseries, almost the entire world is now broke, and civil society has collapsed. The only remaining millionaires are senile Mr. Canto – who, like Stan Lee, is under the control of a creepy young handler – and Business Dog, who no one has seen in years. Our protagonist, journalist Shelly Bly, is searching for Business Dog, but so is everyone else. This comic is another example of Mark Russell’s gift for clever and plausible satire, though I find it hard to believe that the entire world could go broke at once. I’m not sure that economics works like that.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Assault on the Precinct!”, [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The Libra plotline continues. This is probably the worst Ahoy comic yet – it’s even worse than Snelson. Its plot and characters are unconvincing, and it lacks a central object or target for its satire; it makes fun of many things at once, but the things it satirizes have little in common with each other.

GOTHAM CITY: YEAR ONE #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. Slam Bradley hands over some ransom money in exchange for the baby’s location, but the baby is not at the specified location. Richard Bruce Wayne decides that this is somehow Slam’s fault, and threatens Slam with a gun. Slam does what the reader has wanted him to do all issue and gives Richard a good sock in the face. This is a cathartic moment because Slam has spent two whole issues getting insulted, beaten up, and ordered around, just for accepting an envelope that was handed to him. TBH, I’m tempted to give up on this series just because I’m sick of seeing Slam take all this abuse.

LEGION OF X #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hand That Mocked Them, and the Heart That Fed,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Metho Diaz. Nightcrawler and his team encounter the Phalanx, and then Kurt discovers that (Arch)angel has been mutated into a monstrous form. I feel obligated to keep reading this series because I love both Nightcrawler and Si Spurrier; however, the combination of the two is less effective than either of them alone. Spurrier just doesn’t seem to have a clear direction in mind for this series, and his plots are hard to understand.

NEW YORK NINJA SUPER SPECIAL #1 (Floating World, 2022) – “…But I Want Them Dead,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. This is an adaptation of a movie which I haven’t seen and don’t plan to see, simply because I hardly ever watch movies at all. If I did watch movies, I’d consider watching New York Ninja, just because of its fascinating story. New York Ninja was supposed to be released in the 1980s, but although several hours of footage were shot, the film was never finished. The surviving footage went unreleased until the film company Vinegar Syndrome purchased it by accident. Vinegar Syndrome then decided to recreate the original movie, even though the footage was unedited and the audio track and screenplay did not survive. In essence, they had to reconstruct the film based on nothing but the footage itself. Forsman’s comics adaptation is a sequel to this reconstructed version of New York Ninja, and it’s less interesting as a comic than New York Ninja probably was as a film. Forsman’s comic is a nice piece of ‘80s nostalgia, but there’s nothing innovative about it, and it’s hard to understand without having seen the film.

2000 AD #390 (IPC, 1984) – Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue flees from the Traitor General’s surgical robots. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis destroys Torquemada’s host body, but Torquemada survives by taking over a new body. The first panel on the third page includes depictions of many celebrities, including David Bowie, Groucho Marx, Marilyn Monroe, and possibly Liza Minnelli. Dredd: “The Wally Squad Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. Dredd teams up with the “Wally Squad,” a team of bizarre lunatics, to stop an illegal arms deal. The “arms” in this case are literal arms, the kind that come in left or right varieties. Ace: as above. Ace plays a trick on his rebellious crew by convincing them to make a delivery of worms to a planet where (at least according to Ace) worms are a delicacy. Helltrekkers: as above. The wagons are caught in a flood.

BATMAN #31 (DC, 2017) – “The War of Jokes and Riddles Part 5,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janín. Batman and various other villains team up against both the Riddler and the Joker. I’m steadily getting fed up with Tom King, but I like his Batman because he doesn’t try too hard to be clever or to outsmart himself. Mikel Janín’s art in this issue is very striking and dramatic.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #74 (Gold Key, 1971) – “Island of the Doomed,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Alberto Giolitti. A tribe of turtle-riding people kidnap Turok and Andar and imprison them on an island as a sacrifice to their god. On the island, Turok and Andar meet the turtle people’s exiled former chief. They all escape together, and the chief is restored to his former position. This issue is boring, but at least it doesn’t strictly follow the Turok formula, which I will describe below.

THE WOODS #22 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This issue is mostly focused on Karen and Sanami’s relationship, and there’s also some political drama. My problem with The Woods is that I can never make sense of the plot or the characters’ relationships. I still have several more issues of this series, but I haven’t read them yet. Maybe I should wait to read them until I fill in the gaps in my run, so that I can read the whole series in order. I’m currently missing #3, #11-13, #15, #17-21, and all but one issue after #25.

MURDER #1 (Renegade, 1986) – “The Big Man,” [W/A] Steve Ditko, etc. This is also considered issue 10 of Revolver, though this is not indicated anywhere in the comic itself. Revolver and its associated titles were anthologies that focused on Steve Ditko’s work and were edited by his longtime collaborator Robin Snyder. According to Rob Imes, “The Big Man” was intended for Charlton’s 1985 revival of Tales of the Mysterious Traveler. It reads like a typical example of Ditko’s moralizing. Brad Foster’s illustrated text story “The Queen of Hairy Flies” has some very detailed drawing, but it includes way too much text, and moreover, the text is in a tiny font, and it’s all just trite Lovecraftian purple prose. Rich Margopoulos and Dan Day’s “Eleonora” is an adaptation of a Poe story. Dan Day’s art resembles that of his brother Gene Day. Probably the high point of the issue is Alex Toth’s one-pager “Face Up to It.”

2000 AD #393 (IPC, 1984) – Stainless Steel Rat: “For President,” [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Slippery Jim DiGriz and his wife Angelina are hired to solve a murder. I read the first Stainless Steel Rat novel and was turned off by its sexism, but this adaptation makes me want to continue reading the series. Dredd: “City of the Damned,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd and Anderson travel ahead in time to the year 2120 to investigate a prophecy of disaster. This is the beginning of a major Dredd epic. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis and Torquemada scheme against each other while riding a train. On the last page, Hammerstein and two other robots are about to be executed by Ro-Jaws. Ace: as above. On reaching the worm-eating planet, Ace’s crew discovers that the people there don’t eat worms, they worship them. Oops. Helltrekkers: as above. Just as the trekkers are erupting into factional violence, they discover that some of their number are suffering from a deadly contagious disease.

BATMAN #473 (DC, 1992) – “Into the Idiot Zone,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Norm Breyfogle. In part three of the Idiot Root crossover, Batman battles some sort of sentient psychoactive drug. In the central sequence of the issue, Batman takes the drug himself and is transported into the “idiot zone”. This scene contains some of Norm Breyfogle’s weirdest, most psychedelic art ever, and its weirdness is intensified by Todd Klein’s unusual lettering.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #49 (DC, 1978) – Scalphunter: “The Belle,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Ayers. A Confederate judge, Jeremiah Halleck, hires Scalphunter to protect his fortune in jewels from being stolen by outlaws. The outlaws succeed in killing Halleck, but Scalphunter escapes with the jewels and Halleck’s young wife, who claims that her husband was abusive. After Scalphunter reaches safety with the wife, he realizes that it was her who betrayed her husband to the outlaws, and he takes the jewels and throws them in a river. In the backup story, by Roger McKenzie and Howard Chaykin, a female vigilante named Cinnamon seeks revenge on her father’s killer. This story is inked by Danny Bulanadi, who sadly just passed away.

GRENDEL: DEVIL CHILD #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W] Diana Schutz, [A] Tim Sale. This issue stars Stacy Palumbo, the adoptive daughter of the first Grendel, Hunter Rose. This issue begins after Hunter’s death, which was partly Stacy’s fault. Stacy is now in an institution, and her therapist grooms her and manipulates her into marrying him, but Stacy kills him too. I still don’t understand the premise of Grendel, but this issue is fairly powerful. Tim Sale was a master storyteller whose style resembled Argentine, Spanish or Italian comics more than American comics. I don’t know if I’ve read a comic written by Diana Schutz before. I think of her as an editor and journalist, rather than a creator.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #38 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Man Who Bought America Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. This takes place during the period when Steve Rogers was dead. The Winter Soldier is now the new Captain America, and in one of this issue’s plotlines, he and Falcon fight Arnim Zola. In the other plotline, Sharon discovers that the Grand Director, aka the fake 1950s Cap, has come back to life. The Grand Director’s previous appearance was in the same 1970s story where Sharon herself was killed off. I read Brubaker and Epting’s Captain America while it was coming out, but I eventually gave up on it because it was getting boring. However, it was a very solid and competent run, and Steve Epting’s art was thrilling and dramatic, making great use of photo reference.

MEGATON MAN #9 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “It’s Another Me! But Is He Friend or Foe?”, [W/A] Don Simpson. Megaton Man fights various other counterparts of himself, and also discovers that Stella Starlight is pregnant with his love child. In addition, there are some parodies of Elfquest and Doonesbury, and the issue includes a Border Worlds backup story. I think that in Megaton Man, Don Simpson might have been trying to follow a similar trajectory to Cerebus (whose creator, Dave Sim, is his near namesake). Megaton Man started out as a superhero parody, but gradually became more serious. However, Simpson never abandoned his primary focus on Megaton Man’s parody aspects, even when they started to get tired, and his attempts at more serious storytelling were not as successful as Sim’s.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM AD #6 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel Part 6,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Again, I don’t understand this comic’s plot, and I don’t care enough to try to understand it. The most interesting thing about this issue is that it contains several pages that are printed very blurrily. This issue includes a Mr. Freeze appearance, as well as some characters in Robin costumes, but it still doesn’t feel like it belongs to the Batman universe.

MY DOG IVY #1 (Uncivilized, 2019) – various vignettes, [W/A] Gabrielle Bell. A series of diary comics that cover the time Gabrielle Bell spent in Minneapolis, pet-sitting for Tom Kaczynski and his partner Nikki. This comic doesn’t focus very much on its Minneapolis setting, but it did include a scene set at the Mall of America. Also, while at the beach, Gabrielle encounters a woman with two heads. I thought this was an exercise in surrealism at first, but there really are two women in Minneapolis who appear to be a single body with two heads. As usual, Gabrielle Bell’s writing has impressive psychological depth, and her art is appealing because of her effective spotting of blacks.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #10 (Marvel, 2012) – “Powerless Part 5,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Alan Davis. The Falcon goes crazy due to the effects of the Madbomb, while Cap recovers from being infected with a virus by Machinesmith. At the end of the issue, Cap exhibits some strange behavior, like saying that the news is all lies. Maybe he was hit by the Madbomb too. This issue has a forgettable story, but is worth reading for Alan Davis’s art. Sadly, now that we’ve lost George Perez, Alan Davis may be my favorite living mainstream comics artist.

JONAH HEX #3 (DC, 1977) – “The Fugitive!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] José Luis García-López. While fleeing from a posse of gunmen, Hex hides in the house of an old blind pacifist. Inconveniently, some other gunmen show up and try to burn the house down, because their employer wants to mine for turquoises on the old man’s land. The situation is further complicated when the old man’s daughter arrives home and discovers that Hex is a dangerous fugitive. Jonah manages to save the old man and the daughter, but is badly hurt. This is another classic Jonah Hex story.

AVENGERS FOREVER #10 (Marvel, 1999) – “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow…”, [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Carlos Pacheco. RIP Carlos Pacheco, a great artist who deserved a longer career. I read some of this series while it was coming out, but I gave up on it because of its hopelessly complicated, convoluted plot. It seems like Kurt and Sterno were trying to reconcile every single tangled plot thread in the entire Marvel Universe, and as a result, this series became impenetrable even to an expert reader, which I already was at that time. (Come to think of it, you might make a similar claim about The Marvels.) This issue complicates the plot even further by reintroducing the Time Keepers or Time Twisters, who I vaguely remember from What If? vol. 2 #39, one of the first comic books I owned. I might as well try to complete my run of Avengers Forever, but I’m in no hurry to do so.  

LUKE CAGE #169 (Marvel, 2018) – “Caged!”, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. Cage and some other unjustly imprisoned convicts are trapped in a cave-in, thanks to the schemes of the Ringmaster. Cage saves everyone and defeats the Ringmaster. This issue was boring, though at least it didn’t take long to read. Its opening scene is an obvious and banal reference to Amazing Spider-Man #33.

TARZAN FAMILY #65 (DC, 1976) – “Deadlier Than the Male!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] James Sherman. Korak has an adventure with a young female giantess, Raynaa. This character reminds me of Glumdalclitch from Gulliver’s Travels, but otherwise this story is of little interest. At this point in writing this review, I fell down a rabbit hole and started reading about deans and cathedral chapters and canons, since Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was also the dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Anyway, the other stories in this issue are reprinted from Tarzan #207 and Korak #51 and #52. On the last page it says that the next issue was going to include an adaptation of The Swords of Mars, but that adaptation was never published, and issue 66 was the last issue of Tarzan Family. The GCD says that ERB Inc withdrew their licenses from DC because they planned to publish their own Tarzan comics, but they must have reconsidered, because Marvel subsequently acquired the ERB licenses and published their own Tarzan and John Carter comics.

EXTREMITY #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Because I was enjoying Do a Powerbomb so much, I ordered Extremity #1-8 on Facebook. Extremity is set in a science-fictional world of islands floating in the sky. This issue’s focal character, Thea, used to be a talented artist before her family’s enemies, the Paznina, amputated Thea’s right hand, as well as murdering her mother. Now Thea, her father Jerome, and her brother Rollo are seeking revenge on the Paznina. In this issue, they capture a Paznina agent, Asmund, and Jerome tells Rollo to cut Asmund’s hands off. When Rollo refuses, Thea starts chopping Asmund’s fingers off, one by one. The title Extremity refers both to Thea’s missing hand, and the extreme measures Jerome and his children take in pursuit of vengeance. Extremity is a powerful and brutal depiction of vengeance, and of how the pursuit thereof can cause people to abandon their morals. The three major characters are all fully realized, though the worldbuilding is somewhat minimal. Extremity has a very different vibe from Do a Powerbomb, but they do both have a shared concern with the spectacular nature of violence.

EERIE #119 (Warren, 1981) – Zud Kamish: “Accept No Substitute,” [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] E.R. Cruz. A very bizarre story about a Flash Gordon-esque space hero who prevents a robot civil war, and then gets served with a claim for increased alimony for his ex-wife. This story is mostly humorous in nature, and I’m not sure it’s suited to E.R. Cruz’s talents. I like his art, but he drew some very wooden faces, and he was better at fantasy than science fiction. “Sindy Starfire,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Ruben Yandoc. An Western story, with cosmetic science fiction trappings, in which a young woman seeks revenge on her family’s murderers.  This one feels like an excuse to draw a lot of T&A. Haggarth: “Eyes of the Dead!”, [W/A] Victor de la Fuente. This artist was one of Spain’s greatest adventure cartoonists, though Haggarth was first published in À Suivre in France. In this chapter, the title character, the warrior Haggarth, has been killed, while another young man has gone blind. A wizard solves both problems at once by transferring the young man’s mind into Haggarth’s body. De la Fuente’s draftsmanship and spotting of blacks are stunning, but I need to read more of his work to understand why he’s so well respected. I ordered a Spanish edition of his masterpiece, Haxtur, but I haven’t read it yet.

2000 AD #394 (IPC, 1984) – Stainless Steel Rat: as above. Jim and Angelina visit the planet Paraiso Aqui and discover that it’s suffering under tyrannical rule. They’re deported from the planet, but they resolve to return. Nemesis: as above. Hammersmith is reprieved from execution and is instead hired to assassinate the Goth version of Queen Victoria. Future Shocks: “Medusa!”, [W] Peter Milligan, [A]  Cliff Robinson. A human’s mind is swapped with that of an alien. Cliff Robinson’s art looks very similar to Brian Bolland’s. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I’d have thought this story was by Bolland. Dredd: as above. Dredd and Anderson investigate the sector house on Hill Street, a.k.a. Hell Street, which is infested with blue-skinned ghouls. This is a pun on the title of the TV show Hill Street Blues. Ace: as above. Ace’s crew are imprisoned and put on trial for eating sacred worms. They’re let off with a warning, but Ace gets them into even deeper trouble by dumping a load of worms into the courtroom. Helltrekkers: as above. The plague continues, and some dinosaurs stalk the caravan.

DUTCH TREAT #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1977) – [E] Denis Kitchen? This is a collection of translated work from the Dutch underground comic Tante Leny. Dutch Treat may be the first American comic to include the work of Joost Swarte, but he’s far from the only good artist in the issue. Other featured artists include Peter Pontiac, Evert Geradts and Marc Smeets. Although some of this work is tedious, the sheer diversity of the artists’ approaches is impressive. Peter Pontiac’s art shows the influence of Spain (the cartoonist, not the country), while Harry Buckinx’s art is hyperdetailed and reminds me of Old Master prints. Evert Geradts’s work is interesting because it seems like an underground version of Barks’s duck comics. In fact, one of his stories in this issue is a tribute to Barks, because the protagonist, Sailears, finds himself transported into Barks’s first Donald Duck story. The plot of the story is that “Donald becomes a photographer and takes shots of three ghastly disasters. But the nephews took all the rolls out because Donald wouldn’t help them do the dishes!” I don’t think there really is any Barks story like that, but the explanation may be that as the story continues, Sailears changes what happens in the story, causing it to never be published. In summation, Dutch Treat is an important comic that offers a rare window into a comics tradition that’s mostly inaccessible to Anglophone readers. Speaking of Swarte, I wish I’d bought Fantagraphics’s collection of his work, Is That All There Is?, when it came out. It’s worth about a hundred dollars now.

TWISTED TALES #7 (Pacific, 1984) – [W] Bruce Jones. “Holly’s Hobby,” [A] John Bolton. A policeman investigates a sweet old lady who’s been chopping off people’s heads and stuffing them. At the end, we realize that she’s already done this to the policeman too, and his voice is coming from a tape recorder. This is an effective piece of gross-out horror. “Hooked!”, [A] Bill Wray. A single mother seduces a fisherman, then feeds him to her monstrous child. This story is disgusting too, but it provokes disgust by its gruesome art rather than by the reader’s intellectual realization of what’s going on. “Sasquatch,” [A] Ian Akin & Brian Garvey. I’ve rarely if ever seen either of these artists mentioned without the other. This story is a complicated murder mystery involving sasquatches, but it’s not clear whether the sasquatches are real, or part of a lie that one character tells another. At the end, we discover that when one of the characters was stranded on a snowy mountain, he survived by eating a human head, rather than a dead raccoon, as he had claimed. This is an unnecessary extra plot twist that renders the story tasteless. “Shut-In,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Tanino Liberatore. A disabled man visualizes himself murdering his teenage babysitter and her boyfriend. At the end we realize that this only happened in his head. I want to read the complete version of Ranxerox, aka Ranx, the best-known work by this artist, but it’s surprisingly expensive.

CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #6 (Vertigo, 2001) – “Arms (and Legs) for Hostages Part II,” [W] Robert Rodi, [A] Amanda Conner. A convoluted espionage-suspense story centered on the alleged kidnapping of the daughters of an African politician. This issue seems like mostly an excuse for a bunch of cheesecake art.  It’s also full of African stereotypes. Amanda Conner, like George Pérez, has a masterful ability to draw women in a sexy but non-exploitative way – though it’s possible that because she’s a woman, her art seems less exploitative than it is.

BATMAN #462 (DC, 1991) – “Spirit of the Beast Part 1: To Live and Die in California,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Batman investigates a series of murders of collectors of Native American artifacts. This issue has a very similar premise to Detective Comics #591, except that it’s about Native Americans rather than Aboriginal Australians. The problem is that the Native Americans in “Spirit of the Beast” are not treated with the same level of sensitivity as Umbaluru in “Aborigine!” The one Native American character in this issue,  unnamed here but later identified as Black Wolf, doesn’t seem to be a member of any particular nation, and the issue’s visual imagery is an indiscriminate blend of different Natve American visual cultures. I get the impression that Alan Grant’s knowledge of Native Americans was based on media portrayals rather than actual research.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #9 (Pacific, 1983) – “God’s Many Mansions!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. I was completely unable to follow this issue’s plot. I’m not sure if it’s just a completely inarticulate and nonsensical comic, or if it just seems that way because I don’t understand its premise. But even if this comic’s plot does make logical sense, Kirby makes no attempt to explain it to a new reader. His artwork includes some striking imagery, but it seems too loose and crude compared to his classic style. This issue contains a short backup story providing some additional background, just as some of Kirby’s Fourth World comics did.

JONAH HEX #36 (DC, 1980) – “Return to Fort Charlotte,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. Just as in Weird Western Tales #24, Jonah Hex is thrown out of the town where he’s staying, accompanied by one other person. In this case, Jonah’s companion is a sex worker, who Fleischer portrays in a plausible and sympathetic way. Despite being a “fallen woman,” she has her pride, and she’s caring and compassionate to Jonah. After being expelled from town, she and Jonah are kidnapped by some of Jonah’s old enemies, who imprison him in the same fort that he formerly escaped from. And, again as in Weird Western Tales #24, Jonah’s companion has to sacrifice herself to save his life. I think I liked this comic better before I noticed how familiar its plot was, but it’s pretty good anyway.

CEREBUS #128 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 15,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka wakes up and finds Fred (i.e. Cerebus) missing, then she and Rick have sex, then Rick goes to visit Oscar Wilde, then Oscar watches Jaka dancing through a window. I think Cerebus was already on its downward trajectory at this point. Sim was already letting entire issues go by without anything happening, and he had already lost sight of the overall plot.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #27 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Resilient Part 3: This is What We Do,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Pepper tries to convince Tony to build her another Rescue suit, and then Tony rehires Bambi Arbogast, one of the best supporting characters from the Michelinie-Layton era. Afterward, Tony and Rhodey fight a terrorist attack on Tokyo. Matt Fraction was an important writer because he redefined Tony’s personality to bring it more into line with Robert Downey Jr’s film portrayal of the character. Until then, Tony hadn’t had much of a personality at all.

THE ORDER #3 (Marvel, 2002) – “Ultimatum: Avengers!”, [W] Kurt Busiek & Jo Duffy, [A] Matt Haley w/ Luke Ross. The evil Defenders fight the real Avengers, while the good Defenders recruit the female versions of the big four: She-Hulk, Clea, and Namorita. But why are they doing this, and where are they going to find the female version of the Silver Surfer? Those questions are this issue’s cliffhanger. The thing I don’t like about this series is the character of Papa Hagg, although I suppose he’s not necessarily an offensive stereotype. I just bought a couple more issues of this miniseries today, so now I’m only missing two.

EXTREMITY #2 – as above. We start with a flashback to Thea’s amputation and her mother’s death. Then the protagonists (known as the Roto clan) discover a superpowered sentient robot, and it singlehandedly defeats a giant purple monster. We’re also introduced to the Paznina queen, Nim, and her daughter, who is missing her nose thanks to the Roto’s actions – in fact, it was in revenge for this that Nim cut Thea’s hand off.

2000 AD #416 (IPC, 1985) – Anderson: “Four Dark Judges,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. While rescuing a kidnapped baby, Anderson discovers that Judge Death has regained his physical form. Slaine: “The Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Myrddin, who I assume is based on Merlin, convinces Slaine to kill the Cythron agent Elfric. To do so, Slaine has to travel forward in time to the Battle of Clontarf, where Brian Boru ended the Viking domination of Ireland. David Pugh is a good artist, but he’s not on the level of Slaine’s other artists. Dredd: “Sunday Night Fever,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. On Sunday night, people across Mega-City One are going nuts because they can’t take the prospect of antoher week of unemployment. A bunch of people chain themselves together and threaten to jump off a tower, and when one of them jumps off, Dredd saves him, but not the other seven people he’s chained to. We are then told that a woman named Ruby Foulclough is about to cause 15,000 deaths. Rogue Trooper: “Return of Rogue Trooper,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. At sea, Rogue encounters a monster that looks a lot like a Xenomorph. José Ortiz is one of the few artists who worked for both 2000 AD and Warren. Strontium Dog: “Big Bust of 49,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny, Wulf and Middenface team up to participate in a mass raid on criminals. The date of this story is “the 9th of Morknmndy,” i.e. Mork and Mindy.

ELRIC: THE MAKING OF A SORCERER #3 (DC, 2006) – “The Third Dream: The South Wind’s Soul,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. A young Elric is mentally projected into the consciousness of an ancestor of his. In this vision, he has to defeat a usurper to his throne by accepting aid from the Chaos Lord Arioch, and by using an evil black sword. All of this parallels the later career of the “real” Elric. I don’t know why I didn’t read this when it came out, because I was already a fan of both Moorcock and Simonson at that time. And the combination of the two produces very impressive results. Moorcock seems to have actually written this comic himself, and it feels like a classic Elric story. And Simonson has the visual imagination necessary to realize Moorcock’s bizarre and baroque visions. It is odd that DC published this comic, considering that it didn’t resemble anything else they were doing, and that they never published any other Moorcock adaptations that I can recall.

SHANGHAI RED #5 (Image, 2018) – “Wave of Mutilation,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. Red finally locates the last of her targets, Bunco Kelly, but he locks himself behind an impenetrable door, and Red’s pursuers are closing in on her. Red has to flee for her life and abandon Kelly. Instead she goes into partnership with a group of female pirates. Thankfully Sebela offers some closure to Red’s story: in the epilogue, set fourteen years later, Red finds Kelly again and kills him. Shanghai Red is probably the grimmest series Sebela has written. It’s also remarkable for its accurate depiction of Portland.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #69 (Gold Key, 1970) – “The Painted Mystery,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Turok and Andar discover a cave painting of a buffalo, an animal they’ve never seen in Lost Valley, which suggests that there may be a way out of the valley. Investigating further, they discover a buffalo horn monument and a tribe whose chief wears a buffalo robe. Turok and Andar eventually learn where these items came from, but it doesn’t help them escape the valley. This issue is a good example of the repetitiveness of the Turok formula. The typical Turok plot is that Turok and Andar discover a possible exit from Lost Valley, then they have some adventures while investigating it, and in the end they discover  that the exit is unusable. This formula is annoying because it promises narrative closure, but can never deliver it: if Turok and Andar ever did find the exit from Lost Valley, the series would be over. Not every Turok story uses this formula, but it’s common enough that it makes me unmotivated to read Turok.

ETERNALS #10 (Marvel, 1977) – “Mother!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Eson the Celestial invades the Deviants’ city, while Zuras prepares to call all the Eternals together. Other than Sersi and the Celestials themselves, Kirby’s Eternals introduced few memorable characters or concepts. Kieron Gillen is one of the only writers who’s made productive use of Kirby’s Eternals milieu. Still, Eternals has a far more coherent and exciting plot than Captain Victory.

POWER MAN #28 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Man Who Killed Jiminy Cricket!”, [W] Don McGregor, [A] George Tuska. Besides Brian Michael Bendis, Don McGregor may be the single writer who annoys me the most. His comics all have an excessive amount of captions, and these captions are both poorly written and unnecessary to the story. Usually all these captions do is offer ironic commentary on the events of the plot. A random example from this issue is “The wide sidewalks wait to receive his body. Before the new workday, the bright red that gives blood its vibrant message of life will have turned a dull brown!” If you went through Power Man #28, or most other McGregor comics, and removed every single caption box, the story would still make sense, and it would also be far more entertaining. As for its actual content, Power Man #28 is a murder mystery in which the McGuffin is a shipment of carcinogenic drugs.  

HEAVY METAL #3.8 (1979) – [E] Ted White. Noteworthy stories in this issue include but are not limited to the following. Caza’s “Suburban Scenes: Welcome to Cityville 2”: A young hippie moves into a new apartment complex that’s actually a prison. Serge Clerc’s “After the Fall”: Some Western agents invade a snowbound Russian spy base, only to discover that the Russians’ attractive female agent is a robot, and she’s wired to explode. Serge Clerc is a noted Clear Line artist, so it’s odd that this story is in black and white. Corben’s “Rowlf”: a gorgeous story, but I’m not sure what it’s about. Trina’s “Pau Pele Pau Mano”: A Hawaiian princess tries to prove that the volcano goddess Pele is not real, but ends up proving the opposite. This story is based on actual events, though Trina gets some of the details wrong, and in real life it was Christianity that triumphed over native religion, not vice versa. I would guess that Trina got the idea for this story from Steve Leialoha, who is Native Hawaiian. Other artists in this issue include Moebius, Luc Cornillon and Arthur Suydam.

IRON MAN #35 (Marvel, 1971) – “Revenge!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. In a sequel to Steranko’s Nick Fury, Tony and Nick battle Zodiac. I don’t know if the Scorpio in this story was supposed to be Jake Fury or not. Scorpio’s true identity seems to have been retconned a few times. I don’t remember much about this story because my copy is missing most of its spine, and when reading it, I was mostly worried about finishing it before it fell apart.

EXTREMITY #3 (Image, 2017) – as above. The issue starts with a flashback to Thea’s initiation rite. Then the Roto set a trap for the Paznina general Brynjar, and after they capture him, Thea reluctantly executes him. The robot, Shiloh, is horrified by his violent behavior in the battle with Brynjar, and Rollo has to stop Shiloh from committing suicide. Extremity #2 and #3 are both full of striking action sequences and gruesome depictions of violence, and they continue the series’ central theme of how the desire for revenge leads to the loss of humanity.

2000 AD #418 (Rebellion, 1985) – Anderson: as above. Anderson travels to Deadworld to seek the Dark Judges. This chapter begins with a striking splash panel depicting a tower made of faces and limbs. Slaine: as above. The battle of Clontarf continues, and Slaine kills Elfric, but is wounded himself. Back in the past, Myrddin is betrayed by an ally who proves to be Slough Feg in disguise. While reading this story I realized that I’ve never actually read the Irish Mythological Cycle, which is the basis for much of Slaine’s backstory. I don’t know of any easily available translation of these texts. Dredd: as above. Ruby Foulclough releases lethal “rodentine” gas across the city. This issue is full of gruesome panels in which people are exposed to rodentine and are instantly turned to skeletons. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue and his three companions fight some land crabs. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and his sidekicks hunt down an energy vampire.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #166 (DC, 1967) – Dial H for Hero: “The King of the Curses!”, [W] Dave Wood, [A] Jim Mooney. A scientist invents a machine that brings legendary creatures to life. Robby Reed has to use his H dial to defeat the creatures. One of the heroes Robby turns into is a Native American stereotype. Based on the evidence of this story, the various Dial H for Hero revival series were far more creative and innovative than the original. Martian Manhunter: “Vulture’s Crime Goliaths!”, [W] Jack Miller, [A] Joe Certa. J’onn J’onzz and his sidekick Zook fight some boring criminals. J’onn’s various solo strips have never been as exciting as his adventures with the JLA.

LUBA #5 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – “Kisses for Pipo,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. I’ve been unimpressed by most of Beto’s recent work, and it’s caused me to kind of forget what a great artist he is. This issue is a nice reminder. By 2000, Beto had introduced Fritz, Petra and Venus into his series, but they hadn’t taken it over completely, and he was still maintaining his primary focus on Luba’s family. This issue includes a funny and scary vignette where Luba’s young children Socorro and Joselito steal her car. Another point of emphasis is the love triangle between Pipo, Gato and Guadalupe. I miss all these characters and I wish Beto would return to them more often.

SUPERMAN/ALIENS #1 (DC, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Dan Jurgens, [A] Kevin Nowlan. Superman discovers a Kryptonian city floating in space. We gradually realize that this must be Argo City, and its sole surviving inhabitant is Kara Zor-El. And – predictably given the title of the series – the city is infested by xenomorphs. I believe it was this series that catapulted Kevin Nowlan to stardom, although he only did finished pencils over Jurgens’s layouts. His draftsmanship in this issue is beautiful and distinctive. Dan Jurgens is a very limited writer, but writing Superman is the one thing he does best. I have the other two issues of this miniseries, but I haven’t gotten to them yet.

THE RETURN OF MEGATON MAN #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “Megaton Man Returns!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. A large part of this issue is devoted to Trent Phloog’s interactions with his roommates in Ann Arbor. Because of that, this issue is deeper and more compelling than the last couple Megaton Man comics I read. The most prominent subplot in this issue is about the Golden Age Megaton Man.

ELRIC #3 (Pacific, 1983) – untitled, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] P. Craig Russell & Michael T. Gilbert. In an adaptation of an early chapter of Elric of Melniboné, Yyrkoon tries to drown Elric, but Elric survives thanks to divine intervention from the sea god Straasha. Elric returns home in time to stop Yyrkoon from claiming the throne, but Yyrkoon escapes from Melniboné and kidnaps Elric’s fiancee Cymoril. This comic does not reach the artistic heights of PCR’s later adaptation of Stormbringer – see below – but he and MTG do an excellent job of bringing Moorcock’s world to life.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #39 (Gold Key, 1964) – “Mortal Combat,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Giovanni Ticci. Turok and Andar are kidnapped by two opposing tribes, and they’re forced to fight each other to determine which tribe is superior. This issue is much better than the last two Turoks I read. There are two reasons why. First, “Mortal Combat” doesn’t follow the standard Turok formula: it makes no mention of a possible escape route from Lost Valley. Second, Giovanni Ticci is a more exciting aritst than the series’ usual artist, Alberto Giolitti. Ticci’s renderings of dinosaurs and cavemen are very striking, and he draws impressive action scenes. I’d never heard of him before, but he seems to be best known as one of the primary artists for Tex.

On Black Friday, I went to a sale at Rebel Base Comics & Toys. I bought a lot of comics – perhaps too many – at a dollar each. Some of them were:

WHOA, NELLIE! #2 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Jaime Hernandez. This was my best find at the sale. Whoa, Nellie! is Jaime’s most sustained exploration of female wrestling, a topic that comes up throughout Love & Rockets. It largely feels like an excuse for him to draw female bodies, and the climax of the issue is a silent scene depicting a wrestling match. I wish I remembered how this story fit into Locas continuity. Whoa, Nellie! and Penny Century are Jaime’s only major solo works besides Love & Rockets itself. By contrast, Gilbert has released all sorts of solo titles, both within and outside the Luba/Fritz universe. This difference is probably because Beto’s style is less labor-intensive.

SUICIDE SQUAD #66 (DC, 1992) – “And Be a Villain!”, [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood & Robert Campanella. This was the only issue of Suicide Squad that I was missing. I now have a complete run. In this issue the Squad finish their mission against Guedhe, and then Amanda Waller announces that she’s sick of sending people to their deaths, and she’s decided to disband the Suicide Squad. In exchange, she’s offered the presidency of the nation of Diabloverde. In the series’ concluding scene, Count Vertigo decides he doesn’t want Deadshot to shoot him dead, after all. Suicide Squad was one of the great superhero comics of the ‘80s, and I’m sorry there’s no more of it to read.

JONNY QUEST #30 (Comico, 1988) – “The Invisible Monster,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel & Mark Wheatley. In an adaptation of a TV episode, the Quest family investigates the disappearance of a scientist friend of Dr. Benton Quest. They discover that the scientist was killed by an invisible monster he created, and they have to find a way to get rid of the monster. This is a pretty basic Jonny Quest story, but it’s exciting, and the one-eyed yellow creature is a striking visual image. This was the last issue of Jonny Quest that I was missing.   

DIRECTORY TO A NONEXISTENT UNIVERSE #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – various vignettes, [W/A] Kerry Callen. I love Kerry Callen’s Super Antics cartoons, but I’m not sure if I had any of his comic books in my collection until now. This one-shot begins with a series of Marvel Handbook-style entries about various unimpressive superheroes. Then there’s a short story in which some of these heroes team up. This comic is a very funny piece of superhero parody, displaying Callen’s typical brilliant sense of humor. I think my favorite of the directory entries is for Mark Smith, a completely normal person.

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #1 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Ricardo Barreiro, [A] Juan Zanotto. A human army is evacuated from Venus after fighting a losing war with the native Venusians. Our protagonist, Brian Chester, is refused a seat on the evacuation ship, but manages to get aboard the ship anyway through trickery. When he gets back to Earth, he discovers that he’s earned nothing from his military service, and he now has to survive in New York, which is as bad a war zone as Venus. New York: Year Zero is perhaps one of the best Argentine comics in English translation. Juan Zanotto’s art is fantastic, especially his spotting of blacks and his rendering of weapons and vehicles, and Barreiro’s story is hard-hitting. An especially striking moment is when the Earth army opens fire upon their own allies to prevent them from boarding the evacuation shuttle, since there’s a deliberate shortage of seats. This comic is an example of a classic national comics tradition that’s still mostly inaccessible to American readers.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S MULTIVERSE #1 (DC, 1997) – “Moonbeams and Roses Part 1: The Mathematics of Smoke,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. This series’s main story reunites the creators of Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer. Moonbeams and Roses begins with a monologue by Moorcock himself, but then it quickly becomes very confusing. I think this whole series is going to be hard to understand until I read Blood: A Southern Fantasy and its sequels. At least this issue makes more sense than later issues did. Early in the story, there’s a reference to “the Berber knight Tarak-al-Tan-al-Oorn” – that is, Tanelorn. Another character in the story is named Captain Buggerly Otherly. I don’t want to mention why that name stuck out to me. The backup stories are The Metatemporal Detective and Duke Elric. The latter story mentions the Silverskin, which also appears in the Moonbeams and Roses story.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #1 (Eclipse, 1984) – untitled, [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. Pressbutton and Mysta Mystralis (Laser Eraser) carry out a contract killing, but then they discover that they’ve been set up, and their contract was phony. They’re also being targeted by a bloblike alien, Zirk, who’s obsessed with Mysta’s “suppleness.” And we learn about Mysta’s tragic origin as a clone of a murdered warrior woman. Zirk stars in the backup story, which is drawn by Brian Bolland. This series suffers by comparison to the other comics that appeared in Warrior, but it’s well worth reading in its own right.

AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #42 (DC, 2006) – “Deep Down,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Butch Guice. The new Arthur Curry, who swears he’s not Aquaman, is seduced by a mermaid who resembles Mera. Then he, King Shark, and the Dweller in the Depths arrive at an island city built by Jimmy Lockhart, with the Sea Devils as his private security. At the end of the issue, Arthur is contacted by the ghost of Vulko. Sword of Atlantis was a very weird chapter in Aquaman’s history, and I’m still not sure who the new young non-Aquaman was.

MS. TREE #43 (Renegade, 1987) – “Coming of Rage Chapter 3: Collision Course,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Some criminals kidnap Michael Tree Jr, then one of the kidnappers “betrays” his colleagues and informs Ms. Tree that Dominique Muerta was responsible for the kidnapping. This “betrayal” is fake, because the criminals have also kidnapped Dominique Muerta’s daughter and told her that Ms. Tree was responsible, and their real plan is to get the two women to kill each other. Indeed, Ms. Tree goes looking for Dominique Muerta, but after a brief fight, they both realize that they’ve been duped. By this point in the series’ run, the Ms. Tree stories were just twelve pages, and the other half of the issue was a reprint of Pete Morisi’s Johnny Dynamite. This must have been extremely annoying to readers at the time, but the silver lining is that Johnny Dynamite may have been the best hard-boiled detective comic ever published in America, besides Ms. Tree itself. It’s extremely grim and it’s full of poetic prose. In this installment, Johnny saves his love interest Judy from a corrupt hospital.

WONDER WOMAN #74 (DC, 1993) – “Greatness Calls!”, [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Lee Moder. Diana saves a policewoman from being murdered by a criminal, but the policewoman is not happy about it. Then Diana takes a job with a creepy private eye named Micah Rains, and their first client is an even creepier man named Brian who’s used his computer skills to give himself superpowers. Before Diana can resolve this situation, Bos”ton’s aspiring new superhero, the White Magician, intervenes and severely injures Brian. This is a pretty weird comic. Diana’s adventures in this issue seem too petty to be worthy of her notice. I don’t think Bill Loebs was a natural superhero writer; his two major works in this genre, Wonder Woman and Flash, often don’t feel like superhero comics at all. But the weirdness of Loebs’s Wonder Woman may also be due to a lack of editorial oversight. At that time, DC was publishing Wonder Woman comics because their contract with the Marston estate required them to do so, and I don’t think they cared much about what was in those comics.

MS. TREE #44 (Renegade, 1988) – “Coming of Rage Chapter 4: Victim of Circumstance,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree and Dominique Muerta trick the kidnappers into revealing themselves, then they kill all three kidnappers, which seems excessive given how incompetent these guys were. They also realize that Mike Jr and Lisa Muerta are a couple. This plotline is continued in Ms. Tree Quarterly #7, reviewed above. In the Johnny Dynamite backup story, Johnny’s latest love interest gets killed through her involvement in a corrupt anti-crime campaign. I don’t know what happened to his girlfriend Judy from the story reprinted in #43.

HOTSPUR #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – “We’re Not in Cincinnati Anymore,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Karl Waller. A swashbuckling stage actor gets transported into a sword-and-sorcery fantasy world, where he’s pursued by women who want to sleep with him. Hotspur isn’t as exploitative as this description sounds. It feels kind of like Jon Sable or Nightcrawler. The art includes some funny details, like a sign for the Church of Tarim, Scientist. I don’t know anything about Karl Waller, but he only did the first issue of Hotspur. The other two were by Ben Dunn. I’m not familiar with Dunn’s work, but I have a bad impression of him.  

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #2 – as above. This isn’t as beautiful as issue 1 because it’s set in New York, not Venus, so the settings are less impressive, though Zanotto does create some impressive depictions of a giant “coffin hotel.” In this issue Brian buys a gun and accidentally saves a wealthy woman from being assassinated.

ACTION COMICS #890 (DC, 2010) – “The Black Ring Part 1,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Pete Woods. I’ve seen a preview of this issue before; it’s the one where Luthor fires an employee “with references and rumors so he never works in this business again.” Even for Luthor that’s unnecessarily cruel. And Luthor goes on to assassinate the fired employee, and for some reason his companion, Lois Lane, is okay with these actions. Lois’s unusually tolerant attitude toward Luthor is explained when we realize she’s a robot. This issue does work reasonably well as an exploration of Luthor’s egotism and desire for power, but I don’t much like the modern corrupt-businessman version of Luthor. I much prefer the Silver Age Luthor, who was a vengeance-obsessed mad scientist, but was capable of altruistic behavior at times.

ELRIC: THE SAILOR ON THE SEAS OF FATE #1 (First, 1985) – untitled, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Michael T. Gilbert & George Freeman. This is an adaptation of one of my favorite episodes in the Elric saga: the one where Elric teams up with Corum, Hawkmoon and Erekosë, three other incarnations of the Eternal Champion, against Agak and Gagak. Crossovers like this one are very common in comic books, but much less so in prose fiction. When I read this part of Sailor on the Seas of Fate for the first time, it made me realize that Elric’s story was not self-contained but was part of a much larger tapestry. A notable moment that’s adapted in this issue is when Otto Blendker describes his adventure with a race of blue-skinned hermaphrodites. This is just a throwaway line, but it creates the sense that each of the Eternal Champions’ 20 sidekicks has his own story, even though most of those stories will never be told. As far as the quality of the adaptation goes, MTG and George Freeman do quite a good job, and they make all the characters look as if they came from separate worlds.

HOUSE OF SECRETS #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – “Foundation Part 1,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Teddy Kristiansen. A teenage girl runs away from Portland to Seattle. There she squats in a mysterious old house, and in the basement of the house, she witnesses a dead woman being put on trial by a supernatural jury because of her dark secrets. I was not especially impressed with this issue. Teddy Kristiansen’s artwork is very grim and moody, but Steven T. Seagle’s writing goes beyond grimness to the point where it becomes maudlin and melodramatic.

AGENT X #2 (Marvel, 2002) – “Dead Man’s Switch Part 2,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] UDON. Agent X and the immediately previous Deadpool run were Gail’s first major work for superhero comics, and they’re the only Deadpool comics I really like. Perhaps this is because Agent X’s humor is understated and tasteful and not too over-the-top, while most other Deadpool comics are the exact opposite. In this issue, Agent X and Sandi participate in a competition where they’re supposed to steal the Punisher’s guns in exchange for a bounty. However, the Punisher turns the tables on them and kills the criminals who are offering the bounty.

TOMB OF DRACULA #17 (Marvel, 1974) – “Death Rides the Rails!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. Searching for Dracula, Frank and Rachel travel to Transylvania by train, not knowing that Dracula is already aboard the same train. The train’s other passengers include two mysterious criminals who turn out to be agents of Doctor Sun. This issue includes some exciting action scenes, but its best moment is when a little boy threatens Dracula with a toy gun. I already have this issue in a black-and-white reprinted form, but there is no substitute for owning the original. It’s too bad that my copy is missing the Marvel Value Stamp, together with part of the story page on the other side.

AIRBOY #25 (Eclipse, 1987) – “A Walk Along the Russian River,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tom Yeates. Airboy and the Heap meet a man named Tom Lynch, who is planning to protest illegal sewage dumping in the Russian River, by depositing a load of fertilizer on the steps of the Santa Rosa city hall. Tom Lynch is a real person and he really did do this stunt in 1985, as explained in the text feature at the end of Airboy #25. The Heap, as depicted in this issue, is more or less identical to Man-Thing. This issue includes a Skywolf backup story by Dixon and Graham Nolan.

WINTERWORLD #3 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Jorge Zaffino. After a lengthy action sequence, the protagonists escape from the converted sports arena where they’re being held. This series has an intriguing postapocalyptic setting, but it’s primarily worth reading for Jorge Zaffino’s art. He has a very distinctive and appealing style of linework, and his compositions and spotting of blacks are beautiful. However, Winterworld would actually have been better if it were black and white, like most Argentine comics. It’s too bad that none of Zaffino’s Argentine work is available in America. At the sale I bought another Zaffino comic, Seven Block, but I haven’t read it yet.

Next trip to Heroes, on December 18:

NIGHTWING #98 (DC, 2022) – “A Nite to Remember,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Nightwing meets his personal fifth-dimensional imp, Nite-Mite, and reluctantly teams up with him to save Blockbuster’s daughter from being dragged off to hell. (Back in Underworld Unleashed, Blockbuster sold his soul to Neron, but later he bought his soul back in exchange for his daughter’s soul, because of course he did.) This is probably the best issue of Nightwing other than #87, the one with the single issue-long panel. ”A Nite to Remember” is hilarious, but it also demonstrates why Nightwing is truly heroic. My favorite line in this issue is when Nite-Mite admits that he’s a Dick/Kory shipper, as I am. Another nice moment is when Nite-Mite creates a T-shirt that parodies the famous panel with Batman slapping Robin.

MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “When Titans Clash!”, [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. The resurrected Dicky Dauntless, Young Miracleman, has difficulty coping with his new celebrity status. Miracleman tries to ease his anxieties by seducing him, but Dicky, with his ‘50s morality, is horribly offended by this, and he punches Miracleman through a wall and flees Olympus. The poignancy of this issue comes from Dicky’s naivete and old-fashioned morality – he even prays before going to bed. But in the kiss scene, Dicky’s righteousness turns into intolerance and, perhaps, internalized homophobia – though Miracleman probably shouldn’t have tried to kiss him. Miracleman #24 had a tiny print run and may be even harder to find than #15, so I’m glad I finally own a reprint of it. The reason this series took so long to come out was because Buckingham insisted on redrawing the whole thing. His original pages are preserved at the end of the issue. I haven’t gone through them in detail, but I do notice a couple differences between the original and redrawn versions. In the new version, the man who introduces Johnny is completely redesigned, and the kiss panel is redrawn so we can actually see both Dicky and Miracleman’s faces, since same-sex kisses are no longer considered socially unacceptable. (See also the “kiss of death” scene in Strikeforce: Morituri #14, which was carefully composed to avoid directly showing two women kissing, even though they were doing so in a non-sexual context.)

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Strawberry the giant seems well-intentioned enough, but the problem is that he intends to keep Wynd and company safe for about five years. It makes sense that such a big, long-lived creature would think of five years as an insignificant amount of time, though of course Wynd and his friends don’t agree. The next day, Strawberry tells Wynd his own version of the origin of the fairies and vampires. And speaking of vampires, we haven’t seen them in this miniseries yet, but they’re still chasing Wynd’s party, and at the end of the issue, they arrive at Strawberry’s lair.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #6 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Years,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Daisy, Brian and Alex spend seven years preparing for their audition for Fun City, a magical place where only talented people can enter. Despite their best efforts, they fail the audition because Fun City’s auditioners are a pack of gatekeeping assholes. But they’ll still let anyone in who has a genie. So Brian uses his wish to place Alex’s wish under the control of the three of them together, and that’s enough to get them all into the city. Meanwhile, Son Man is still under the Idea Man’s control, and Wang and Lifeng’s child is almost old enough to use her own wish.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #26 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica recovers from her injuries at Riqui’s house on an Indian reservation. Cutter arrives in the area and tells Sheriff Thomas that Erica is responsible for the killings. The more I read this series, the more I hate the Order of St. George. If they devoted half the time to killing monsters that they devote to hunting down their own members, there’d be a lot fewer monsters. And Cutter is easily the worst House of Slaughter agent we’ve seen yet.

SHE-HULK #8 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. This issue is Mark and April’s origin story. We learn that they tried to give themselves Hulk and She-Hulk’s powers, but their experiment failed, and Mark became a raging brute, while April’s body grew tiny and her head grew huge. Now they want to achieve their original goal by stealing She-Hulk’s gamma radiation. This issue is a narratively satisfying one-shot story, but I wish it had included more of Jen herself.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #5 (IDW, 2022) – “Decay,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Brooks explains what her plot was, and she manages to convince the other four firefighters to take them with her, rather than killing her. But on their way out of the house, the women discover that the fire has changed course and is about to destroy their base camp. Ma decides to warn the other firefighters at base camp rather than escaping, and Zinn, Saw and Ramos accompany her, at the cost of letting Brooks escape. Afterward, Ma’s plan is to tell the truth about what happened (mostly) and to inform the authorities to arrest Brooks. This is a satisfying ending, though it feels a bit too happy; after the flashforward in issue 1, I expected all the protagonists to get killed. Overall, Dark Spaces: Wildfire is my favorite Scott Snyder comic so far. It’s both visually and narratively stunning. I hope IDW is developing more creator-owned projects like this.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. Gert is finding it impossible to cope with life in the real world, but then a billionaire techbro asks her to return to Fairyland to rescue his young son. In terms of my critical assessment of this comic, let me quote my own Facebook post: “Skottie Young’s recent works, specifically Middlewest and The Me You Love in the Dark, have represented a major step forward for him. Instead of just silly humor, they’re serious works of fantasy and psychological horror. They show that he’s becoming a multifaceted creator. The new I Hate Fairyland, on the other hand, is just a bunch of stupid humor and excessive violence, in the exact same style as the original I Hate Fairyland. It’s in awful taste, and it breaks no new ground creatively. And that’s what makes it brilliant.”

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “Love in the Wasteland Chapter 1: The Tower in the Sea,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. In the wake of an unspecified world-ending catastrophe, a young girl, Ezmerelda, rows a boat through a flooded city until she finds a still-standing tower. Inside is a boy her age, Maceo, who has turned the tower into his personal playground. Maceo had been happy with his solitary life in his tower, but after meeting Ezmeralda, he decides to leave the tower and follow her. Many years later, a much older Maceo, now known as Mace, is tortured by cannibals, and we also learn that he built the “Golgonooza,” a name borrowed from William Blake. I don’t know quite what to think about this series, but I really like the relationship between the two main characters.

VANISH #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. Vanish fights a pair of fraternal twin Hollow members (i.e. Death Eaters) who are posing as superheroes. Eventually he kills them both and takes their magic. Meanwhile, Deacon Dust is confronted by Halcyon, another Hollow member who’s basically Superman. Donny Cates’s work has been something of a mixed bag, but so far Vanish is maintaining the same level of quality as Crossover.

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #3 (Image, 2022) – “The Night Approaches,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In a flashback, Jack and Trish go to a bar, where Jack ditches Trish to hang out with a man who’s much too old for her. Jack disappears for a while, and when Trish finds her again, something awful has happened to her, but we don’t find out what. Then Trish kisses Jack, but Jack rebuffs her and runs off again. In the present, Trish interviews the man Jack met that night, who subsequently became the prime suspect in Jack’s murder. Then Trish finds the man’s mutilated corpse, next to a mysterious inscription. I think the inscription is in Icelandic or Old Norse, but Google Translate can’t decipher it. A nice touch in this issue is that in the flashback scene, Trish is rendered in Sorrentino’s line-drawn style, while Jack is drawn in his other style, with large areas of shadow and almost no clear outlines. The line-drawn style seems to be associated with Trish’s childhood and with her and Jack’s fantasy world.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #22 (Image, 2022) – “Happy Face,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Matty is stalked by Department of Truth agents, and when Cole asks Ruby if he’ll have to kill Matty, she refuses to answer. Cole realizes that Black Hat is winning, and the only way to stop them is to do the unthinkable but obvious thing: tell the truth. At the end of the issue, Oswald reveals himself to Cole. I’m glad that the plot has gone in this direction, because I was starting to think that the Department of Truth was worse than Black Hat. Early in the issue, one of Matty’s stalkers is reading a book called Passport to Magonia, an actual UFO book written by Jacques Vallée.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. This issue is mostly a flashback that explains why Selene and Endymion – the leaders of the Portage, Michigan outpost – are so terrified of Eve and Wexler. Back in the present, their confrontation with the two Eves and Wexler erupts into violence. Selene and Endymion are both named for moon-related deities, as explained in the issue.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Curious Case of Dr. Essex and Mr. Sinister,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. The POV character this issue is Mystique. The issue begins with a flashback to 1943, when Mystique and Destiny investigate Mr. Sinister’s Black Womb Project. The name Sullivan is mentioned as one of the families whose DNA is manipulating, but I can’t think of any X-Men characters named Sullivan. The bulk of the issue is a flashback to Mystique and Destiny’s first meeting with Mr. Sinister, in London in 1895. This sequence is an obvious Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and a pretty good one.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Game of Rings Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi frees Leiko from the worm monster, and she deliberately loses the game. Shang-Chi makes the final cut to three participants, but Shen Kuei betrays him. The centerpiece of this issue is a flashback to the origin of Jinzha and Muzha, the two brothers who organized the tournament. Jinzha, Muzha and their brother Nezha are actual Chinese deities. Perhaps the most notable version of their story is the 16th-century novel Fengshen Yanyi, aka The Investiture of the Gods. This book is available in English, but only in an abridged edition that’s difficult to find.

KROMA #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Lorenzo De Felici. In a fantasy world, the remnants of the human race all live in one city, where they hide from the “King of Colors” and his monster lizards. The lizards can’t see white or black, so everything in the city is painted gray, and the citizens believe that color is deadly. The protagonist, Zet, is in training for the city’s leadership, but his faith is shaken when he meets a young girl, Kroma, with opposite-colored eyes. Zet succumbs to Kroma’s influence and visits her in prison, but on the last page of the issue, someone stabs Zet with a spear. Kroma is fascinating because of how it makes color the core of its narrative. As explained in the author’s note, De Felici broke into the industry as a colorist, and he wanted to tell a story that was about color, but in a practical rather than a symbolic sense. Offhand I can’t think of any other comic that uses color in this way, and I look forward to reading more Kroma.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. In prison, Shirtless experiences all the typical prison-story cliches, except with bears. Ursa Major’s plot is revealed, and Shirtless’s clone names himself Pantsless Shirtless Bear-Fighter-Fighter. Finally, Ursa Major returns to earth in person. Besides the name of Shirtless’s clone, the funniest thing in this issue is when Shirtless’s beard is shaved off, and then it grows back within one panel.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Kether: The House of Ideas,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. In the House of Ideas, the Defenders meet the actual God – not the one who looks like Jack Kirby, but a different incarnation. Loki has the chance to free himself from the Marvel Universe entirely, but chooses not to. These two Defenders miniseries were an artistic tour de force, a chance for Javier Rodriguez to show off his incredible artistic talent. They were also a sort of Divine Comedy for the Marvel Universe, in the sense that they explored its overarching structure in both time and space, just as Dante defined the structure of heaven, hell and purgatory.

DAREDEVIL #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 5,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt and Elektra stage a breakout at the Myrmidon prison in order to recruit some new members of the Hand. There’s a brief appearance by Stegron, a very funny villain, and then Matt fights USAgent and kicks his ass. In just a few pages, Zdarsky succeeds in reminding me why I hate USAgent so much – he’s an utter asshole and an arch-conservative. Chip’s Daredevil is well-written and well-drawn, but it tends to vanish from my memory after I read it.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE BOOK OF LOVE #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry and his new girlfriend Asta explore their relationship, and there are lots of other slice-of-life vignettes. There’s also a subplot about the men in black who are following Harry. I don’t understand much of the plot of this issue, but Resident Alien is a cute slice-of-life comic. I wonder why I never see any back issues of it in dollar boxes.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erica Schultz, [A] Carola Borelli. This issue just provides some incremental development of all the ongoing plotlines, and at the end, one of the daughters realizes she knows what happened to their mother. This series could use a character guide like Nice House on the Lake has, because I know all three of the daughters have flower names, but I can never remember which flower corresponds to which daughter.

CRASHING #3 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. Rose’s world comes crashing down around her. We discover that in addition to being a drug addict, she married Don under false pretenses. He was at the ceremony visiting his sister’s grave, but it was Rose herself who caused the car accident that killed Allison. After a confrontation with the primary villain, Don vanishes, and the superhero registration act passes with overwhelming support. My main reaction to this issue is that Rose is the most unsympathetic protagonist ever: a liar and a drug addict who killed her own husband’s sister and never told him. I know she’s under a lot of pressure, but that’s no excuse. I’ve totally lost my sympathy for her, and I won’t be sad if she dies.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #6 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. Most of this issue is spent establishing the new status quo as of the end of the last story arc. The new story arc is going to focus on Dr. Moreau, who made a cameo appearance at the end of issue 5. West of Sundown is an excellent series, but it’s another comic that could use a character guide.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #8 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? A new story in this issue is W0rldtr33 by James Tynion IV and Fernando Blanco, but so far I can’t tell what it’s about. In the “Close to You” story, the Marigold character discovers that she can cause stars to fall from the sky, all the girls follow her around, etc. I missed some of the jokes in this story at first because I only knew the first verse of that song. And then we learn that this whole thing is part of a plot by her creepy ex. The other highlight of the issue is a revival of Paul Grist’s Jack Staff. It’s great to see this comic again, and Grist’s art works perfectly in black and white. Oh, and there’s also a new chapter of Casanova. In the Gehenna story, the second page includes a cameo appearance by the cast of Family Guy.

ACTION JOURNALISM #3 (Oni, 2022) – “Kate Kelly is a %@$*# Embarrassment to Journalism!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklos Felvideki. Kate and her professional rival Isaac, a he-man Steve Lombard type, are transported into an epic-fantasy world. In this other world, Isaac gets duped into trying to kill a dragon that consumes stories, but Kate saves him, and also offers the dragon a tape recorder containing all her previous stories, thus giving the dragon a way to satisfy its hunger. This was another excellent issue, and unlike issue 2, Kate has to use her journalism skills to save the day. A funny moment in this issue is when Kate helps a cyclops find its giant contact lens.

PINK LEMONADE #3 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. Pink Lemonade goes to the opening of a mysterious art gallery, but the event is crashed by the film producer, Zavi Xarad, and the actress he’s cast as Pink Lemonade in his movie. Throughout the issue we keep seeing a mysterious man in a green trenchcoat, and he proves to be Bam Wammi, the fired former director from Xarad’s movie. Pink Lemonade continues to be very derivative of Madman, but it’s full of brilliant designs and action sequences, and it’s a lot of fun. I especially like the scenes set in the Escheresque upper floors of the art gallery. Late in the issue, the two hecklers who say “stop talking and fight” are Beavis and Butt-Head.

JUNKYARD JOE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Many years after issue 1, Muddy Davis has just retired from his job as a comic strip artist, and his wife has died. We also meet his new neighbors, who are obviously important. Then Muddy is shocked when Junkyard Joe arrives on his doorstep – how did it take the robot fifty years to get to America from Vietnam? And there are some other robots following Joe. This is Geoff Johns’s best comic in many years, though that’s a rather low bar.  

HUMAN TARGET #9 (DC, 2022) – “And When I Have Stol’n Upon These Sons-in-Law,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance spends the entire issue waiting for Batman to show up, and he even punches out some man in a diner who he thinks is Batman, only to discover that it’s not him. The punch scene is a reference to the famous “one punch” moment in Justice League. I’m getting pretty tired of this series, and I think it could have been half as long. Why do all of Tom King’s comics have to be twelve issues?

HIGHBALL #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Battle in the F***king Trees,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball visits the home planet of the bird woman from #1, to return her remains. After a somewhat boring adventure, he accepts his coworker’s offer to participate in a conspiracy against the Mentok. This issue wasn’t as entertaining as the last one.

NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Namor encounters Machine Man and the Golden Age Human Torch. This issue is frankly rather boring, and I’m not sure it’s worth continuing to read this series, although Pasqual Ferry’s artwork is very solid.

G.I. JOE #300 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Larry Hama, [A] S.L. Gallant. I bought this on a whim because it’s Larry Hama’s final G.I. Joe comic for IDW. The most impressive thing about this issue is the wraparound cover, which depicts hundreds of different G.I. Joe and Cobra characters. The amount of work that went into this cover is indicated by the fact that two different people are credited with doing research for it. The story in the issue is a bit hard to follow, but it revolves around the return of Snake Eyes, who’s been dead for some time. This issue ends with a cliffhanger rather than a satisfying resolution, suggesting that Larry hopes to continue writing G.I. Joe for whichever publisher picks up the license next.

FANTASTIC FOUR #52 facsimile (Marvel, 1966/2022) – “The Black Panther!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Fantastic Four #48 to #52 are probably the greatest five consecutive issues in the history of comic books. These five issues contain the original Galactus saga, “This Man… This Monster!”, and the debut of the Black Panther. In T’Challa’s first appearance, the emphasis is mostly on Wakanda’s incredible level of technological advancement. T’Challa plays the role of an antagonist rather than a hero, and he’s a very effective one; he almost manages to defeat the entire FF singlehandedly.

SACRAMENT #4 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Vass discovers some clues to the origin of the demon, and Rais is subjected to the anti-faith treatment, but then shows up to help Vass. The creepiest thing about this series is that the demon has a truly demonic personality. It always knows exactly what to say to humiliate and torment Vass.

THE BUNCH’S POWER PAK COMICS #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1981) – “Why the Bunch Can’t Draw” etc., [W/A] Aline Kominsky-Crumb. I read this after hearing the sad news that we just lost the Bunch. I never met her, but after reading her work, it’s hard not to feel a personal connection to her. She’s infamous for her allegedly “bad” draftsmanship and her self-deprecating attitude thereto, but her art is only “bad” in the sense that it doesn’t conform to standard aesthetic canons, and that it makes the reader uncomfortable. A visual highlight of this issue is the back cover, which shows a cross-section of food traveling through Aline’s pregnant body. This image creates an effect of Bakhtinian grotesquerie. Her work also stands out to me for its representation of a midcenutry Jewish lifestyle (and accent). I’m an almost totally assimilated Jew, but the Bunch’s work still feels familiar to me. The stories in this issue include one about some people she knew in childhood, and a couple others about her solo vacation in America without Crumb. One of the stories in this issue, “Of What Use is a Bunch?”, was reprinted in Fantagraphics’s Best Comics of the Decade.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #6 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Punks Stand a Chance!”, [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. An unsatisfying conclusion to an unenjoyable comic. This was a huge disappointment considering Matt Bors’s track record of quality political cartooning. It was also the worst Ahoy comic yet, and it makes me question my policy of buying everything Ahoy publishes.

TRVE KVLT #4 (IDW, 2022) – “There’s No One I’d Rather Be Incinerated and Sent to Hell With than You,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. The two protagonists confront Satan, while their coworker goes looking for them. I kind of liked the first issue of Trve Kvlt, but subsequent issues have been boring and unfunny.

THE FLY #4 (Archie, 1983) – “Dejavu,” [W] Rich Buckler, [A] Steve Ditko. The Fly fights some boring villains, and also discovers that his love interest, the former Fly Girl, has moved on from him. The problem with late-period Ditko is that his style was effectively stagnant. His ‘80s work is hard to tell apart from his ‘60s work, and he kept drawing the same stuff over and over. Someone once told me that you can identify a Ditko story because he never updated his photo reference files, so his costumes and settings always look as if they were stuck in the ‘50s and ‘60s. This issue has a Jaguar backup story by Chas Ward and Vicatan, an underrated Filipino artist.

INCREDIBLE HULK #310 (Marvel, 1985) – “Banner Redux,” [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Bret Blevins. Glow, Goblin and Guardian lead the mindless Hulk through Bruce Banner’s past memories, thus helping to set up for issue 312, perhaps the most important Hulk comic ever. Then the Hulk saves a yellow-skinned woman from being sacrificed, but he turns back to Banner just as the woman is about to sacrifice him. I hate Bill Mantlo’s writing, and I have very few issues of his Hulk run, but I would read more Mantlo Hulks if I could find them at cheap prices.

DEMON KNIGHTS #10 (DC, 2012) – “The Once and Always King,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Diógenes Neves. The cast fights a “pirate sea serpent” – really – and then they travel toward the ruins of Camelot. This issue is rather insubstantial, but Demon Knights was one of the more interesting New 52 titles. It combined a variety of different DC barbarian, horror and fantasy characters in an interesting way.

CASPER GHOSTLAND #78 (Harvey, 1974) – “The Mysterious G*ps* Girl,” [W/A] uncredited. Casper meets a g*ps* girl who’s being pursued by aliens from Uranus. This is a silly comic with a typical nonsensical Harvey plot.

THE SPECTRE #13 (DC, 1993) – “Righteousness,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. This issue has a glow-in-the-dark cover, but the glow-in-the-dark effect seems to have worn off. “Righteousness” begins with Amy’s funeral, and then the Spectre visits Vlatava, Count Vertigo’s homeland, which functions here as a stand-in for Bosnia. After witnessing a terrorist attack on innocent children, the Spectre determines that the entire nation is guilty, so he kills Vlatava’s entire population. Somehow this act of literal genocide was mostly forgotten after this series ended. Count Vertigo himself, a recurring character from Suicide Squad, reappears in this issue, and there’s also a scene with Father Richard Creamer, perhaps the best depiction of an honest clergyman in any mainstream comic. The Spectre was John Ostrander’s best work for DC other than Suicide Squad, and I need to collect it more heavily, especially now that I’ve finished my Suicide Squad run.

RAZOR’S EDGE #1 (Innovation, 1993) – four stories, [W/A] Bruce Jones. The four stories in this issue are all reprints, but they’re all reprinted from Fantagor comics that are not easy to find, so Innovation did a service to readers by collecting them. It looks like I’ve read three of these stories before, though I don’t remember them well. The best of these is “Targets,” in which a woman assassinates her husband’s mistress. But it turns out that the husband was also planning to murder his mistress, and he kills the wife instead due to mistaken identity. The one story that’s new to me is “Watching You,” in which a disgusting criminal abducts a woman’s young daughter in order to get her to sleep with him. But the woman has a telepathic bond with the daughter, and she convinces the daughter to shoot the rapist dead.

THE EXTREMIST #2 (Vertigo, 1993) – “June, Nineteen Ninety-Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Ted McKeever. This issue explains how the protagonist’s husband became the Extremist in the first place. Then he tries to quit, but is murdered first. This really should have been issue 1, because #2 barely makes sense without having read #1 first. The Extremist is one of Milligan’s best miniseries. For its time, it’s a very frank examination of alternative sexualities. One interesting line in this issue is. “What gross clumsiness to shove the world’s population into two categories, into two sexes! There are more than two sexes… There aren’t even three or four sexes. There are as many sexes as there are people in the world.” It’s the villain who says this, but he’s not wrong. I have this entire miniseries now, but I haven’t read #4 yet, and I can’t find my copy of it.

ARCHIE #151 (Archie, 1964) – “Not Guilty” etc., [W] Frank Doyle et al., [A] Harry Lucey. The best story in this issue is the one where Archie fools his friends with a trick light bulb, and eventually causes Mr. Lodge to electrocute himself. This issue reminds me why Harry Lucey was such a huge influence on Jaime Hernandez. The Archie house style is based on the work of Dan DeCarlo, but Lucey drew quite differently from DeCarlo. Lucey’s faces and body types were more realistic, and he drew with great economy of line, much like Jaime does.

AIRBOY #17 (Eclipse, 1987) – “The 3rd Mission,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Bo Hampton. Back in World War II, a third atomic bomb was scheduled to be dropped on Moscow (or so this comic claims), but the plane carrying the bomb vanished and was never seen again. Now the plane reappears at the worst possible time. There’s also a Skywolf backup story, set in Guatemala in the 1950s.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #190 (DC, 1975) – “Project: Omega,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Gerry Talaoc. The Unknown Soldier investigates a Nazi plot to turn gorillas into super-soldiers. This story isn’t as funny as that summary makes it sound, but Talaoc’s draftsmanship is quite good. In the backup story, by Jack Oleck and Ruben Yandoc, a soldier finds comfort in the presence of a stray dog, but when the dog runs away, he loses all hope and gets himself killed. The story ends with the dog mourning over the soldier’s corpse.

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #3 (Eclipse, 1988) – as #2 above. Brian is hired as Delphina’s bodyguard and lover, but then has to defend her from an attack by a rival gang. When her father is kllled in the attack, Brian has to lead a revenge mission. Again, this issue is impressively drawn, but I liked issue 1 better.

THOR #249 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Throne and the Fury!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] John Buscema. Odin’s evil advisor Igron tries to convince Odin to draw the Odinsword and trigger Ragnarok. This issue has some excellent artwork, but its plot is a retread of any number of earlier Thor stories where Odin goes nuts. The only surprising twist in this issue is the revelation at the end: that “Odin” is not Odin at all, but the Mangog in disguise.

THE DREAMING #2 (Vertigo, 1996) – “The Goldie Factor Part Two,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. Goldie has been kidnapped by a creepy limbless man, later revealed to be the Biblical serpent. Following Goldie’s trail, Cain and Abel visit a café patronized by Greek mythological creatures. Then they follow Goldie through various other locations in the Dreaming, such as a socialist workers’ paradise, an environmentalist ecotopia, and Davy Jones’s Locker. This issue is quite funny and whimsical.

JSA #22 (DC, 2001) – “Lost Friends,” [W] David S. Goyer & Geoff Johns, [A] Rags Morales & Buzz. This issue has two parallel plotlines, located on the top and bottom halves of each page. On the top halves, most of the JSA go looking for the missing Hawkgirl. On the bottom halves,  On the bottom halves, Jay Garrick has an adventure in 19th-dynasty Egypt, where he meets Nabu and Teth-Adam, the future Dr. Fate and Black Adam. This storyline functions partly as an attempt to fix Hawkman’s indecipherable continuity. Geoff Johns’s JSA was better than most of his later work, perhaps because he had a co-writer who toned down his more excessive tendencies.

LUKE CAGE #168 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. Luke Cage has become a mind-controlled pawn of the Ringmaster, and he and some of the Ringmaster’s other victims get trapped in a caved-in mine tunnel. This Luke Cage run was far less entertaining than the Power Man & Iron Fist run that preceded it. Guillermo Sanna’s art in this issue is very loose and lacking in detail, much like Lisandro Estherren’s art in Redneck.

VALIANT ICONS SNEAK PREVIEW (2017) – [W/A] various. Three previews of then-upcoming Valiant titles. The only one of these titles that’s of interest to me is Jeff Lemire’s Bloodshot: Salvation.

G.I. JOE #150 (Marvel, 1994) – “Slam Dance in the Cyber-Castle!”, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Phil Gosier. I had a subscription to G.I. Joe in 1993 and 1994, but it expired with #148. By that time I had decided that G.I. Joe was too immature for me, at my advanced age of eleven, so I never read the rest of the Marvel run. This issue’s cover promises “the battle you demanded… Snake-Eyes vs. Cobra Commander!”, but that battle only occupies a few pages, and the rest of the issue is mostly filled up with conventional fight scenes. A curious plot element in this issue is that Cobra Commander has some sort of anti-ninja technology. How would this technology be able to distinguish between ninjas and non-ninjas?

GHOSTS #94 (DC, 1980) – “The Banshee Bride of Ballybrooke,” [W] Mimai Kin, [A] Win Mortimer. I want to collect more of these DC mystery titles, but the problem is that they’re not very good. This issue consists of four unfrightening ghost stories, mostly by undistinguished creative teams. The only artist in this issue who I like is Don Newton. The curious thing about this issue is that two of the stories are credited to a writer named Mimai Kin. This writer’s only GCD credits are seven stories published by DC in 1980 and 1981, mostly in Ghosts. Their name sounds like a pseudonym, but I can’t find any information about them. Jack C. Harris edited this issue, so I tagged him on Facebook and asked him who Mimai Kin was. He confirmed that Mimai Kin was a pseudonym, but he couldn’t remember who they really were.

EXTREMITY #4 (Image, 2017) – as #3 above. The Roto family visits the grave of Thea’s mother Bala, and then their next target is Dag, who Jerome blames for Bala’s death. After defeating both Dag and his wife Jessica, Jerome discovers that Dag has built a doomsday device that can kill the entire Paznina clan, though at great cost. Jerome wants to use Shiloh’s battery to power the device, but Rollo is not willing to let his robotic friend be sacrificed on the altar of vengeance. Rollo and Shiloh flee, while Thea decides to remain with her father. Rollo’s abandonment of his family is a powerful moment. Dag’s and Jessica’s steeds, a giant mantis and a giant spider, are really cool-looking.

2000 AD #420 (Rebellion, 1985) – Anderson: as #418 above. Anderson discovers that the Dark Judges have duped her into helping them return to Mega-City One. Brett Ewins’s art in this story is very striking. Slaine: “The Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine meets some el (i.e. fairy) women and resists their attempt to seduce and then kill him. This chapter is homaged in 2000 AD #1847, which I read earlier this year. Glenn Fabry is a far better artist than David Pugh. Dredd: “Aftermath Ron Reagan,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. This story references the Anderson story in the same issue, but the two stories are only tangentially related. In the aftermath of the Dark Judges’ attack on Ron Reagan block, the victims’ bodies are searched for evidence of crimes, and as a result, Dredd apprehends a young criminal who’s posing as an old man. One-shot: “Breathless,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brendan McCarthy. This story doesn’t meet the usual standards of either of these creators. Strontium Dog: as above. Middenface McNulty entertains some captured criminals by teaching them the song “I Belong to Glasgow.” This is a real song.

DESPERADOES: QUIET OF THE GRAVE #3 (Wildstorm, 2001) – “Spider Spawns a Web,” [W] Jeff Mariotte, [A] John Severin. A Western story with a confusing plot consisting of multiple overlapping threads (hence the title of this issue, I guess). I didn’t understand this issue’s story, and John Severin’s art here is not his best. He was about eighty years old at the time, and while his linework is beautiful, his backgrounds are often lacking in detail.

LUKE CAGE #167 (Marvel, 2018) – as #168 above. Another boring issue that provides only minimal plot development and that takes just a few minutes to read. This whole storyline could have been compressed into two or three issues at most.

CREEPY #11 (Dark Horse, 2013) – [E] Sierra Hahn & Brendan Wright. This is not the original Creepy, but a revival version, published in standard comic book format. Unfortunately, the best story in this issue is a reprint: “Eye of the Beholder” by Archie Goodwin and Johnny Craig, from Eerie #2. It’s about a man who doesn’t realize his wife is a living corpse. This story’s artistic standards are so high that the new material in Creepy #11 looks bad by comparison. The best new story in the issue is probably the one by Gilbert Hernandez, but even this one is just a standard piece of body horror.

REVOLVER #1 (Renegade, 1985) – “Star Guider,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] Steve Ditko. The main feature in this issue is a pair of stories starring an outer-space travel guide. However, the clear highlight of the issue is “Starlad” by Bill DuBay and Vicatan. In this story, a dying little boy asks his doctor why a superhero hasn’t saved him, and the doctor convinces the boy that both of them, the doctor and the boy, already are superheroes. This story is extremely sweet and sad, in the same way as “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” It uses the same style of upper-case typographic lettering that Warren used in its later years, and I wonder if it was intended for a Warren publication. The other story in this issue is by Rich Margopoulos and Tom Mandrake, whose art style was not yet well developed.

HEAVY METAL #6.10 (1983) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. The front matter in this issue includes an interview with Samuel R. Delany. In this interview he recommends a science fiction writer I hadn’t heard of, Craig Strete. Noteworthy stories in this issue include: “The Ape” by Manara. The first chapter of Crepax’s “The Man from Harlem.” Druillet’s “Yragael,” which, like most of Druillet’s work, has spectacular visual imagery but not much of a plot. “Freak Show” by Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson, a disgusting horror story. Charles Burns’s “Robot Love” starring El Borbah. Burns was one of the only artists who worked for both Raw and Heavy Metal. In addition, “Den II” by Corben, and “Mudwogs” by Suydam.

2000 AD #421 (IPC, 1985) – Anderson: as above. The Dark Judges rampage through Mega-City One, and Chief Judge MacGruder reprimands Anderson and implies that she’s going to be sent to Titan. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf go looking for Xen the Brainwraith, and McNulty teaches the captives another Scottish music hall song, “A Wee Deoch an Doris.” Dredd: “Thirteenth Assessment,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A young judge cadet is forced to sentence his own mother to eighteen years in prison for gang activity. This story is adequately summarized by its last line: “Any cadet that can put his mother away for eighteen has the makings of a damn fine judge.” Slaine: as above. Slaine and his sidekick Murdach fight Elfric again. This story includes some more beautiful Fabry art. There’s one stunning half-page panel where Slaine jumps right over Elfric’s steed.

EXTREMITY #5 – as above. Thea tortures Dag to get him to reveal a password, and her one-eyed friend Hobbie gives her a lecture about how her mother would barely recognize her now. After getting the information he was after, Jerome murders Dag and Jessica in cold blood. At this point, I’ve not only lost all sympathy for Jerome, I think he’s worse than his archenemy Nim. We’ve seen Nim do some cruel things, but they pale in comparison to the murders Jerome has committed or threatened to commit. At the end of the issue, Jerome looks at Thea’s left-handed drawing of his wife, and we get the sense that he’s not sure she’d approve of his actions in her name.

SWORD MASTER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Sword in the Tomb,” [W] Shuizhu, [A] Gunji. This comic stars Lin Lie, who later became the new Iron Fist. This issue’s first story is drawn in a manga or manhua style, and focuses on Lie’s attempt to find his missing father. This story is readable, though it doesn’t make me feel compelled to read the rest of the series. There’s also a backup story, by Greg Pak and Ario Anindito, in which Lie trains with Shang Chi.

STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #1 (DC, 1993) – “How to Build a Tree Fort,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. A revival of a classic old humor series. In his parents’ attic, Stanley discovers a copy of “The Heterodyne Boys Big Book of Fun,” which contains instructions for how to build all sorts of stuff. The name Heterodyne is a reference to Foglio’s Girl Genius series. The running joke in  Stanley and HIs Monster #1 is that all the adults in the issue have fond memories of the Heterodyne book, but none of them still have a copy of it. At the end, after Stanley uses the book to build a tree fort, we discover that its original owner was his mother, not his father. This is related to Foglio’s interest in girl engineers, on which see Rachel Dean-Ruzicka’s chapter in this book. Easter eggs in this issue include a TV show that’s a parody of Star Trek: The Next Generation (with the joke that Picard is inclined toward surrendering because he’s French), and a cameo appearance by Renfrew from DC’s Jerry Lewis comics. Renfrew, like Stanley and his monster, was co-created by Arnold Drake.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #7 (DC, 2007) – “The End… the Beginning… the End,” [W] David Lapham, [A] Eric Battle. David Lapham’s Spectre story in this series is perhaps the only truly bad thing he’s written. It’s a litany of gratuitous violence and horror. It begins “Kids killing friends to find out if their blood is red or blue. Mothers boiling their babies,” and that’s indicative of its overall tone. Unlike in Lapham’s solo work, there’s no higher purpose to any of this violence and horror, other than to disgust the reader. By contrast, the Dr. Thirteen backups in this series are perhaps the only good things Brian Azzarello has written, other than his collaborations with Eduardo Risso. This issue’s Dr. Thirteen story is notable for an appearance by the four Architects, who are disguised versions of Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid (according to this).

SECRET SIX #11 (DC, 2009) – “Depths Part Two: Amazons Unleashed,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Nicola Scott. This is part of the story where the Secret Six are enslaved and forced to work in an underground island prison. This is my favorite of Gail’s Secret Six stories, and I think it’s one of her best works in general. In this issue, we learn that the villains’ plot is to turn the island into a prison for all the felons in the whole world. As usual there’s lots of great character interaction, and there are guest appearances by Artemis and Wonder Woman.

GIANT-SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR #6 (Marvel, 1968/1975) – “Let There Be… Life!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This is a reprint of Fantastic Four Annual #6, which includes the debut of Annihilus and the birth of Franklin Richards. I’m sure I have at least one other reprint of this story in my collection, but it’s worth reading again. This story includes some fantastic starscapes and fight scenes, and it feels very high-stakes because the FF are fighting for Sue and her unborn child’s life. The portrayal of the Negative Zone in this story seems inconsistent with issue 51. In that story, Earth was positively charged, which was why the Thing impostor died on contact with it. But in this story, Lee gives the impression that the positively charged planet is just some other random planet. This issue also reprints the “Questions and Answers About the FF” feature from FF Annual #1. According to this feature, Sue’s hobbies are “fashions, cooking, cosmetics, and reading romantic novels.” Oddly, Sue is  rarely if ever shown doing any of these things, except maybe the first one. This list of hobbies is just an example of how Sue used to have no personality at all other than being female.

FANTASTIC FOUR: 1, 2, 3, 4 #2 (Marvel, 2001) – “Staring at the Fish Tank,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jae Lee. I’ve had this entire miniseries for a long time, but never felt motivated to read it. I don’t know why not, because it’s quite fascinating, if rather weird and difficult: its plot doesn’t become clear until the last issue. In this issue, Sue spends most of the issue talking to Alicia about her ambivalent feelings toward Namor, and then at the end Namor shows up at Sue’s door, and Sue says “Oh God, I… I’m married.”

CREEPY #4 (Dark Horse, 2010) – [E] Shawna Gore. This issue includes a rare example of new work by Michael Wm. Kaluta: a story about an old lady who turns people into dolls. The other stories in this issue are okay at best, though the one by Nicola Cuti and Hilary Barta is kind of funny. Both Creepy #4 and #11 contain stories by Dan Braun. I had never heard of him before, but it appears that his Warren revivals for Dark Horse were his only work in comics. The reprinted story in this issue is “Wardrobe of Monsters” by Otto Binder and Gray Morrow, from Creepy #2. They could have chosen a better story to reprint. I haven’t read Creepy #2, but I suspect that “Wardrobe of Monsters” wasn’t even the best story in that issue.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #3 (Vertigo, 2010) – “The Dying Boy,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. This comic includes some exciting art, especially the page where Joe’s boat arrives at an underground city. But I still don’t understand Joe the Barbarian’s plot at all. It feels like a mashup of Toy Story with Morrison’s Seven Soldiers: Klarion, but other than that, I’m mystified as to what’s going on or why we should care.  

FANTASTIC FOUR: 1, 2, 3, 4 #3 (Marvel, 2001) – “Darkness and the Mole Man,” as above. Early in this issue, there’s a swipe from the Nick Fury story in Strange Tales #167, specifically the panel that introduces Dr. Doom’s Prime Mover. The various FF members deal with their individual crises: Sue tries to rebuff Namor’s advances, Ben tries to overcome the loss of an arm, and the Mole Man seduces Alicia. The issue ends with a classic moment, when Doom tells Reed all the awful things he’s done to the FF, and then asks “What have you been doing?” and Ben replies “Well, Victor… I’ve been thinking.”  

HAWKMOON: THE MAD GOD’S AMULET #4 (First, 1987) – untitled, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rafael Kayanan. I was hesitant to read this because it’s an adaptation of a Moorcock novel that I haven’t read yet. However, there are no real spoilers here; all that happens is that Hawkmoon and his allies try to break the siege of the Kamarg, and Hawkmoon marries Yisselda. Kayanan’s artwork is just okay, and neither he nor Conway do much to evoke Moorcock’s aesthetic.

FANTASTIC FOUR: 1, 2, 3, 4 #4 (Marvel, 2002) –  “Prime Mover,” as above. The issue begins with a flashback in which Dr. Doom doesn’t really exist, but is in fact Reed’s own split personality. But then Reed realizes ths is not the case, and he and his teammates overcome Doom’s brainwashing and save the day. FF: 1, 2, 3, 4 is a very successful FF story, even though (or because) it doesn’t introduce anything new to the series. It instead focuses entirely on classic plot points, like Reed and Doom’s rivalry or Sue’s infatuation with Namor, but it makes these old plot points seem new again. Its major flaw is Morrison’s typical confusing plotting.

GREEN ARROW #64 (DC, 1992) – “The Hunt for the Red Dragon,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Ollie spends most of this issue searching for Shadō yet again. Ollie and Shadō’s relationship was always rather frustrating – she raped him to produce a child, and then he spent the rest of Grell’s run chasing her around. This issue suggests that Shadō might mean something in Japanese, since the suffix “dō” means a figurative “way” or path, but I don’t know if “sha” means anything.

X-FACTOR ANNUAL #5 (Marvel, 1990) – “Act of Faith,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jon Bogdanove. This is part two of Days of Future Present, though it takes place after Part 3, which was New Mutants Annual #6. Days of Future Present was an overly complicated mcrossover, and X-Factor was the worst of the four titles involved in it. I’ve never much liked the pre-PAD X-Factor; it was a title that only existed because of editorial meddling, and it brought together five characters who really didn’t have much in common. The most notable scene in X-Factor Annual #5 is when the resurrected Jean Grey meets her “daughter” Rachel Summers for the first time, and neither of them reacts well to the other. In the backup story, “Tribute the First,” by PAD and Dave Ross, Jean visits her own grave, and she meets an old lady who survived the Holocaust. This story includes a panel where the old lady shows Jean her concentration camp tattoos. These tattoos used to be a very common trope in both real and fictional stories about the Holocaust. I’m not sure I ever met anyone who had them, but as a kid, I was always aware that there were many living people who had survived the Holocaust. Sadly, it would be hard to tell a story like “Tribute the First” nowadays because there are so few remaining Holocaust survivors.

STAR TREK #15 (DC, 1991) – “The Return of the Worthy Part 3: Tomorrow Never Knows,” [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. The Worthy discover that the planet of Karimea has been depopulated, which leaves them with no reason to exist. Kirk and Captain Styles of the Exeter (the one who failed to catch the stolen Enterprise in Star Trek III) conspire to give the Worthy a new mission: since they’re not bound by the Prime Directive, they can intervene in crises where the Federation is unable to act. The Worthy storyline is an affectionate tribute to two classic SF franchises, Star Trek and Lost in Space. In case the reader doesn’t realize who the Worthy were, the words LOST IN SPACE appear on the cover, upside down and photo-reversed inside the red pool at the bottom. On Facebook, the cover artist, Jerome K. Moore, pointed out that the words LOST IN SPACE also appear again on the rocks beside the pool, and the empty red area at the center of the cover is shaped like the Jupiter 2 spaceship.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #14 (DC, 1991) – “The Santa Fe Trial,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Bryan Talbot. In Santa Fe, a man called the Godfather of Guilt is sentencing people to ironic punishments. Shade meets a woman named Tiffany Wallace who eventually reveals that the Godfather is her abusive husband. It further comes out that the Godfather is already dead, because Tiffany killed him in self-defense. This is a well-plotted story, but it’s unfortunate that the issue ends by suggesting that Tiffany should feel guilty for killing her husband. Given his history of physical abuse, she ought to feel pride instead of guilt for having killed him. Bryan Talbot’s artwork here is underwhelming because of Mark Pennington’s lifeless inks.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #45 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Planet of Monsters,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Robinsons help a lost alien child return to his family. This comic is always entertaining and inoffensive, though never much more than that. As I’ve explained before, this comic was not based on the Lost in Space TV show; it’s more correct to say that the TV show was a ripoff of the comic.

ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST #7 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Francesco Biagini. Of the various Elric comics, this is one of the only ones that was neither written by Moorcock himself, nor based on an existing Moorcock novel. Instead it tells an original story starring Elric and various other Eternal Champions. This issue is mostly devoted to a battle between the forces of Chaos and Order, but Francesco Biagini creates some gruesome renderings of Chaos creatures, and there’s one cool moment where Elric and Grayson Beck both strike the exact same pose.

LE DÉMON DE MIDI (Dargaud, 1996) – [W/A] Florence Cestac. I’m choosing to list this as a comic book because of its fairly short length. I bought this book on eBay during the pandemic, and I tried to read it once, but quickly gave up because of my rather poor French. Then I recently realized that the iPhone version of Google Translate has a function where you can hold a foreign-language text up to the camera and have it automatically translated. This function has obvious applications for reading comics, and by using it, I was able to finish Le Démon de Midi in just a couple sittings. The quality of the translation is very poor, but I don’t care; I’m just using it to get a basic idea of what the French text says. The only remaining problem is that Cestac uses a lot of idioms whose meaning is not conveyed by a literal translation, and Google Translate was no help with that. The next book I want to read in this way is Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s Julius Corentin Acquefacques vol. 5, but I haven’t had time yet. Anyway, as for Le Démon de Midi itself, it’s a very funny and realistic account of a marriage torn apart by the husband’s extramarital affair. The whole thing is presented as if it’s an anthropological or zoological account of human behavior, and the husband and wife don’t seem to have names; they’re not so much individual characters as examples of generic types. Cestac shows a deep, ironic understanding of female psychology, reminding me of Claire Bretécher or Roz Chast. Cestac draws in a cartoony style reminiscent of Franquin or Uderzo, and indeed, the French Wikipedia says that Franquin’s Gaston Lagaffe is one of her major influences. She notably draws all her characters with huge noses. This childish-seeming style contrasts oddly with the highly adult subject matter of the comic. It’s too bad that Cestac is unknown in America. Le Démon de Midi was published into English, under the title The Midlife Crisis, but that translation is only available in digital form.

ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #2 (Dark Horse, 1997) – untitled, [W/A] P. Craig Russell. This is by far the best comics adaptation of Moorcock. By the time he got around to adapting Stormbringer, PCR was at the height of his powers, and he summons all his visual imagination and graphic skill to bring Moorcock’s stories to life. In this issue, Elric teams up with the enigmatic Sepiriz to recover his kidnapped wife. PCR gives Sepiriz a striking visual appearance, with dark purple skin covered in orange tattoos. Afterward, Elric unsuccessfully tries to unite the human kingdoms in opposition to the conqueror Jagreen Lern. From this last scene, I especially remember the contemptuous line “Ships and men!” (implying that the southern kingdoms will not only refuse to resist Jagreen Lern, but will actively join his conquests).

NAMOR #25 (Marvel, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] John Byrne. Namor and Namorita are kidnapped by the H’ylthri, the plant creatures from K’un L’un, and boy, that’s a tough word to spell. There’s also a pointless Wolverine guest appearance. It’s odd that Wolverine doesn’t appear on this issue’s cover, even though he was Marvel’s biggest sales draw, but he does appear on the cover of the previous issue. Much of this issue consists of a flashback sequence that retcons the events of the last few issues of Power Man and Iron Fist. In particular, Byrne establishes that several of the characters from this series were really Master Khan in disguise. The point of this retcon is to establish a plausible way to bring Iron Fist back to life, since he was killed at the end of PM&IF. As Brian Cronin explains here, that series’ editor, Denny O’Neil, decided to kill off Iron Fist due to spite at the series’ cancellation. So it makes sense that Byrne wanted to bring Iron Fist back, but he did so in a rather clunky way, and in a completely unrelated series. As a result, this issue feels like an example of Byrne’s tendency toward unnecessary retcons that cause more problems than they solve. See here for further information on this retcon.

IRON MAN #6 (Marvel, 1998) – “In Deep,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Patrick Zircher. Tony and Black Widow team up for a spy mission, but Tony finds himself trapped in an Australian prison without access to his armor. This issue is okay, but nothing great. I started reading this  series when it came out, but I gave up on it because it was just not all that interesting, even though Kurt’s Avengers and Astro City were among my favorite comics at the time. The main problem with Kurt’s Iron Man, I now realize, is Tony’s lack of personality. Prior to the films, Tony tended to be written as an unemotional cold fish, and it was often suggested that his fragile health made him incapable of happiness. David Michelinie wrote Tony with more zest and vigor, but the modern version of Tony – a humorous, awkward, disconcerting man – was inspired by Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of the character in the films.

KAMANDI #33 (DC, 1975) – “Blood and Fire!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. The tigers and the gorillas  fight a battle at sea, and Kamandi and Doctor Canus create a new character who is subsequently identified as Pyra. This is a fun issue, but with nothing truly unique about it. Kamandi may have been Kirby’s last unequivocally great work.

TALES OF TOAD #3 (Cartoonists Co-Op, 1973) – “A Fool’s Paradise” etc., [W/A] Bill Griffith. This was an eBay purchase. This issue consists of several different stories by Griffith, some of which feature characters who would later appear in the Zippy newspaper strip, like Zippy, Griffy, and Mr. The Toad. These stories are more or less pure absurdism with little narrative logic, but they express a sense of nostalgia for a type of American culture that was already dying at that time, and is now thoroughly dead. I get the same feeling from reading the work of David Boswell, Drew Friedman and Bob Burden. Griffith’s artwork is also notable for its extremely detailed draftsmanship. He draws like a classic comic strip artist, such as Frank King or Harold Gray, and this makes his absurdist surrealism even more absurd and surreal.  Griffith is notable as one of the only recent creators who’s worked in both comic strips and comic books. I’m mostly used to seeing his work in a daily strip format, and it’s kind of jarring to see him doing entire stories.

ACTION GIRL COMICS #17 (Slave Labor, 1999) – Blue Monday: “Cuntageously Yours,” [W] Chynna Clugston-Major. A high schooler tries to get a date for a dance, but it doesn’t go well. The next story is a one-pager by Mari Schaal, better known as MariNaomi. It’s a crudely drawn and rather pointless piece of work, but I was delighted to realize it was her. The last story is “Go-Go Girl Racer” by Elizabeth Watasin and Eela Lavin, about some girls who enter an auto race. Action Girl must have had a very small readership, but it was a notable precursor of today’s girl-oriented comics, and I ought to look for more of it.

ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #7 (Dark Horse, 1997) – as above. This issue adapts the end of Elric’s saga, including his final battle with the Chaos Lords and Jagreen Lern, his destruction of the world, and his death by the agency of his own sword. PCR does full justice to the epic power of these moments. He draws a really stark contrast between the Lords of Chaos and Law – the Lords of Law are depicted with straight lines and gentle curves, while the Lords of Chaos are gibbering horrors, and it’s hard to see where one ends and another begins. When Elric tortures Jagreen Lern to death, we don’t see what Elric does to him, but we do see a bunch of “snikt” sound effects and then a bunch of chopped-off body parts, and that makes the scene even more gruesome. The final moments of the issue, including the final page where Stormbringer streaks off into the sky, are drawn in an almost abstract way, and when Stormbringer finally appears in its true form, it looks more evil than the Lords of Chaos  themselves. Overall, this miniseries is a striking piece of work that demonstrates PCR’s ability to capture the essence of the works he adapts.

AVENGERS #309 (Marvel, 1989) – “To Find Olympia!”, [W]  John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. This issue is mostly a series of boring fight scenes, with no notable characterization. There’s also a subplot with the Great Lakes Avengers, but due to Byrne’s lack of a sense of humor, this subplot is not funny. The GLA didn’t become interesting until Dan Slott revived them in their own miniseries.

BATMAN: ODYSSEY #1 (DC, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Neal Adams. I don’t even know how to express the awfulness of this comic. On the second page, Batman is shown carrying a gun, in violation of one of his most cherished rules. Neal makes no attempt to explain why Batman would do such a thing. That is symbolic of this comic’s complete lack of coherence. There are two major plots in this issue, one taking place in a flashback and another in the present, but there is no connection between the two plots, and neither of them has any logic behind it. Neal’s Batman acts wildly out of character; besides telling a gun, he constantly smiles and cracks jokes. Man-Bat appears in the issue, but it’s not clear why. The artwork in this comic is okay, but it’s hardly at the same level as Neal’s ‘70s work. I recall reading that DC published this comic out of courtesy to Neal: they were willing to publish anything he did, even if it was utter nonsense, which it was. I understand DC’s willingness to cater to a legendary creator, but they really did Neal no favors by publishing this pile of crap. Rather, by doing so, they allowed Neal to embarrass himself and to tarnish his own legacy. It would have been better if they’d paid him not to publish it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #963 (DC, 2017) – “Utopia,” [W] James Tynion IV & Christopher Sebela, [A] Carmen Carnero. This issue begins with a cute flashback about Tim and Steph’s romance, but the bulk of the issue is about Steph’s battle with Anarky. There’s also a subplot about Batman and Clayface. This is just an average issue, but at least it has a coherent and logical plot, which makes it infinitely better than Batman: Odyssey.

THE FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER #17 (Marvel, 1975) – “A Phoenix Berserk,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Val Mayerik. Frankenstein’s monster gains the ability to speak, if rather ungrammatically, and he uses his newfound speech to express his feelings of loneliness and confusion. Also there are some rather pointless subplots. Val Mayerik was a talented artist, but his artwork in this issue is stiff and boring. The main problem with this comic is that the Frankenstein monster is a redundant character, since he has the same personality as the Hulk. Did Marvel really need another super-strong, barely articulate monster who just wanted to be left alone?

HEROBEAR AND THE KID: SAVING TIME #1 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Kunkel. Young Tyler discovers that his butler/adoptive father, Henry, is really Father Time, and Tyler has to protect him for the span of New Year’s Day, when Henry transforms into Baby New Year. I dislike this series because it feels like an adult’s idea of a kids’ comic. It appeals to nostalgia for the idyllic wonder of childhood, when actual childhood, as Bill Watterson understood, is not idyllic at all. However, Saving Time is better than other Herobear and the Kid stories because it mostly focuses on the plot, and it includes a limited amount of nostalgia.

TOMB OF DRACULA #20 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Coming of Doctor Sun,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. Trapped in the snow, Dracula is captured by Doctor Sun’s minions, and we finally see Doctor Sun for the first time and discover that he’s a disembodied brain. Also, Clifton Graves, the villain from the earliest issues, shows up again, and Rachel tells Frank about her tragic past. This story arc is a powerful climax to the first year of the series. Doctor Sun later reappeared in Nova. That seems odd, given that Tomb of Dracula and Nova have nothing in common, but it makes more sense when you remember that Marv Wolfman also wrote Nova.

NEXUS #71 (First, 1990) – “Breaking the Fusion Barrier,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Mark Heike. Up to now, Stan has been assassinating criminals on his own initiative, without any orders from the Merk. Now he tries to find the Merk so he can get fusion power and a list of criminals to kill. In the end, Stan is contacted by some evil heads known as the Bad Brains. Meanwhile, Tyrone tries to encourage tourism to Ylum, which requires him to disassociate himself from Stan. This is just an average issue. The artists on the later part of First’s Nexus run, like Mark Heike and Greg Guler, were not in the same class as Steve Rude or Paul Smith. I just saw that Dark Horse is planning to publish a new Nexus trade paperback written by Baron. That is a severe mistake, and I hope they reconsider. Mike Baron is a blight on the industry, and no one should be doing business with him. Not even Steve Rude is willing to work with him anymore.

AVENGERS ACADEMY 80-PAGE GIANT #1 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] David Baldeon. I bought this many years ago, but never bothered to read it because it’s 80 pages. According to this, it was intended as an annual crossover, and then as a three-issue miniseries, but was finally published as a one-shot. In this issue, the Avengers Academy kids (minus Hazmat and Mettle) team up with the Young Allies, consisting of Spider-Girl, Firestar and Toro – the latter is a new character, not the Human Torch’s sidekick – and they fight a  villain who’s later revealed as Arcade. This comic is entertaining, but it didn’t need to be 80 pages long.

AZTEK: THE ULTIMATE MAN #9 (DC, 1997) – “The Power and the Glory,” [W] Mark Millar & Grant Morrison, [A] N. Steven Harris. This is one of Morrison (and Millar)’s weirder and more enigmatic works. Aztek lacked a clear plot or premise, and I never understood why he was supposed to be any different from hundreds of other DC heroes. In this issue, Aztek fights the Parasite, but it remains unclear just why we should care about Aztek. It’s no wonder this series only lasted ten issues.

FANBOY #3 (DC, 1999) – untitled, [W] Mark Evanier, [W/A] Sergio Aragones et al. Finster goes to work at the comic book store, just as it’s being targeted by an anti-obscenity crusade. There are some inset sequences with guest art by Bill Sienkiewicz and Brent Anderson, and then Finster himself is arrested for selling an obscene comic book to a minor. I was going to say that this plot was outdated, because there were real incidents where comic book store employees were arrested for obscenity, but these incidents mostly happened in the ‘80s. However, the CBLDF website mentions another such case that happened in 1995, and another that happened after Fanboy #3 itself was published, so this sort of comics censorship was still a problem in 1999. Comics censorship is an even bigger problem now, but its current targets are graphic novels rather than comic books.

THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Luther Strode and Petra Dobrev get in a huge fight. I feel guilty that I don’t like this series more than I do, because Justin Jordan is a nice guy, and I want to support his work. However, Luther Strode’s style of disgusting, over-the-top violence does not appeal to me.

SUPERBOY #24 (DC, 1981) – “Blind Boy’s Bluff!”, [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. Thanks to red kryptonite, Superboy goes blind, but only when he’s not wearing his glasses, and he has to find a way to defeat a criminal without revealing his secret identity. This is essentially a Silver Age story, despite being published in the Bronze Age, and it has the Silver Age Superboy’s typical lack of characterization or realism. In the backup story, by Bob Rozakis and John Calnan, Superbaby encounters some aliens who think his toy ray gun is a source of massive power (when the actual power source is Superbaby himself).

NIGHT FORCE #3 (DC, 1982) – “The Summoning Chapter 3: Journey,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. On this issue’s cover, Colan cleverly juxtaposes the moon with a boat so that they look like a skull. Night Force had the same creative team as Tomb of Dracula, and belonged to the same genre, but it wasn’t as successful. Its characters were never as memorable as Frank, Rachel and the rest, and it didn’t have Dracula as a unifying focus. The best scene in this issue is when a little boy attends his mother’s funeral and doesn’t understand what’s going on, but the rest of the issue had no effect on me.

WHAT IF? #45 (Marvel, 1984) – “What If the Hulk Went Berserk?”, [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Ron Wilson. What If? #42 and #44 are perhaps the two best What If? stories ever, but #45, despite having the same writer, is not on the same level. The main problem is that this story lacks a clear point of departure from the mainstream Marvel Universe. The only difference between this Hulk and the main one is that the Hulk has a telepathic rapport with Rick Jones. And at the end of the issue, the Hulk kills Iron Man and is then killed by Thor. Other than that, this could have just been an issue of the regular Hulk series, and it wouldn’t have been a ery good issue of that series.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #2 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Wilde’s West,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. Jonah and his young companion, known only as “The Kid,” visit an Old West theme park whose owner seems to be Oscar Wilde himself. Lansdale and Truman’s take on Jonah Hex is different from the classic Michael Fleischer version, not just because of its supernatural aspects, but also because of its humor. Throughout this issue, Jonah and the Kid act as a comedy team. For instance, when they’re asked if they’ve been walking, they crack jokes about how they take turns riding on each other’s backs. This amount of humor is kind of unexpected, but I think it’s consistent with the spirit of the series. This issue includes a cameo appearance by its inker, Sam Glanzman.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #194 (DC, 1983) – “Trade Heroes – and Win!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Carmine Infantino. Batman and the Flash fight each other’s villains, but unfortunately those villains are a pair of total nonentities, Dr. Double X and the Rainbow Raider. The latter character’s ability to use color to evoke emotions is kind of funny (though I wonder which emotion corresponds to the color indigo). Other than that, this is a waste ofa n issue.

Q2: THE RETURN OF QUANTUM AND WOODY #4 (Valiant, 2015) – “Manhunt” etc., [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. I’ve decided that Priest’s writing does not appeal to me. My favorite series of his is still Quantum & Woody, but even this series still suffers from his habit of confusing narration. This issue does have some funny dialogue.

Next trip to Heroes, on December 10:

DO A POWERBOMB #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Lona and Cobrasun wrestle God, and despite making a valiant effort, they inevitably lose. God rewards Lona by restoring a forgotten memory of her mother, and then on the last page, we see that Yua was in the crowd watching the match. This ending is a bit anticlimactic, but touching, and overall Do a Powerbomb was one of the best miniseries of the year.

FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Night of Doom,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Iban Coello. Following Reed’s still-unexplained destruction of the Baxter Building, Reed and Sue visit a small town where they get attacked by an army of Doombots. In fact, everyone in town is a Doombot, but they appear normal when in the presence of an old woman named Mary. It eventually emerges that Mary once treated Dr. Doom kindly, and in response he created an army of Doombots to protect her. And then when Mary died, one of the Doombots continued “protecting” her by taking on her appearance. Reed and Sue reprogram the Doombots so they’re not dangerous to anyone, and then leave them to continue their simulated lives. This issue is similar to #1, in that it focuses on just two of the FF, and it sets up an intriguing mystery and then solves that mystery in a clever way.

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Zoe and some of the other kids from Emily’s faction return to the school, and there’s a funny cleaning montage. Then the kids sneak out of school and try to save Calvin from Gaslamp. This is another very entertaining issue.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #22 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Charlotte and Valentina realize that Aurora keeps sending them to historical moments where America defeated foreign invasions. Taking advantage of this knowledge, they escape the cycle of reincarnations and meet Henri Levant, a disembodied head in a centaur body. Meanwhile, in the future, Ace tracks down a much older version of Valentina, and she tells him that in this reality, Ace himself was murdered by Janet and Chang.

NIGHTWING 2022 ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Eduardo Pansica. This is the origin story of Heartless, aka Shelton Lyle,. We learn that he’s the opposite of Dick Grayson, in that he’s an utter sociopath who only feels emotions when he sees people die. And the first time Heartless discovered this was when, as a child, he witnessed the deaths of Dick’s parents. Heartless’s mentor is his butler Gerald Chamberlain, a dark mirror of Alfred – though actually this character is not Gerard Chamberlain, but an unnamed man who killed the real Chamberlain and assumed identity. With Gerard’s aid, Shelton killed his own parents before embarking on a supervillain career. This story also includes a reprise of the bullying Bscene from Nightwing #78, from Shelton’s perspective. There are two backup stories by other writers: one which depicts Haley the dog’s daydreams, and another where Jon Kent trains with Dick. This last story is written by C.S. Pacat, an expert at writing about relationships between men.

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. This issue starts with a heartbreaking scene where a cute little animal is killed by a hawk. In the postapocalyptic timeline, Greyson and Wren visit a human settlement, but Wren is unable to prevent her powers from flaring up. Then in the past timeline, just after Greyson rescues Wren from the collapsed house, his partner says “The behemoth got you too, didn’t it?” This issue didn’t impress me as much as #1 did.

KNOW YOUR STATION #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “A Hub for the Future,” [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Liana Kangas. In a dystopian future, the world’s richest and most evil people have abandoned Earth for a floating space station, and the job of the protagonist, Elise, is to babysit them. Elise teams up with a policewoman to investigate the murder of one of the rich people, a private prison magnate. But then the policewoman is murdered, and Elise becomes the prime suspect. Know Your Station is a spiritual sequel to Eat the Rich, and it looks like it will be just as powerful as that series was.

DAMN THEM ALL #2 (Boom1, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. Is it Simon Spurrier or Si Spurrier? He uses both names. This issue begins by introducing Dora Lafon, an old lover of Alfie Hawthorne (i.e. Constantine). She used to be a police detective, until she prevented a school shooting by talking the shooter into committing suicide. For this (in my opinion) heroic act, Dora was hounded out of the police force. While investigating Alfie’s murder, Dora and Ellie meet Carlin, who kind of reminds me of the sidekick from Spurrier’s Hellblazer run, and the demon Pruflas, who reminds me of Alan Moore.

ROGUE SUN #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan is now living with his dad’s other family, and they’re finally subjecting him to some discipline. In his superheroic identity, Dylan fights some petty criminals and hurts one of them badly. Then a supernatural identity contacts the criminal’s son and offers him superpowers so he can take revenge on Dylan. This issue didn’t make much of an impression on me.  

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Sign Up,” [W] Jordan Ifueko, [A] Alba Glez. After the events of the three Moon Girl one-shots, Lunella’s parents have figured out her secret identity – it sure took them long enough – and they forbid her from being a superhero. Instead, Lunella organizes a roller derby team, but in their first match, their opponents turn into zombies and attack them. Then Lunella discovers that one of her teammates is a Kree agent who wants to conquer the Earth. This is perhaps the best-written Moon Girl comic yet. It feels deeper and more substantial than either the regular series or the one-shots. An interesting new piece of information is that Lunella’s mother works as a prison counselor, and her father works in the disease unit of a hospital, so she has a family tradition of heroism. This issue includes a couple interesting cultural references. Lunella’s mother calls her “pikney,” a word commonly used in West African and Caribbean pidgin, and there’s a sign advertising Kanekalon, a brand of hair extensions.

On December 12, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Con. This was another very fun convention, and I could have stayed longer than I did if I hadn’t been starving. I wish the restaurant in the convention hotel was open on Sundays, so I could eat and come back. Some of the comics I bought:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #132 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Master Plan of the Molten Man!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Romita. This cost $5 and was in low grade, so I initially passed on it, but then I changed my mind and bought it anyway. I’m glad I did. This issue reintroduces the Molten Man and Liz Allan, neither of whom had appeared since Steve Ditko’s run. Peter’s reunion with Liz is a cute moment, and Romita’s action sequences are beautiful as always. I don’t know why Romita drew this issue, rather than Gil Kane or Ross Andru. It was the last time he drew a full issue of this series, although he did short vignettes in #365 and #500. At the end of the issue, Peter gets radiation sickness from the radioactive rocks that the Molten Man had been trying to steal. That doesn’t really make sense when Peter’s own powers are entirely based on radiation.  

BLAZING COMBAT #2 (Warren, 1966) – [W] Archie Goodwin. Easily my best finds at the convention were low-grade copies of Blazing Combat #2 and #3 for $7 each. I already had Blazing Combat #4, but I’ve been looking for the other three issues for decades, and I never expected to find them. Blazing Combat is probably the best American war comic ever published, other than Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales, and it feels like a continuation of the latter two series; it has many of the same artists, and even the same letterer. The lineup of talent in this issue is absolutely stunning – most of the artists in this issue are in the Hall of Fame, along with Goodwin, who was both the writer and the editor. On top of that, this comic is gorgeously printed, so as to bring out the true beauty of the art. The stories are: “Landscape,” [A] Joe Orlando. The Vietnam War is narrated from the viewpoint of an old farmer who loses his family, his farm and finally his life. Anti-war stories like this helped to get the magazine banned from Army base exchanges, leading to its early cancellation. “Saratoga,” [A] Reed Crandall. An account of the battle of Saratoga, in which Horatio Gates almost led the Americans to defeat, until, ironically enough, Benedict Arnold saved the day. Crandall’s art here is stunningly detailed. “Mig Alley,” [A] Al McWilliams. In the Korean War, a pilot’s record of success ironically gets him killed. You can tell how great this comic is if the worst artist in it is Al McWilliams – and his artwork here is very good. “Face to Face!”, [A] Orlando. In the Spanish-American War, a young soldier has visions of military glory, but when he’s forced to beat a Spanish soldier to death with a rock, he discovers that war isn’t as glorious as he thought. “Kasserine Pass!”, [A] Angelo Torres. An account of the American defeat in the eponymous battle, with some beautiful inking by Al Williamson. The title of this story is lettered in the same style as the titles of Kurtzman’s war stories. “Lone Hawk,” [A] Alex Toth. A biography of Canadian WWI ace Billy Bishop, who was less famous than Guynemer, the Red Baron, Lufbery, etc., but who, unlike any of them, survived the war. Toth was a brilliant aviation artist. “Holding Action,” [A] John Severin. In the Korean War, an American soldier starts out as a coward, but becomes such a fanatic that he won’t leave his trench after the armistice is declared.

STRANGE TALES #119 (Marvel, 1964) – I thought this was $5, but it was $10. I decided that I still wanted it even at that price. Right next to it there was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #49 at the same price, but it was in very low grade, and I skipped it. Human Torch: “The Torch Goes Wild!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Dick Ayers. The Human Torch is publicly smeared by the Rabble-Rouser, who reminds me a lot of the Hate-Monger. The GCD notes that the Rabble-Rouser uses the same type of tank here as the Hate-Monger used in FF #21. Dr. Strange: “Beyond the Purple Veil!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. Two thieves try to steal a purple gem from Dr. Strange, but are sucked into the “Purple Dimension” inside the gem, and Strange has to save them from Aggamon, the ruler of that dimension. Aggamon looks kind of like Tim Boo Ba from one of Ditko’s pre-superhero stories. At one point in this story, Dr. Strange swears by “Mormammu.” A couple pages later he mentions Dormammu, so the spelling Mormammu may just have been a typo. In reprints of this story, Mormammu is emended to Dormammu.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE #3 (Dark Horse, 2007) – “Dr. Terminal’s Answer,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This was $4, which was kind of a bargain, since this series’ back issue prices have been driven up by the Netflix show. I’ve never quite understood Umbrella Academy, and I still don’t, but this issue at least makes more sense than later Umbrella Academy comics. Gabriel Bá’s artwork is very impressive, though heavily influenced by Mignola.

FOUR COLOR #1041 (Dell, 1959) – “Valley of the Amazon” and “Test Dive,” [W] Robert Schaefer & Eric Freiwald, [A] Alex Toth. When I saw this comic at an affordable price, I looked inside it (with the vendor’s permission, obviously) to see if it was drawn by Russ Manning. I could tell it wasn’t, but then I was like, wait, this could be Alex Toth, and I checked the GCD and discovered my guess was correct. Unfortunately this isn’t Alex Toth’s best work. I agree with this writer’s assessment that Toth’s art here “falls far short of his usual standards.” His storytelling is effective, but his draftsmanship is loose and undetailed. As a historical note, Schaefer and Freiwald wrote some good comics, including Magnus, but they spent most of their careers writing for TV.  

AMAZING ADVENTURES #9 (Marvel, 1971) – “…And the Madness of Magneto!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Mike Sekowsky. This issue has a striking cover with a black background. In this story the Inhumans battle Magneto, who has kidnapped Black Bolt in order to use him as the commander of a mutant army. Conway writes Magneto as just a generic supervillain, which is what he was at the time. It was Claremont who turned him into a more complex and sympathetic character, such as by giving him a background as a Holocaust survivor. Magneto’s monologues in this issue seem to imply that Inhumans are mutants. This is funny because for much of the 2010s, Marvel’s position was the exact opposite. In both the films and the comics, they used Inhumans as a replacement for mutants since they didn’t own the film rights to the X-Men. As a final note, it’s weird seeing Mike Sekowsky drawing Marvel superheroes.

STARSTRUCK #1 (IDW, 2009) – various stories, [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. I now have a mostly complete run of the IDW Starstruck reprints. These are the ideal way to obtain this material, because they’re attractively formatted and they contain the entire run of the series. I’ve always found Starstruck to be very confusing, and this issue does little to clear up my confusion. In the first story in this issue, a female clone is created and sent to live with an outer space business magnate and his family. In the backup story, three young friends get recruited into the Galactic Girl Guides. For me, the Galactic Girl Guides stories in Starstruck were always more memorable than the main stories.

BATMAN #404 (DC, 1987) – “Year One Chapter One: Who I Am How I Come to Be,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] David Mazzucchelli. I now have all four issues of Year One, which, it goes without saying, is one of the best Batman stories ever. It also goes without saying that Mazzucchelli’s art is spectacular. This issue’s centerpiece is the “I shall become a bat” moment, but its most memorable scenes are primarily about Gordon, not Bruce. I particularly remember Flass’s brutal, unjustified beating of a black youth, and Gordon’s interview wth the sleazy, corrupt commissioner. Unfortunately, Gordon’s struggle with the police is also a dick-measuring contest; when Gordon beats up Flass, the point is to illustrate what a manly man Gordon is. Frank Miller’s comics often seem to degenerate into struggles over who’s a manlier man. The ultimate example of this is 300, and here I should  mention that I bought 300 #2-5 at the convention but haven’t read them yet.

MARVEL PREMIERE #2 (Marvel, 1972) – Warlock: “The Hounds of Helios!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. In his second appearance in his own series, Warlock meets some rebellious teenagers, and they give him the first name Adam. The main plot is that Warlock fights some of the Man-Beast’s evolved animals, but this issue focuses primarily on the four teenagers’ rebellion against their parents.  At the end, Warlock forces the kids’ fathers to understand the kids’ perspective by making the fathers see through the eyes of oppressed people in Vietnam, Biafra, and the American ghetto. Roy Thomas was a fairly apolitical writer and he lacked O’Neil, Englehart or Gerber’s deep sympathy with the youth movement, but this issue is a valiant effort at “relevance.” Gil Kane’s art, of course, is excellent. This issue includes a reprinted Jimmy Woo/Yellow Claw backup story from the ‘50s. In this reprint, Jimmy Woo’s boss, who was originally named Phil Kane, is clumsily redrawn to turn him into Nick Fury.

GROO THE WANDERER #113 (Marvel, 1994) – “Three Wishes for Groo,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. I now have all but six issues of Marvel’s Groo run, although one of the issues I’m missing is #120, which must be the hardest one to find. In this issue Groo receives three wishes from a genie, and uses the first wish to pray for rain. That works out so well that Groo also uses the other two wishes for rain, but predictably, the results of the second and third wishes are disastrous. Two of the towns in this issue are named Sequia and Aguas, meaning “drought” and “waters”.

BLAZING COMBAT #3 (Warren, 1966) – [W] Archie Goodwin unless indicated. “Special Forces!”, [W] Jerry Grandenetti (though credited to Joe Orlando). A depiction of a typical day of combat in the Vietnam War. “Foragers,” [A] Reed Crandall. During Sherman’s March, a cruel, drunken Union soldier threatens an old man who’s defending his house. Eventually the soldier’s own subordinate shoots him to save the old man’s life. This story feels uncomfortably pro-Confederate, though its main theme is that cruelty to civilians is wrong. “U-Boat,” [A] Gene Colan. An American sailor thinks the Nazis are better at warfare than his own side is, but it doesn’t save him from being killed by a Nazi submarine crew. Gene Colan’s art here is gorgeous, especially with this issue’s high print quality. “Survival,” [A] Alex Toth. In a postapocalyptic world, a man kills some other people who were stealing his food, and is shocked to discover that one of them was a woman. “The Battle of Britain!”, [W] Wally Wood, [A] Dan Adkins (credited to Wally Wood). Through one pilot’s experiences, we learn that the aerial Battle of Britain appeared to be a losing effort, but was actually successful. Whether Woody or Adkins did the art, it’s very detailed and realistic. “Water Hole!”, [A] Gray Morrow. An account of a battle between American soldiers and Apache Indians. This story’s effectiveness is decreased because I sympathize with the Indians more than the Americans. “Souvenirs!”, [A] John Severin. Some Marines discover the dead body of another Marine who appears to have heroically sacrificed himself to warn his comrades of an ambush. In a flashback, we learn that the dead man was not a hero; rather, he got killed because of his ghoulish habit of collecting gold filings from corpses. Overall, the best stories in this issue were the ones by Toth, Wood and Adkins, and Severin, but the quality of the entire issue is extremely high.

DAREDEVIL #88 (Marvel, 1972) – “Call Him Killgrave!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. I believe this is the second appearance of the Purple Man, after Daredevil #4. Oddly he is shown here not with purple skin, but with the same color of skin as the other Caucasian characters. In his early appearances, Killgrave was a very minor villain; it wasn’t until Bendis’s Alias series that he became a major character. This issue has a subplot where Black Widow is hanging out with a mysterious man named Danny French, and there’s a flashback explaining how she and Ivan met. Gene Colan’s art here is excellent, and is beautifully inked by Tom Palmer.

INCREDIBLE HULK #158 (Marvel, 1972) – “Frenzy on a Far-Away World!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Steve Gerber, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk and Rhino find themselves on Counter-Earth, where they get involved in a battle between two different factions of New Men. The highlight of this issue is Hulk’s encounter with the Counter-Earth version of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross, who are married with a young son. This scene gives us a poignant vision of a world where Bruce Banner is actually happy. At the end of this issue, the primary version of Betty Ross marries Glenn Talbot. Their marriage has largely been forgotten today, but it lasted until Glenn’s death in issue 260. This issue is scripted by Steve Gerber, but there’s nothing specifically Gerber-esque about it. Adam Warlock makes a brief cameo appearance.

SKYWARD #4 (Image, 2018) – “My Low-G Life Part 4,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa’s dad has a plan to fix the world, but he’s afraid to go outside, so Willa knocks him unconscious and packs him in a duffel bag. Then she discovers that her boyfriend Edison was kidnapped. At the end of the issue there’s a thunderstorm, which doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, except that without gravity, the storm takes the form of a giant blob of water floating in the air. This is a very striking visual image.

UNCLE SCROOGE #62 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Queen of the Wild Dog Pack,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge and his nephews go to Australia, where a pack of dingoes are stealing Scrooge’s sheep. (This is just one of 26 alphabetically ordered problems that Scrooge is facing at the same time, “in twenty-five countries and Zanzibar,” but the other 25 problems are never resolved. Zanzibar is mentioned because at the time there was no country starting with Z. At the time, Zambia was called Northern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia, Zaire was called the Republic of the Congo.) The ducks discover that the wolf pack is led by a feral teenage girl, and Huey, Dewey and Louie capture her by using the music of Tweedy Teentwirp, Britain’s singing idol. This story could be seen as sexist – there’s a derogatory reference to women drivers, and the feral girl is intentionally drawn to look ugly. It’s a fun story, though. Tweedy Teentwirp represents one of Barks’s few attempts to engage with contemporary pop culture.  

BIRTHRIGHT #30 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. At the convention I got most of the issues of Birthright that I was missing. In this issue Mikey finally breaks the influence of the Nevermind, and the baby is named as Mya.

THE WOODS #3 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The gym teacher, Coach Clay, takes control of the school and imprisons one of the students, Maria, for disagreeing with him. Typical fascist gym teacher behavior. Meanwhile, the five students who escaped the school have to flee from a giant green bear. Then they discover what looks like the pyramid of Chichen Itza, but they don’t realize that three more bears are following them. According to my database, I do have issue 4, but if I do, I can’t find it anywhere. I may have to pause reading The Woods until I either find or replace it.

BATMAN #342 (DC, 1981) – “Requiem for a Hero,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Irv Novick. Batman spends the issue chasing the Man-Bat, and eventually manages to give him an antidote to his bat-transformation, but the antidote doesn’t work, and Man-Bat escapes. There’s a touching scene in this issue where Francine Langstrom explains how Kirk turned into the Man-Bat this time. Kirk is a touching character because of his bonds with his family. He’s kind of like Curt Connors, except that even in his monstrous form, he’s not genuinely evil. This issue has subplots involving Dr. Thirteen, Rupert Thorne, and Poison Ivy, and there’s a Robin backup story by Conway and Trevor Von Eeden, in which Dick is crucified by red-robed cultists.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #27 (Dell, 1967) – “Strange Girl” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. An issue consisting of many short gag stories. Perhaps the best one is the first, in which Billy sees a strange girl in Val’s house, not realizing it’s Val herself with a new hairdo. This series is always very funny, but it’s hard to review, since every issue is just a repetition of the same formula.

VELVET #6 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Velvet returns to London and tries to figure out which of her superiors was responsible for betraying her. What originally attracted me to Steve Epting’s art was his thrilling action sequences, and Velvet seems like a poor fit for his talents, since it’s more focused on espionage and skulduggery than action. However, it does give him an opportunity to draw some very realistic and moody urban settings.

LITTLE MONSTERS #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A flashback reveals the origin of Victoria, who became a vampire in Victorian London, after she was fired from domestic service and left homeless. In the present, the good kids barricade themselves in the Elder’s crypt, while the bad kids try to force them to come out with the human girl, Laura. The three kids’ descent into monstrosity is really terrifying. They’re willing to go to any lengths to drink Laura’s blood, and they don’t see her as a person, but as a resource that the other vampires are hoarding.

HULK #7 (Marvel, 2008) – “What Happens in Vegas,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Art Adams. In Las Vegas, the grey Hulk fights an army of Wendigos. Art Adams’s renderings of monsters and beautiful women are spectacular. Thanks to his labor-intensive style, he hardly ever does any actual comic art anymore, so when he does, it’s a rare treat. Unfortunately his story is just half the issue. “Hell Hath No Fury…”, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Frank Cho. She-Hulk, Valkyrie and Thundra fight the Red Hulk. Frank Cho is a very talented artist, though he’s currently squandering his talent by trolling feminist fans. In this story he does the one thing he’s best at: he draws sexy and powerful women.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #44 (Marvel, 2022) – “Revenge of the Brood Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and her teammates fight the Brood-possessed Rogue and are eventually forced to kill her. This is not as bad as it sounds, since she can be resurrected on Krakoa, but it’s still a sad moment. Then Carol and her team are captured by the Brood. Sergio Dávila’s art here is really not that much worse than Frank Cho’s art on the previous comic. That’s one problem with Cho: he seems to think he’s a better artist than anyone else, but in fact there are lots of other artists who have a similar level of talent to Cho, and who don’t have the baggage of being anti-feminist trolls.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #151 (Marvel, 1972) – “Panic on Park Avenue,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Sal Buscema. Cap fights the Scorpion and Mr. Hyde, who he mistakenly believed to be dead. This issue is fun, but it feels like a generic Cap story. A couple issues later, Steve Englehart took over the series and elevated it to a new height of quality and political relevance.

BATMAN #130 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Implausibly enough, Batman manages to fall all the way to Earth without burning up in reentry, and he lands right next to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Then Batman defeats Failsafe by giving it a sense of compassion, but the story ends with Batman being apparently blown up in an explosion. The high point of this story is when Batman says “This thing is designed to defeat Batman. But it doesn’t stand a chance… against Batman and Robin.” This issue also includes the final chapter of Zur-En-Arrh’s origin story. At one point in this story, Zur-En-Arrh says “Killing the Joker saves people!” and Batman replies “Where does it end?” Zur-En-Arrh answers “When everyone has been saved,” but that’s the wrong answer. The answer is that Batman doesn’t need to kill the Riddler or Two-Face or anyone else, but that he has a moral obligation to kill the Joker in particular, and when he lets the Joker live, he’s sacrificing thousands of lives for the sake of his own conscience. If I never read another story where Batman has the opportunity to kill the Joker but lets him live, it’ll be too soon.  

MONKEY PRINCE #9 (DC, 2022) – “The Monkey King and I, Part 1 of 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. The family moves to Metropolis. Marcus’s mother gets killed while invading a Lexcorp building, but it’s okay, because Marcus’s grandfather, Gerard, has the ability to save her life. Then Marcus fights Supergirl, and we realize that Marcus’s grandfather is the Ultra-Humanite. I spoiled this for myself a bit early, when I Googled the name “Gerard Shugel”. Marcus’s attitude toward his parents is kind of weird; he must know that they’re career criminals, yet he allows them to constantly uproot his life. Probably he’s just so used to moving every few months, that he doesn’t realize it’s not normal.

PETER PARKER & MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MEN DOUBLE TROUBLE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki & Vita Ayala, [A] Gurihiru. On “Take Your Sidekick to Work Day,” Peter takes Miles to his warehouse of captured supervillain equipment, and miles has to capture a horde of fanged “furry puffy things.” Then Miles gets sucked inside a mysterious pink and purple container. So far, the third Double Trouble miniseries is just as funny and entertaining as the first two.

BRIAR #2 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Witch Which Witches Not,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Germán García. Briar Rose and the spider girl are captured by witches, and they gain a third companion, who may be transgender. This issue is slightly better than issue 1, but it’s still not good. Overall, this comic feels as if it’s composed of a bunch of unrelated ideas that don’t fit together properly. Cantwell doesn’t seem to know what sort of world this is, or what kind of aesthetic effect he’s aiming for. It’s also not clear just what Briar is supposed to be about or where its plot is going, and Briar Rose’s dialogue, in particualr, is annoying to read. I don’t think it’s worth waiting to see if this series will get any better, and I’ve removed it from my pull list.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pax Mohannda Part 2,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Ig Guara. Cap and Ian Rogers, the new Nomad, invade Mohannda, and the Falcon wakes up in a monstrous form. This issue was a very quick read.

MY LITTLE PONY #7 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Stephanie Williams, [A] Robin Easter. Hitch is supposed to set up his DJ booth, but his friends keep distracting him by asking him to do stuff for them. Finally Hitch finds that his friends have already set up his booth for him. This is a very shallow and simple story, and the reader is driven nuts by Hitch’s inability to say no to anyone.


September and October 2022 reviews


It’s that time again.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next trip to Heroes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #5 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson. Yet again, most of the stories in this issue are too short to be interes