Categories
Uncategorized

First review post of 2023

REVIEWS OF EVERY COMIC I READ IN 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.

Categories
Uncategorized

Final review post of 2022

1-16-2023

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.   

Categories
Uncategorized

November and December 2022 reviews

11-26-2022

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.

Categories
Uncategorized

September and October 2022 reviews

10-20-2022

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 interesting, and it’s impossible to remember each series’s plot. The clear highlight of this issue is Jeff Lemire’s preview of the second volume of Royal City. Richie Pike’s ghost narrates this story and promises to explain how he died. Zoe Thorogood’s “I Think I Might Be Evil” is an apparent tribute to Junji Ito, who I really ought to read. Geoff Johns and Andrea Mutti’s “The Blizzard” is also entertaining, because its plot is simple enough to be easy to follow. Conversely, Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson’s story should be the best one, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to be about. The story by Joe Casey and Nathan Fox appears to be about an older, retired version of Cable. This story isn’t actually all that bad, but I’m prejudiced against it because I already hate Joe Casey’s writing.  

HAWK THE SLAYER #4 (Rebellion, 2022) – “The Call of My Race,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. Hawk and his team fight the Black Wizards, and Hawk’s ally Gort is killed. I’m not sorry that there’s just one more issue.

Older comics:

RINGSIDE #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. This comic’s prose style is annoying, its art is crude, and each issue takes five minutes or less to read. I believe this is the last issue I hadn’t read, and I’m relieved. The backup feature, a preview of Steve Skroce’s Maestro, is far better than the main story, because at least Skroce’s art is visually interesting.

STAR TREK #3 (DC, 1983) – “Errand of War,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Tom Sutton. The Enterprise has to go to Organa, from the TOS episode Errand of Mercy (hence the title), to stop a Federation-Klingon war. This issue at least feels like Star Trek, though Mike W. Barr is a boring writer, and Tom Sutton’s talents would have been better used on a more horror-focused comic. This issue presents the Klingons as one-dimensional villains. This depiction of Klingons was pretty standard until Worf was introduced. This issue includes a couple points that contradict later Star Trek continuity: Kirk tells Scotty to travel at warp 12, and the Klingons have an emperor, named Kahless IV. A different Klingon emperor appears in my favorite Star Trek comics story, “The Trial of James T. Kirk.” It’s now canon that there was no Klingon emperor in the TOS era, but this wasn’t established until the TNG episode “Rightful Heir.”

ECLIPSE MONTHLY #10 (Eclipse, 1984) – [E] Dean Mullaney & cat yronwode. Easily the highlight of this issue is Doug Wildey’s Rio chapter, in which Rio escapes on foot from four mounted outlaws, then turns the tables on them. This issue starts with a story by Wayne Truman in which a pilot and his daughter stop a skyjacking. Wayne Truman was mostly a letterer and designer, and this may be his only full story as a penciler. The last of this issue’s three stories is a Masked Man chapter by B.C. Boyer. Eclipse Monthly ended with this issue, and Masked Man was spun off into its own series.

2000 AD #2282 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 02,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Kyle Asher encounters the daughter of the man he killed, and Dredd searches the dead bodies of the people who were assassinated last issue, but Kyle has already removed a “crypto-key” from one of them. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel One Part 6,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. While continuing to investigate, Hope dies of an apparent heart attack. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 12,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] INJ Culbard. Another chapter in which hardly anything happens. Dexter: “The Thing in the Thing Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Billi Octavo discovers a weird monster in the locked barn. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 9,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. If I understand correctly, Constanta discovers that Rasputin is actually the Biblical Cain.

BATMAN #670 (DC, 2007) – “Lazarus Rising,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Tony Daniel. Ra’s al Ghul comes back to life, but wants to use Damian for his own purposes, and Talia has to try to protect him. Batman and I Ching go looking for Ra’s, and Batman battles Dragon Fly, Tiger Moth and Silken Spider, the three other villains from Poison Ivy’s first appearance. It’s cute that Grant Morrison reintroduced these characters. I only knew of them from reading the facsimile edition of Batman #181.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 4: Bad Moon Rising,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. On Functionalist Cybertron, Rodimus and Megatron’s team succeeds in rescuing Rung. There are subplots about Cyclonus and about Anode and Lug. Since I have nothing specific to say about this issue, I’ll take this space to mention something that annoys me. The whole plot of MTMTE and Lost Light is that the Lost Light crew are searching for Cyberutopia and the Knights of Cybertron. Yet not only do they never find the Knights of Cybertron, they never make any kind of progress toward them. The Knights story arc finally did get resolved, but only after I had quit buying Lost Light.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #14 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Reprehensible Riddle of… the Sorcerer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Ross Andru. Spider-Man fights a sorcerer and his pet robot. According to the GCD, this story was intended to appear in Amazing Spider-Man, because John Romita suffered a wrist injury that left him unable to draw the next issue of ASM. But Romita recovered sooner than expected and was able to draw that issue, and so the Sorcerer story appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes instead. This story is kind of a hidden gem, since it’s a forgotten story from one of Spider-Man’s greatest eras. However, because it was a fill-in story, it lacks any meaningful continuity, and the Sorcerer is a boring one-shot villain. The story does include a brief scene with MJ, Harry and Gwen, but no other significant plot or character development. The rest of the issue consists of Golden Age reprints. One of them is a ‘50s Human Torch story in which the Torch and Toro examine a strange mystery: all the people who have recently died in their city have been elderly. If it’s mostly old people and not young people who are dying, isn’t that a good thing?

MIND MGMT #6 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. In the conclusion to the first storyline, Meru decides to continue her quest to discover and defeat MIND MGMT. This issue was written so that it could be a satisfying end to the series, in case the series it didn’t get renewed, but instead it sets up the following storyline. I’ve read this issue before, but only in collected form. I was surprised to realize that the back covers of MIND MGMT #1-6 form a mosaic that includes a hidden URL. I’m not sure what the URL is, or whether it works anymore. These back covers are one of MIND MGMT’s many paratextual features that only appeared in the single issues.

ACTION COMICS #514 (DC, 1980) – “Countdown of the Killer Computer!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Brainiac messes with computers all over America, and then with the devices in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Superman defeats Brainiac by reprogramming him to be good instead of evil. This story is rather boring, but the Air-Wave/Atom backup story is even more so.

BLACKHAWK #271 (DC, 1984) – “The Silent Treatment,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Blackhawks have a new member, Gaynor, who’s a chronic asshole. After he murders three unarmed German spies, the Blackhawks give him the silent treatment (hence the title), and he leaves the team and is later killed mysteriously. The story implies that Gaynor is a spy, but never confirms or denies this. In the backup story, drawn by Joe Staton, the Blackhawks defend a French town valiantly but are forced to evacuate it in the end. I want to like Evanier and Spiegle’s Blackhawk, but I’ve never enjoyed it as much as their other work. Maybe the reason why not is because it has a fairly humorous and lighthearted tone, and such a tone seems unsuitable in a comic about the worst war in history.

SHANGHAI RED #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. I bought this whole miniseries but never finished reading it, perhaps because of its brutal violence. This issue Molly rediscovers her sister Katie, continues taking revenge on the people who shanghaied her, and organizes a resistance effort against Portland’s police and “crimps,” i.e. criminals who kidnap people and sell them as sailors. Wikipedia says that crimping was a serious problem in America at the turn of the twentieth century, because under American law it was illegal for sailors to leave a ship before their tour of duty was over, even if they were on the ship involuntarily. These laws were finally reformed between 1895 and 1915.

THE PHANTOM STRANGER #34 (DC, 1975) – “A Death in the Family!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Gerry Talaoc. After his father’s alleged death, Charlie Varda is forced to take over his father’s mob, even though Charlie hates organized crime – and on top of that, his father turns up alive. Charlie has to sacrifice his own life to end his family’s crimes, and the Phantom Stranger doesn’t do much to help him. This is a rather grim story. This issue includes a Doctor Thirteen backup story by Skeates and DeZuniga. Here, as in Azzarello and Chiang’s Doctor Thirteen, Terry Thirteen is portrayed as a boring humorless skeptic.

THOR #320 (Marvel, 1982) – “Blake’s Menagerie,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Keith Pollard. An ancient Viking chalice changes five people into creatures from ancient Norse mythology, and they cause all sorts of havoc. Not only is this a boring and badly written story, it also makes no attempt to portray Norse mythology accurately. The five creatures bear no resemblance to any actual Norse mythological characters. The issue begins with an ”Old Norse poem” that must have been written by Moench himself, because it’s complete nonsense and sounds nothing like real Norse poetry; it includes lines like “Let us enter the infinite darkness / and partake of violence divine.” I think Moench may have been the worst Thor writer ever. This issue is a stark contrast to Walt Simonson’s subsequent run. One reason for the greatness of Simonson’s Thor was that he really did try to capture the spirit and tone of the original Old Norse texts.

JLA #38 (DC, 1999) – “World War Three Part 3,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. Since this is part three of six, it mostly depicts the JLA fighting Mageddon’s minions and getting the worst of it. The most prominent quality of Morrison’s JLA was its grandiose epic scope, and this issue is very epic. Howard Porter wasn’t my favorite artist, but he succeeded at depicting the majesty of Grant’s storylines.

MIND MGMT #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. I’ve read this one before too, but not in this format. This issue, Meru and Bill flee from the Eraser, and Meru meets Perrier for the first time. Perrier leaves Meru the clue “talk to the dolphins.”  The back cover includes another hidden message.

2000 AD #2283 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Kyle encounters a hotheaded young judge, then reveals himself to Zoola, the victim’s daughter. We also learn that Kyle’s stolen crypto-key includes information on the Justice Department’s anti-mob operations. Brink: as above. Another boring chapter. This is already part 13, and still nothing truly exciting has happened yet. Hope: as above. Hope finds himself in hell, and the color red is added to the series’ black-and-white palette. This series has the best art in this issue. Dexter: as above. The Puritans capture Dexter and Billi, but they’re freed by their other companions. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. Cain tells Constanta what he’s been doing since Biblical times, then he turns into a dragon, or rather a winged alligator, and flies off with Constanta.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #5 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 5: Modes of Production,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The fight with the Functionalist Council continues, but the only way the stranded Transformers can win is by destroying the teleporter that can take them back to Necroworld. There are only a few scenes with the characters who are still on Necroworld.

M.O.D.O.K. ASSASSIN #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Yost, [A] Amilcar Pinna. In a Secret Wars tie-in, MODOK falls in love with Angela, who’s trying to assassinate him. I tend to avoid MODOK stories because they try too hard to be funny. The character is ridiculous enough on his own, but some writers try to make him even more ridiculous, and this results in tasteless excess. But MODOK Assassin has the opposite problem: it’s barely funny at all, and instead it’s just boring. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #4 (Marvel, 2015) – “Daddy Has to Go Away for a While,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. In a Secret Wars crossover, Spidey and MJ have an eight-year-old daughter, Annie. While Spider-Man fights a villain named Regent who can steal other superheroes’ powers, MJ tries to keep Annie safe. This effort proves futile, as Annie has the same self-sacrificing heroic streak as her dad. She puts on a costume, and she and MJ prepare to help Peter. This is a cute and entertaining issue. This miniseries counts as issues 752-756 of Amazing Spider-Man’s legacy numbering, perhaps because it was published between the end of the 2014 volume of ASM and the beginning of the 2015 volume.

BATMAN #447 (DC, 1990) – “Earth Day! Demon Night!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jim Aparo. In Moscow, Batman fights the NKVDemon, a Communist hardliner who’s trying to assassinate the people responsible for the new glasnost policy, including Gorbachev himself. This issue isn’t all that exciting, but it’s interesting for being a contemporary portrayal of the final days of the USSR. I read this comic shortly after Gorbachev died. He was one of the only benevolent leaders Russia has ever had.

X-FACTOR #84 (Marvel, 1992) – “Tough Love,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jae Lee. In an X-Cutioner’s Agenda crossover, X-Factor fights X-Force while Professor X lies dying from an assassination attempt. The X-Cutioner’s Song was a pretty bad crossover, and this is not one of PAD’s better issues of X-Factor. The best moment in this issue is when Rahne is reunited with her old crush Rictor, and she kisses him and then bites him.

2000 AD #465 (IPC, 1986) – Halo Jones: “Breakfast in the Ruins,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo Jones and her new lover, General Cannibal, share a breakfast of pears in bitter vinegar sauce, which sounds horrible, but it’s the best meal of Halo’s life. This chapter’s title is the name of a Michael Moorcock novel. Strontium Dog: “Max Bubba,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha and Wulf have been tied to stakes by Max Bubba’s gang. Wulf tries to escape but is shot and killed, and then Johnny himself dies. As we will soon see, Johnny came back to life in the next issue, but Wulf stayed dead for good. In Reading Comics, Douglas Wolk summarizes this story inaccurately, implying that Johnny also stayed dead and that this was the last chapter of Strontium Dog. You can see how this mistake was made, since this chapter ends with “The End” and there’s no indication that the storyline will continue next issue. Ace Trucking Co: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Ace and his team smuggle some alcoholic eggs onto a planet of chickens. Like most installments of Ace Trucking Co, this story is ruined by Ace’s annoying style of dialogue. Dredd: “Gribligs Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Mega-City One is invaded by Gribligs, which are like tribbles, but carnivorous. The spaceship captain who brings them to Earth is even named James Kirk. Dredd tries to exterminate the Gribligs, but they escape into a sewer. Future Shocks: “Suds’ Law!”, [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] Kim Raymond. A starship captain tries to capture an alien so it can appear on a soap opera. The twist ending is that the captain’s quest is itself part of a soap opera. I’m not sure I summarized that correctly.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #6 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 6: This Machine Kills Fascists,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. Rung turns to giant size and fights the moon. The Transformers escape the Functionist universe, but Megatron stays behind to lead the anti-Functionist resistance. Now can we get back to the main plot? James Roberts’s witty dialogue is the main reason to read this series, but a problem with his dialogue style is that all his characters have the same speech pattern, and this makes it hard to tell them apart.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #6 (IDW, 2017) – “Raid on Marauder Island Part 6,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Lo Baker. The Flying She-Devils finally defeat the pirates. This miniseries was fun, but the lack of Atomic Robo was a severe drawback. This issue also includes the last  chapter of the Sparrow backup story. This story is drawn by Wook-Jin Clark, and it feels weird to see him drawing something other than Flavor. I wish there would be a second volume of Flavor.

FATALE #11 (Image, 2013) – “The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Josephine tracks down Alfred Ravenscroft, a sort of blend of REH and Lovecraft. He tells Josephine about a demonic ritual in Mexico, and then shows her his mother’s ghost. At the end of the issue he hangs himself. Meanwhile, a cop is looking for Josephine, but he gives up and tries to kill himself, only to be saved by other people who are also hunting Josephine. I don’t understand how this issue fits into Fatale’s plot, but it’s interesting in its own right.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #19 (Marvel, 2013) – “Necessary Evil Part 3: Event Horizon,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. This is one of the more confusing issues of the series, thanks to its time travel plot. In the main plot, Spider-Man 2099 tries to prevent his own timeline from coming into being, but he fails, if I understand correctly, and gets stranded in the past. Afterward, Liz Allan founds Alchemax, the company that’s the primary antagonist in 2099. The “Al” part comes from Allan, and I would expect that the Max part is Max Modell, but I’m not sure. In the subplot, Carlie Cooper and Wraith find evidence that Spider-Man is really Dr. Octopus. Superior Spider-Man is included in the legacy numbering of Amazing Spider-Man, and it clearly should be, unlike Renew Your Vows.

LITTLE LULU #60 (Dell, 1953) – “Rich Little Poor Boy” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. These comics are tough to write about because they’re so formulaic, and because each issue has too many stories to summarize them all. In the first story, Lulu becomes obsessed with an actor named Gregory Gallant, which coincidentally is the real name of the cartoonist Seth. There are a couple stories where Lulu outwits the boys, and one where Wilbur’s mother’s pearls get mixed up with a dog’s bone. As usual there’s also an Ol’ Witch Hazel story, and in the last story, Tubby kidnaps his teacher’s parrot.

WONDER WOMAN #219 (DC, 1975) – “World of Enslaved Women!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. A lot of prominent feminist women have vanished mysteriously. Diana discovers that they’ve all been going to the same “beauty parlor for liberated women,” which is in fact a portal to a world ruled by male chauvinists. The leader of this planet is named Mchsm, almost the same name as Makhizmo, a contemporaneous Fantastic Four villain who was also a super-male-chauvinist. And his plans are ultimately foiled by two women from his own world named Frdn and Stnm, i.e. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. These are not the only references to second-wave feminism in this issue; the abducted Earth women include characters based on Billie Jean King and Golda Meir. Overall, this story is kind of clumsy, but at least it makes an effort to engage with feminism.

CEREBUS #138 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story Epilogue 2,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In the second part of the like-a-looks story, the real Lord Julius is finally identified, and he’s not happy about what’s been going on in his absence. Then there’s a sequence where some kitchen staff gossip about Jaka. This may well be the last issue of Cerebus that was genuinely fun. The backup feature is a series of short vignettes by Colin Upton.

SHANGHAI RED #2 (Image, 2018) – “The Queen of the Wolves,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. I think I skipped this issue when it came out, and then bought it later as a back issue. In this issue Molly learns that her mother died in her absence. Then, while on her quest for revenge, she finds her sister Katie working in a brothel.

MIND MGMT #16 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Housewife,” [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue focuses on Megan, a housewife in a ‘50s-style suburb, who is in fact a MIND MGMT sleeper agent. She gradually recovers her memory of her real identity, then contacts Meru. This issue mentions the science fiction writer Philip K. Verve (i.e. Philip K. Dick), who later appears in Kindt and Wilfredo Torres’s Bang!

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #7 (IDW, 2017) – “After Megatron (A Dissolution Epilogue)”, [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The various characters react to Megatron’s death in various ways. There are some interesting scenes here, but none of them made much of an impact on me, because I can never tell this series’ characters apart.  

SHUTTER #27 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Leila Del Duca. In my opinion, this series jumped the shark after half the cast was murdered. I kept buying it until it ended, but the last issue I read was #26. It’s been so long since I read that issue that I have no idea what’s going on in #27, and the only thing I like about #27 is Leila Del Duca’s art.

MODOK ASSASSIN #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Yost, [A] Amilcar Pinna. Another issue of pointless, unfunny fight scenes. I’m ashamed that I ordered this comic.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #16 (DC, 2016) – “War Stories,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo & Laura Braga. For a long time I thought I hated this comic, and Marguerite Bennett’s work in general, but now I think I was judging her too harshly. This comic does have some impressive worldbuilding and costume design, and it’s also well researched. My principal complaints about it are that there are too many characters and plotlines, and that, perhaps as a result of this, the plot never seems to go anywhere, and each issue feels interchangeable with the rest. In this issue, the first half focuses on Kate Kane, and includes a flashback to Jason Todd’s death in the Spanish Civil War. The second half of the issue depicts Mera’s origin and her battle with an usurper to Atlantis’s throne.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #8 (IDW, 2017) – “An Axe to Break the Ice,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. On the planet of Troia Major, Anode, Lug and some other Transformers discover some clues to Cyberutopia’s location. It’s good that the Lost Light crew are finally making progress on their primary mission, but why did it take them 63 issues to get this far? It’s also odd that this series is called Lost Light, yet the Lost Light itself hasn’t appeared so far. All the characters in this series have been exiled from the Lost Light and have so far been unable to get back there.

MIND MGMT #17 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Home Wrecker,” [W/A] Matt Kindt. All the characters converge on Megan’s suburban neighborhood as it erupts into violence. Megan joins Eraser’s team, and Meru and Bill join Harry Lyme. This issue includes an impressive four-page splash depicting the chaos in Megan’s town. According to this, the back covers of issues #13 to #17 include parts of a URL, which used to go to a page that explained how this splash page was created. However, that URL no longer works.

MODOK ASSASSIN #4 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. Another pointless waste of an issue. The only good thing about it is it’s the last issue of this miniseries that I had. Somehow they managed to drag out this nonsense for a fifth issue, but I didn’t buy that one.

BATMAN #27 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Dark City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Early in Batman’s career, the GCPD almost captures him, and he only escapes thanks to not-yet-Commissioner Gordon. In a flashback, Gordon tells Batman about his discovery that the police were operating a dogfighting ring. Then Batman discovers the Riddler’s doomsday plot. This story is heavily based on Batman: Year One, and it’s sort of redundant, since Batman: Year One already shows us that the Gotham police used to be hopelessly corrupt. But Snyder and Capullo’s storytelling is powerful anyway.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S MULTIVERSE #3 (DC, 1998) – “Moonbeams and Roses Part Three: Being and Nothingness,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. The lead story in this issue is evocative and beautifully drawn, though it’s very hard to understand. It assumes knowledge of Moorcock’s Second Aether trilogy. I have the first book in that trilogy, Blood: A Southern Fantasy, and I was going to read it soon, but I decided that my next Moorcock book should be Mother London, since I’ve owned it for many years already. The next story is The Metatemporal Detective, illustrated by Mark Reeve. It depicts the suicide of Hitler’s niece Geli Raubal. The last story is Duke Elric, with art by John Ridgway. Given my interest in Moorcock, I ought to look for the rest of this series. Someone really ought to do some scholarly work on Michael Moorcock’s influence on comics. In fact, that’s a project I’d like to do if I had more time and energy.

2000 AD #466 (IPC, 1986) – Halo Jones: “Tarantula Descending,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo Jones realizes that her new lover, General Cannibal, destroyed an entire planet, perhaps using the Rat King that Halo herself saved in an earlier story arc. Halo is forced to asssassinate Cannibal in revenge. Sadly this was the last chapter of Halo Jones. Alan went on to far greater things, but Halo Jones was one of the crown jewels of 2000 AD’s history, and it’s a pity that it ended inconclusively. Future Shocks: “Biological Warfare,” [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] John Stokes. An advertising designer accidentally causes an alien invasion. The aliens in this story are called Vegans, but since the text in the story is in all caps, it’s hard not to misread “Vegans” as “vegans.” Ace Trucking Co: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Again this story is frustrating to read because of Ace’s stupid dialogue style, though Belardinelli’s art is beautiful. Dredd: “The Big Sleep Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. In an obvious film noir parody, private detective Flip Marlowe is ambushed and shot, and has to solve his own murder before he dies. Marlowe looks a lot like Kyle Asher, but the thing over Marlowe’s nose is a mask and not part of his face. Strontium Dog: “Smiley’s World,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha is rescued and nursed back to health. Readers at the time must have been surprised that this issue included a Strontium Dog story at all, since as noted above, the previous chapter gave the impression that Johnny Alpha was dead and the series was over.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #21 (DC, 2017) – “Big Cats,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. In Africa, Batgirl and some other superheroines battle Cheetah and Paula von Gunther. Unlike most issues of this series, this one has only a single plotline. I can’t see any connection between this issue’s story and that of issue 16. If I didn’t know which of the two issues happened first, I wouldn’t be able to guess. And I think that proves my earlier point, that this series has a rambling plot, and that it’s hard to tell one issue from another.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #596 (Gladstone, 1995) – “The Terror of Duckburg,” [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald makes a New Year’s resolution to avoid getting angry. While trying to keep this resolution, he causes lots of mayhem and gets fined $100. This story is funny, though Van Horn’s duck stories are rarely anything more than funny; they don’t reach the heights of profundity of Barks and Rosa’s work. The backup feature is a chapter of “The Monarch of Medioka,” Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse version of The Prisoner of Zenda. This is an excellent comedic adventure story, and I’d love to read the rest of it.

SHUTTER #5 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Leila Del Duca. My copy of this issue is signed by both Keatinge and Del Duca. I must have gotten them to sign it at NYCC. This issue, Kate meets her little brother Chris, and then she kidnaps him from his creepy caretakers or captors. But then Kate has to explain to Chris that she’s responsible for their father’s death. I don’t know if they ever explained how Chris could be Kate’s brother if he was born several years after their father died.

SUPERMAN #107 (DC, 1995) – “Bottled Up!”, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Ron Frenz. In a tribute or sequel to Reign of the Supermen, Steel, Eradicator, Superboy and Supergirl battle the Cyborg Superman, while Superman tries to cure his dying alien friend Mope. I think Jurgens is just an average writer and artist overall, but he was an excellent Superman creator. I have a pretty big Superman collection, but there are massive gaps in it from the 1990s onward, and I would like to fill some of those gaps.

KAMANDI #20 (DC, 1974) – “The Electric Chair!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Kamandi and his gorilla companion Ugash are trapped in a simulated version of gangster-era Chicago. Kamandi is hoping to find some other humans there, but he is saddened to discover that “Chicago” is an amusement park operated by computers, and all the people there are robots. I just visited Chicago, not for the first time, but I wish I could spend even more time there. It seems like every time I go there, I only see the same small part of it.

DAREDEVIL #151 (Marvel, 1977) – “Crisis!”, [W] Jim Shooter & Roger McKenzie, [W/A] Gil Kane. Upon learning that her father has committed suicide, Heather Glenn screams at Matt, then vanishes without a trace. Matt is so depressed that he fails to notice a child being hit by a hijacked bus. Luckily Matt saves the bus passengers, and the child lives. Heather Glenn was one of the worst supporting characters in Marvel’s history, but at least her behavior in this issue is realistic. Gil Kane’s action sequences and his depiction of Matt’s emotions are both excellent, though Klaus Janson’s inks are not a good stylistic match for Kane’s pencils.

SKYWARD #11 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 1,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa flies through Kansas City trying to decipher a map her father left her, which supposedly points to a way to fix gravity. When she reaches the indicated spot, she finds that Roger Barrow has been following her, but he can’t stop her from pushing a red button. The button opens a door to an underground city, where Willa meets her long-lost mother. I already read the issue after this one.

Next Heroes trip:

MANIFEST DESTINY #47 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. York kills Jensen to prevent him from stealing the baby, but Sacagawea insists on performing the sacrifice anyway. Magdalene is shot in a scuffle and dies, saying “This place will always be of monsters.” I thought this was the last issue, but there’s one more.

NIGHTWING #96 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Finale,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick beats up Blockbuster – including whacking him with a copy of Moby Dick – and his own minions refuse to help him, since Babs has told them that he owns the private prison where they were locked up. In an Easter egg, Dick’s creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez are in the crowd watching this happen. Dick sort-of proposes to Babs. The trouble is that Blockbuster still knows Dick’s secret identity, but Heartless takes care of that problem by murdering Blockbuster. This is a very unsurprising twist – it was obvious that Blockbuster had to die – but that’s a minor objection when this series is so good overall.

DO A POWERBOMB #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Lona and Cobrasun win their semifinal match against a team from a medieval fantasy world. One of the two members of Puropack reveals himself as Lona’s Uncle Blood, but then he gets his neck broken in his semifinal match against FYSO. Despite this, FYSO are allowed to proceed to the final rather than being disqualified. Do a Powerbomb is one of the best miniseries of the year, though it has a lot of competition for that title (Twig, Eight Billion Genies, Step by Bloody Step, New Masters, etc.).

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Flashover”, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. “Ma” reveals the story of her young daughter’s tragic death. The house catches on fire, but luckily the protagonists know how to put out fires. However, they realize that the fire was set on purpose, and then some masked gunmen invade the house and shoot Ma. This is another candidate for the year’s best miniseries, and I think it’s my favorite work by Scott Snyder.

RADIANT BLACK #18 (Image, 2022) – “Yellow,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Laurence Holmes, [A] Stefano Simeone. This issue has four simultaneous narrrative srtands, each occupying a separate horizontal tier of each page, and each depicting a different point in the life of Wendell, aka Radiant Yellow. The four strands are set eighteen years apart, on the day of his daughter’s birth and on her 18th, 36th and 54th birthdays. Together, the stories depict the gradual collapse of Wendell’s family and career. Wendell is hired as a manager at a plant, but due to institutional racism he ends up with a lesser position. He devotes his life and energy to his job, at the expense of his relationship with his wife and daughter, and gets nothing in return. By the time of the third story he’s working at Best Buy. The fourth story is even grimmer: it takes place in 2038, in a post-apocalyptic world, where Wendell and (possibly) his granddaughter are trying to reverse whatever happened to the world. It’s not clear whether he succeeds. This issue is perhaps the closest thing I’ve seen to Alan Moore and Rick Veitch’s classic “How Things Work Out.” Of course “Yellow” is not as brilliantly crafted as that story, but that’s an impossible standard to meet.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #11 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna discovers that she’s the biological child of a world-conquering alien monster – a creature that greatly resembles Starro. So now Jonna and Rainbow have to save their dad from this creature. I think there’s just one issue left.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #15 (DC, 2022) – “Siege of Gamorra,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon wins a stunning victory against Bendix, then he and Jay kiss in front of the international news media. Luthor blows up Bendix’s satellite. This is an entertaining and uplifting story. This series is ending with #18, but I’m not sure whether this is an actual sales-based cancellation or a planned ending. Jon’s tenure as Superman was obviously not going to last long.

USAGI YOJIMBO #31 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu flee the Komori ninja, but are finally caught. To save some innocent bystanders (the two woodcutters), Usagi destroys the document, which Chizu has revealed to be a forgery. Chizu kisses Yukichi, prompting an adorable embarrassed reaction from him, and then leaves. In the epilogue, Chizu gets back the real document, which she had already given to someone else. Then we see Jei and Keiko again. This was an excellent story arc.

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #1 (Image, 2022) – “They Meet,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In a flashback, two preteen girls named Trish and Jackie become best friends. In the present, Jackie has apparently died or something. Trish returns to Jackie’s home in Hamilton, Ontario, where she has some terrifying visions. Andrea Sorrentino may be Lemire’s best artistic collaborator. In this issue he shows his stylistic versatility. The flashback sequences are drawn with crisp linework and bright colors, while the present-day scenes are drawn in the style of Gideon Falls. These latter scenes have dull coloring, a lack of distinct lines, and nonstandard page layouts.  

EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #4 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis. I didn’t order this, but I bought it off the shelf. This was mostly because of David Hein and Luciano Vecchio’s “Once Upon a Spider: The Spinstress Princess,” starring a Disney princess version of Spider-Man. This story is just as ridiculous and funny as you’d expect. Much of the dialogue consists of songs, and while the song lyrics don’t always scan properly, it’s still cute to see Marvel characters randomly breaking into song. The story is also full of Disney easter eggs; for instance, the Disney princess character’s mom is the evil queen from Snow White. The best of the other stories in the issue is Dan Slott and Ty Templeton’s “Drive You Crazy,” which is set in a world of talking cars, with the Spider-Mobile as the local version of Spider-Man. There’s also a Spider-Ham story by Jordan Blum and Michael Shelfer, and a Sun-Spider story by Tee Franklin and Jethro Morales.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #4 (Image, 2022) – “Past Mistakes,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. The gangsters harass Miles again, but Dave scares them away with a tattoo gun. Everyone at Singular is happy with Syd’s settlement except Jerry Jasper, who’s afraid that Syd will produce better Domain comics than Singular can. Jasper also fires Tanya, who discovered the existence of Syd’s contract, and she arrives at Syd’s door looking for work. In a touching scene, we see that Syd wants to produce Domain comics again because he’s ashamed of what Singular has done to his character. Jerry Jasper is based on Stan Lee, but Jasper is a bitter, angry old asshole, with none of Stan’s whimsy or charm.

VANISH #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. Our protagonist, Oliver Harrison (note the last name), is a grown-up version of Harry Potter. As a kid, he won a war between wizard factions by shooting the head evil wizard, Baron Vanish (i.e. Voldemort), with a gun. But the other evil wizards escaped to the mundane world and disguised themselves as superheroes, and Oliver is forced to become a supervillain in order to fight them. Vanish is a clever blend of the superhero genre with the magical-school genre, and it also reminds me of Birthright, because it’s about what happens when a boy who was the “Chosen One” grows up to be an adult.

CRASHING #1 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. Rose is an ER doctor in a hospital for superheroes – which is not a new idea; I think the first version of it that I can remember was in John Varley’s Superheroes prose anthology. Rose is very good at her job, but she’s also a recovering drug addict, and when the pressure of her job becomes too much, she relapses. Then we learn that thanks to her earlier drug addiction, she’s in debt to the underworld and is forced to work as a doctor for supervillains. Crashing is somewhat reminiscent of Shadow Doctor or The Ward, but it’s more focused on the incredible pressure of being a doctor. So far this is among the best of IDW’s recent creator-owned titles.

LOVE EVERLASTING #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Hunt for Love!”, [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. This issue is set in Regency or Victorian England. In her latest incarnation, Joan is a housemaid who develops a hopeless love for the son of her wealthy employer. In the end, Joan is shot dead by a cowboy from one of last issue’s stories. This series is funny, but I still have no idea where it’s going, and I’m afraid it’s heading for some sort of disappointing anticlimax, like so many of Tom King’s earlier works.

DAREDEVIL #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt recruits Cole North, who was introduced in the previous volume, into his new Fist clan, but fails to recruit Luke Cage. Then Luke is attacked by the Stromwyns, while Matt fights Aka, a Hand ninja who looks like a child. This issue has a number of plot threads and it’s hard to see how they fit together.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #41 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro Lopez. Back in New York, Carol and her friends fight a dragon, only to discover that it’s Lieutenant Trouble, shapeshifted into dragon form by the Enchantress. By not killing the dragon, Carol wins her trial by the magical jury. I liked this storyline a lot. I believe Alvaro Lopez did the pages depicting the alien planet and the trial, and he was by far the better of the two artists on these issues, but the contrast between Frigeri and Lopez’s styles was also effective. This issue has no funny Snat or Snatmen scenes, but there are some cute drawings of Agatha Harkness’s cat.

BATGIRLS #10 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Part 2,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Neil Googe. I was right that I was a book cipher, and I was right about which book! I’m proud of myself. Also in this issue, Cass and Steph fight Killer Moth, Kyle Mizoguchi from Gotham Academy makes a cameo appearance, and Babs has a romantic interlude with Dick. I still am a dedicated Dick/Kory shipper, but Dick and Babs’s relationship, in this series and in Nightwing, has very cute.  

BLINK #3 (Oni, 2022). – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. This issue starts with a chase sequence that contains some of Sherman’s most radical page layouts yet. The pages shift from normal to sideways orientation and then back again. Afterward we finally learn Wren’s origin. Many years ago, a lot of people were kidnapped and imprisoned in the abandoned building, and they split into two factions, the Static and the Signal. Wren was born inside the building to two of these captives, and she was the only person who ever escaped from there. As the issue ends, Wren is taken to visit the person who was responsible  for the building and the kidnappings to begin with.

ORCS: THE CURSE #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. An elf named Daniel leaves his isolationist people to go looking for the evil fart. He runs into Pez, and they team up. Then there’s a Drod story, and we start to realize that the events of the Drod story parallel those of the main story, and that the old witch Zamma used to be Drod’s companion. It’s surprising how the Drod stories, which seemed to just be comic relief, suddenly become relevant. At the end of the issue, Daniel and Pez battle a Rapunzel-like imprisoned maiden who turns into a horrible monster, and they have to teleport back to Daniel’s forest for healing.

2000 AD #2284 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 04,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Judge Purcell and Dredd both look for Asher, who’s about to trade the crypto-key to the mob. Dredd arrests a man who’s trying to get mugged on purpose. Future Shocks: “Beat Ya Bully,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Steven Austin. A man named Manny Litvak makes a clone of his former school bully, Gaz, so he can kill the clone. Thanks to some mix-ups, Litvak kills the real Gaz and is sent to prison, the one place that’s even worse than school. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel One Part 8,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Hope comes back to life, and then one of his suspects tries to kill him again. This chapter is mostly black and white, with some red on the last page. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 14,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Nolan spends four pages talking to his wife, even though he’s not really there. I was surprised to find some good reviews of this story online. Maybe it’s better if you read the whole thing in sequence, but to me, it’s an interminable, boring waste of space. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 11,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. Constanta fights Cain. “1963” has drifted quite far from its roots in espionage genre.

ICE CREAM MAN #32 (Image, 2022) – “Stop Using and Start Living!”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martin Morazzo. A man named Doug Metsker spends a month in a drug rehab facility, where he’s pursued by a demon and a shadowy version of himself. This story includes many touches that are characteristic of Prince’s short stories. It stars an ordinary family man who’s made a complete mess of his own life; it’s full of disturbing horror elements that are never explained; and it ends on a provisionally positive note, with Doug graduating from rehab but hoping not to go back there.

2000 AD #2285 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Asher, the mob and Purcell get into a firefight, and Purcell gets himself shot. Terror Tales: “Wunza,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] E. Coveney & A. Vitti. The title is short for “one’s a,” and refers to a genre of cop shows with mismatched protagonists: for instance, “One’s a cynical career cop… one’s a street-smart detective.” Our protagonist, Blintz Finnegan, is an award-winning showrunner who works in this genre. Blintz’s former partner Pell, who Blintz framed for murder, escapes from prison and kills both himself and Blintz. This story includes a lot of funny premises for cop shows, and it’s 2000 AD’s best one-shot story in recent memory. Hope: as above. Hope goes to a prison and collects a Glory Hand, i.e. the severed hand of a hanged man. Again this story is black and white with some red highlights. Brink: as above. Nolan spends the entire story talking to a source who tells him about some kind of conspiracy. At this point I don’t even understand what the McGuffin of this story is. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. In the  concluding chapter, Constanta is debriefed by his boss about his fight with Cain.

ACTION JOURNALISM #1 (Oni, 2022) – “Welcome to New Arcadia!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklos Felvideki. Kate Kelly, an “action journalist,” saves Earth from an alien invasion by interviewing the aliens’ kidnapped queen. This is a really fun comic. It’s like Superman if Lois Lane was the main protagonist. There is a Superman character, but he only makes a brief cameo appearance and is not the center of the story, as he usually is in Lois Lane’s solo stories. I also like this comic’s art style and even its handwritten lettering. The trouble is, it’s hard to get excited about new Oni comics when the company seems to be on the verge of collapse.

DAMAGE CONTROL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Into the Mailstrom,” [W] Adam Goldberg & Hans Rodionoff, [A] Will Robson. A new intern, Gus, gets hired at Damage Control and instantly causes a horrible catastrophe. I was looking forward to this series, but this debut issue was disappointing. The jokes in it are unfunny, and Gus is an annoying and unsympathetic protagonist. Also, it’s hard to accept that Damage Control can summon Nightcrawler and Quicksilver at the drop of a hat. I won’t be buying issue 2.

LEGION OF X #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Canticle for Liebenden,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. The title is a reference to the classic SF novel A Canticle for Liebowitz. This issue Kurt and his allies defeat Ora Serrata and the god Tumult, but then Uranos appears, setting up next issue’s A.X.E. crossover. This first story arc was disappointing because of its complicated plot and its lack of a clear theme.

LONESOME HUNTERS #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. Lupe and Howard manage to escape from the magpies with the sword, but now they have to decide what to do with the sword. Howard decides to return the sword to its “proper owner,” which is a problem because his friend, Tina, is secretly an agent of the church that stole that sword from its owner in the first place. This ending suggests the possibility of a sequel, and I hope there is one, because Lonesome Hunters is a very fun series.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erica Schultz, [A] Carla Borelli. In a flashback, it’s implied that Jasmine killed her husband because he was sexually abusing their daughters. The daughters investigate their mother’s murder, while themselves being investigated by the police, and we see more evidence of their conflicting personalities. In particular, Violet gets in a bar fight and spends the night in jail.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. After several disastrous attempts at getting a job, Shirtless travels to Hokkaido to learn from Mr. Beeyagi, his former mentor. Mr. Beeyagi tells him to climb Mount Ainu to learn an unpleasant truth about himself. In a subplot, Jaxson Logger, the villain from the last story arc, creates an evil version of Shirtless. This issue invokes some tired old martial arts cliches, but in a funny way.

BRZRKR #10 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute travels to the location of his birthplace, and some weird magical stuff happens. This series is just average, and I’m only continuing to read it because I’ve already gotten this far.

WONDER WOMAN #791 (DC, 2022) – “Feral Part One,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. An entire issue drawn by Marguerite Sauvage is a rare treat, although this issue isn’t her most exciting work. In “Feral,” Diana travels to the Brazilian Amazon to investigate some disturbing visions experienced by Anahi of the Esquecida. In Brazil, Diana finds some suspicious people who are harvesting toxic flowers, and then she discovers that they’re Veronica Cale’s agents and they’ve kidnapped the Cheetah. This is perhaps the first time a writer besides Greg Rucka has used the character of Veronica Cale. In the backup story, Antiope summons some kind of magical creature.

ACTION COMICS #1 FACSIMILE (DC, 1938/2022) – “The Coming of Superman,” [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Joe Shuster, etc. This is the single most important comic book ever published, but I’ve never read the whole thing. Superman’s debut story is famous for the “you’re not fighting a woman” panel, but what impressed me about it is Lois Lane. On the second page on which she appears, she slaps a man who’s trying to force her to dance with him. Lois was a revolutionary feminist character from the very start, and DC spent much of the next fifty years trying to domesticate her. The other stories in the issue are very diverse in style and subject matter, and some of them are in black and white. Most of the non-Superman stories are unexciting, though some of them have appealing art by Fred Guardineer and Bernard Baily. At least none of them are blatantly racist. The first Zatara story includes a glaring error where a banana is described as a bullet.

MS. MARVEL & VENOM #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Dave Wachter. Kamala and Venom team up and fight some boring villain. These three one-shots were extremely disappointing because they’re barely about Kamala at all. They include no appearances by Kamala’s supporting cast, and no references to her religion or ethnicity. The only fact about her character that’s relevant in any of them is that she’s teamed up with Wolverine before. These same exact stories could have been told with any other superhero replacing Kamala, and that’s a sign of a bad superhero story, because it means that the story is not making any use of Kamala’s unique aspects. I liked Jody Houser’s Faith, but all her other work has been disappointing.

QUESTS ASIDE #5 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. All of Quests Aside’s former customers team up to save the inn from the king’s army. I suppose this series wasn’t completely awful, but I would have liked it a lot more if I’d been more familiar with Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy. Also, at the point in the issue where the former patrons all show up, I had trouble following the panel-to-panel continuity.

SACRAMENT #2 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Father Vass has no success with the exorcism, so he has to obtain his novice, Rais, as his assistant, even though he has an illicit passion for her. At first I liked Sacrament better than Absolution, but now I’ve flipped my relative rankings of the two series. Sacrament is not bad, but it has a less original plot; it’s more or less a space-opera version of The Exorcist.

TRVE KVLT #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Never a Devil Worshipper Around When You Need One,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. The cultists kidnap Marty and Alison and order them to kill a man named Doctor Shiver. I’ve never understood the appeal of Liana Kangas’s art, and this issue includes a number of pages with no art at all, just black panels with dialogue. Also, Marty and Alison are both rather annoying characters, and it’s hard to see how this series’ two main themes, fast food and Satanism, are supposed to fit together.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [W/A] Juan Gedeon. Mostly a lot of fight scenes. This series’ premise – DC superheroes as dinosaurs – is really only funny once, and is not enough to sustain a full six-issue miniseries. All the other issues of this miniseries have felt like rehashes of issue one. Jurassic League would have been more effective as a one-shot or an annual.  

SILVER COIN #14 (Image, 2022) – “The Bad Year,” [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Michael Walsh. In December 2020, a man named Darren murders a number of people while under the influence of the coin. This sequence is intercut with flashbacks, told in reverse order, that tell the story of Darren’s relationship with his girlfriend Lauren over the course of 2020. At this point we’re far enough away from 2020 that it’s become possible to tell stories about it, and in this issue, Pichetshote and Walsh succeed in capturing the mood of anxiety and despair that dominated that awful year.

X-MEN RED #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hour of Magneto,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Magneto has had his heart ripped out, but he manages to keep himself alive so he can defeat Uranos’s minions. This issue is a cross-over tie-in, and is thus destined to be forgotten, but it does include some powerful moments.

ELLE(S) #2 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. Elle has a meltdown in school, then she tells her friend Maelys about her various personalities. This is an interesting comic, but as I write this, I haven’t felt motivated to read issue 3 yet. I plan to get to it tomorrow.

DUO #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David fight the immortals, and then at the end of the issue, some red aliens show up out of nowhere. This series has an interesting premise, but Greg Pak has squandered the potential of that premise by adding other irrelevant plot elements like immortals and aliens. I wish this series had just been about Kelly and David’s struggles to occupy the same body.

2000 AD #2286 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Asher escapes with the money he’d have been paid for the crypto-key, but the people who would have done his surgery (I assume to fix his disfigured face) aren’t willing to take his call. Instead, he reveals himself to Zoola and gives her the money, then waits to see if Dredd arrests him. Asher is a fascinating character and I hope we see him again soon. Hope: as above. Hope goes to a party, where he finds some mysterious, flammable film reels. Skip Tracer: “Valhalla,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. I enjoyed the last Skip Tracer story, and I’m glad it’s back. Some years after the previous story arc, Eden is now a preteen. She’s having trouble controlling her telekinetic abilities, and she and her dad have to keep moving around to avoid pursuit. Terror Tales: “Last Days in Porpoise Place,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Stuart Moore. A writer, Luke Skelly, moves into the mysterious Porpoise Place – possibly based on the Chelsea Hotel – in order to write about it. On entering the hotel Skelly sees a dead body being carried out. Then he gets trapped in a a time loop, and finally learns that the dead body was his own. This is another effective one-shot story. Brink: as above. The police arrest Nolan but are unable to get anything out of him. Afterward, Nolan learns that something horrible has happened, but we don’t learn what yet.

NEW MUTANTS #30 (Marvel, 2022) – “Still Classic,” [W] Vita Ayala et al, [A] Alex Lins et al. In honor of the 40th anniversary of the New Mutants graphic novel, this issue consists of four stories set in different eras of the series, each by a different creative team. The best story is probably the first one, which is a cute tribute to the early part of Claremont’s run. The trouble is, the conflict in the story is that Bobby breaks Dani’s belt, then he steals it from her room at night so he can repair it and give it back to her. That’s a creepy thing to do, and if Bobby had just told Dani he was going to pay to repair the belt, then there would have been no story. The Karma story is mostly about her queer identity. This is not a new development; she was established to be gay in the 2003 New Mutants series. The Warlock/Wolfsbane story is frustrating because all of Warlock’s dialogue is in emojis. This makes the story impossible to read, and it’s also out of character. I don’t know why the writer couldn’t have just used Warlock’s established speech pattern. The last story in the issue is about Deadpool, so I had no interest in it at all.

FLAVOR GIRLS #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “First Born,” [W/A] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. We start with a silent story that explains the origin of the dragonfruit girl, and then the heroines fight their last battle with the villains, at least for now. This was an enjoyable magical girl story. The main problem with this series was that all the issues were unusually long, which made them daunting to read.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – TWO-FACE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Javier Fernandez. Two-Face takes out his lifelong frustrations with his father by mutilating half his father’s face, and then killing him. Batman is unable to stop him. This story doesn’t tell us much about Two-Face that we didn’t already know. In particular, it seems quite heavily based on Batman Annual #14, which introduced Two-Face’s dad, although I haven’t read that issue in years and don’t remember it well. At least One Bad Day – Two-Face is an enjoyable Batman story, and it’s certainly much better than One Bad Day – The Riddler.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #9 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton train with Ra’s al Ghul, and in the end, Ra’s forces them to fight to see which of them will be his heir. This series is still my least favorite of Zdarsky’s current comics, though it’s worth reading. There’s a scene in this issue where Bruce and Ra’s engage in a swordfight with no shirts on. This is an obvious reference to their epic battle in Batman #244.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Rising Signs!”, [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The city is plagued by Zodiac-themed terrorists. Again, this comic is plagued by unfunny humor, poor pacing, and a lack of clarity as to what it’s making fun of. I would give up on this series, but there are only two issues left, and I’m an Ahoy completist. I kind of think the quality of Ahoy’s output has gone down lately.

FEARLESS DAWN #1 (Asylum, 2009/2022) – “The Belly of the Beast,” [W/A] Steve Mannion.  A scantily clad superhero fights some Nazi monsters. This comic’s plot is mostly an excuse to show some T&A. What makes Fearless Dawn worthwhile is that Steve Mannion’s draftsmanship and visual storytelling are brilliant. He’s one of the few current cartoonists whose work is comparable to that of Dave Stevens or Mark Schultz, although his style of rendering is closer to that of Kevin Nowlan or Eric Powell. He’s equally good at drawing sexy women, horrible monsters, and complicated machinery. I also like how the superhero, Old Number Seven, is sometimes drawn in a simpler style than the other characters, as if he were drawn by C.C. Beck or Scott McCloud. When the art is this good, I don’t care about the plot. I’d like to read more Fearless Dawn, but it’s a hard comic to find.

ABSOLUTION #3 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina’s score goes down when she’s forced to kill a dog. She decides to redeem herself by killing Blake Gerard, the evil rapist oligarch. He gets the drop on her, but she escapes with the help of her doctor, Ann, and kills him. This is a cathartic moment because he’s an utterly loathsome person, and it’s suggested that his death brings closure to his many victims. As stated above, I like this series better than Sacrament now.

2000 AD #2287 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Grinder,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dick Dyer. An incorporeal alien entity travels to Earth, hoping to acquire a bodily form with which to devour and dominate Earth’s inhabitants. The first thing he possesses is a garbage can, and this leads to the hilarious spectacle of Dredd fighting a giant animate trash can. Dredd wins that fight, but the alien escapes and moves on to a new “body” – a port-a-potty. This story is very clever and funny. Hope: as above. Hope discovers that the burning film is meant to exert magical influence on his viewers, and he uses the Hand of Glory to escape a trap. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Eden are hunted down by a woman with pointed ears and a girl with anime eyes. Terror Tales: “Music of the Spheres,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Warren Pleece. A musician discovers a type of music that causes Lovecraftian effects. This wasn’t nearly as good as the last two Terror Tales. Brink: as above. The shocking event that wasn’t revealed last issue is that Mercury has gone completely incommunicado. This overshadows Nolan’s discovery that a cult has ben murdering people, or something like that.

I was only able to read a few old comics this week:

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #10 (IDW, 2017) – “The Mutineers Trilogy Part 1,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. First Aid and his team finally make it back to the Lost Light, only to find that Getaway is ruling the ship with a (literal and figurative) iron fist, and that he’s trapped Thunderclash in a repeating loop of memories. First Aid and the others manage to escape, only to be dragged back to the ship, and we realize they’re in a time loop too. A neat trick in this issue is that the first four pages are repeated as the last four pages, only the second time we read these pages, we understand them differently because we’ve seen them before. And ironically, both versions of the scene end with the line “We’ll return to this conversation later.” This was the last issue of Lost Light that I ordered. By the next month, I must have decided it was stupid to keep buying it when I was already more than a year behind on reading it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #650 (DC, 1992) – “The Dragon,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue starts with a beautiful Frazetta-esque splash page showing a knight about to fight a dragon. This is part of a dream Harold is having, and when he wakes up, he explores the caverns beyond the Batcave. Meanwhile, Robin tries to prevent Roy Raymond from opening a boobytrapped vault. The two stories coincide when Harold finds himself in the area on the other side of the vault. Batman doesn’t appear in this issue at all. Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan are both talented creators who have totally surrendered to right-wing fascism.

BATTLE STORIES #16 (IW, 1963) – “Furlough, Here We Come”, [W] unknown, [A] Iger Studio, etc. Most of this issue is reprinted from Men in Action #3, published by Farrell in 1957. In the lead story, a GI is on furlough in Korea when he falls for a native woman who proves to be a Communist spy. This story is pretty dumb, although at least it’s not as racist as the Cosmo story from Detective Comics #27. The best story in the issue is “Old Ironsides,” about the USS Constitution. The GCD entry for Battle Stories #16 attributes the artwork to Matt Baker, but the entry for Fantastic Adventures #17, which contains the same story, attributes it to Robert Webb. Whoever drew it, it’s far better drawn than anything else in the issue. In general, these old IW comics are not great, but they’re far easier to find than the ‘50s comics they reprinted.

G.I. JOE #235 (IDW, 2016) – “Snake in the Grass Part 6,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] S.L. Gallant. This story has multiple different plotlines. The most interesting one is about a woman who’s fighting terorists in a country that’s clearly based on Afghanistan. There’s also an interesting conversation between Spirit and Roadblock about the former character’s Native American heritage.

2000 AD #2288 (Rebellion, 2022) – Another Regened issue. Cadet Dredd: “Zootrapolis,” [W] Liam Johnson, [A] Joel Carpenter. A zookeeper is turning people into alien monsters. He gets his comeuppance by being turned into a monster himself. This could have been a regular Dredd story. Lowborn High: “Good Sport,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Anna Morozova. Lowborn High plays against Wychdusk High in quiddish, oops, I mean “orbitus.” Frost is on the Lowborn team, but his family orders him to throw the game. I’m glad this series got a second installment. It’s an awesome idea, and Anna Morozova’s art is very appealing. She draws in a sort of shojo manga style, with lots of curvy lines. Future Shocks: “Into the Void,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Tom Newell. A “thought courier” has to send a telepathic message that’s too sensitive to write down. This is an unimpressive story, and again, it could have appeared in a regular 2000 AD issue. Scooter & Jinx: “The Big Grand Souffle of Nothing,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Steve Roberts. Scooter and Jinx have to find a missing actor. This story is full of Godard references. The actor’s name is (Jean-Paul) Belmondo, he’s working on a film whose name includes “Souffle” (A Bout de Souffle, i.e. Breathless), he’s hiding in the Alphaville colony, and the client is named Banderpart (Bande à Part, i.e. Band of Outsiders). Pandora Perfect: “Feed the Bird,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brett Parson. Pandora and Gort have to steal some pills that cause chickens to grow gigantic. This story has lots of hilarious moments, though I thought it was less enjoyable than some of Langridge’s other works.

2000 AD SCI-FI SPECIAL 2022 (Rebellion, 2022) – The gimmick with this issue is that all the stories are based on songs, like the story that introduced Nemesis. Dredd: “Ascension”, [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Stewart K. Moore (based on Alphaville’s “Ascension Day”). Just a bunch of action sequences. Sinister & Dexter: “Killer Serial,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Antonio Fuso (Beatles, “Happiness is a Warm Gun”). This story traces the history of a specific gun and the people it’s killed. Fiends of West Berlin: untitled, [W] Karl Stock, [A] Warren Pleece (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “From Her to Eternity” [sic]). Captain Constanta enslaves some natives of West Berlin, then orders them to stock up on blood until he comes back. Then he never comes back, so his  servants have to keep collecting blood indefinitely. Constanta is the villain in this story, unlike in “1963.” After this feature there are some interviews with various rock stars about 2000 AD’s influence on them. Anderson: “Half of a Heaven,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli (Kate Bush, “Suspended in Gaffa”). An insane asylum inmate, based on Bush herself, is “psychically attacking” Judges. Anderson tries to save her, but she dies. Middenface McNulty: “Opening Night at the Omegabowl,” [W] David Baillie, [A] V.V. Glass (Neil Young, “Rockin’ in the Free World”). Yay, VV Glass again. Midenface McNulty has to protect a rock star from being assassinated by fascists. Judge Death: “Common Enemy,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Steven Austin (Stealers Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle with You”). In a rather literal interpretation of the song that inspired this story, Dredd and Death get stuck between feuding factions of clowns and Jokers.

RINGSIDE #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. In what I sure hope is the last issue of this awful series, one of the protagonists visits the other protagonist’s grave. Ringside, along with Black Cloud, was one of the worst Image comics in recent memory. Its premise was potentially interesting, though not to me. However, it was ruined by some of the laziest, most low-effort art I’ve ever seen.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #9 (IDW, 2017) – “Chasing the Infinite,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. I read this issue out of order. Anode and Lug continue their adventure on Troia Major, but I don’t understand what they’re doing and why. An old villain, Scorponok, appears on the last page, but I didn’t recognize him until I checked the TF Wiki entry for this issue. The biggest problem with this series, besides its lack of plot progression, is that it assumes the reader already knows everything about Transformers continuity.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #606 (Gladstone, 1996) – “Winging It!”, [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald works as a trail guide, but the person he thinks is his client is really an escaped criminal. What happened to the actual client is never explained. Then there’s a long excerpt from Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot.” It seems like this story is considered Gottfredson’s masterpiece, and the segment presented here is exciting, but it ends before its central mystery is resolved. WDCAS #605-607 were the only time this story was published in comic book format and without alterations. I have #605 as well, and I should also look for #607, so I can read the whole story at once. Next is a Barks ten-pager where Donald tries to prevent his nephews from playing truant. There’s one other Barks story in the issue, which I already read in Four Color #1047. Besides that, the issue includes two Don Rosa stories, “Fit to Be Pied” and “The Universal Solvent” part 3, but I’ve already read both of them.

ANGELA, QUEEN OF HEL #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Queen of Hel Part 1,” [W] Marguertie Bennett, [A] Kim Jacinto w/ Stephanie Hans. Angela rescues her old girlfriend Sera from prison, but Sera is not happy to see her. Stephanie Hans’s flashback sequence has much better art than the main sequence. I don’t remember anything about this issue’s story.

SAVAGE DRAGON #45 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon, Jennifer and an unconscious Debbie find themselves on Godworld. Larsen’s versions of Heracles and Thor fight each other, causing Debbie’s death as collateral damage, and Heracles wins and claims  Jennifer as his prize. There are also a bunch of subplots back on Earth. It was around this point that Savage Dragon’s continuity started to become incomprehensible, with so many alternate worlds and alternate versions of characters that it was impossible to tell them all apart.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #93 (Marvel, 1980) – “Rags to Riches!”, [W] Steven Grant, [A] Tom Sutton & Carmine Infantino. In Los Angeles, Spider-Man teams up with Werewolf by Night to fight Tatterdemalion. Dansen Macabre appears for the first time at the end of the issue. Both these villains appeared in Avengers West Coast #78 as members of Night Shift. I remember that because Avengers West Coast #78 was one of the first comics I ever read. Other than that, nothing about this issue is worth mentioning. You’d think Tom Sutton would have been a good artist for a werewolf story, but his art in this issue is unexciting.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #430 (DC, 1987) – “Homeward Bound!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman has a pointless fight with the Fearsome Five, causing him to miss his parents’ anniversary dinner. This version of the Fearsome Five includes a new member named Charger, who reappears as a member of the Circle in #435. As stated in my review of that issue, the Circle were part of a dangling plotline that was never resolved. There have been at least five different incarnations of the Fearsome Five. The only characters who have been in every version of the team are Mammoth and Shimmer.

POWER MAN #41 (Marvel, 1977) – “Thunderbolt and Goldbug!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Lee Elias. A man named Jack Smith hires Luke to protect a shipment of gold from a villain called Goldbug, but in fact Goldbug is none other than Smith himself. A new superhero, Thunderbolt, decides to help Luke protect the shipment, but Luke thinks it’s Thunderbolt who’s trying to steal the gold. Thus, Goldbug gets away with the gold, and then in his Jack Smith identity, he has Luke and Thunderbolt arrested for stealing it. This is Thunderbolt’s first appearance in costume, but he was introduced in Daredevil #69 as a civilian.

2000 AD #467 (IPC, 1986) – Strontium Dog: “Smiley’s World,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf is buried, and Johnny embarks on a quest of revenge against Bubba. Tharg: “Supersub!”, [W] uncredited (“TMO”), [A] Eric Bradbury. Tharg’s assistant becomes an intergalactic evangelist for 2000 AD. I’m glad they mostly stopped doing these Tharg stories, because they weren’t much good. Ace: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Again, the art in this story is excellent, but the dialogue drives me crazy, and so I don’t care about the plot. Dredd: “The Big Sleep Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. Flip Marlowe discovers it was his agent who framed him for murder. He kills the agent, but gets killed himself. Future Shocks: “The Regrettable Ruse of Rocket Redglare,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. Thirty years ago, Rocket Redglare (i.e. Flash Gordon or Dan Dare) saved the world from Lumis Logar (i.e. Ming), but now he’s an aging, corpulent, unhappily married has-been. He gets recruited for one last mission, but it turns out to be a lethal trap by Logar. This story is reprinted from #234.

Next trip to Heroes:

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. We meet General Eks, the leader of the pro-war faction among the fairies, and he proves to be just as bad as the human king or the vampire leaders. A consistent theme in Wynd is that the people in positions of power, across all three races, are all horrible. Also, the Dukes make an escape plan, and the young protagonists spend the issue hiding out and talking.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #5 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Months,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. We begin with the origin story of Floyd Faughn the Idea Man, who was notorious for his awful ideas, until he used his wish to make people believe in him. As a result he’s been able to accumulate lots of other people’s genies. Inside the shelter, Lifeng has a difficult childbirth. Two of the other people in the shelter still have wishes left, but they  refuse to use them to help Lifeng. She gives birth safely anyway, but the group in the shelter is damaged irrevocably. Meanwhile, someone’s made a wish that destroyed the world, except for places like the bar that were protected by other wishes, The Idea Man wishes for the world to be restored to its state prior to the genies. Robbie comes back for his parents. Next up, the first eight years.

MIRACLEMAN #0 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe. I’m glad Marvel is publishing Miracleman again, but this issue is disappointing. The framing sequence by Gaiman and Buckingham is not new, but is a redrawn version of the framing sequence from Miracleman: Apocrypha #1. The other stories are new, but only one of them, the Warpsmith story by Mike Carey and Paul Davidson, is any good. The contributions by Ryan Stegman and Peach Momoko are pointless non-stories. Also, in the Stegman story, Miracleman is trying to destroy all the nuclear weapons on Earth, but that’s a blatant continuity error, because he already did that in Miracleman #16. Jason Aaron and Leinil Francis Yu is about Miracleman’s encounter with the creator of the Miracleman comics, an artist named Mr. Solomon. The disappointing part is that Mr. Solomon is a fictional construct, rather than a fictionalized version of any real comic book creator. It would have been more appropriate if this character had been based on Miracleman’s actual creator, Mick Anglo. Overall, this issue doesn’t feel like a Miracleman comic at all.

DARK RIDE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Owen Seasons is hired to work at Devil Land, a sort of horror version of Disneyland. On his first day on the job, he gets killed by actual devils. We also learn about the disturbing history of the Dante family that founded the park. Dark Ride is less immediately captivating than these creators’ previous work, Birthright, but it’s intriguing, and Andrei Bressan provides some beautiful and creative visual imagery for the park.  

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francesco Francavilla. In this issue’s framing story, film archivist Forest Inman interviews the elderly film director, T.F. Merrit, whose masterpiece, Night of the Ghoul, was believed lost. Their interview is intercut with what are supposed to be scenes from the film itself. The film begins in World War I-era Italy, where two American soldiers, Kurt and Johnny, discover a castle haunted by a ghoul. Back at home, the influence of the ghoul causes Kurt to become a flesh-eating ghoul himself. Merrit tells Inman that the story of the film is actually true, and that he, Merrit, was “captured” for trying to tell it. So far, Night of the Ghoul is a compelling work of horror, and it continues Snyder’s track rcord of exciting work. Francesco Francavilla’s artwork here is more sedate and understated than in Afterlife with Archie, but it serves the story well.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #10 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Walter shows Norah the controls that regulate everything in the house, including whether people can die or not. Walter doesn’t know that Ryan the artist is spying on their conversation, and he inadvertently lets Ryan know that she’s not supposed to be there. After Walter and Norah are gone, Ryan messes with the controls and turns off the immortality setting – just as Rick shoots Naya fatally. This issue would have been much harder to read if not for the character guide on the last page, which includes not just names but full-body images. Even the guide only helps so much, because it depicts Ryan looking different from how she appears in the comic.

ROGUE SUN #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott & Nick Cotton, [A] Zé Carlos. A choose-your-own adventure story in which Rogue Sun battles two villains named Ornate and Lord Viathan. Choose-your-own-adventure comics are no longer a new idea at this  point, but I’m still excited whenever I see one. Like some other CYOA stories in comics form (e.g. the ones in Batman: Black and White and Terrifics, and Silver Surfer #11, sort of), this one can only be solved if the reader ignores the suggested choices. (SPOILER) On page 11, both choices, page 8 and page 16, lead to infinite loops. In the context of the story, this  represents Ornate trapping Dylan in a time loop. The only way to finish the comic is to just turn the page and continue to page 20, thus allowing Dylan to escape Ornate’s control.

KAYA #1 (Image, 2022) – “Kaya & the Lizard-Riders Chapter One,” [W/A] Wes Craig. This series originally appeared in Image! 30th Anniversary Anthology, where it was one of the better stories, mostly due to the art. Kaya is a fantasy series that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where humans are no longer the dominant race, and stars two young siblings. One of them is prophesied to save the world and return mankind to glory. Kaya does not have an obvious central premise or selling point, but it’s exciting and well-drawn.

I HATE THIS PLACE #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Frank Renda comes back to life and invades Gabrielle and Trudy’s house. Gabrielle and Trudy manage to force him outside, where he’s finally killed by the ghosts of all his past victims. Then we flash forward to four days later, when Gabrielle’s awful family is trying to bring her “back to the flock.” So far this is a great comic, with Starks’s typical combination of raucous humor and disgusting horror, and I hope there’ll be another story arc soon.

EARTHDIVERS: KILL COLUMBUS #1 (IDW, 2022) – “Here There Be Monsters,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. In a postapocalyptic future, a group of Native Americans send one of their number back in time to kill Columbus and change the destiny of America. I really liked Stephen Graham Jones’s novel The Only Good Indians, and it’s exciting to see him doing comics. Like his fiction, Earthdivers has significant postcolonial and indigenous themes. The trouble with Earthdivers is it’s not well paced. I think Jones should have spent more time establishing who the characters are and what’s happened to their world, rather than diving right into the time travel plot.

WICKED THINGS #6 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. I bought this on eBay because I somehow never got it, either at Heroes or from DCBS. This issue, Lottie helps apprehend a ring of casino thieves. Then the comatose Japanese boy detective comes back to life and clears Lottie’s name, but we still don’t know who shot him to begin with. This storyline obviously calls out for a sequel, but if there ever is one, it will probably be in trade paperback form only. I love Wicked Things and other Boom! Box titles like Fence and Goldie Vance, but I have to admit that direct-market comic books are really not a viable publishing format for comics intended for younger readers. That’s the same reason Archie has mostly moved away from the direct market, as I will discuss later.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #4 (Image, 2022) – “Thorn in My Side,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Harlow’s kidnapper, Merilee Pepper, exchanges him for the angel Ezekiel, but then she double-crosses Harlow and tries to kill him, and Abel the golem is badly injured saving Harlow and Ofelia. Then Thorndike Scar appears, shoots down Pepper’s helicopter with a rocket launcher, and abducts Ezekiel himself. Harlow has to team up with Pepper in order to get rid of Scar. This miniseries has some fascinating and complex characters.

SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part One: The One and Only-ish,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. This issue’s legacy number is 157, indicating that it’s a continuation of the adjectiveless Spider-Man (1990) and Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1999). After saving some citizens from a runaway truck, Spidey is attacked by his nemesis Morlun, but he’s saved by Silk, Miles Morales, Jessica Drew, and Spider-Man Noir. Then all four of those characters turn evil and grow giant fangs. Because Dan Slott and Mark Bagley are perhaps the two active creators who are most identified with Spider-Man, this series comes with high expectations that may be impossible to fulfill. This first issue is not bad, though.

BRIAR #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “Nothing Sharp in Sight,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Germán García. This may be Christopher Cantwell’s highest-profile debut issue yet, but so far it’s a big disappointment. Briar appears to be a revisionist version of Sleeping Beauty, but the first issue is a complete mess. It has no clear theme or narrative direction – that is, I can’t tell either where this story is going, or what it’s supposed to be about. An even bigger problem is the dialogue. On page two, Cantwell has Sleeping Beauty say “I do’est wonder,” “on the count of thrice” and “do thouest wish.” All of these are blatant mistakes. Since Cantwell has access to the Internet, he has no excuse for not knowing how to write early modern English. Perhaps this dialogue is supposed to be a parody, but if so, I can’t tell what it’s a parody of. Overall, I expect much more from this writer, and I’m going to give up on this series if it doesn’t improve quickly.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #21 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. In the future, Chang, Janet and Ace meet Pavel Bukowski, who I had totally forgotten about. He was an original cast member who last appeared in issue 6. He explains how America conquered the world, but then the Destiny Man shoots him and the other protagonists, and they wake up in an alternate reality where America lost the war. Meanwhile, Charlotte and Val experience the Pearl Harbor attack and then the Civil War.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #42 (Marvel, 2022) – “Book of Fate,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero et al. A fortuneteller does a tarot reading for Miles, and each time she reveals a card, there’s a sequence that shows what’s been happening with Miles’s supporting cast. Billie learns to walk, Miles’s seemignly evil principal wishes him luck, etc. Miles’s friends and relatives are part of what makes this series enjoyable, so it’s unfortunate that they’ve barely appeared at all in the past year, and that we only get to see them again as the series is ending. Still, this issue is a touching conclusion to Saladin’s run. I hope to see more work from him soon, either in comics or in prose.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Tiphareth: The White Hot Room,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders find themselves in the White Hot Room, where Taaia turns into Phoenix, and America uses the Eternity Mask to fight her. Meanwhile, the other Defenders encounter various other aspects of the White Hot Room. Notably, Blue Marvel travels to the space behind reality, where he meets a cosmic construction worker who looks kind of like Stan Lee. In the end, Tigra becomes the incarnation of the Tiger God, the incarnation of the Phoenix, and she helps the Defenders to escape from the White Hot Room to the Abyss. There they meet a long-forgotten character, Glorian. Given that this issue focuses on the Phoenix, its title is appropriate, because in X-Men #108, Claremont explicitly associated Phoenix with the sefirah Tiphareth or Tiferet.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #21 (Image, 2022) – “All That Glitters,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Colin and Ruby travel to Fort Knox, where the Department of Truth keeps its weirdest stuff. Ruby tells Colin about the origin of Oswald and Petrov’s pact, and then they enter the vault, where they find a posthumous message from Petrov. There’s also a note warning Cole not to trust Matty. Right on cue, Matty contacts the Washington Post to tell them about Cole’s murder of the two reporters.

STILLWATER #15 (Image, 2022) – “Peace and Love,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Perez. Daniel becomes an evangelist, preaching the value of returning to the outside world. Galen is not pleased with this, and he decides to try to control Galen by torturing Clara. I have to admit I can’t remember who Clara is, but after Daniel rescues her, she confesses that the town’s curse of immortality is her fault.

BATMAN #128 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Four,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. The Justice League fights Failsafe, and it doesn’t go well, since Failsafe was designed to be able to defeat them in particular. But wait, I thought the Justice League were all dead. I guess they got better. The backup story, “I Am a Gun,” appears to be a retelling of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh’s origin. The artwork looks like it’s by Paul Smith, but it’s actually by Leonardo Romero.

ANT-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Electric Ant,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. Scott Lang battles Black Ant, an LMD version of Eric O’Grady. Black Ant was introduced in Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers. At the end of the issue, they’re both transported into the future, where they’re confronted by a villain that’s a merger of Odin and Ultron. This series is very fun, and Tom Reilly’s art has been consistently excellent. He draws in a similar vein to Chris Samnee, Leonardo Romero or David Aja.  

MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Jill Thompson. The Zanzibar Four battle a new villain named Mister Hide. This whole series has been disappointing in terms of writing, and it lacks the metafictional, paratextual elements that made the original MIND MGMT so fascinating to me. However, MIND MGMT Bootleg has been a showcase for some excellent artwork. Jill Thompson’s painted art and coloring in this issue are very lush and beautiful.

ANT-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Ant-Man Forever,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. This issue focuses on Zayn Asghar, the future Ant-Man. It begins with a “deep background info-dump” that includes summaries of some comics that don’t exist yet, such as Mighty Thor #4774. The artwork in this sequence is from the Ultron Forever annuals by Ewing and Alan Davis. Those comics really do exist, and I’d like to own them. In the rest of the issue, the various Ant-Men team up to defeat All-Father Ultron. Tom Reilly draws this issue in a notably different style from the other three. Zayn Asghar’s future is depicted in solid blocks of color, with a minimum of solid outlines. Overall, out of the various Ant-Man solo series and miniseries, this one was probably the best.

GOTHAM CITY: YEAR ONE #1 (DC, 2022) – “Where is the Princess of Gotham?”, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. Long before Bruce Wayne’s birth, Helen Wayne, the daughter of the current generation of Waynes, is kidnapped. Private detective Slam Bradley is involuntarily drawn into the case, and the Wayne family receives a note that’s signed with the Bat-signal. This is an intriguing debut issue that makes effective use of film noir tropes. But I’m afraid that this comic is going to be frustrating and anticlimactic, like basically all of Tom King’s recent work. I’m confused as to how Richard Bruce and Constance Wayne are related to Bruce Wayne. If they’re his grandparents, then Helen is his aunt, so why have we never heard of her before? On the page where Constance first appears, the painting to her left is Nude Descending a Staircase.

MONKEY PRINCE #7 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Monkey Prince tries to retrieve his stick from under the sea, but Black Manta wants it too, and the Trench are trying to eat Aquaman. In the sequences set in Aquaman’s palace, Bernard Chang uses a unique page layout where the panel borders look like waves. Like Yang’s Shang-Chi, Monkey Prince draws much of its interest from its creative use of Chinese mythology.

SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. This issue covers the period from 1972 to 1975. Superman forms the Justice League, marries Lois and has a child with her, and saves the world from Brainiac, but an even greater threat, the Anti-Monitor, is waiting in the wings. This issue is really long, but its length is justified by its conceptual and narrative depth. It’s packed with powerful narrative moments and deep meditations on Superman’s significance to the world. It may be the most sophisticated Superman comic since Superman: Secret Identity. A particularly funny moment in this issue is when Lois discovers the story of the Watergate break-in, and Clark refuses to believe Watergate was a government operation because of all the ridiculous mistakes the “plumbers” made. All these mistakes really did happen in real life. For instance, the burglars’ lookout man really did fail to hear the police coming because he was watching Attack of the Puppet People on TV. A few pages after that, Superman prevents the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, saving 29 lives but depriving the world of a great song.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Maria Llovet. This issue focuses on a screenwriter named Jamie and his neighbor Lamia, who’s really Thessaly from A Game of You. They both get drawn into the plotline with Madison Flynn, and Jamie is killed, while Thessaly decides to go on the offensive against Agony and Ecstasy. Issue 7 has not been announced, so I assume that this is the last issue, and that the story will continue in Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives, which will be written by Pornsak Pichetshote instead of Tynion.

POISON IVY #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy is hunted down by her nemesis Jason Woodrue. This issue is full of chaotic page layouts that remind me of Steve Bissette’s classic Swamp Thing artwork. In terms of plot, however, this issue is less compelling than the last four. Perhaps the best thing about this series is the interesting people Ivy meets, but in this issue she doesn’t meet anybody new.

SANTOS SISTERS #2 (Floating World, 2022) – “Spit & Shine” etc., [W/A] Greg Petre & Fake Petre. I bought this off the shelf after seeing a positive review of it in the Comics Journal. Almost all “alternative” or “art” comics are now published as graphic novels, so it’s exciting to me when an alternative comic appears in periodical comic book form. Santos Sisters is a superhero/SF story, but printed on newsprint and drawn in a classic Archie style. The clash of style and subject matter is very funny, and so is the characters’ nonchalant attitude toward all the bizarre stuff they encounter. I’m not quite sure what the point of this comic is, but I want to read more of it.   

X-MEN RED #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Winning Side,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In the aftermath of the fight with Uranos, Magneto finally dies. Then the Great Ring have to deal with the traitor Isca, which is a difficult task since she can’t lose. The Fisher King finds a way of forcing her to resign, and Storm takes Magneto’s seat on the council. Like #6, this issue is a powerful piece of work, but I’m sorry that it’s part of a crossover.

SURVIVAL STREET #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. The puppets have to save some child prisoners who are being forced to fight a forest fire without protective equipment. Yes, I really said that, and the writers give a plausible explanation for how such a glaring injustice could have come about. After rescuing the kids, the puppets are unable to escape the forest because it’s bordered by a gated community that charges an exorbitant fee for entrance. Again, this seems eerily plausible, considering the current tendency to charge fees for things that ought to be free. Milo (i.e. Elmo) saves the day, but then the Cookie Monster character betrays the other puppets to the government. As a humorous satire, Survival Street is on the same level as some of Mark Russell’s work.

ORDINARY GODS #9 (Image, 2022) – “Tricks,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Daniel HDR. I wonder why nearly all of Kyle Higgins’s comics have a co-writer. Part of this issue is a flashback to the past life of one of the gods, and we eventually learn that in this past life, she was Mata Hari. In the present, the gods meet a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University who has information about the God Machine, but then they have to fight some mind-controlled goons. Ordinary Gods got off to a poor start, but within the past few issues it’s become very interesting. The song that Mata Hari sings in this issue is “Streets of Cairo,” better known as the Arabian riff, or as “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance.”

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Ring in the Stone,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. At the MI-6 headquarters, Tink the faerie – a character introduced by  Paul Cornell in the 2006 Wisdom miniseries – merges the ten rings into one. A monster comes out of the merged rings and starts possessing people, and Shang-Chi has to get the ring back. This issue was less interesting than the issues before and after it.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #9 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part Four,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This issue is mostly flashbacks. That is at least an improvement over issues 7 and 8, which were mostly nothing, but this issue still doesn’t progress the plot at all. I’m not sure this story arc even has a plot. “Scarlet” is a complete disaster and an embarrassment to the Slaughterverse franchise, and I’m tempted to just skip issue 10 and continue with issue 11. I will try to avoid buying any other comics written by Sam Johns.

THE ROADIE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. Mass Acre used to be a world-famous metal band, but now they’re reduced to playing in towns like Glendive, Montana (which really exists). Our protagonist, Joe, is Mass Acre’s roadie. One night, a demoness visits Joe and tells him that Satan was using heavy metal music to increase his influence on Earth. But when Satan was overthrown by another demon, he implemented a backup plan  by creating a child who would revive Satan’s music. That child, Shelby Petroski, happens to be Joe’s daughter. The Roadie is a funny riff on the idea that heavy metal is Satan’s music.

OLD DOG #1 (Image, 2022) – “New Tricks,” [W/A] Declan Shalvey. In a flashback, a secret agent, Lynch, is trapped in the explosion of a mysterious device. Eight years later, Lynch wakes up from a coma and is sent on a new mission, with his grown daughter as his partner. I  had low expectations for this comic, and its plot is fairly typical. What makes Old Dog worth reading is Declan Shalvey’s thrilling art. The page with the explosion of the machine is especially stunning. Shalvey somehow conveys the impression that the machine is weird and horrifying.

MY LITTLE PONY #5 (IDW, 2022) – “Tales from the Lighthouse,” [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Abby Bulmer. An old lighthouse keeper tells the ponies a bunch of stories about Discord. This issue was exciting at first because the cover is by Andy Price, but the interior art is much more generic. This issue reinforces my determination to give up on this series. It’s not the My Little Pony I love, and I can’t bring myself to care about these new characters. I don’t even know their names.

GOLDEN RAGE #3 (Image, 2022) – “Destruction,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. The protagonists fight the Red Hats, and then we’re told that “Jay sent us here!” I like the idea behind Golden Rage, but the comic itself has been surprisingly boring. It’s strange that the main conflict is between different factions of women, rather than between the women and the men who sent them to the island. And the island itself is not an interesting milieu. I’d like to know more about the society outside the island, where women are apparently considered to be disposable after menopause.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS AFTERSCHOOL #3 (Image, 2022) – “Sympathetic Ear,” [W] Jill Blotevogel, [A] Lisa Sterle w/ Marley Zarcone. High schooler Leda is forced to spend all her time babysitting her autistic sister Izzy, while their parents are busy with devices and video games. One night, Leda’s online boyfriend Paul invades their house and murders Leda and Izzy’s parents, and the two girls have to collaborate to save each other’s lives. This is at least as good as issue 2, which is already excellent. It’s a thrilling horror story, and probably the most realistic depiction of autism that I’ve seen in comics. Leda and Izzy’s parents are so brutally neglectful that the reader can hardly blame Paul for killing them.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #5 (DC, 2022) – “My Name Is…”, [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Sean Damien Hill. This issue is mostly about Holocaust, and includes flashbacks explaining how he became so obsessed with power and dominance. Holocaust is a very powerful villain, but the trouble is that this series has focused on him excessively, to the point where it should have been called Holocaust instead of Blood Syndicate. The actual Blood Syndicate members don’t appear until this issue until the last page, and in fact they get less panel space in the issue than Icon and Rocket, who appear as guest stars. In a team comic, it’s vital not to let any one character dominate the series to the exclusion of all the others, and Thorne violates that rule. Overall, Blood Syndicate is the best of the three recent Milestone series I’ve read, but this whole Milestone revival has been a train wreck.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 5,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva & Julian Shaw. Shuri blames the American government for invading Wakanda to capture Crossbones, and as a result, all the Americans who applied for asylum in Wakanda are deported. This seems like a really disproportionate and vindictive punishment, and it hardly seems consistent with Shuri or even T’Challa’s character. I guess the point is that Wakanda isn’t as much of a paradise as it seems, but maybe there was a less cruel way to demonstrate that.

GRIM #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “Death & Dying in Las Vegas,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Death tells Jessica that she’s his child by a human woman, so finally this series’ premise makes some sense. Also, I guess Grim has the same basic idea behind Pretty Deadly, but it’s less annoying and incoherent than Pretty Deadly was. Afterward, Death gets killed saving Jessica from The End, and Adira takes Jessica’s scythe, leaving her trapped in the mortal world. The issue ends by showing us Jessica’s mother in prison.

JUNKYARD JOE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns & Gary Frank. This is a spinoff of Geiger. In 1972, a group of American soldiers team up with an experimental robot GI. All but one of the human soldiers are killed in action, and when the last one, Muddy Davis, tells people about the robot, nobody believes him. This comic seems like a realistic portrayal of the Vietnam War from the American perspective, and Muddy’s relationship with the robot is cute. For once, Geoff Johns isn’t the worst current writer with the surname Johns (see the review of House of Slaughter #9 above).

SUPERMAN #1 FACSIMILE (DC, 1939/2022) – untitled, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Joe Shuster. This issue consists mostly of reprints from Action Comics #1-4. Reading all these Superman comics together is a fascinating experience, because the earliest version of Superman is very different from the familiar version of the character. Instead of being a superhero, in the sense we understand that term, the early Superman is a figure of mystery and even a trickster. Also, as I already knew, Superman is much more liberal and activist than he later became; in this issue he fights domestic abusers, warmongering politicians, corrupt mine owners, and sports gamblers. Well, that last one is a bit of an outlier. The best of these stories is “The Blakely Mine Disaster,” where Superman discovers unsafe conditions in a coal mine, then turns the tables on the mine owners by trapping them in their own mine. This story also reveals Siegel and Shuster’s sympathy with oppressed people. The injured miner who Clark interviews is named Stanislaw Kober and speaks in broken English, suggesting that he’s a poor Slavic immigrant. (A couple pages later Clark is called a “bohunk,” which at the time was a derogatory term for Eastern and Central Europeans). And we see that the miners’ lack of political power allows them to be ruthlessly exploited by their bosses. In later Superman stories, the character’s anarchic and activist elements were drastically toned down. One of the only attempts to return to Superman’s liberal roots was Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.

PINK LEMONADE #1 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. Pink Lemonade is an amnesiac, motorcycle-riding drifter. In this first issue, she meets a single mother and daughter who are obsessed with a cartoon called OJ Bot. Then she gets arrested for trespassing on a film set. Pink Lemonade’s general aesthetic, along with its wacky amnesiac protagonist, reminds me of Madman, although Cagnetti’s drawing style is more like that of Rich Tommaso than Mike Allred. The dream sequence at the start of this issue is a particular highlight. I’m glad that Oni is still capable of producing exciting comics like this, despite being crippled by layoffs. I just hope the company gets back on its feet soon.

HEALTH AND WEALTH, A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO THE US HEALTHCARE SYSTEM (Center for Cartoon Studies, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Sturm & Kazimir Lee et al. This comic was distributed for free at Heroes, although it’s good enough that it’s easily worth the price of a normal comic book. Health and Wealth is a nonfiction guide to the inequities and inefficiencies of American healthcare, written and drawn by a team of CCS students under the leadership of Sturm and Lee. The entire book is drawn in the style of Richard Scarry. I know a bit about the American healthcare system, but this comic still told me things I didn’t know, and it powerfully demonstrates that American healthcare is unfair to poor people and minorities, while also being grossly wasteful. The Scarry-esque artwork helps get this message across in an appealing way. Readers are probably more open to a political message if it’s presented like a children’s book, instead of looking like a political tract. The only problem with this comic is that it has a ton of text, and the pictures are sometimes merely illustrative rather than helping to tell the story. But overall this is an important piece of work.

HEART EYES #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. This issue finally explains what the hell is going on. The female protagonist, Lupe, was enslaved by a bookstore owner, who used her in an occult ritual that allowed her to summon eldritch monsters. That’s why she’s the only person the monsters won’t kill, and probably the destruction of the world was her fault. It would have helped if we’d gotten all this information last issue. Also, we learn that “heart eyes” means infatuation.

THE DEAD LUCKY #3 (Image, 2022) – “The Dead Don’t Want Me,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Morrow and Bibi plot against each other. Bibi’s parents’ restaurant is bombed, and while trying to save her dad, Bibi has a flashback to how she got her ghost powers. This series continues to be plagued by a lack of a clear central theme.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #6 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson. Easily my favorite story in this issue is “Back and Business,” a revival of Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner’s The Pro. Twenty years after her apparent death, The Pro comes back to Earth to discover that contrary to her wishes, her son has grown up to become a superhero. I just wish this was more than six pages, but it’ll continue next issue. The Rockstar & Softboy sequel by Sina Grace is also kind of interesting. Most of the other stories in this issue are no better or worse than last time. The Hack/Slash story is an unannounced Savage Dragon crossover, since SuperPatriot appears in it.

MINOR THREATS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Start with the Edges…”, [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. Playtime’s colleague Brain Tease leads her team’s effort to track down the Stickman. Eventually the Stickman is found, but he shoots Playtime and knocks her off a roof. By the time I read this issue, I had completely forgotten what issue 1 was about, so issue 2 did not impress me greatly. This series has reasonably good art and dialogue, but it feels like just another tired superhero parody.

HUMAN TARGET #7 (DC, 2022) – “To Shoe a Troop of Horse with Felt,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance goes on a date with Fire, and eventually gets her to admit that she acquired the water, and that Guy asked her to. This series has beautiful artwork and publication design, but its plot is too long and drawn-out, and its characterization is questionable. I think I saw someone say that Tom King’s version of Ice is a completely new character, and I can’t disagree with that.

MARVEL VOICES: COMUNIDADES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Lauren Amaro & Sarah Brunstad. The best story in this issue is the one where Miles defeats a villain called Earworm by playing salsa music to drown out Earworm’s music. The song Miles plays is “Hacha y machete” (Axe and Machete) by Hector Lavoe, which I had not heard before. The other stories in this issue are a chore to read. These Marvel Voices specials have included a lot of very mediocre work, and maybe it’s time I stopped automatically buying them.

THE ORDER #2 (Marvel, 2002) – “It’s Our World,” [W] Jo Duffy & Kurt Busiek, [A] Chris Batista. This series was a sequel to Busiek and Larsen’s Defenders. In this issue the Order – Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor and Hulk – go mad with power and take over Red Robin’s island. The other former Defenders discover that the four Order members are impostors and that their real selves are imprisoned in another dimension. This issue includes an annoying stereotypical character named Papa Hagg, but otherwise I liked it. A funny moment is when the Surfer and Strange create a palace for each of the Order members, and the Hulk’s “palace” is the Las Vegas strip.

MS. TREE QUARTERLY #7 (DC, 1992) – “The Family Way,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree’s stepson Mike falls in love with Lisa Muerta, a member of the Muerta family, Ms. Tree’s nemeses. Frankie Muerta, a terrifying madman even by the standards of his family, escapes from prison and kidnaps Lisa, and the current Muerta family head hires Ms. Tree to get rid of Frankie. In the climax of the story, Ms. Tree stupidly allows Frankie to get the drop on her at least three different times, and she only survives because Mike follows her and kills Frankie. On the last page, Ms. Tree discovers she’s pregnant. There’s also a Midnight backup story by Ed Gorman and Rick Burchett. On the letters page, Collins states that Ms. Tree is not set in the DC universe “although I would love to see Ms. Tree meet Batman.” That would be funny, because Batman would probably perceive her as a deranged serial killer who keeps using her police connections to get away with murdering criminals.

FANTASTIC FOUR #328 (Marvel, 1989) – “Bad Dream,” [W] Steve Englehart (as John Harkness), [A] Keith Pollard. A depowered Ben Grimm has to save the FF from the Frightful Four, whose newest member is Aron the rogue Watcher. At the end, Aron teleports the FF to the moon and shows them that he’s created clones of them. This isn’t as bad as some of Englehart’s other work of this period, but it’s not great either. In this issue Ben and Alicia act as if they’re still a couple.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1031 (DC, 2021) – “Smash the Mirror,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Bilquis Evely. During the mayoral elections, a villain named the Mirror leads a campaign against masked superheroes, and Batman and his sidekicks have to stop a brawl between their own supporters and the Mirror’s supporters. This is a mediocre issue. The best thing about it is the scene where Damian intimidates a corrupt policewoman while petting her cat.

ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #5 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen w/ Marguerite Bennett, [A] Phil Jimenez w/ Stephanie Hans. In the main story, Angela and the Guardians of the Galaxy invade Heven. In the inset story, drawn by Stephanie Hans, Angela fights Thor. BTW, Stephanie Hans was at Worldcon, but I didn’t get to speak to her. Anyway, this is a mediocre issue, and the Guardians and Thor appearances felt gratuitous.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #39 (DC, 1993) – “Pond Life,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo w/ Scot Eaton. This issue has a metatextual gimmick where some of the captions – the ones in yellow – are addressed directly to the reader and describe what the reader is seeing on each page. This parallels how in the comic itself, there’s a writer named Miles Laimling who’s writing a novel about Shade, Kathy and Lenny, and everything he writes ends up happening to them. And partly because of this, Shade and the two women are being terrorized by a fake version of Shade, who I assume is Troy Grenzer in Shade’s body. In the end, Miles burns his manuscript, stripping the fake Shade of its power. Then Miles decides that since he can’t write a novel anymore, he’ll write a comic book, and he’ll write it under the pen name Peter Milligan, since Milligan is an anagram of Laimling. And that comic will be called “Pond Life.” This comic is about as meta as anything Milligan has written (or did he write it?), and I’d like to reread it more carefully.

FUTURE IMPERFECT #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. In the Maestro’s future, Ruby Summers, a member of the anti-Maestro resistance, encounters the Norse god Odin. But after she leads “Odin” into the rebels’ lair, he reveals that he’s not really Odin, but the Maestro himself. Just as all seems to be lost, the Thing appears to challenge the Maestro. None of these Future Imperfect revivals have been anywhere near as good as the original, and I wish I hadn’t bought any of them.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. This takes place some years before issue 4, during Annie’s infancy. A villain named Augustus Roman, aka the Regent, is killing superheroes and stealing their powers. At the same time, Mary Jane and Annie are being terrorized by Venom. (This story seems to take place around the #300s of Amazing Spider-Man, when Venom was a terrifying menace.) For the first time in his life, Peter has to choose one responsibility over another, and he chooses to save MJ and Annie from Venom, rather than help fight Regent. As a result, Regent kills the Avengers and takes over the world. This is a sad story, and it explains why superheroes tend to be childfree.

DOCTOR STRANGE #38 (Marvel, 1979) – “Eye of the Beholder!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Dan Green. I think I was reading this issue when I saw that awful, racist Citizens for Sanity commercial for the first time. It kind of killed my enjoyment. In this issue Strange and Clea go on a long-delayed date, but Strange promptly meets his old friend Sara Wolfe, who first appears in this issue, and starts to talk to her and ignore Clea. Then Sarah’s date, Douglas Royce, is killed by two Native American mythological monsters called the Eye Killers, and Strange has to defeat them. The Eye Killers reappeared in Uncanny X-Men #222. In the bar where Strange meets Sara, a band called “Wexford’s own, Pierce and Larry” is playing. This band seems to be based on a real Irish band called Turner and Kirwan of Wexford, whose first names were Pierce and Larry. Claremont must have heard them at some Irish bar.

AMAZING FANTASY #18 (Marvel, 1996) – “The Amazing Spider-Man,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Paul Lee. In the period between Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1, Spider-Man battles a villain called Supercharger. Kurt Busiek is a very talented Spider-Man writer, but the artwork in this issue is awful. Paul Lee tries to imitate Alex Ross’s style of painting, but he doesn’t have Ross’s talent for realistic rendering, and his faces look as if a child drew them. Also, Supercharger’s costume doesn’t look like a 1960s design. I think there should be a moratorium on stories set during the first couple issues of Amazing Spider-Man, because there have already been too many such stories, and it’s hard to believe that anything else happened to Peter during that period that we don’t already know about. Similarly, I wish they would stop coming up with new things that happened on the day Batman’s parents were killed.

2000 AD #1841 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 5,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd apprehends a criminal who thinks he’s found an untraceable way of ordering people’s assassinations. Defoe: “The Damned Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe fights a horde of zombies. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 2,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Some werewolves kidnap a young girl, herself secretly a werewolf, so they can sacrifice her. Sinister & Dexter: “Witless Protection: Last Rights Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Davis. Ray Right, aka Ray Dexter, and his wife Tracy are living happily in suburbia, ignorant of the fact that the government is looking for them. Simon Davis’s painted art is the best art in this issue, though Leigh Gallagher’s art is also good. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. I can’t make head or tail of this story, although it includes a cool-looking greenish monster called Damage.

ONI PRESS SUMMER VACATION SUPERCOLOR FUN SPECIAL #1 (Oni, 2000) – [E] Jamie S. Rich. A selection of original stories starring various Oni characters. I think the best is the Hopeless Savages story by Jen Van Meter and Chynna Clugston-Major, in which all three Hopeless-Savage kids are sent to the principal’s office at school. The second best is the Jingle Belle story by Paul Dini and Stephen Di Stefano. The strangest feature in the issue is a Barry Ween/Whiteout crossover by Greg Rucka and Judd Winick, but it doesn’t feel like Whiteout at all. The other stories in the issue are unimpressive. One of them is “Big Monster Planet” by Martin Ontiveros, who I had never heard of before. His only other credit in the GCD is Crash Metro and the Star Squad, a 1999 one-shot also published by Oni, which was written by Ontiveros and drawn by Mike Allred.  

OUR ARMY AT WAR #274 (DC, 1974) – “Home is the Hero!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] George Evans. Sgt. Rock encounters a military policeman, Jerry Baker, who’s looking for a fugitive named Tony Lewis who escaped capture by joining the army. The predictable twist is that Baker is dead, and the man posing as him is really Lewis. After Rock discovers this, Lewis gets hurt protecting villagers from Germans, even though he could have escaped scot-free, and I guess Lewis’s heroic act means he’s redeemed himself for the murders he committed in civilian life. I think this ending is unfortunate. Fine, he’s a hero, but he should still suffer the penalty for his crimes. The backup story includes some beautiful aviation art by Ric Estrada. Speaking of aviation art, George Evans’s art in this issue is not his best, but he really should be in the Hall of Fame. He was nominated at least once, in 2008, but didn’t make it. Besides Jack Kamen, Evans is the only major EC artist who’s not in the Hall of Fame, and I think Evans deserves it more than Kamen.

DETECTIVE COMICS #754 (DC, 2001) – “Officer Down Part 6: Monster in a Box,” [W] Nunzio DeFilippis, [A] Mike Colllins. The Gotham police interrogate Jordan Reynolds, who shot James Gordon, but are unable to get anything out of him. They have to let him go, and then Batman tries to intimidate him into confessing, but is equally unsuccessful. This story is mostly a police procedural, and Batman only plays a minor role in it. The backup story is The Jacobian by Jordan B. Gorfinkel and Jeff Johnson. This story is nonsensical, and it shows why Jordan Gorfinkel was an editor and not a writer.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #7 (Renegade, 1985) – “When the Shoes Aren’t Worth the Shine…”, [W/A] Bob Burden. An absurdist story with an unsummarizable plot, in a mid-century suburban setting. I want to read more Flaming Carrot comics, but I suspect that if you’ve read one of them, you’ve read them all. It seems like every Flaming Carrot story is just more of the same absurdism. I have the same problem with Reid Fleming and Herbie, both of which have a similar aesthetic to Flaming Carrot.

ACTION COMICS #761 (DC, 2000) – “For a Thousand Years…”, [W] Joe Kelly, [A] German Garcia. One morning Lois is feeling jealous of Wonder Woman. Just then, Wonder Woman invites Superman to join her on a mission, protecting DC’s version of Asgard to avenge the dead Thor. This battle occupies them for literally one thousand years, yet in all that time, they never act on their obvious attraction to each other. Meanwhile Lois questions her own devotion to Clark, because she’s keeping some kind of secret from him. When I read this issue, it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what. I later figured out that it reminded me of the Gentle Man story from Batman #39. It seems that I was not the only one who noticed the similarity between these two stories. Tom King himself had to apologize for acknowledging Kelly and Garcia’s influence on Batman #39.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #143 (ACG, 1967) – “Just Imagine… No Subways!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ken Landau. Joe Eisendorfer hates modern life, but when he travels in time to the past and then the future, he realizes that the 20th century isn’t all that bad. Other stories in this issue are about some Lithuanian leprechauns, and a rich but ugly woman who trades her fortune for beauty. In the letter column, the editor provides a biography of ACG writer Brad Everson. Of course this biography is false because there was no Brad Everson; like all of ACG’s “writers,” Everson was a pseudonym for editor Richard Hughes.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #442 (DC, 1988) – “Power Play,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman and some other Justice Leaguers fight Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught, who have the power to steal superheroes’ powers. In the end, the superheroes beat the villains in the most trite way possible, by giving them so much power to absorb that Dreadnaught overloads himself. This way of defeating villains is such a tired cliché that on the old CBR forums, someone named it the “Law of Limited Capacitance.” In a subplot, Lois helps the disabled José Delgado (Gangbuster) move into his apartment, then kisses him. A fundamental problem with Byrne’s writing is that he himself seems to have a lack of empathy for other people’s feelings, and he transfers this cold, unfeeling attitude to his characters. An example is the lower-left panel on this page from Action Comics #584, although this character is supposed to be a villain.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #503 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fix Me Part 3: Fear Itself,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. We begin with a flashback to a past encounter between Tony Stark and Dr. Octopus. Back in the present, Tony fights a dying Doc Ock, then makes a proposal to build a city for the Asgardian gods. Tony also begins to suspect that his new colleague Leonard Pimacher is a spy, but he dismisses these suspicions. In fact Pimacher was the Spymaster in disguise.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #44 (DC, 1965) – “The Curse of the Evil Eye,” [W] Bill Finger, [A] Bob Brown. In 1365, an Italian nobleman sentenced an alchemist to death, and the alchemist created a giant disembodied eye and ordered it to kill the count and his kinsmen. Before he could use it, the alchemist died, and the eye was lost for 600 years until it was freed by an explosion. Now the eye is tracking down the nobleman’s living descendants, and the Challengers  have to save them. This story is a fun piece of Silver Age unintentional humor, though it’s not as fun as later Challs stories by Arnold Drake. In the backup story, written by Dave Wood, the Challengers fight some gas monsters.

CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE SPECTRE #2 (DC, 2006) – “Dead Again Part Two,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Cliff Chiang. Oddly, this series’s cover title is Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre, but the indicia title leaves off the word Infinite. I’m just going to file it under Spectre. In “Dead Again,” Crispus Allen is the Spectre’s new human host, but he and the Spectre are separate entities. Crispus wants to use the Spectre’s power to stop crimes, and is frustrated to learn that all the Spectre can do is prevent crimes that have already happened. This story is rather grim and unsatisfying, and Cliff Chiang’s art isn’t his best. In particular, his faces look more cartoony and less detailed than in his later work.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Self-Made Man Part 1,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Valerio Schiti. This is LGY #601. As a kid, Tony Stark defeats Andy Bhang and his colleagues in a robot soccer contest. The name “Bhang” is funny to me because bhang is an Indian version of marijuana, and I wonder if Slott knew that. Many years later, Tony hires Bhang to work in his new robotics workshop, the Foundry, and Bhang immediately has to help Iron Man fight Fin Fang Foom. There’s an awesome scene where Tony fights Fin Fang Foom in a giant Voltron suit. Iron Man is my least favorite of the major Marvel and DC comics, mostly because of its scarcity of quality writers. But I like Slott’s writing, and I want to read more of his Iron Man run.

JONAH HEX #85 (DC, 1984) – “Behold the Gray Ghost,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuniga. The Gray Ghost is a former Confederate soldier turned vigilante, and his mission is to hunt down other Confederate veterans who he believes to have betrayed the South. The Gray Ghost’s latest target is Jonah Hex, and he worms his way into Hex’s life in disguise, while Hex is trying to romance a much younger woman named Adrian. In the end, the Gray Ghost is believed dead but escapes, and he appears for the second and last time in issue 87. It kind of makes sense that Fleisher later wrote for 2000 AD, because Jonah Hex has the same bleak, raucous sense of humor that’s 2000 AD’s trademark.

REDNECK #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. In a flashback, we see how the protagonist, Uncle Bartlett, turned his lover July into a vampire. While trying to save a young girl, Percy, Bartlett encounters July again, and she shoots him. This issue makes more sense than other issues of Redneck that I’ve read, but Lisandro Estherren’s art is far looser and less detailed than in Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country.

ORION #8 (DC, 2001) – “The Righteous Treacheries of Desaad! or Orion Rules!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Orion is the new ruler of Apokolips, but thanks to the treachery of Darkseid’s old minions, Orion has to fight an army of cloned versions of Billion-Dollar Bates, the only human who understood the Anti-Life Equation. Bates’s only actual appearance was in Forever People #8, which I read so long ago that I can’t remember it. The art in this issue, particularly the face of the Hellborer weapon, reminds me of the work of Philippe Druillet. Like Simonson, Druillet is an adapter of the works of Michael Moorcock. This issue’s backup story, by Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld, is a complete piece of crap that’s not worthy of this series.

2000 AD #1842 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Scavengers Part One,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Carl Critchlow. In issue 1812, the city of Luna-2 was drowned in the Black Atlantic. Now, someone is threatening to shoot nuclear weapons at Mega-City One from the sunken Luna-2, and Dredd has to save the day. Defoe: as above. Defoe meets the zombies’ controller, Faust, who promises that if Faust aids him, Faust will surrender the murderer of Defoe’s family. Age of the Wolf: as above. The Grey Witch, who looks like a female Odin, fights the werewolves who have kidnapped the girl. Sinister & Dexter: as above. Just after Tracy gets a phone call from Sinister, her idyllic life with Dexter is interrupted by some guy with a gun. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I still can’t understand this story.

WELCOME TO SHOWSIDE #4 (Z2, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ian McGinty, [A] Samantha Knapp. A floating skull named Frank tries to take control of the Teenomicon. This series has a similar style to the Steven Universe or Bravest Warriors comics, or perhaps a better comparison would be Adventure Time, since Ian McGinty worked on that series. Welcome to Showside isn’t based on an actual animated TV show, but it almost feels like a pitch for an animated cartoon that hasn’t been made yet. Anyway, I don’t much like the Adventure Time aesthetic, so Welcome to Showside #4 did not appeal to me.

2000 AD #1843 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd:as above. One of Dredd’s subordinates is killed by a giant octopus, then Dredd and his remaining allies enter Luna-2, where they meet Klegg. Defoe: as above. Defoe refuses Faust’s offer, only to be told that his companion, Jack, murdered Defoe’s personal hero, Colonel Rainsborough. Thomas Rainsborough was a real person who was an early advocate of universal suffrage. After learning this information, Defoe agrees to help Faust destroy the British empire. Sinister & Dexter: as above. Dexter saves Sinister and Tracy from being shot by gunmen, and they head off on another mission. Age of the Wolf: as above. The werewolves try to hold off the Grey Witch by sending children to fight her, but it doesn’t work. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I don’t understand this chapter any more than the last one.

MERCURY HEAT #6 (Avatar, 2015) – “The Long, Slow Dawn”, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. After fighting a man named Saul Volta, Luiza Bora learns that the Mercury colonization project, which has taken an immense toll in human life, was not necessary, and another planet could have been colonized instead. I didn’t understand this plot point until I read this series’ page on TVTropes. This knowledge is so unsettling to Luiza that she edits her memories to remove it.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #115 (Marvel, 1986) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Peter David, [A] Mark Beachum. The first half of this issue is a series of vignettes without a clear underlying plot. Eventually Peter realizes he’s under the influence of Black Cat’s bad luck powers, and he gets Dr. Strange to remove Black Cat’s curse. As a result, Felicia loses her corresponding good luck powers, which is bad for her, because she was relying on them to fight some much stronger opponents. Mark Beachum’s depictions of women in this issue are rather exploitative. On the last page, Felicia is shown in almost the same posture that Manara used on his notorious Spider-Woman cover. Beachum only worked for Marvel and DC for a couple more years, and since then he’s mostly been doing porn comics.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #11 (IDW, 2016) – “Escape from Primus,” [W] John Barber, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Much of this issue is a flashback to the past history of Duke and his brother Falcon. Duke’s treatment of Falcon is cruel and abusive, even if Duke is doing it to toughen Falcon up; indeed, that makes it even worse. In the main story, Cybertron itself comes to life and turns into a giant monster. Tom Scioli’s artwork in this issue is brilliant, as usual. The striking thing about his art is the contrast between his crude, childlike draftsmanship and his amazingly complex visual compositions and page layouts. In their commentary at the end of the issue, Barber and Scioli seem to be taking this comic more seriously than it deserves.

AVENGERS #289 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Cube Root!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema.  Hydrobase Island is attacked by Heavy Metal, a team of robots that have fought the Avengers in the past. Their leader, the Super-Adaptoid, succeeds in his goal: to summon Kubik, the living incarnation of the Cosmic Cube. This issue is very boring, and it features an awful Avengers lineup, with no classic Avengers but a lot of minor characters like Marrina and Black Knight. After “Under Siege,” Avengers went into a long period of decline that didn’t end until Kurt Busiek and George Perez took over.

DRAX #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] CM Punk & Cullen Bunn, [A] Scott Hepburn. Drax and Terrax get drunk together and then team up. The version of Terrax who appears in this issue has nothing in common with any depiction of this character ever. Terrax has always been a generic world-conquering tyrant, not the sort of creature who would go drinking in a bar. I don’t remember why I ordered this issue, but I shouldn’t have.

SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 1982) – “What Peace There May Be in Silence,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Tom Yeates. We start with a recap of Swampy’s origin. In the present, Swampy saves a mysterious mute little girl from being shot, then he tries to return her to her family, but of course the girl’s neighbors all attack Swampy with pitchforks and torches. This issue is okay, and Tom Yeates is an acceptable substitute for Bernie Wrightson, but obviously this series was destined for far greater things. In a backup story, by Bruce Jones and Dan Spiegle, the Phantom Stranger encounters a charlatan preacher who’s stealing poor people’s money.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2006) – “Six Degrees of Separation Part 2: The First Cut is the Deepest,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Brad Walker. A villain named Pistolera (formerly Gunbunny, from Detective Comics #674) tried to assassinate Scandal Savage’s lover Knockout. Scandal tortures Pistolera until she reveals that she was hired by Cheshire, then Deadshot murders  Pistolera. The Secret Six then go and find Cheshire, only to discover that she’s given birth to Catman’s illegitimate son. Having children by her enemies is something of a pattern for Cheshire. Catman and Cheshire’s son, Tommy Blake, only made one more appearance and was written out of continuity, so he escaped the tragic fate of Cheshire’s other child, Lian Harper.

SLEEPER SEASON TWO #12 (Wildstorm, 2005) – “Heroes and Villains,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I don’t understand this comic at all. It seems like the series ends by giving the protagonist, Holden, a happy ending, but according to Wikipedia he’s actually in a persistent vegetative state. Sleeper is important for being Brubaker and Phillips’s first collaboration (besides Scene of the Crime, where Phillips was only the inker), but it’s hard to understand.

X-NECROSHA #1 (Marvel, 2009) – “Necrosha Chapter One,” [W] Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost, [A] Clayton Crain. An introduction to an X-Men crossover in which a lot of dead X-Men characters return to life. Besides the main story, there are backup stories starring Doug Ramsey and Destiny. X-Necrosha has obvious similarities to the contemporaneous DC crossover Blackest Night, which was also about dead characters returning to life, and at the time Necrosha was considered a ripoff of Blackest Night.

THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES #3 (Active Synapse, 2002) – “Darwin Saves the World,” [W/A] Jay Hosler. While Charles Darwin recovers from a fall, the mites in his hair tell each other about Darwin’s theory of evolution. This comic provides a clear explanation of Darwin’s theories, and its art and writing are both very appealing. One funny moment is when Darwin is attacked by an alien conqueror, but Darwin proves that he himself is more evolutionarily fit than the alien, because he’s had children, and the alien hasn’t. Jay Hosler is an excellent artist of educational comics, and it’s too bad that his career began at a time when there wasn’t a market for such comics. He’s a biology professor in his day job, but he has continued to work in comics, and he published a graphic novel with First Second in 2015.

PROVIDENCE #4 (Avatar, 2015) – “White Apes,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. I have all but one issue of this series, but I stopped reading it after issue 3, perhaps because of the lengthy text pieces at the end of each issue. These text features are each at least ten pages long, and they’re also handwritten, making them hard to decipher. As I have observed on many other occasions, when I’m reading comics, I don’t want to read prose. If I wanted to read prose, I would read a book. It’s too bad that I quit reading Providence, because the actual comic part of it is fascinating. In this issue, Robert Black visits the town of Athol in central Massachusetts, where he meets a creepy old farmer and his equally disturbing daughter and grandson. From these people he learns that his next destination is St. Anselm College in Manchester. A fun sequence in this issue is where the grandson takes some cubes and merges them together into a hypercube. Alan Moore’s Avatar comics, like Providence and Neonomicon, are one of the more obscure parts of his oeuvre. These comics, like everything from Avatar, have low production values and terrible art, and some of them are not original works but adaptations of Moore’s prose writings. Still, they’re among the only Alan Moore comics I haven’t read, and I suppose I should read more of them.

NEXUS #54 (First, 1989) – “Election Day,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Paul Smith. Tyrone is running for reelection as Ylum’s president, but he can’t campaign because he’s too busy fighting off a Sov invasion. Just as Tyrone is about to get killed, Sundra and Dave rescue him, and he wins the election. A funny line on the last page is “Everyone but Brian of the Bat People has conceded. Brian went berserk and had to be shot.” Meanwhile, Nexus tries to save a sick baby using his healing tank, but the baby dies. Despite my antipathy for Mike Baron, I have to admit this was a pretty good issue. Sometime around this point, Steve Rude left the series and didn’t return until Nexus: The Origin, and the series’ quality took a nose dive.

THE ROCKETEER/THE SPIRIT: PULP FRICTION #4 (IDW/DC, 2013) – “Pulp Friction,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] J. Bone. The Rocketeer and the Spirit team up to rescue President Roosevelt, and in the process they discover that he’s a paraplegic. This comic is okay, but Rocketeer and the Spirit are such classic characters that any teamup between them, without the involvement of their creators, was bound to be disappointing. It’s a shame that this crossover couldn’t have happened while Will Eisner and Dave Stevens were still alive. It feels kind of pointless for anyone else to publish Rocketeer stories, since Stevens set a standard of quality that was impossible for anyone to meet, even Stevens himself.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #45 (DC, 1998) – “Slave of Heavens Part 1: The Veil,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Having given up his magic powers, Tim travels back from the realm of the dead aboard a plane, since his earliest awareness of death came when he watched a film about a plane crash . Back on Earth, he interrupts his father’s wedding and reveals that the “Tim” who’s attending the wedding is a changeling. Books of Magic is an excellent fantasy comic with a unique, whimsical sensibility, although its plot is rather hard to follow.

1602 WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Part Two, in Which All the World’s a Stage and the Guardians Overthrow the Players,” [W] Marguerite Bennett w/ Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans w/ Irene Koh. The 1602 versions of Angela and the Guardians of the Galaxy interrupt the wedding of the 1602 version of Venom. Disappointingly, the 1602 version of Groot is a monk who’s sworn to silence, not a tree. There’s also an inset story, which is below Gillen’s normal level of quality, and also has much less interesting art than the main story. In general, Marvel never quite managed to make Angela a compelling character, and Kieron Gillen’s talents were wasted on her. Also, the 1602 milieu is not worth reading about if Neil Gaiman isn’t the writer.

HAMMER OF GOD: PENTATHLON #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Neil Vokes. I thought this was the first issue of a miniseries, but it’s a one-shot. In the interplanetary Olympics, Judah enters the pentathlon, whose events are running, swimming, wrestling, cooking, and poetry. His main rival is his old enemy Jacques the Anvil. Judah fails to win any of the events because he’s busy preventing his old allies, the Gucci assassins, from killing people. This is a pretty fun comic – I particularly like the idea of a pentathlon that includes cooking and poetry – but I would have liked this comic a lot more if I were able to separate Mike Baron’s writing from Mike Baron himself.

X-FACTOR #86 (Marvel, 1993) – “One of These Days…”, [W] Peter David, [A] Jae Lee. I was exhausted when I read this, so maybe I judged it unfairly, but I thought it was awful. It’s another X-Cutioner’s Song crossover, so the X-Men and X-Force get as much panel space as the X-Factor members themselves. Also, Jae Lee’s art is awful. Some of his inking techniques are innovative, but his panel-to-panel continuity is unexciting, and his characters all stand in stiff, static poses. He’s a potentially interesting artist, but I haven’t bothered to read his new Image series Seven Sons.

Finally we get to my most recent Heroes trip, which was last weekend:

ONCE & FUTURE #30 (Boom!, 2022) – “Long Live the Queen,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Gran convinces Mary/Elaine to put her gun down, and the Lethe-water plot is executed successfully. Mary chooses to stay in the underworld. Merlin doesn’t die, because he can’t, so he’s destined to come back eventually. Due to the rain of Lethe water, everyone forgets the events of the series, but Granny has left herself a note saying “vomit now!” She does so, regaining her memories, and she’s about to tell Duncan and Rose to do likewise, but instead she decides to leave them in blissful ignorance. Congratulations to Gillen and Mora on a satisfying end to the best new comic book of the past five years. I’m not an Arthurian scholar, but I’d like to give a conference paper on Once & Future someday.

NIGHTWING #97 (DC, 2022) – “Power Vacuum Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick is disappointed to learn that Blockbuster died before he could be brought to justice. Commissioner Montoya decides to take the corrupt mob boss Maroni to Gotham before arresting him, since he can be protected there more effectively than in Bludhaven. The convoy taking Maroni to Gotham is ambushed, and Dick and Babs have to flee with Maroni to one of Bruce’s secret safehouses, where Maroni is forced to listen to them having relations. The next day, a man drives up to the safehouse in a taxi and introduces himself as “Ric Grayson”. This issue has some really cute Dick/Babs scenes. I especially like Babs’s silly pun about Dick stealing her heart. I do have to wonder why they couldn’t just have Superman fly Maroni to Gotham, but I suppose Superman has other things to do.

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids find a hot spring, where they have some difficult conversations while bathing. This scene is really cute, especially since this series has had a very bleak mood overall. The Duke and his allies escape from the prison camp. General Eks reveals his plan to sacrifice his own men in order to capture Wynd. He ambushes Wynd and friends while they’re sleeping, but they’re saved by a deus ex machina, a giant named Strawberry. But it’s not clear that they’ve really escaped, because Strawberry then puts them all in a giant-sized jar.

DO A POWERBOMB! #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The final round of the tournament is hotly contested, but stunningly, FYSO win in the end. Maggie deals the final blow to Lona while Lona is shocked at the revelation that Cobrasun is her father. Then we learn that the two members of FYSO have each lost a child. And now that they’ve won the tournament, they participate in a final duel to the death, to see which of their children will be resurrected. This plot twist is somewhat disappointing, and I hope we get a more satisfying resolution to Cobrasun and Yua’s story arc.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #4 (IDW, 2022) – “Max Heat,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. The assailants overpower the firefighters and tie them up, except for Brooks, who they drag away. Recall that Brooks was the employee of the man who owned the house. Ma manages to escape her bonds by breaking her own wrist, and she frees the other three, but then they discover Brooks giving instructions to the gunmen! So the entire scheme to rob the house was a setup, and I bet if I look back at issue 1, I’ll find that the robbery was Brooks’s idea in the first place… I did check, and yes, it was her idea. What a brilliant plot twist. Dark Spaces: Wildfire is easily the best of IDW’s new creator-owned comics, and I think it’s my favorite work by Snyder.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #16 (DC, 2022) – “Reunion,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Romulo Fajardo. We begin with a flashback to when Clark taught Jon to master his super-hearing. Jon heats up his mother’s coffee with his heat vision, deals with some loose ends from last issue, and fights the Ultra-Humanite. In the middle of all this, his dad comes back to Earth, and Jon and Clark share a big hug. This is a cathartic moment.

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #2 (Image, 2022) – “They Build,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In one sequence, the two girls design a fantasy world, and in another sequence, their fantasy characters have an adventure in that world. Later, the girls drift apart, and Jackie loses interest in the fantasy world. Then we learn that Jackie vanished ten years ago and was never seen again. This issue again reveals Sorrentino’s ability to draw in multiple different styles, even within a single page. Most of the fantasy-world sequences are drawn in his crisper, brighter style, but the enemies – the Skincrawlers – are drawn in his dark, muddy style, so they seem like an irruption of the real into the realm of the imaginary.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #5 (Image, 2022) – “Make Some Magic,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. In a flashback, we learn how Tammy got interested in comics despite her immigrant parents’ disapproval. Syd sets up his new company, Dallas Comics, and it seems like it’ll be a disaster. But then we learn that Dallas’s fan, Mohammed, is a billionaire tech bro, and he’s agreed to fund Dallas Comics for a year. The issue ends with Miles saying “Let’s make some comics.” If this is the last issue of Public Domain, it’s a satisfying conclusion. But I hope it’s not the last issue, because Public Domain is the best comic Chip Zdarsky has ever written, and I want to read more of it. There have been lots of comics about the comic book industry, but most of them have been either nostalgic paeans to the great comics of the past, or pessimistic satires of the industry’s corruption and irrelevance, and Public Domain manages to be both those things at once.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. The two Eves visit the Portage, Michigan rest area to see why it hasn’t been responding to their communication. They discover that the Michigan outpost has been taken over by a sect of fanatical moon-worshippers, who threaten to kill both Eves unless they surrender their robot bear. I’m glad to see a sequel to Eve, which was an excellent miniseries, and the Children of the Moon are a very scary antagonist. I lost my review of issue 5 of the original Eve.  

MARVEL FAMILY #1 facsimile (Fawcett/DC, 1945/2022) – “The Mighty Marvels Join Forces!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] C.C. Beck. This comic was released without much notice, and I’m glad Heroes still had it on the shelf when I visited. It was reprinted to coincide with the Black Adam movie, because Marvel Family #1 was Black Adam’s first and only Golden Age appearance. Black Adam is an impressive villain, and his debut story is an excellent example of the Fawcett style – it’s exciting and funny at once. Why was this Black Adam’s only appearance in a Fawcett comic? Because Uncle Marvel defeats him by tricking him into saying “Shazam,” and he turns into his 5000-year-old mortal form and dies of old age. This is sort of like how Johnny Bates defeats himself in Miracleman #2. Marvel Family #1 includes two backup features: a stupid comedy story, and a cute story where the Marvel Family cares for an abandoned baby.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #133 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. This issue includes some cute scenes with the Turtles’ supporting cast, so it’s automatically the best issue in months. For example, Lita appears again for the first time since I don’t know when. Unfortunately, this issue is also a tie-in with a crossover called The Armageddon Game. I don’t know what that is, and I don’t care.

BATGIRLS #11 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Part 3,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. This issue guest-stars my favorite new DC character of recent years: Maps Mizoguchi! It’s great to see her again, and my only complaint is she’s drawn to look too young. Watching her interact with the Batgirls is incredibly fun. The main plot of this issue is that the Batgirls follow a trail of clues until it leads them to the Riddler. Neil Googe’s art in this story arc has been quite effective, though he’s not as flashy as Jorge Corona.

CRASHING #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Crashing Part Two,” [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. The pressure on Rose increases, both from her legal employers, and from the supervillain who’s forcing her to work for him. Also, Rose’s politician husband Don is trying to pass a superhero registration bill, which Rose disagrees with. No wonder Rose is relapsing into drug addiction. When Rose refuses the supervillain’s request to influence Don to withdraw the bill, the supervillain has his henchmen invade Rose’s apartment and kidnap Don. Crashing is a thrilling story that powerfully depicts the impossible stress that doctors are under.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SALEM #1 (Archie, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Dan Schoening. I’ve mostly given up on ordering new Archie comics, for reasons that will be explained below, but I bought this one off the shelf. I can’t resist a comic with a cat for a protagonist. In this issue, Sabrina’s cat Salem defeats a wizard who’s summoning demons and imprisoning them in animals’ bodies. This issue is suspiciously similar to Beasts in Burden, but it’s still the best Archie comic of the year, mostly because it consists of just a single story. In most of the other current Archie comics, there are several stories per issue, and therefore none of them have enough room to develop.

2000 AD #2290 (Rebellion, 2022) – There was a new prog pack waiting for me at Heroes, but it didn’t include #2289. I can’t imagine why this issue was missing, but I don’t think it’s Heroes’s fault. Dredd: “Special Relationship 02,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Patrick Goddard. Mega-City One and Brit-Cit get into a pissing match over repairs to the Black Atlantic Tunnel. Skip Tracer: “Valhalla,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. Nolan leaves his daughter behind to go on a dangerous mission. Dexter: “Malice in Plunderland Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter and Tracy involve themselves in a gang war. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 19,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Yet another chapter in which nothing noteworthy happens. In terms of its glacial pacing, this story is the 2000 AD equivalent of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Da’at: The Land of Couldn’t-Be-Shouldn’t-Be,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders have a fantasy of a utopian world in which all their dreams are fulfilled, but it’s an illusion created by Glorian. The Defenders reject Glorian’s temptation and defeat him by summoning the Never Queen from Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer. The next stop on the Defenders’ journey is the House of Ideas. It goes without saying that Javier Rodriguez’s art on this miniseries has been amazing, though in this issue he uses fewer radical page layouts than usual. One page that stands out is the splash page of Galactus’s distorted face.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Red in Blue,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Nightcrawler is the featured character this issue. Anna Peppard described this issue as a quintessential Nightcrawler story – “It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Kurt Wagner perform the part of Kurt Wagner quite this magnificently… This is a comic book I can point to and say — this. This is why I love this character, and why you should love him, too.” I can’t argue with her. Kurt is presented in this issue as audacious, charming, and deeply empathic. Kieron Gillen writes Nightcrawler so well that it’s too bad he’s not the writer on Legion of X.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pax Mohannda Part 1,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Ig Guara. Mohannda, Wakanda’s neighboring country, is comparable to South Africa or Zimbabwe because of its history of racial tension. Mohannda’s new reformist prime minister, Jani Schonland, comes to America to speak at the UN, only to be assassinated by white supremacist terrorists. This issue is a promising start to the second story arc. However, Symbol of Truth’s first story also started out promisingly, but was derailed by a lot of pointless action scenes, and I hope the same thing doesn’t happen a second time.

WONDER WOMAN #792 (DC, 2022) – “Feral Part Two,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. Diana and Cheetah escape from the Cale Industries facility, and we discover that Dr. Psycho is plotting with the goddess Hera to use psychoactive milk to dominate people. This is at least the fourth comic book I’ve read in which milk was used as a delivery mechanism for harmful substances. Others were the Milk Wars crossover, Fantastic Four Annual #17, and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #52 (which I read so long ago that I had trouble identifying it). Marguerite Sauvage’s art here is more conventional than I expect from her, but her linework is still beautiful. In the Young Diana backup story, Diana collapses while trying to heal the mystical creature.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #42 (Marvel,  2022) – “The Chewie Center,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Andrea Di Vito. In an A.X.E. crossover, New York is invaded by aliens, and Carol’s sort-of-cat Chewie has to save the day. This is not the first comic book that’s narrated from a cat’s perspective – earlier examples are Astro City #44 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15, not to mention Sandman #18 – but you can never have too many comics about cats, and this is a pretty good one. I also like the two-page spread showing all the people in Carol’s building.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Game of Rings Part 1,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. It’s time for a classic trope from East Asian media: the martial arts tournament. Shang-Chi’s date with his neglected love interest Delilah is interrupted when he’s forcibly entered in an other-dimensional competition. Ten martial artists have to compete to get to the top of the Meritorious Striving Pagoda, and the winner will get to keep the Ten Rings – which is rather unfair since the rings already belong to Shang-Chi. By the end of the issue, there are six competitors left, and Shang-Chi teams up with his old frenemy Shen Kuei, another character from the series’ classic period.

NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hope’s Embers,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. This comic is sort of like Waterworld, since it takes place in a future world that’s been drowned by sea level rise. Atlantis now dominates the world, but Namor has abdicated the throne to Namorita, which makes it hard for him to protect the few surviving land-dwelling humans. This comic is rather grim, as I suppose I should expect from Cantwell, but it’s certainly better so far than his other recent debut, Briar. Pasqual Ferry, like Salvador Larroca, is a highly skilled, veteran Spanish artist who’s never gotten enough respect.

2000 AD #2291 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Brit-Cit’s army takes over the Black Atlantic Tunnel, and in Brit-Cit itself, there’s a conversation between two men named Bernard and Modric. Brink: as above. Nolan tries and fails to interview a man named Anish Anoor, and then a man named Evan Leeden approaches him. Yet another chapter with no excitement or action. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and his crew are driven nuts by something called the Blackstar. Eden talks with the girl with anime eyes. This is the only story in this issue that really interests me. Dexter: as above. Dexter and Tracy convince the leaders of the two gangs to negotiate with each other. Jaegir: “Ferox One,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Simon Coleby. This is set in the Rogue Trooper universe and stars a character who looks like Venus Bluegenes, but other than that I don’t understand it.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erika Schultz, [A] Carola Borelli. The police implicate Jasmine in a 1978 murder. Her victim, James Asmus, is named after a comic book writer, but I don’t know why; I assume it’s an inside joke. The sisters almost kill Poppy’s husband, thinking he’s an intruder. Rose (I think) throws the murder weapon in the river.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless climbs Mount Ainu and discovers a mural that reveals that Ursa Major is his father. Then Shirtless fights Ursa Major himself, who is introduced in a splash page that’s an homage to Bill Sienkiewicz’s famous depiction of the Demon Bear. Shirtless loses the fight and wakes up in Japan. There he fights some yakuza bears, or “yakuma,” and is subsequently arrested and convicted of murder. This scene seems like a contrived way of getting Shirtless into prison. Okonomiyaki are described in this issue as Japanese pancakes, which is kind of accurate, but you can’t really eat a stack of okonomiyaki.

SILVER COIN #15 (Image, 2022) – “Into the Fire,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. A man named Louis finds the coin. He repeatedly gives the coin to other people, then takes it back after these people get killed. One of the people who gets the coin from Louis is the waitress from issue 11, but I don’t recognize the other recipients. In the end the coin kills Louis himself, and that’s the end of the series for now.

HIGHBALL #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Touring the Facilities,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball receives an award, but he and his fellow pilots can’t make it to the award ceremony because it’s behind a door that’s locked by an incomprehensible puzzle. Eventually they give up and start vandalizing the Mentok ship instead. I think the best part of this comic is the Mentoks. A sample Mentok quotation: “For relative bravery, minimal honor, and conduct slightly above the pathetic level expected of his brutish and peculiar people, it is my tedious duty to award the Mentok ‘Medal of Scant Heroism’ to this, ah, this… what is his name again?”

LOVE EVERLASTING #3 (Image, 2022) – “Too Late for Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. Unlike the first two issues, and unlike most of the romance comics it’s based on, this issue tells a single story. Joan is in love with her high school classmate Fred, but she can’t decide whether to marry him or go away to college. Then Joan learns that her school librarian, also named Joan, had a similar choice to make, and chose to leave town. But Joan the librarian eventually went back to her hometown anyway, only to discover that her high school boyfriend was now married with a child – who was named after his lost love. That explains why Joan is named that, and why her parents’ marriage is unhappy. The younger Joan chooses to accept Fred’s proposal, but then the masked man shows up again and murders the older Joan. This is the first issue of Love Everlasting that works as a story in its own right, outside the context of the overarching reincarnation plot.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [W/A] Juan Gedeon. The dinosaur Justice League finally defeats the dinosaur Darkseid. This series was fun, but it was a single good idea stretched out over six issues. It should have been a one-shot, or a three-issue miniseries at most.

DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 4,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt and Elektra travel to their new hideout, where they meet Stick and Doc Samson. At Stick’s request, Matt and Elektra perform a ritual that makes them king and queen of the Fist, as well as husband and wife. This issue made more sense than the last one.

NIGHTWING #78 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I won this on eBay. It’s a third printing, but who cares. Blockbuster, the crime boss of Blüdhaven, murders the city’s current mayor and replaces him with Melinda Zucco, the daughter of the man who killed Dick Grayson’s parents. Meanwhile, Dick saves a dog from being beaten by hooligans. On returning home, Dick learns from Babs that the late Alfred Pennyworth was extremely rich, and Dick is his sole heir. This issue is an excellent start to the best current Marvel or DC comic, and it also explains some plot points I hadn’t quite understood before.

SNARF #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1972) – [E] Denis Kitchen. This is another eBay purchase. It’s in ugly condition, but is still complete and readable. “Alexander Nutsky,” [W] Pete Poplaski. A Polish-themed barbarian adventure story, and also a paean to Polish sausage. “Wild Man Meets Rubberoy,” [W/A] Grass Green. A superhero parody in the vein of Kurtzman and Wood’s Superduperman. By the way, I’ve never read the original run of Mad. It’s a big gap in my comics education. But I don’t know if it’s been reprinted in an affordable form. “Ma Cow,” [W/A] Evert Geradts. A two-pager about cows. This artist is a pioneer of Dutch underground comics. “Crescent City Rollo in the Cabbage Gardens,” [W/A] Wendel Pugh. I’ve never heard of this artist, but he was a very talented draftsman. His art reminds me of both Robert Williams and Justin Green, and his lettering is especially crisp and appealing. This story, like Harold Hedd #2, is about hippies who travel to Latin America to smuggle drugs.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 HALLOWEEN TRICK-OR-READ 2022 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Zeb Wells, [A] Michael Dowling. This was given out for free at Heroes as part of a Halloween promotion. Confusingly, it has three different numbers – it’s #1, but it’s a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #88, which was LGY #889. It must have been chosen for the Halloween Trick-or-Read promotion because it’s the first appearance of Queen Goblin, a scary-looking character. However, for a comic intended as an introduction for new readers, it’s a very poor choice. It makes no sense unless the reader is already familiar with the premise behind the Beyond story arc, it stars Ben Reilly instead of Peter Parker, and it’s an uninteresting story anyway.

DUO #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David team up to defeat both the aliens and the immortals. This series had a mildly interesting premise, but it wasted the potential of that premise by introducing too many other irrelevant plot elements.

CAREER SHOPLIFTER #1 (Uncivilized, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Gabrielle Bell. A collection of Gabrielle Bell’s drawings and sketches from early 2022. Most of the stories are about people she encounters in the coffee shop where she works. She’s become a very talented draftsperson, and her meditations are thoughtful and interesting, though a bit whiny sometimes. I think most of these stories were first published through her Patreon. Her short story collection Inappropriate is on my pile of books to be read soon.

TRVE KVLT #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Soft Skills and C-Minus Nachos,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. Marty and Alison travel to Dr. Shiver’s lair, where, after experiencing a series of alternate lives, they descend all the way to hell. I liked this issue better than #2, but this series still lacks a consistent tone, and its two protagonists are still annoying.

MONEY SHOT #1 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. This was another eBay purchase. It’s a later printing, and it was shipped in a wrapper to conceal the obscene imagery on the cover. In 2027, humanity has discovered the existence of extraterrestrial life, but the aliens understandably don’t think humans are worth their attention, while Earth has no money for space exploration. Faced with an inability to obtain funding for their space travel research, a group of scientists have a brilliant idea: they’ll generate revenue by getting people to pay to watch them having sex with aliens. This is a brilliant and funny setup, and it helps me understand the rest of the series. Rebekah Isaacs is an excellent erotic artist who has the rare skill of depicting sex in a tantalizing way, but without being exploitative. (I was going to say “exploitative or tawdry,” but this comic is tawdry, and proud of it.)  

HAWK THE SLAYER #5 (Rebellion, 2022) – “Die by the Sword,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. Voltan cuts Hawk’s hand off, but Hawk is still able to control his sword with his severed hand, and he uses it to kill Voltan. This miniseries was mostly pointless, and I should have skipped it.

2000 AD #2292 – Dredd: as above. Some old dude talks to the two British guys from last issue, and then one of them is kidnapped by a woman named Domino. Meanwhile, the Black Atlantic standoff erupts into violence. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan’s teammate sacrifices himself so that Nolan can escape, and he wakes up in the afterlife, where he’s greeted by Eden’s dead mother Pamela. Dexter: as above. At Dexter and Tracy’s behest, the seconds-in-command of the two gangs murder their bosses and then join forces. Brink: as above. Nolan talks with Evan Leeden, who’s a secret agent, and Eden tells Nolan to give some information to the press. I don’t think I’ve ever read a 2000 AD story that had less action or excitement than this one. Jaegir: as above. I still don’t understand this story’s plot. It does have the best art in the issue, but that’s not saying much.

FEAR THE FUNHOUSE #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Snack Attack,” [W] Micol Ostow, [A] Lissette Carrera, etc. Another in a long line of bad Archie one-shots. All three “stories” in this issue are pointless non-stories. Each one has a mildly interesting setup, at best, but doesn’t go anywhere. This even applies to the Magdalene Visaggio story, which must have been the reason I ordered this comic. Archie has clearly lost interest in publishing comics for the direct market. The main Archie title was cancelled during the pandemic, and there’s no sign that it’s going to be revived. Archie seems to be devoting all their attention to digests, which must be far more lucrative. But if that’s the case, then I don’t see why Archie is even bothering to publish these one-shots at all. They certainly aren’t putting much effort into them.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #10 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce defeats Anton/Minhkhoa and becomes Ra’s al Ghul’s heir, but Anton has informed Bruce that Ra’s is planning to destroy the world, so Bruce sabotages Ra’s plans. Anton saves Bruce at the last minute, Bruce returns to Gotham, and the series ends just before the iconic “I shall become a bat” moment. This is probably the most satisfying issue of the series, because it demonstrates how Bruce’s experiences, throughout all ten issues, have culminated to inform his decision to become Batman.

SACRAMENT #3 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Vass and Rais continue to have no success with exorcising the demon, and in a flashback, we learn that Vass has already broken his vow of celibacy. The demon possesses Rais herself and forces her to seduce Vass. He refuses, and then the demon seemingly kills her. This is a powerful issue, but again, Sacrament feels less original than Absolution.

LEGION OF X #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “Holding the Line,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rafael Pimentel. Legion fights an epic mental battle with Uranos. The best part of this issue, and perhaps of the series in general, is the splash page where Legion and Zafran compete with each other in a top-hat-and-cane dance and in a guitar-versus-harp battle. In context, this actually kind of makes sense. Given that all of Spurrier’s X-Men comics have had Nightcrawler as the main protagonist, it’s ironic that Kieron Gillen’s Immortal X-Men #7 is so much better than anything Spurrier has done with Nightcrawler.

ELLE(S) #3 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. Elle has noticed that there are no pictures of her as a newborn, and that she was born in Batesville, a town 300 miles from her hometown. She and her friends travel to Batesville to investigate this mystery. While there, they notice a man following them. He proves to be a private detective… and his client is Elle’s real mother. This discovery causes Elle to become catatonic. This issue is much more exciting than the first two. It seems as if the setup is over now, and the real plot has begun.

AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. After a lot of plot twists, Yvette and Alexei are the sole survivors of the Andromeda. Alexei reveals to Yvette that during the Bosnian War, he murdered a boatload of helpless refugees. He redeems himself by sacrificing his life to destroy the alien ship, while Aquaman saves Yvette. This series was everything that could have been expected from its two star creators. It’s one of the best Aquaman comics in recent memory, and it’s my favorite Ram V comic besides These Savage Shores and Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Christian Ward’s art and coloring here are stunning, and he takes full advantage of the larger page size of the Black Label format.  

2000 AD #1844 (Rebellion, 2013) – I have two copies of this for some reason, so if you’ve read this far, please comment on this post and I’ll send you the extra copy. This issue’s cover has a funny caption: “30 Years of Slaine / He Didn’t Think It Too Many.” Dredd: “Scavengers Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Carl Critchlow. Dredd and Klegg defeat the terrorists who took over Luna-2. Defoe: “The Damned Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe sells his soul to Faust in order to fight the British Empire. Slaine: “The Book of Scars,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. In a 30th-anniversary story, Slaine tells his latest lover Vevina the stories behind his various scars. Then Vevina’s womb bursts open to reveal Slaine’s old enemy, the alien Guledig. Clint Langley’s photorealistic painted art in this chapter is beautiful. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 5,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. The head wolf hunts down the girl Keira. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 6,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Another chapter that makes no sense.

DETECTIVE COMICS #491 (DC, 1980) – Batman: “Riddle of the Golden Fleece,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Don Newton. Maxie Zeus tries to steal an artificial version of the Golden Fleece for his daughter Medea, who is introduced in this issue. I don’t know if her mother was ever named, but it makes sense that a character based on Zeus would have an illegitimate child. Jason Bard: “Fragrance of Death!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Dan Spiegle. A cemetery caretaker notices that Jason Bard keeps putting flowers on the grave of a certain drifter. Jason Bard explains that this grave belongs to the killer of Jason’s father. In a flashback, we see that Jason’s father murdered his mother. Later, Jason found his father with the help of the drifter, Scratch. Then Scratch killed Jason’s father to save Jason, but suffered fatal injuries as a result. I usually don’t like Mike Barr’s writing, but this was a powerful story, the best in the issue. Robin: “The Target of the Death-Dealer,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] Alex Saviuk. Robin solves a mystery at Hudson University. At the end of the story, Robin hides behind the scoreboard at a basketball game, and no one sees him. Black Lightning: “Short Circuit,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Pat Broderick. Black Lightning loses his powers while solving a crime. Black Lightning reappeared in #494 and #495, but I don’t think he got his powers back until he became a member of the Outsiders. In this issue Black Lightning says he both won the Olympic decathlon and broke the record for the 100-meter dash. It’s not humanly possible for the same person to do both those things, so he must have meant some record other than the world record. Batgirl: “The Assassination of Batgirl!”, [W] Cary Burkett, [A] José Delbo. General Scar hangs Batgirl in effigy. This villain later appeared in World’s Finest #279.

SLEEPER SEASON TWO #11 (Wildstorm, 2005) – “In the Crossfire,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This doesn’t make any more sense than issue 12. In this series Phillips uses a strange page layout with lots of inset panels. Later in his career his page layouts became more conventional.

REDNECK #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Bartlett wakes up in the care of a woman named Ingrid, who claims to be a representative of the Parliament of Elders. Bartlett has a tense conversation with his old flame July. Ingrid and the Parliament of Elders decide to assassinate the Bowman family. This issue would have been more fun if I’d had any idea who any of the characters were.

DOMINO #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Onimod,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. Domino and Shang-Chi fight a number of Shang-Chi’s old enemies, such as Shockwave and Razorfist. BTW, I just noticed that Shockwave looks a lot like Wildfire, who debuted three years earlier. There’s also a subplot about Diamondback and Outlaw. This issue is entertaining but insubstantial.

PROVIDENCE #5 (Avatar, 2015) – “In the Walls,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. Robert Black visits St. Anselm College, but can’t see the Kitab (i.e. the Necronomicon) because its caretaker is away for the week. He takes lodgings in the neighboring small town of Goffs Falls, where he has a series of horrifying dreams. In terror, Black returns to Manchester and stays with Hector North, a college staff member, and North’s male roommate Montague. North and Montague are obviously coded as gay, but the joke is that they’re based on the title character and narrator of “Herbert West – Reanimator,” so everything they say could refer to either gay sex or reviving the dead. In the midst of all this, Black meets a strange little girl, Elspeth West. Again, this issue has a very long and tedious handwritten text piece at the end. Much of this text is superfluous, as it just retells the events of the issue.

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #18 (Whitman, 1982) – “The Labyrinths of Aba-Zulu,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Jesse Santos. While out on a picnic, Dan-El and Natongo encounter Lugongo, their father (or adopted father in Dan-El’s case). This provides an opportunity for a recap of the brothers’ origin. Then the evil wizard Nagopa tries to take over Aba-Zulu and replace Dan-El and Natongo with the intellectually disabled son of the dead usurper Hanool. Of course Dan-El and Natongo foil the plot. This story is a reprint of issue 2, and was published six years after issue 17. I have no idea why they chose to publish it. By 1982, Western had abandoned the newsstand market and was only distributing comics in three-packs sold through department stores. Some of the Whitman comics that were only available in this format are extremely rare and valuable, but Brothers of the Spear #18 does not seem to be one of those.

CARVER: A PARIS STORY #1 (Z2, 2015) – “Who Are You?”, [W/A] Chris Hunt. I ordered this because it contains a short story by Paul Pope. That story actually is worth reading, because it has excellent art, and it’s also a cute tribute to Corto Maltese. However, I should have skipped the other issues of the series, as Paul Pope had nothing to do with them. The main story in Carver #1 is a waste of space. All that happens in it is that some people try to intimidate our hero, Carver, and he beats them up and goes looking for the person who sent them. This whole story could have been told in two pages.

PROVIDENCE #6 (Avatar, 2015) – “Out of Time,” as above. On leaving North’s house, Black discovers that the librarian has already been back for more than a week. He spends most of the issue reading the Kitab, and when he finishes, even more time has passed. Elspeth takes him back to her home, where we realize that she’s possessed by some sort of demon, and the demon swaps its mind with Robert’s so that it can force Robert to have sex with Elspeth. This scene is obviously quite disturbing. Robert runs outside into the pouring rain, and then there’s another giant block of text. At least this text is a bit more interesting, since it summarizes what Robert read in the Kitab.

STAR WARS: DOCTOR APHRA #1 HALLOWEEN TRICK-OR-READ 2022 (Marvel, 2020/2022) – “Fortune and Fate Part 1: The Rings of Vaale,” [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Marika Cresta. Another free comic. It was first published as Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2020) #1. It may be a bit more new-reader-friendly than Amazing Spider-Man #88, but it’s not particularly good. I have very little interest in the Star Wars franchise.

2000 AD #1845 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Bender Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ben Willsher. A judge named Al Lock has a nightmare about when his father beheaded his mother. Then he teams up with a new partner, Lou Bender, who proceeds to beat up a man for a mild offense. Defoe: as above. Defoe betrays Faust, claiming that their pact was void because Defoe had no soul to sell. In exchange, Faust absconds with Defoe’s friends. Slaine: “The Book of Scars Part 2: The Bride of Crom,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Either a flashback or an alternate-reality version of the similarly titled story from progs #337-342, in which Slaine saves Medb from being sacrificed to Crom Cruach. Clint Langley’s art here is line-drawn rather  than painted, but it’s still brilliant. His depiction of Slaine’s warp spasm is especially gruesome. Age of the Wolf: as above. The witch, Rowan Morrigan, goes looking for her daughter Keira, while the werewolf prepares to sacrifice Keira. The Ten-Seconders: as above. This still makes no sense. I read this issue’s last two stories just yesterday, and I can’t remember anything about either of them.

METAL MEN #7 (DC, 1964) – “The Living Gun!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Ross Andru. Will Magnus and Platinum have a lovers’ quarrel. Then the Metal Men battle the Solar Brain, an evil entity that’s been spontaneously generated in space. The brain forces the Metal Men to turn into a gun and shoot Magnus, but Lead manages to resist the brain’s control. Given that Platinum is the focal character in this story, it would have made more sense for her to be the one who defeated the brain’s plot. This issue is quite funny, but Kanigher’s treatment of Platinum is very sexist.

SIN CITY: THAT YELLOW BASTARD #2 (Dark Horse, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Our hero, Hartigan, saves a little girl, Nancy, from being raped and murdered by Roark Jr, the son of a senator. Hartigan suffers severe injuries as a result, and when he wakes up, Senator Roark has Hartigan convicted for Roark Jr’s crimes. There are some powerful scenes in this issue, but what I hate about Frank Miller’s comics is their atmosphere of toxic masculinity. Sin City and 300, in particular, are basically extended dick-measuring contests. For example, much of this issue is devoted to Senator Roark’s speech about how he controls Sin City and nobody will dare to oppose him. Roark makes this speech as a way of exerting dominance over Harrigan. Throughout Miller’s work, it seems as if the only goal of a man is to prove his manliness, and the only way he can do that is by destroying other men. Also, I looked at the spoilers for this series, and it turns out that in the end, Hartigan is unable to defeat Senator Roark, because everyone is too scared of Roark to hold him accountable for his crimes, and Hartigan has to commit suicide in order to save Nancy from her. That feels like an abuse of authorial fiat. In other words, the only way Roark could be that powerful is because the author said so. Maybe I’m being naïve about this, but it seems to me that in real life, no public figure is so scary that everyone is terrified to even say anything bad about them. It’s possible for rich people to escape accountability for their crimes – we see that every day – but they can still get judged in the court of public opinion. In fact, that’s what happens in Daredevil: Born Again, which also has a villain who’s too powerful to be prosecuted for his crimes. At the end of that story, the Kingpin doesn’t go to prison, but his reputation is severely damaged.

MERCURY HEAT #8 (Avatar, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. Luiza battles some Crossed, from a different Avatar comic. However, she refuses to believe they’re really Crossed, and I think she is later proved right about this. In this storyline there’s a cute visual trope where whenever the Crossed’s private parts appear on-panel, they’re obscured by stickers of cartoon characters. This issue explains this visual trope as the result of Luiza’s “image processing censor.” Apparently the same censor is also applied to the reader.

PUMA BLUES #4 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “Indistinction,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Two different characters go looking for a flying manta ray. Like most of Puma Blues, this issue is less focused on telling a story than creating an atmosphere.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #10 (IDW, 2015) – “Earth: R.I.P.”, [W] John Barber, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Earth has been destroyed, and the few surviving G.I. Joes have to meet up with the Transformers to continue the fight. Also, there’s an explanation of the origins of Primus and Unicron. This issue is full of bizarre, labyrinthine page layouts. Instead of the usual commentary, this issue ends with a text story.

RESURRECTION #1 (Oni, 2007) – “The Day After,” [W] Marc Guggenheim, [A] David Dumeer. This is a good example of how not to write a debut issue of a comic book. Resurrection’s plot seems to be that the human race has been driven underground by an alien invasion, but now the aliens have been defeated, and the humans are slowly emerging. The trouble is that none of this is ever clearly communicated to the reader. Instead the reader has to piece together what’s going on, and that distracts the reader from actually paying attention to the story. The writer seems to have forgotten that he understands the premise of the story, but hisreaders don’t.  

That is finally the end of this stack. Until now I was hesitant to write reviews because I was running out of space in my boxes, but I have solved that problem, at least temporarily, so I will try to write reviews more often.  

Categories
Uncategorized

July and August 2022 reviews

8-18-2022

I need to start writing reviews because I’m running out of room to store comics waiting to be reviewed.

THE WALKING DEAD #150 (Image, 2016) – “Betrayed,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Some people try to assassinate Rick Grimes, but he survives, and then uses the incident to create support for his proposed anti-zombie army. The scene at the end, where the crowd chants Rick’s name, is disturbing because it suggests that Rick is becoming some kind of fascist leader.

2000 AD #444 (IPC, 1985) – Nemesis: “Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. A crossover story that guest-stars the ABC Warriors and Satanus the dinosaur. Rogue Trooper: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. Rogue is led before a firing squad, but the execution is called off because the Norts have surrendered, ending the war. But in the last panel, we see that a common enemy is targeting both the Norts and the Southers. Dredd: “Love Story,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A woman named Bella Bagley falls in love with Dredd, but of course he’s incapable of returning her feelings, and the story ends with Bella being sent to prison. Bella lives in “Erich Segal Block,” named after the author. of Love Story. This is a classic one-shot Dredd story. Alan Grant sadly passed away in July. Mean Team: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A sports-themed story that’s hampered by Belardinelli’s limited ability to draw people. Future Shocks: “Mind How You Go!”, [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] Geoff Senior. A precognitive man places too much trust in his own visions, and dies as a result.

X-MEN RED #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Three Short Stories About Death,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Isca debates Magneto, Storm attends a space council where she learns of Xandra’s death, and Sunspot and Rockslide discuss Santo’s death. I don’t remember much of anything about this issue.

MARVEL VOICES: PRIDE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. The best story in this issue is “Permanent Sleepover” by Charlie Jane Anders, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, starring two new LGBTQ characters. This story makes me sort of want to read the upcoming New Mutants run by this same creative team. “Permanent Sleepover” also connects to the story in this issue by Grace Freud, “Scott” and “Henderson,” about a support group for trans superheroes.  As usual with these Marvel Voices specials, the other stories are a mixed bag. Amusingly, Marvel commissioned a story for Marvel Voices: Heritage #1 that had to be pulled because it starred Werehawk, a character who Marvel never owned – he’s from Dave Cockrum’s creator-owned Futurians. The Werehawk story has now been released online, and it’s better than any of the stories that did appear in the issue it was commissioned for. 

THE SILVER COIN #11 (Image, 2022) – “The Diner,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Walsh. An aging, disgruntled waitress is given the coin by a customer. She wishes for her restaurant to be full of customers. What unsurprisingly happens is that the restaurant is mobbed by crazy people who can’t stop eating, and in the end the customers and the staff all kill and eat each other. The original customer returns and reclaims the coin. This issue is a gruesome but effective piece of horror.

SABRETOOTH #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “There and Back Again,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. I think the only interesting thing in this issue is Nekra talking about eating Hoppin’ John with her grandparents. This series is vastly inferior to Destroyer or Eve, yet I still feel obliged to read it because it’s Victor LaValle. And for the same reason I also feel obliged to read the new Sabretooth and the Exiles series that was just announced.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The New Testament of Irene Adler,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue’s POV character is Destiny, and it may well be the best story about this character ever. Kieron makes us feel the bitter irony of Destiny’s powers: she can see the future, but she can’t change it. This issue also includes a funny reference to the classic first page of Uncanny X-Men #168. I think Immortal X-Men is the best of the X-Men comics I’m currently following.

BLACK ADAM #1 (DC, 2022) – “Theogony Book One: The Sandbox,” [W] (Christopher) Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. The two focal characters in this issue are Black Adam, the ruler of Kahndaq, and Malik Adam White, a young doctor who’s Black Adam’s descendant and heir. Sometime after reading this issue, I realized that I don’t really like Priest’s writing. His stories are always structured in a deliberately confusing way, and I don’t think it’s worth the effort to untangle them. Even before reading issue 2, I decided to drop this series.

G.I.L.T. #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. This series is very difficult to follow because of its time travel plot, and because it contains multiple, different-looking versions of the same characters. I think the best thing in this issue is the scene with Dorothy Parker and the dead pigeon, though I’m not sure who the “C.W.” character is.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #3 (Image, 2022) – [W/A] various. The best story in this issue is the Rumble one-shot by John Arcudi and James Harren. Rumble is a funny character with a distinctive speech pattern, and Harren’s art is striking, as usual. Of the continuing serials, the only one I really like is Shift, because it’s a Radiant Black tie-in. Most of the other serialized stories are too short to have any impact, and it’s hard to remember what happened in the previous installment of each serial. In particular, I want to like the story by Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson, but I’m not even sure what it’s about.

SWAMP THING #14 (DC, 2022) – “The Alien Idea,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Swampy and Green Lantern team up against an alien invasion and the Parliament of Gears. This issue includes some very impressive page designs that remind me of classic Swamp Thing pages by Bissette and Veitch.

NORSE MYTHOLOGY III #5 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the Gods,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell (though Neil Gaiman is the credited writer since he wrote the source material). I’m not sure why this was in my file at Heroes. I didn’t much like Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. It was just a rehash of the Prose Edda, and so this adaptation is just a rehash of a rehash. PCR’s artwork here is effective, but it’s not much different from anything else he’s done in recent decades.

GHOST CAGE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Dragotta, [W] Caleb Goellner. Sam, Doyle and Blair defeat the evil old dude and save the world. There’s nothing very surprising in this issue, but overall this was a fun comic that showed a deep understanding of the manga aesthetic. 

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer and his allies plot the mayor’s assassination, while the two cops try to track the assassins down. In France, the three albums of Le Tueur – Affaires d’État is considered a separate series from the original thirteen albums of Le Tueur. However, the two series have the same style of art and writing.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #4 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. The federal government runs a sting operation to capture Red Room patrons, one of whom is a parody of Mr. Rogers. Like many previous Red Room stories, this issue is based on a real occurrence. As usual this issue includes lots of lovingly rendered body horror scenes.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton travel to the Canadian wilderness to train with Luka Jango, a retired sniper. During this training, Bruce forms his twin resolutions to never use guns or kill anyone. Luka realizes that Anton is a budding supervillain and tries to kill him, but Bruce stops Luka, and Anton kills Luka instead. Batman: The Knight is my least favorite of Chip Zdarsky’s current comics, but it’s not bad.

THE X-CELLENT #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 4,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. My favorite thing in this issue is the budding relationship between Edie Sawyer’s daughter and Tike Alicar’s son. These two are among the few sympathetic characters in this series. Besides being dated, X-Cellent is frustrating because so many of its protagonists are narcissistic jerks.

Older comics:

AIRBOY #9 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Body Count!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. Valkyrie and Hirota try to rescue Davy from some ninjas, and also there’s a werewolf involved. In a backup story, American airman Link Thorne is held captive in communist China. Despite my loathing for Chuck Dixon, I want to collect more Airboy because it’s a fun series, and also because it ties in with other Eclipse comics.

BATMAN #105 (DC, 2021) – “Ghost Stories Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Carlo Pagulayan et al. Batman stops Clownhunter from killing Harley Quinn, then fights Ghost-Maker. The high point of this issue is Harley’s speech, in which she apologizes for Clownhunter’s parents’ deaths, but tries to show that she’s changed.

NIGHTWING #80 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I ordered this on eBay, and it was the first new comic I acquired after moving into my new apartment. This issue, Nightwing is accused of murder and goes looking for the real murderer, Heartless, who makes his first full appearance this issue. But Heartless traps Dick and Damian on a burning pier with a bunch of children. This issue is full of beautiful art. I still need several other issues of this run, but they’re hard to find on eBay.

SKYWARD #12 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 2,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. This issue focuses on Lilly, Willa Fowler’s mother, and explains where Lilly has been for Willa’s entire lifetime. After gravity was turned off, Lilly went to Crystal Springs, an underground city built by her husband, and has been there ever since, cut off from the outside world. When Lilly accidentally discovers that her daughter is still alive, she violates her own rules by going outside the city to look for Willa, but then she and Willa go back to Crystal Springs and get trapped inside. This is a well-written issue and it’s a nice break from the series’ regular storyline.

DIE!DIE!DIE! #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Scott M. Gimple. An offensive, gruesome, implausible load of crap, with an uninteresting plot about three assassins who are brothers. A comic in which Kirkman indulges his worst tendencies. I’m glad I didn’t buy this when it came out, and I don’t intend to read any more of it.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #7 (Marvel, 1988) – “Save the Tiger Part 7: Things Get Worse!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Buscema. In Madripoor, Wolverine helps Tyger Tiger fight a gang war. Buscema’s art here is quite good, though Klaus Janson is a poor inker for him. Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror Chapter 7: Boxes,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Sutton. A plot that may have been inspired by the Iran-Contra scandal, coupled with extremely effective artwork that invokes both cosmic horror and body horror. Tom Sutton had some weaknesses as an artist, but he was great at drawing horrific creatures and settings. On his Substack, Tom Brevoort described an unpleasant encounter he had with Gerber, and some people on Facebook said that Gerber was temperamental and difficult to work with. I find this surprising, because to me, Gerber is a hero. But maybe I have a romanticized image of him. Master of Kung Fu: “Crossing Lines VII: Hooks,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Grindberg. Very similar to the old MOKF series, but with worse art. Sub-Mariner: “From Sea to Deadly Sea,” [W/A] Steve Ditko. A boring example of Ditko’s late work. Hollis Bright only has seven credits in the GCD, all of which are either Sub-Mariner stories, or stories by Ditko, or both. I can’t find any biographical information about him or her. Addendum: I asked Rob Imes, who’s an expert on Ditko, and he says that Hollis Bright is Terry Kavanagh’s wife.

DETECTIVE COMICS #940 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 7: The Red Badge of Courage,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. Despite being defeated, Jacob Kane continues to be an unrepentant, smug bastard, and Kate finally knocks him unconscious. Tim Drake sacrifices his life to stop Kane’s drone army from destroying Gotham. This sets up a poignant scene in which Batman confronts a grieving Stephanie. But of course Tim’s not really dead, and the end of the issue reveals that he was rescued and imprisoned by a mysterious figure. Tim’s captor was later named as Mr. Oz, who was in fact Jor-El.

MIRACLEMAN #20 (Eclipse, 1991) – “Winter’s Tale,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. I’ve read this before, but I didn’t own the original issue until now. This issue focuses on a woman named Rachel; her daughter Mist, conceived with Miracleman’s donated sperm; her widowed boyfriend Jack; and his young son Glenn. There’s also an inset story about Winter’s adventures in space. On rereading this issue, I realize how dark it is. Little Glenn is adorable, but Rachel’s story is rather grim. She hoped that having a child would cure her lack of emotion, but Mist doesn’t need any parenting, and is such an uncanny child (in the Freudian sense) that she’s difficult to love. For example, she ruins Rachel and Jack’s relationship by offhandedly informing Rachel that Jack is having an affair. On this reading I also listened to the two songs quoted in this issue, “Sophisticated Boom Boom” by the Shangri-Las and “All Grown Up” by the Dixie Cups. The latter song is highly relevant to the story’s themes.

DENNIS THE MENACE #41 (Fawcett, 1960) – various stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Al Wiseman. A much more straightforward comic about small children. This issue’s stories mostly have a winter theme. In the first one, Dennis convinces his dad to take him and his friends sledding.

BATMAN: DARK VICTORY #4 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Tim Sale. Batman descends into the sewers to look for Solomon Grundy, who can lead him to Harvey Dent. For a long time I’ve had a very negative impression of Jeph Loeb’s writing, and I avoided reading his prestige-format series with Tim Sale. But this issue was a revelation. Tim Sale’s visual storytelling is amazing. He uses unexpected camera angles and page layouts to add excitement to action sequences that could have been boring. Gregory Wright’s coloring complements Sale’s artwork perfectly. Jeph Loeb’s story is not bad either, though I’m not sure what it’s about. I will try to track down the various other miniseries by this creative team.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Mother of Exiles Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Juann Cabal. A Spider-Man story written by Tom Taylor seems almost too good to be true. In this issue, Spidey and Johnny Storm save some subterranean children from their vengeful grandfather. This issue lacks the narrative depth of Tom Taylor’s Nightwing or Superman, but it’s very fun, and Juann Cabal is an excellent artist. I especially like the scene where Spidey dodges gunfire while saving a cat.

STAR TREK #2 (DC, 1989) – “The Sentence,” [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. The Klingons put a bounty on Kirk’s head, while Kirk confronts the fanatical alien Nasgul. A weakness of PAD’s Star Trek run was its reliance on original characters who never appeared anywhere else in the franchise, such as R.J. Blaise and Ensign Fouton. Still, PAD is easily the best writer of Star Trek comics, at least as far as I know. CBR has twice listed Star Trek Annual #3, PAD’s story about Scotty’s late wife, as the best Star Trek comic ever. On the first page of this issue, Jor-El makes an Easter egg appearance. 

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #2 (Marvel, 2009) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Tracy Lawless investigates some murders on behalf of his boss, Mr. Hyde. This was one of the only Criminal comics I was missing. It’s been a while since I read the rest of The Sinners, and  issue 2 doesn’t make much sense on its own.

RUMBLE #17 (Image, 2019) – “Belly of Hell” and “Deceitful Above All Things,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] Andrew MacLean & James Harren. I bought this because it’s a crossover between Rumble and Head Lopper. The crossover makes sense because the two series’ protagonists, Rathraq and Nergal, are both sword-wielding monster slayers. In this issue they encounter each other while trapped inside the belly of a giant beast. The interactions between the two characters are amusing, and the contrast between the two artists’ styles is striking; it’s very strange to see Nergal drawn by anyone other than MacLean. I want to read more of Rumble.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #15 (Marvel, 2013) – “Run, Goblin, Run! Part 1: The Tinkerer’s Apprentice,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Phil Urich, the current Hobgoblin, goes on a crime spree so that he can pay Roderick Kingsley for the rights to the Kingpin name. There are also some subplots about Tyler Stone, the Wraith, and various other characters. This is an average issue of Superior Spider-Man.

Next trip to Heroes. This was so long ago now that I don’t remember these comics very well.

SAGA #60 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Gale interrogates Marko’s mother, Hazel and Squire Robot have a heart-to-heart talk, and then the family goes home only to find their rocket tree on fire. The high point of this issue is the scene at the restaurant that’s based on Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t know why that place is supposed to stop being fun when you’re an adult.

ONCE & FUTURE #27 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The heroes defend the sword in the stone, with Sir Hempleworth’s assistance – which is an error, he should be called Sir Jason, not Sir Hempleworth. Galahad finally achieves the Grail with Lancelot’s help, but dies as a result. This issue is just setup for the more dramatic events next issue.

TWIG #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. A monster kidnaps Twig and Splat, but they escape. Then they find the Horned Beast, whose heart is one of the items Twig needs. The trouble is that the Horned Beast is really cute, and it’s also still alive and still actively using its heart. This is one of the best miniseries of the year, mostly due to its adorable and weird art. I also like Twig’s rather nonchalant attitude to all the strange things he encounters.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #3 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Days,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Maybe the funniest part about this issue is Hemingway acting like a jerk, but then he, Dorothy Parker and Jim Morrison all disappear, because the people who wished them into existence are dead. Wang kills the man who was trying to blackmail him, and his wife is revealed to be pregnant. The little boy wishes to become a superhero, then joins up with some other people who made the same wish (this was also the premise of a much older comic, The Good Guys). This is another of the best miniseries of 2022.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #13 (DC, 2022) – “Dreams and Nightmares,” [W] Nicole Maines and Tom Taylor, [A] Clayton Henry. Nicole Maines is the actress who plays Nia Nal, or Dreamer, who makes her first appearance in mainstream DC continuity in this issue. Dreamer, like Phantom Girl from The Terrifics, is a 21st-century version of a Legion of Super-Heroes character, though unlike Nura Nal, Nia is transgender. Much of this issue is taken up with Nia’s vision of the deaths of the Justice League, and as a result, this issue does little to advance the series’ plot.

STRANGE ACADEMY #18 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Brother Voodoo tries to forcibly take back the kids, who are hiding out in Dr. Strange’s old mansion. The kids decide to hide out in the Dark Dimension instead. This is the last issue of the current run. Strange Academy is the most fun comic Marvel is currently publishing, and I hope it doesn’t just disappear after the upcoming Finals miniseries. Speaking of Dr. Strange’s mansion, I met Chris Bachalo at Heroes Con, and I asked him what was up with the talking snakes in Dr. Strange’s foyer. He said they’re just snakes that happen to talk. I think it’s funnier if they’re unexplained.

THE CLOSET #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. Thom spends with the night with an old friend, who gives him a stern lecture about how he’s ruining his marriage. We also learn that Thom was having an affair, which may be new information. Jamie has another nightmare about the closet monster. This is yet another of the year’s best miniseries. More on The Closet below.

BATMAN #125 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A dying Penguin puts a bounty on anyone who has over $5 million in inherited wealth. This is a surprisingly progressive idea, but it seems out of character for the Penguin, who has never shown any socialist tendencies before. At the end of the story, a robot named Failsafe activates inside the Batcave. In the backup story, Catwoman tries to track down the Penguin’s illegitimate children. This is the first new issue of Batman that I’ve bought in a very long time – the last one may have been the final chapter of Hush – and it was worth buying. Jorge Jimenez, in particular, has developed into a top-tier aritst.

FLAVOR GIRLS #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. In a post-apocalyptic world, Earth is protected by three flavor-themed magical girl superheroines. The protagonist, Sara, develops pineapple powers and becomes the fourth Flavor Girl. This seems like a pretty average magical girl comic, but I really like the theme of flavor superpowers. It reminds me of a viral Tumblr post showing the Lady of Shallot (sic) and her fellow Ladies of Onion, Garlic and Chives.

LITTLE MONSTERS #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In a flashback, we see that Yui became a vampire after surviving the atom bombing of Hiroshima. The guy who killed the one twin escapes, but returns to capture the surviving twin. Besides that, this issue is mostly dialogue.

BATGIRLS #8 (DC, 2022) – “Bad Reputation Part 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Batgirls and Nightwing team up to defeat the Saints. Also there’s a new villain who’s a Quebeçoise sword swallower. This issue has some really fun dialogue and character interactions. 

NEW MASTERS #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. Ola gets a tour of the Star Pilot Temple, and she discovers that the Eye of Orunmila is evidence of alien contact by the ancient people of Ife. The rest of the family finally confronts Governor Tosin. The old mobster/magnate, Ojumah, decides to besiege the temple to get the Eye back. New Masters is the best of the recent group of Africanfuturist comics, because it’s not just a conventional comic with a cosmetic African setting. Rather, Nigerian culture and mythology are the heart of its story.

THE TIGER’S TONGUE #1 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Olivia Stephens, [A] Diansakhu Banton-Perry. This is an example of an Africanfuturist comic that’s less successful than New Masters. The Tiger’s Tongue is set in a fantasy kingdom, where two twin princesses are forced to fight each other to decide which of them wil inherit their kingdom’s mystical link to tigers. This comic’s fantasy setting is entirely generic and is not based on any particular African culture. Which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing – lots of fantasy stories are based on generic European cultures – but it’s not all that interesting to me. And Tiger’s Tongue’s plot and characters are only mildly interesting. I’m going to give up on this series.

DOGS OF LONDON #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Three Poisonings, One Funeral and a Ripped Off Nose,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. We find out more about just how the three undead Dogs died. Meanwhile, the revived Dogs rampage through London. And since they’ve been dead for several decades, they’re shocked by the current state of society, and in particular by the open acceptance of gay people. This is one of Peter Milligan’s better recent works.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. After a lot of mayhem, an undead horse demon tells Constance and Dooley that the cult leader, Herzog Jung, is trying to breach the veil between light and darkness. And Constance has to stop him, or Jung will become an even worse demon. I like this series, but its plot is very convoluted.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #4 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Loquita, the ceramic cat, tries to get Althalia to perform a human sacrifice, but she refuses. Instead, Althalia summons a demon and sacrifices it, allowing her to reach the underworld. This was a pretty quick read. Season of the Bruja is this year’s equivalent of These Savage Shores or Yasmeen or Shadow Doctor – an excellent under-the-radar comic that deserves more publicity. I’m kind of surprised that Oni is still announcing new comics.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #19 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Half the team gets sent back in time to the day of Paul Revere’s ride. The other half, including Janet and Chang Enlou, are sent forward in time to V-Day, when the Destiny Man declares “victory over everything.” He also accuses Janet and Chang of being enemies of America. This new storyline is an interesting variation on the series’ formula. Each previous storyline begins with the team finding themselves in a new region of America, but this time the team is split between two different regions.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book 7,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stefano Landini. Wakanda continues to descend into civil war. This is going to be my last issue of this series. Ridley’s Black Panther is much faster-paced than Ta-Nehisi Coates’s run, but it offers nothing new. Its major theme – the conflict between royal and democratic authority – is a theme that’s already been explored in almost every other important Black Panther comic. Black Panther ought to be one of Marvel’s flagship titles, but none of the series’ recent writers has been able to replicate the excitement created by the movie.

MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “What Can You Do?”, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Farel Dalrymple. A Tanzanian boy, one of the survivors of the Zanzibar disaster, is recruited into the new MIND MGMT, but it’s not the same one as at the end of the previous series, because his first mission is to kill Meru Marlowe. I’ve been lukewarm about some of Matt Kindt’s recent work, but this issue has the same brilliant use of paratext as the original series, and I love Farel Dalrymple’s draftsmanship. One fairly obvious thing I noticed is that in the ad on the inside back cover, the blue words spell out “This is an actual game, order now.”

DAREDEVIL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto, and “The Island,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt reveals his secret identity to Spider-Man, then tries to leave New York, but he’s stopped by Robert “Goldy” Goldman, who claims to be Matt’s guardian angel. In the backup story, Elektra meets Stick on an island disputed between China and Russia. I still don’t quite understand the whole business with Matt and Mike Murdock. It’s annoying that this series was renumbered, since it still has the same creative team. At least there’s a legacy number on the cover. I just wish Marvel had started using legacy numbering much sooner.

KING CONAN #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Boy in the Tree,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan escapes from Thoth-Amon and Princess Prima and heads across the ocean to unknown lands. Thus ends Marvel’s second run of Conan comics, which didn’t last nearly as long as the first. Jason Aaron was the third important Conan comics writer, after Roy Thomas and Kurt Busiek, but I kind of think that his Conan was too domesticated and too much of a typical superhero. Mahmud Asrar’s artwork in this issue is beautiful.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #39 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro Lopez. In a dream, Carol is put on trial for her crimes against magic. In waking life, Carol slays a giant dragon, then discovers its orphaned baby. Back on Earth, Binary and Jessica Drew fight some zombies, then Lauri-El accuses Binary of abducting Carol. One of the jurors in Carol’s trial is Alriac, the king of the Snatmen. I love the Snats and Snatmen, but as with the aforementioned talking snakes, they’re funnier if we don’t know too much about them.

THE WARD #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Francis Ponce. Nat has to assist an underground troll woman with a difficult childbirth, while preventing some sewer workers from finding out what’s going on. In Nat’s absence, her coworker Luis causes a banshee’s death through a preventable error, and Nat then discovers that Luis is stealing drugs from the pharmacy for his own use. The Luis scenes remind me of Atul Gawande’s writings about medical errors, and overall this series gives the impression that Cavan Scott knows something about medicine. I did not like his previous creator-owned series, Shadow Service, but The Ward is much more interesting.

SLUMBER #5 (Image, 2022) – “The Edwardian,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Stetson goes inside Ed’s head to look for Valkira – I don’t quite recall who Ed is. But when Stetson finds Valkira, the creature takes the form of the daughter that Stetson abandoned. A funny scene in this issue is when in order to be granted access to Ed’s dreams, Stetson has to pay a price of “one ceramic diaper gnome.”

POISON IVY #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. At a truck stop in Montana, Ivy meets another woman who’s also running from the law. Ivy also meditates on climate change and on why she’s not a vegetarian. I love how the truck stop is run by a turbaned man who makes biryani and gulab jamun. This is less farfetched than you’d think; see here. I used to think I didn’t like biryani, but now I’ve developed a passion for it.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Overshoot,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. Douglas finds himself in a pre-apocalyptic alternate world, but he can’t remember his mission. Back in his home reality, the apocalypse is getting even worse. This series is interesting, but it’s less accessible than Campisi or Kaiju Score.

SABRETOOTH #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Magnificent Eight,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth sails away from Krakoa in a boat, accompanied by lots of other villains, including Nanny and Orphan Maker. This just feels like a generic X-Men comic, rather than a work of Victor LaValle. I hope this series gets more interesting.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Diamonds Are Forever,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. This issue focuses on Emma Frost, a horribly unsympathetic character, perhaps even more so than her boyfriend Cyclops.  This issue doesn’t make me like Emma, but it does emphasize some of her positive qualities, including her strength of will and her devotion to her students. Her central tragedy is the death of the Hellions, although I don’t think that incident is mentioned in this issue. In this issue there’s also some more development of the Mr. Sinister plot.

QUESTS ASIDE #3 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. Barrow trains a new employee, then he fights some arsonists who he thinks were sent by an evil wizard, but they reveal that they were really sent by the king. The good thing about this series is that Barrow is a complex and multifaceted character. But other than that, Quests Aside is not grabbing me, and I’m going to finish it only because I already started it.

LEGION OF X #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “We’re All Mad Here,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. Kurt and his friends continue to hunt for the skinjacker. This is another series that I’m not super-impressed with, but at least it’s written in Si Spurrier’s distinctive voice, with his usual grim sense of humor.

ORDINARY GODS #7 (Image, 2022) – “Pentecost,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. One of the “good” gods reveals that she’s worse than the bad gods, and is planning to destroy the earth so the gods can get back to their home dimension. This is an interesting plot twist, but so far, Ordinary Gods has been the least interesting of Kyle Higgins’s current titles. I actually thought it had been cancelled, and was surprised to see it again.

WONDER WOMAN #789 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Part 3,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino & Eduardo Pansica. Dr. Psycho continues promoting his MRA agenda, and manipulates Siegfried into fighting Diana. Etta is kidnapped by Professor Calculus, a revived Golden Age villain, not to be confused with the similarly named character from Tintin. Dr. Psycho is an effective satire of contemporary misogynist culture. This issue has yet another well-drawn but badly-written Young Diana backup story.

MONKEY PRINCE #6 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. We begin with a brief summary of the original Journey to the West, and then Marcus fights a giant crab creature. We also get to see the Dragontown neighborhood of Atlantis, which is a really cool idea. And the dragons are playing xiangqi. At the end of the issue, Sun Wukong himself wakes up in the Phantom Zone. One thing I like about this series is that it draws upon the strangeness of Chinese mythology, including its extensive repertoire of weird and disturbing creatures.

DEADBOX #3 (Vault, 2022) – “Gunz,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Benjamin Tiesma. This issue is mostly about America’s toxic gun culture. It includes a mass shooting, and a movie that’s a gun-themed version of Cars. Also, the protagonist encounters lots of judgmental attitudes from her neighbors. Deadbox is a brutal send-up of the awfulness of rural America. The problem with it is that, like so many other Vault comics, it’s coming out at a glacial pace. Deadbox #3 is the first new issue in over six months. Vault is having serious issues with lateness. There’s at least one Vault series (Giga) whose final issue was never released at all in comic book form. Instead, it was only published in the trade paperback. I have complained about this practice before, because it’s an insult to people who faithfully bought the single issues. 

ABSOLUTION #1 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Not to be confused with Sacrament, another new Peter Milligan comic whose title is a religious term. Absolution is a science fiction title starring Nina, a professional assassin, who has to compete against other assassins or else she’ll be killed. I guess this is an intriguing setup, but after reading this issue I had trouble remembering anything about it. I liked Sacrament #1 better (see my review of it below), though that may just be due to recency bias.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Awareness Month,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The city is plunged into famine and riots when people start investing in bread. Justice Warriors includes some good ideas, I suppose. The idea of speculating on bread is a funny satire of the NFT craze. However, Justice Warriors suffers from a lack of a clear protagonist or a unifying theme. I think that Matt Bors is used to writing in very short formats, and has not yet figured out how to tell an extended story. I just realized that this comic’s title is a pun on Social Justice Warriors.

THE X-CELLENT #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 5,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. A blogger named Toodle Pip investigates Zeitgeist and Mirror Girl. Zeitgeist executes a plot to use the Book of the Vishanti to turn himself into a god. I still have the same complaints about this series as always – it’s dated, and even its heroes are unsympathetic. But X-Cellent is far from the worst comic I’m currently reading.

Older comics, mostly from Heroes Con:

SPIDER-WOMAN #9 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jess, Ben Urich and Porcupine go on a road trip where they have a bunch of funny adventures, and then get captured by a Western-themed supervillain. This isn’t one of the better stories by these creators, but this run of Spider-Woman is quite good. It was one of Javier Rodriguez’s earlier major works, and it helped salvage Dennis Hopeless’s reputation after the debacle of Avengers Arena.

G.I. JOE FRONTLINE #1 (Image, 2002) – “The Mission That Never Was, 1: One If by Land,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Dan Jurgens. The Joes go on a mission to deliver a mysterious package cross-country, and there’s a subplot about Dr. Mindbender. This is a pretty average G.I. Joe comic. Congratulations to Larry Hama on a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction. I met him at Heroes Con and jokingly asked him if he was one of those Marvel guys, in reference to his Facebook post about a driver who tried to pitch a comic idea to him.

BATMAN #116 (DC, 2022) – “Fear State Part 5,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman and his allies fight Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Peace-Keeper 01, a character whose name I had to look up. This comic seems exciting, but I have difficulty understanding James Tynion’s Batman because of the complexity of the plot, and because I’ve been reading it out of order. This issue includes an excellent Batgirls backup story by the same creators as the ongoing series.

THUNDERBOLTS #166 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Ripper Tour,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Declan Shalvey. The time-displaced Thunderbolts find themselves in London in 1888, and of course, Mr. Hyde becomes Jack the Ripper. The other Thunderbolts have to team up with Inspector Abberline to recapture him. This issue seems well-researched, and it also gives me nostalgic memories of From Hell. Declan Shalvey’s art throughout the issue is colored in a grim, gloomy style that’s a contrast to this series’ usual color palette.

SAVAGE DRAGON #97 (Image, 2002) – “Enter: She-Dragon,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. While looking for Rock and Janey’s abducted child, Dragon encounters the Savage World version of She-Dragon. Dragon still misses Jennifer and Angel, so he travels back to the world he originally came from. A problem with this story arc, and Savage Dragon in general, is that all the alternate worlds are impossible to keep straight. I can’t remember which worlds are which, or which characters come from which worlds, and I doubt if anyone else can either, even Erik himself.

WONDER WOMAN #248 (DC, 1978) – “The Crypt of the Dark Commander,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] José Delbo. A crazy army officer resurrects an evil demon that’s been dead for a million years. How this demon came to be buried underneath New York City is not clear to me. This is no better than any other mid-‘70s Wonder Woman story. The most interesting thing about it is Diana’s conversation with Morgan Tracy’s receptionist. The backup story is Tales of the Amazons by Bob Toomey and Maurice Whitman, two creators I associate with companies other than DC.

AIRBOY #16 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Caribbean Rampage Part 2,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. The Airfighters raid a Caribbean island in pursuit of a villain who killed Skywolf’s mother, or tried to. The drug smuggler at the beginning of this issue looks like Harold Hedd. This is a normal-sized comic, with a 13-page Airboy story and a Skywolf backup story, so it seems that by this point, Airboy had abandoned its original gimmick of a lower price in exchange for fewer pages. In the backup story, Skywolf fights the Ku Klux Klan. It’s ironic that Chuck Dixon depicts the KKK as villains, when he himself is no better than them, since he collaborates with V*x D*y.

CHIMICHANGA #1 (Alabtross, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Lula, a bearded girl who works in a circus, discovers an egg that hatches into a monster. She names the monster Chimichanga after her favorite food. This comic is okay, but it’s not as interesting as Eric Powell’s other works.

ARCHIE #206 (Archie, 1971) – various stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. The best story in this issue is the one where Mr. Weatherbee and Mrs. Grundy drive Archie crazy by confusing him about whether or not they want him to look inside a certain room. We never find out what, if anything, is inside the room. Another of the stories makes fun of overly long coats. Looking at Harry Lucey’s art in this issue, I can sort of see why he was such an influence on Jaime Hernandez. My copy of this issue is missing half of the first page.

BATMAN/JUDGE DREDD: JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM #1 (DC, 1991) – untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Simon Bisley. Judge Death and Mean Machine Angel use a “dimension belt” to travel to the DC Universe, where they team up with Scarecrow. Dredd and Anderson have to team up with Batman to defeat the villains. This comic has some excellent artwork and dialogue, and there’s a funny moment that’s an obvious tribute to the ”gaze into the fist of Dredd” panel. The problem with this comic is that it wastes too much space on the supporting characters like Anderson and Judge Death. I’d have liked to see a lot more actual interaction between Batman and Dredd, who have personalities that clash in fascinating ways. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #591 (DC, 1988) – “Aborigine!”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Umbaluru, an old Australian Aboriginal shaman, travels to Gotham to recover his people’s stolen relics. In the process, he kills some of the people who stole them, including a tycoon named Kerry Rollo. (I wondered if this character was based on Kerry Packer, but it may be a coincidence.) I was afraid this story would be very offensive, but it’s actually quite anti-colonial. Although Umbaluru is technically the villain of the story, Wagner and Grant avoid presenting him as savage or barbaric, and they show clear sympathy for him. Even Batman admits at the end of the issue that Umbaluru was justified in killing the thieves, and Batman has to oppose him only because Batman “can make no allowances for righteous murder.” It’s too bad that Umbaluru never appeared again.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #18 (Marvel, 2013) – “Smack to the Future,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. Peter teams up with Spider-Man 2099, who’s gone back in time in search of his own ancestor, Tiberius Stone. As usual this was a fun issue, and this storyline was the only time that Marvel 2099 continuity has been successfully incorporated into the current Marvel universe. I look forward to Dan Slott’s new Spider-Man run, even though the end of his Fantastic Four run was disastrous.

UFOLOGY #6 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. This is the final issue of a miniseries, so I don’t really understand it, but it seems interesting. And Matthew Fox’s art has the same sort of weirdness as Michael Dialynas’s art in The Woods. I didn’t really get into James Tynion until Something is Killing the Children, but he has an extensive body of earlier creator-owned work, and I want to collect all of it.

LAND OF NOD #3 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Jay Stephens. A new version of Jetcat is introduced, and is revealed to be the daughter of the original Jetcat and Space Ape. This plot twist is a little creepy. The new Jetcat is born because her parents are literally the only people in their world, and she grows up having no contact with anyone else, but Stephens doesn’t seem interested in the disturbing implications of any of this. Like other contemporaries of his, such as Mike Allred and Steven Weissman, Jay Stephens made comics that looked childish but were not necessarily aimed at actual children. However, Stephens had far less longevity than Allred, and seeems to be forgotten now.

MS. TREE #16 (Renegade, 1985) – “Runaway Chapter One,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree is contacted by two parents whose teenage daughter has run away, and she has to tell them that there’s no way she can find the girl. Ironically, Ms. Tree then discovers that her own adopted son, Mike Jr, has also run away, and she has to track him down. See below for the other chapters of this story. “Runaway” was not the only ‘80s comic about the phenomenon of runaway teenagers; the other example that comes to mind is New Teen Titans #27-28. There seems to have been a lot of concern at the time about teens running away. I never seem to hear about this problem anymore, though that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a problem.

CEREBUS #114 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Jaka’s Story Prologue,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka recalls her earliest memories, while in the present, she gets annoyed with Rick for his general uselessness. Here and throughout Jaka’s Story, the flashback scenes are narrated in illustrated text. Jaka’s Story may be the point where the series jumped the shark, because it established the pattern where every issue only contained a tiny bit of plot. However, Jaka’s Story was still better than Melmoth or most of the stories after it.

SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #6 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Grifter!” etc., [W/A] Richard Corben. I bought three issues of this series at Heroes Con, but I haven’t read the others yet. I’m not sure why I didn’t order this series when it was coming out. In “The Grifter,” a traveling con man visits a town where everyone mistakes him for “Mr. Parrish,” and the townspeople offer him unlimited food and sex. The catch is that they then go on to sacrifice him in exchange for divine protection. The next story, “Trapped,” is about a fur trapper who’s killed by a female were-creature, and “Birthday” is about a man whose therapist makes him remember that at the age of eight, he murdered his own grandmother. The issue ends with a chapter of “Denaeus,” Corben’s final Den story. I’m glad that Dark Horse has finally announced a collection of Den: Neverwhere, and I hope they go on to reprint the rest of Corben’s work.

BATMAN #12 (DC, 2012) – “Ghost in the Machine,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Becky Cloonan. This is apparently the first issue of Batman drawn by a female artist. It details Batman’s first encounter with Harper Row, later known as Bluebird. After Batman saves Harper and her brother from being beaten by homophobic classmates, Harper returns the favor by improving Batman’s surveillance network. While doing so, she realizes Batman is in danger, and she saves him from Tiger Shark. This may be my favorite Scott Snyder Batman story so far. Harper is a cute character, and the way she helps and then rescues Batman is very clever.

STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #110 (DC, 1968) – “Carnival Caper,” [W] Howard Post, [A] Bob Oksner. Stanley’s babysitter takes him to the carinval, but the monster and the leprechauns cause a lot of havoc. There are two backup stories, one about summer camp, the other about a babysitter. The artists on these are Henry Scarpelli and Win Mortimer. The second backup story is a satire of contemporary folk rock.

FATALE #9 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. In Hollywood in the 1970s, Josephine plots against some kind of satanic cult. I don’t remember much about this issue.

SUPERMAN #168 (DC, 2001) – “With This Ring…”, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. Batman and Lois team up to investigate President Luthor’s hidden agenda, but Superman is obligated to stop them, since he has to protect the President. This issue is extremely fun, and it makes me want to read more comics by these creators. Neither Clark, Lois nor Batman is in the wrong; their conflict comes from their incompatible allegiances. Ed McGuinness’s visaul storytelling is excellent, despite the cartoony way he draws people, and I love how the coloring gets much darker and more monochrome in the Batman sequences.

At this point I went to the Comics Studies Society conference in East Lansing, Michigan, my first comics studies conference since 2019. It was a great time. The following comic was in the grab bag that was given out at the conference:

THE PHANTOM #1 (Moonstone, 2003) – untitled, [W] Ben Raab, [A] Pat Quinn. This comic feels more accurate to Lee Falk’s original mythos, compared to earlier American Phantom comics. It has elements like Mawitaan (formerly Morristown) and the Jungle Patrol. However, Ben Raab’s writing lacks the energy or cleverness of the Swedish-produced Phantom comics that I’ve been reading.

Other older comics:

VELVET #5 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. This comic is mostly a flashback to Velvet’s past history, ending with the night she killed her husband Richard Donovan, wrongly believing him to be a traitor. This comic has excellent writing and art, but its plot is hard to follow because of the multiple time frames.

WAR BEARS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Margaret Atwood, [W/A] Ken Steacy. I had no idea what to expect from this one. I don’t associate Margaret Atwood with stories about fighting bears. In fact this comic is primarily about the wartime Canadian comics industry, and the war bears appear in some inset sequences that are drawn to look like wartime Canadian White comics. I learned about these comics when I went to TCAF, but I haven’t read any of them yet. War Bears #2 seems like a well-researched depiction of wartime Toronto, and it includes a powerful sequence where one of the protagonists learns of his brother’s death in battle. I’m not quite sure what the point of this comic is, but I’m willing to read more of it. 

LASSIE #23 (Dell, 1955) – “The Treasure of Lima” etc., [W] unknown, [A] Ralph Mayo. Three stories set in South America. These stories aren’t bad, but they’re nothing special. At this point in the series, Lassie was owned by a couple named Rocky and Gerry. These characters were created specifically for the comics. Lassie is now associated in the popular imagination with Timmy, but the “boy and his dog” theme was not introduced into the comics until after the TV show began in 1954, and the first boy who owned Lassie was Jeff, not Timmy.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #200 (Marvel, 1976) – “Dawn’s Early Light!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. In the conclusion to the Madbomb storyline, Cap and his allies invade the Taurey estate and defeat William Taurey, the would-be dictator of America. It took me a while to figure out that Taurey is pronounced “Tory,” because he wants to return America to British domination. Kirby’s Captain America was unpopular at the time because it was an extreme departure from Englehart’s run, but this issue is probably the high point of his time on the series. It’s exciting and inspirational, and it’s a nice tribute to America’s bicentennial. 

STRANGEHAVEN #8 (Abiogenesis, 1997) – “Japanese Robot” etc., [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. The centerpiece of this issue is a flashback scene that explains why Strangehaven celebrates Christmas on August 10. The reason is because in 1910, a local child was dying, but wanted one last Christmas before he died, and so for his sake, Christmas was moved up four months. This is a cute and sad scene. Besides that, this issue is full of other interesting random incidents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #966 (DC, 2017) – “A Lonely Place of Living Chapter 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. Tim Drake meets his future self, who’s become the new Batman, and they team up against Doomsday. We soon learn that the future Tim is so badly traumatized that he’s become a control freak, and he decides to kill Batwoman so that his own future can’t come to pass. This issue is both fun and disturbing.

SUICIDE RISK #1 (Boom!, 2013) – “Getting a Bit Short on Heroes,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Elena Casagrande. A cop fights and kills a bunch of supervillains. Then he tries to track down the people who are selling the drug that gave the villains their powers. This is an interesting setup, but I’ve read a few of the later issues of Suicide Risk, and I don’t see how they’re connected to this issue.

QUEEN & COUNTRY #4 (Oni, 2001) – untitled (“Operation Broken Ground, Part 4”), [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Rolston. Tara and her fellow Minders capture some Russian spies, only to watch, unable to do anything, as the spies are set free for political reasons. I really liked this story when I read it in trade paperback form, back in 2002. However, I’ve forgotten most of the details of this storyline – the main thing I remember about it is the moment in issue 1 where Paul says that Tara doesn’t have any family. And Steve Rolston’s art here is unimpressive, compared to that of some of the other artists on this series.

ACTION COMICS #904 (DC, 2011) – “Reign of the Doomsdays Finale,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Axel Gimenez & Ronan Cliquet. Superman and some other superheroes fight a bunch of Doomsdays, and the issue ends with a cute scene where Clark and Lois go on a date. This was the final issue of Action Comics before the New 52, but besides that date scene, it’s not a very interesting issue.

STUMPTOWN #3 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case Part 3,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Matthew Southworth. Dex finds the guitar, but also discovers that someone was using the guitar’s case to smuggle drugs, without the knowledge of its owner. At the end of the issue, Dex finds the drug dealers and pulls a gun on them. There’s also a cute moment where Dex yells at her brother Ansel, then apologizes to him. Dex and Ansel’s relationship is the emotional heart of this series.

(The next comic waiting to be reviewed was Prowler #2, but I have no recollection of having read it, so I’m going to put it back.)

SUPERMAN #137 (DC , 1998) – “The Mutation War,” [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Paul Ryan. This was part of the storyline unofficially known as “The Dominus Effect,” in which each of the four Superman titles was set in a separate reality. The realities in the other three titles were based on the Silver, Golden and Bronze Ages, but Superman #136-139 star Klar Ken T5477, the 30th-century Superman. In this issue he teams up with his timeline’s version of the other Justice Leaguers. Klar Ken is a Silver Age character – his first appearance is reviewed below – and so  this comic has a Silver Age sensibility.

STUMPTOWN #4 (Oni, 2012) – as above. The thieves flee from Dex, and most of the issue is devoted to a car chase, which ends when Dex and Mim drive over a drawbridge. Most of the car chase sequence is depicted with sideways-formatted pages. This issue is exciting, but it feels a bit anticlimactic, and it’s a much quicker read than the first three issues.

FOUR COLOR #959 (Dell, 1958) – “The Little People’s Christmas” etc., [W/A] Walt Scott. I bought this at the Curious Bookshop in East Lansing, during my CSS trip. This store had an impressive selection of other old comics, but most of them were a little too expensive. The stories in this issue are reprinted from Walt Scott’s comic strip The Little People, about some forest-dwelling creatures who can talk to animals. These stories are excessively cute and saccharine, but Walt Scott’s artwork is very charming. His style is similar to that of Walt Kelly, and Don Markstein suggests that The Little People was based on Kelly’s version of The Brownies. Walt Scott died in 1969 and is now totally forgotten, but perhaps he deserves more attention.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.4 (Marvel, 2014) – “Learning to Crawl Part 4,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ramón Pérez. At the start of his career, Spider-Man battles a sound-themed villain named Clayton Cole, aka Clash. This story shows a detailed understanding of the early Lee-Ditko Spider-Man comics, and Ramón Pérez draws this issue in a Ditkoesque style. Although this comic is entertaining, I think there have been too many stories set during Spider-Man’s earliest days – there was this storyline, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Amazing Fantasy #16-18, and I don’t know what else. At some point, it becomes implausible that so many things could have happened to Peter during the intervals between the early issues of ASM. Also, Clash’s costume looks too modern to have been created in 1963.

LOVE FANTASY, JACQUES BOIVIN’S #1 (Renegade, 1987) – “Check-Out Girl,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Jacques Boivin, etc. I bought this at Heroes Con some years ago, but I only read it now because I saw a post about it on social media. I can’t find that post now. The stories in Love Fantasy #1 are all drawn by Jacques Boivin, a Quebecois artist who was most notable for his adaptation of Sylvie Rancourt’s Melody. The first story is about a man who asks out a female cashier at the grocery store She says no, but then when she sees him at his workplace, where he’s a banker, she agrees to a date with him, and they sleep together. This story has rather creepy implications, and in my opinion, men should never hit on women while they’re working. The second story, “The Perfect Guy,” is written by Katherine Collins (under her old name) and is much better. It’s a cute slice-of-life story about a single mom who’s trying to balance parenting, work, and trying to date again. “Royal Con Interlude,” written by Mark Shainblum with additional art by Gabriel Morrissette, is another rather creepy story, about a male comic book artist who’s obsessed with superheroines. This story might be interesting to reread because of its depiction of women in ‘80s comics fandom.

BLACKHAWK #253 (DC, 1982) – “The Private War of Hendrickson,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. Hendrickson, the oldest of the Blackhawks, is losing his teammates confidence, especially when he starts siphoning gas out of captured planes’ gas tanks – there’s a funny scene where Hendrickson siphons gas and then spits it out. Also, he keeps writing letters to his wife, even though she’s dead. We finally learn that there is a method to Hendrickson’s madness. By inspecting the planes’ gas tanks, he finds a hidden Nazi base. And he knows his wife is dead, but he writes to her to keep his morale up. This issue is touching, but I still don’t like Blackhawk as much as this creative team’s other work, and I’m not sure why not. 

THE JAM #2 (Slave Labor, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. Much of this issue takes place at a music gig, and there’s also a subplot about an insane Muslim supervillain. I really like this series’ overall sensibility, including its detailed Canadian setting and its unique style of draftsmanship. However, I still don’t understand just what The Jam is about.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #8 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Deep Down; Down Deep!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. The Goofy Service Jerks interfere with one of Beanish’s sessions with Dreamishness. Then Gran’Ma’Pa is struck by lightning, and the Jerks reappear and announce that a gift is coming. This leads into the appearance of the Pod’l’pool Cuties, who are introduced next issue. This issue is entertaining, but it doesn’t add very much to the Beanworld mythos.

FIRE POWER #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. The protagonist fights the Serpent, who emerged from captivity last issue. As I have observed before, Fire Power is culturally appropriative. Also, its story isn’t very interesting. The main reason to read it is because of Chris Samnee’s mastery of visual storytelling. This issue is full of well-choreographed action sequences.

SAVAGE DRAGON #61 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon and Freak Force defeat Brainiape, an ape with Hitler’s brain. In a hilarious moment, the brain tries to run away on its little legs. Then Barbaric takes Dragon to a bachelor party, which is crashed by Dragon’s ex-girlfriend Rapture. Dragon and Jennifer’s wedding took place in the following issue, but was never completed because Jennifer was replaced by an impostor, and then killed. Dragon finally married a different version of Jennifer, from an alternate dimension, in issue 104. See my previous comments about this series’ convoluted continuity.

THOR #335 (Marvel, 1983) – “Runequest’s End,” [W] Alan Zelenetz, [A] Mark D. Bright. Thor, Sif and Keith Kincaid go on a quest for the Possessor’s Runestaff, which may be named after the similar artifact from Michael Moorcock’s Hawkmoon series. This is a generic issue, with no interesting characterization or plot twists, and it barely feels like a Thor comic. After one more issue, Alan Zelenetz was replaced by Walt Simonson, whose Thor run was perhaps the greatest Marvel comic of the ‘80s. Thor #336 and #337 probably represent the greatest increase in quality from one issue to another in Marvel’s history.

THE FADE OUT #5 (Image, 2015) – “The Broken Ones,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Gil and his coworkers travel to Ojai for some filming, and a lot of drama happens. In particular, an old producer, Al Kamp, ties an actress to a tree and tries to photograph her. This issue is exciting, though also confusing because it’s hard to distinguish between flashbacks and present-day sequences. 

BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Back in Black,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mike Perkins, etc. This annual consists of three stories by past Black Panther writers. The trouble is that I don’t much like any of these writers. As noted elsewhere in these reviews, I find Priest’s writing to be overly confusing. Don McGregor is the worst overwriter in the history of comic books, and Reggie Hudlin is just bad. As a result, reading this issue was a chore. The Hudlin story is especially annoying because it’s about a utopian future with no conflict.

REDNECK #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. I couldn’t follow this issue. It’s another chapter of the series’ boring plot about a feud between vampire families.

BLACK CLOUD #6 (Image, 2017) – “Hearts and Minds, Zelda,” [W] Ivan Brandon w/ Jason Latour, [A] Paul Reinwand. This issue at least sort of explains what this series is about: the protagonist has the ability to access an alternate world where ideas live. But that idea was done much more effectively in Sandman and Promethea. Other than that, this is another bad issue of an unreadable comic. I checked the Goodreads reviews for this comic, and it looks like I’m not the only person who couldn’t understand it.

WHAT IF? #15 (Marvel, 1979) – “What If Someone Else Had Become Nova?”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] various. This issue consists of three stories in which three different people become Nova. In the first story, drawn by Walt Simonson, the new Nova is a police officer’s widow. ‘In the second story, drawn by Carmine Infantnio, it’s a homeless man. In the third story, drawn by Ross Andru, it’s Peter Parker. I don’t care much about Nova, but all three of these stories are more interesting than I expected, and it’s worth noting that this issue’s writer and all three of its artists are Hall of Famers. I’m actually going to discuss Nova in my classes this semester, because I’m having my students read Dale Jacobs’s article on comics and literacy sponsorship.

THUNDERBOLTS #20 (Marvel, 1998) – “Decisions Part 1: Turning Point,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. This is one of my less preferred Busiek titles, largely because most issues are talkfests, and there are things about Kurt’s style of dialogue that annoy me. Or maybe my problem with the original Thunderbolts is that I don’t especially like any of the characters. Or maybe the trouble is that I was once given a bunch of issues of Fabian Nicieza’s Thunderbolts for free, and I found them to be just average. Anyway, in this issue the Thunderbolts fight the Crismson Cowl’s new Masters of Evil, and then they’re rescued by Dreadknight. When they can’t decide on a new leader, Dreadknight reappears and reveals himself to be Hawkeye. After Kurt left the series, Fabian revealed that the Crimson Cowl was Justin Hammer’s daughter Justine, but Kurt wanted her to be Hank Pym’s former lab assistant Alice Nugent. According to a comment here, the reason for the change was just that Kurt left the series before he could reveal the Crimson Cowl’s identity.

NEXUS #62 (First, 1989) – “Rip Boom!”, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Greg Guler. Stan, Horatio and Sundra fight a giant cyborg that looks like a fat man. This issue is not very interesting, and it alludes to Mike Baron’s conservative politics, in that Stan mentions that he wrote a book called “Reagan, the Last Liberal.” Though I’m not sure just how this reference is to be interpreted. It’s hard for me to read anything by Mike Baron now, because he’s such an unpleasant person. This issue includes a Judah the Hammer backup story by Ian Carney and Steve Epting, but Judah only appears at the very end.

SUPERMAN #187 (DC, 2002) – “Ending Battle Part 5: After School Special,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Pascual Ferry. While searching for Manchester Black, Superman has to fight his way through a horde of other villains. Pascual Ferry’s art in this issue is exciting, but it’s annoying how on the splash page, the background is blurred out to the point of invisibility. Like, the artist went to all the effort to draw that background, and then the colorist just blurred it? Other than that, this is just an average issue.

BATMAN #470 (DC, 1991) – “Of Gods and Men,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. In a War of the Gods crossover, Batman seeks to recover a stolen Themysciran goblet from Maxie Zeus. This issue is notable because it guest-stars a supporting character from George Perez’s Wonder Woman, Ed Indelicato.

I went back to Heroes after a three-week absence, so there was a huge stack of comics waiting for me. There were also three 2000 AD prog packs, but I left those in my file, intending to buy them on the next trip.

ONCE AND FUTURE #28 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The battle continues, and Gran blows up an undead Winston Churchill with a rocket launcher. Duncan and the Merry Men play King Lear backwards, releasing the original Lir. But just as the heroes are executing their plan, the Green Knight reappears and cuts Rose in half. This of course is not what’s supposed to happen. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight swings at Gawain twice and misses, and then the third time he wounds Gawain lightly on the neck. I’m excited to see what happens next.

NIGHTWING #94 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Geraldo Borges. Dick participates in a sting operation that leads to the arrest of Blüdhaven’s police commissioner. Mayor Zucco chooses Maggie Sawyer as the new commissioner. Blockbuster tells the mayor that Electrocutioner is the mole in their organization, but this proves to be a trap: as soon as the mayor calls Dick to tell him about this, Electrocutioner zaps her. Blockbuster is a scary villain, though as others have noted, he’s very similar to the Kingpin. Geraldo Borges is an adequate fill-in artist for Bruno Redondo.

TWIG #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. The Horned Beast agrees to sacrifice itself for Twig, but Twig doesn’t have the heart ot kill it. The next item they need is the song of the Boxed Loxs, but in order to get that, they need to unlock the Boxed Loxs’s box, and that seems rather unsafe. Twig does manage to get the song, and his next destination is the moon; however, he’s become pessimistic about his chances of succeeding. I still absolutely love this series. In this issue, I especially like the image of a mysterious creature in a locked box, and it’s almost disappointing when we see what’s inside the box.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #25 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 5,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Gabi takes Erica’s stuffed octopus and goes looking for more monsters, and Erica and Riqui have to save her. Meanwhile, Ms. Cutter cruelly murders Big Gary. Yet again we see that the Order of St. George is far worse than the monsters they’re killing. The British woman kills Big Gary in cold blood, just out of sadism. There’s no way this can be justified by the Order of St. George’s mission, even if you believe their bullshit claims about how many lives they’ve saved. A funny line in this issue is “Do not listen to the octopus. It is going to get you killed.”

DO A POWERBOMB #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The alien dude, Necro, tells Lona that he’s holding the tournament because he loves pro wrestling – although he doesn’t realize that pro wrestling is fake. Lona needs a partner to enter the tournament, and she recruits Cobrasun, because he wants to resurrect Lona’s mother as much as Lona does. But the twist ending is that Cobrasun, who killed Lona’s mother, is really her father. This is just about a perfect comic book. The action sequences are exciting, the dialogue is funny and convincing, and the linework is beautiful. I really want to read some of Johnson’s   earlier work.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Usual Spot,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. The two brothers can’t agree on whether to fight for ownership of The Domain, the father is too old to care, but the mother surprisingly wants to pursue the lawsuit. Her reaction is perhaps the most interesting. She spent the best years of her life caring for Miles and David while Syd slaved over his drawing board, and she wants him to have something to show for it. Miles gets himself thrown out of the Singular (i.e. Marvel) offices when he unwisely reveals that his father has a claim to own The Domain. Then we learn that Miles is so invested in this case because he’s in some kind of trouble. This series is fascinating, especially because of the depth of its characterization. The four members of the Dallas family are all very different, and their differences drive the plot. And the art is full of Chip Zdarsky’s trademark hidden messages.

RADIANT BLACK #16 (Image, 2022) – “Ambush,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Marcelo Costa. While Radiant Black is performing at a high school basketball game, he’s ambushed by Shift and several other villains. Shift offers Marshall a business deal, which Marshall obviously turns down. The villains almost kill Marshall, but Existence saves him. This issue is entertaining, but not as groundbreaking as earlier issues of the series.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #12 (Boom!, 2022) – “That’s the Rule,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. We begin with a flashback to the past history of the pilot, Dane Kahoe, and in the process we learn about what’s happened since the second storyline. Dane and Thierry-9 arrive at Malik’s Flight, but a Malikist army has preceded them there, led by Newdawn Bristow, daughter of Honorhim. This series is an excellent piece of space opera, but it’s hard to keep all the characters straight, and it’s also hard to remember the series’ internal timeline. Each sequence is given a date, but these dates are no help when I can’t even remember what year it’s currently supposed to be.

THE CLOSET #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. At a gas station, Thom meets an old man and vents to him about his marital problems. In this conversation, Thom reveals that he himself is the closet monster. He hid some photographs of his affair partner in Jamie’s closet, and while looking for those photos, he woke Jamie up, thus inspiring Jamie’s recurrent monster dreams. This scene is also interesting because of the old man. He initially seems like an example of the Magic Negro trope, but at the end of the conversation, we learn that he has his own story: he’s suffering from cancer, and Thom doesn’t know this because he was too self-centered to ask. Afterward, Thom and Jamie finally arrive in Portland, but he and Maggie instantly get in a fight when Maggie realizes that Thom has lost Jamie’s suitcase. Jamie goes to his room and retreats into the closet. The Closet is a small masterpiece. It seems like a supernatural horror story, but it’s really about something even worse than monsters: a horrible father who destroys his family through his own weakness.

I HATE THIS PLACE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. (Not Toplin, I was spelling it wrong before.) Gabrielle, Trudy and Dante Howitzer fight a pack of monstrous four-legged spiders. Then they encounter a giant man with antlers. Like much of Starks’s work, I Hate This Place is effective because it blends comedy with horror.

FARMHAND #19 (Image, 2022) – “Momma’s Bones,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Monica Thorne’s servants, including Abigail and Riley, try to dig up Anna’s grave. (Anna’s headstone shows her date of birth as 1985, which seems far too late.) The villains succeed in exhuming the coffin, but it’s empty. This issue is mostly a long action sequence, and I don’t recall much about it.

USAGI YOJIMBO #29 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. While traveling, Usagi and Yukichi meet a courier who is immediately murdered by Komori ninja. Oddly, the ninja take only the courier’s jewel box, leaving behind the jewels in it. Usagi and Yukichi head to Merchant Awase’s shop so they can deliver him the jewels, along with the green dragon from last issue. But someone has already killed Merchant Awase and destroyed all the boxes in his store. The mystery is solved when Chizu shows up and explains that the jewel box contains a document that incriminates Lord Hikiji. But now Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu have to take the message to the capital, while themselves being pursued by the Komori ninja. This is a fascinating start to a new storyline.

BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Space for Small Things,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask tells Bee that she actually died in the cave, hence her lack of memories after that point. The Hollow and the Snitch both harass Tyler some more. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and looking back on my previous reviews, I see that I had the same complaint about the first two issues. This miniseries has some fascinating characterization, but it’s not nearly as fast-paced as the first miniseries.

LITTLE MONSTERS #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In the opening scene, we see just how long the vampires have been around: the entire city is covered with Romie’s childish graffiti. This scene is a skillful use of the series’ limited color palette. Then the kids divide into two sides, based on whether they’re willing to kill humans. At CSS, I heard someone say that Jeff Lemire was putting out too much material. I suppose you could say that, but his work is consistently high in quality, with a few exceptions like Berserker Unbound.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #7 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part 2,” [W] Sam Johns w/ James Tynion IV, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This issue begins with a story about a woman who lost seven children in a flood. Sadly, this is a true story (source). Then the protagonist meditates on what happens when you tie a string to an ant. This issue is evocative, but it doesn’t develop the plot at all.

RADIANT RED #5 (Image, 2022) – “Crime and Punishment,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Satomi manages to escape from Shift and his boss Margo, but her house is destroyed in the process. Satomi finally dumps Owen, then turns herself into the police. This was an excellent miniseries; it turned one of Radiant Black’s best supporting characters into an equally effective protagonist. At times in this series it seemed like Satomi and Owen’s character arcs were going in opposite directions, with Owen redeeming himself while Satomi descended into villainy, but by the end of this issue Satomi has also started her path to redemption. I’d like to know what happens to her next.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #1 (IDW, 2022) – “The Trap,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Ruby Ma Ning, or “Ma,” is the leader of a team of female convict firefighters. While her team is fighting a fire, one of them reveals that her former employer’s house, containing a fortune in cryptocurrency, is in the path of the fire. Ma has to decide if the risk of stealing the crypto is justified by the potential change it could bring to her team’s lives, and eventually she decides the answer is yes. But in a flashforward sequence, we learn that Ma and her entire team are going to be murdered. This is a spectacular debut issue. The basic idea of a comic about inmate firefighters is already fascinating. The idea of prisoners fighting fires is a basic paradox, since these people are horribly exploited: they risk their lives in exchange for almost no pay (although I’ve heard that prisoners still prefer firefighting to other types of prison labor). The heist storyline makes this series even more exciting, but what’s really impressive about it is Hayden Sherman’s art. His draftsmanship is detailed and attractive – I particularly like how he draws faces – and his page layouts are both innovative and dramatic. This series was already optioned for TV, and no wonder.

ROGUE SUN #6 (Image, 2022) – “Family Matters,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan’s mom forces him to choose between her and his dad, and he grudgingly chooses his dad, taking his mom to be imprisoned in a crystal. This is a deliberately unsatisfying outcome because Dylan’s dad is to blame for his mom’s villainy, and after the fight, Dylan refuses any further help from Marcus and goes to live with his stepmother. Also, Dylan gives up his habit of bullying. Dylan’s character arc in this storyline is fascinating. At the beginning of this series, he’s on the path to becoming as bad as his father. It’s only through encountering Marcus’s ghost, and discovering what an awful man Marcus was, that Dylan learns better.

BATMAN #126 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Two,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman and the Bat-family fight Failsafe, which appears to be an unstoppable robot that Bruce created without knowing he was doing so. At the end, Damian is confronted by what seems to be an evil Batman in a  purple and red costume. Failsafe reminds me of the Fury from Alan Moore’s Captain Marvel, because it seems totally unstoppable. Nightwing makes a cameo appearance in this issue, and steals the show as usual. In the backup story, Catwoman attends the reading of the Penguin’s will, in which the Penguin leaves his estate to two previously unknown children.

THE NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM #1 (DC, 2022) – “The New Adventures of Someone Else,” [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Doc Shaner’s artwork in this issue is beautiful as ever. His work is impressive because he’s good at just about everything, especially facial expressions and action sequences. However, Josie Campbell’s prose style in this issue was annoying, to the point where it became hard for me to concentrate on the art. The Beat liked this comic better than I did, and perhaps I was judging it too harshly. Flipping through it again, I do like the scene with the talking rabbit, and I think Mary Marvel is an excellent character who needs far more exposure.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Empire of the Spider Part III,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Alberto Foche. Miles’s battle with Selim continues, and the shield around Brooklyn is deactivated. Saladin is leaving this series after two more issues. That may not be a bad thing, because it seems as if he’s running out of ideas. I believe this is the only comic book he’s currently writing, and I wonder what he’ll do next. Maybe now he’ll have time to finish the sequel to Throne of the Crescent Moon. I still think of him as primarily a prose writer, but the bulk of his work has been in comics.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Bill shows Madison his vault, which includes a complete run of Chaste, the magazine published by the Bogeyman impostor from Sandman #14. This is a nice throwback to a classic story. Agony and Ecstasy arrive at Bill’s place, and Bill betrays Madison to them, but then the Corinthian comes to crash the party. This is my least favorite of James Tynion’s current comics, but it’s not bad.

POISON IVY #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy helps a woman do some gardening, then continues on her itinerary, after an encounter with a monster that may have been sent by Jason Woodrue. The woman Ivy helps is another compelling supporting character, much like the fugitive from issue 2.

GOLDEN RAGE #1 (Image, 2022) – “Chaos,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. A young women finds herself on an island full of old women, who, despite their politeness and affection for cats, are also extremely dangerous. It seems that the women were all exiled to the island because they were post-menopausal, although I didn’t get that until I read this review. Then the island is attacked by “Red Hats.” I love the idea of a comic about action grandmas, and that idea is well-executed here. Across most types of popular narrative, elderly female protagonists are very rare unless they’re witches, so a comic like this one is very welcome.

THE DEAD LUCKY #1 (Image, 2022) – “It’s Not the Good That Die Young,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Bibi Lopez-Yang, a veteran of Chinese and Mexican descent, is now living in San Francisco, which is under the control of an oppressive megacorporation called Morrow. This corporation is also trying to push out Bibi’s parents from their restaurant. Morrow claims that their protection is necessary, or else San Francisco will be taken over by the “Salvation Gang.” Also, Bibi has some kind of superpowers, and she’s haunted by the ghosts of her dead comrades. This series has several fascinating premises. As a female veteran and an intersectional minority, Bibi is a unique protagonist, and this series also seems like a logical extrapolation from the current state of San Francisco. I understand that San Francisco has already been taken over by tech companies to the point where it’s unrecognizable and unaffordable. I think this series is a Radiant Black spinoff, but it has little to do with any of the other titles in that franchise.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Malkuth: The Neutral Zone” (if that’s supposed to be the title), [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The late Doctor Strange’s final spell summons a new team of Defenders, among whom the only recurring character from the previous miniseries is Taaia. The other new Defenders are Blue Marvel, Loki, America Chavez, and Tigra, a character who I really like, since I’m a cat person. Eternity sends the new Defenders outside their current universe so they can fight a threat to the universe itself. That threat proves to be the Beyonder. I spoiled this for myself by looking at the last page of the issue – which I did because the cover of the issue tells you that there’s a spoiler on the last page – but it’s a clever plot twist. As in the previous Defenders miniseries, Al Ewing’s writing is witty, and Javier Rodriguez’s artwork, especially his page layouts, is phenomenal. I wonder why this miniseries doesn’t have a legacy number. There have been about ten different series with “Defenders” in the title, and I don’t think any of them have had legacy numbering. (Update: John Jackson Miller points out that the only titles that have legacy numbers are the ones that were renumbered during the 2017 Marvel Legacy event.)

SHE-HULK #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. Jen fights a mentally disabled man who’s obsessed with Jack of Hearts, and then she and Jack go on a date. At the end, we discover that the man’s caretaker is in fact his wife. I wonder what the story is there. These two characters remind me of Ajax and Atalanta from the Pantheon, but surely they can’t be them. I could have sworn I read that Rainbow Rowell was going to write another Marvel comic, but perhaps I was mistaken.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS: AFTERSCHOOL #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Storkening,” [W] Kate Herron & Briony Redman, [A] Leila Leiz. An exciting horror story based on a ridiculous premise. High schooler Leah discovers that she’s pregnant. According to a myth, when a girl gets pregnant but doesn’t want to keep it, she’s hunted by a monstrous stork. Since this is a horror comic, the myth proves to be true, and Leah has to save herself from the stork in order to end her pregnancy. As noted at the beginning and end of the issue, after this story was written, it became far more relevant than its writers had intended. In light of the Supreme Court’s recent abominable decision, the idea of a monster that forces girls to bear unwanted children no longer seems quite so farfetched.

ORCS: THE CURSE #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. We start with another Drod story, then Zamma (the old hag) brews a potion, but Bog drinks it, and it causes every female orc to be irresistibly attracted to him. Zamma and her daughter and grandchild have to work with the dwarves to break the curse. After the curse is broken, it seeks out the evil wizard from last issue. A nice moment in this issue is when the curse recognizes the trans male ninja orc as a man, not a woman. Also, this issue deepens Zamma’s character by showing that she used to be the chief of the tribe, but she got her people killed.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #2 (Image, 2022) – “Miracle of Love,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Black Flamingo tries to rescue the angel from his kidnapper, Mr. Scar, but Mr. Scar is invulnerable to Sebastian’s magical tricks, and he shoots Sebastian dead, or so it seems. This issue didn’t make as big an impression on me as issue 1, but I liked it. I particularly like the party scene where Sebastian meets some old acquaintances, including a ghost in a BDSM suit.

On August 7 I went to another Charlotte Comicon. At this convention I tried to look for older back issues, because I felt that at Heroes Con I had mostly been buying recent back issues. I also resolved to try to spend all the money I’d brought, and to be more willing to pay $5 or more for individual comics. I was very pleased with the comics I got, such as:

AVENGERS #34 (Marvel, 1966) – “The Living Laser!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. In his first appearance, the Living Laser tries to kidnap the Wasp so he can win her away from Hank Pym. I think this series got better when Roy Thomas and John Buscema took over, but this is a fun issue anyway. Don Heck’s art is quite impressive, especially his spotting of blacks and his depictions of the Living Laser’s machinery. His reputation has suffered because he wasn’t Kirby or Ditko or Buscema, but he wasn’t bad either. A minor continuity note is that the Living Laser’s fiancee, who appears in this issue, is named Lucy Barton, but it’s never been suggested that she’s related to Clint Barton.

BATMAN #243 (DC, 1972) – “The Lazarus Pit!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. A classic, though not as much of one as “The Demon Lives Again!” in the next issue. In this issue, Batman fights a martial artist named Ling, then he goes looking for Ra’s al Ghul. A memorable scene is when Batman grabs Talia by the wrist, and then Molly Post whacks him from behind with her skis. Molly Post was an intriguing character who only appeared in this storyline, and some writer brings him back. The high point of this issue is the final scene, where Ra’s al Ghul rises from the Lazarus Pit after having been dead (BTW I don’t think we’re ever told how he died). The panel with the line “A mirthless, insane joy glittering in his eyes!” is unforgettable.

SHOWCASE #64 (DC, 1966) – “The Ghost of Ace Chance!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Jim Corrigan’s body is possessed by the ghost of a dead gambler, and the Spectre has to go on a mystical adventure to get his body back. This issue is full of the sort of fantastic weirdness that Gardner Fox liked; there’s one scene where the Spectre fights a group of red-robed alchemists armed with the ring of Gyges and the trident of Paracelsus. Gardner Fox is remembered as a superhero writer, but he was also an SFF writer, and that influence shows up all across his comics work. I’d be curious to read his prose work, such as Kothar, Barbarian Swordsman. As for the art in this issue, Murphy Anderson is not well remembered as a Spectre artist, but his art here is enjoyable.

LITTLE ARCHIE #37 (Archie, 1966) – “Ski-Bee” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling. Sadly this issue includes just one Bob Bolling story, and it’s a minor work. The plot is that Archie keeps coming to school late because he always takes the scenic route, and then when he tries to come to school on time, he makes Mr. Weatherbee late as well. The other stories are all by Dexter Taylor, including the cover story, in which Chic Cooper is trying to push a stalled car off of train tracks.

THOR #145 (Marvel, 1967) – “Abandoned on Earth!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Odin removes Thor’s powers and leaves him stranded on Earth, and then Thor is forced to work for the Circus of Crime as their new strongman. As is often the case with Lee and Kirby’s Thor, this story is full of gorgeous art, but its plot is trite. In the Tales of Asgard backup story, the Warriors Three help Prince Alibar liberate Hogun’s homeland, Zanadu, from the tyrant Mogul. Alibar and Zanadu are loosely based on the Arabian Nights, but the influence is so subtle that I just thought Zanadu was a generic Oriental setting.

SUGAR & SPIKE #94 (DC, 1971) – “The Mixed-Up Mix-Up”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. This issue introduces Raymond, who I believe was the series’ first and only black character. Its cover looks racist, but is actually not, at least to the extent that I can judge this. The point of the joke is not that Raymond is black, but that Spike and Raymond are obviously different. In the story that introduces Raymond, Sugar’s mother picks up Raymond from a bus stop, mistaking him for her nephew, and chaos ensues. This story is kind of problematic because it seems as if the adults can’t tell Raymond apart from Sugar or Spike. That’s a mild sort of colorblind racism: it’s not racist to notice that people have different skin tones. Though I guess the joke is that adults can only recognize babies by their clothing. Other than that, Raymond and his mother are entirely non-stereotypical characters (though, again, I can’t judge that). Mayer grew up long before the civil rights era, and he deserves some credit for engaging with race in a respectful way.

YOUNG LOVE #31 ((Prize, 1962) – “Go Fight Your Heart!”, [W] unknown, [A] Dick Ayers w/ Joe Simon. This is the only Prize or Crestwood comic in my collection. It’s a standard example of the romance comics format. Two of the stories are particularly worth mentioning. In “Hello, Darling – Goodbye!”, a truck stop waitress has two suitors, her boring boss and a romantic truck driver. In the end she learns that the truck driver is romancing lots of other women in other truck stops, and she marries her boss instead. In “High Hopes,” Audrey marries Alec, who claims to be a writer, but has never sold anything and is unwilling to work. Audrey works herself to the bone to support him, until finally she demands that he get a real job, and he walks out on her. Afterward, Audrey edits Alec’s novel until it’s publishable, and they reconcile. The story ends by suggesting that Audrey and Alec’s marriage, like Alec’s novel, is salvageable, but it also suggests that Audrey was right to stay married to Alec, and I vehemently disagree. Alec is a lazy, toxic jerk who refuses to work because he thinks it’s beneath him, and he owes his entire career to his wife’s support and emotional labor. There are lots of men who act like him, and very few of them ever achieve anything.

THE FLASH #175 (DC, 1967) – “The Race to the End of the Universe!”, [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Ross Andru. Some aliens force Superman and the Flash to compete in a race across the universe. After a series of wild plot twists, we learn that the “aliens” are really Reverse Flash and Abra Kadabra, and the race ends inconclusively; from different angles it looks like each of the two heroes crossed the finish line first. This issue’s plot is far too convoluted, but all of the Superman-Flash races were classic stories. Though in my opinion the Flash should always be faster than Superman. Otherwise, the Flash would have no powers that Superman doesn’t have.

THE WOODS #16 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. I bought a lot of these at the convention. The Woods is difficult to read out of order because of the complexity of the plot and the huge number of characters and plot elements. Besides that, it’s a fascinating series. In this issue, two of the high school kids run for mayor of the human town.

FOUR COLOR #739 (Dell, 1956) – “Luke Short’s Bounty Guns,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Mort Drucker. As usual I was looking for Four Colors at the convention, but this was the only one I could find at a price I was willing to pay. Unusually, this issue is adapted from a novel, not a film or a TV show. I had never heard of Luke Short before, but Wikipedia says that he was a popular Western novelist and that nine of his novels were filmed. Bounty Guns, which was not filmed, is about a bounty hunter who’s hired to figure out which of two feuding clans, the Bollings and the Shields, was responsible for the murder of a gold prospector. The twist is that neither of the clans was responsible; instead it was the bounty hunter’s own client, who hired him as part of a plot to steal the prospector’s claim. This is a reasonably entertaining Western story, and Mort Drucker was a skilled Western artist, though he’s now remembered exclusively for his Mad Magazine work.

TEEN TITANS #29 (DC, 1970) – “Captives!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Nick Cardy. The Titans team up with Hawk and Dove against Ocean Master and some aliens. This issue’s plot is mostly driven by Hawk and Dove’s conflicts over pacifism. Nick Cardy’s art is incredible, as always, though I wish this issue had featured Wonder Girl more prominently. I used to see Steve Skeates’s posts on Facebook often, but I haven’t heard from him in years. However, just before writing this review, I saw a public Facebook post which showed that he’s alive and safe.

SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #7 (Marvel, 1964) – “The Court-Martial of Sgt. Fury!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Fury is court-martialed for refusing an order to attack a German ammo depot. Afterward, he develops amnesia and can’t remember why he refused the order. In the end Fury gets his memory back and vindicates himself. This is a really fun issue. Despite being a war comic, it reads just like a Marvel superhero comic, and its central mystery is intriguing. A surprising moment in this issue is when Dum Dum Dugan reads a letter from his mother-in-law. I hadn’t even realized he was married. It seems that his distaste for his mother-in-law was a running joke, but his wife never appeared until Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (1989), where she was promptly killed. Dum Dum also has at least one grandson, but we don’t know how many children he has, let alone their names or genders.

BLOOD ON THE MOON #1 (Last Gasp, 1978) – untitled, [W/A] Jack Jackson. This was the third part of Jack Jackson’s Comanche Moon trilogy, a historical narrative about Cynthia Ann Parker and her son Quanah. This issue chronicles the Comanche’s brave but doomed resistance against the United States, which ended with their confinement to a reservation. Jaxon’s artwork is gorgeous, blending John Severin’s style with the underground aesthetic, and his narrative is well-researched. He also shows clear sympathy with the Comanches and Kiowas, unlike in his later work Lost Cause, which was rather racist. (Jaxon claimed he was just trying to write it from the Confefderate perspective, but that’s no excuse.) My complaint is that this comic relies too much on caption boxes for narration, and it sometimes feels like an illustrated prose history. One thing that makes this comic enjoyable is Jaxon’s relatable, down-to-earth portrayal of the Comanche people, whose dialogue is written in the style of 1970s Americans. But I wish this comic had had more characterization and less narration.

SUPERMAN #181 (DC, 1965) – “The Super-Scoops of Morna Vine!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. The Daily Planet hires a new female reporter who’s able to get scoops that Lois and Clark can’t, but her secret is that she’s getting the scoops using a destroyed Superman robot that her father repaired. This story is typical Weisingerian nonsense. “The Superman of 2965!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Curt Swan. This story is much more interesting because it’s the first appearance of Klar Ken T5477, who reappears in Superman v2 #137. Klar Ken is very similar to Clark Kent, but the idea of a generational lineage of Supermen is really interesting, and has not been explored sufficiently. I first encountered Klar Ken in a fanfic written by DarkMark and the late Dannell Lites, and I assumed he was created for that fanfic. Until reading Superman #137, I didn’t realize he was an actual DC character. There are some obvious contradictions between the 30th century as depicted in Klar Ken’s stories and in the Legion of Super-Heroes stories, and part of the purpose of Dannell Lites’s fanfic was to explain those contradictions.

MY LOVE #7 (Marvel, 1970) – “Did I Make the Wrong Choice?”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Socialite Valerie Van Dyne decides to marry a poor piano teacher, despite her family’s disdain. This is a boring story, but Big John’s artwork is beautiful. Valerie Van Dyne of  course has the same name and social background as Janet Van Dyne. Probably Stan just forgot he’d already used the name Van Dyne elsewhere, but the name itself must have been inspired by the surnames of New York’s Dutch aristocracy, such as Vanderbilt, Van Cortlandt and Van Rensselaer. The other stories in this issue are reprints with updated art.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #16 (Dell, 1965) – “Welcome Home,” [W/A] John Stanley. “Thirteen Going on Eighteen number sixteen” is a funny issue number. This issue is full of early teenage drama. In the first story, Val worries that Billy hasn’t called her immediately upon come from vacation. In the second story, Judy misinforms Val that she’s seen Billy with another girl at the beach, and so on. Like Little Lulu, Thirteen Going on Eighteen has the same formula in every issue, but it’s a formula that works well.

DARK KNIGHTS OF STEEL #2 (DC, 2022) – “Distant Thunder,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Jasmine Putri. A medieval-themed Elseworlds version of the DC Universe. This particular issue focuses on the Black Lightning character and his family. This issue is written in Tom Taylor’s usual thrilling style. I should have been reading this series from the beginning, but I think it’s too late to start reading it now, and I’ll just try to collect all the back issues.

JONNY QUEST #29 (Comico, 1988) – “Kings of the West Part Two,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel et al. An adventure story about a feud between two Old West theme parks. This issue’s plot is so complicated that I had to reread issue 28 to have any hope of understanding it, and even then I was confused. Besides that, this is a good issue of an excellent series. This issue has a couple funny moments involving Race Bannon: there’s one scene where a lizard crawls all over his face, and another scene where a man breaks a chair over Race’s head, with no effect on Race at all.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 1969) – “And a Child Shall Lead You!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This is an important issue because it’s the one where Mar-Vell becomes linked to Rick through the nega-bands, so that when one of them is on Earth, the other is in the Negative Zone. Throughout the early part of this series, Captain Marvel’s status quo was constantly in flux, and he never had a consistent premise or identity. By introducing Rick into the series, Roy finally found a version of the character that worked, and it’s this version of Mar-Vell that’s best remembered. In hindsight it seems as though Mar-Vell and Rick always shared a body, even though that idea was not part of Mar-Vell’s original conception. In addition, Gil Kane’s page layouts, action sequences and draftsmanship in this issue are amazing.

G.I. JOE #3 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Trojan Gambit,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Herb Trimpe. In the bowels of the Pit, a captured Cobra robot comes to life and tries to escape into the outside world, so that it can broadcast the Pit’s location to Cobra. On the above-ground level of the Pit, Hawk is hosting the “chaplain’s assistants’ social tea,” and he has to prevent any of the guests from noticing that something strange is going on below. This is a masterfully crafted story. Larry Hama creates lots of suspense about whether the Joes will be able to destroy the robot and keep their location secret, and the above-ground scenes are great for comic relief. The guests at the tea party keep hearing strange noises and smelling strange smells, and Hawk and Scarlett, who are attending the party, have to keep coming up with excuses. In the end, the underground and above-ground plots intersect when the last of the robot’s drones makes it all the way into the room where the party is held, and Scarlett stomps on it.

(The next comic I read was Thor #188, but then I discovered that I’d already read that issue last year.)

KAMANDI #30 (DC, 1975) – “UFO. The Wildest Trip Ever!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Some aliens abduct Kamandi and Ben Boxer and take them to a graveyard full of human artifacts. This issue doesn’t have much of a plot, and its lack of intelligent animals is unfortunate, but as usual Kirby’s artwork is spectacular. Kamandi was perhaps the most fun series from the later part of Kirby’s career.

VELVET #10 (Image, 2015) – “The Secret Lives of Dead Men,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. While on a train, Velvet escapes from some police who are trying to arrest her, but then she falls into a further trap. This issue includes some thrilling action sequences, but this series’ overall plot is very hard to understand. After I collect all of Velvet, I’d like to reread the whole series in a couple sittings, if I ever have the time. On the letters page, Brubaker shows his good taste by recommending Tim Powers’s novel Declare.

BATMAN #92 (DC, 2020) – “Their Dark Designs Part 7,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Guillem March. This issue is the second full appearance of Punchline, and my copy is a variant edition where the cover is a portrait of Punchline. As often with James Tynion’s Batman, this comic’s plot is very convoluted and confusing. It includes one plotline where the Riddler turns Gotham into a giant crossword puzzle, and another plotline where Catwoman and Harley Quinn fight the Underbroker.

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #6 (Gold Key, 1963) – “The Impostor,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Frank Bolle. Solar’s archemeny Nuro kidnaps Gail and replaces her with a superpowered shapeshifting android. Of course Solar saves the day. This is a fairly entertaining comic, but Paul S. Newman was not really a superhero writer. He was more suited to realistic adventure stories. I tend to assume that “Doctor Solar” is Doctor Solar’s superhero codename, but his superhero name is actually “Man of the Atom.” Doctor Philip Solar (later changed to Raymond Solar) is his secret identity. This was changed in the Valiant series, where his superhero identity was Solar, and his real name was Phil Seleski.

THE JACKAROO #2 (Eternity, 1990) – “Attack of the Killer Barnacle!”, [W/A] Gary Chaloner. A gritty urban superhero comic set in both Sydney and the Australian countryside. I like this comic because of both its skillful art and its local specificity. The comic includes a glossary of the Australian slang that the characters use, and I was able to use Google Maps to locate the precise area of Sydney where this issue takes place. There’s a backup story by Chaloner and another Australian artist, Greg Gates.

DOCTOR WHO #11 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Deal,” [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Dave Gibbons, etc. A series of stories reprinted from Doctor Who Weekly. The first two stories are about the Fourth Doctor. The last two are about Abslom Daak, and their creative team is Steve Moore and David Lloyd. This comic is worth reading not just because I’m interested in Doctor Who, but because the creators are all notable veterans of British comics. I want to become more of a Doctor Who fan, but as with other franchises like Star Trek and Conan, I find it eaiser to get into Doctor Who through comics than through its original medium. This issue includes an interview with Terrance Dicks in which he expresses skepticism about the possibility of the Doctor being played by a woman. That eventually did happen, but not until more than thirty years later.

BLACKHAWK #200 (DC, 1964) – “Queen Killer Shark,” [W] Dave Wood, [A] Dick Dillin. A villain named Killer Shark turns Lady Blackhawk into Queen Killer Shark. Rather than a war comic, this issue is a Silver Age superhero comic, and not a very good one. It does include a funny scene where a cat goes insane. In this issue’s backup story, drawn by Dillin and written by either Ed Herron or my near namesake George Kashdan, Blackhawk has to bring in a German prisoner, but it becomes unclear which is the captor and which is the captive. This story is better than the main story.

BIG MAN PLANS #1 (Image, 2015) – “Hang In There,” [W/A] Eric Powell, [W] Tim Wiesch. Our protagonist is known only as Big Man, which is ironic since he’s a little person. After a deprived upbringing and a stint in Vietnam clearing out tunnels, he returns to America to “rage and get respect.” Like most of Eric Powell’s work, this comic is both brutal and funny, but it leans more toward brutal than funny. I had never heard of this series until I found this issue in a dollar box at Charlotte Comicon, and now I want to read the rest of it.

INCREDIBLE HULK #197 (Marvel, 1976) – “…And Man-Thing Makes Three!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. I bought this mostly because of the Bernie Wrightson cover. This cover may have been his only published illustration of Man-Thing. In the actual comic, the Hulk visits the Florida Everglades and encounters both Man-Thing and the Collector, who’s trying to recapture the Glob from issue 121. Wikipedia says that the Glob was Marvel’s version of the Heap, so this issue is a rare example of a crossover between two members of the swamp-monster family of characters.

More new comics:

HAWK THE SLAYER #1 (Rebellion,2022) – “Watch for Me in the Night,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. This series was originally published in the American format as a supplement to Judge Dredd Megazine. It’s an adaptation of a 1980 sword-and-sorcery film. I’m disappointed that this is an adaptation rather than an original story. Garth Ennis’s writing here is neither his best nor his worst, but the main attraction of this comic is Henry Flint’s detailed and gruesome art.

ROBIN #16 (DC, 2022) – “Lazarus Secrets,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Damian teams up with the Japanese Batman to look for Flatline, who, according to Lord Death Man, is going around killing people. The issue ends with Lord Death Man and Mother Soul kissing. Early in this issue, Damian hugs someone. I think he’s softening up a bit. A funny scene later in the issue is when Godzilla appears to be invading Tokyo. It seems that this is an illustration of an actual Godzilla head sculpture in Shinjuku.

SURVIVAL STREET #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. In a near-future America, a group of muppets and their human allies lead a resistance campaign against the corporations that dominate the government. This comic is of course based on Sesame Street. The combination of muppets and dystopia is a hilarious idea, and the creators execute it very well. I especially like the scene where the muppets’ stealth mission is ruined when the Sundae Fiend (i.e. Cookie Monster) smells ice cream and goes crazy. This series is somewhat comparable to Justice Warriors, but it’s funnier, and its satire has a clearer target. Abylay Kussainov is from Kazakhstan, and I think he’s the first Central Asian cartoonist I’ve ever heard of.

STILLWATER #14 (Image, 2022) – “An Appointment,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. Galen and his cronies invade the cneighboring town of Coldwater and take it over without firing a shot. But then the situation changes when the “Three” – Daniel, Laura, and I forget who the third is – return to town. The letter column says that this is the final story arc. Ramón Pérez’s art in Stillwater looks very different from his art in Amazing Spider-Man #1.4, reviewed above. He seems to be able to draw in lots of different styles.

THE LONESOME HUNTERS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. After some action sequences, Howard and Lupe flee to the house of an old friend of Howard’s. This issue is lighter on plot than #1, but it’s still very exciting. The magpies are very creepy, though they’re also kind of cute.

SKYBOUND X #25 (Image, 2022) – [E] Sean Mackiewicz et al. This comic is inspired by the 1994 “Images of Tomorrow” event, when Image published the 25th issues of Stormwatch, Supreme, Bloodstrike and Brigade, even though those issues were more than a year in the future (and the latter two titles were cancelled before they ever reached #25). Thus, Skybound X #25 is a preview of four Skybound titles that are launching next year. Battle Beast is typical ultraviolent Kirkman nonsense, but the next two stories are interesting. Dark Ride, by the same creators as Birthright, is a horror story set in a theme park. Chroma, much like Attack on Titan, is about an embattled human population living in a walled city for protection against monsters. The catch is that the humans are monochromatic, and they believe that colors are dangerous. I plan on reading both these series when they come out. The fourth new series is Scurry. I really want to like it because it’s about squirrels, but Mac Smith’s painted art is unappealing, and his animals don’t have much personality.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Absolute Power,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi plays miniature golf with his new girlfriend, but has to rush home quickly when multiple criminal organizations try to steal the Ten Rings. This comic is identical in style to the previous Shang-Chi series, so I don’t know why they had to renumber it. I’ve been filing this series under “M” for Master of Kung Fu, but maybe instead I should file Master of Kung Fu under S, because every issue of  MOKF had the phrase “The Hands of Shang-Chi” on its cover.

 A CALCULATED MAN #2 (Aftershock, 2022) – “You People Are Weird,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto (Jimenez) Albuquerque. Jack Beans uses his calculation skills to execute a heist and romance a woman. A Calculated Man is an entertaining crime comic, but it’s not really about math. Jack Beans, like Amadeus Cho, is a master of calculation, but that’s not what professional mathematicians do. Mathematicians are not necessarily “good at math” in the sense in which most people would use that phrase; instead, they use logic and abstraction to prove theorems. This does not mean that A Calculated Man is a bad comic, it’s just not what I hoped it would be.

G.I. JOE #4 (Marvel, 1982) – “Operation: Wingfield!”, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Herb Trimpe. Some G.I. Joes invade a camp of extremely well-funded paramilitary terrorists. This issue isn’t as perfectly crafted as #3, but it’s still good. It’s especially poignant when the terrorists’ own followers begin to abandon him, because he’s endangering their families. The terrorists’ leader, Wingfield, doesn’t seem to have a clear ideology; he just seems convinced that civilization is going to collapse. Still, Larry Hama was prescient in being worried about terrorist militias as early as 1982. My sense is that this problem didn’t become truly prominent until the early 1990s, with the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1044 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Dan Mora. Batman has to save Mayor Nakano, who hates him, from both a cave-in and an infestation of flesh-eating insects. Meanwhile, Batwoman battles the replacement mayor, “Nero XIX.” The Batwoman sequence is especially striking because almost the only colors used are black and red. The backup story, by Stephanie Phillips and David Lapham, is about the redevelopment of Arkham Tower.

BATMAN #112 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Tech genius Simon Saint creates a squad of armored “Peacekeepers” in order to “save” Gotham, but he’s made the mistake of allying with the Scarecrow, who has his own agenda. Meanwhile, Poison Ivy has created an underground jungle. The Bat-Family has to resolve all these crises. After reading this issue, I finally sort of understand Fear State. A poignant moment in this story is the panel where a pregnant woman is boarding up her windows while her toddler son reaches for her. This issue includes a Clownhunter backup story by Brandon Thomas and Jason Howard.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #17 (Marvel, 2006) – “League of Losers Part 3,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Paco Medina. A confusing story about a group of time-traveling superheroes, including some obscure ones like Terror, Inc. This issue has some interesting bits of characterization, but I wish it had followed the usual Marvel Team-Up format of single-issue stories with just two or three protagonists. Marvel Team-Up is another series that should have a legacy number.

NAUGHTY LIST #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Queens,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. This issue is full of toilet humor and insufferable macho dialogue. It’s so annoying and offensive that it destroyed whatever good will I had for this series. Luckily this is the last issue for now, or else I would have dropped this series from my pull list at once. This issue ends on a cliffhanger, but I don’t care what happens next.

MY LITTLE PONY #3 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Robin Easter. The new group of ponies go looking for a stolen dog. This comic is okay, but so far I’m not nearly as excited about this series as about MLP: FIM. I can’t tell any of the protagonists apart, because none of them seem to have distinctive personalities or gimmicks, as the Mane Six did.

KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Seeing It Through,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Michelle is forced to wake up the good kaiju deity so it can deal with the bad one. The heist ends successfully, and then Michelle joins an international council of thieves. This series is a fun, quick read, and I’d like to see a third Kaiju Score miniseries, but I still wish we would learn more about the kaiju and their impact on normal life.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #131 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. Shredder trains the Turtles in mystical arts, and they each have a bizarre dream. I don’t understand how this issue fits into the current storyline, or whether it’s a flashback or a present-day sequence. My interest in this series has been dropping, particularly given how long it’s been since Sophie Campbell drew an entire issue herself.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Juan Gedeon & Daniel Warren Johnson, [A] Rafa Garres. The new artist this issue is much worse than Juan Gedeon. His linework is so loose and crude that it seems incompetent. As for the plot, this issue is just a series of fight sequences. The novelty of Jurassic League’s premise is wearing off.

SIN CITY: LOST, LONELY & LETHAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Fat Man and Little Boy” etc., [W/A] Frank Miller. This one-shot includes three short stories. The first two are so short that they’re barely stories at all. The third one, “Blue Eyes,” is better. In this story, a man is hunted by a hitman for no apparent reason. While fleeing, he runs into his old girlfriend, who takes him to bed and then kills him. The twist is that she’s training to become a professional assassin, and to do so, she had to pass a test by killing the love of her life.

THE WALKING DEAD #137 (Image, 2015) – “A Future Uncertain,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Carl continues negotiating with Lydia until he gets her out of prison. She licks his empty eye socket – ewww! – and then sleeps with him. Meanwhile, Maggie’s political opponent invites her to negotiate, then poisons her. I’ve been unimpressed with most of the recent Kirkman comics I’ve read, but this Walking Dead storyline is fascinating because of the depth of its characterization and politics. It validates my decision to keep buying Walking Dead back issues when I come across them.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 3,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Zé Carlos & R.B. Silva. Like the last issue, this issue is hampered by an unnecessary and annoying Deadpool guest appearance. I frankly hate Deadpool and have no interest in reading about him. Also, the inclusion of Deadpool is a pointless gimmick meant to drive sales, as if Cap on his own isn’t interesting enough to make people buy this comic. The second half of this issue is better; it focuses more on the new Falcon and border politics.

LOVE ROMANCES #63 (Marvel, 1957) – “We’re Engaged!”, [W/A] unknown, etc. This is the oldest Marvel comic in my collection, and the only one whose indicia says Timely instead of Marvel. The first story in this issue is annoying. Sally and Tommy are engaged, but he has to stop seeing her because he’s going to night school for two months. Sally then discovers that Tommy isn’t really going to the school he said he was attending, but her mother convinces her to have faith in him. After two months, Tommy tells Sally that he had to lie to her because he was going to a “secret government school.” That’s utter nonsense; if he couldn’t tell her what school he was going to, he could have just said so. This story teaches that a woman should believe her boyfriend even when he’s obviously lying. The other stories in this issue are fairly typical romance comics material. The known artists in this issue are John Tartaglione, Jay Scott Pike (who deserves a collection of his work) and Ann Brewster. John Tartaglione’s story includes a panel where a character’s eyes are out of alignment.

 SKYWARD #9 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 4,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa and Lucas share some romantic moments, but then Willa discovers that the farmers are planning to attack Chicago and cause lots of civilian deaths. Willa decides that she has to stop this plot by freeing her worst enemy, Roger Barrow. Skyward is even better than Shadecraft, which was already quite good.

BATMAN #118 (DC, 2022) – “The Abyss Part 1: Now It’s a Party!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jorge Molina & Mikel Janin. This was given out for free at Charlotte Comicon. Fear State is now over, and everyone is partying. Batman intervenes when a villain-themed party at Gotham’s Billionaires’ Club is invaded by a real villain. There’s a cute moment when a little girl dressed as Punchline asks Batman for an autograph, and he ”signs” a piece of paper with the Bat-Signal. Afterward, Batman discovers that the members of Batman Inc. have been arrested for murdering a villain called Abyss. While visiting Badhnesia to investigate, Batman encounters Luthor.

MS. TREE #17 (Renegade, 1985) – “Runaway Part 3,” [W] Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree follows Mike Jr’s trail to an unnamed Southern town, where she teams up with a Glenn Harwood, a local cop turned social worker. Ms. Tree and Glenn have some romantic sparks, but Glenn is repelled by Ms. Tree’s violent behavior. They discover that Mike Jr was kidnapped by the school’s janitor, who intended to rape and then murder him. Ms. Tree rescues Mike Jr, then murders the janitor in cold blood.

MAN OF STEEL #4 (DC, 1986) – “Enemy Mine…”, [W/A] John Byrne. I believe that Byrne’s redesign of Superman, which began in this miniseries, was ultimately a step backward for the character. However, Man of Steel and Byrne’s subsequent Superman stories were considered classics at one time, and I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t have a complete run of Man of Steel already. This issue, Superman meets Lex Luthor for the first time, and Luthor tests Superman’s powers by having him fight some (stereotypical) South American terrorists, even though Luthor’s own security staff could have handled the terrorists themselves. As a result, Superman arrests Luthor for reckless endangerment, establishing their lifelong enmity. Oddly, by the end of this issue Luthor still has a full head of hair. I think the pre-Crisis mad scientist Luthor was a far better character than the post-Crisis Luthor, who was just another Kingpin type. The old Luthor had a certain nobility, as demonstrated in stories like “The Einstein Connection” or the Lexor stories, while the newer Luthor was an egomaniacal monster. His most memorable story may be “Metropolis 900 Mi.” from Superman #9, in which he ruins a woman’s life just for his own amusement.

THE GOON #28 (Dark Horse, 2008) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. This issue has a funny credit line: “Zombies provided by Jethro and Earl Zombie Wranglerin’ Inc. and The Adopt-A-Zombie Foundation.” In this issue the Goon plots against a fellow mobster named Labrizio. This issue’s plot is not very interesting, but it’s full of gruesome creatures and funny moments, like the two-page spread where the Goon punches a mule in the face.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #4 (DC, 2004) – “The World’s Finest Part 4: Battle On,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. Superman and Batman are trying to save the world from I’m not sure what, but to do so, they have to fight their way through a bunch of other superheroes, led by Major Force on behalf of President Luthor. This issue is disappointing. The story is unoriginal, and Ed McGuinness’s art is far less exciting or creative than in Superman #168.

PLANET TERRY #2 (Marvel, 1986) – “The Saga of Princess Ugly,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. On an alien planet, Terry rescues Princess (shudder) Ugly from Vermin the Vile. The predictable twist is that Princess Ugly is in fact beautiful. Afterward, Terry discovers that his parents’ spaceship is on the same planet. One thing these Star comics have that actual  Harvey comics don’t have is continuity. Most of Harvey’s stories lasted just one issue at most, but the Star titles had plots that evolved from one issue to another.

HAWK THE SLAYER #2 (Rebellion, 2022) – “The Last of Their Kind,” as above. The heroes go looking for Hawk’s evil brother, who was supposed to be dead but isn’t. This series isn’t actively bad, unlike some Garth Ennis comics, but I’m not sure I’m motivated enough to continue reading it.

BLINK #1 (Oni, 2022) – “Lost Footage,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. As a child, Wren Booker was found wandering in the street covered with blood, unable to explain what had happened to her. As an adult, while working as a freelance journalist, Wren discovers a clue that might help her understand her past. The trail of clues leads Wren and her  boyfriend Joel to an abandoned building infested with ghouls. This is a really impressive first issue, though when writing this review, I had to remind myself what it was about. Hayden Sherman’s artwork isn’t as stunning here as in Dark Spaces: Wildfire; his linework seems much less crisp.

MONSTROUS: BOOK OF THE DEAD #2 (Source Point, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Wright, [A] A. Shay Hahn. This was in my file at Heroes, but I have no idea why. It’s some kind of light fantasy/horror story about mummies. This comic is better than I expected, but it’s not good enough to justify buying any other issues.

ELLE(S) #1 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. This seems like a typical slice-of-life high school story, but the twist is that the protagonist, Elle, has multiple personalities, and when each personality takes over, her hair color changes. This comic’s artwork is in an unappealing painted style, but its plotting and characterization seem pretty good. I’m mostly interested in reading it because it’s a French comic. The most striking scene in this issue is when Elle comes home and wants to do homework, but her mother guilts her into helping set the house up so the mother can give a presentation to some clients. That’s pretty terrible parenting: a child’s schoolwork should take precedence over giving a parent unpaid assistance with work.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The next version of Gwen is based on Captain Marvel, but she has to sacrifice herself to save the world. This brings about the dystopian future that the Gwens are trying to prevent. This series is very fun, but its plot is hopelessly complicated and confusing.

ICE CREAM MAN #31 (Image, 2022) – “A Scale (Sort of a Poem)”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Warren Williamson. This issue chronicles the life of a man named Warren Williamson, from his daughter’s birth to his own death. Warren narrates the first half of the issue, and his daughter Blossom narrates the second half. Unlike many issues of this series, “A Scale” is tender and warm, though it includes some horrific moments. It shows that W. Maxwell Prince is capable of other emotional affects besides depressing bleakness.  Warren’s book is called “The Etymologist Ascends,” which is almost the title of issue 28. I don’t know if it’s worthwhile to try to tease out the connections between issues of this series.

X-MEN RED #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hour of Uranos,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In an A.X.E. crossover, Thanos’s great-uncle Uranos invades Arakko. A.X.E. is based on plot elements from Kieron Gillen’s Eternals, so X-Men Red #5 feels more similar to Gillen’s Eternals than to earlier issues of X-Men Red.

GRIM #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “Null & Void,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. The three main characters are trapped in an interdimensional void. They escape, but are chased by a creature called The End. The bearded guy delays it so Jess and the David Bowie lookalike dude can escape. This series is okay, but it’s not as interesting as Boom!’s other flagship titles. The issue begins with a scene set in Mesopotamia in 500 BCE, but it shows people speaking Sumerian. The Sumerian language died out over a thousand years prior to that date, but it continued to be used as a liturgical language afterward, so I guess this scene isn’t totally implausible.  

FOX AND HARE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Stacey Lee. I guess it’s only been two months since issue 1, but I’ve already forgotten what happened in that issue. Vault has had severe problems with lateness. Most egregiously, Radio Apocalypse has had only one issue published since November 2021, and Vault just announced that it’s on indefinite hiatus. They really need to do what other publishers do, and not solicit a new series or story arc until the whole thing is complete. Anyway, the best thing about Fox and Hare is its distinctive Malaysian or Singaporean setting, but other than that it seems like a standard adventure comic.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #57 (Marvel, 1964/2022) – “Hawkeye, the Marksman!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. Hawkeye, a circus marksman, is jealous that Tony Stark is more famous than him. He decides to become a superpowered criminal, and then he gets recruited by the Black Widow, whose first appearance was in #52. So in his first appearance Hawkeye was just another generic villain. Just like Living Laser in Avengers #34, he becomes a villain out of pure jealousy. He didn’t become a truly classic character until he joined the Avengers. This issue also includes a Watcher backup story by Larry Lieber, in which the Watcher breaks his policy of nonintervention in order to save a planet from an alien invasion. He’s willing to do this because the planet is his own homeworld.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Meditations on the X,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. This is another A.X.E. crossover, but it also fits into Immortal X-Men’s usual plot structure, in which every issue is a spotlight on a different character. This issue focuses on Exodus and his worship of the Phoenix. A funny moment is when Exodus, who was born in the 12th century, reawakens in modern times and is shocked by vernacular Masses and toilet paper. Exodus’s medieval origin was first revealed in Black Knight: Exodus #1 in 1996, although it seems this origin was not a retcon, since he never had any other origin before that. See here for a detailed history of this character. In this issue’s modern-day plot, the Quiet Council tries to resist an invasion by the Uni-Mind.

THE SILVER COIN #12 (Image, 2022) – “’Til Dawn,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Michael Walsh. In World War II, some American soldiers are trying to defend a position against German troops. One of the soldiers, Patrick Hart, is given the coin by a captured German soldier, just before the soldier gets shot. Patrick overcomes his fear of killing and wipes out an entire German unit, only to realize that the “Germans” he was killing are his own men. This issue is a successful depiction of the brutality of war.

RINGSIDE #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. I don’t know or care what this issue’s plot is about, and again its art is terrible. I can’t think of another published cartoonist in recent memory who draws as poorly as Nick Barber. If you’re going to draw in an extremely minimal style, you have to compensate by being a brilliant visual storyteller, like Alex Toth. But Nick Barber isn’t a sufficiently gifted storyteller to make up for his incompetent draftsmanship.

ANT-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Alone Against the Ant-Agonists!”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence in which Ant-Man (i.e. Hank) and the Wasp fight the Time Master. This sequence is written and drawn in the style of the earliest Ant-Man stories, Afterward, another Ant-Man recruits Hank to aid him in protecting the “world of tomorrow.” There’s a framing sequence in which the reader is given instructions for enjoying a “MRVL ™ narrative experience ™”. This is a very funny and exciting issue, and Tom Reilly is an underrated artist. His aesthetic resembles that of David Aja or Chris Samnee or the early Mazzucchelli. Another funny moment in this issue is when the ants spell out HLEP instead of HELP, because English is their second language.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #4 (Image, 2022) – [W/A] various. Yet again, none of the stories in this issue are really effective. Even if they’re interesting, it’s impossible to remember all their plots from one issue to another. The one story that really stands out to me is Wes Craig’s Kaya, and that’s just because of the cute style of art. I was, however, excited to see that Casanova and Jack Staff will appear in issue 8.

MIND MGMT: BOOTLEG #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. The boy from last issue recruits some more people into the new MIND MGMT. Meanwhile, Meru comes looking for an old enemy of hers, whose name I don’t recall. This issue is fairly light on plot, but Matt Lesniewski’s artwork is beautiful and detailed, though also gruesome. He draws people as if they were made of rubber hoses.  

THE WRONG EARTH: MEAT #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Meat,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. Another issue consisting of two intertwined stories, each about one of the two Dragonflies. Both are about Dragonfly and Stinger’s relationship, and in both, the theme is that Dragonfly(man) has to symbolically “kill” Stinger, or has already done so. This issue is another good illustration of the differences between the two Dragonflies, but because of that, it doesn’t explore any new territory. I’d like to see more stories where Dragonfly and Dragonflyman actually interact.

THE VARIANTS #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica Jones is another character who deserves a legacy number, although her series have had at least three different titles – Alias, Jessica Jones, and now The Variants. In this issue Jessica has a conversation with Tigra, whose appearances are always a delight, and then a second Jessica Jones Purple Man invades her house and threatens her child. Also, Jessica has a vision of the Purple Man. At the end of the issue, a third Jessica Jones appears, wearing the Jewel costume. It seems like at least half of Jessica’s stories are about the Purple Man and the trauma he caused her, and I wonder if this theme is crowding out other types of stories that could be told about her.

DUO #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. David and Kelly discover that they can both control David’s body. Then they encounter a group of immortals called the Immutables. The business with the Immutables seems irrelevant to the theme of this series. I’m reading this comic because of David and Kelly’s relationship. I don’t see what that has to do with immortals with self-repairing cells.

SACRAMENT #1 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Father Vass is a Catholic priest in a far future where humanity has expanded onto multiple planets, and religion is strictly outlawed. Vass is very good at exorcising demons, but the trouble is that he’s lost his faith in his religion. This series is a compelling examination of religion in a science fiction context. I liked it a lot better than Absolution #1, although I felt more positive about Absolution after I read issue 2; see below.

AQUAMEN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Moments of Silence,” [W] Brandon Thomas & Chuck Brown, [A] Max Raynor. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but all of it becomes irrelevant after the Justice League, including Aquaman, is reported dead. I liked these creators’ take on Aquaman at first, but DC withdrew their support for this version of Aquaman after just a couple issues, and the miniseries subsequently became an irrelevant lame duck.

CANTO: TALES OF THE UNNAMED WORLD #2 (IDW, 2022) – “My Friend” and “The Trickster and the Farm Boy,” [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker & Shawn Daley. The Malorex tells its story, which is cute and sad, though hard to follow because there’s no dialogue. But the Bard (whose name is Ragno) knows that story already, so next Canto takes his turn. The story Canto tells is the story of the encounter he’s having with Ragno right now, and Ragno doesn’t know that story, because its end hasn’t happened yet. Thus Ragno has to let Canto and his party cross the bridge. This is a clever conclusion to the miniseries.

SWAMP THING #15 (DC, 2022) – “Armageddon Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. The combined Swamp Thing/Green Lantern creature convinces Jacob to give them its aid against the Parliament of Gears. But the Parliament refuses to listen to them, so Swampy summons Trinity to explain why the Parliament should end the war. I like how the gears have creepy-looking faces.

2000 AD #2267 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Dead Chief Judges’ Society,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Rob Richardson. A criminal has visions of all the dead Chief Judges from earlier in the series. I only recognize a couple of these characters. And the visions appear to be real, because the criminal knows things that only the dead judges could have known. This seems like foreshadowing for a future story. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part 6,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Vex is captured by a member of his own species, named Melody Pen Naday. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage Part 6,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. The protagonists find themselves on an island, where they’re attacked by an army of “shadow things.” Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow Part 6,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus and Yarrow fight a hopeless battle, and then their old enemy Ablard reappears with an army. Saphir: “Liaisons Dangereuses Part 3,” [W] Kek-W, [A] David Roach. Inspector Mucha continues his search for the kidnapped baby. David Roach’s draftsmanship here is beautiful.

LEGION OF X #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pillow Talk,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. The most exciting development in this issue is that Kurt and Weaponless Zsen sleep together. Kurt is a very sexy character, as Anna Peppard has shown, and this series had seemed almost shy about exploring Kurt’s sexuality. Besides that, this issue includes some further development of the skinjacker plot.

BLACK ADAM #2 (DC, 2022) – “Theogony Book Two,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Malik White becomes Black Adam’s successor, White Adam. At this point I decided that I just don’t like Priest’s style of writing, and I don’t care what happens in this series. I’ve removed it from my pull list.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #3 (DC, 2022) – “Fort Apache, Dakota,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Tom Raney & Chriscross. Various Blood Syndicate members team up to resist Holocaust’s attempt to take over the city. I think the best thing about this series is that Holocaust is a terrifying villain. There’s also a funny moment in this issue when one of the characters suggests calling the police, and the other characters pause for one panel, then burst out laughing. The problem is that it’s impossible to remember all the protagonists’ real names and codenames, particularly when none of them have costumes yet. I wish this series had a character guide on the inside front or back cover.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #6 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer assassinates the mayor and escapes from the police, and the series ends with his meditations on how the human race never outgrows its lust for violence. These philosophical meditations are why The Killer is more than just another crime comic. It is a well-crafted piece of entertainment, but it’s also a pessimistic critique of modern European society.

SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. It took me a while to read this because it’s really long. In this Elseworlds story, Kal-El’s rocket crashes on Earth just after World War II, so Superman’s early career occurs against the backdrop of Kennedy’s assassination, the Cold War, and the civil rights movement. Superman’s debut occurs when he has to stop Luthor from causing a nuclear war. By the end of the issue, Batman and the other Justice Leaguers have also appeared. Russell’s story is very lengthy, but powerful and well-crafted. Though Russell is mostly a satirical writer, he writes a truly heroic and idealistic Superman. Mike Allred’s Silver Age-style art is perfect for this series’ time period, and he seems to have made a real effort at historical accuracy.

G.I.L.T. #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. This series gets more confusing with every issue. I’ve given up on trying to figure out the plot, or to remember which character is which. Alisa Kwitney’s style of writing reminds me somehow of earlier feminist comics, such as Naughty Bits or Pudge, Girl Blimp, but other than that, I find it hard to form an opinion on G.I.L.T. It’s just weird.

AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. Aquaman saves the crew from their initial encounter with the alien vessel, but rather than leaving well enough alone, they continue to search the vessel. Black Manta infiltrates the submarine, and a series of flashbacks reveal the traumatic histories of the submarine’s crew. One of the crew members, Murthy, is from India, and his flashback scene is reminiscent of Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Overall, Aquaman: Andromeda is a very compelling series, and the larger page format allows Christian Ward to demonstrate his mastery of color and composition.

2000 AD #2268 (Rebellion, 2022) – I just noticed that there are hidden messages in the copyright notices of each issue. Dredd: “Extraordinary Deaths,” [W] T.C. Eglington, [A] Silvia Califano. A data analyst amuses herself by causing people to die in ironic ways, until Dredd catches her. The Order: as above. The heroes fight a giant shadow monster and its zombie servants. Saphir: as above. Inspector Mucha fights an alien army, and the baby’s kidnapper tries to get the baby to imprint on him. This issue includes a gorgeous two-page spread depicting a surreal space battle. Terror Tales: “Roots,” [W/A] P.J. Holden. A drug addict’s mother turns him into a living plant. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex escapes from Agent Naday.

Here I decided to start reading some older comics that I’ve had for a while:

SANDMAN #7 (DC, 1989) – “Sound and Fury,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. Morpheus baits Dr. Destiny into following him into the Dreaming. There Dr. Destiny destroys the ruby, thinking this will kill Morpheus, but it has the opposite effect: Morpheus absorbs the power he had offloaded into the ruby, allowing him to beat Dr. Destiny effortlessly. This issue is an epic conclusion to the first storyline, but it stands out less strongly in my mind than the issues before and after it. Until I reread this issue, I had trouble remembering what had happened in it, whereas I remember “The Sound of Her Wings” very well.

KILL OR BE KILLED #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan shoots some dude in a bathroom, then the rest of the issue is a flashback sequence that shows why and how Dylan did it. Dylan’s victim, Barry Jameston, is a corporate criminal who destroyed his clients’ investments, causing some of them to commit suicide, and got off with a slap-on-the-wrist sentence. So it’s hard to blame Dylan for bringing him to justice. Sean Phillips’s artwork in this issue is excellent as usual, and he makes good use of photo reference.

2000 AD #2269 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “5 in the Cubes,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Nicolo Assirelli. Dredd takes some teenagers on a tour of the cubes. While he’s there, a rogue Judge kidnaps one of the teens and kills him by aging him 500 years. Dredd sentences the judge to the same amount of time in the cubes. Terror Tales: “Foreclosure,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Anna Morozova. A woman stops making payments on her ocular implants. The collection agency deactivates her eyes, then sends a drone to repossess the implants, by cutting them out of her eyes. The details of this repossession are left to the reader’s imagination. Anna Morozova’s style is very similar to that of Joelle Jones. Saphir: as above. The baby is rescued, and he imprints on Inspector Mucha instead of the villain. This was a cute story with gorgeous artwork. The Order: as above. Ben Franklin is badly hurt. His allies take him aboard their ship and leave, but the “shadow-kraken” follows the ship. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex meets a giant lava-dwelling alien named Tsellest.

2000 AD #2270 – This is an extra-sized 45th anniversary issue. Dredd: “The Citadel Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. A priest visits the cubes to grant absolution to Winterton, a prisoner who’s about to be executed. Winterton’s mouth is gagged, but the priest is horrified by this treatment and removes the gag, and Winterton begins to explain how he learned a hidden secret about Dredd. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex’s pursuers arrive where Tsellest is. We learn that Tsellest’s race has been exterminating all other alien races that evolved inside stars, and that Vex’s race has concealed the existence of many other such species. Indigo Prime: “Whatever Happened to Mickey Challis?”, [W] Kek-W, [A] Lee Carter. I don’t understand this story, though it seems interesting; it’s about memes and living narratives, and it mentions Baudrillard at one point. Tyranny Rex appears at the end. This story seems to be a lead-in to a new Indigo Prime story, but that story has not been published yet as far as I know. Kingmaker: as above. Ablard, Crixis and Yarrow join forces against the aliens. Tharg: “Stars on 45,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Robin Smith. Three of Tharg’s robots go back in time and borrow a lot of characters from earlier in 2000 AD’s history, and these characters all join Tharg in performing a song. But when the robots return the borrowed characters to their own times, they put them all back in the wrong places. This is easily the highlight of the issue. It’s a hilarious story and a cute tribute to 2000 AD’s long history. It includes imitations of the styles of many 2000 AD artists, as well as two different parodies of the famous “gaze into the fist of Dredd” panel. The Order: as above. The ship gets absorbed by the Shadow-Kraken. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. On an outer space habitat, a husband-and-wife team of journalists investigate a conflict between the habitat’s management and its labor unions.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part III,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Another boring issue in which very little happens. Cap’s allies talk about rescuing him from the Myrmidon (a name which makes no sense – a Myrmidon is a person, not a place), but don’t actually do it. Also, Cap is involved in a prison riot.

ACTION COMICS #487 (DC, 1978) – “Super-Origin of Microwave Man!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman meets Lewis Padgett, an old man who had a brief supervillain career in the 1930s, under the name Microwave Man, before being abducted by aliens. Padgett asks the aliens to restore his youth so he can become Microwave Man again. The name Lewis Padgett comes from a pseudonym used by the science fiction writers Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. There’s also a character in this issue named Mrs. Anson Durgom, which looks like an acronym for something, but I don’t know what. Microwave Man appears for the second and last time in issue 488, which I read so long ago that I can’t remember anything about it. This issue also includes a boring Atom backup story by Bob Rozakis and Alex Saviuk.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM A.D. #2 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Mother Panic tries to rescue her mother from Arkham Asylum. This was by far the worst of the Young Animal titles, and frankly the best thing about this issue is John Workman’s lettering. Besides Faith, I haven’t read much by Jody Houser that I liked.

LUCIFER #2 (DC, 2016) – “Cold Heaven Part Two: Lady Lucifer,” [W] Holly Black, [A] Lee Garbett. Lucifer investigates God’s murder, and there’s a subplot about a depressed woman who hates her sister, and who is being targeted by Azazel. Mazikeen appears at the end of the issue, and is somehow able to speak coherently. I didn’t like this series when it was coming out, but this issue is not bad.

HARLEY QUINN #28 (DC, 2016) – “Shriek Now, and Forever Hold Your Piece,” [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] John Timms. Harley teams up with Red Tool, an obvious Deadpool parody. His gimmick is that his word balloons are shaped like tools. I hate Deadpool, and while I don’t hate Harley Quinn, I do think that she’s overexposed in the same way as Deadpool is. Therefore, this issue was not my favorite.

AVENGERS #292 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Dragon in the Sea!”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. The Avengers hunt down Namor’s wife Marrina, who has turned into a giant kaiju. Dr. Druid, probably the worst Avenger ever, tries to undermine Captain Marvel’s leadership, and Kang meets a group of his own alternate-dimensional duplicates. This issue is beautifully inked by Tom Palmer over Buscema’s loose pencils. Sadly we just lost Tom Palmer. He was one of the greatest inkers in comics history, and certainly the best inker for Colan, Buscema or Adams. The one time I can recall meeting him, he seemed like a kind and gentlemanly man.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2015) – “Down the Rabbit Hole,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Ken Lashley. In a flashback, some sadistic asshole imprisons Cat-Man in a cage for twelve months. These scenes are just infuriating. In the present, the Secret Six are imprisoned in a box until they reveal the secret, whatever that is. Ken Lashley’s art in this issue is rather crude and unappealing.

LAZARUS #18 (Image, 2015) – “Poison Part Two,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Michael Lark. Forever Carlyle leads a team of soldiers on an assault on another company’s facility, and meanwhile, a young doctor is brought in to save the Carlyle family patriarch. Despite this series’ all-star creative team and its consistently high level of craft, I hated it. Lazarus’s world is a grim, humorless, loveless dystopia, and its characters are all complete sociopathic monsters. If every single character in this comic died at the same time, I’d be thrilled. The only sympathetic character is Lazarus herself, and she never manages to figure out that her family is exploiting her. This means that it’s hard to care about the interfamily politics that make up much of Lazarus’s plot, because all the family members are equally loathsome.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #50 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. I stopped reading this series because I couldn’t follow its plot. There are far too many characters, and I can’t remember who most of them are. This series seems to assume that the reader is familiar with IDW’s entire Transformers continuity. For me, this made it hard to appreciate the brilliance of James Roberts’s dialogue and plotting. I never read #50 because it’s a double-sized issue, and that meant I couldn’t read the issues after it either. However, when I finally did force myself to read #50, I enjoyed it. As noted, James Roberts is a great dialogue writer, and this issue includes a surprising plot twist where Getaway strands Megatron, Rodimus Prime and other characters on the Necrobots’ planet, leaving them no way to return to the Lost Light. #50 also includes a backup story about the Lost Light’s bar.

HEAVY METAL #2.10 (1979) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchand. I can’t review everything in this issue individually, but here are some of the highlights: Corben and Strnad’s Arabian Nights. A story by Chaland that looks nothing like his usual Clear Line artwork. Two stories by Bilal, Exterminator 17 and The Planet of No Return. Lulea by Arthur Suydam. The Temple of Karvul by Paul Kirchner, perhaps his only comic I’ve ever read that wasn’t The Bus. There’s also some lesser material, including a boring prose story with illustrations by Gil Kane.

ACTION COMICS #534 (DC, 1982) – “Two for the Death of One!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman travels back in time to medieval Britain, where he fights Lord Satanis and Syrene. It’s hard to tell whether or not these are the same characters as Lord Satanus and Blaze. This issue also includes an Air-Wave story by Rozakis and Saviuk, which, like every Air-Wave story I’ve read, is a waste of space.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #700 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. In a future America, Cap reconquers the country from a tyrant, then tries to run the entire country singlehandedly while also fighting a war. He proves to be unsuited to the task, because evidently he’s never heard of delegating responsibility. So Cap decides to travel back in time to the past and prevent his current timeline from coming into existence in the first place. This issue, like this entire run of Captain America, is disappointing. Waid’s third Cap run relied upon a very vague, unreflective type of American patriotism, and its message seemed to be that the American dream, whatever that might mean, is a solution to any problem at all. This philosophy reminds me of Bobby Jindal’s infamous “Americans can do anything” speech. This issue includes a backup story with new dialogue by Waid, placed over panels taken from old Captain America stories by Kirby. The GCD has a complete list of the sources of each panel.

FIRE FROM HEAVEN #1 (Image, 1996) – “Gamorra Rising,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ryan Benjamin. An introduction to a Wildstorm Universe crossover event. Alan Moore’s dialogue in this issue is fantastic, but this issue has way too many characters and not much of a plot, and it’s not one of Alan’s better Image comics. BTW, I just read a very offensive article about Superman, Son of Kal-El, written by a notorious troll whose last name means “of the rice.” This article implies that Tom Taylor invented the name Gamorra as a reference to Gomorrah, but he did not, as proved by the title of Fire from Heaven #1.

TRANSFORMERS VS G.I. JOE #3 (IDW, 2014) – “Funeral for a Friend,” [W/A] Tom Scioli, [W] John Barber. The G.I. Joes stage a funeral for Hawk, but in fact Hawk isn’t dead, and the funeral is a trap. As always with this series, this issue is full of radical page layouts and lettering, and its writing is histrionic to the point of self-parody. Perhaps John Barber was responsible for this writing style, because Tom Scioli’s later work is written in a much more restrained style.

JLA #41 (DC, 2000) – “World War Three Part 6: Mageddon,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. In order to defeat the world-destroying cosmic entity Mageddon, the JLA has to transform the entire human race into superheroes. This issue is about as epic and Kirbyesque as any JLA story ever. It’s a satisfying conclusion to Grant’s classic JLA run, and it’s probably just as well that they left the series after this issue, because it’s hard to imagine how they could have topped World War Three.

LAZARUS #19 (Image, 2015) – as #18 above. Forever is seemingly killed by the enemy, but comes back to life, and there’s some more family politics that I don’t care about. This issue’s main story ends on the left-hand side of the centerfold. The second half of the issue consists of an extended letter column and a preview of Black Magick #1. Black Magick was a much better series than Lazarus, and I wish it would come back.

ALIEN WORLDS #9 (Eclipse, 1985) – “10 Devils,” [W] David Carren, [A] Bo Hampton, etc. Bruce Jones only wrote one of the four stories in this issue: “The Maiden and the Dragon,” drawn by Bo Hampton. This is by far the best of the four. It’s a sarcastic twist on the fairy-tale pattern where the two older siblings (or three in this case) both fail at a task, while the youngest sibling succeeds. Two of the stories in this issue are written by David Carren, who’s mostly a TV and film writer. These stories appear to be his only published comics, except for one story in Twisted Tales, and neither of them is much good. The fourth story in Alien Worlds #9 is both written and drawn by Frank Brunner, and it has attractive art but a vapid plot.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #66 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Serpent Crown Affair Part 3: A Congress of Crowns!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Jerry Bingham & Gene Day. Thing, Stingray, and Scarlet Witch battle Roxxon president Hugh Jones, who’s wearing the Serpent Crown and has a mind-controlled army consisting of everyone else who’s worn the crown. This story is all right, but what really makes it impressive is the way that Mark synthesizes all of the earlier Serpent Crown stories into a coherent narrative. One of the earliest comic books I ever owned (if it counts as a comic book) was Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update ’89 #7. By reading Set’s entry in that comic, I learned the entire history of the Serpent Crown up to that time, long before I read the actual comics that the crown appeared in. (Edit: This comic is a duplicate, but I will allow this review to stand.)  

SUICIDE SQUAD #23 (DC, 1989) – “Weird War Tales,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. I ordered this on eBay. It was the only issue of the series I was missing except for the final issue, #66. Suicide Squad #23 is the hardest issue of the series to find because it’s Barbara Gordon’s first appearance as Oracle. The Oracle “appearance” is just a single panel, and it consists only of a computer voice introducing itself as Oracle. There’s no indication yet that Oracle is even a person rather than a computer program, so this single panel hardly seems to justify this comic’s high price. Much of this issue is devoted to a fight scene where the Suicide Squad team up with the Rocket Reds against the Okaarans. Also, Amanda Waller has imaginary conversations with the various people he’s pissed at, and Captain Boomerang returns to Australia and tries to pass himself off as a national hero. But the local people think he’s an embarrassment to his country, and they throw him off a dock.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #502 (India Book House, 1971/2007) – “Hanuman,” [W] Anant Pai, [A] Ram Waeerkar. Oddly, I found this comic on the used book shelf at a local black-owned bookstore that specializes in African-American literature. There is also a large Indian community in my neighborhood, and there were several other Indian-themed books on the same shelf, none of which I bought. ACK #502 tells the story of the Ramayana from the perspective of Hanuman, the monkey god. This comic is entertaining and also educational, because as a non-Hindu, I only had a vague idea of Hanuman’s story. ACK was created to teach Indian children about their culture, but it’s also useful for readers from other cultures.  

SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #18 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Dentist in the Iron Mask!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Artis. Jen battles Dr. Doom, not the famous one but a distant relative who’s a dentist. There’s also a subplot where Jen resists the advances of a coworker named Brent. This issue is laugh-out-loud funny. I had forgotten that Gerber is a genuinely skilled writer, and was not just notable for his weirdness. Also, I like Jen’s relationship with Weezie, the former Blonde Phantom, and I wonder why this latter character hasn’t been used in more recent She-Hulk runs.  

ART OPS #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Modern Love Part 1,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Eduardo Risso. In the ’70s, the Art Ops members have to force a monstrous creature back into the painting it came from. Mike Allred couldn’t save this series from Shaun Simon’s writing, and neither could Eduardo Risso. Also, Risso’s art in this issue is not his best. We don’t even see the creature from the painting until page eight, but prior to that point, it’s not clear that its appearance is supposed to be a surprise.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #51 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 2: The Sun in Flight,” as above. The Autobots trapped on the Necrobot’s planet are about to be attacked by the Decepticon Justice Division. They have the opportunity to escape, but they discover that there are some organic lifeforms held in stasis in the Necrobot’s base. Megatron decides to stay behind to defend the organics, and the rest of the crew agrees with him. This issue feels very tense and suspenseful. At the end, two Autobots arrive to join the defenders. One of them is Ratchet, and I don’t recognize the other.

2000 AD #445 (IPC, 1985) – Nemesis: ”Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. Nemesis, Torquemada, and the ABC Warriors defeat some enemies and then prepare to search for Nemesis’s son. This chapter has some really gruesome imagery. Rogue Trooper: “Return to Milli-Com,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. The Norts and Southers meet for a summit, and violence is barely avoided. Dredd: “The Lemming Syndrome!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The residents of Flakey Foont Block (an obvious Crumb reference) start jumping off the building for no apparent reason. A funny moment occurs when two residents are watching people fall past their window: “Hey! There’s Mum!” “Never! She’s up on 96 visiting Betty – oh, you’re right! There’s Betty now!” At the end, a Judge makes the depressing suggestion that the suicides are the result of universal unemployment and boredom. Mean Team: untitled, [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The Mean Team escape from whoever is pursuing them. Strontium Dog: “Max Bubba,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. While pursuing a man named Max Bubba, Johnny and Wulf are staked out on the ground and left to die. As they lie there, they start talking about when they first met. Wulf really did die for good at the end of this storyline.

STAR TREK #4 (DC, 1990) – “Repercussions,” [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. The Klingons and the Nazgul are bickering over which of them gets to kill Kirk, while the Federation is increasingly tired of Kirk’s loose-cannon behavior. Rather than court-martial Kirk, the Federation assigns him a protocol officer. This officer is R.J. Blaise, the best new character from PAD’s Star Trek comics, who makes her debut in this issue. This issue also includes a scene where Scotty and Uhura decide that they’re not romantically interested in each other. This scene is meant as a response to a scene in Star Trek V that implied that these characters were a possible couple. If I’ve ever seen Star Trek V, it was so long ago that I can’t remember anything about it, but it’s always been reviled by the fan community. And Scotty and Uhura seem like a terrible pairing to me.

TOMB OF DRACULA #4 (Marvel, 1972) – “Through a Mirror Darkly!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Gene Colan. An elderly former model named Isla Strangway gets Dracula to turn her into a vampire. Frank and Rachel kill Isla, but Taj apparently sacrifices himself to kill Dracula. Colan and Palmer’s art in this issue is beautiful, and this is one of the better-written issues of ToD from before Wolfman took over. This issue includes a scene where Taj uses the sign of the cross to repel Dracula. This is odd because Taj’s name and Indian origin, plus the fact that he wears a turban, all strongly suggest that he’s either a Hindu or a Sikh. According to Uncanny X-Men #159, the cross can only repel Dracula if used by someone who believes in Jesus, although of course that issue was published many years after this one.

VIGILANTE #17 (DC, 1985) – “Father’s Day,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Spousal abuser Carl Linnaker gets out of prison and promptly murders his wife, then goes in pursuit of his young daughter, who managed to escape. The daughter finds refuge with some two workers, but Carl finds her and murders one of the sex workers, and Vigilante has to team up with the other one to track Carl down. This two-parter is one of Alan’s lesser-known works for DC, but Carl is perhaps the single most loathsome character he ever created. This man is an utter monster of misogyny and violence, and when he gets killed in issue 18, it’s a relief. Also, Jim Baikie’s art here is excellent. He collaborated with Alan Moore on at least four different comics – the others were Skizz, Deathblow: Byblows and First American.

DETECTIVE COMICS #764 (DC, 2002) – “Hearts,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Shawn Martinborough. Sasha Bordeaux gets disgusted with Bruce Wayne and Vesper Fairchild’s romance. Meanwhile, Maggie Sawyer replaces Harvey Bullock as the leader of Gotham’s Major Crimes unit. Shawn Martinborough is one of the worst artists in the history of this series. His draftsmanship is competent, but his faces look weird and lifeless, and his art is too reliant on weird color schemes. The Josie Mac backup story, by Judd Winick and Cliff Chiang, may be better than the main story. Cliff Chiang’s style was not yet well developed in 2002, but he was still better than Martinborough. And Josie Mac has a really cool superpower where she can communicate with inanimate objects. She locates a lost child by finding one sock out of a mismatched pair, because it wants to be together with its matching sock.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue is full of gorgeous and weird artwork, but its story makes no sense at all. This Prophet run was always more appealing for its weirdness than for the coherence of its narrative.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #52 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 3: Your Fierce Tears,” as above. Megatron negotiates with Tarn, the leader of the DJD, but Overlord stops Tarn from killing Megatron. There are also a lot of character interactions that I didn’t understand because I don’t know who these characters are.

2000 AD #449 (IPC, 1985) – Strontium Dog: as above. In a flashback, Johnny, Wulf and some Vikings go on a voyage in order to stop Ragnarok. Slaine: “The Tomb of Terror,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Slaine and some allies travel through a dungeon filled with Orgots. Each chapter of “The Tomb of Terror” was accompanied by a section of a role-playing game module based on it. Dredd: “The Lurker,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A vagrant finds a discarded briefcase that he believes contains ten million creds. It actually contains radioactive material that gives off ten million rads, and when he opens the case, he dies in horrifying fashion. Rogue Trooper: as above. The aliens destroy the Nort-Souther peace treaty, and Rogue has to go back to war.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #1 (DC, 2006) – Spectre: “The Cold Hand of Vengeance!”, [W] David Lapham, [A] Eric Battle. The new Spectre, Crispus Allen, investigates the murder of a slumlord. This story arc is so excessively grim and hard-boiled that it feels like a self-parody. The reason to own this comic is the backup story, “Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Mortality” by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. This story is the only Brian Azzarello comic that I really like. It’s a witty exploration of DC’s tangled continuity. And it includes some of Cliff Chiang’s earliest artwork in his mature style.

SANDMAN #14 (DC, 1990) – “Collectors,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. This is the one with the serial killer convention. It’s one of the grimmest, most frightening issues of the series, right up there with “24 Hours.” It begins with Gilbert’s gruesome version of the Little Red Riding Hood story, and it only gets grimmer from there. But it also has its funny moments – like the madman who proclaims that he’s God, while sitting at a table and speaking into a microphone. There are some characters in this issue who never appear anywhere else – like Fun Land and Nimrod – yet they’re depicted with such loving detail that we almost sympathize with their madness. Also, this whole story is a spot-on parody of fan culture. This is the one issue of “Doll’s House” that I remember best, along with “Tales in the Sand” and “Men of Good Fortune.”

BATMAN #270 (DC, 1975) – “The Menace of the Fiery Heads!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Ernie Chua. A fairly conventional murder mystery. The most realistic part is that the murderer is discovered to be a recently paroled criminal, but Commissioner Gordon was never informed of his parole, because “they changed the system upstate… and it’s been taking much longer…” At the end of the issue, Batman tells some kids that Joe Namath is going to be the guest speaker at their event, and they all cheer. Joe Namath was near the end of his career at the time. He must have been a huge star at the time, but his reputation has declined since then. I always thought that David V. Reed’s real name was David Vern, and the SF Encyclopedia agrees with this, but Wikipedia says his real surname was Levine.

SUPERMAN #406 (DC, 1985) – “The Fight for the Right to Be Superman!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Irv Novick. Moe Ramboe, an old professional wrestler, used the name “Superman” before Superman did. Somehow Ramboe siphons powers from Superman and uses those powers to compete against Superman in a wrestling match. Ramboe’s costume is a clever variation on Superman’s. The backup story, “Can You Stump Superman?”, is a lot more interesting. At a charity event, Superman challenges the crowd by telling them that one person in the crowd is doing something Superman can’t do. After Superman foils a plot by some crooks, we learn that the thing he can’t do is smoke, and the person who’s doing it is Perry White.

RENEGADE ROMANCE #2 (Renegade, 1988) – [E] Deni Loubert and/or Trina Robbins. A collection of romantic stories. Deni Loubert and Steve Leialoha’s “Forever is a Long Long Time” is about her aunt’s marriage to a jazz musician. Colleen Doran’s “Eugène” includes a guest appearance by Oscar from Rose of Versailles. I wonder how Colleen was able to access that comic in 1988. I believe that it wasn’t completely translated into English until a few years ago, though there was an earlier partial translation. Trina’s “Red Love” is the conclusion of her adaptation of a novel by Alexandra Kollontai. Jackie Estrada and Barb Rausch’s “Daydreams” is about a woman who spends her entire life pining away for a boyfriend who left her. Barb Rausch’s here is super-detailed. It’s a pity that she’s been largely forgotten since her death. In Dave Hine’s “True Romance,” a bunch of Londoners have varying reactions to a copy of an American romance comic. Rozakis and DeStefano’s “Wedding Day” takes place at a wedding and explores the thoughts of the already-married couples in attendance. Overall this is a really interesting comic, and it even reminds me at times of Wimmen’s Comix. I wish there had been more than two issues of Renegade Romance.

DEFENDERS #6 (Marvel, 2001) – “Rumble in the Sky,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Erik Larsen. Humorously, this issue is narrated by the stupid version of the Hulk. The plot is that the Defenders fight Bi-Beast in Red Raven’s floating island city. This comic offers the same sort of entertainment and excitement as a classic Silver Age Marvel comic. I think I heard that this Defenders series was cancelled after just 12 issues because it was insufficiently grim and excessively fun for contemporary tastes.

 MS. TREE #18 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Muerta Means Death Chapter One: Homecoming” etc., [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Glenn rejects Ms. Tree’s romantic advances, and she returns to her hometown with Mike Jr. By the way, I just realized I’m not sure what city Ms. Tree lives in. Anyway, then Dan Green reappears, now wearing his trademark hook, and promptly goes to take revenge on Dominic Muerta.

My next Heroes trip was on August 21. This will also be my last visit to Heroes until after Worldcon.

NIGHTWING #95 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick saves Mayor Zucco from assassination, but the former police commissioner, who was the prime witness against Blockbuster, is murdered by Blockbuster’s troops. Dick and Maggie Sawyer organize four simultaneous operations against Blockbuster, successfully bringing about the downfall of his organization. Just as Dick seems to have won, Blockbuster holds a child hostage in the burning Haven library, and with no hesitation, Dick surrenders to Blockbuster in exchange for the child’s safety. Blockbuster beats the crap out of Dick and then unmasks him. So I guess now Dick has no choice but to kill Blockbuster to preserve his secret identity? But of course he’s too good to do that. Dick’s willing surrender is an example of how he’s the most truly heroic superhero in any current superhero comic. This issue includes a possible Easter Egg reference to Josep Toutain.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #4 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Weeks,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. 12-year-old Robbie joins the group of other people who wished to be superheroes, but all they do is fight people who wished to be supervillains. When the leader of Robbie’s group dies, he reveals with his last words that he was only eleven. This is the most poignant moment in the series so far. Also, we learn that the bartender is the last remaining genie from the previous time the genies granted everyone wishes. He says that whenever there are about eight billion people in the world, the genies show up to reduce the population. (Which makes me wonder, when have there ever been eight billion people before now? The bartender’s reference to “the last world” implies that there was another world or universe before the current one.)

DO A POWERBOMB #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The tournament begins, and Lona and Cobrasun barely win their first match, against a team of two orangutans. Their next opponents are the “Knights of Rhyne,” but it’s obvious that their opponents in the final will be FYSO, which stands for Fuck Your Stupid Opinions. This is another excellent issue, but I wish the other wrestling teams had been even weirder. Besides the orangutans and another team consisting of two robots, most of the tournament entrants are normal humans.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #2 (Image, 2022) – “Ignition,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Ma decides to carry out the heist. Her team makes it to the rich dude’s house and retrieves the crypto, but then they discover a dead body in the wine cellar. This is another excellent issue. I especially like the scene where the women dress up in the homeowner’s clothes and drink his liquor.

MS. MARVEL & WOLVERINE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Zé Carlos. A Krakoan tree in Central Park is attacked by an army of mechanical insects, and Kamala has to team up with Wolverine and the X-Men to stop them. This comic should have been called Ms. Marvel and the X-Men, since there are other X-Men in it besides Wolverine, and Storm in particular is essential to the resolution of the plot. It was fun seeing Kamala interact with Wolverine again, but I felt as if there was something missing from this story, and after reading Ms. Marvel & Moon Knight #1, I figured out what it was. See below.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless Bear-Fighter behaves like a complete jerk, until he gets fired from his bear-fighting organization, the Fuzz. Meanwhile, the Hillbilly Warlock announces that the cosmic entity Ursa Major is returning to Earth. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is kind of a one-joke comic, but it’s a funny joke, and this comic is entertaining.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #20 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcelo Grassi. After reliving Paul Revere’s ride several times, Charlotte and Valentina meet Uncle Sam. He shoots them, and they reawaken on December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. Chang, Janet and Ace meet some foreign agents, who reveal that Chang and Janet were responsible for America winning World War IV. One of the agents says that she slipped a phone into Chang’s pocket on an earlier page of the issue. If you reread, you do see that she appeared on an earlier page, but you can’t see her putting anything in Chang’s pocket.  

USAGI YOJIMBO #30 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu manage to escape the Komori ninja with the help of some of Chizu’s old allies. As Usagi and company travel to the capital through heavy snow, they’re attacked by more Komori ninja. All their horses get killed, and one of the attackers escapes to come back with more ninja. I assume Usagi isn’t going to make it to the shogun with the document that incriminates Lord Hikiji, because then the series’ overarching plot would end. I was confused by the man at the right of page 4, panel 2, but now I get it: this man is a slave of the Komori ninja, so he foreshadows what’s about to happen to the bandit.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #14 (DC, 2022) – “Siege of Gamorra,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon, Jay and some Gamorran teen superheroes plan their assault on Bendix, with unexpected help from Damian. Jon gives Jay a Legion flight ring. BTW, how nice would it be if Tom Taylor was writing the Legion? Then the Legion would be readable again. Not only have I not been buying the current JLA vs LSH title, I haven’t even bothered to flip through it in the store. At the end of the issue, Jon and Jay make it into Gamorra’s prison, where they’re confronted by Jay’s mother.

2000 AD #2271 (Rebellion, 2022) – On my latest Heroes trip I bought the three prog packs that I declined to buy on the previous trip. I still haven’t finished reading all these progs. Dredd: “The Citadel 02,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. In a flashback to the Apocalypse War, Dredd organizes a posse of judges to fight the Sovs. One of the judges is mortally wounded, and Dredd asks the dying judge to sacrifice himself to cover Dredd’s party’s escape. In this moment Dredd almost seems tender. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part 10,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Tsellest decides to get rid of everyone who knows about the Scorchers’ genocidal nature, but Vex escapes from Tsellest’s planet. I still don’t understand  what Proteus Vex is about, but this story’s plot makes a bit more sense in retrospect. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage Part 10,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. The fight with the Shadow-Kraken continues, while the tiny Paul Bunyan creature fights a smaller version of the Shadow-Kraken inside Ben Franklin’s body. Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow Part 8,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus and allies decide to take the fight to the aliens. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Just some boring discussions of outer-space labor politics. I don’t understand why I should care about any of this stuff, and this series is confusing because of the large number of unexplained acronyms and abbreviations – HSD, Gentau, etc.

LOVE EVERLASTING #1 (Image, 2022) – “Meant to Be” etc., [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. In the first story, set sometime in the ‘40s or ‘50s, Joan Peterson falls in love with her boss George. In the second story, set in the ‘60s, the same Joan Peterson falls in love with a hippie musician, but she’s troubled by recollections of her previous lover George. The third story is set in the Old West, but Joan can still remember the previous two stories somehow. This series is a clever parody of romance comics, and I’m curious to find out the explanation for its narrative structure, although I’m afraid that this series will be disappointing, like so many of Tom King’s other works. More on that point later. I do think it’s unfortunate that there are so many parodies of romance comic books, but that hardly anyone has tried to revive the classic romance comic format in a non-ironic way. However, that format would be unlikely to succeed today for a large number of reasons, including its lack of continuity: most classic romance comics had multiple self-contained stories in each issue.

AVENGERS AND MOON GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mohale Mashigo, [A] Dio Neves et al. Lunella travels to Wakanda and teams up with Shuri and Captain Marvel to look for Devil Dinosaur on the moon. She finds that he’s been captured by the High Evolutionary, but the Evolutionary gets away with Devil. Like Ms. Marvel and Wolverine, this comic has a misleading title, though it’s misleading for the opposite reason: that comic should have been called Ms. Marvel and the X-Men, and this one should have been called Captain Marvel and Moon Girl. Otherwise, this comic is entertaining and goofy in the same way that the original Moon Girl title was.

THE WARD #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Andres Ponce. While rescuing people from a collapsing building, Nat gets stuck under some rubble, and Luis has to take his illegal troll supplements to save her. When Nat wakes up, she discovers that her leg is injured, she’s left her child unsupervised, and Luis is stuck in troll form. Even without the fantasy elements, this issue would have been memorable for its harrowing depiction of overworked medical staff and the mistakes they cause. Again I get the impression that this series is drawing upon personal knowledge, though I can’t find any evidence that Cavan Scott has ever worked in the medical field.

THE SILVER COIN #13 (Image, 2022) – “Threshold,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Michael Walsh. Karena and Brett are having a baby, but Brett denies paternity. Later, while arguing with Brett over a pay phone, Karena finds the silver coin in her change. Then her unborn baby talks to her and announces its plans to take over the world. To defeat its plot, Karena has to stab her own wrist with scissors so she can drop the coin. The baby is born safely, but it and all the other babies born that night have eyes that look like the coin. And significantly, that night is December 31, 1999. Also, Brett gets killed, which is good because he’s an asshole. This issue includes some really gruesome body horror.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #5 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Althalia manages to rescue her grandmother from Mictlan, but then she discovers that the ceramic frog is missing, which means Abuelita is really dead. Althalia has to say goodbye to her grandmother. I had to reread the rest of the series in order to figure out what was going on in this issue, but after I did that, I found this issue to be a satisfying conclusion. I hope there’s a sequel to Season of the Bruja, although I wonder if Oni Press will survive long enough to publish it.

BATGIRLS #9 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. The Batgirls fight KGBeast, and then they discover that their creepy neighbor Mr. Greene has been murdered. Also, they discover a mysterious coded note. This is obviously a book cipher, where each set of three numbers refers to a page, line, and word from a specific book, and the book is probably the edition of Poe that Cass is given by Mr. Dhaliwal earlier in the issue. However, I can’t break the cipher without having access to that edition of Poe. Cass’s    newfound interest in books is really cute. This issue looks visually similar to the earlier issues of the series, despite Neil Googe’s very different style of draftsmanship compared to Jorge Corona, and I believe the reason is because the colorist, Rico Renzi, has been using the same color scheme throughout the series.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Erica Schultz. Florist Jasmine Hawthorn has been murdered. Her three daughters, Poppy, Rose and Violet, have to overcome their difficulties and solve the murder. This series is entertaining because of the clashing personalities of the three sisters, and I also like its flower theme.

TRVE KVLT #1 (IDW, 2022) – “You Got Time to Lean, You Got Time to Clean,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. Our protagonist is an insufferable jerk who thinks he’s a big deal because he manages a fast food restaurant. One day he decides to augment his income by robbing the nearby stores. While doing so, he steals a package from an armored truck, not knowing that the package is the property of a Satanic cult. The funniest moment in this issue is when the guy robs a comic book store, but doesn’t bother to take any of the old comic books, because he believes the owner’s lie that the comics aren’t worth anything. I have never seen the appeal of Liana Kangas’s artwork.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Alvaro Lopez & Juan Frigeri. Carol’s trial continues, and she tries to avoid killing the orphaned baby dragon. Eventually she solves that problem and discovers that she’s been in the Bar with No Doors all along. Back on Earth, the Enchantress kidnaps Lieutenant Trouble. The best part about this issue is the panel where Alriac, King of the Snatmen is eating Snat Corn.

2000 AD #2272 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd’s team continues their journey to the Citadel, whatever that is. Throughout this story Dredd is depicted as a ruthless but efficient military commander. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Agent Naday continue their escape. The Order: as above. The shadow creatures from “The Gulf” try to recruit Ben Franklin to their side. His comrade, whose name I don’t remember, saves him but gets lost at sea. That’s the end of this story arc. Kingmaker: as above. A corporate representative, Von Bek (a Moorcockian name), tells Crixus that he now owns his planet and is obligated to mine its reserves of “quintessence.” Brink: as above. Another chapter in which nothing interesting happens.

TIGER’S TONGUE #2 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Olivia Stephens, [A] Diansakhu Banton-Perry. The two sisters compete in the first of several trials. This comic is not terrible, but neither is it good enough to continue reading. Again, I’m disappointed at the generic nature of Tiger’s Tongue’s African setting. I was hoping that this comic would be more Africanfuturist, and that it would engage with some particular African culture.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juan Gedeon, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [A] Jon Mikel. More of the same stuff as last issue, but at least the quality of the artwork is much higher.

2000 AD #2273 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and his team continue to fight their way to the Citadel. By this point, this was my favorite story in each prog. Kingmaker: as above. This chapter is mostly a conversation between Crixus and Ablard. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Naday continue to evade pursuit. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. In 1963, while flying over the Soviet Union, an American spy pilot is killed by spiders. The Americans receive intelligence on this from a Soviet necromancer who wants to defect. This version of Fiends of the Eastern Front is a Cold War espionage story, while the original version from 1980 was a war story. Brink: as above. More pointless nonsense, except that at the end of the story, we witness the unions performing a strange mystic ritual.

SLUMBER #6 (Image, 2022) – “Waking Life,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. There’s a flashback to Valkira’s origin, and then Stetson kills Valkira, but Valkira comes back to life and joins her dream detective agency. I don’t quite understand this ending. Slumber was interesting, but it’s not among the top tier of recent Image comics.

WONDER WOMAN #790 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Finale,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino et al. Diana’s mirror duplicate sacrifices herself to save Diana from Dr. Psycho, and then Diana kicks Dr. Psycho’s ass. Dr. Psycho is depicted here as not just a horrible MRA, but also a domestic abuser. He insults and controls the mirror-girl (who he calls “sweetheart,” but she in fact has no name), even though he’s dependent on her protection. It’s a cathartic and sad moment when she breaks his control, only to die immediately. I disliked this issue’s Young Diana story less than I usually do. Antiope’s manipulation of Diana is eerily convincing, and Hippolyta plays right into Antiope’s hands by trying to tear Diana away from Antiope.

HEART EYES #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. In a postapocalyptic world filled with me, a wandering girl is rescued by a group of survivors. This comic has some interesting artwork and characterization, but a severe lack of setup or worldbuilding. We don’t get enough background information, and it’s not clear to me just what caused the catastrophe, or what makes the monsters show up. By contrast, Human Remains is a fairly similar comic to this one, but in Human Remains, the way the monsters worked was clear from the start.

MS. MARVEL AND MOON KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibraim Roberson. Kamala teams up with Moon Knight, a character I’ve never cared about, against the same menace from the previous one-shot. After reading this issue I realized what was the problem with Jody Houser’s Ms. Marvel: there’s no supporting cast, and we never see Kamala in her civilian identity. Kamala is interesting not because of her powers, but because of her connection to her family, friends, and community. Because Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight includes none of those things, it’s just a generic superhero comic.

DAREDEVIL #2 (650) (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Chechetto, et al. While fighting with Matt, Goldy claims that he was secretly responsible for every major development in Matt’s life. I prefer to believe that these are not actual retcons, and that Goldy is just lying to Matt. Goldy is certainly not a reliable source, and he’s also a smug, self-righteous asshole. Various pages of this issue are drawn by classic Daredevil artists of the past, including Alex Maleev, Chris Samnee and John Romita Jr. However, it’s annoying that there’s no indication of which pages are by which guest artists. This issue includes a backup story by Ann Nocenti and Zdarsky, which is impossible to understand because of its overly compressed plot. There are also some strips by Chris Giarrusso, who I strongly dislike, and a gallery of all 650 Daredevil covers.

ORDINARY GODS #8 (Image, 2022) – “Ordinary Dogs,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. The dog, Gracie, singlehandedly rescues the other good guys from the evil old blonde lady. By the way, I don’t think the villain’s name is mentioned anywhere in this issue, and I wish this series had a character guide. There’s no possible way I can remember all the gods’ names. Anyway, then the gods discover that they have one key to the God Machine, and the other key is in Shanghai.

BLACK ADAM #3 (DC, 2022) – “Whom the Gods Would Destroy: Theogony Book 3,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Black Adam fights Ereshkigal and the Bull of Heaven. I like this series’s use of Mesopotamian mythology, but by this point I had already decided that this issue would be my last.

2000 AD #2274 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. The team travels through the sewers to the Citadel, and Dredd continues to assert his absolute authority. Again, this is easily the best story in the issue. Kingmaker: as above. Crixus decides to destroy the quintessence mining rigs, much to Von Bek’s annoyance. Proteus Vex: as above. This chapter is mostly about the aliens who look like giant legless dolls. I’m not sure if these are the same race as Proteus Vex or not. Mercifully, this is the last chapter of this story arc.  Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. A vampire and a voodoo sorcerer team up to investigate the disappearance of the pilot. BTW, each of the progs after #2270 includes a page that summarizes some notable past issues of 2000 AD. Brink: as above. This is another boring chapter, and it includes an annoying number of blacked-out curse words.

2000 AD #2275 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd’s team, now much reduced, finally makes it into the Citadel. Kingmaker: as above. Ichnar the Wraith-King comes back to life, and the quintessence company arrives with a giant spaceship. This is the  end of this story arc. Intestinauts: “The Bowel Impactors Part 1,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Pye Watt. The Intestinauts are intelligent robots designed to clear harmful materials out of a spaceport’s sewers. While performing their mission, they come across a giant fatberg. This story is a breath of fresh air (though that phrase might not be appropriate, given the subject matter) after a bunch of rather boring progs. Intestinauts’s story is hilariously disgusting, and Pye Watt’s art and coloring are very vivid. Fiends: as above. The defecting necromancer is not who he claims to be, and he cuts the vampire’s head off. The voodoo sorcerer comes across Baba Yaga’s hut. Brink: as above. Yet another boring chapter.

DUO #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. This issue sort of explains why the Immutables are relevant to the plot, and it also includes more of interactions between David and Kelly. That’s good because those interactions are the main reason to read this comic. Still, this series is underwhelming and it’s not Greg Pak’s best work.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #4 (DC, 2022) – “4 the Hard Way,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Chriscross & Sean Damien Hill. Holocaust declares himself the king of Paris Island, and we’re introduced to a couple new Blood Syndicate members, Brickhouse and Third Rail. This is another disappointing series. Holocaust is an impressive villain, but he takes up too much of this issue, and there’s not enough room to explore all the other characters. To be fair, when I checked this issue again, I realized I was overestimating the number of pages that were devoted to Holocaust.

ABSOLUTION #2 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina assassinates a bunch of mobsters, but gets low ratings for it, and it’s revealed that some of her victims were undeserving of death. Meanwhile, Nina gets a message from a woman, “Magicah,” whose employer is r*p*ng her, and this gives her a new idea about who she should target. This issue is much more captivating than issue 1, mostly due to Magicah’s frustrating plight, and it makes me excited about this series.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Keep It Peaceful,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The price of bread crashes, the Prince dude decides to drop money out of the sky, a cop is killed by a mob, and a zodiac-sign-obsessed gang makes its appearance. This series still seems unable to decide what it’s about or what it’s making fun of. It has no coherent plot or theme. I’m continuing to read it only because I’m an Ahoy completist, and because I like Matt Bors’s political cartoons.

FLAVOR GIRLS #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. A complex story that’s full of characterization and worldbuilding. There’s also a backup story that’s an adaptation of a Japanese horror film. And we learn that all the girls’ powers are based on fruit flavors. I do wonder how this series’ plot can be wrapped up in just one more issue, but other than that, it’s quite a fun comic.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – THE RIDDLER #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I hated this comic. It’s the latest in a series of disappointing efforts from Tom King, who is quickly squandering the goodwill he built up with The Vision and Mister Miracle. The overall problem with these One Bad Day one-shots is that each of them is a different Batman villain’s version of The Killing Joke, but The Killing Joke itself was a mistake, and DC ought to pretend that it never happened. The problem with this comic in particular is that it wastes the potential of the Riddler’s character. The Riddler is my favorite Batman villain because he’s the living embodiment of mysteries and questions. He ought to be written as a brilliant puzzlemaster, and as a puzzle himself. But instead Tom King chooses to turn him into just a worse version of the Joker. In his depiction, the Riddler knows everything about everyone, he can kill anybody for any reason, and Batman can’t stop him without killing him. As this review points out, it’s implausible that the RIddler is so omnipotent and omniscient. Also, when a villain is this powerful, it becomes impossible to tell interesting stories about him, and so this issue ends with Batman killing the Riddler, because there’s no other way it can end. The trouble with the Riddler is that only a few writers can write him properly, and Tom King is not one of those writers.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #8 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce trains with an academic named Daniel Captio, hoping that Dr. Captio can help him overcome his moral constraints. After an encounter with Anton and an agent of Ra’s al Ghul, Bruce decides that he can’t give up his morality. Bruce and Anton go off to meet Ra’s for the first time. (Addendum: According to my collection database, I did buy Batman: The Knight #7, but somehow I never read it. Maybe I misplaced it.)

QUESTS ASIDE #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. I guess there’s some reasonably good characterization in this issue, but its jokes aren’t funny, and I don’t care about any of its characters. I think there’s just one more issue, or else I would give up on this series. I just realized that Brian Schrimer wrote Fairlady, which I also  disliked, and I’m going to avoid his work from now on.

2000 AD #2276 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. As they fight through the Citadel, Dredd and his team inexplicably run into an exact duplicate of Dredd. Hope: “In the Shadows,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. A murder mystery set on a Hollywood movie set. Jimmy Broxton is an excellent artist, with impressive mixed-media technique and a black-and-white art style that reminds me of Sean Phillips or David Roach. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts encounter their enemies, the Bowel Impactors. This chapter includes an utterly spectacular two-page spread depicting the landscape of the sewers. Fiends: as above. The vampire and the sorcerer both wake up in Baba Yaga’s house, and the vampire releases its astral form. This is the most Hellboy-esque 2000 AD story I’ve ever seen. Brink: as above. There’s still nothing here of any interest.

Older comics:

THE PROWLER #2 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Blood and Evil,” [W] Tim Truman, [A] John K. Snyder III. An elderly superhero teams up with a young sidekick against a creepy eternal life cult. This is perhaps not Tim Truman’s best work of the ‘80s, but it’s interesting. There’s also a backup story, co-written by Michael H. Price and drawn by Graham Nolan, that takes place  during the Prowler’s 1940s career (although the cover says that this story is set in the 1930s).

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #53 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 4: At Close of Day,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. The besieged Autobots prepare for the final battle against the DJD. There’s a poignant moment in this issue where six of the Autobots swear eternal friendship with each other. Also, Minimus Ambus and Dominus Ambus become the new Ultra Magnus.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #5 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I’ve had this comic in my to-be-read boxes for a long time, but I thought I’d already read it, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn’t. In this issue Dodge uses the head key and the teleportation key to cause all sorts of havoc, and he also seduces Kinsey.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #54 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 5: Rage, Rage,” as above. The Autobots gain super powers using a “spark spasm,” but the new powers don’t last long. Megatron discovers that “fool’s energon” is just a placebo, and this somehow motivates him to join the battle in person. He defeats a bunch of the enemy singlehandedly, but then his cannon is destroyed, and Tarn and Overlord appear to shoot him dead. By this point I was enjoying this series a lot, despite my incomplete understanding of its plot.

VAMPIRELLA #5 (Dynamite, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Eman Casallos. This issue is mostly an action sequence where Vampi fights some monstrous blonde lady. The context for this fight is not explained, and overall this issue isn’t interesting at all.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #5 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue includes some scenes with Glory. These scenes were supposed to have been drawn by Sophie Campbell, but she was unable to, and Brandon Graham drew them himself. As usual, this issue’s plot makes no sense.

ART OPS #9 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Popism Part 2: The Neighborhood of Dads,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Matt Brundage. This is another poorly written issue, and it isn’t even drawn by Mike Allred or Eduardo Risso, as earlier issues were. This comic wants to be Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, but Shaun Simon is a far less skillful writer than Morrison. The villains of this storyline are a group of stereotypical suburban dads. They claim Fredric Wertham as one of their members, although Wertham himself had no children, as far as I can tell.

SECRETS OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE #24 (Charlton, 1961) – “There’s Always Tomorrow,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Joe Sinnott, etc. A collection of four boring, predictable stories with lifeless art. Charlton’s romance comics were of such low quality that I often don’t bother to buy them, even if they’re very cheap.

SUPERMAN #38 (DC, 1989) – “Unnatural Disaster,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Emil Hamilton tries to cure Jimmy Olsen of a mysterious disease, but instead exchanges him for an ancient creature called Husque. This character and his sister Tehra were introduced in Adventures of Superman #443. Also, Superman searches fruitlessly for Brainiac, then saves some people from a tidal wave. This issue’s plot is rather odd, but it includes some very striking artwork, especially the two-page splash depicting the tidal wave.

EERIE TALES #12 (I.W., 1964) – “The Werewolf of Warsham Manor!”, [W] unknown, [A] Moe Marcus. This comic is an unauthorized reprint of Eerie #1, published by Avon in 1951. It consists of four horror stories, three of which are boring, overwritten, and poorly drawn. The fourth story, “The Subway Horror!”, drawn by Fred Kida, is head and shoulders above the other three. It has a funny plot about a henpecked husband (or an abused husband, as we would now say) who tries and fails to kill his wife, and Kida’s visual storytelling is exciitng and Eisner-esque. This story was first published in Eerie Comics #1, a 1947 one-shot (the 1951 series did not have “comics” in its title), and Fantagraphics liked it enough to include it in the 2010 book Four Color Fear.

SUGAR & SPIKE #98 (DC, 1971) – “Sugar & Spike Meet a Real Halloween Goblin!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Two of the stories in this issue are reprints from earlier in the series, but the other two, both guest-starring Bernie the Brain, are original. The better of the two new stories is “Who Fooled the Fooler?” In this story, a scammer tries to sell a fake “youth and beauty box” to Spike’s dad’s company, but Sugar and Spike accidentally foil this scheme. This was the last issue of the series, though there is no indication of this in the issue itself. Mayer continued to create new Sugar & Spike for foreign markets, There was an issue 99, but it was published in 1992, after Sheldon Mayer’s death.

TARZAN: THE BECKONING #5 (Malibu, 1993) – “Into the Web,” [W] Henning Kure, [W/A] Tom Yeates. Tarzan has a flashback involving an encounter with an immortal witch doctor, and Jane has an adventure in a hidden valley. This issue has some exciting artwork, though its plot is not very impressive. It seems like the point of this issue is to explain Tarzan and Jane’s unnatural lifespan.

2000 AD #2277 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. The two Dredds argue with each other, then flee from the Sovs’ pursuit. Brink: as above. The journalist dude talks with an old union member who takes him into the underworks below the city. This chapter is a bit more interesting than the earlier ones.  Hope: as above. A detective, Mallory Hope, is hired to solve last issue’s murder, in exchange for information about his missing wife. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts meet some intelligent microbes known as “Tummy Pals,” and then they fight the Bowel Impactors again. The art in this storyline continues to be brilliant. Fiends: as above. The three main characters escape from Baba Yaga’s hut.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Alan Davis. As usual, Bruce Banner wakes up lost and naked in the middle of nowhere, but this time he can’t turn into the Hulk. Luckily Amadeus Cho shows up and rescues him. Now that he can’t Hulk out, Bruce goes around endangering his life on purpose, until Tony Stark comes to collect him. Alan Davis is a favorite of mine, and I’m not sure why I didn’t read this comic much sooner.

BLACK WIDOW #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. In an isolated cabin, Natasha and Bucky fight another super-spy, the Recluse. This issue has a pretty boring plot, but Chris Samnee’s action sequences are thrilling. Chris Samnee is an excellent artist who’s had the bad luck to work on a bunch of poorly written comics, such as Fire Power and this Black Widow series.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #55 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. Tarn’s true identity is revealed to be Glitch, but I don’t know the significance of this. Some time-traveling Autobots appear out of nowhere. Megatron uses black hole powers to defeat the DJD in a somewhat anticlimactic way. Then Rung and Nightbeat travel to the inside of Necroworld, which is a mirror of the surface of Cybertron, and they accidentally trigger a planet-destroying bomb.

SUPERMAN #346 (DC, 1980) – “Superman’s Streak of Bad Luck!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. While moonlighting at the Daily Planet, Superman investigates a new game show on which celebrity guests compete to lose their money. This game show seems to be based on The Price is Right. In his investigation, Superman keeps suffering from bad luck. He discovers that the bad luck is being caused by Professor Amos Fortune, whose appearance in this story is surprising because he’s mostly a Justice League villain. I wonder if Amos Fortune was named after the Newbery Medal-winning novel Amos Fortune, Free Man.

ART & BEAUTY #3 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Robert Crumb. This is a very disturbing comic – although it’s not really a comic at all, but a collection of illustrations with commentary. It consists of Crumb’s drawings of various women, some from photographs and some from life. Crumb’s draftsmanship is beautiful as always, but throughout the issue he shows no interest in the women as people. He discusses them only as collections of surfaces and volumes. What’s even worse is that some of the women are drawn from “candid” photos. In other words, Crumb photographed them himself without their consent, or allowed other people to do so, and then he redrew these photographs and exhibited these drawings in a gallery. So Crumb appropriates these women’s images in a very unfair and creepy way, and then he tries to justify this act by including a lot of pseudo-intellectual quotations and meditations about art. I don’t think Crumb cares about art, at least at this point in his career. I think his alleged artistic intentions, at least in this comic, are just an excuse for gratifying his fetish for thighs and asses, and it’s dishonest of him to pretend otherwise.  

2000 AD #2278 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and his surviving teammates escape into the sewers. Dredd throws his clone into the water, where the clone is eaten by a sea monster. Back in the present, Winterton asks to whisper something in the priest’s ear, then grabs the priest’s ear with his teeth. Hope: as above. Hope interviews the director of the film on which an actor was murdered. Then Hope starts to choke to death while talking on the phone. One of the minor characters in this chapter appears to be named after Jesus Blasco. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts and Tummy Pals defeat the Bowel Impactors. This was a very fun story. Fiends: as above. This story’s resemblance to Hellboy grows even greater, as the last panel shows Baba Yaga talking with Rasputin. Brink: as above. The journalist and the old dude discuss the superstitions associated with the habitat’s underworks.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #125 (ACG, 1964) – “Magicman!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Pete Costanza. This story introduces Magicman, perhaps ACG’s only real superhero. Magicman is the son of the legendary wizard Cagliostro, and thus he’s immortal and has rather ill-defined powers. In the present day, he saves an American senator from being captured by the Viet Cong. This story’s positive portrayal of the Vietnam War is unusual, though Don Markstein says that at this time, the war wasn’t as unpopular as it soon became. (BTW, Markstein himself has a letter in this issue.) Later in its run, Magicman abandoned its Vietnam setting and became more of a parody. This issue also contains two self-contained stories. One of them, drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger, is an allegedly true story about a banker’s mysterious disappearance, and the other, drawn by George Wilhelms, is about some microscopic creatures who enlarge themselves and try to invade Earth. The concept of a microverse is most familiar from Marvel’s stories with the Micronauts, Jarella and Psycho-Man, but Marvel’s first microverse was introduced in 1943. I wonder what was the first story to include a microscopic civilization.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #3 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Dwight and Marv get in a bar fight. Then Dwight goes looking for a woman named Ava, but after he kills Ava’s husband or boyfriend, Ava shoots him. Frank Miller’s artwork in this series was considered revolutionary at the time, but I’m not sure whether I agree.

CEREBUS #137 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Like-a-Looks,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Three or four of Lord Julius’s duplicates try to decide which of them, if any, is the real one. This issue is full of the sort of brilliant humor that used to be one of Cerebus’s key selling points. By this point in its run, Cerebus was rarely funny anymore, and as a result it was less readable. Also, after this two-parter Lord Julius mostly vanished from the series, and that was a pity because he was one of its most fascinating characters. This issue’s cover says “Jaka’s Story Epilogue 1,” but “Like-a-Looks” has little to do with “Jaka’s Story.” This issue’s backup feature is a preview of Brat Pack #1.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #6 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue doesn’t feel like any kind of conclusion to Brandon Graham’s Prophet run. And for some reason it ends with a long series of single-panel flashbacks and flashforwards, none of which have any apparent connection to each other. And thus we finally come to the end of this stack.

Categories
Uncategorized

June/July 2022 reviews

6-29

2000 AD #2239 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Removal Man Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Dredd saves the busload of old people and brings Bick to justice. Aquila: “The Rivers of Hades 1.2,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Patrick Goddard. The dead people take over a ship. The eponymous protagonist of this story, a Nubian gladiator with no soul, is more or less the same character as Blackhawk from Tornado. Department K: “Cosmic Chaos Part 6,” [W] Rory McConville, [A] Dan Cornwell. We meet the aliens who were inhabiting the purple inverted pyramid that was hunting the locust. Then Blackcurrant, the purple Department K member, enters the pyramid and confronts the aliens. Skip Tracer: “Eden Part 3,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. In a flashback, Nolan Blake sleeps with a woman named Hastings. In the present, Hastings shows up again, accompanied by a baby who is obviously Nolan’s. Chimpsky’s Law: “The Talented Mr. Chimpsky Part 6,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Amanda Jepperson tries to leave all her money to Chimpsky, since she sees him, rather than her brainless descendants, as her real heir. But Chimpsky runs away and gets in a fight with the mandrill dude. The two Chimpsky stories, this one and the one with Captain Cookies, are perhaps the best 2000 AD stories in the last couple years.

JOE HILL’S RAIN #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. Honeysuckle figures out that Templeton’s mother, Ursula, was responsible for the rain of nails. Then Ursula gets killed saving Templeton’s life, Honeysuckle discovers a possible way to stop the rain, and she and Templeton walk off into the sunset. This ending seems contrived and excessively simple. I had assumed that Rain was similar to The Walking Dead, in that the causes of the disaster didn’t matter, and what did matter was the relationships between the characters. So it’s a surprise that the plot gets tied off in such a neat way.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Here Comes the Harvest,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Angry at being rejected from the Quiet Council, Selene summons a giant monster to attack Krakoa. Hope assassinates Selene so that she can be resurrected on Krakoa and be forced to get rid of the monster. This wasn’t the most notable issue.

THE FOX: FAMILY VALUES #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Mid-Life Pisces,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel. As the title indicates, the Fox confronts a mid-life crisis and impostor syndrome. There’s also another original story by Vito Delsante and Richard Ortiz, and a reprint of the Alex Toth story from Black Hood #2, a comic I already own. Dean Haspiel’s Fox is okay, but it’s never been a favorite of mine, and I could have skipped this issue.

THE WRONG EARTH: PURPLE #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Purple,” [W] Stuart Moore, Fred Harper. On Earth-Kappa, a villain, obviously based on Prince, tries to convince the local version of Dragonfly to be a better corporate citizen. This issue has less of an obvious theme than the last two Wrong Earth one-shots, although Stuart Moore claims it’s a commentary on the “greed is good” mentality of the ‘80s. https://aiptcomics.com/2022/05/17/stuart-moore-we-purple-qa/ This issue’s theme of madness-inducing architecture is reminiscent of Mister X.

THE BLUE FLAME #8 (Vault, 2022) – “Beyond the Cosmic Horizon,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Dee is confined to bed rest and is unable to work, while Mateo is still stuck in ICE prison, and Sam is languishing in a homeless shelter. The reporter, Gordon, convinces Sam to man up and stop letting Dee bear the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. Dee’s situation is kind of heartbreaking – this woman is about to give birth but is unable to take maternity leave, and on top of that, her boyfriend is in prison, and she’s also supporting her lazy bum of a brother. Sadly all of these things have been normalized in America. Meanwhile, in the other plotline, the Blue Flame travels to the edge of the universe, and his lawyer follows him. I’m increasingly starting to think that none of the outer-space stuff is “really” happening.

2000 AD #2240 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Now That’s What I Call Justice! Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Higgins. A group called Justice Watch is producing pirate broadcasts in which they rank the most brutal arrests performed by Judges. Meanwhile, someone is murdering Judges, and a convict named Gort has just gotten out of prison and is seeking revenge. This story’s title is a funny reference to Now That’s What I Call Music. Aquila: as above. The protagonists continue their journey through the underworld, and the villain, Lady Cruciata, appeals to Dis Pater – the Roman version of Hades – for assistance against them. Department K: as above. The remaining Department K members travel through the locust’s corpse until they’re confronted by the two aliens from last issue. Skip Tracer: as above. Blake and Pamela Hastings are attacked by some goons, and the baby, Eden, uses her psychic powers to start an earthquake and defeat them. An assassin named Nimrod is dispatched to hunt down Blake and Pamela. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky almost kills Burdell the mandrill, but discovers that Burdell was just protecting his family. Chimpsky decides to return to Earth and use Jepperson’s money to improve Mega-City One.

BLIND ALLEY #1 (Behemoth, 2022) – “A History,” [W/A] Irra. A man named Jesus, who seems to be some kind of common criminal, returns to his hometown of Sevilla. I bought this because it’s a Spanish comic and it seems to have been well-received in Spain. However, this first issue is lacking a clear plot or theme.

BOLERO #5 (Image, 2022) – “20 Years Later” etc., [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. After a lot of confusing stuff I don’t understand, Devyn gets her life back together. Overall I did not enjoy this series. In the first place, it felt like a Brandon Graham comic, even though he didn’t literally write or draw it. In the second place, I only understood the plot of the first issue, and from the second issue onward, I was completely lost.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #3 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue is partially inspired by the real-life phenomenon where people own millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, but are unable to access that currency because they’ve forgotten their password. The most famous example of this is the case of Stefan Thomas, who lost the password to a USB drive containing $321 million in bitcoin, and had only two more chances to guess the password before the drive encrypted itself irreversibly. In Red Room: Trigger Warnings #3, a certain Mr. Lansdale acquires a drive that holds $400 million in bitcoin (by murdering the owner. Lansdale takes the drive to Pitcairn Island so that Satoshi Nakamoto – named after the pseudonymous inventor of bitcoin – can unlock it for him. But Nakamoto has turned Pitcairn Island into an inbred cult society based on human sacrifice. So this issue is an example of Red Room’s unique combination of digital culture with gruesome schlock horror. I talked to Ed Piskor at Heroes Con (more on this later) and we discussed this story a bit.

G.I.L.T. #2 (Aftershock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. Hildy and Trista travel back in time to 1973, but while trying to stop Hildy from screwing up her life, they transport an entire Pan Am plane into 2017. The surprising thing in this issue is that Trista is 53, meaning she belongs to the same generation as Alisa Kwitney herself. I had had the impression that she was a lot younger.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton train with a KGB spy, and they compete to steal a book from the American embassy in Russia. This issue has some clever plot twists, especially how Bruce wins the competition with Anton by stealing the book out of Anton’s pocket. However, there’s not much about this issue that stands out in my mind.

ETERNALS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail Thanos, Finale,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Thanos gets the codes to the Machine, but discovers that the Machine can’t recognize him. Then he tries to use the Machine to blow up the world, but Druig has already put in a fail-safe so that that won’t work. Druig is elected the new Prime Eternal, and decides that the mutants on Krakoa all count as “excess deviation.” This was an entertaining conclusion. I like the Avengers appearances in this storyline, because the Avengers and the Eternals are utterly unable to understand each other.

THE X-CELLENT #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 3,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The conflict between the X-Cellent and the new X-Statix continues. I don’t remember much about this issue in particular, and this whole series feels like an unoriginal rehash of the original X-Statix series. This issue includes a character named Uno who has somehow become a giant disembodied eye, and is angry at the world as a result. This premise appears to be borrowed from a Far Side cartoon about a man named Mr. Pembrose.

THE MARVELS #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Journey into the Mystery,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Beyond the doors, the heroes travel through a strange wasteland until they find a comic book shop filled with classic Marvel comics. Its proprietor is Threadneedle, who’s been making sporadic appearances throughout the series. This entire series has been kind of weird and rambling, and I’m not sorry it’s almost over.

2000 AD #2241 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Justice Watch claims responsibility for the murders of more judges, but Dredd begins to suspect that some of the Judges are being murdered by a copycat. Meanwhile, Gort assassinates an elderly Judge, Elrik. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Pamela have a conversation about how people are going to pursue them because of the baby. This scene illustrates how Skip Tracer is kind of similar to Saga, in that it’s about two new parents who are in the grip of forces beyond their control. Then Nimrod shows up at Pamela’s house and kidnaps the baby. Department K: as above. It’s revealed that the aliens – the Valox – are trying to use the dead Locust to destroy the multiverse, but Blackcurrant arrives to save the day. Sinister: “Bulletopia Chapter Five: Its Own Devices, Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Steve Yeowell. Sinister and Tracy Weld wake up and are confronted by a rogue AI. I’ve never understood Sinister Dexter’s continuity, but this chapter has a funny exchange: “Nice tatts.” “You too. You said tatts, right?” “Yeah, but what’s a vowel between friends?” Aquila: as above. The protagonists get transportation from some minotaurs or centaurs, but then the villainess arrives and summons Cronus the titan.

2000 AD #2242 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd investigates Erlik’s murder, and not much else happens. Skip Tracer: as above. Nimrod kills Pamela, leaving Nolan a single parent. This is an annoying piece of fridging, and it also ends the resemblance between Skip Tracer and Saga. Department K: as above. The Department K agents fight the Valox. Sinister: as above. The AI orders Sinister and Tracy to assassinate Dexter and two others, including Carrie Hosanna. Aquila: as above. Aquila defeats Cronus and opens the passage into Tartarus.

A few older comics:

CEREBUS #244 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is barely a comic at all. Half the pages are excerpts from F. Stop Kennedy’s “novel” Singularity, which is really a rambling philosophical monologue, and the other pages are surrealistic illustrations. Dave is frankly a terrible prose writer. His writing is histrionic and exaggerated, and it seems intended to insult the reader, and to prove that Dave is smarter than the reader is.  What Dave is good at is writing dialogue, and it’s regrettable that the later years of Cerebus have so much narrative prose and so few interesting character interactions.

THE PHANTOM #1385 (Frew, 2004) – “The Mysterious Commander,” [W] Lennart Moberg, [A] Bob McLeod. A man named Doe is captured by the Jungle Patrol after robbing a bank. When he gets out of prison many years later, he seeks revenge on his accomplice Simon, who he blames for his capture. We eventually realize that Simon is long dead, because a deceitful Jungle Patrol member, Wallace, killed him and stole the loot from the bank robbery. A loyal  Jungle Patrol officer, Weeks, helps the Phantom capture Wallace, and also finally learns his commander’s secret identity. This issue is a clever mystery story with a bunch of well-developed characters. At Heroes Con, I talked to Alex Saviuk about his work on Egmont’s Phantom comics. He was surprised that there was someone at the show who had read those comics. Bob McLeod was at Heroes Con, but I forgot that he had also worked on the Phantom, or I would have talked to him about the Phantom too. Maybe he’ll be back next year.

HEAVY METAL #2.5 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. This issue includes chapters of Corben and Strnad’s Sindbad, Moebius’s Airtight Garage, Claveloux and Zha’s Off Season, and Druillet’s Lone Sloane, all of which I’m familiar with already. Some other features: Gray Morrow’s Orion is an interesting sword-and-sorcery strip, though it’s hampered by too much text. Jaime Brocal Remohi’s “The Horror of G’zalth.” is more or less a Conan story. Barbarians seem to have been Brocal Remohi’s favorite genre. (https://darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org/the-artists-of-sword-sorcery-jaime-brocal-remohi-1936-2002/) Dick Lupoff’s prose story “Nebogipfel at the End of Time” is a rewriting of The Time Machine. The name Nebogipfel comes from H.G. Wells’s prototype version of that novel. Ted Benoit’s “The Sweet Smell of Science” is a surrealistic story drawn in a Moebius-esque style. I thought at first that this story was by some other artist named Benoit, because Ted Benoit was a Clear Line artist, and “Sweet Smell of Science” is not drawn in a Clear Line style at all. Tom Sutton’s “Croatoan” is an adaptation of a Harlan Ellison story. It’s inked by Alfredo Alcala in his usual overpowering style.

THUNDERBOLTS #150 (Marvel, 2011) – “Old Scores,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. The Avengers visit The Raft and accompany the Thunderbolts on a mission. But the Ghost interferes with Man-Thing’s teleportation, and the Avengers and Thunderbolts travel to an alternate dimension, where they get in a big fight. This issue is full of great moments. When Thor meets Troll, he offers to make her a Valkyrie, but she responds by biting his finger. Ghost almost kills Iron Man, but then Tony reveals that he’s no longer a corporate CEO, and since Ghost’s entire motivation is his anti-corporate beliefs, he lets Tony go. On entering the alternate dimension, the Avengers meet a talking frog, but sadly, when the frog goes back through the portal, it turns into a normal frog, then gets squashed. Bonus features in this issue include a recap of the Thunderbolts’ entire history, and a complete reprint of Thunderbolts #1. While at Heroes Con, I talked to Michel Fiffe and discovered that he wasn’t familiar with Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts. I recommended it to him, since I like it for the same reasons I like Suicide Squad.

FANTASTIC FOUR #329 (Marvel, 1989) – “Bad Dream Part 2: …And You Can’t Wake Up!”, [W] Steve Englehart (as John Harkness), [A] Rich Buckler. The Fantastic Four and Shary reenact the FF’s first battle with the Mole Man, but it soon becomes clear that these aren’t the real FF, but clones created by Aron the Watcher. The funny part is how the FF clones behave exactly like the FF behaved in the earliest Lee-Kirby stories, but in the context of the ‘80s, Reed’s chauvinism and Sue’s uselessness are hints that these characters are clones, not the originals. This issue was much less convoluted than some of Englehart’s other FF stories.

SUPERMAN #341 (DC, 1979) – “The Man Who Could Cause Catastrophe!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. Major Disaster tries to forcibly transfer his disaster-causing power to Superman. Major Disaster’s power is kind of similar to that of the Legion supporting character Calamity King. “The Man Who Could Cancel Catastrophe!”, [W] Wein, [A] Swan. I just noticed the parallelism of those two titles. In this story, the con man J. Wilbur Wolfingham, based on W.C. Fields (and named after J. Wellington Wimpy?), sells fake amulets that are supposed to prevent disasters.

BATMAN ’66 #24 (DC, 2015) – “Diamond Disaster,” [W] Ray Fawkes, [A] Jon Bogdanove. Batman and Robin fight Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Ray Fawkes lacks the sense of humor of this series’ main writer, Jeff Parker, and so “Diamond Disaster” feels like a pointless generic story.

SECRET SIX #6 (DC, 2015) – “Whippings and Apologies,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Tom Derenick. The Secret Six fight the Riddler and his henchmen. This issue is okay, I guess, but I don’t remember anything about it, and Gail doesn’t do anything interesting with the Riddler. As I have probably said before, the Riddler is my favorite Batman villain, but few if any comic book writers have done him justice. My favorite Riddler story in a comic book is “When is a Door” from Secret Origins Special #1, but I think the best version of the character is the one in the Arkham games.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. Carol and her fellow pilots plan their escape attempt, but a squadron of Thors comes after them. I just noticed that this miniseries is written by both DeConnick and Thompson, so it serves as a kind of transition between their runs. DeConnick and Thompson are two of the three major Carol Danvers writers, along with Claremont.

HEAVY METAL #5.3 (HM, 1981) – [E] Leonard Mogel. This issue starts with an intriguing interview with Corben, and then there’s a chapter of Bloodstar, a heavily expanded adaptation of REH’s “The Valley of the Worm.” This story was adapted more literally by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in Supernatural Thrillers #3. A highlight of this chapter is the giant blind worm monster on the last page. Other things in this issue include: * A chapter of Enki Bilal’s Nikopol, which I read a long time ago and have mostly forgotten. * A preview of Steranko’s last major work, Outland. Steranko was at Heroes Con, but I have no interest in meeting him. * Guido Crepax’s Valentina. I’d love to read more of this, but Fantagraphics’s Complete Crepax volumes are super-expensive. * Chaykin’s Cody Starbuck. At Heroes Con, someone told me that Starbuck was the inspiration for Han Solo, and I can believe that.

CEREBUS #249 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 18,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Kennedy travel along the river and listen to a Cirinist sermon. This issue includes some beautiful scenery, but not much of a plot.

THE PHANTOM #1392 (Frew, 2004) – “The Courier,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Alex Saviuk. The young Phantom goes back to his old high school in America, looking for Diana. He discovers that she’s gone to Bermuda for a swimming competition, so he follows her there and saves her from being framed for smuggling cash out of Cuba. But when Phantom finally meets Diana in his Kit Walker identity, she gets mad at him for standing her up on a date, and says she never wants to see him again. Of course we know that they’re going to get married. See my previous note about Alex Saviuk. His artwork in this issue is very effective. There’s one particularly nice panel where he depicts Diana diving by combining multiple images of her in the same panel, a technique that Gil Kane often used.

FABLES #77 (Vertigo, 2008) – “Life in a Headless Empire: Chapter 1 of The Dark Ages,” [W] Bill Willingham, [A] Mark Buckingham. A bunch of vignettes depicting how various characters are reacting to the end of the war with the Adversary. One of this issue’s plot threads introduces two characters based on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I hate Bill Willingham so much that I can’t really enjoy his writing, but I do have to grudgingly admit that he writes very good dialogue.

2000 AD #1839 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. This story seems to be about a gang war, but I can’t recall anything about it. Defoe: “The Damned Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe fights an army of zombies. Anderson: “One in Ten Part 7,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anderson apprehends some guy who’s been selling people as meat. Sinister Dexter: “Witless Protection Part 4: In Plain Shite,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] John M. Burns. Dexter assassinates some criminals. This story is partly painted and partly line-drawn, and Burns sometimes uses both methods within the same panel. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. This series is about a war between humans and superpowered alien gods. The title refers to the amount of time that people tend to live after they meet a god.

CEREBUS #281 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2002) – “Latter Days 16: And It Came to Passe,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Most of this issue is a conversation between Cerebus and Woody Allen, formatted as a typewritten play script with illustrations. There are also a few pages from Woody Allen’s journal, formatted as handwritten journal entries with illustrations. There are only a couple pages of actual comics. The content of the conversation and the journal entries is confusing and impenetrable. Cerebus tries to draw a distinction between God and “Yoowhoo,” but I don’t know why I should care. This was the last of the 100-plus issues of Cerebus that I ordered in December 2020. At this point, I’m going to continue filling in the gaps in my run of Cerebus #1 to 200, but I don’t want to buy any more issues from after that point, unless they’re extremely cheap. I kind of want to read #300, but that’s it. The issues from the later years of Cerebus are mostly not worth the time they take to read.

LUKE CAGE #166 (Marvel, 2017) – “Caged! Part 1,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. While traveling back home from the previous storyline, Luke stops in a small town, where he’s arrested by the Ringmaster’s minions and thrown in prison. Superheroes being harassed in a small town is kind of a cliché – I think I first encountered it in Green Lantern vol. 2 #76 – although scenes like this are much scarier when the superhero involved is black. Other than that, this comic is pretty boring.

BRITANNIA: LOST EAGLES OF ROME #4 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Robert Gill. Antonius recovers the lost legionary eagles and brings them back to Rome, only to discover that the chief Vestal Virgin wanted him to fail to find the eagles, so that the emperor, Nero, would be embarrassed. This series feels like a well-researched recreation of ancient Rome.

SUPERBOY #123 (DC, 1965) – “There is No Superboy,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] George Papp. Superboy visits the neighboring town of Gulchdale, which is used as a hideout by criminals, since it’s outside the jurisdiction where the criminals committed their crimes. (Because I guess there’s no such thing as interstate extradition.) Superboy tricks the criminals into committing crimes so that they can be arrested in Gulchdale, and he arrests so many of them that Gulchdale has to build a new jail, which I guess is a good thing somehow. “When Krypto Was Sold,” [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] George Papp. Superboy sellls Krypto to a rich boy, Ronnie, in order to cure Ronnie’s annoying behavior. “The Curse of the Superboy Mummy!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superboy and Lana excavate a pair of mummies who resemble them exactly, and are almost killed by the mummies’ curse. This issue includes the line “O mighty Isis,” which coincidentally was the catchphrase of the TV superhero Isis, created a decade later.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #702 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero w/ Rod Reis & Howard Chaykin. Jack Rogers excavates Captain America’s shield, but while doing so, he accidentally frees the Red Skull. There are also two flashback sequences, drawn by Reis and Chaykin. Mark Waid’s third Captain America run was by fa