November reviews

11-30

As usual I’m well over a month behind. I got all these comics on November 2, and I don’t remember them very well:

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #3 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims get thrown into a women’s prison, where they make their own separate escape plans. Lots of hilarious stuff happens. For example, the announcer for all the fights between prisoners is a giant corgi. Also, there’s a scene that reveals that Furious Quattro, Kim Q’s dad, is not only a transphobic jerk but also a literal James Bond villain – we see him suspending a heroine over a lava pit. Kim & Kim is one of the most fun series on the market right now.

DOOM PATROL #12 (DC, 2018) – “To Tame a Land: Into the Daemonscape,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. This comic is so late that it references Milk Wars, which ended months ago, as occurring in the future. It also makes little sense on its own. This issue depicts Lucius and his parents are having a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, and the issue’s cover is an homage to the design of classic D&D modules. I don’t know what any of this has to do with anything. It would be nice if the next issue of this series comes out before another six months have passed.

FENCE #11 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas can only make the team if Aiden loses, but Aiden wins, and Nicholas’s dreams are shattered. Except it turns out he and Eugene are tied for the reserve spot. This comic is unusual because the protagonist loses more often than he wins – he doesn’t have an easy path to the top, like heroes in sports stories usually do.

NANCY DREW #5 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. After a very tense and exciting confrontation, Nancy saves the day and unmasks the villains, but the issue ends with Nancy getting arrested. And I don’t know when this cliffhanger will be resolved, because issue 6 hasn’t been solicited yet. I need to remember to show this series to a colleage who read Nancy Drew books as a child.

MAN-EATERS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Maude puts in a tampon for the first time, then her dad investigates a cat attack. And that’s the entire issue. The tampon scene is fairly powerful, but after finishing the issue, I was like “That’s all?” Besides lacking a plot, Man-Eaters #2 also fails to do anything to address the charges of gender essentialism and transphobia that have been leveled against this series. I still really like Chelsea Cain’s sense of humor and her skillful use of typography and design (e.g. the ad on the inside front cover), but Man-Eaters is shaping up to be the second most disappointing series of the year.

HEROES IN CRISIS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Then I Became Superman,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann & Travis Moore. And here’s the first most disappointing series of the year. There are good things in this issue: I like Tom King’s depiction of the Penguin, and it’s kind of cool how Harley Quinn defeats Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But this whole series is just an inappropriate use of the superhero genre. Tom King attempts to do a dark, gritty, realistic examination of superhero psychology and trauma, but this is doomed to fail because the characters in this series are superpowered people who wear long underwear. This series ultimately feels like a trivialization of the issues it addresses, just like Alpha Flight #106 was a trivialization of the topics of AIDS and homosexuality. I’ve heard some speculation that Tom King originally had very different plans for this series which were derailed by editorial interference, and I really hope that’s true.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. This was a fun issue, but it’s hard to remember much about it since I already read issue 4. The West Coast Avengers fight a bunch of giant mutated women, and it becomes clear that BRODOK created them because he’s a crazy incel. (He also reminds me of Gideon Gordon Graves, who put his ex-girlfriends in suspended animation.) And then BRODOK turns Kate into a giant hawk.

HEX WIVES #1 (DC, 2018) – “Bewildered and Bothered, “ [W] Ben Blacker, ]A] Mirka Andolfo. This new Vertigo title is about a group of lesbian witches who keep getting killed by sexist men and then reincarnated. Their latest reincarnation is as a group of housewives in ‘50s America, hence the punny title. Like Lady Killer, this series satirizes the myth of American domesticity, by depicting seemingly perfect housewives who turn out to be horribly violent killers. In its deliberate use of nostalgia, it also resembles Blacker’s previous work, Thrilling Adventure Hour. It looks like this will be a fun series.

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Masquerade,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Joe Bennett, plus other stories. In this annual’s first story, the Terrifics fight a bunch of monsters that look like real Stagg employees. This is Gene Luen Yang’s best DC comics story that I’ve read, although that’s not saying much, and it has some good characterization of Linnya and Michael in particular. The high point of the annual is “Origin of the Specious,” which I think is the only collaboration between Mark Russell and Doc Shaner. It’s not very political, unlike almost every other Mark Russell story; it’s just a poignant examination of Java’s origin and psychology. The last story in the annual is just setup for the current Tom Strong storyline in the main Terrifics series.

VAGRANT QUEEN #5 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Isaac captures Ellida, and then Lazaro beats them both up and leaves them to die. This was an okay issue, but this comic’s artwork hasn’t gotten any better.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #4 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. A fun issue, but pretty much exactly the same as the first three. Notable moments in this issue include The Siren’s “Doo doo doo what we say” song, and the suggestion that Betty is related to Aunt Harriet Cooper.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #2 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] MJ Kim. Last issue, Faith met a young girl, Monica, who was being tormented by ghosts. This issue, Faith introduces Monica to Dr. Mirage. This issue has a lot of effective character interactions and funny jokes, like when Monica wonders if she’s sitting on Dr. Mirage’s husband’s ghost (the ghost is visible to the reader, but not to most of the characters). Monica is a very realistic portrayal of a terrified young girl.

CHAMPIONS #7 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Man Who Created the Black Widow,” [W] Tony Isabella, [A] George Tuska. The Champions battle the Griffin and a new villain who turns out to be the son of Ivan, the Black Widow’s sidekick. (Ivan basically disappeared from the Marvel Universe after the ‘70s, I don’t know why.) This comic is a fun piece of ‘70s nostalgia, but it could have been much better with a more exciting writer. For example, Gerry Conway could have done some great stuff with characters like Black Widow, Hercules and the Beast.

GREEN LANTERN/HUCKLEBERRY HOUND #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Test,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Rick Leonardi. It’s 1972, and John Stewart is training with Katma Tui to be an intergalactic superhero. But back home in Detroit, he’s just another black man, and is facing constant racism and police brutality. After an encounter with Huckleberry Hound, another victim of discrimination, John is provoked into using his ring to save other black people from being killed by police. John fully expects that this will cost him his ring, but Katma lets him keep it, telling him that “knowing when to disobey is the most important skill of a Green Lantern.” This issue is a very powerful statement about race, and much like the Snagglepuss series, it’s just as much about contemporary America as it’s about the historical period it depicts. It’s also nice to see John and Katma interacting again – I like when Katma asks how to stop the chair from spinning. Prez Rickard makes a cameo appearance at the end of the issue.

WONDER WOMAN #52 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Part One,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Aco. Diana teams up with Artemis and Aztek to fight Tezcatlipoca. I’m not familiar with Aztek’s continuity, and I don’t know how this issue relates to the Bana Mighdall plotline from issue 54. But this is an exciting and well-drawn comic. Whoever Aco is, he draws some nice panel compositions, and he makes productive use of Aztec art as an influence.

DOOM PATROL/JLA SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars: The End,” [W] Steve Orlando & Gerard Way, [A] Dale Eaglesham & Nick Derington. In the conclusion to Milk Wars, it turns out that Milkman Man is Casey and Terry’s son, and lots of other weird stuff happened. This comic is okay, but I never quite understood what was going on in Milk Wars.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Most of this issue is a Star Wars-esque spaceship battle. At the end, we learn that the McGuffin of this story is a shard of the M’Krann Crystal. This was a competently written comic with some exciting action sequences, but it didn’t really excite me.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Slow Burn,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. Another fairly boring comic. This issue starts with a setup that reminds me of Black Hammer: Ben and Johnny are stuck in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Johnny finally figures out that Ben’s been lying to him about Reed and Sue being alive. He burns down his and Ben’s house in a fit of rage, then at the end of the issue, an evil Fantastic Four from another dimension show up.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #6 (IDW, 2018) – “About a Boy: Teenage Kicks, Part 6,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Fergie and Sid escape the bird-monsters and head to London in search of Fergie’s dad. This conclusion doesn’t really resolve very much, but the next miniseries, appropriately called London Calling, has been solicited for February.

BRITANNIA: LOST EAGLES OF ROME #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Robert Gill. I ordered this because it was a new Peter Milligan miniseries, but then I kind of forgot to read it. This miniseries appears to be a sequel to an earlier series. It stars a Roman government official who’s ordered by Nero to recover the legionary eagles that were lost in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. This comic seems quite historically accurate, and it has some political relevance because it’s about a crazy all-powerful dictator, but overall it’s just average.

ENCOUNTER #5 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I continue to read this series in backwards order. This issue, Encounter meets some aliens who turn out to be from his own home planet.

AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Secret Origin of the Marvel Universe,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Paco Medina. This issue illustrates why I quit reading this series: it’s too cosmic and epic for its own good, and it has no characterization. This issue, we learn that Marvel Earth’s superheroes all evolved because of the radioactive blood of a dead Celestial. This revelation would have had more impact if there hadn’t already been a ton of other “secret origins of the Marvel Universe.” I thought Marvel superheroes came about because of the Eternals, or the Kree, or any of several other causes. Oh, also, this issue ends with all the Avengers growing to giant size to fight the Celestials, but who cares. This isn’t an Avengers comic, it’s a poor imitation of Grant Morrison’s JLA.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America: Part II,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Cap fights a bunch of Nukes, but no one much cares, and Thunderbolt Ross orders him to stop. TNC’s Captain America, like his Black Panther, is more interesting on an intellectual than an emotional level, which is why I’ve gotten behind on my reading of both series.

INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE! AND OTHER STORIES #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life! Part Two,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] GuriHiru, plus other stories. This comic is too wholesome for its own good. Its jokes are unfunny (except the businessman who’s angry about being late to work, because he’s merging and acquiring), and its gender politics are straight from the ‘50s. The Parrs feel like a sitcom family, not a real one.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “Being Fantastic,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. It turns out that the fake FF are the Mad Thinker – who is perhaps my favorite FF villain, although he’s not used much – and his minions. Sue Storm appears at the end of the issue. I have the next three issues of this series, but I haven’t yet felt like reading them.

BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 3, as above. T’Challa and his pals try to recover the M’Krann Shard, and there are more fight scenes. Manifold appears at the end. A flaw in TNC’s writing is excessive decompression; he writes a lot of issues where nothing happens.

CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY #3 (SteelDragon, 1986) – “Choices,” [W] Will Shetterly, [A] Vince Stone. I hate Will Shetterly’s politics and his online behavior, and I’ve blocked him on Facebook. However, his work is relevant to me because he was part of the ‘80s Minneapolis SF and comics scene. Indeed, the most interesting thing about this comic might be the ad on the last page for Comic City, which later became the Comic Book College, the first comic book store I ever visited. Maybe that local connection is why I bought this comic. It’s a superhero story taking place in an alternate universe where the Confederacy won the Civil War. That’s an interesting premise, but this comic’s art and writing are pretty average. This issue includes an Ant Boy backup story by Matt Feazell.

MARS ATTACKS #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. I know Chris Schweizer from when I lived in Atlanta, but I’ve read very little of his work, and I didn’t realize what a talented artist he is. This issue is drawn in a sort of Clear Line style, and it’s beautiful, very colorful and detailed. Kyle Starks’s writing is also impressive. This series’ protagonists are a young ne’er-do-well, Spencer Carbutt, and his father, an elderly veteran. The father is extremely disappointed in his son, but when Martians invade and start killing people indiscriminately, the Carbutts have to overcome their mutual hatred enough to save each other. No familiarity with the Mars Attacks franchise is assumed.

GRIMM’S GHOST STORIES #21 (Gold Key, 1974) – “Cowards Yield,” [W] uncredited, [A] Win Mortimer, plus other stories. This issue consists of four horror stories that are all equally formulaic and boring. The most interesting thing about this issue is the third story, drawn by Oscar Novello. I hadn’t heard of this artist before, but he started his career in Argentina in the 1940s. His story in this issue is surprisingly detailed considering the low page rates he must have been getting, and he draws some good facial expressions.

SEX DEATH REVOLUTION #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Becca Farrow. This was the last comic I read this week because it’s really long. Sex Death Revolution has a transgender protagonist who’s dealing with mental illness, so it’s reminiscent of both Kim & Kim and Eternity Girl. I can’t remember what exactly happens in this issue, but its plot has something to do with black magic that can selectively edit the past. This is a rather difficult comic, but it could be Mags’s best serious work yet (I wouldn’t call Kim & Kim a serious work).

New comics received on November 10, at which point I was able to enjoy them a bit more because I was no longer terrified about the midterm elections:

RUNAWAYS #15 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday Part III,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Nico encounters the spirit contained in her staff, which turns out to be a crazy world-conquering demon, and it forces Nico to make a bargain where it gets stronger whenever she uses a spell. Also, it really likes pancakes. Besides the pancakes, the highlight of the issue is the last panel, where the demon’s shadow is visible behind Nico’s shadow. Not much happens in terms of any of the other plotlines.

GIANT DAYS #44 (IDW, 2018) – “Esther Falls in Love with Elon Musk,” [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. That’s not the real title. In a Valentine’s Day-themed story, Esther falls in love with a billionaire tech bro, but then dumps him because he’s invovled with hyperloops. The tech bro then falls in love with the girl who’s been making all the noise in Esther’s dorm. This was a fun issue, as usual, and I like how this series’s plot actually progresses over time. I wonder what’s going to happen to Giant Days when the protagonists graduate from university.

BLACKBIRD #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina and her talking cat investigate Marisa’s disappearance, and they encounter lots of weird people. This was an entertaining issue, but very similar to issue 1, although it’s nice to see Nina actually caring about something.

CROWDED #4 (Image, 2018) – “The American in Me,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Vita’s house burns down, thanks in large part to the apathy of the for-profit fire department. This is another example of how Crowded is just barely science-fictional. Privatized fire departments that charge extra for foam aren’t real, but they easily could be. Besides that, this issue also focuses heavily on Trotter, and it starts to show us why everyone hates Charlotte.

SPARROWHAWK #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. I can’t remember the protagonist’s name, but she fights a bunch of monsters and travels through some bizarre environments. At the end of the issue she moults and grows bigger wings. This is an impressive series, and Matias Basla’s art is gorgeous. I particularly like the scene with the garden full of mazes and topiary monsters.

MOTH & WHISPER #3 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Suspended Bodies,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Nikki tries to infiltrate a factory run by Wolfe, the Big Bad (as TVTropes calls it), but Wolfe captures them and claims that their parents were working for him before they disappeared. Also, Nikki confirms that they’re genderqueer and their pronouns are they/them. This is a really fun series, but also rather grim: for example, Wolfe’s factory is used to harvest organs from live people.

THE GREEN LANTERN #1 (DC, 2018) – “Intergalactic Lawman,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Grant Morrison is washed up, having become too cosmic and trippy that he can no longer tell a good story. So I expected this comic to be underwhelming, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. This issue begins with a battle between some alien Green Lanterns and the Luck Lords of Ventura – a nice Legion reference. Then, in an echo of Hal Jordan’s origin, a dying Green Lantern lands on Earth and gives Hal his ring. And it turns out there’s something wrong with the Book of Oa. Unlike most recent Grant Morrison comics, this issue makes complete sense – although it’s not obvious how all the plot threads are connected – and it’s also fun to read. And Liam Sharp is a better artist than I gave him credit for.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #4 (DC, 2018) – “Lost Boys,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. This issue’s cover is an homage to the cover of Brave and the Bold #93, the Batman-House of Mystery team-up. That’s appropriate because in this issue, after Space Cabby’s cab crashlands, Damian has to take a severly ill Jon to the “House of Secret Mysteries” for help. This is a really fun series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I forgot to say this before, but the girl Captain Cold is really cute.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #72 (IDW, 2018) – “The Extra Ingredient is Pear,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Not the actual title. This issue is a quasi-sequel to “The Perfect Pear,” perhaps the best episode of the entire series. The Apples find Pear Butter’s apple pie recipe, and they try to recreate it for Granny, but they can’t quite get it right. After numerous failed attempts, each of which involves a flashback, Applejack figures out that the missing ingredient is a pear – because Pear Butter loved both sides of her family. Heartwarming.

X-23 #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Operation Kindergarten Clone,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Gabby poses as a high school student (although she looks too young to be in high school) in order to track down a creator of illegal clones. Hijinks and battles ensue. This was a really fun issue, though it was a quick read. Gabby and Laura’s interactions are the primary draw of this series.

BORDER TOWN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Child Sacrifices,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. There are two standout scenes in this issue. The first is Aimi’s confrontation with a racist, sexist, lecherous school principal. The second is the scene right after that, with the crazy Nazi survivalist and his equally bad son. Both these scenes depict the depth of racism and misogyny in today’s America, in a creepily plausible way. By comparison, the scene with the curandera is pretty cute. Border Town continues to be a challenging but important comic.

FARMHAND #5 (Image, 2018) – “The Antique Lady,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. It turns out that Ms. Thorne is seriously bad news, and unfortunately she just got elected mayor. Also, the mysterious green blight is spreading out of Freetown. This issue includes a reference to a drugstore called Guidry’s, which is cute because I have a friend who’s from Louisiana and is named Guidry. And in general, this series demonstrates a lot of local knowledge; it’s clear that Rob Guillory grew up in a town much like Freetown.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE FUNNIES #1 (Image, 2018) – various stories, [W] Kieron Gillen et al, [A] Jamie McKelvie et al. A collection of humorous stories starring the WicDiv cast, by a large number of writers and artists. The best stories in the issue are 1) the first story, where the protagonists are dogs instead of gods – I just noticed the anagrammatic pun there. And 2) “5 Things Everyone Who’s Lived with Sakhmet Will Understand,” where Sakhmet brings her human dead people, instead of dead mice and birds. This issue is a lot of good clean fun.

OUTER DARKNESS #1 (Image, 2018) – “Each Other’s Throats Pt. 1: Captain on the Bridge,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. In this space opera comic, a starship captain is fired for refusing an illegal order from his shipowner. He gets hired instead to command a new ship, whose engine is a demon fueled by human sacrifices. This comic feels like a gritty and unromantic version of Star Wars, with a very diverse cast, and I like Afu Chan’s art.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Miniature War in a Miniature Home,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. Like #1, this comic is completely impenetrable and makes no effort at all to cater to new readers. I’m done with this comic. Even Gabriel Bá’s art isn’t a sufficient reason to put up with a story that makes utterly no sense.

BULLY WARS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. This issue consists of a long dream sequence followed by some setup for the actual Bully War. This series is aimed at young kids, but it appeals to me because it demonstrates the cruelty and cynicism of actual children.

LEVIATHAN #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Pitarra. I was underwhelmed by the first issue of this series, and I didn’t quite get what Leviathan was supposed to be about. Issue 2 is somewhat clearer, and it was fun enough that I immediately went on to read #3. This issue, we learn that the inside of the earth is full of dinosaurs, and the government has created a robot army to destroy the dinosaurs, thinking they were responsible for the kaiju attack in issue 1. But the kaiju from last issue was a demon, not a dinosaur, and in mistakenly attempting to exact revenge on the dinosaurs, the army arouses the ire of a giant three-headed radioactive dinosaur. Also, the protagonist’s girlfriend isn’t dead. I was kind of unimpressed by Nick Pitarra’s art in #1, but this time around I like it; it’s rather Darrow-esque.

LEVIATHAN #3 (Image, 2018) – as above. The protagonist, Ryan, meets an exorcist who knows where the demon came from. We’re also introduced to a mad scientist who created a mutant scorpion to deal with the radioactive dinosaur. So basically all hell is breaking loose, and it’s pretty fun.

THE DREAMING #2 (DC, 2018) – “The Foundation,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Again, I didn’t read this issue immediately because I was unimpressed with issue 1. It was boring and overly convoluted. This issue is still pretty confusing, but it’s more entertaining than #1 was. The Dreaming is descending into chaos, as Daniel seems to be gone for good, and Lucien won’t give Mervyn any attention. Mervyn decides to fix things by summoning a new dream character named Judge Gallows. Also, the characters from House of Whispers make a cameo appearance.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 4, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Yet another issue that consists entirely of a giant fight scene. I’m mostly reading this series out of a sense of obligation, and I think I’m going to drop it.

THE DREAMING #3 (DC, 2018) – “The Glory,” as above. Judge Gallows holds a show trial and resurrects Brute and Glob. This was an okay but unspectacular issue. I like this series enough to continue ordering it for now.

THE PHANTOM #73 (Charlton, 1976) – “The Torch,” [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Don Newton. The writer is credited as “Ben S. Parillo,” an anagram of his real name. This issue has a complicated but competently written story in which the Phantom confronts an assassin, the Torch, and a mad scientist, Raven. What makes it a near-classic is Don Newton’s brilliant visual storytelling and draftsmanship. Don Newton’s issues of this series were probably the best Phantom comic books published in America.

FRED THE CLOWN #2 (Hotel Fred, 2002) –“Dummies” and other stories, [W/A] Roger Langridge. This comic consists of a series of short stories about a sad clown. Some of the stories are wordless, while others are narrated by captions, but the clown never talks. All these stories are brilliant and poignant, and they demonstrate Langridge’s mastery of visual storytelling. Some of them are even a bit experimental – there’s one where in each panel, Fred is described with an adjective beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, from A to Z.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS & STORIES #238 (Dell, 1960) – “The Dog-Sitter,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This comic is unfortunately missing some pages, but only the Scamp and Chip & Dale stories are affected, so I don’t care that much. The Barks story is a screwball comedy in which Donald agrees to do a babysitting job for the nephews, but it turns out the “baby” is a dog. And then the dog gets loose and Donald tries to recapture it, but instead  catches a different dog. Much of the humor in this story comes from the dog itself, a shaggy, silent, staring monster. This issue also includes a Paul Murry Mickey Mouse story, but unfortunately the new character in this story, Thursday, is a horrible racist stereotype.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #13 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Night Riders of Ras Kaffa” and “The Hidden World,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Warren Tufts. I initially thought this comic was drawn by Russ Manning, but it’s actually by an even more rarely seen artist, Warren Tufts. This artist is best known for the comic strips Casey Ruggles and Lance, but also drew some comic books for Gold Key. His art in this issue is amazing, with dynamic compositions and Caniff-esque spotting of blacks. However, Tufts’s art for comic books must have suffered from the small size and poor reproduction of that format, compared to the comic strip format. The story in this issue is also interesting. Korak teams up with a cute Ethiopian princess to investigate an abandoned castle. Ethiopia was still a monarchy at the time. In the backup story, Korak meets a girl named Nanette who has the same origin as Tarzan.

BATMAN #288 (DC, 1977) – “The Little Men’s Hall of Fame!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Mike Grell. The villain in this story is the Penguin, one of my favorite Batman villains, but otherwise it’s pretty forgettable. The high point of the issue is probably the scene where Batman uses a pair of robotic wings to escape from a pit. Mike Grell’s artwork in this issue is quite good.

LETTER 44 #20 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. Earth is about to be destroyed by an asteroid, and the previous President tries to use the disaster to build a power base, but the astronauts save the day. This was a fun comic, but it was hard to understand without having read the previous issues.

WONDER WOMAN #301 (DC, 1983) – “Dark Challenger,” [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Gene Colan. I read this while I was reading Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, or perhaps shortly after finishing that book. I expected to dislike Lepore’s book, since she’s made some public statements that I violently disagreed with, but I ended up loving it. Lepore correctly points out that most post-Marston (and pre-Pérez) Wonder Woman stories tried to domesticate the character and run away from her revolutionary potential, but Wonder Woman #301 is at least not terrible. Dan Mishkin is a more feminist writer than most of his predecessors on the series. This issue, Diana trains a Greek visitor to Themyscira named Sofia, and then battles a skeleton in a Wonder Woman costume. This issue also includes a Huntress backup story which, unfortunately, is written by Joey Cavalieri instead of Paul Levitz. Cavalieri makes a mockery of Levitz’s Huntress series by depicting Harry Sims as a misogynistic, overprotective jerk.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #291 (Marvel, 1987) – “Dark Journey!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] John Romita Jr. This issue begins with MJ refusing Peter’s marriage proposal, though obviously she later changed her mind about that. MJ goes off to visit her sister, who turns out to be in prison, while Peter battles a Spider-Slayer created by Alistair Smythe. Peter faces a dilemma when MJ asks him to visit her in Pittsburgh, even though Smythe is still at large, and he decides to go to Pittsburgh. But Smythe follows him there. This is a good issue, which ends on an impressive cliffhanger. I forget if I have #292.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #103 (DC, 1970) – “The Devil’s Bride!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Curt Swan. In a story continued from last issue, Lois falls in love with a man who appears to be Satan, but is actually an alien who looks like the devil. Yes, really. He takes her to her home planet, and she’s about to marrry him until she realizes Superman still loves her. Like much of Kanigher’s work, this story is nonsensical and insulting to the reader’s intelligence. The one cute touch is that before getting married to the alien, Lois has to take a ritual bath called a “kvimha,” which is an anagram of “mikvah” and thus a reference to Kanigher’s Jewish heritage. This issue also includes a ‘60s reprint which, while not good, is at least less bad than the main story.

THE LAST AMERICAN #3 (Epic, 1991) – “An American Dream,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. It turns out that the radio broadcast from a fellow survivor was a fake, created by the robots in order to keep Ulysses from going nuts. So there really isn’t anyone else still alive, and I don’t know what can possibly happen in issue 4, other than Ulysses committing suicide. The protagonist’s full name is Ulysses S. Pilgrim; I wonder if the S stands for Scott.

Y: THE LAST MAN #55 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Whys and Wherefores Chapter One,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. This issue has the same title as Incredible Hulk #346. This issue, Yorick and Agent 355 are in Russia, and lots of other subplots are going on. This issue is so late in the series that I have no idea how it fits into the story.

JONNY QUEST #27 (Comico, 1988) – “Wilderness,” PW[ William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel. This comic has a completely blank cover, which is justified because its story is set during a blizzard, but it also must have saved Comico a lot of money. Other than that, this issue is yet another sheer masterpiece. Jonny, Race and Bandit’s plane crashlands in northern Ontario in the midst of a snowstorm, and with Race badly hurt, Jonny has to survive on his own until help arrives. Meanwhile, Dr. Quest is frantically searching for the plane with no success. Jonny and Race do get rescued, of course, but the creators viscerally convey the terrible danger Jonny is in. The reader is actually more scared than Jonny, who reacts to his predicament with his usual resourcefulness and courage.

GROO THE WANDERER #28 (Epic, 1987) – “Gourmet Kings,” [W] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. Groo visits a town where the royal chef makes the best food in the world, although the common people are starving. After leaving, Groo visits another town where the king needs a chef to prepare a feast for a visiting foreign dignitary. And then things happen the way you’d expect. Groo goes back to the first town, kidnaps the chef, and brings him back to the second town, but it turns out that the visiting dignitary is the same king whose chef Groo just kidnapped. Several of the names in this story are Spanish words for food, like King Sopa (soup) and the village of Almuerzo (lunch).

MIRACLEMAN: APOCRYPHA #2 (Eclipse, 1992) – “Prodigal,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Christopher Schenck, plus other stories. This issue includes three short stories, with a framing sequence by Gaiman and Buckingham in which the three stories are described as fictional works written by characters in Miracleman’s world. The best of the stories is “Prodigal,” about a young man who leaves his village of insane paranoid survivalists to visit the larger world, but later comes back to his village and is promptly murdered. “The Janitor” has some nice art by Alan Smith, an artist who has only one other GCD credit. This issue also includes an order form for Miracleman #23 through #28, at $3 each. I hope nobody ordered issues #25-28.

WONDER WOMAN #23 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth Conclusion,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Liam Sharp. I forgot to read this when it came out, so I never knew how “The Truth” ended. This issue Diana learns that Themyscira is a prison for Ares, and when she left Themyscira, she couldn’t come back because she could have led Ares back to the wider world. Also, Veronica Cale’s daughter decides to stay with Ares. Liam Sharp’s art in this issue is quite good.

TALES TO ASTONISH #97 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Sovereign and the Savages,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Werner Roth, and “The Legion of the Living Lightning,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. I read this just after Stan Lee died. The Namor story in this issue is very average. The Hulk story is somewhat better. The Hulk meets a man who offers him friendship and acceptance, but it turns out the man just wants to recruit him on behalf of a cult of lightning-controlling terrorists. One of the members of the Living Lightning cult in this issue was the father of the West Coast Avenger also named Living Lightning.

New comics received on November 17:

FANTASTIC FOUR #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli & Nico Leon. This is such a sweet, heartwarming comic. Reed, Sue and the kids are overjoyed to see Ben and Johnny again. Of course they also have to battle a horrible cosmic menace, but as usual, Reed comes up with a brilliant idea that saves the day. Dan Slott’s characterization in this issue is brilliant. He focuses on the six main characters, of course, and the highlight of the issue is Franklin reluctantly agreeing to use his powers. But lots of the other characters get their own cute moments. For example, on just the next-to-last page we see T’Challa suggesting that Val should meet Shuri, while one of the Atlantean kids asks Bobby Drake to explain “not canon.” I don’t know why we had to wait two months for this issue, but it was worth the wait.

MS. MARVEL #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “Silk Road,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Most of this issue consists of a flashback to the 13th century, starring characters who bear a strange resemblance to Kamala and her friends. It’s very rare for a Marvel comic to depict non-Western history, but other than that, this issue was pretty boring. Because of Willow’s health problems, this might be the last issue for a couple months.

MISTER MIRACLE #12 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I was apprehensive about this issue because I heard someone say something bad about it, and also I hate Tom King’s other current series. But this issue ended up being a beautiful conclusion to a classic miniseries. The Apokolips war is still going on, and Scott is still having visions of Darkseid, but he’s managed to come to terms with his trauma and mental illness. Also, Scott and Barda have a second child on the way. The issue ends by raising and then dismissing the suggestion that the reality in this comic is less “real” than the mainstream DCU. Overall, Mister Miracle is a brilliant story about living with trauma – not “overcoming” it – and it’s easily the best DC comic of 2018.

THE QUANTUM AGE #4 (Image, 2018) – “Life and Death and the End of Time,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Not the real title. We get Hammer Lass’s origin story, which creates another connection to the main Black Hammer series: Hammer Lass got her powers from Lucy, the 21st-century Black Hammer. Then it’s back to the Quantum Leaguers’ confrontation with Talky Walky, who refuses to release Archive to them. But Hammer Lass comes up with the idea of going back in time to prevent the Martian invasion and save the League. And I hope that works, because my major problem with this series is that almost the entire League is dead, and it’s not a Legion comic unless there are at least 24 members (which is, of course, the most members a group can have before its taxes go way up). The issue ends with the League traveling to the end of time and encountering the Time Trapper, excuse me, I mean Chronokus, who turns out to be Colonel Weird.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #38 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. After establishing that none of them are Skrulls, Doreen and her friends confide in Tony Stark, but then when they go back and see him again, they discover that he’s an impostor. One fun thing about this issue is its use of computer science. Doreen and her pals come up with an algorithm for proving that they can trust each other, and a major plot point in this issue is the security, or lack thereof, of Tony’s computer system. Throughout this series, Ryan has done a great job of teaching the reader about computer science without being either pedantic or overly technical.

EXILES #10 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. In the conclusion to the Arabian Nights story, the Exiles defeat Shahriyar/Doom, who makes Nocturne his successor as caliph. My only problem with this storyline is that it was too short; I wanted to see even more of the Arabian Nights universe. The issue ends with the team being attacked by a bunch of dead former Exiles, including Khan.

WONDER WOMAN #58 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Just War Part I,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. I was obviously thrilled at the prospect of Willow writing Wonder Woman, but this issue is a bit underwhelming. It’s a well-written and well-drawn Wonder Woman comic, but it’s similar to Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman; it even guest-stars Rucka’s pet character, Veronica Cale. The plot is based on that of “The Truth,” with Ares returning from his captivity under Themyscira. I don’t see much about this comic that’s characteristic of Wilson, but I look forward to seeing how she puts her own stamp on this series.

RAINBOW BRITE #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. This is an excellent kids’ comic and also a fun piece of nostalgia, since I grew up watching this show. Murky Dismal and his bumbling sidekick Lurky are just as I remember them, although I had actually forgotten Lurky until I reencountered him here. My main concern about this comic is the unfortunate color symbolism. I was thinking Wisp and Willow would somehow both become Rainbow Brite, but instead this issue ends with the white girl, Wisp, becoming Rainbow Brite, and her black friend, Willow, is nowhere to be seen. It’s also rather dubious that shadow is evil, while white light is the ultimate power. I’m making this comic sound worse than it is, though, and I’m sure that Jeremy knows what he’s doing, and that we’ll see Willow again soon.

CAPTAIN GINGER #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Two,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. Things go from bad to worse on the ship, with litterboxes overflowing and feral cats breeding out of control. Captain Ginger decides to go on a mission with Mittens to find the other ship. There have been lots of recent comics with cat protagonists – Hero Cats, Action Cat, even Beasts of Burden – but Captain Ginger is the best such comic, at least in terms of its depiction of cats. The cats in this comic are as realistic as Terry Pratchett’s Greebo. The high point of this issue is when the first officer places a call to engineering, and on the screen we see an adorable kitten saying “Mew?”

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. Nadia teams up with Viv Vision and Ironheart, then goes out to a fancy dinner and a wrestling match with Jan. This is a nice day-in-the-life issue. It’s full of great character moments, and it feels substantial even though not many major events happen. This issue repeatedly demonstrates Nadia’s awkwardness and lack of self-consciousness, as illustrated by her habit of falling asleep in unusual positions, though Jeremy has explained that there’s a psychological reason why she does that. The issue ends with AIM troops attacking the GIRL headquarters.

INFINITY WARS: INFINITY WARPS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Moon Squirrel and Tippysaur,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Natacha Bustos, plus other stories. I bought this comic because of the first story, which is a clever mashup of Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl, and also the main character’s sidekick is a dinosaur-sized orange squirrel. The rest of the issue isn’t as good. Mariko Tamaki and Francisco Herrera’s “Green Widow” is the worst-drawn Marvel story of the year; the artist’s female anatomy resembles that of a ‘90s Image comic. Jim Zub’s Fantastic Four story is competent but boring.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Walk on Gilded Splinters,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie saves King Monday from being eaten by crocodiles, then transforms into one of her alternate forms or aspects, Erzulie Dantor. Meanwhile, the two human lovers are suffering from the Cotard delusion, where you think you’re dead, and lots of other people in New Orleans are falling victim to the same thing. This continues to be a really good series, though I wish it wasn’t tied to the Vertigo universe.

BY NIGHT #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. Barney steals the girls’ footage, while back in the other dimension, the goblin dude is tried and sentenced. I like this series, but I still don’t understand what it’s about, and it’s not grabbing me as much as Giant Days does. But I didn’t get Giant Days at first either.

THOR #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Young Thor’s Lament,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Tony Moore. In a flashback, a much younger Thor travels to Midgard and falls in love with a mortal woman named Erika. But when he leaves Midgard and comes back, he finds that forty years have passed and Erika has died of old age. It turns out this was all a plot by Loki to make Thor give up on Midgard, but it backfires; instead, Thor honors Erika’s memory by becoming more attached to Midgard than ever. This issue reminds me a bit of the filk song “Thong of Thor.”

BITTER ROOT #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. A really interesting new series. It takes place in the ‘20s but isn’t explicitly about the Harlem Renaissance. Instead, it focuses on a lineage of black adventurers and demon-fighters. One of the protagonists is a woman who wants to join her brothers in fighting demons and stuff, but her elderly mother or grandmother won’t let her. I’m excited to read more of this.

PLASTIC MAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “Moon and Back,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. One of the primary villains turns out to be a Durlan, but Plas defeats the villains and is reunited with Pado Swakatoon. However, Plas’s ex-girlfriend still wants to kill him. This was a really good miniseries, and I hope that there’s going to be a sequel, as implied on the last page.

CATWOMAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 5,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. This issue includes no cats at all, but it’s still good. In two parallel plotlines, the villain, Raina Creel, murders her husband, while Selina tries to break out of the mental hospital but fails.

LONE RANGER #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – “Finders Keepers,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. Much of this issue focuses on Tonto. Mark Russell distorts the historical record by having Tonto play football for Carlisle Indian School – even though Carlisle didn’t start sponsoring football until 1893, whereas this series is clearly set in the 1880s at the latest. As evidence of the latter, this series’s plot revolves around Texas’s barbed wire conflicts, which happened in the early 1880s, and it shows the Texas Capitol building, which was finished in 1888, as still under construction. This anachronism is an acceptable piece of artistic license, but it’s worth mentioning. Anyway, Mark Russell’s depiction of Tonto’s character is very effective. Instead of a stereotype, his Tonto is a complex man who knows how to manipulate white people’s misperceptions about Native Americans for his own benefit.

GIDEON FALLS #8 (Image, 2018) – “Killer Smile,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. We get a flashback to Daniel/Norton’s abusive upbringing in an orphanage. Then the priest has a vision where he learns the name Norton Sinclair, and discovers a cache of hidden photos of Daniel. During the vision sequence, there’s yet another of Sorrentino’s trademark bizarre page layouts: it’s a two-page spread with hundreds of tiny panels, some of them identical. Meanwhile, Dr. Xu still can’t get Daniel out of the mental hospital. It’s still not clear how the two plotlines or worlds of this series are related, but they’re starting to bleed into each other.

SUPERGIRL #24 (DC, 2018) – “A (Super)girl Walks Into a Bar,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Supergirl visits an outer-space bar where she and Krypto team up to fight some aliens, and then she meets a Coluan who looks a lot like Brainiac 5. I bought this comic because of Doc Shaner’s art, which is amazing. His page layouts remind me a bit of Darwyn Cooke’s even. He’s easily DC’s best current artist. The Ambush Bug cameo in this issue was also cute. But the plot didn’t grab me enough to make me want to continue reading this series.

JOOK JOINT #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Alitha Martinez. This issue is pretty much the same as last issue. It continues the story of Heloise, the abused wife, as she tries to use the Jook Joint’s power to get rid of her husband. This series is a powerful depiction of spousal abuse, though I have mixed feelings about its writer.

CEMETERY BEACH #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. Most of this issue is a long fight scene. There’s almost no dialogue until the last four pages, which supply all the conversation and characterization that’s missing from the rest of the issue. There’s nothing here that makes me want to continue reading this series.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #159 (DC, 1980) – “The Crystal Armageddon!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Jim Aparo. I’m surprised this wasn’t included in the Batman: Tales of the Demon trade paperback, because it’s a chapter of the Batman/Ra’s al Ghul saga, and it came out after some of the stories that were reprinted in that book. This issue includes all the classic Ra’s al Ghul tropes: the Lazarus Pit, Talia and her passion for Batman, and the League of Assassins. The plot is that Batman and Ra’s team up to save the world from the “Hatter formula,” which is obviously inspired by ice-nine from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, because it has the exact same effect. Denny’s Ra’s al Ghul stories were some of his best writing, and it’s exciting to discover a Ra’s al Ghul story by Denny that I hadn’t known about.

AQUAMAN #32 (DC, 1997) – “Sea of Green,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. As far as I know, this issue was the first Aquaman/Swamp Thing team-up, though there was another one in 2014. These characters are a natural pairing because they’re both guardians of nature, and because plants depend on water. I don’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but PAD writes Swamp Thing very well.

FANTASTIC FOUR #160 (Marvel, 1975) – “In One World – and Out the Other!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Thing battles Arkon. Then with Lockjaw’s help, Ben follows Arkon’s trail to an alternative reality where there are only two members of the Fantastic Four. The Jim Zub story from Infinity Warps #1 is also about a two-member Fantastic Four, each with two sets of powers, but that may just be a coincidence. There’s also a plot where Reed sells a 51% interest in Fantastic Four, Inc. to a man named Albert DeVoor. That looks like an anagram for something, but it’s not.

REVIVAL #10 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. Ibrahim steps in a bear trap, while Cooper and Derek are kidnapped by two crazy redheaded men. This was a pretty good issue, though my enthusiasm for this series has lessened now that I know how it ends. A depressing moment in this issue is when Dana and Em’s dad says, referring to Ibrahim, that “he seems like a nice guy, but all I need is one of them for a son-in-law.” This is an unpleasant reminder that despite this character’s positive aspects, he probably would have voted for Trump.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #549 (Archie, 1985) – “The Flying Barracuda,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Mad Doctor Doom creates a flying robot barracuda that seeks out gold. Chester creeps into Little Archie’s bedroom and steals a lock of his hair, so the barracuda can hunt down Little Archie too. Archie cunningly (or accidentally) destroys the barracuda, by using a kite with a gold fishing lure to cause the barracuda to be struck by lightning. The highlight of the story is the last panel, where Archie goes to bed wearing a helmet so Chester can’t steal his hair again, and also sets up a picture of Chester for his dog to look at. Unfortunately, Bob Bolling’s artwork is impaired by Chic Stone’s lifeless inking.

RAW #1 (Raw, 1980) – various stories, [E] Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly. I got Raw #1 and #3 at the Shatter Daze sale for just $2 each, and I think they actually charged me less than that. As I told the person running the sale, these two comics alone justified my entire trip to the sale. Raw #1 is a massively important comic; it could be seen as the starting point of alternative or “art” comics, and thus also of the rise of comics to literary status. The high point of the issue is “Manhattan,” Jacques Tardi’s first story published in America. It doesn’t have much of a plot – it ends with the narrator committing suicide for unexplained reasons – but it’s a bleak, gritty, realistic depiction of Times Square in the ‘70s. The huge size of Raw #1 allows the reader to see Tardi’s beautiful art in all its glory (while also making the comic very difficult to store). The other great story in this issue is Spiegelman’s “Two-Fisted Painters,” which is contained in a much smaller booklet that’s bound into the comic at its centerfold. This sort of formal experimentation was a trademark of Raw, and this issue also has a removable sticker on the front cover, although I haven’t dared to remove the sticker. Anyway, “Two-Fisted Painters” is an absurdist murder story that’s also a brilliant metatextual reflection on the use of color in comics. When I read old Spiegelman stories, I’m reminded that his career is bigger than just Maus. It’s a shame that he’s produced so little new work since 1991. Other artists featured in this issue include Joost Swarte, Mark Beyer, Mariscal, and Drew Friedman, and there’s even a rare example of an actual comic by Françoise Mouly, although it’s a formalist experiment that includes no original artwork.

MIRACLEMAN #8 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Miracleman Confronts the Electric Terror,” [W/A] Mick Anglo, plus other stories. Because the Eclipse offices were flooded, the story originally intended for #8 was postponed to #9, and #8 instead consists of reprints of classic Miracleman stories. The only new material in #8 is a new framing sequence and a preview of a new Eclipse series, New Wave. The reprinted material is not bad, but not great either, and Miracleman #8 is only worth owning for the sake of completism.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. More stuff happens in this issue that doesn’t make sense. I wish I had time to go back and read Farel’s entire oeuvre from scratch, but even if I did that, I think I still wouldn’t understand his plots.

REVIVAL #13 (Image, 2013) – as above. Dana goes on a date with Ibrahim, while Em babysits Jordan and Cooper. I don’t remember whether Dana and Ibrahim’s romance ever amounted to anything.

NINE PRINCES IN AMBER #1 (DC, 1996) – “Book One,” [W] Terry Bisson, [A] Lou Harrison. An adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s most famous novel. This adaptation is not particularly well-written or well-drawn, and that’s not surprising since neither of the creators was a specialist in comics. But it’s been a long long time since I read Nine Princes in Amber, so this comic was a nice reminder of how much I enjoyed the novel.

Reviews that almost vanished

The following reviews were nearly lost, until I found them in an old AutoRecovery file:

THE LONG CON #4 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. The protagonists meet the celebrity guests, who have star##ted cannibalizing each other in reverse order of A-list-ness. Also, we get the best exchange of dialogue this week: “THAT THING YOU ALL LIKE IS PROBLEMATIC!” “WAIT WHO SAID THAT IT IS NOT”. Like Space Battle Lunchtime or Kim Reaper, The Long Con is a hidden gem that’s probably getting less attention than it deserves because it’s published by Oni.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part 1: Uncharted,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. I read one of Seanan McGuire’s novels, under her pen name of Mira Grant. I’ve been wanting to read her Wayward Children series, but it’s not out in paperback. Rosi Kämpe is from Finland, a country which has produced many great cartoonists, but few who have worked in America. Ghost Spider #1 is pretty fun, and much more lighthearted than the previous Spider-Gwen series, which became terminally grim toward the end. However, this issue is too heavily mired in continuity. I don’t care about all these alternate-dimensional spider people, I just want to read about Gwen Stacy.

THE BACKSTAGERS HALLOWEEN INTERMISSION #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Rian Sygh. Some of the boys stay at the theater on Thanksgiving and encounter a terrifying bug that feeds on stage fright. Sasha saves the day by being cute. There are also several backup stories. The Backstagers isn’t my favorite Boom! Box comic, but it’s nice to see it again.

On Friday, October 27th, I went to my second Heroes Pop Swap. Afterward, I went to the Shatter Daze pop-up comic sale. I bought a bunch of good stuff at each event, most notably including two issues of Raw vol. 1, though I haven’t read those yet. I could have bought even more stuff at Shatter Daze, but I was approaching the limit of my weight-carrying capacity. Here are some of the comics I bought:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #58 (Marvel, 1968) – “To Kill a Spider-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. This was a bargain at $4. The issue begins by wrapping up Ka-Zar’s encounter with Spider-Man, and then JJJ teams up with Professor Smythe to build a new Spider-Slayer. Besides John Romita’s stunning art, a highlight of the issue is JJJ’s horrified realization that he only wants to humiliate Spider-Man, but Smythe wants to kill him. Also, there’s a funny scene where Spidey finds Smythe’s hideout by looking him up in the phone book. The trouble is, he doesn’t know Smythe’s first name, and there are lots of Smythes – but luckily, only one of them has the word “scientist” after his name.

THE MUPPET SHOW #11 (Boom!, 2010) – “The Curse of Beaker,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. In this horror-themed story, the Muppets are trying to put on a show, but Dr. Bunsen keeps shorting out the power with his experiments. Also, he’s trying to put Beaker’s brain in a robot body, even though Beaker is not fully on board with this idea. This issue is exciting and beautifully drawn, and has perfect comic timing. Roger Langridge is such a brilliant humorous storyteller that I would describe him as the heir to Don Rosa.

EXILES #7 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Rod Reis. I missed this when it came out, so I bought it at Heroes. This issue is the conclusion to the Wild West two-parter, and it takes an unusually dark turn at the end, as Morph and Valkyrie’s horse both get killed. Exiles #6-7 are the low point of this series so far, thanks to the lack of Javier Rodriguez art, but they’re still very good.

HELLBLAZER #27 (DC, 1990) – “Hold Me,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Dave McKean. I paid $7 for this, which is at the upper limit of what I’m willing to pay for a comic, but it was worth it. “Hold Me” is the best issue of Hellblazer, and one of Neil’s masterpieces. The story begins with a homeless man freezing to death. Later, Constantine goes to a party where a woman tries to seduce him, but it turns out she’s a lesbian and she’s trying to trick him into impregnate her. (This is not the “Ursula Imada trope” that I described in my review of Green Arrow #37; Neil’s treatment of this theme is more nuanced.) But she happens to live in the same building where the homeless man died, and it turns out his ghost has just killed a woman. Confronting the ghost, Constantine realizes that all it wants is for someone to hug it and warm it up. “Hold Me” is a beautiful story about the need for human connection. Not only the ghost, but all the characters in the story are just looking for someone to hold them. A further highlight of this classic issue is Dave McKean’s art. Here he shows that he’s not just a brilliant painter and collage artist, he can also draw with great emotional power. I’ve had a copy of Cages for years, and I ought to get around to reading it soon.

CRYSTAL NIGHT #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1980) – “Crystal Night,” [W/A] Sharon Rudahl. I saw a copy of this at Wiscon, but it was slightly beyond my price range. I was thrilled to find it at Shatter Daze for just $2, and they actually gave it to me for less than that. Crystal Night #1 is Sharon Rudahl’s only solo comic. I’m indebted to Margaret Galvan for turning me on to this artist, who, like her Wimmen’s Comix colleague Lee Marrs, is brilliant and highly underrated. Crystal Night is set in an extremely dystopian future where “aristos” live in stagnant luxury, while “walkers” can barely afford to breathe. The protagonist, Crystal Night, is a child of a walker, but grows up as an aristo, only to later discover the evil nature of the system she’s part of. Rudahl’s story is powerful as well as feminist and intersectional, and it draws upon her Jewish heritage; the name Crystal Night is a translation of Kristallnacht. Thanks to its epic scope and 32-page length, this comic feels like a small graphic novel. Its ending feels like a deus ex machina, but at least it’s set up earlier in the story. Crystal Night is now back in print as part of Dan Nadel’s Art in Time anthology, and that’s a good thing, because this comic is essential reading.

JIM #1 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Manhog Beyond the Face” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. In this issue’s Frank story, Manhog tries to catch a bird, but hits his head and starts hallucinating, and then things get even weirder. This story is a classic example of Woodring’s style because it’s horrifying and weird, but it has beautiful artwork and bright colors. Oddly, this story has no dialogue, but at the bottom of each page are explanatory captions, which are somewhat redundant. Woodring explains in #2’s letter column that the reason is because “Manhog Beyond the Face” was originally published in a magazine with a different page format. When Woodring reprinted the story in comic book form, he added the captions so there wouldn’t be a ton of white space. This issue also includes a dream story in which the protagonist is a stonemason working on some kind of bizarre and unexplained project. I actually almost prefer Woodring’s Jim stories to his Frank stories. His dream sequences are so strange and yet coherent, I wonder whether he really did dream them, or whether he made them up while awake. BTW, I bought this issue from the same person who sold me a bunch of other alternative comics at last year’s Heroes Pop Swap.

HATE #12 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Collector Scum!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy and Lisa set up as dealers at a comic convention, and they get into a violent feud with a fellow dealer, Yahtzi. As usual with Hate, this issue is laugh-out-loud funny. It also feels totally plausible, with only slight exaggeration. I think that actual comics dealers probably get up to the same sort of antics depicted in this issue. An aspect of this comic that hasn’t aged well is that Buddy’s fight with Yahtzi happens because Buddy steals some of Yahtzi’s VHS tapes. Nowadays, VHS tapes are no longer a major collector’s item (though see https://medium.com/@waiteski/the-horrifying-world-of-vhs-collectors-35853f093e8).

SWEET TOOTH #2 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Out of the Deep Woods, Part 2,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I don’t know what happened in #1, but #2 is a great introduction to the series. Tommy Jepperd rescues Gus from some poachers, and we learn that Gus was raised by his dad and has never left his home (reminds me of Room). And the title of the series is explained: Jepperd gives Gus a candy bar, Gus really likes it, and Jepperd calls him “sweet tooth.” The issue seems to end happily as Jepperd promises to take Gus to the Preserve, but thanks to reading later issues, I knw that Jepperd is going to betray Gus and deliver him to vivisectionists.

MR. AND MRS. X #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I bought #2 and #3 of this series at Heroes. This issue, Rogue and Gambit bicker with Deadpool over the egg, then they all team up to fight the Technet. I’m delighted to see the Technet again, but Kelly doesn’t write these characters as well as Claremont or Davis did. Deadpool’s dialogue is pretty good, but one issue worth of it is enough for me. The issue ends with the egg hatching into a duplicate of Rogue.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 1977) – “Quest for the Sacred Water-Skin!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. I had better get as many of these as I can now, before they go way up in price. This issue, the dictatorial Princess Zanda forces T’Challa and Mister Little to go look for a hidden samurai city. While looking for it, they fight a yeti. Kirby’s Black Panther has some impressive art, but it’s not Kirby’s best ‘70s comic, and it has essentially nothing to do with any other Black Panther title.

LITTLE ARCHIE #142 (Archie, 1979) – “Silver Flash,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Bob Bolling’s new story in this issue focuses on the poor waif Sue Stringly, a character who only appeared in his stories (like Abercrombie and Stitch or Mad Dr. Doom and Chester). Archie is saving up money for new roller skates, but when he realizes that Sue barely has enough to eat, he instead uses the money to buy her some food. Archie’s parents are so impressed that they buy him the skates. This plot is not very original – there’s a very similar story in Archie #232, which I reviewed here in 2013 – but Bolling tells this story in his usual heartwarming and funny style. There’s one funny moment when Archie runs out of the house without kissing his parents goodbye, and his mother asks if Archie is forgetting to kiss someone, and Archie is like, “Oh yeah, I forgot” and he kisses the dog. As always, the non-Bolling stories in this issue are pointless.

HAUNTED LOVE #10 (Charlton, 1975) – “A New Life,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Enrique Nieto, plus two other stories. The writing in this issue is terrible, and I won’t even bother summarizing the stories, but this issue has two stories by the super-underrated Enrique Nieto Nadal. His art here is not as radical as some of his other work, but his linework is great, and he puts great effort into drawing the patterns of characters’ clothes. As a result, these stories sometimes look like collages. The other story in this issue is by Tom Sutton, and includes some more great art. I usually skip the prose stories in old comics – which were not even really meant to be read, but were included so the comics would qualify for cheaper mailing rates. However, the one in this issue is kind of interesting. It’s about a lonely bachelor who marries his cat. https://www.instagram.com/p/BpfPizHlxrz/

MR. & MRS. X #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. The fake Rogue turns into Xandra, Xavier and Lilandra’s daughter. Xandra is an adorable character, very similar to Singularity. This was an okay issue, but by this point Deadpool had long since worn out his welcome.

MAN-BAT #1 (DC, 1976) – “Beware the Eyes of Baron Tyme,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Steve Ditko. Francine Langstrom is possessed by an evil sorcerer named Baron Tyme. Man-Bat and Batman team up to save her, after an initial misunderstanding. This issue is okay, but it’s not the best Man-Bat story. I wonder why this series only lasted two issues.

JIM #2 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – four untitled stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. In this issue’s first story, Frank visits the “Palace of Horrors,” only to realize that his entire world is a Palace of Horrors. This story kind of sums up Woodring’s philosophy. Then there’s another dream story where Jim writes a letter to the “Supreme Altruist” and builds a weird-looking desk. The third story is about some kids who encounter Pulque, the spirit of drunkenness, and the fourth one is about an encounter between two very realistically written cats. This is a good issue, but because there are four stories, the impact of each individual story is diluted.

INCREDIBLE HULK #195 (Marvel, 1975) – “Warfare in Wonderland!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. This is one of many stories where the Hulk befriends a little kid. The logic behind such stories is that the Hulk is an overgrown toddler himself, so he gets along better with other kids than with adults. In this issue, the Hulk meets a boy named Ricky who’s running away from an orphanage, and they go to an amusement park based on Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, they are followed there by the Abomination, who’s been falsely informed that he’ll be killed if he doesn’t pursue the Hulk on behalf of the government. The really depressing part is that at the end of the issue, the Hulk abandons Ricky, thinking the boy has betrayed him, and we never see Ricky again. I wonder what happened to him.

THE MUPPET SHOW #1 (Boom!, 2009) – “On the Road,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. The Muppets go on tour and perform a show in a small town. It does not go well. Again, this issue is a masterpiece of visual storytelling. I think the running gag with the tiger in the caravan is the best part, but there are a ton of great gags and vignettes in this issue, and they all come together into a satisfying narrative.

THE SENTRY #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joshua Cassara. The new hybrid Sentry/Void kills Billy and also possibly Cranio, then leaves Earth. This is sort of an anticlimactic ending; instead of resolving Sentry’s character arc, this series just turns him into yet another villain.

CODA #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This issue reveals the horrible lengths that the bandits go to in order to “feed the Gog.” Otherwise it doesn’t advance the plot very much.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Frank and Sadie are visited by a vampire and his minions. After a lot of rules lawyering about what constitutes an invitation, the vampire steps into their hotel room uninvited, and promptly explodes. Meanwhile, the subplot with the ghost journalist continues. This series is insubstantial, but also cute and funny.

SWEET XVI #3 (Marvel, 1991) – “All Roads Lead to Rome High,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. This series is basically Archie set in the Roman Empire. The ancient Roman setting is just a gimmick with little impact on the plot, and the comic makes no attempt at historical accuracy (it takes place in a co-ed high school, which was obviously not a thing in ancient times.) The main theme this issue is that Rome High is electing a student president, and a girl campaigns on behalf of a boy who can’t speak in public, but ends up getting elected herself. This issue is funny, but not as good as Angel Love. BTW, I just submitted a conference proposal on Angel Love, Misty and Amethyst, and I really hope it gets accepted.

SPIDER-WOMAN #43 (Marvel, 1982) – “Last Stands,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. This issue, Jessica battles the Silver Samurai, while her friends are pursued by the Viper. This series is essential for a Claremont completist like me, but it’s not as good as Claremont’s X-Men or Ms. Marvel or even Marvel Team-Up. Steve Leialoha’s art here is very similar to Frank Miller’s. The highlight of the issue is the panel where Lindsey McCabe’s cat says “Prowl now?”

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #4 (IDW, 2009) – “Head Games, Chapter Three,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Tyler shows the head key to his love interest, but she’s understandably horrified and runs away. Meanwhile, Duncan gets beaten up by some gay-bashers. I finally get that Duncan is Tyler, Kinsey and Bode’s uncle.

MIRACLEMAN #12 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Olympus Chapter Two: Aphrodite,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this story, but I still want to complete my run of the original Miracleman comic, so I bought this issue when I saw it at Heroes Pop Swap. (I also saw Miracleman #16 for three dollars at a recent convention, but I didn’t buy it because I wasn’t 100% sure I didn’t have it already. I should have bought it.) As noted in my previous review of the Marvel edition of this issue, “Aphrodite” is the origin story of Miraclewoman, and it also explains what happened to Terry Rebbeck, a.k.a. Young Nastyman. The original Eclipse issue also includes a Laser Eraser & Pressbutton backup story, which has a complicated time-travel plot. One thing that strikes me as I read this issue is that Miracleman did a piss-poor job of taking care of Johnny Bates. He mistakenly assumed that Bates’s powers were gone, and allowed Bates to be placed in a brutal reform school where he was bullied and ultimately raped by his classmates. As a result, the blood of everyone who died in London is on Miracleman’s hands. It would have been better if he’d just killed Bates in issue 2.

DINOSAUR REX #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad & Henry Mayo. Dinosaur Rex #1 was in color, but thanks to budget cuts, #2 is in black and white. As a result, the artwork looks worse and is harder to read. This issue, Hempsted, Flavia and Dubadah travel to Africa to look for Hempsted’s uncle as well as the legendary Tyrannicorn. This issue is funny, but it doesn’t advance the plot a whole lot.

KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLE #7 (Dell, 1963) – untitled, [W] uncredited (Don Segall or Lionel Ziprin), [A] Sam Glanzman. I was motivated to read this after reading Fielder #1; see above. I haven’t read Kona in a while, and I forgot just how bizarre it is. Sam Glanzman’s art in this issue is pretty standard, and the plot is not that weird – the entire issue is devoted to a fight between Kona’s crew and some giant ants. However, the dialogue in this comic is like nothing else in comics history. A random sample: “Indeed! From the water rising spire of Kona’s sub sea kingdom… from that Pacific risen chimney crater emerges an army! An ant army! It moves in scarlet single file!!” “O! The discipline of insects! For what can match those precisions in an ant? We’re done for, dear ones! They’ll grind our bones to powder!” Or later: “Led by the bug subjected to the most beastly burn of all, the ruthless rubies now determined to undo the Konanites in one quick crush!” The whole issue is like that. The writer’s prose style is far weirder and more histrionic than even Kirby’s. No wonder Kona has been an inspiration to alternative cartoonists like Kevin Huizenga. A difficult question is who wrote Kona’s bizarre prose. Kona is usually credited to Don Segall, but Kevin Huizenga claims it was written by Lionel Ziprin, a beatnik poet and Kabbalist. This claim seems to originate with Ziprin himself (https://www.newsfromme.com/2009/04/11/from-the-e-mailbag-7-3/) and I’m not sure whether to believe him.

HEARTTHROB SEASON TWO #4 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. I don’t quite understand the plot of this issue, but what strikes me about it is that Callie and Mercer’s relationship seems kind of abusive. Like, they seem to delight in annoying each other, and Mercer seems to be separating Callie from her other friends.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA #1 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Last Survivor,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Mike Sekowsky. This issue is an adaptation of the TV show of the same name, which was the sixties’ longest-running American science fiction show with continuing characters – it ran four seasons, compared to Star Trek’s three. It’s about a privately operated nuclear submarine. In this issue the submarine’s crew battles a mad scientist who’s using tidal generators to create giant tsunamis. Despite the undistinguished creative team, VTTBOTS #1 is quite an exciting comic. The technology and oceanography in this issue are realistic, and the plot is gripping and serious.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #79 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X, Chapter Seven,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus other stories. Again the only reason to own this issue is the Weapon X installment, which has some beautiful BWS art. However, in this story Logan fights a bear, and it looks more like a giant rat than a bear. Of the other stories in this issue, the least bad one is the one where Sgt. Fury teams up with Dracula. The Sunspot solo story has John Byrne art, but appallingly bad writing. Example: “Your tender tragedies elude me. I’ll be hated and hounded with humanity’s savagery always exposing to harm those I’m near.” This story’s writer, Daryl Edelman, only has two other writing credits in the GCD, and one of them is “Paper, Not Paper” from Classic X-Men #35, which is at least as bad. The last story, starring Dr. Strange, is just mediocre. But I must have read this issue as a little kid, because when I read the line “Encase this fiend in the scarlet sack / The crimson bands of Cyttorak,” I instantly recognized it.

SPIDER-GIRLS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. Mayday Parker and Anya Corazon team up with a new character named Annie, a.k.a. Spiderling, the daughter of a Peter Parker and a Mary Jane who are both superheroes. Annie is a really cute new character, but like Ghost Spider #1, Spider-Girls #1 suffers from being overly mired in continuity. I just want to read about the interactions between these three different Spider-Girls, without having to care about this Inheritors nonsense.

BABYTEETH #13 (Aftershock, 2018) – “The Goddamn Devil,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. In hell, Sadie and her companions are reunited with Heather and Clark, but then Satan shows up. And Clark says “Dada” and Satan takes off his mask and says “I have a kid?” I’ve been lukewarm on Babyteeth lately, but this issue’s last page was a complete shock, and makes me excited to see what comes next.

One week of reviews

11-1-18

A few more comics that I read after I finished writing the last round of reviews:

SUPERB #14 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Kayla frees Jonah and they escape the prison-slash-school, but the villains plan on using Jonah and Kayla as bogeymen to demonstrate the danger of enhanced people. I guess this is the last issue… okay, I checked and it’s actually not, it just felt like it was.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. This issue we get a look at Orson, Sherwood’s brother. Somehow each of them thinks the other is dead, and Orson is at some kind of combat school, which makes me wonder if his name is a reference to Orson Scott Card. As usual, I love the art in this issue, but I’m mystified by the story.

DETECTIVE COMICS #866 (DC, 2010) – “The Medallion,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Denny O’Neil was a problematic writer even in the ‘70s, and in the 2010s his shortcomings are even more obvious. This issue suffers from a boring plot and very poor dialogue and captions, and Dustin Nguyen’s art is wasted on Denny’s script. I didn’t realize until near the end of the story that the Batman in this issue is Dick instead of Bruce.

ENCOUNTER #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I guess I’m reading this series in reverse order. This is the one where Encounter and the dog meet Champion, who teams up with them to fight the Deconstructinator. There’s a running gag where the heroes keep getting the villain’s name wrong. Overall this is a really fun kid-oriented superhero comic, and I enjoy it more than other Baltazar/Franco titles.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Stalemate,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. I stopped reading this series with #3, and never started again until now. This issue concludes the story of T’Challa’s visit to Latveria. It clearly illustrates the difference between T’Challa and Doom, but it’s just an average comic.

MORNING GLORIES #44 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. This issue takes place across multiple moments in time, and focuses on Ellen’s struggle with Ms. Clarkson to regain access to her (Ellen’s) daughter. Ms. Clarkson, the teacher with the dark hair, ponytail and glasses, is kind of a loathsome character. She’s presented as the embodiment of the cruel, sadistic teacher. This is not a bad comic, but my enjoyment of it is limited by my knowledge that the series was six issues away from going on permanent hiatus.

HUNT FOR WOLVERINE: CLAWS OF A KILLER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Butch Guice. Daken, Lady Deathstrike and Sabretooth fight a bunch of zombies. in This series is not a good fit for Mariko Tamaki’s talents because it gives her little opportunity to display her skill with characterization. I shouldn’t have ordered it.

MAE #6 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gene Ha, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. I might have ordered this when it came out if I had realized who the artist was. Paulina Ganucheau’s artwork is just as bright and appealing as in Another Castle or Zodiac Starforce. However, the story is much darker; there’s a scene where a little girl gets eaten by a monster off-panel. The plot is that a human woman with super-strength finds herself in a fantasy world based on the Czech Republic. I will plan on reading more issues of this series if I can find them.

BAD COMPANY #1 (Fleetway/Quality, 1988) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim McCarthy. These stories reprinted from 2000 AD are about a company of weird-looking soldiers, kind of like the Creature Commandos. Unfortunately this is a Fleetway/Quality comic, so it’s printed on terrible paper, and the printing quality is so low that the letters are barely readable. I bought a few of these Fleetway/Quality comics because I didn’t know any better, but I’m never buying any of them again.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #172 (Fawcett, 1978) – “All Year Long,” uncredited. This issue consists of a series of vignettes, each taking place in a different month. (Which illustrates a fundamental problem with this series: Dennis is the same age at the start of the year as at the end, and he never has a birthday.) Most of the vignettes are just silly gags, but they’re reasonably fun. However, there’s one scene where Dennis’s dad wears blackface, and the December story includes some blatant proselytizing.

ARCHIE #198 (Archie, 1970) – “Constant Replay” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A pretty good issue. There’s one story where Archie is supposed to send Veronica’s picture to a magazine, but instead he sends a picture of a dog. The way this happens is quite plausible. This issue’s last story includes a brief reference to student protests. The GCD observes that “Unlike the few other Archie stories where this was mentioned, Archie here expresses approval of the protests:  ‘Demonstrations turn me on!’ ”

BATMAN FAMILY #12 (DC, 1977) – “I Am Batgirl’s Brother!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] José Delbo, plus other stories. A rather lackluster issue. The cover shows Batgirl, Robin and Man-Bat together, but in the actual comic they all appear in separate stories. The Batgirl story reintroduces Batgirl’s brother Tony Gordon. This character had made a few appearances in the ‘50s, and only appeared in one other story, in which he was killed. I’ve read the story where he dies, but I have no memory of it, so Tony must have been a pretty forgettable character. See http://thebatmanuniverse.net/james-gordon/ for more on him. The Man-Bat story is the highlight of the issue because it’s drawn by Marshall Rogers, but it has a ludicrous plot where Kirk Langstrom turns into a werejaguar. The Robin story is as bad as other Robin stories from this period.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #9 (DC, 2017) – “I’m Glad I Spent It with You,” [W] Jon Rivera, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. This was my favorite Young Animal title besides Doom Patrol, but I fell behind on it, and never caught up. This issue is really bizarre and apocalyptic, and I don’t really understand it. It includes a scene where a man gets hit in the face with a human brain.

FIELDER #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2018) – “Bona, Monarch of Monster Isle,” [W/A] Kevin Huizenga. Kevin H. is one of my favorite current cartoonists – as well as the subject of my first academic paper that was accepted for publication, and the source of this blog’s name – and he just keeps getting better. He could easily have continued to work in the same vein as “Jeepers Jacobs,” but instead he challenges himself to try new stuff. This issue begins with a redrawn version of an old issue of Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle. It took me a while to understand what was going on in this story, and I’m not sure it’s a successful experiment, but it’s certainly a daring one. Next is “Get Up, Glenn,” part one of “Fielder, Michiana.” This story seems to be a continuation of the insomnia story arc from the Ganges series, except instead of having insomnia, Glenn can’t tell if he’s asleep or awake. My favorite thing in the issue is “Fight or Run.” It begins with a pair of half-page strips, “Fight” and “Run,” which depict stylized scenes from a fighting game. These strips look a lot like the fighting game story in Ganges #2. But on the next page, the “Fight” and “Run” comic strips grow arms and legs and fight each other by throwing characters and panel borders at each other. It’s hard to describe this precisely, because I haven’t seen anything like it before, but it’s fascinating. After another installment of the redrawn Kona story, the issue ends with “My Career in Comics,” a highly tongue-in-cheek account of Kevin’s career. In general, Fielder #1 is a fascinating and varied assortment of material, and it demonstrates why the virtual disappearance of the alternative comic book is unfortunate.

MARS #10 (First, 1984) – “No Rust (Just Reality)”, [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. This issue, Morgana and a furry woman named Fawn get captured by a giant spider. This issue has very little connection to the last two issues of Mars I reviewed, and I’m not sure how we got here from issues 5. There’s also a backup story starring Dynamo Joe. This story is heavily manga-influenced, but not that good.

Comics received on October 26:

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 5: You’re Not Asking the Right Questions,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Thanks to a series of mix-ups, Lunella passes the test and saves the school, despite the Kingpin’s best efforts. Also she defeats the Wrecking Crew. I don’t understand how the school got saved because Princess switched ithe tests. I feel that this point was not explained well. In general, this story was mildly better than Fantastic Three, but still not as good as the Ego storyline.

RAT QUEENS #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The Rat Queens and Maddie continue their quest to save Sadie. (Note that Rat Queens is one of three current comics with a character named Sadie. The others are Thrilling Adventure Hour and Babyteeth.) Meanwhile, Dee finds that she’s become a goddess. The other gods and goddesses she meets are probably the best thing about this issue. This current storyline is an improvement over the first ten issues of this volume, but it’s still not as good as Rat Queens volume 1.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #1 (DC, 2018) – “What’s Past is Prologue,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. This comic more or less captures the spirit of Rieber and Gross’s Books of Magic, but it’s not spectacular. I’m not sure how this series fits into continuity. It seems like this series starts right after the original Books of Magic miniseries, and replaces the previous Books of Magic ongoing.

HIGH HEAVEN #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “High Heaven: Chapter Two,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. This may be the best comic of a rather mediocre week. David Weathers tries to escape heaven, but runs into a truly hideous-looking angel. The angel shows him the better version of heaven, and also hell, which looks a lot better than either heaven. Also we learn more about David’s history, and it turns out that his new roommate is his worst enemy from his mortal life.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. A new dog character, Tommy, leads the Wise Dogs to the location of the evil men. Tommy has some cute interactions with the other dogs, but then we learn Tommy is an “eldritch man” posing as a dog. This is another really exciting issue.

THE TERRIFICS #9 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & the Terrifics, Part 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] José Luis. The Terrifics and the Strongs battle Doc Dread, the Dr. Doom to the Terrifics’ Fantastic Four, across several realities. Jeff Lemire draws a poignant contrast between Tom, the family man, and Mr. Terrific, whose family was killed. At the end of the issue we learn that Doc Dread is apparently Java. This was a fun issue.

USAGI YOJIMBO #172 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 7,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida fight an epic battle with the shogunate agents. In the course of their fight, the Japanese Bible is seemingly destroyed, and the agents let Usagi go. At the end of the issue, we learn that Inspector Ishida actually saved the Bible, and that he himself is a crypto-Christian. I get the impression that this story has personal relevance for Stan  because he’s a Japanese Christian himself, though I can’t find proof of that. An interesting comparison could be drawn between Stan Sakai and Gene Luen Yang, as East Asian cartoonists whose work is inflected by Christianity.

Reviews for September and October combined

9-22-18

On September 1, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find held a “warehouse sale.” They had thousands of comics which were priced at $1 on Saturday, 50 cents on Sunday, and 25 cents on Monday. I went to the sale on Saturday and bought about 40 comics for a dollar each, including:

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH, HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #2 (DC, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl, Part 2: Kiss and Hell,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Muktuk visits the underworld and meets Nusqua, the villain/femme fatale, who has sex with him and then transforms herself into the Great Mother. Also, he has a rather delicate negotiation with a Siberian tiger. This is a really fun series and, as I’ve written before, it explores a culture that’s hardly ever referenced in any kind of English-language fiction.

KARATE KID #1 (DC, 1976) – “My World Begins in Yesterday,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Ric Estrada. This was one of the only Paul Levitz Legion comics I hadn’t read, but it’s hardly his best effort. Val pursues his archenemy Nemesis Kid into the 20th century, then decides to stay there for no real reason. Princess Projectra neither appears nor is mentioned in this issue, which surprised me, because I thought the whole point of Val’s 20th-century trip was to prove his worthiness to marry her. This series was an obvious attempt to cash in on the kung fu fad by using a character DC already owned.

When I got back from Heroes, there were some new comics waiting for me:

RUNAWAYS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Time After Time,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Nico and Karolina go on a date. Victor tells Gert about his trauma from Tom King’s Vision series, and then Gert kisses him. The issue ends with Alex Wilder unexpectedly showing up. In my mind this issue is overshadowed by #13, which came out just two weeks later.

MS. MARVEL #33 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Not much happens in this issue. Kamala fights the Shocker with little success, and Bruno keeps trying to figure out how Kamala’s powers work. The only really notable thing in this issue is the Shocker’s Rube Goldberg device for “catching do-gooders.”

MODERN FANTASY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. As promised, this is the training montage issue. It’s full of funny dialogue, sight gags and hidden messages. Also, Sage kisses Darquin Silvermane. I love this series and I wish it was an ongoing.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – SECOND GENESIS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue covers approximately Uncanny X-Men #141 to #187. As with the previous issue, Ed doesn’t try to replicate the emotional power and characterization of Claremont’s X-Men. Instead, he seeks to tie together Claremont’s X-Men stories into a coherent narrative, and to make it look like if Claremont planned his whole X-Men run as a single long story. This is a difficult feat, comparable to Don Rosa’s achievement of reconciling all of Barks’s references to Scrooge McDuck’s history. Of course, Ed also makes a lot of changes to established continuity. His version of Days of Future Past is especially surprising because the future Kate Pryde isn’t mentioned at all.

ANGEL LOVE #7 (DC, 1987) – “The Search for Mary Beth,” [W/A] Barbara Slate with John Wm. Lopez. Angel discovers that her long-lost sister Mary Beth has changed her name and is now the front-runner for a seat in Congress. Thus, Angel tries to see Mary Beth and convince her to donate bone marrow to their mother. See my review of Angel Love Special #1 for more on this. In a comic relief subplot, Wendy has an audition which goes terribly. On the leters page, Barbara Slate claims that Angel Love is an eight-issue maxiseries. I’m guessing it was designated as such retroactively, so they wouldn’t have to admit it had been cancelled after eight issues.

SPOTLIGHT #3 (Marvel, 1979) – The Jetsons in “All’s Fair in Love and Warranty,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tony Strobl. This series is officially called “Spotlight” even though the cover says Hanna-Barbera Spotlight. This issue includes two Jetsons stories written by Mark Evanier, as well as a Yakky Doodle story. The artists, Tony Strobl and Pete Alvarado, are Disney comics veterans. Evanier’s stories in this issue are funny, but not as clever or complicated as his best work.

LITTLE ARCHIE #152 (Archie, 1980) – “Unhappy Birthday,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Heading to Veronica’s party, Little Archie takes a shortcut, against his parents’ orders, and runs into an alien teenage girl (well, actually her age is 712) who’s also taken an unauthorized shortcut. As a result of this encounter, Archie learns a lesson about love. This story is both wacky and touching. There are no other Bolling stories in this issue.

ISOLA #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. Olwyn turns back into a cat again. Other stuff also happens that I can’t remember very well. As usual, this comic is beautifully drawn but its plot moves rather slowly.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 1986) – “Legends Live Forever,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Trina Robbins. This comic was published because George Pérez’s Wonder Woman revival wasn’t ready by the time the previous Wonder Woman series ended, and at the time, DC’s contract with the Marston estate required them to publish Wonder Woman comics regularly or lose the rights to the character. This Legend of Wonder Woman is not as good as Renae de Liz’s series by the same name, but it’s an affectionate tribute to the Golden Age Wonder Woman. H.G. Peter is one of Trina’s strongest influences, and in this comic she closely imitates his style.

HOT WHEELS #3 (DC, 1970) – “Stakeout,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Alex Toth. This was a very exciting find, because each issue of this series included a story by perhaps the greatest visual storyteller in the history of American comic books. Unfortunately, his story in this issue is inked by the worst inker in the history of American comic books, whose name will go unmentioned. Despite this, Toth’s artwork in “Stakeout” is brilliant, though the story has a typically boring Joe Gill plot about modifying cars to catch crooks. This issue also includes artwork by Jack Keller, a noted artist of car comics, and Ric Estrada.

BLACKWOOD #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish. It turns out that the evil old lady, Grace Drayton (named after a cartoonist), was the lover of Dean Ogden, a.k.a. Nathan Blackwood. Then they both die, and the issue ends by suggesting that there’s also some worse secret behind Blackwood. This was a really effective horror series, and I hope it comes back soon.

X-23 #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 3,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. After a bunch of action sequences, the Cuckoos transfer their dead sister’s mind into Gabby’s body. This issue has some very effective art, but thanks to the emphasis on action over characterization, it’s not as good as the first two. Actually that’s a standard problem in Mariko Tamaki’s superhero comics: her action sequences are much worse than her quieter character-building scenes. Though really, very few superhero writers are, and action sequences are usually the worst part of any superhero comic. Laura’s contact list includes Mariko herself, Moon Kngiht, Nightcrawler, Wasp and Deadpool as well as some names I didn’t recognize.

TRILLIUM #3 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Telemetry,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. As of the Heroes sale, I now have all but one issue of this series. In this issue the future sequences are right-side-up, and the past sequences are upside-down. There’s also a two-page spread that combines right-side-up and upside-down panels. Some of the dialogue in this issue is written in an alien language, which is easy to decode, but time-consuming; however, someone on the Internet has posted a transcript of all this dialogue. Trillium’s plot is very confusing, involving multiple different timelines, and it would be hard to understand this series even if I was reading it in order. It’s fascinating though.

THE SANDMAN #21 (DC, 1990) – “Season of Mists: A Prologue,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. At the Heroes sale I was able to fill a lot of the gaps in my Sandman run, though I’m still missing the two most expensive issues, #1 and #8. This issue, six of the Endless have a family reunion, and Delirium makes her first appearance. She’s one of the best characters in the series, and her appearances are always a highlight. Also, at the urging of Desire and Death, Morpheus decides to go to hell to free Nada, which sets the events of “Season of Mists” into motion. This issue includes a preview for a series called World Without End by Jamie Delano and John Higgins. I hadn’t heard of that series before, but I was able to find a couple issues of it on my return trip to Heroes (see below).

STAR TREK #13 (DC, 1990) – “The Return of the Worthy, Part One: A Rude Awakening!”, [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. In PAD’s final story arc on this series, the Enterprise crew discover the cryogenically preserved bodies of the Worthy, a family of legendary space explorers called the Worthy. I read this issue once before as a kid, and didn’t understand it at all. When I reread it this month, I was equally mystified; I was like, why are we supposed to believe that the Worthy are great legends throughout the galaxy, when we’ve never heard of them before? Then I read the line where one of the Worthy, a young boy, says “The robot’s as much a member of our team as anyone else.” That’s when I realized that this Worthy are actually the crew of Lost in Space – as hinted by the fact that Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson on that show, is the co-writer. With that context, the references to the Worthy’s legendary status make perfect sense, and this comic is actually kind of a brilliant crossover between two classic SF franchises.

HARLEY QUINN & GOSSAMER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Hairy Predicament!”, [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Pier Brito. I stopped reading Harley Quinn a while ago, but I couldn’t resist this issue, which guest-stars my favorite minor Looney Tunes character. This issue has a pretty funny plot, in which Harley discovers Gossamer and mistakenly thinks he was sent by the Joker. But the issue is worth the cover price just for Harley’s interactions with Gossamer. The highlight is probably the panel where Harley imitates the scene with Bugs doing Gossamer’s hair. I do think Pier Brito’s version of Gossamer is a bit off-model; the creature’s mouth should be invisible most of the time, as it is in Sholly Fisch and Dave Alvarez’s backup story.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (DC, 1994) – “Bindings, Book 2: A Book of Leaves,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Gary Amaro. Tim discovers that the man he thought was his father actually isn’t, and goes looking for his real father. Instead he falls into the hands of a fanged dude who claims to be a schoolmaster and uses a lot of Latin phrases. Meanwhile, Tim’s actual father, Tamlin, goes looking for his son. Not a bad issue.

BATGIRL #26 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part One: Knockdown,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. A major step down in quality from the previous two runs. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s uninspired and boring, and lacks any interest. I’m dropping this series immediately.

On Monday, September 3, I went back to Heroes and bought about 140 comics for a quarter each, including:

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #62 (Marvel, 1980) – “One Must Die!”, [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke, Danny, and another superhero named Thunderbolt battle Man-Mountain Marko. Thunderbolt has superspeed powers which are causing him to age rapidly, and at the end of the issue, he uses his last remaining power, and sacrifices his life, to avenge his brother’s murder. This was grimmer than a typical issue of this run.

STRANGE EMBRACE #1 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. I’ve seen several positive reviews of this comic, but I knew nothing about it. But when I found this comic in the quarter box at Heroes and paged through it, I was instantly excited by Dave Hine’s art. Hine draws in the same quasi-Clear-Line style as Paul Grist or Phil Elliott, a style which I’ve previously described as characteristic of British alternative comics. In this comic Hine uses that style to illustrate a creepy Lovecraftian mystery about a house filled with ghosts and stories, or something like that. I can’t clearly remember the details of the plot, but it’s scary. I also got the second issue of this series at Heroes, and I’ll read it the first chance I get.

WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #21 (DC, 1975) – “Deadly Stalkers of the North!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Ricardo Villamonte, etc. Besides Villamonte, this issue includes stories by E.R. Cruz and Alex Niño. The three stories are about werewolves, giant alien slugs, and pirates. All of them are well-drawn, but none are especially well-written.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #1 (Dark Horse, 1986) – “Black Cross,” [W/A] Chris Warner, plus three other stories. This issue is mostly worth owning for completism’s sake, but it also includes one fascinating story that’s not widely available. The highlight of this issue is Paul Chadwick’s first Concrete story. It’s the one where a woman tricks Concrete into attending her child’s birthday party, and in revenge, he puts her car on the roof of her garage. I’ve read this before, although I forgot about the twist ending. The aforementioned fascinating story is “Brighter!”, which stars a woman with light and sound powers. She had previously used these powers for musical performances, but she decides to move on to bigger and better things. This character is obviously a stand-in for Dazzler, the protagonist of Chadwick’s previous series, and maybe her decision to change her career is a reference to Chadwick’s newfound artistic maturity.

GREEN LANTERN #109 (DC, 1978) – “Assault on Replikon,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Carol Ferris has a new boyfriend, André. It turns out André is really the alien villain Replikon (who wears Batman’s cowl for some reason). Hal, Ollie and Dinah defeat Replikon, but Carol is not grateful to Hal. This story illustrates that Carol and Hal are incompatible and that their relationship is a disaster. Mike Grell’s art is quite good. There’s also an Alan Scott backup story.

SILVER AGE: DIAL H FOR HERO #1 (DC, 2000) – “The One-Man Justice League,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Barry Kitson. This is part of a fifth-week crossover event. It’s designed to look like a Silver Age DC comic, with half-page ads and Gaspar Saladino-esque lettering on the cover. The plot involves a battle between Robby Reed and the Martian Manhunter, who’s swapped bodies with Dr. Light. This comic is underwhelming given the creators involved, and the best part about it, as with all Dial H for Hero stories, is seeing all the different superheroes that Robby turns into.

ACTION COMICS #579 (DC, 1986) – “Prisoners of Time! (1986 AD to CCLIII AD)”, [W] Randy Lofficier & Jean-Marc Lofficier, [A] Keith Giffen. Like Star Trek #13, reviewed above, this comic is an unannounced crossover. In this issue, Superman travels back in time to the ancient Roman era, where he battles a giant fat barbarian and a druid who brews magic potion. These characters are obviously Obelix and Getafix/Panoramix from Asterix. Oddly, Asterix himself does not appear. The cover shows Superman battling a character based on Asterix, but in the comic, that character is stated to have already died. In fact, the comic takes place long after the time period of the Asterix comics, and the Obelix and Getafix characters are only still alive because of the magic potion. The entire issue is full of Asterix references and is written in a Goscinny-esque style. Overall it demonstrates the Lofficiers’ love for French comics, which they helped to promote in America through their translations of Moebius. I’d have enjoyed this issue even more if I’d read more Asterix. I need to get around to doing that.

JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. I didn’t realize this was five years old already. During the Depression, some explorers discover a source of superpowers. Many decades later, their descendants are famous but bored young super-celebrities. This comic is less bad than a typical Mark Millar comic, but that’s the best I can say for it. Frank Quitely’s art isn’t the best he’s capable of.

LETTER 44 #3 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. A bunch of politics, espionage, interpersonal drama, and space sex. Nothing especially memorable happens in this issue, but it’s a good example of Charles Soule’s writing style. I want to collect the entire run of this series.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #4 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Bindings, Epilogue: Lost Causes,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Gary Amaro. Last issue, Tim was killed by the Manticore – the fanged teacher dude from issue 2. This issue, Tim has a long conversation with Death, who is her usual charming self, but then Tamlin, Tim’s real dad, sacrifices his life to resurrect his son. This was one of the better issues of the series, mostly because of the Death appearance, and it was an effective conclusion to the first story arc.

SWEET TOOTH #19 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species Prelude: Lost Trials,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire with Nate Powell, Emi Lenox and Matt Kindt. I got a bunch of issues of Sweet Tooth at Heroes, though I’m still missing the first few. This should be a fairly easy run to complete. This issue provides the origin stories of three female characters, including Wendy, the little pig-nosed girl who was imprisoned with the antlered boy. The three origin sequences are illustrated by three guest artists, as listed above.

X-MEN GOLD #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “ ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Part 3,” [W] Marc Guggenheim, [A] Michele Bandini. This issue suffers from uninspired, trite dialogue, competent but unexciting art, and a boring plot. It focuses on my favorite X-Man, Kitty Pryde, but even then it failed to hold my interest. If Marvel thinks Marc Guggenheim is the best choice to write X-Men, then no wonder the series has been bleeding readers for years. Marvel needs to revitalize the franchise by hiring some top-tier writing talent.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #23 (First, 1985) – “The Crucified Man,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable goes on a mission in Israel. This comic has some excellent action sequences, but Grell seems to be trying too hard to imitate Lawrence of Arabia, and the sex scene between Jon and his female handler is unnecessary. I think my interest in this series has waned over time. This issue also includes a long essay by Grell about a hunting trip he took in Africa. I already knew Mike was a sport hunter, but this essay is really TMI.

CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST #207 (Harvey, 1979) – “A Boy Named X,” uncredited. Unlike most Harvey comics I’ve read, this issue has a full-length story – about an amnesiac young boy – rather than just consisting of short stories. However, “A Boy Named X” is pretty boring and unfunny, and I fell asleep at least once while reading it. I still haven’t read a Harvey comic that was actually well written, and I wonder if there are any.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #562 (Archie, 1986) – Josie and the Pussycats in “Vacation Blahs,” [W] George Gladir, [A] Dan DeCarlo. Josie and the band go on vacation, but each of the places they visit turns out to be even more stressful than their day job. This story reminds me of MLP Micro-Series #3, where Rarity goes to Flax Seed and Wheat Grass’s resort. The other stories in this issue are forgettable, but even then this comic is much better than Casper #207.

THE DEMON #16 (DC, 1974) – “Immortal Enemy!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Etrigan battles Morgaine Le Fay, and his girlfriend Glenda learns that he’s really Jason Blood. And there the series ends. The Demon is not bad, but it’s not as good as Kamandi or the Fourth World titles.

SWEET TOOTH #5 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods, Conclusion,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd takes Gus (the antlered kid) to the Preserve, where he exchanges Gus for his wife’s body. Finally this series is starting to make sense to me. This issue includes a two-page spread with one of Lemire’s trademark experimental page layouts. It’s the scene where Gus gets hit on the head, and then there’s a 4×6 panel grid on the left-hand page, which “crumbles” into individual disconnected panels on the right-hand page.

SAUCER COUNTRY #6 (Vertigo, 2012) – “A Field Guide to Flying Saucers,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Most of this issue is a lecture about UFO encounters. I’m not sure how well this sequence works as a comic, but it’s interesting. It investigates the psychology and culture behind people’s accounts of UFO experiences. I still haven’t really gotten into this series.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Dark Kingdom, Part 3: Black & White,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger battle Mr. Negative. This isn’t a classic Spider-Man comic, but it’s fun and well-drawn. One nice thing about 25-cent boxes is that they allow me to read comics, like this one. I enjoyed reading this comic, but I wouldn’t have paid full price or even a dollar for it.

SWAMP THING #12 (DC, 2012) – “Rotworld Prologue: Part 2,” [W] Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire, [A] Marco Rudy. This issue’s story is continued from Animal Man #12, which I read when it came out. This is a pretty solid horror comic, with, again, some bizarre page layouts, and it’s fun to see Abigail Arcane interacting with Ellen and Maxine Baker. I went canvassing for the Democratic party yesterday, and my canvassing partner had a volume of this Swamp Thing run in his car. When I noticed that, it was a nice icebreaker.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #20 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Disassembled Part 1: Counting Up from Zero,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Here’s another series that I wouldn’t pay more than 50 cents for, but I’m happy to buy it when I see it in a quarter box. This issue is part of the story arc where Tony Stark removes his own memory. Tony spends most of the issue lying in a hospital bed having weird dreams. Matt Fraction is probably the best Iron Man writer since David Michelinie, although that’s not saying much. He seems to have been responsible for making the comic book version of Tony match Robert Downey Jr’s filmic portrayal of the character.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #24 (DC, 2008) – “Ringquest Part 3,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. Yet another series that I like, but that I only buy when I see it in the cheap boxes. This issue, a bunch of Green Lanterns battle Mongul, or possibly one of his children, and an army of Black Mercies. The Black Mercy, a parasitic plant that paralyzes its victims by granting them visions of their greatest desire, is one of Alan Moore’s many brilliant throwaway ideas. It was smart of Peter Tomasi to reuse it here. Otherwise, the best thing about this issue is the diversity of the different Green Lanterns.

TRILLIUM #4 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Chapter 4: Entropy,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Nika and William encounter some Amazonian tribespeople who speak the alien language. Meanwhile, Nika’s boss from the future decides to destroy the planet with the trillium on it. This issue has no unusual design elements. One of the many weird things about this series is the lack of connection between issues; it almost feels like every issue is about a different version of Nika and William.

COYOTE #3 (Epic, 1983) – “How Coyote Chased His Tail,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Butch Guice. This is Steve Englehart’s most important creator-owned series, but that’s damning with faint praise. This comic has a convoluted plot which isn’t worth the effort required to understand it. What makes this series interesting is the hero, who is basically a coyote in a human body, and doesn’t understand human stuff like technology and monogamy. Like, one of the subplots is that he’s two-timing two women, and doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

STRANGE TALES #13 (Marvel, 1988) – Cloak and Dagger in “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and Dr. Strange in “Ascent into Hell,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. This issue’s Cloak & Dagger story is a prequel to Power Pack #13, reviewed above. It guest-stars the Punisher as well as Power Pack. Despite starring the Punisher, this is a really light-hearted and fun comic, whose highlight is Katie Power’s version of the Punisher’s war journal. In contrast, the Dr. Strange backup story is too serious for its own good. The villain in this story looks a lot like Gillis’s creator-owned character the Black Flame.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #618 (Marvel, 2010) – “Mysterioso Part 2: Un-Murder Incorporated,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martín. The art in this issue is really good. Marcos Martín and Javier Pulido are fairly similar artists, which makes sense because they’re both from Spain and they both broke into the industry via Planeta de Agostini. This issue, Silvermane attempts to reassert his control over the Maggia, and there are also some plot threads involving Mr. Negative, Mysterio, and Carlie Cooper’s dad. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man is really quite good, and I should read more of it.

THE WORLD BELOW #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “The Flock,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. This series is Paul Chadwick’s version of Cave Carson – I even wonder if it started out as a rejected proposal for a new Cave Carson series. This issue introduces the rather flimsy premise of the series: there’s a newly discovered underground realm full of bizarre creatures and machines, and a team of six adventurers, equipped with a giant red truck, are dispatched to investigate. This gives Chadwick an excuse to draw the weirdest stuff he can think of. The World Below is an excellent series, and it’s a shame that it’s been totally overshadowed by Concrete.

I received these new comics on September 7. I barely remember most of the comics I read that day, so I must have been very tired.

PAPER GIRLS #24 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. We begin with a flashback explaining how Wari and Jahpo got to the future. Then we learn that Mac has untreatable time travel cancer. And Kaje saves Mac’s life with her rocket boots, which is a really nice moment. Also, Erin discovers a map leading I don’t know where.

BORDER TOWN #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Bienvenidos a Hell,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. This debut issue is very important, but also problematic. It takes place in Arizona on the U.S.-Mexico border, which, in this reality, is inhabited by giant monsters. Also the Aztec god of the dead, Mictlántécutli, is involved somehow. This series has the potential to be a fascinating and highly politically relevant exploration of border politics and Latinx identity. The problem is that it suffers from overwriting. Practically every word balloon has one sentence too many, and as a result, the story doesn’t flow well. Also, there’s a ton of stuff happening in the story at once, and it’s not clear what’s important and what’s not. Border Town has explosive potential, which hopefully will not go unrealized.

GIANT DAYS #42 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther has a crush on Ed again, but Ed “has been spending a lot of time with some vast and loud Australian entity.” Meanwhile, McGraw is burning a bunch of wood for some reason. So this is a pretty typical issue.

THE LONG CON #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] EA Denich. More of the same stuff. Dez fights her way through some feral children to acquire hot dogs, then there’s another flashback to the beginning of the con. I still love the idea behind this series, and the creators are executing it fairly well.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. We learn that the kid supervillains come from an alien planet, where the kid Luthor grew up with Lex Luthor as a role model. Also, the kid Joker is actually a good guy, and he helps Jon and Damian escape from captivity, but Jon somehow gets split into Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue. This is a really fun and exciting superhero comic.

SNOTGIRL #11 (Image, 2018) – “My Second Date,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. I can’t remember much about this issue. Snotgirl has such a convoluted plot and comes out so infrequently that it’s very hard to follow, though it’s worth reading anyway.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #1 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Becca and Kim are fans of a show called Vampire Teen Drama, so Kim decides to take them to meet some actual vampires. But while they’re partying with the vampires, Kim gets called away on a Grim Reaper assignment, and Becca and Tyler are left alone, with disastrous consequences. It’s nice to see this comic again.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #70 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Toni Kuusisto. This is a sequel to “Grannies Gone Wild,” the episode where Rainbow Dash accompanies Granny Smith and her friends to Las Pegasus. This issue, the grannies are sick of playing bingo, so Rainbow Dash arranges an extreme bingo game for them, even though Applejack thinks it’s unsafe. This results in a classic conflict between Rainbow Dash’s carelessness and Applejack’s overprotectiveness. There are some excellent gags in this issue, like Pinkie Pie trying to eat all the cakes in the shop because she thinks there’s a bingo ball in one of them.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen. It turns out the monsters are creatures that live between moments – not sure how that works – and that have been animated by Pietro’s emotions. Pietro defeats the monsters by sympathizing with them, and then hangs out with Wanda. In this series, Saladin has accomplished the feat of taking the most unpleasant superhero in the Marvel Universe and making him kind of sympathetic.

THE DREAMING #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Kingdom,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. I’ve seen some negative reactions to this comic, and I think those reactions are justified. This issue is confusing and convoluted even to a veteran Sandman reader, let alone a new reader, and it’s not that interesting either. I do plan to keep reading this series, since I’m a fan of both Si Spurrier and Sandman.

HOUSE AMOK #1 (IDW, 2018) – “We’re a Happy Family,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This is the fourth different Chris Sebela comic I’ve read in the past month or two. Besides having good dialogue, his comics have fascinating and clever premises, which he exploits to their full potential. (For example, the idea of a woman being haunted by the ghost of her heart donor is absurd, but Chris turns this idea into a compelling story.) His latest series is about two preteen twin girls whose parents believe in all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories. Because they don’t know any better, the girls accept their parents’ nonsensical ideas and act as accomplices to their parents’ crimes. But one of them slowly starts to realize her parents are insane. This comic is an intriguing exploration of conspiracy theorists, and also a plausible depiction of a child whose normal meter is broken, as they say on r/relationships.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. I didn’t buy this when it came out, but it turns out to be quite good. In this miniseries, a bunch of Sorcerers Supreme from various time periods team up against a villain named the Forgotten. The Sorcerers Supreme include an older Wiccan, who is married to Hulkling with a child, and Mindful, a sentient Mindless One. Mindful is an adorable character. Other than him, the highlight of this issue is Javier Rodriguez’s brilliant artwork. I think I’ve failed to appreciate him enough because he gets overshadowed by the writers he works with, but he’s an amazing visual storyteller.

LITTLE ARCHIE #166 (Archie, 1981) – “The Team Mate,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Another story where Little Archie meets an alien. Bob Bolling really liked this premise – in addition to this story and the one in #152, Bolling wrote several stories where Little Archie encounters two aliens named Abercrombie and Stitch. In “The Team Mate,” Archie encounters an alien his own age, Odiko, who has superspeed powers. Archie tries to draft Odiko for his baseball team, but the other kids discover that Odiko is an alien and reject him. As a result, the kids learn a lesson about prejudice. The last panel shows Archie’s black friend saying “I think we lost a good friend.” I’m not sure whether that’s subtle or heavy-handed.

TRILLIUM #5 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Starcrossed,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another very experimental issue. Each issue has a top half which reads right-side-up and a bottom half that reads upside-down. After getting to the end of the comic, you flip it upside-down and keep reading from the bottom. Each half tells a different story: the top half takes place in some kind of steampunk world, and the bottom half takes place in Nika’s usual future world. The top and bottom halves of each page have the same panel structure and are parallel in other ways, so this issue is reminiscent of Watchmen #5. The plot of Trillium still doesn’t make sense to me – I don’t remember having seen the steampunk universe before – but this issue is fascinating to read anyway.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #139 (DC, 1978) – “Requiem for a Top Cop,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Jim Aparo. In this Batman/Hawkman teamup, we learn that Commissioner Gordon killed an alien as a young man, and now an alien bounty hunter named Vorgan wants to avenge the murder by killing Gordon. Batman and Hawkman join forces to save Gordon. This comic attempts to blend the crime and science fiction genres, but does not succeed; the Batman and Hawkman parts of the plot are at odds with each other. However, this comic is notable for a couple reasons Bob Haney couldn’t have been aware of. First, in a sad way, it’s kind of touching how Gordon feels so guilty over the alien’s death. It would be nice if, for example, Amber Guyger felt equally guilty for killing Botham Jean. Second, the idea of an alien bounty hunter who assassinates murderers seems very familiar. This comic was published just two years before Nexus #1, and it’s very plausible that Mike Baron read it.

VELVET #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. A story about a female secret agent who’s running from her employers, or something. It’s essentially a Black Widow comic in all but name. It’s pretty similar to any Brubaker/Phillips comic except that the art is by Steve Epting. This was jarring at first, but Epting’s art is just as terrific as in his and Brubaker’s Captain America.

LANCER #2 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Diamond-Studded Steer,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Luis Dominguez. An adaptation of a long-forgotten TV show about two cowboy brothers who dislike each other. Unusually, this story shows cowboys engaged in their actual occupation of herding cows, rather than fighting outlaws. The plot is that the Lancer brothers have to lead a cattle drive to Mexico and prevent it from being sabotaged. Dick Wood’s script is serviceable, and Luis Dominguez’s art is pretty good. He’s from Argentina, and I assume he was influenced by Arturo del Castillo and José Luis Salinas.

HAWKEYE #5 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Tape Part 2: Operation Eucritta,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Javier Pulido. An excellent issue of a series that’s already a classic. The issue is mostly a long action sequence, in which Clint and Kate fight Madame Masque’s henchmen to recover an incriminating tape. Javier Pulido’s art and design are fantastic. The highlight of the issue is when Clint and Kate kick a door open, and the sound effect is FOOTOOMP!

STRANGE TALES #14 (Marvel, 1988) – “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and “Apogee,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. Again, the Punisher-Power Pack-Cloak and Dagger story in this issue is heartwarming (I’m trying to limit my use of the word adorable). Katie Power and the Punisher get along surprisingly well, since Katie is the same age the Punisher’s daughter was. But the highlight of the story is the ending, where the Powers have a birthday party for their hamster, and Julie teaches Cloak to read. The Dr. Strange story is just average.

ANGEL LOVE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1987) – “Dark Revelations!”, [W/A] Barbara Slate. A strong conclusion to a series that never found an audience. Angel convinces her sister Mary Beth to donate bone marrow to their mother. But as a result, Mary Beth is discovered to have been using a false name, and she loses her election for Congress. It’s kind of unethical for Angel to browbeat her sister into doing the donation. As a reader of r/relationships, I’ve heard lots of stories about people being contacted by estranged relatives who want them to donate organs. In those cases, the usual advice is that you’re not obligated to serve as a donor, and if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t be guilted into doing it. But Barbara Slate avoids fully endorsing either Angel or Mary Beth’s behavior, and allows the reader to see the ambivalence of their relationship. Other than that, this issue is full of lots of other drama and funny stuff. Too bad this was Angel Love’s last appearance.

CLASSIC STAR WARS #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. A reprint of some comic strips that take place between two of the movies of the original trilogy (not sure which two). Luke teams up with a thief named Tanith – named after Tanith Lee? – while Han and Leia have some relationship drama. Al Williamson’s art is really good, but it suffers from being reprinted too large. And the panels are rearranged to fit on the comic book page, so there’s lots of wasted space, and some panels are partly obscured by others.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #11 (Pacific, 1983) – “Meet Big Ugly,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. A minor late Kirby work that suffers from bad lettering, and nonsensical storytelling. It’s superficially similar to New Gods, but not as inspired. There’s also a backup story by Tim Conrad.

STARSLAYER #12 (First, 1984) – “Stranded!”, [W] John Ostrander, [A] Leni Delsol. The Starslayer story in this issue is pretty mediocre. The Grimjack backup story is significantly better, though Ostrander and Truman hadn’t quite figured out the Grimjack formula yet.

WONDER WOMAN #107 (DC, 1996) – “Lifelines Part Three,” [W/A] John Byrne. The best thing about this issue is Cassie Sandsmark, a really cute character. Otherwise, this issue offers further evidence that John Byrne had long since jumped the shark by 1996, and that he was never a very good writer in the first place.

CATWOMAN #18 (DC, 2003) – “No Easy Way Down Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Javier Pulido. An early work by an excellent artist. In this issue Javier Pulido tries to draw like Darwyn Cooke or Cameron Stewart, but you can still recognize his unique style of visual storytelling. Brubaker’s dialogue is pretty good, but the plot is forgettable; it’s some kind of hard-boiled murder mystery.

SAUCER COUNTRY #8 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Reticulan Candidate Part One,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. A blend of political campaign drama with conspiracy theorizing about aliens. I guess you could call this comic Men in Black meets The West Wing. I’d be willing to read more of this comic if I saw it in a cheap box, but I wouldn’t pay very much for it.

THE WAKE #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Wake Part One,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. The art in this comic is spectacular. Because of his style of linework and the amount of detail he puts into his drawings, Sean (Gordon) Murphy is more like a European than an American artist. His machinery, architecture and animals demand very close attention – which is why I haven’t had the energy to read any of the other issues of The Wake that I have. The Wake’s story is less interesting than its art. The protagonist is a divorced female cetologist who’s hired to decode some mysterious whale songs. I have yet to be truly impressed by Scott Snyder’s writing.

NEIL THE HORSE COMICS AND STORIES #9 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Hour of the Hand of the Shadow Fiend from the Forgotten Blood-Cursed Crypt!”, [W] Katherine Collins (under her previous name), [A] Barb Rausch. This issue’s first story is a Conan parody. It’s well-drawn but more silly than funny. The second story is about breakdancing and is narrated in rhyme. I guess it’s an early example of a comic influenced by hip-hop culture.

FIGHTIN’ MARINES #61 (Charlton, 1964) – “The Non-Combatants!”, [W] Joe Gill probably, [A] Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia, plus other stories. A boring piece of mediocrity. This comic promotes a jingoistic and uncritical view of war, which is especially annoying since it came out during the Vietnam war.

BULLY WARS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. This is less immediately appealing than I Hate Fairyland was. It’s about bullying and high school drama, but it treats these subjects in Skottie Young’s usual funny and tasteless way. It’s not bad, but it’s not my favorite either. Aaron Conley’s art is less hyper-detailed than in Sabertooth Swordsman, but much less difficult to read, since it’s in color.

CATWOMAN/TWEETY & SYLVESTER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Fine Fit of Feather and Fur,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Inaki Miranda. A very funny story, especially since it’s full of cats. Catwoman and Black Canary team up with Sylvester and Tweety, respectively, in a battle between cats and birds. Most of DC’s other cat- and bird-based characters are also enlisted, and the issue is full of Looney Tunes references. This is one of Gail’s best-written comics in years, and Inaki Miranda draws some very cute animals.

EUTHANAUTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Check Ignition,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. I had to read the previous issue to remind myself what this series was about, and even then I had trouble following it. But this comic at least seems like a sensitive and thoughtful examination of death. Maybe it’s a good thing this comic is coming out now, because it looks like I’ll have to attend a funeral soon. 

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Someone has dammed the water supply leading to the spa. It initially looks like the Apples used the water to irrigate their farm, but then it turns out Flim and Flam are responsible. Early in the issue there’s a funny mistake where the word “damn” is used instead of “dam.” I remember this comic more clearly than other comics I read the same day, so that’s probably a point in its favor.

DENNIS THE MENACE FUN FEST SERIES #14 (Fawcett, 1980) – “Having a Ball” and other stories, uncredited. In this issue’s first story, Gina teaches the other kids to play soccer. In the second story, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson move into a retirement community where everything fun is prohibited, and they discover that life without Dennis is less interesting. In the third story, the Mitchells try to get the cat to stop climbing on the table. This was a pretty funny comic, certanly better than the previous Dennis comic I read.

WONDER WOMAN ’77 SPECIAL #2 (DC, 2015) – “The Cat Came Back,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Drew Johnson. The Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman battles the Cheetah. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either, and it’s tediously long. I suppose this comic would have some nostalgia value for fans of the ‘70s Wonder Woman TV show, but I have never seen that show.

!GAG! #1 (Harrier, 1987) – various stories, editor uncredited. An anthology of British small-press humor comics. Creators featured in this issue include Eddie Campbell, Ed Pinsent, Steve Way and Glenn Dakin, and Trevs (Woodrow) Phoenix. The Way and Dakin story stars Paris, the Man of Plaster. This comic is perhaps less notable for the individual stories in it, than for its demonstration of the stylistic diversity of British underground comics.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #4 (DC, 1993) – “Riot Act,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Brad Rader. The Scarecrow engineers a plot to make the people of Gotham City illiterate. I was excited to discover that I had an unread issue of this series, but this issue is not by the usual creators, and it’s kind of mediocre.

Comics received on September 12:

RUNAWAYS #13 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente. Alex Wilder reappears, and instantly acts like he’s still the leader of the team, as well as getting them into a fight with a three-headed dog thing. Also, the Gibborim show up again, or rather their children. The issue ends with a panel depicting all six of the original Runaways, plus Victor. This story is paradoxical because it returns us to the premise of the original series – the Runaways versus the Pride and the Gibborim – but it also reminds us how much things have changed since the series began.

MECH CADET YU #12 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. The kids pool their powers to activate the Suprarobo and defeat the Sharg. The issue and the series end with Stanford and Olivia visiting their late parents’ graves. This ending was satisfying, but a bit predictable. I was hoping it would turn out that the Sharg weren’t as evil as they looked. It’s too bad this series is over.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “🔇”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The title of this story is the mute icon. This issue is a piece of Oulipian constrained writing, where the constraint is incorporated into and justified by the story. A librarian’s ghost gets angry at all the noise in New York, so she forces the entire city to be quiet, and thus the entire issue is silent. This enables Ryan North and Derek Charm to display their skill with visual storytelling and humor. The visual storytelling in this series tends to go unnoticed because the reader pays attention to the dialogue instead. But this issue reminds us that the creators are really good with sight gags and body language. I especially like all the scenes set in front of the ESU library, showing how New York changes as the silence continues. Overall this is one of the best issues of Squirrel Girl.

MS. MARVEL #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. I’m sorry to hear about Willow’s health problems, and I wish her a quick recovery. This issue, Bruno learns that Kamala shapeshifts by absorbing mass from her past or future selves. Also, Kamala encounters Singularity. “The Ratio” has not been among this series’ best story arcs.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Yet another excellent Boom! Box miniseries. This one is about a girl working at an amusement park, obviously based on Disneyland/world, who discovers a secret portal into the fantasy world that the park’s attractions are based on. Maddi Gonzalez’s artwork is appealing. Jackie Ball’s script is witty, and is inspired by actual experience working at theme parks.

EXILES #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Trial of the Exiles!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joe Quinones. I somehow failed to order issue 7, which concludes the Exiles’ encounter with the cowboy Black Panther. This issue, the Exiles are put on trial by a bunch of rogue Watchers, and they all have to recount their back stories. This issue provides a lot of useful insight into the team members. It ends with Blink waking up in an Arabian Nights-based world. Next issue should be good, since it draws upon the same mythology that Saladin Ahmed grew up with and used in his novel.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #39 (Image, 2018) – “Low,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. A bunch more drama, which ends with Persephone discovering that she still has powers. Not a very exciting issue.

SHE COULD FLY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Just the Place for a Snark,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. This issue includes one of the wordiest word balloons I’ve ever seen, containing well over 100 words, but there’s a reason for it. Verna asks Luna about her mental illness, and Luna’s response takes up almost half a page, ending “I’ve never told anyone this before.” This is a really powerful moment. Other than that, this issue Luna’s guidance counselor starts looking for her and gets involved in the conspiracy, and the enemy finds Bill. She Could Fly is one of the best miniseries of the year. Too bad there’s just one more issue.

CATWOMAN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Part 3,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones with Fernando Blanco. This issue is somewhat lacking in the cat department. Selina’s cats only appear in one panel. Also, there’s a four-page sequence devoted to the origin of a new character whose significance is not clear. Other than that, this is an okay issue.

CROWDED #2 (Image, 2018) – “Future Starts Slow,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Jo saves Vita from some assassins, then they go looking for the person who took out a contract on Vita. Also there’s a funny scene that takes place at a comic book store. This is a good second issue, though less humorous than #1, now that the novelty of the premise has worn off.

FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where We Make Our Stand,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli. This issue we finally get to see Franklin, Valeria and the Future Foundation kids, and our first sight of Valeria is shocking: she has breasts and is receiving a marriage proposal from some alien dude. The last time her age was stated, she was about three years old, so lots of time must have passed while the FF were away. Increasing Franklin and Val’s age is probably a good decision, since Franklin’s improbably young age is the biggest continuity problem in the Marvel universe. However, this solution creates other problems; in particular, if Val is in her early teens, then Alex Power, who is aging at the same rate, must be about 30. It’s best not to think about this too much. Anyway, this issue we learn that Reed, Sue and the kids have been creating new worlds and exploring them, but then Franklin’s power runs out, just as a creature called the Griever starts devouring these realities. So the FF return to Earth to make their last stand, alongside everyone who’s been a FF member. Besides the continuity issues I just mentioned, this is a really good issue. It’s both fun and original, and it effectively builds upon the heritage of this series.

NANCY DREW #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. This issue includes a scene where the detectives go to a rave, and they all split up to investigate different things. From there, the sequence is divided into three different narrative threads, each of which has a different color scheme and occupies a different tier of panels. On Twitter, Kelly indicated that she was proud of this sequence, and she should be. This issue also ends on an exciting cliffhanger where Bess is captured by the crooks.

FARMHAND #3 (Image, 2018) – “Pet Sins,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. A dog gets into the Jenkins farm and turns into an awful monster. Other plot stuff happens. This is another good issue, full of witty dialogue and funny gags. The best joke in the issue is the line of guys waiting to get into the “melon patch,” where certain private body parts are grown.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Broken Telephone,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. This is, I believe, the first comic by one of my favorite current SF writers. Like many of Nalo Hopkinson’s novels, House of Whispers is heavily based on voodoo and West African mythologies. It begins with a scene set in the Dreaming, where Erzulie Fréda is meeting Uncle Monday – either a version of Baron Samedi, or a very similar character. Meanwhile, in the human world, some girls unwittingly summon a loa called Shakpana by playing telephone. This comic feels like a very passionate and authentic depiction of Caribbean culture and mythology. It’s a bit difficult to follow at times, but it’s fascinating, and it draws upon a cultural tradition that rarely appears in comics except in a very stereotyped form. This comic may be difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with Nalo Hopkinson or West African religion, and its connection to The Sandman is very tenuous.

RAT QUEENS #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, Owen Gieni. This was the best issue of Rat Queens volume 2, simply because it was the first one that made sense. After a lot of confusing and unintelligible stories, the Rat Queens are finally back together, and now they’re looking for the evil version of Hannah. I didn’t realize there were two Hannahs, but I guess that was established last issue. Then the Rat Queens go on a quest to help their former teammate Sadie, who’s been turned into an owl. I hope this issue is indicative of the future direction of this series.

MARVEL RISING OMEGA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising Part 4,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Georges Duarte. A predictable but fun conclusion, in which the good guys beat Arcade and save Ember. Lunella Lafayette makes a cameo appearance on the last page. This was a fun series which teamed up some of Marvel’s best characters for the first time. It should be an ongoing series, though.

X-23 #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals, Part 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. The dead Stepford Cuckoo gets reanimated in Gabby’s body. This issue was mostly plot with little character development.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. In the final issue, Dorma finds a way out of the cave, and leaves home to pursue her fortune again. It’s too bad this is the last issue, but this issue was a fairly satisfying conclusion. Scales & Scoundrels was never a great comic, but it was quite a good one.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #6 (DC, 2015) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar, [A] Franco. A standard example of the Tiny Titans formula.

SUPERMAN #43 (DC, 2015) – “Before Truth Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] John Romita Jr. This issue is slightly less bad than Gene Luen Yang’s other issues of Superman, since it includes some effective character interaction between Clark and Lois. However, Clark and Lois’s relationship has been done to death already, and this issue doesn’t depict it in a particularly original way. This run of Superman was such a disappointment.

MOTH & WHISPER #1 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Once Upon a Time,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. I’ve read a lot of Ted Anderson’s pony comics and have corresponded with him on Facebook, so I was intrigued to read his new creator-owned series. This comic takes place in a dystopian society ruled by an oppressive government. The hero, Niki, is the child of two legendary thieves, Moth and Whisper. In general this is a pretty good debut issue, but the striking thing about it is that Niki, like the artist, is nonbinary. This is not directly stated or depicted as problematic in any way – there just aren’t any references to Niki’s gender. Niki is a really cute kid and an effective example of nonbinary representation, and I look forward to reading more about them.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #2 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Death in the Family,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This issue is about the fallout from Benjamin Khoury’s murder. It’s not bad, but the only really notable thing about it is the scene set in First Avenue in Minneapolis. I only remember having been to First Avenue once – I’m not really the concert-attending type – and I’m not sure if the artist’s depiction of it is accurate.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #3 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 3,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves infiltrate the library, only to discover that they need to get into the room for heretical books. The most interesting thing about this issue is the author’s note, where Brian Clevinger explains how the Advocatus is a made-up position, but based on officials that actually existed in medieval Europe. On Twitter, I observed that the Advocatus in this series is kind of like Judge Dee from Chinese detective fiction, and Brian Clevinger confirmed that officials like Judge Dee were part of the inspiration for Nicolas.

THE WRONG EARTH #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. I was skeptical about this comic because, although Tom Peyer wrote the comics that made me a Legion of Super-Heroes fan, his other work has been very uneven. But the premise behind this series is amazing. This premise is that the Silver Age Batman and the Dark Knight Returns Batman (or rather, Dragonflyman) swap universes with each other. The results of this are both funny and tragic. The two universes are depicted with wildly contrasting styles of art, lettering and dialogue, and Peyer and Igle brilliantly depict the two Dragonflies’ bewilderment at their new realities. I’m surprised that the idea behind this series hasn’t been used before, but Peyer and Igle execute it extremely well.

ARCHIE 1941 #1 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After graduating from high school, Archie is bored and listless, not knowing what to do with his life. But it’s late 1941, and December 7 is coming. This is a weird and intriguing comic, and I’m curious to see where it goes. It almost reads like a crossover between Archie and Captain America. Maybe next issue, Archie will get turned down by the Army, but will be asked to volunteer for Dr. Reinstein’s experiment.

HEAD LOPPER #9 (Image, 2018) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora, Part 1,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Head Lopper encounters a talkative female warrior, and they visit a city that contains a mysterious giant egg. Also, some kind of villain is plotting against Norgal. This is a good issue, but it’s more complicated and less immediately gripping than the debut issues of the last two storylines.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. The kids fight and defeat Carousel, a man in a top hat who summons demons out of a bag. As usual, this isue is beautifully drawn and evocative, but its plot makes little sense.

RUINWORLD #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. The pig dude finds himself in the Dengus Isles, where some frog people are about to cook and eat him. The other protagonists have to rescue him. This comic is an insubstantial but entertaining romp.

CEMETERY BEACH #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A special agent from Earth investigates an offworld colony that was created in the 1930s and has had no contact with Earth since. This comic reminds me of Bioshock because of its premise, but otherwise there’s nothing particularly new or original about it, and I don’t know why I should keep reading it.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #15 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Year of the Bastard Part 3: Smile,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. A much better Warren Ellis comic. This storyline is about an American Presidential campaign. The main event this issue is that Spider Jerusalem attends a rally by Senator Bob Heller, which is effectively a Trump rally, except the racism is even less disguised. Spider’s shocked reaction after hearing Heller’s speech is very similar to how actual reasonable people react to Trump’s rhetoric.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #63 (Marvel, 1980) – “Luck and Death,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. The two namesake villains, Suerte and Muerte, blow up the Gem Theater and almost kill D.W. Griffith (named after the filmmaker). This is a pretty good issue, though not especially memorable. Now that I’ve read Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, I have a much better understanding of the area where the Gem Theater is located.

MARS #5 (First, 1984) – “The Whole Shebang,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. A bunch of science fictional relationship drama, illustrated in a simple and appealing style. The main event of the issue is that one of the two female characters is discovered to be pregnant. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in this issue, but it was much better paced than issue 1, reviewed below.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #21 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The New Scum 3: New President,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider Jerusalem interviews the president, who turns out to be an alcoholic, cynical jerk with no principles. Spider points out that the President is “not interested in anything other than having the Presidency, but […] also not interested in actually being a President.” Besides the alcoholism, this character reminds me of Trump, though he’s not so aggressively stupid. Like #15, this issue is a sensitive and prescient exploration of American politics.

LITTLE MISTER MAN #1 (Slave Labor, 1995) – “Little Mister Man,” [W/A] James Kochalka. A silly Superboy parody, drawn in Kochalka’s trademark minimalist style. The main character looks kind of like Dilbert. This was one of Kochalka’s first comics, but it’s barely distinguishable from his mature work.

PLASTIC MAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Revenge of the Curse of the Horror Creature,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas buys some clothes for Pado Swakatoon, and discovers that Agent Obscura has ulterior motives. This is a fun and well-drawn series, and Plas’s relationship with Pado is very touching. But the plot of this series is hard to follow.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. It turns out that the Forgotten is a composite of various magicians who were imprisoned by Merlin. Also, sadly, Mindful does not in fact have a soul, but was merely animated by Isaac Newton. As usual with Javier Rodriguez, this issue is beautifully drawn.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #4 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer succeeds in faking Angel Carrasco’s death and getting rid of his unwanted clients. And there the album ends. I still don’t think this series is all that great, but it’s well-executed, and it shows more awareness of global politics than most American comics do.

WONDER WOMAN #54 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Part Three,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. I wasn’t impressed by the last Steve Orlando comic I read (namely Crude), so I had low expectations for this issue, but I was pleasantly surprised. This comic has excellent art and coloring and an engaging story, and that’s more than I can say for most Wonder Woman comics. The story is about a war between Qurac and the Bana Mighdall.

MARS #1 (First, 1984) – “Rebirth,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. This debut issue suffers from some of the worst narrative compression I’ve ever seen. As a child, the protagonist, Morgana Trace, loses her father in an attack that also leaves her paralyzed. She invents a system that lets her connect a computer to her legs, allowing her to walk again. Then she travels to the moon and becomes part of a mission to Mars. Then she and her crewmates lose contact with Earth, so they all go into cryogenic stasis for 10000 years. Finally, Morgana wakes up and heads to Mars to look for her missing crewmates. All these events happen in just one issue, and each of them flashes by so quickly that the reader doesn’t have time to process it before the next thing happens. The further irony is that most of this setup is unnecessary; all the reader really needs to know is that Morgana is stranded on far-future Mars with four other people. As noted above, later issues of this series had better pacing.

STAR TREK #40 (Gold Key, 1976) – “Furlough to Fury,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Al McWilliams. This issue ought to have been terrible. First, it screws with continuity by giving McCoy a daughter named Barbara – not to be confused with his other much better-known daughter, Joanna. Barbara only ever appeared in this series, and her existence is hard to reconcile with McCoy’s history. And Kirk has a crush on her, which is rather creepy. (This issue also mentions Scotty’s otherwise unknown brother Robby.) On top of that, this issue’s plot is poorly suited to Star Trek. The plot is that while on furlough on Earth, Kirk and McCoy foil an attempted jewel theft with the aid of a telepathic alien bear. Besides the alien bear part, this plot is more suited to Batman than Star Trek. The shocking part, then, is that this comic is actually good. Arnold Drake was a gifted storyteller who wrote excellent dialogue, and Al McWilliams was a terrific science fiction artist, possibly the best artist who ever worked on Star Trek comics. I especially like his rendition of the Enterprise. So this is a pretty good comic, though not necessarily a good Star Trek comic.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #491 (DC, 1992) – “A Good Head on Your Shoulders,” [W] Tom Grummett, [A] Doug Hazlewood. Superman battles Metallo, with help from Terrible Dan Turpin. This comic is nothing special, but it’s a well-written and entertaining Superman comic.

THE SPECTRE #12 (DC, 1993) – “Final Fate,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. Amy is murdered by a serial killer. This was a rather depressing and grim series, and it was rarely grimmer or more depressing than in this issue.

New comics received on September 22:

LUMBERJANES #54 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another incredibly cute issue. The villain turns out to be Tromatikos, or Tammy Tickles as Ripley calls her, a creature that drains energy. Tromatikos summons all the magic kittens, resulting in one of the cutest panels in the entire series. Jo and the girls go looking for Ripley. Oh, and we also learn that Rosie knows the phone number for Mount Olympus. Because of course she does.

FLAVOR #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. Xoo chews out Geof for his inconsiderateness, but enters the competition anyway. Meanwhile, Anant wants to enter too, but his parents refuse. This was a pretty good issue. The highlight was the panel with Geof getting “drunk” on ice cream. The food Anant and his parents are eating looks really good – it may be Korean BBQ.

MISTER MIRACLE #11 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Scott and Barda engineer a brilliant plan to defeat Darkseid and avoid having to give Jacob up. But afterward, it turns out Desaad is actually Metron, and Metron tells Scott that he’s in the wrong universe. This ending is unexpected and confusing. Obviously the high point of this issue is Darkseid eating the vegetables.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Finally the truth is revealed: Madame Dragonfly and Colonel Weird kidnapped the superheroes because if they return to Earth, Anti-God will come back. But then it turns out Colonel Weird already sent the ship on a course to who knows where. I’m glad to have finally learned what’s going on, but with the revelations in this issue, some of the suspense in this comic has been lost. This issue includes Doctor Star’s first appearance outside his own title.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. Another great issue. Kim Q tries to call her dad to ask to borrow the Belinda Carlisle tape, but he insists on using her deadname, and the conversation is over before it starts. This is perhaps the best scene in the entire series. It illustrates the pain of transphobia and the insensitivity of people who refuse to acknowledge a trans person’s identity. The rest of the issue is also pretty good. The Kims and Xue Peng execute their plan to steal the tape, but things don’t go as intended. The heist sequence includes some really good dialogue.

BY NIGHT #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. Gardt the goblin leads the protagonists on a tour of his world, but they go off the intended path and run into some sleeping vampires. This issue is quite funny; I especially liked the Mr. T running joke and the reference to Twizzlers as “crimson banquet rods.” But I’m still not sure what this series is supposed to be about.

USAGI YOJIMBO #171 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 6,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Inspector Ishida track down the Japanese translation of the Bible, but the villains are right behind them. The main virtue of this issue is that it demonstrates the incredibly explosive nature of the Japanese Bible translation. William Tyndale’s English Bible was dangerous enough that it got him executed, and the Japanese Bible is even more dangerous than that. “The Hidden” has been a pretty good story – I would rank it below “Grasscutter” but above “The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains” – and I look forward to seeing how it ends.

BLACK BADGE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Another good issue, though not as funny as #1, since we already know the premise now. This issue the kids encounter another group of spy campers. Also, the girl camper tells her origin story, but it’s actually the origin story of Pippi Longstocking.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. BRODOK drives off the giant Tigra, then the two Hawkeyes investigate an Advanced Image Mechanics plant. This was a good issue, with some effective character interactions, but nothing spectacular. I really hope Tigra comes to her senses quickly and doesn’t get killed.

VAGRANT QUEEN #4 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. This issue mostly consists of a flashback explaining how Elida’s kingdom was overthrown. We learn that Ellida was well-intentioned but was never in charge of her own government, and was led astray by her rather heartless mother. But the people who overthrew her government were even worse. One thing I don’t get is why Elida is the queen if her mother is still alive. I guess her father was the previous king, and her mother was just the king’s consort. This series continues to suffer from very poor artwork.

OLIVIA TWIST #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Darin Strauss & Adam Dalva, [A] Emma Vieceli. I decided to give up on this series before I even finished reading this issue. Olivia Twist is a dystopian SF retelling of Oliver Twist. I’ve never read Oliver Twist, but this premise is interesting enough. The problem is that the writers have no understanding of pacing. As with Mars #1, reviewed above, so much stuff happens in this comic that the reader can’t process any of it. We move from “Please, sir, can I have some more” to the Artful Dodger to Fagin, all in one issue, and at the same time we’re being introduced to Olivia Twist’s world. Because of the excessive pace of the story, none of the events in it have any impact. Neither of this comic’s writers has any previous comics experience, and it shows. I’m glad that I didn’t order issue 2.

IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Beyond the Spiral!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. I had kind of low expectations for this comic, but it pleasantly surprised me. The protagonist is the daughter of a character who’s basically Reed Richards. But their father has gone missing in some alternate dimension, and she and her brother have to look for him. For someone who’s never written the Fantastic Four (as far as I know), J.M. DeMatteis captures its spirit of scientific exploration and discovery very well.

SAVAGE DRAGON #238 (Image, 2018) – “Out for Blood!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm saves Angel’s life by giving her a blood donation, but is immediately besieged by sick people who also want his blood. Also, Maxine finally gets some therapy for her sex addiction. I bought this issue before I decided to drop this series again. If every issue of this series was like this one, I wouldn’t be dropping it.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Tracy Unleashed,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. Dick Tracy arrives in Chicago and instantly starts cleaning up corruption and shooting people. This comic is well-written and well-drawn, and Tommaso and the Allreds do a good job of capturing the spirit of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. However, their version of Tracy is so bloodthirsty that he reminds me of the Punisher.

EDGE OF SPIDER-GEDDON #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Tonci Zonjić. This alternate-universe story stars thirteen-year-old Petey Parker and his Uncle Ben, both of whom have spider powers. I couldn’t understand the plot of this comic at all; it’s poorly explained and fragmented, and it’s also part of a crossover of some kind. However, this comic is worth reading anyway because little Peter is heartachingly cute, and his relationship with Ben is very sweet.

THOR #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Old Gods,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. The far-future Thor battles the far-future Wolverine, who has the power of the Phoenix. Christian Ward’s art is, as usual, beautiful, but this issue is just a long fight scene, and it’s not all that interesting.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ties That Bind,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Garry Brown. A retelling of the alien costume saga from the perspective of the alien symbiote. I’ve never actually read the original version of this story, but the retold version is easy enough to understand anyway. This issue is a successful piece of science fiction because it shows the reader “a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man,” and it’s also rather touching.

Starting again on October 13:

CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ziegenfarm,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Chris Sprouse & Ron Lim. An excellent Captain America story. It reminds me of Waid and Garney’s “Sanctuary,” in Captain America vol. 1 #454, because it’s a very simple story and yet it perfectly captures the essence of Cap. The plot is that Cap has to rescue some concentration camp escapees, including a man who’s been sentenced to death for being gay. He escorts them to safety, with their assistance, and just when things look hopeless, he comes up with one last trick to save them.

THE UNWRITTEN #18 (DC, 2010) – “Mix,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. I have a lot of unread issues of this series. This issue focuses on a meeting of the people who secretly control the world through writing, including the terrifying bald bearded dude. It was a difficult comic to understand, but it made a lot more sense when I read the Rudyard Kipling issue, reviewed below.

CATWOMAN #36 (DC, 2004) – “War Games: Act 3 Part 7 – Multiple Fronts,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. This is barely even a Catwoman comic. It’s part of a giant crossover, and Catwoman appears on less than half the pages. This issue makes no sense out of context of the larger crossover, and it’s a good argument against crossover stories like War Games.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #30 (DC, 1996) – “Shells: Rites of Passage Part 4,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Peter Snejbjerg. Leah, disguised as Molly, tries to seduce Tim and fails, while the actual Molly has a tense encounter with Titania. This was an okay issue. The scene where Tim almost loses his virginity, until he realizes it’s not Molly, is an interesting insight into his character.

SLEEPER #3 (Wildstorm, 2003) – “Secrets and Lies,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sleeper may be the worst Brubaker-Phillips collaboration. It’s confusing, it’s too heavily tied to Wildstorm Universe continuity, and Sean Phillips hadn’t yet developed his current style. In this issue he uses some weird panel structures in which multiple inset panels are arranged on top of a single background panel. As for this issue’s plot, I don’t understand it at all.

LUCIFER #3 (DC, 2000) – “A Six-Card Spread,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Chris Weston. Lucifer and Mazikeen visit a cabaret in Berlin, where the star attraction is possessed by some magical tarot cards, or something. Chris Weston’s art in this issue is very good, but I’ve never really gotten into Lucifer. This is only the second issue of this Lucifer series that I’ve read since 2013.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #514 (Gladstone, 1987) – untitled, [W/A] Daan Jippes & Freddy Milton, plus other stories. I usually don’t like European Disney comics, but the ten-pager in this issue is surprisingly good. Donald tries to get the nephews to clean up their room, and through a series of mishaps, he gets stuck with a giant pile of garbage. Jippes and Milton do a good job of imitating Barks’s style. This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry, and a Gyro Gearloose four-pager by Barks. This latter story is rather puzzling. Gyro tries to build a hydroelectric plant in a poor, unelectrified Southeast Asian country, but the plant ends up consuming more energy than it produces. “And so, Farbakishan stays un-uplifted – its people toiling like beasts of burden, and its beasts of burden still untoiling!” This story seems like it’s making fun of the people of Farbakishan. But another possible reading is that Gyro’s modernization project fails because he’s an outside interloper with no knowledge of actual life in Farbakishan.

HIT-GIRL #8 (Image, 2018) – “Canada, Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Eduardo Risso. I bought this comic because of the creative team. In this story Hit-Girl visits northern Ontario and kills a bunch of people, I forget why. Risso’s art in this issue is pretty good, though also a bit lazy, without the level of detail I expect from him. The highlight of this issue is the ending, where Hit-Girl lies down in the snow and makes a snow angel, reminding the reader that she’s still a little girl. And then the last page shows the corpse of a man who Hit-Girl hit in the head with an axe.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #64 (DC, 1966) – “Batman Versus Eclipso,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Win Mortimer. Bruce Wayne falls in love with Marcia Monroe, actually the Queen Bee, who tricks him into helping her steal a diamond. Bruce has to team up with Bruce Gordon to defeat Marcia and her mob. Inconveniently, Bruce Gordon is also Eclipso. This was a reasonably fun issue. On page four there’s a very disturbing panel where Bruce spanks Marcia. It’s hard to imagine why anyone thought this panel was a good idea. There are a couple weird coincidences in this issue. First, a better-known villain also named the Queen Bee had already been introduced three years earlier. Perhaps this is why Marcia Monroe never appeared again. Second, the symbol of Marcia’s gang is a giant green eyeball that looks exactly like the Emerald Eye, which made its first appearance in 1967.

INVINCIBLE #115 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. Thragg and Battle Beast beat the crap out of each other, but we don’t see who wins. Also, we learn that Thragg has been fathering an army of children with the insect people. Like most late issues of Invincible, this issue was disgusting and excessively violent.

HEART THROB SEASON TWO #3 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. The main focus of this issue is Callie’s psychology. She’s increasingly depressed over her terminal illness, and it’s making her do weird things, like steal a safe from a bank and then drop it off a pier without looking at it. This was a well-written issue, but I couldn’t remember anything about it until I looked through it just now.

SOUTHERN KNIGHTS #3 (The Guild, 1983) “Paradise: Lost!”, [W] Henry Vogel, Audrey Vogel & David Willis, [A] Michael Morrison. My colleague Brannon Costello is writing a book chapter about this series, but I found very little of any interest in this issue. It feels like just a ripoff of John Byrne’s X-Men. Also, this comic takes place in the South but doesn’t depict any black people. I think I recall Brandon mentioning this point on social media. Perhaps the most notable thing about this comic is that it includes ads for Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and for the 1984 Heroes Con.

GRAYSON #11 (DC, 2015) – “Nemesis, Part 3,” [W] Tom King & Tim Seeley, [A] Mikel Janin. Dick fights some villain who looks just like him. At its best, this series is a fun, sexy romp with excellent artwork, but this issue was a bit too serious, and I didn’t understand the plot.

HIT-GIRL #6 (Image, 2018) – “Canada, Part 2 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Eduardo Risso. Similar to issue 8, but not as good. The highlight is the scene where Hit-Girl dreams about making a snowman.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #26 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Resilient Part 2: Visionary Men,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. A typical issue of Matt Fraction’s Iron Man, in which lots of corporate intrigue happens, and Tony acts weird. I can’t remember much about this issue specifically. Salvador Larroca is a very underrated artist, one of a number of Spanish artists who have had successful but obscure careers in American comics – Mikel Janin is another such artist.

CODA #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. The protagonist engages in more low-down dirty tricks to get the potion to cure Serka, but he only succeeds in getting the recipe for the potion. At the end of the issue, a creepy-looking drooling dude with a sword shows up instead when he expects Serka. This series is getting a little tiresome and confusing, kind of like Godshaper did. Maybe Simon Spurrier’s problem is that his characters are hard to sympathize with, and maybe that’s why Angelic was his best work so far. But Coda is still very well-executed, especially the art. Matías Bergara is the only Uruguayan cartoonist I know of, unless Alberto Breccia counts.

INCOGNITO #5 (Icon, 2011) – “Bad Influences,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This comic is much better drawn than Sleeper, but like that series, it’s a grim film-noir-influenced superhero deconstruction, and I think this genre is a bit overdone. Also, this issue is hard to understand because it’s the conclusion to a storyline. Brubaker redeems this series somewhat in the author’s note, which explains that his intent was to mash up the superhero and crime comic genres, since they both evolved from pulp fiction.

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Bishop’s Man Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. Jeff Lemire’s Hawkeye was one of his few unsuccessful series. This comic is essentially an imitation of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, without the originality or the heart. It feels like just an attempt to cash in. Ramón Pérez does his best to imitate David Aja’s style of storytelling, but he draws faces very differently from Aja, so his art has an uncanny, incongruous feel.

New comics received on September 29:

FENCE #10 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. We meet some of the boys’ relatives, and then Seiji and Nicholas finally fight. Seiji wins easily, but Nicholas scores one touch, which feels like just as much of a victory as if he had won the match. Just a couple issues left.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1373 AD (Image, 2018) – “We All Fall Down,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Ryan Kelly. At the height of the Black Plague, the only surviving god is Lucifer. This issue demonstrates the cognitive dissonance caused when a faith-based society is ravaged by a horrible catastrophe. Other than that, it seems mostly intended to offer further hints about Ananke and Minerva’s relationship.

MAN-EATERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. I was looking forward to this series, and this is a fun issue, with lots of excellent gags. Also this series is about cats, which is a further plus. However, this comic has several fundamental problems. First, the premise is that women turn into man-eating cats when they menstruate. The trouble, as many people have pointed out, is that this premise implicitly defines women as people who menstruate, and that’s transphobic. As far as I know, Chelsea Cain has not publicly responded to this critique, though I haven’t been on Twitter much lately. Second, this comic is vulnerable to accusations of “white feminism” in the pejorative sense, in that it depicts women as a single, homogeneous group, ignoring differences between them. If the premise of this comic actually came true, black and Latina women would probably be oppressed much worse than white women. Overall, while I still plan to continue reading this comic, I’m a lot less excited by it than I was at first.

HEROES IN CRISIS #1 (DC, 2018) – “I’m Just Warming Up,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann. The worst comic of 2018. This issue is just a litany of bloody scenes of violence between superheroes and villains, together with monologues where the characters talk about their mental problems. Tom King writes this comic in the same style of dialogue as The Vision or Mister Miracle, but unlike in those series, he shows no affection for his characters. The Vision and Mister Miracle had some very grim content, but the darkness never became dominant or oppressive, the way it does in this issue. The dark moments were always relieved by cuter, happier moments. This comic just feels grim for grimness’s sake. Also, while I obviously think mental illness is an important issue, Tom King’s treatment of this issue feels trivializing. It’s not appropriate to tackle the topics of trauma and PTSD in a comic that‘s primarily about costumed people beating each other up. Just like Alpha Flight #106, Heroes in Crisis addresses a very serious real-world topic while staying within the conventions of the superhero genre, and that proves to be impossible, because that topic is incompatible with those generic conventions. It is possible to write superhero comics about mental illness, but only if they’re quite different from standard Marvel and DC comics. Finally, in this issue Tom King kills off a lot of beloved characters, including Wally West, for no good reason. I don’t care that much, because the New 52 version of Wally West is not the character I grew up with, but still, it feels wrong to kill him off in such a casual way. Anyway, I certainly won’t be ordering any further issues of Heroes in Crisis.

MODERN FANTASY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. A satisfying conclusion to the series. The heroes defeat the demon, obviously, and Sage gets a new job, only to discover that it pays less. I wish this series had been longer than four issues.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 5: What’s the Big Idea?”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella and Devil fight the Wrecking Crew, and Devil turns back into a dinosaur, but Lunella can’t figure out how to stop them from switching bodies. This was an okay issue.

LONG CON #3 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. I don’t know if this series has lived up to its initial promise, but this issue isn’t bad. It turns out that since the apocalypse, Skylarks fans have turned into an oppressive gatekeeping army. This plot development has some parallels to stuff that’s happening in contemporary fandom. There’s a page in this issue that’s narrated with emojis, and later there’s a “WILHELM SCREAM” sound effect.

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #5 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Songbird Serenade’s prized statue, the Abyssinia Albatross, is stolen. The statue’s name is an obvious reference of the Maltese Falcon, but the comic only has casual similarities to that movie. This was a pretty good issue, but I’m glad that this series is ending, because I expect Nightmare Knights will be better.

THE TERRIFICS #8 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong and the Terrifics, Part Two,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. In a classic Justice League plot twist, the Terrifics get separated and thrust into different alternative realities. These include Warren Strong’s world, as well as the Aztech empire from an early issue of Tom Strong. This issue is a nice throwback to the original Tom Strong series, although I don’t remember the Aztechs being as evil as they’re depicted here.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] M.J. Kim. After the events of the previous Faith series, Faith is considered a public enemy. This issue, she has to fight a villain without getting arrested herself. This is a pretty good issue, and it’s nice to see Faith again.

HIGH HEAVEN #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “High Heaven Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. There are all kinds of fictional stories about hell, but very few about heaven – perhaps because it’s hard to write stories about a realm of eternal bliss where nothing bad ever happens. High Heaven addresses this general neglect of heaven, by telling a story in which a newly dead person discovers that heaven is boring and sterile (literally so; he has nothing between his legs). So the story is about how he escapes heaven. High Heaven #1 may be the best comic of the week. I had modest expectations for Ahoy Comics, but both their debut issues so far have been very good. However, the Grant Morrison text story at the end of this issue is a waste of space.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The dogs meet an old dude who can talk to them, and who has a diploma from Blackwood College. That’s a nice piece of cross-title continuity. Then the dogs fight some horrifying raccoons with human faces. This is a pretty good series, but I like Jill Thompson’s art better than Benjamin Dewey’s, and I wish this series had more cats.

WONDER WOMAN #55 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Finale,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. This issue has a strong story and excellent artwork. Raúl Allen is yet another in a long line of underrated but talented Spanish artists. Steve Orlando’s version of Wonder Woman is clearly based on Marston’s original version. At one point Orlando has Diana say “Loving submission can be intimidating… so can the truth. They both make us stronger.”

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #308 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Chris Bachalo. The Sandman is dying of an inability to maintain his cohesion. Peter escorts him to the beach where his origin happened, so he can die in peace. But the Sandman is also being pursued by his future self. This was a pretty sad issue.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #309 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass, Part Two,” as above. Sandman’s future self takes over his body. Peter and Johnny Storm team up to defeat him. I believe that’s the end of Chip Zdarsky’s PPSSM run. It was generally a pretty good run, though sometimes a bit underwhelming.

DOOM PATROL #23 (DC, 1989) – “The Butterfly Collector,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. This issue is mostly setup for future storylines. Joshua Clay meets Dorothy Spinner. Rebis comforts Eleanor Poole’s fiancé Dan (Eleanor Poole is Rebis’s female component). And Cliff and Jane discover that the new villain, Red Jack, is Jack the Ripper. Doom Patrol was Grant Morrison’s greatest work, besides Animal Man, because it combined bizarre high-concept ideas with the type of deep characterization that this issue demonstrates.

TRILLIUM #6 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Escape Velocity,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another issue that has both right-side-up and upside-down sections. It ends with some pages in which right-side-up and upside-down panels alternate. At this point I think I’ve read all but one issue of Trillium, but although I love its artwork and its bizarre formalist gimmicks, I can’t make head or tail of its plot. I need to read the entire series at one sitting.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10 (Marvel, 2016) – “Scorpio Rising, Part 2: Power Play,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Giuseppe Camuncoli is from Italy, a country which has produced fewer Marvel and DC artists than Spain, perhaps because Italy’s domestic comics industry is more vibrant than Spain’s. This issue, Spidey battles a member of Zodiac on top of a train. He’s assisted by Anna Maria and the Living Brain, which is a pretty funny character.

THE UNWRITTEN #5 (DC, 2009) – “How the Whale Became,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This is probably the best Unwritten comic I’ve read, and it was deservedly nominated for an Eisner. This issue tells the life story of Rudyard Kipling, with the added twist that his rise to fame was engineered by a cabal of shadowy figures who control the world through stories. Kipling willingly works for them – unlike Mark Twain, who turns them down – and watches as they ruin Oscar Wilde’s life. When Kipling tries to defy his masters, they murder his child, and when he asks them to save his son from being killed in World War I, they refuse to help. Mike Carey must have done a lot of research on Kipling’s life and work, and his story ties together Kipling’s biography, his influence on the British empire, and the fictional conceits of The Unwritten. This issue is a rare moment where The Unwritten approaches the same level of quality as The Sandman.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #3 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. The villains succeed in mind-controlling all the adults in town, but have no success with the kids, until the Joker tempts Jughead with burgers in exchange for telling him how to control the kids too. This issue was fun, but no different from the previous two.

SUPERB #13 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “No Time for Tears,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. This issue begins with a public service ad showing how dangerous enhanced people are. Then the researchers force the kids to beat each other up for no reason. Meanwhile, the rescue effort continues. This series is becoming very reminiscent of X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. I almost wish it was an actual X-Men comic, because it depicts the psychological toll of anti-mutant (or anti-enhanced) prejudice better than most X-Men comics do.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #4 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. See previous reviews of this series.

THE UNEXPECTED #4 (DC, 2018) – “Call of the Unknown, Part 4: Answers in the Sky,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Yvel Guichet & Cary Nord. I didn’t understand a single panel of this comic. It consists of a bunch of fight scenes between characters whose names I can’t remember, for reasons I don’t understand. I ordered this comic because it was written by Steve Orlando, but I should have saved my money.

OWLY AND FRIENDS FCBD 2008 (Top Shelf, 2008) – Owly “Picnic Today,” [W/A] Andy Runton, plus other stories. Four stories aimed at little kids. The other three are by Christian Slade, James Kochalka, and Corey Barba. The Owly story is by far the best; it reveals Andy’s mastery of wordless storytelling. Corey Barba’s “Yam” is a pleasant surprise. It’s drawn in a cartoony yet detailed style that’s hard to compare to anything, and it’s very cute. Barba published one graphic novel, which this story is a preview of, but he unfortunately seems to have abandoned comics after that.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. This issue, the vampire paralyzes the Doyles and their clients, but they succeed in defeating him. Also, it turns out the reporter who was following the Doyles is a ghost. This series is funny, but I have trouble remembering its plot.

WORLD WITHOUT END #2 (DC, 1990) – untitled, [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. I bought this comic because I saw it advertised in Sandman #21, as noted in my review of that comic. World Without End was created by two former 2000 AD creators, and is very stylistically similar to a 2000 AD series. It takes place in a bizarre alien world with multiple races, and focuses on a character called Brother Bones who preaches masculiniy and seeks to destroy women. The challenge of reading this comic is that Brother Bones’s dialogue is full of weird typographical symbols, so you have to pronounce his word balloons in order to understand what he’s saying. (See http://sequart.org/magazine/66424/on-the-origin-of-the-sexes-war-jamie-delano-and-john-higgins’-world-without-end/world-without-end-brother-bones/ for an example.) Although this comic is somewhat difficult to read, it’s fascinating, and I want to read the other five issues.

TALES OF EVIL #3 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Man-Monster!”, [W] Gary Friedrich & Tony Isabella, [W/A] Rich Buckler. This issue’s first story introduces a new character who’s a second-rate Hulk ripoff. It ends with the words “To be continued in the first exciting issue of Man-Monster,” but that issue was never published. The second story stars the Bog Beast, who was introduced last issue, and is much more interesting. The artist is only credited as “Romero” but is presumably Enrique Badía Romero, best known for Modesty Blaise. On this story he uses the scratchboard style that was common among Spanish artists at the time. His art is visually fascinating, although the story, by Gabriel Levy, is pointless.

I read the next ten comics on the night of October 4, when I had to get up in the morning to fly to Detroit for a funeral. I was too exhausted, saddened and worried to do anything serious, so I thought I might as well read some comics.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #70 (Marvel, 1981) – “Coconut Snow,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Danny and Luke team up with El Supremo, a Latin American strongman, to investigate illegal drug smuggling. In a development that comes as no surprise to the reader, it turns out El Supremo wants to take over the drug trade himself. Meanwhile, Colleen Wing has to take care of her father, who’s lost his memory of her. The issue ends with a touching moment when Colleen’s dad finally remembers who his daughter is.

STARSLAYER #6 (First, 1983) – “The Log of the Jolly Roger” part six, [W/A] Mike Grell. Mike’s last issue of Starslayer includes some good action sequences, but some very sloppily drawn spaceships and alien cities, and the plot is kind of trite. After this issue, Mike left Starslayer and moved on to Jon Sable, which was much better suited to his talents. Starslayer was much less important for the actual Starslayer stories than for its backup stories, which introduced Rocketeer, Groo and Grimjack. However, the backup story in this issue, about a cannibalistic butcher, is terrible.

CHEYENNE KID #97 (Charlton, 1973) – “The Killer’s Lair,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim. The stories in this issue are all awful, and they feature multiple different Indian tribes that all somehow look exactly alike. At least this issue includes two stories drawn by Sanho Kim, the first East Asian cartoonist to make an impact on American comics. His art in this issue is rather crude, but very different from anything else in American comics at the time.

TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #1 (DC, 2013) – “The Girl in the Bubble,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. In an echo of Fantastic Four Annual #1, Tesla is in danger of dying from her pregnancy by Val Var Garm. To save Tesla and the baby, Tom and Val have to return to Terra Obscura. There’s a metatextual joke about how Tom was able to read about Terra Obscura in comic books, but those comics aren’t being published anymore. I bought this comic back in 2013 even though I was boycotting DC at the time, but I never got around to reading it. It’s a competent Tom Strong story, but it lacks the creativity and cleverness of the Alan Moore issues.

AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Planet of Pathogens,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Another issue that’s all flash and no substance. It’s full of epic cosmic drama, but lacks any characterization, which is the heart of every good Avengers comic. Also, while the events in this comic are supposed to be epic and earth-shattering, Jason fails to create the sense that they actually matter. The reader knows the Celestials aren’t really going to destroy the world. This is the last issue of this series that I’ll be getting.

THE SENTRY #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. This is probably Jeff Lemire’s worst current comic, but it’s still good. Most of this issue is a fight scene involving Bob, Billy, and Iron Man. Billy is quite similar to Kid Miracleman in that he’s a former kid sidekick who’s grown more powerful than his old boss. At the end of the issue, Bob finally accepts his evil side and turns into a new character who’s both the Sentry and the Void.

WORLDS’ FINEST #4 (DC, 2012) – “Rebirth Conclusion,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez & Kevin Maguire. When Paul Levitz returned to writing comics, I was excited at first, but it soon became clear that his writing style had been stagnant since the ‘80s. Paul’s Huntress and Power Girl stories were groundbreaking in the ‘70s, but back then, the standards for female representation in superhero comics were very low. When Paul wrote superhero comics with capable, confident female protagonists, that in itself was groundbreaking. But the aforementioned standards have evolved since then, while Paul’s writing has not. As a result, Worlds’ Finest #4 is a boring comic. Its redeeming quality is George Pérez’s artwork, but George only drew half the issue.

TOM STRONG AND THE ROBOTS OF DOOM #1 (America’s Best Comics, 2010) – “Black Sun Rising,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. Just before Tesla’s wedding to Val Var Garm, Ingrid Weiss changes the past so that the world is ruled by Nazis. Like Planet of Peril #1, this comic is competent but unexciting.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #5 (DC, 2009) – “The Stars We Are,” [W] Tony Bedard, [A] Claude St. Aubin. This was the only Tony Bedard comic I liked. It was a successful sequel to the old L.E.G.I.O.N. title. This issue, Vril Dox fights a bunch of enemies at once, including a warrior woman possessed by Starro, a Durlan disguised as a little girl, and the Dominators.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #6 (Marvel, 2010) – “Closing the Book,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. Maggie explains what happened to her after Marvels #2: she went to live with uncontacted people in Papua New Guinea, who thought that all Americans looked like her. That’s kind of clever. We also learn that Maggie is grateful for Phil’s influence and sees him as a role model. Just as Phil’s wife and daughters are celebrating their reunion with Maggie, Phil passes away, and the series ends with his funeral. This issue is a powerful conclusion to the Marvels series. It gives the reader the sense that though Phil is gone, his legacy outlives him. It was a good comic to read when I was about to attend a funeral myself.

JOURNEY #3 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Woodschildren,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine MacAlistaire is trapped in a storm with some other travelers. To pass the time, he tells a story about when some Huron people hired him to rescue a girl from some sasquatches. The story ends as MacAlistaire and a Huron warrior are out of bullets and surrounded by sasquatches. When MacAlistaire’s listeners ask him what happened next, he says “They kilt us,” and we realize the whole issue is a tall tale. Jim Bridger, the real-life mountain man, supposedly told a similar story with the same punchline. An unexpected moment in this issue is when one of the listeners asks MacAlistaire why the Huron hired him to find the girl, rather than doing it themselves. MacAlistaire replies that “the Huron are farmers and fishers mostly. They’re civilized… I ain’t.” This reverses the usual presumption that white people are civilized and natives are savages.

BATGIRL #27 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part Two: Found Objects,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. This is better than issue 26, because it shows some interesting insights into Batgirl’s disability. But it’s not good enough to make me change my mind about dropping this series.

VAMPIRELLA #9 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Creees Lee, Paulo Barrios & Andy Belanger. (Not sure which of these were pencilers and which were inkers.) This issue takes place in a postapocalyptic world where no one can die. Vampi fights some punks, sleeps with a woman named Vicki, and then encounters her old acquaintance Pantha. Jeremy is mostly associated with kids’ comics, but he also turns out to be quite good at writing a sexy, violent vampire comic.

My next comics shipment was significantly delayed because DCBS was moving their warehouse. It finally arrived on October 10:

PAPER GIRLS #25 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Tiffany and Mac kiss. The older Tiffany blows herself up to save the girls. Then Erin’s evil clone shows up and activates a device that sends all the girls to different timelines. This was my favorite Paper Girls in months. I finally feel like I get what’s going on in this series, and this issue engages with a difficult question: does the existence of time travel mean that fate is predetermined?

RAINBOW BRITE #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. This issue stars two little girls, Wisp and Willow. Wisp is chased by some monsters that are stealing the color blue. A creature called Twinkle saves Wisp by teleporting her into Rainbow Land, which has been drained of all its color. I’m guessing that Willow will follow Wisp there, and that they’ll somehow combine to become Rainbow Brite. Having two little sisters, I watched Rainbow Brite a lot as a kid. So I was excited about this revival, and it lived up to my expectations. This issue is cute but also entertaining. Brittney’s art is, if anything, even better than in Goldie Vance and Hellcat. And Willow is a good example of a black kid protagonist.

BLACKBIRD #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. At age thirteen, this series’ protagonist, Nina, had a vision where she learned that magic is real. Now, as a nominal adult, Nina is an underemployed drug addict who sponges off her sister Marisa. But it turns out that magic still is real, because a magical chimera shows up and abducts Nina’s sister. I had no idea what to expect from this series, but I like it. Nina is a fascinating protagonist because she’s totally unsympathetic. Thanks to r/relationships I’ve read about lots of people like her: people who have no plans in life, and who expect their siblings or parents or significant others to support them forever. Besides Jen Bartel’s creative depictions of magic, the highlight of this issue is the scene where Marisa fills out a college application for Nina, and all Nina has to do is go buy a stamp, and she can’t even do that. I’m curious to see what happens to this character next.

SPARROWHAWK #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. I loved Ladycastle, which sadly ended after four issues, so I’m glad to see another comic by Delilah Dawson. Sparrowhawk starts out as a Cinderella story, with the added twist that the Cinderella character is a multiracial love child, so her stepmother’s hatred of her has racist implications. The comic takes an even grimmer turn when the protagonist is sucked into the faerie world, and learns that she has to kill other creatures to gain enough power to escape. This is clearly going to be a much darker series than Ladycastle, aimed at an older audience. Matias Basla is very good at drawing faeries and bizarre otherworldly landscapes. I think he’s from Argentina, but I can’t find much information about him. Sparrowhawk seems to be his first major work.

GIANT DAYS #43 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy gets a job at a Christmas-themed amusement park, and recruits other people to work there too. But it turns out the park is a cult, and none of the workers are getting paid. Also, one of the people Daisy recruited is an undercover journalist. This issue is funny, but also disturbingly plausible, especially the scene where Ed earns negative wages because he has to pay for “costume hire, outsourced training and payment in arrears.” This is an example of debt peonage, which is a real and very bad thing.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part Three,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. This artist is from Mexico, like Humberto Ramos and Bachan This issue, Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue manage to overcome their mutual hatred long enough to stop the villains’ spaceship from crashing. Meanwhile, Kid Joker is lost in space but is rescued by Space Cabbie, a character I definitely did not expect to ever see again. This was a really fun comic. The two Superboys’ bickering is hilarious.

BORDER TOWN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Máscaras,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. I enjoyed issue 1 of this series, but I was concerned about the convoluted plot and the overwritten dialogue. This issue, the plot is maybe still too complicated, but the overwriting is less noticeable, though some word balloons still have at least a sentence too many. What makes this comic really valuable is the kid protagonists, who embody the class and racial divisions in American society. A nice moment is when Frank asks if people are going to care about Julietta’s immigration status when she says she’s contacted an alien species, and she replies “To them, we already are an alien species.”

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #71 (IDW, 2018) – “Do You Believe in Magic,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. On Nightmare Night, the Mane Six arrange a scary friendship exercise for the Young Six, but it goes badly wrong. The Young Six end up in a castle filled with fake traps and wild animals “as well as hundreds of lit candles and flammable silk draperies.” Besides having an exciting and hilarious plot, this issue is one of Andy Price’s best-drawn comics ever. In addition to the usual sight gags, it includes marginal gags that resemble Sergio Aragonés’s Mad Marginals. In reading this comic, I had the thought that Andy Price is to ponies as Don Rosa is to ducks, and I’m not sure that’s not an accurate comparison.

LONE RANGER #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – “The Devil’s Rope,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. This starts out as a pretty standard Western story, but it soon turns out to have a political subtext, like all of Mark Russell’s work. Near the end of this issue, the villain outlines his plan for America. He wants to organize the country like a cotton plantation, where women stick to their housework, black and brown people do all the work, “poor whites have their guns, and a few old rich men rule it all from the porch.” This is a pretty accurate description of the Republican party’s vision for America.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Another fun issue. Kim’s vampire friend Charlie defeats the other vampires by ordering a hundred garlic pizzas. But as a result, Charlie suffers garlic poisoning themself, and needs blood to survive. Also, we learn that Kim became a grim reaper at the same time Charlie became a vampire.

JOOK JOINT #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Alitha Martinez. Jook Joint is the first comic I’ve read that starts with a trigger warning, and with good reason. It’s about a witch named Mahalia who runs a magic shop, but also has an underwater dungeon where she tortures abusive men. This comic is very grim and bloody, especially compared to Bingo Love. But it makes a powerful statement about domestic violence, and it shows that spousal abuse is a problem that cuts across racial lines. However, I felt kind of bad about reading this comic because in July, it became publicly known that Tee Franklin has a record of rude and unprofessional behavior toward her collaborators. I’m still willing to support her work, but I’m disappointed in her.

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #1 (Vault, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. This comic’s premise is completely unique: it’s a sexy vampire story that takes place in eighteenth-century south India. The apparent protagonist is a French vampire who flees to India to escape vampire hunters in Europe. He gets involved in colonial intrigues between France and India, but at the end of the issue he gets killed, so I guess the real protagonists are the native temple dancer and her lover. This comic’s creators do a great job of evoking a place and a historical period that are unfamiliar to Western readers, and they also effectively juxtapose European and native perspectives on South India. This comic also appears to be historically accurate. The Zamorin of Calicut, who appears in the comic, was a real person, and his father really did kill himself to avoid surrendering to Haider Ali of Mysore. (N.B. Calicut, or Kozhikode, is a completely different city from Calcutta, or Kolkata.) Overall, this is a fascinating comic. I forgot to order issue 2, but I look forward to issues 3 and up.

HOUSE AMOK #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Dream of the Machines,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This issue is mostly a flashback, detailing how Dylan and Ollie’s parents gradually went nuts, and how their mother accidentally killed a man and covered it up. At the end of the issue, Dylan’s parents demand that she kill a man too. This comic is getting really disturbing and fascinating. It’s an effective depiction of parents who are paranoid conspiracy theorists, and children who grow up not realizing their parents aren’t normal.

EUTHANAUTS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Liftoff,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. As previously noted, this comic is confusing and difficult. It’s hard to keep track of who the characters even are. But I really like the artwork and dialogue. This issue, we learn that the old dying lady from #1 had a husband who killed himself for purposes of researching the afterlife. Then the issue ends with the protagonist about to die.

TRUE BELIEVERS: MARVEL KNIGHTS 20TH ANNIVERSARY – DAREDEVIL BY LEE & EVERETT #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Origin of Daredevil,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett. A reprint of Daredevil #1, which I had not read before. Most of the details of Daredevil’s origin are familiar from many later retellings, but Matt Murdock’s first appearance is still a powerful story, allowing for its outdated nature. It reminds me of Kirby’s “Street Code” in its emphasis on the brutality of Matt’s Manhattan childhood. Bill Everett’s artwork is only average, not nearly at the level of his ‘70s Sub-Mariner comics.

ARCHIE #699 (Archie, 2018) – “So It’s Come to This: An Archie Clip Show,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] various. That’s not the actual title, but it should have been. This issue is a comics equivalent of a clip show: it consists entirely of reused art from earlier Archie comics, and the story is just a recap of all the events of the current Archie series. There’s also a three-page preview of Nick Spencer’s Archie #700, which I don’t intend to read. Archie #699 only costs a dollar, but even then it’s overpriced, since it has no value for people who have already read the comics it summarizes. It should have been given away for free.

MORNING GLORIES #25 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. I was motivated to read this after reading the Nick Spencer backup story in Archie #699. I quit reading Morning Glories because the story was confusing and never went anywhere. It turns out I was right to give up on Morning Glories, because its story never did get finished; the series went on hiatus after isue 50, and Spencer is so busy he’ll probably never have time for it again. Issue 25 is an example of the problems that led me to give up on the series. Without having read the immediately preceding issues, I was unable to understand this issue, and it felt totally incoherent at times. The narrative would shift between characters or even between time periods with no warning.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #75 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X, Chapter 3,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus three other stories. I probably read this comic as a little kid, because a lot of it was vaguely familiar to me. Obviously the reason this comic is worth owning is because of the Weapon X chapter. BWS’s draftsmanship on Weapon X is spectacular, and his visual storytelling is almost equually good. However, BWS’s story is kind of flimsy and not as good as his art. This issue also includes a Shanna story by Gerard Jones (whose work I will never be able to read again without shuddering) and Paul Gulacy, a Dr. Doom story by Dave Cockrum, and a Meggan/Shadowcat teamup by two people I’ve never heard of. The Meggan/Shadowcat story is notable for its sheer awfulness. Kitty meets a new character, a Russian spy, and instantly falls in love with him, but he gets killed. All this happens in eight pages, and Kitty’s dead love is never mentioned again.

THE NAZZ #1 (DC, 1990) – “Michael’s Book,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Bryan Talbot. The protagonist of this comic is a very familiar character type: a privileged young man who’s absolutely convinced he’s the smartest person ever. There is a Twitter thread (https://twitter.com/mc_heckin_duff/status/894810972019359744?lang=en) about how men like this are a dime a dozen, even though they all think they’re special and unique. However, the man in this series actually is sort of unique, because he goes to India, acquires superhuman powers, and comes back to New York, where he becomes a brutal vigilante. (Also his name is Michael Nazareth, which may be a reference to Mike Nasser/Netzer.) Despite The Nazz’s boring personality, what makes this comic exciting is the synergy between the writing and the art. I haven’t read any of Tom Veitch’s major work, but I’ve heard that his underground comics are notable for their brutal violence. The Nazz is an extremely violent story, and Bryan Talbot powerfully depicts the brutality of Tom Veitch’s script.

SUPERBOY #167 (DC, 1970) – “The Day Superbaby Blew Up the World!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Superbaby stories tend to be awful, and this one is not really an exception to that. Frank Robbins makes Superbaby act somewhat more realistically than he usually does, but his plot is ridiculous. This issue also includes a backup story by the same creators, about circus workers who commit crimes using a robot elephant.

MORNING GLORIES #18 (Image, 2012) – as above. This issue is notable for a scene in which Guillaume and Hisao/Jun have sex. I say Hisao/Jun because I can never keep track of which of these characters is which. Otherwise, this comic’s plot is impossible to follow. What did surprise me is that as I read this issue, I felt nostalgic for the characters in this series. Nick Spencer has crippling flaws as a writer (e.g. confusing plotting and hostility towards fans), but he did create some interesting characters.

MORNING GLORIES #24 (Image, 2013) – as above. Perhaps Spencer’s most fascinating character is Hunter, the most loathsome, sociopathic teenage boy ever. This issue mostly focuses on Hunter’s toxic relationship with his father, Abraham. Some other dude tries to force Hunter to kill Abraham, but instead Hunter threatens to kill Jade unless Abraham reveals some kind of secret, I’m not sure what. This issue is still confusing, but at least it helps me understand issue 25.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Evil,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This comic is worth reading because of Gabriel Bá’s brilliant art, but its story makes no sense at all. The writer assumes the reader has read all the previous Umbrella Academy comics, and provides no explanations for new readers. Not only do I not understand the plot, I don’t even understand what this comic’s premise is.

SCARY GODMOTHER #4 (Sirius, 2001) – “Ghouls Out for Summer, Part 4,” [W] Jill Thompson. At summer camp, Orson kidnaps Hannah so a vampire lord can drink her blood. Meanwhile, the Scary Godmother has been replaced by a faerie impostor. Scary Godmother’s hyperdetailed art makes it a very slow read, but it’s an amazing comic. It has just the right amount of creepiness to keep it from becoming annoyingly cute. (I wrote a paper once about this cute/scary affect, but it was never published.) Scary Godmother may have been the best all-ages comic of its time, and it should be more widely known.

THE WAKE #2 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Descent,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. In this issue, as in #1, Sean Murphy’s depictions of monsters, technology and landscapes are amazing. His artwork would not be out of place in a European comic. The major weakness in his art is that his faces are generic-looking and inexpressive. The Wake’s plot is not nearly as interesting as its art; I feel like Scott Snyder’s writing lacks substance.

THE WALKING DEAD #181 (Image, 2018) – “Together Strong,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. This seems like a reasonably good comic book, but I’m so far behind on this series that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this issue. The cover is a close-up shot of Glenn, with no logo, but Glenn doesn’t appear in the issue.

GREEN ARROW #37 (DC, 1990) – “The Black Arrow Saga, Part 3: Quarry,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Dinah has a heart-to-heart talk with Shado, while Ollie looks for Eddie Fyers, who seems to have been visually based on Archie Goodwin. Dinah and Shado’s conversation reminds us that Shado literally raped Ollie, and got away with it. Shado is an example of the “Ursula X.X. Imada” trope, where a female villain rapes a male hero in order to impregnate herself with his baby. This comes up not only here and in Nexus, but also in Tom Strong, twice, and James Robinson’s Starman. It is a sexist trope on multiple levels. On one hand, it implies that the hero is so sexy that even his enemy wants to sleep with him and bear his children. On the other hand, writers who use this trope rarely pay any attention to the psychological damage it inflicts on the male hero. A footnote about this issue is that it depicts a newspaper with the headline PSYCHIC SAYS QUEEN SON OF TRUMP.

ACTION COMICS #651 (DC, 1990) – “Not of This Earth,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] George Pérez & Kerry Gammill. Coincidentally, this comic also has a female villain, Maxima, who wants to sleep with a male hero and bear his child. However, Superman realizes Maxima is a villain and wants nothing to do with her, and a fight ensues. This was a pretty fun issue. At first I was wondering why Superman was acting weird and speaking in a stilted style, without using contractions, but later in the issue we learn that he’s actually the Eradicator. As another footnote, Maxima comes from the planet Almerac. That name is an acronym for Carmela, the name of Roger Stern’s wife.

WORLD WAR HULK #1 (Marvel, 2007) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] John Romita Jr. The Hulk and his Warbound invade Earth. Iron Man kills the pregnant Caiera, who spends most of the issue off-panel. This is a pretty generic event comic; it’s just a lot of fight scenes without much actual substance. I am not a big fan of JR Jr’s art, because his comics tend to be full of epic action sequences and not much else.

DINOSAUR REX #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “The Dragons of Summer,” [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Henry Mayo. This largely forgotten series is a mashup of PG Wodehouse and dinosaurs. The Bertie Wooster character, Hempstead, is summoned by his aunt Celia, who tells him that his uncle Grenville has vanished while hunting dinosaurs in Africa. This is relevant to Hempstead because it’s caused his allowance to be stopped. So Hempstead has to team up with his much more competent cousin, Flavia, and Grenville’s dinosaur butler (the Jeeves character) in order to find his uncle. SF and fantasy adaptations of Wodehouse are not that uncommon, but this one is funny and well-executed. There’s also a backup story by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake.

CAPTAIN ACTION CAT: THE TIMESTREAM CATASTROPHE #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – “The Timestream Catastrophe!”, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco & Chris Smits. This is a crossover between 1) the original Captain Action, who in this comic is a cat, and 2) Baltazar and Franco’s Action Cat and Adventure Bug. It’s a pretty typical Baltazar/Franco comic, but it may be confusing for younger readers because of its multiple realities and its references to the Golden and Silver Age.

WONDER WOMAN #51 (DC, 2018) – “The Fifty-Second Visit,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Laura Braga. This is one of the best single-issue Wonder Woman stories I’ve ever read. In issue 28, Diana battled a villain named Moon Robinson, a.k.a. Mayfly, and sent her to prison. This issue, Diana visits Moon in prison just to talk to her. Moon emphatically refuses Diana’s help, but Diana keeps coming back, over and over again, until she finally succeeds in rehabilitating Moon. It’s a pretty simple story, but a perfect introduction to who Wonder Woman is: it illustrates both her compassion and her iron will.

LETTER 44 #25 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. This issue advances a bunch of different plotlines at once, but it had little impact on me, because I’m not caught up on this series. The most memorable moment is when a villain murders an old woman in cold blood.

UNCLE SCROOGE #232 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Tenderfoot Test,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a ten-pager in which Scrooge, Donald and Gladstone compete in a “desert rat” contest. This story includes some great slapstick comedy, but since Gladstone is involved, the ending is predictable. Although Barks does throw in a surprise: Gladstone loses the contest, but it doesn’t matter because the prize was a uranium mine, and during the contest Gladstone found ten other uranium mines. The other stories in the issue are just credited to Gutenberghus. In one of them, Scrooge thinks Magica de Spell has stolen his dime, but she turns out to be innocent. The other story consists mostly of flashbacks in which Scrooge is repeatedly fooled by the same crook. That seems inconsistent with his character.

The next shipment arrived on October 16. This was a Tuesday, so I had been teaching all day, and I was pretty tired when I read these comics.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #37 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Death of the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This issue begins at Squirrel Girl’s funeral. We quickly learn that she’s not actually dead, and is attending the funeral disguised as Bass Lass (along with Nancy, disguised as Fish Miss). Watching the video of “her” final moments, Doreen realizes that the person who “died” was actually a Skrull disguised as her (Skrull Girl or Squirrel Skrull, I guess). This is a very funny premise, and this issue was quite good.

MS. MARVEL #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Kamala beats the Shocker, and Bruno confesses that he loves her. Which makes me wonder what happened to Mike – did she break up with Bruno when he left for Wakanda? This was a reasonably fun issue, but “The Ratio” was the worst Ms. Marvel storyline in quite a while. It just seemed to lack inspiration, and the Shocker is a boring villain.

THE QUANTUM AGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. This issue retells the origin of the Legion, focusing on the Brainiac 5 character, Archive, who replaces Lightning Lad as one of the three founders. Like Brainiac 5, Archive’s character arc is driven by the conflict between his computer brain and his human emotions. I squeed really hard at the origin retelling and the two-page splash depicting all the Leaguers. For an old Legion fan like me, this series is an extremely powerful piece of nostalgia, especially considering that there’s no regular Legion series anymore. Of course, that also means it’s especially painful that in this series’ present-day timeframe, most of the Leaguers are dead. I would love it if Kid Martian teamed up with the surviving adult Leaguers to create a new League that surpasses the old, but I fear that this series may end before it gets to that point. If only DC would hire Jeff Lemire, or anyone else for that matter, to write an actual Legion comic. In terms of the overall Black Hammer continuity, this issue is significant because it reveals that Archive was created by Talky Walky.

EXILES #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “One Thousand and One Marvel Nights!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. On Twitter, Saladin said that he’d wanted to do this story for years, and no wonder: it enables him to combine Marvel superheroes with his ancestral culture. In this story the Exiles are trapped in three stories from the Arabian Nights. Blink becomes Aladdin, Valkyrie becomes Ali Baba, and Sheriff T’Challa becomes Sindbad the Sailor. Saladin knows these stories very well, and Javier Rodriguez turns in an amazing artistic performance. The depiction of medieval Baghdad on the splash page is especially striking. The only problem with this issue is that it was too short! Only the three most popular Arabian Nights stories were included, and only small pieces of those. But that’s the trouble with having only 22 pages a month to work with. Luckily this story continues for one more issue. We discover at the end that Nocturne has become Shahrazad, with Dr. Doom as the murderous husband she has to pacify with stories.

SHE COULD FLY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. One of the best miniseries of the year concludes in shocking fashion. The two opposing criminal factions both end up at Luna’s house, and a firefight ensues in which lots of people are killed. Afterward, Luna and her guidance counselor both end up in a mental hospital, which is honestly not that bad of an ending, since it means they’re getting the care they need. The violence in this issue is shocking and disturbing, especially considering that the last three issues weren’t violent at all. But unlike in most violent comics, the violence in She Could Fly #4 is depicted realistically and not sensationalistically; the reader experiences it as a horrific, traumatic event. In the author’s note, Chris Cantwell admits that the ending of this issue is kind of inconclusive, but he suggests that this is because real life doesn’t have neat ending. He also mentions that he himself is suffering the same struggles as Luna. I hope that he gets better, and that he continues to produce work of this level of quality. This was a hard comic to read, but an important one – perhaps the best portrayal of mental illness in comic books since I Kill Giants.

THE WRONG EARTH #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter 2,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. After a scary comic, a funny one. Each version of Dragonflyman adjusts to his new Earth, and we learn that the Christian Bale Dragonflyman has hidden reserves of tenderness – that his soul has not been totally crushed by his harsh environment. Meanwhile, the Adam West Dragonflyman is not just a joke – he’s a man of great integrity, who simply cannot stand for bribery, corruption, or even foul language. But even if he’s not totally a joke, the Adam West Dragonfly is responsible for the funniest moment in any comic this week: when he realizes he’s in danger of being shot, he takes an “anti-bullet antidote capsule,” and it works. As indicated by the names I gave to the two Dragonflymen, the basic conceit of this series is that Christopher Nolan’s Batman changes places with the ‘60s TV Batman. This premise results in a story that’s hilarious, but also surprisingly poignant.

CATWOMAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 4,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. This issue is mostly about Selina’s troubled history with her sister Maggie. It powerfully depicts Selina’s traumatic childhood, but I don’t quite get how Maggie fits into the overall scheme of this series. I also wish Joëlle Jones had drawn the entire issue, though I’m not surprised that she needed a guest artist. Only two panels in this issue include cats.

FARMHAND #4 (Image, 2018) – “Between Worlds,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. This issue includes some great jokes, like the “arm tree pruning accident.” But it only advances the story a little bit. We learn in this issue that the protagonist’s sister, Andrea, is a government agent, but besides that, I can’t remember much about this issue’s plot.

MOTH & WHISPER #2 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Going to the Ball,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki goes to a party where they successfully negotiate an alliance with the scion of a leading crime family. Niki’s non-binary nature turns out to be an asset, as they’re able to pose as both a man and a woman. I really like this series; it’s both an outstanding example of non-binary representation, and a critique of the surveillance society.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. When Celestia dreams about a Pony of Shadows from another dimension, Luna and Stygian use Starswirl’s mirror to visit that dimension. It turns out the other dimension is ruled by Eris, Discord’s sister, and she’s creating an army of villains. So Stygina and Luna return to their home dimension in order to recruit a team to defeat Eris. Nightmare Knights is perhaps the darkest pony comic yet, and seems to be intended for an older audience. Its major theme is Stygian and Luna’s struggle to overcome their evil pasts. There’s a poignant moment where they both have to prove they’re villains in order to enter Eris’s casino, and they both succeed in doing so.

PLASTIC MAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “The Wrong Man to Save Them,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas takes Pado to the boardwalk, where they share some touching moments – until some people from CPS come and take Pado away, and it turns out Plas called them himself. This was absolutely the right thing to do, and yet Plas justifiably feels like an asshole for doing it: “Doing the right thing? It damn well sucks.” Also, lots of other stuff happens. I don’t understand why this is just a six-issue miniseries, because it deserves to be an ongoing. As noted in my review of #1, Gail is the only good Plastic Man writer other than Kyle Baker and Jack Cole himself, and I hope she gets more opportunities to work on this character.

X-23 #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 5,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. Laura and Gabby succeed in defeating the Stepford Cuckoos, then they complete their interrupted birthday party. This was better than the last two issues, but it still wasted too much space on action sequences. There’s one double-page splash near the end of the issue that looks nice enough, but is not worth two pages.

CROWDED #3 (Image, 2018) – “Kill v. Maim,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. This issue introduces two of the assassins who are trying to kill Charlotte: Trotter, a blond celebrity dudebro, and… I don’t know if the other one has a name, but she’s the complete opposite, an enigma who operates in the shadows. This issue is creepy because it shows us how determined the assassins are, and how much the American public has bought into the idea of crowdsourced murder. Sebela even gives a perfunctory explanation of why Reapr is legal. Part of Crowded #3 takes place in a library, which has become a free hotel for homeless people. This idea, just like the idea of Reapr itself, is disturbingly plausible.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #2 (DC, 2018) – “The Power Divided,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie and Uncle Monday try to escape the Dreaming, while their human worshippers try to contact them. This issue draws heavily upon what I assume is firsthand knowledge of voodoo culture. There’s one scene where Erzulie’s worshippers summon Agwe, Damballa and Ogun. This comic would actually be better if it wasn’t a Sandman spinoff. Cain and Abel add very little to the narrative, and they draw the reader’s attention away from the voodoo lwa and the human characters, all of whom are more interesting. Maybe after this series, Nalo Hopkinson will get the opportunity to do a creator-owned title that’s not tied to an existing universe. For a writer who hasn’t done comics before, Hopkinson shows almost no signs of inexperience, but she does include some unnecessary caption boxes.

IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Lost and Found,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. At times this issue is too cosmic and Kirbyesque for its own good. It includes so much wild, bizarre nonsense that the reader’s credibility is strained. Also, the worldbuilding in this series is a distraction from the main interest of the series, which is Number/Goose’s relationship with her father and her adopted brother. But eventually we do get to the point. Number and Buddy find their father, but it turns out he’s only one of many clones of their father, and their mission is to find the real one from whom the clones were made.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #3 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Blood for Blood,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This felt too much like a generic crime comic, without enough emphasis on the two things that make this series unique: the Minnesota setting and the protagonists’ Lebanese ancestry. At least Hot Lunch Special is a well-executed crime comic. I like Jorge Fornés’s art.

RUINWORLD #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but I think that when I read it, I was too tired to pay much attention. Reading this comic sometimes feels like a chore because of its heavy dialogue and its convoluted plot. Derek Laufman has potential, but his jokes could be funnier, and his adventures could be more exciting.

BULLY WARS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. After initially being rejected, Rufus succeeds in getting invited to the Bully Wars competition. This series is potentially problematic because it glorifies bullying, which is a major social problem. But Bully Wars appears to be targeted toward an audience of young kids, and if there’s one thing kids love, it’s stories that glorify “bad” stuff – that’s why children’s literature is so full of gross-out humor. Seen in that light, Bully Wars is a pretty successful comic for kids.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #6 (DC, 2007) – “Hear No Evil,” [W] David Lapham, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre story in this series is one of DC’s worst comics in recent memory. Its artwork arouses memories of Ostrander and Mandrake’s classic Spectre series, but Lapham’s writing lacks any of the subtlety or humor of Ostrander’s writing. His story is a litany of horrific violence. In this issue, a serial killer murders a little girl, and the Spectre can’t do anything about it. The reason I even have this comic is because of the Dr. Thirteen backup series, which, besides the excellent Cliff Chiang art, is perhaps the best thing Brian Azzarello ever wrote. It’s funny, metatextual and weird, and it introduces Traci Thirteen, an excellent character who was too quickly forgotten.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #3 (IDW, 2013) – “The Judgment Tower, Part Three: Underground,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Andrea Di Vito. There have been a couple good T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents revivals, but they were both published in the ‘80s, and subsequent attempts to resurrect these characters have all failed. Perhaps this is because the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents just aren’t that interesting except to readers of the original series. Hester and Di Vito’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is just a generic superhero comic with no distinctive features.

WORLDS’ FINEST #5 (DC, 2012) – “Three Midnights, Far from Home,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez, Jerry Ordway & Wes Craig. This issue consists of what appear to be two inventory stories, linked by a new framing sequence. It has no redeeming qualities except for a few pages of Pérez artwork.

GORILLA-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Serpent and the Hawk,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Giancarlo Caracuzzo. I’ve had this comic longer than almost any unread comic in my collection. I think I may have bought it in Gainesville, at the now-closed Florida Bookstore vol. II. This comic stars Ken Hale, the gorilla agent of Atlas. It’s funny, but not as funny as you would expect from a comic with a gorilla protagonist. This issue ends with a reprint of Arthur Nagan’s origin story, from a pre-superhero Marvel mystery title.

New comics received on Friday, October 19. I got these in the evening after spending the morning and afternoon at a conference.

LUMBERJANES #55 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art” part 3, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. This is a really fun storyline. The highlight, obviously, is all the scenes with Ripley playing with the superpowered cats. Well, no, maybe the real highlight is the scene where Marigold grows to giant size. I also like the idea that Ripley’s greatest fear is the monsters from the movies she wasn’t allowed to watch. I do wonder about the overall story arc of this series. Several storylines ago, Jo was trying to figure out why time moved so slowly in camp, but I don’t think she ever did find out. The characters seem to have accepted that the summer is never going to end. That’s fine with me, since I want this series to keep going on indefinitely. But it would also be fun if there was a spinoff series showing the Lumberjanes at home, or a series that took place in the future and showed them as adults.

RUNAWAYS #14 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part II” and “Interlude with Dinosaur,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente & Takeshi Miyazawa. The main story in this issue is disappointingly short and doesn’t advance the plot much, except by introducing a new minor villain. This issue is redeemed by the backup story, which is told from Old Lace’s episode. This story is like Momo’s segment in the Avatar episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se”: the POV character is an animal who can’t understand human speech, so it’s a purely visual narrative. Rainbow Rowell executes this type of storytelling quite well, and her version of Old Lace is extremely cute.

FLAVOR #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. This issue begins with the unwelcome announcement that it’s the last issue of Flavor in comic book format. I understand why comics keep abandoning the single-issue format and going to trades-only. I realize that for a series like Flavor, which mostly caters to audiences that don’t visit comic book stores, such a decision is probably correct. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I like comic books better than trades, and I would collect everything in comic book form if I could. Oh well. The worse problem with Flavor #6 is that it ends on a cliffhanger, with no indication of when, or if, the cliffhanger will be resolved. Xoo starts the first stage of the contest, but we don’t find out if she wins or loses. I really like Flavor, but after reading this issue I feel cheated. If a series is going to end, it should at least wrap up its loose ends.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gurihiru. I’m thrilled that this series was revived after being cancelled, something that hardly ever happens. The original Unstoppable Wasp was one of Marvel’s best comics for girls, and this revival is equally impressive. This debut issue is a direct continuation of the previous series, with Nadia and her fellow G.I.R.L. agents battling AIM and preparing for a public expo. (I like the inside joke that the date they wanted for the expo was unavailable because of “some sort of comic convention.”) As usual, Jeremy’s female characters are amazing, and he does a great job of distinguishing them from each other.

CAPTAIN GINGER #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Captain Ginger, Chapter One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. This comic is tailor-made for me because it’s about a spaceship crewed by anthropomorphic talking cats. What distinguishes Captain Ginger from Hero Cats or Action Cat is that the characters act like real cats. They breed uncontrollably, they vomit on the floor, they chase the red dot, and they have tiny attention spans. Captain Ginger and his shipmates are fluffy and adorable, but also unpredictable and frustrating – again, just like real cats. So Captain Ginger captures the essential strangeness of cats, better than almost any other cat comic. I’m excited to read more of it.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Lark and Bellamy explore each other’s worlds, and lots of weird stuff happens. This comic is as cute and entertaining as any Boom! Box comic, but its plot is kind of incoherent and aimless. But maybe that’s intentional: the theme of the comic is “If you can’t find your path… make your path.”

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #6 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rich Tommaso. The heroes leave the Para-Zone for Earth. But Colonel Weird is separated from his teammates and sent to a limbo-planet, populated by forgotten superheroes like Inspector Insector (ha!) and Barbali-Bunny. This exact same thing happened to Buddy Baker in Animal Man #25, and that’s probably no accident, since everything in this series is borrowed from other comics. But Jeff must have some reason for reusing this plot. At the end of the issue, Anti-God shows up. Rich Tommaso’s artwork in this issue is a major departure from this series’ usual art style.

SHURI #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Gone,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. T’Challa fails to return from a space mission – I assume this is related to the current Black Panther series, which I’m behind on – and Shuri has to take up the mantle of the Black Panther again. Shuri #1 is probably Nnedi’s most accomplished work in comics. It’s full of humor and passion, and it shows few signs of inexperience. Also, Leonardo Romero’s art is excellent. His style resembles that of David Aja or Chris Samnee, and his flashback sequence in this issue is very striking; it uses no colors but white, yellow and red. Shuri #1 depicts a Shuri and a Wakanda that greatly resemble their counterparts from the movie, and it explores one of the most interesting aspects of the movie Wakanda: its matriarchal nature. In this issue Shuri revives an ancient tradition where women meet secretly to discuss the nation’s problems. A lot of Nnedi’s work seems intended to critique the sexist stereotypes associated with African culture, and this comic fits into that projec.

BLACK BADGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The kids go to Peshawar, Pakistan to rescue a captured spy, and they run into a former teammate. This series is still pretty exciting, but by now I’ve gotten used to the idea of secret agents disguised as summer camp kids, and the novelty has worn off a bit.

EXORSISTERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. The two title characters, Cate and Kate, are occult investigators. This issue they’re hired by a bride whose bridegroom was kidnapped by a demon during their wedding. I had modest expectations for this comic after reading the preview, but I really liked it. It reminds me of Supernatural Law, with its casual, deadpan take on the supernatural, but its art and writing remind me more of an Archie comic. Ian Boothby is a very funny writer, possibly thanks to his experience as a Simpsons Comics writer (I had thought he was an Archie writer, but I was confusing him with Ian Flynn), and Gisèle Lagacé’s art is sexy but very tasteful.

MR. & MRS. X #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I missed the last two issues of this series because I wasn’t willing to order a mystery X-Men title without knowing what it was or who its creators were. As of this issue, Rogue and Gambit are charged with the care of Xandra, Professor X and Lilandra’s daughter. Xandra is an utterly adorable character, and the interplay between Rogue and Gambit is really entertaining. I like Oscar Bazaldua’s art, but his Imperial Guard doesn’t look anything like the Legion of Super-Heroes.

THOR #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Midgard’s Final Doom,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. This issue was better than last issue, and Christian Ward’s art is amazing, as usual. But the current Thor storyline has the same all-flash-no-substance problem as Jason Aaron’s Avengers. I wish we’d get back to the present-day Thor already.

LUCIFER #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Fall from Grace and Down the Stairs,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. There are interesting ideas in this comic – it begins with a discussion of Bach’s endlessly rising canon – but its story makes no sense at all. There are at least two different plotlines that have no apparent connection to each other. The only reason I’m not giving up on this comic immediately, is because DCBS gives you a discount if you order all the Vertigo titles.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 4,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves use some clever social engineering to get the Aryabhata map. I don’t know how historically accurate this comic is, but it feels like a very plausible recreation of medieval city life.

GIDEON FALLS #7 (Image, 2018) – “The Sum of Its Parts,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Another good issue. Maybe the highlight of this issue is the flashback sequence to Daniel and Clara’s childhood, which is drawn in a different graphic style from the rest of the comic. At this point it’s pretty clear that Norton is Daniel, but we’re still waiting for an explanation of how the farm and city storylines are connected.

FLASH GORDON ANNUAL 2014 (Dynamite, 2014) – multiple stories, [E] Nate Cosby. I have no idea why this was solicited in DCBS as if it were a new comic. This issue includes five stories depicting the earlier years of various Flash Gordon characters. The best story in the issue is the one about the princess of Coralia, but none of them are all that great, and only the last one is written by Jeff Parker.

ENCOUNTER #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I’m not caught up on this series, but I decided to read this issue anyway. In this issue Encounter teams up with a new superhero, Champion, who is obviously Kayla’s uncle, except when he takes off his mask at the end of the issue, he has Kayla’s face. Like Superman Family Adventures, Encounter is better than a typical Baltazar/Franco comic because it has an ongoing plot, rather than just being a series of gags.

ARCHIE 1941 #2 (Archie, 2018) – “It’s War!”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After a lot of waffling, Archie decides to enlist in World War II. This series is effective because it depicts the uncertainty and anxiety of America in 1941. At that time, no one knew that the war would be over in four years, or that we would win.

No further comics waiting to be reviewed.

Reviews for the week of August 24

9-13

As I write this, Hurricane Florence is on its way to the Carolinas. I hope my comics don’t all get destroyed before I finish reviewing them.

I am still severely behind. These comics arrived on August 24:

LUMBERJANES #53 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Following a treasure map, the Zodiacs discover a broken stone statue that, when reassembled, comes to life and turns out to be some kind of ancient Greek goddess. So I guess this is another Diana storyline. I really liked this issue, but I can’t remember much about it now.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. Some Comiscgate troll posted a tweet in which he compared this comic to the original West Coast Avengers #1, and used this comparison as an example of what Comicsgaters are so pissed about. The 1984 West Coast Avengers miniseries was actually good, but this new series is probably better, and certainly more important because it expands the audience for Marvel comics – and that, of course, is why it makes Comicsgaters angry. In terms of its content, the new West Coast Avengers #1 is a sequel to Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye run, with the addition of Quentin Quire, America, Gwenpool, etc. None of these characters are favorites of mine, but their personalities contrast with each other in interesting ways. The reality show angle is rather trite, but that’s not a serious problem. I expect this series will be at least as good as Kelly’s Hawkeye was.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. The heroes confront Madame Dragonfly, and she explains that she was indeed responsible for sending them to Black Hammer farm, but she did it to save them all. Then on the last page, they all wake up in cryogenic chambers inside a space station. It looks like next issue the plot of this series will finally be explained, at long last.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Devil Dinosaur’s first day at school is a predictable disaster. It’s a bit disappointing that he can barely talk, because I’d like to see more of his personality. But I love how he keeps his arms inside his sleeves, because he’s used to having tiny useless arms. At first I didn’t realize why he was doing this, and I was delighted when I figured it out. I also love the short scene with all four of Lunella’s grandparents. This scene is more important than it looks, because Marvel comics don’t often depict black people just doing normal family stuff.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Based on his previous work on Autumnlands, another series narrated by a dog, Benjamin Dewey is a good choice as the first artist other than Jill Thompson to draw Beasts of Burden. As a cat person, I’m disappointed that this series is all about the dogs, but it’s a good Beasts of Burden comic. I understand that Beasts of Burden and Blackwood are set in the same universe, and as I read this issue, I kept looking for references to Blackwood.

ROYAL CITY #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. All the loose ends are resolved, and the five versions of Tommy walk into the lake together. This conclusion is perhaps overly neat and predictable, but it’s also deeply touching, because Jeff is a brilliant cartoonist and he does a great job of making the reader share the characters’ emotions.

THE TERRIFICS #7 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & the Terrifics, Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. This issue starts with some flashbacks to Tom Strong’s past, and then the Terrifics go looking for him, but get stuck in the Forest of Eternity. It really, really sucks that Tom Strong has become a character in the DC Universe even though Alan Moore did everything in his power to avoid working for DC. Leaving that aside, this is a pretty fun comic.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #3 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. See my earlier reviews of Itty Bitty Hellboy #2 and #5. I regret having bought this comic. It serves its intended audience well, but it has nothing to offer an older reader.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. The blue-skinned woman from Swords of Sorrow makes a return appearance in this issue. Otherwise, it’s very similar to the previous issues.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #2 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 2,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The heroes plan their infiltration of the imperial library. There’s also a flashback scene where Nicolas catches Iskander making fake passports, and lets him get away with it. This scene is an obvious reference to the contemporary immigration crisis.

LITTLE LULU #63 (Dell, 1953) – “The Tea Party” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Another collection of brilliant and funny stories. One notable story in this issue is “The Substitute,” where Lulu is chasing an escaped monkey while trying to avoid Mr. McNabbem the truant officer. Mr. McNabbem doesn’t appear in every issue, but when he does, he’s usually trying to catch Lulu even though she has a legitimate reason for not being in school. I know I recently read a non-comics book that referenced this character, but I can’t figure out what book it was.

DENNIS THE MENACE #7 (Marvel, 1982) – “Party Time” and other stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Bill Williams or Karen Matchette? These credits are courtesy of Mark Evanier on Facebook. The actual comic is uncredited. This issue’s first story is sort of a crossover, because Dennis puts on a Spider-Man costume to go to Margaret’s party. Otherwise, this issue lacks the humor and tenderness of the Fawcett Dennis comics.

GIDEON FALLS #6 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This may be the best-drawn comic book of the year. Andrea Sorrentino’s page layouts are radically experimental, and his pages seem to have four dimensions rather than two. The highlight may be the two-page spread containing 45 panels, which all depicting the same scene but are not arranged in chronological order. Similarly radical page layouts have appeared in other Jeff Lemire comics such as Animal Man, and I wonder if Jeff himself is designing these pages, rather than his artists. The story of Gideon Falls still doesn’t make sense, but its artwork is amazing.

BABYTEETH #12 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Birthday,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie and her dad go looking for the baby, even though Sadie’s dad thinks this mission is too dangerous for a girl. This series is getting a bit boring, and I’m disappointed that Sadie is still so weak and unassertive. I thought she’d have become a more effective protagonist by now.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #282 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Bubbleweight Champ,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald has to fight a boxing match against a muscular strongman, even though he’s so addicted to Gurgleurp soda that he can barely walk. This story is very funny, but also unusual because it references a real-life social problem: Donald’s Gurgleurp addiction is an obvious alusion to alcoholism. Also, to quote my own Facebook post, it’s a weird coincidence that this story is about “a man named Donald who’s addicted to carbonated soda, which ruins his physical and mental health and makes him unable to fulfill his duties.” The backup stories in this issue are of no interest.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #2 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon enroll at Riverdale high school as new students, resulting in instant romantic drama. Meanwhile, the villains all arrive in Riverdale. This issue is pretty funny, but not significantly different from issue 1.

ROWANS RUIN #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Mike Perkins. This is a pretty scary horror or psychological thriller story, but I had trouble remembering who the characters were. I wish I’d read this series in order.

THE SENTRY #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 3 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. It turns out that Billy Turner, a.k.a. Scout, worked together with Sentry’s old enemy Cranio to steal the Confluctor. At the end of this issue there are a couple pages with bizarre layouts, which reinforces my theory that Lemire is partially responsible for the page layouts in Gideon Falls. The Sentry #3 is perhaps the worst of this week’s four Jeff Lemire comics, but it’s amazing that Jeff Lemire is able to write so many different comics at once, covering so many different genres. He deserves an Eisner for that alone.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Frank and Sadie continue to investigate ghosts and drink excessively. Nothing new here.

AVENGERS: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Chapter Three: Reflections,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Oleg Okunev. I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as the last two, since it didn’t have any explicit references to Nigerian-American identity. The main event this issue is that Nakia dies, which is probably a good thing, since the character was broken beyond repair. I expect that now Marvel will introduce a new Nakia who will be more similar to the film version of the character. I’m not sure whether to file this issue under A or under W.

HEARTTHROB #2 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. Callie and Mercer rob a bank, then start planning an even bigger heist. This is a really fun comic, both because of its ridiculous premise (a woman is haunted by the ghost of her heart donor), and because Callie commits a bunch of crimes and gets away with them. This comic is a bit like Grand Theft Auto, which also depicts crime as a fun and exciting pursuit. I enjoyed this comic enough that I immediately went on to:

HEARTTHROB #3 (Oni, 2016) – as above. Callie and her accomplices successfully rob the insurance company where she worked before her injury. Then she starts planning another heist. But as suggested by the flash-forwards at the end of this and the previous issue, her streak of luck is about to reverse itself. This was another fun issue.

SWEET TOOTH #7 (Vertigo, 2010) – “In Captivity, Part 2,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd buries his wife, and in a flashback, we see the moment where she learned she was pregnant. Meanwhile, the antler-headed kid is taken to surgery. I still have trouble following what’s going on in this comic, but at least I’m becoming more familiar with the characters.

BATMAN #271 (DC, 1976) – “The Corpse Came C.O.D.!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Irv Novick. Alfred discovers a corpse rolled up in a rug. It turns out the rug belonged to a cult of worshippers of Agni, the Vedic fire god. While reading this comic, I did a little Google research and learned that Vedic deities like Agni and Indra are not commonly worshipped today, at least not compared to Shiva, Vishnu, etc. This issue Batman teams up with an inquisitive reporter named Carol Ames, who is hard to distinguish from Vicki Vale – their names even have the same number of letters and the same meter. Carol Ames never appeared anywhere else.

GIDEON FALLS #3 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees” (part 3), [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. I missed this when it came out. It’s not quite as beautiful as issue 6, but it fills in some gaps in the storyline.

TARZAN #142 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Dreadful Swamp” and “The Guilt of Belazi,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. I don’t understand the appeal of Jesse Marsh’s art. However, all of his stories that I’ve read are from the last few years of his career, and I assume his earlier work was better. This issue’s second story is hideously colonialist, even more so than a typical Tarzan story. The title character, Belazi, is a diamond miner who steals diamonds to pay for his fiancee’s bride price. Tarzan convinces Belazi to return the diamonds to his white employer, and to continue working at the mine until he earns the bride price. No mention is made of the fact that the diamond mine is on Belazi’s people’s ancestral land, and Belazi has a better right to the diamonds than any white dude has. The story essentially suggests that Africans ought to be grateful and deferential to the white people who are stealing their resources. This story is especially tone-deaf because at the time it was published, most of the countries in Africa had either just become independent, or were only a few years from independence. The saving grace of Tarzan #142 is that it ends with a five-page Brothers of the Spear story by Russ Manning.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #4 (IDW, 2010) – “Crown of Shadows, Part Four,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I was delighted to discover this comic and Keys to the Kingdom #4 in one of my boxes of old unread comics. This issue, the (gorgeously drawn) shadows continue to threaten the kids. Kinsey realizes she can make them vanish by turning the lights on – as noted in an earlier review, they’re pretty similar to grues. The shadows pursue Kinsey and Bode in search of the wellhouse key, but Ty uses the giant key from the previous issue to turn himself into a giant, which is really awesome. Part of the fun of this series is learning about all the different keys and the unexpected things they can do.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #4 (IDW, 2011) – “Casualties,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Bode makes friends with Rufus, the autistic boy from Head Games #6. A ghost shows Rufus some weird stuff in the basement. This issue includes some pages drawn in a war comic style, depicting the game Bode and Rufus play with their toy soldiers. Besides being funny, these pages demonstrate Gabriel Rodriguez’s ability to imitate any style of comics .

LITTLE IODINE #53 (Dell, 1961) – “The Sultan of Swat” and other stories, [W/A] Jimmy Hatlo (but almost certainly ghosted by someone else). This comic is an adaptation of Jimmy Hatlo’s newspaper strip about a bratty little girl. It’s drawn in a screwball style that was already old-fashioned in 1961, and it lacks the craftsmanship or passion of Little Lulu or even Nancy. One story in this issue includes a magician who keeps calling people “gates,” and their reactions indicate that this term is offensive. After extensive Googling, I’ve figured out that “Greetings, gates” was a catchphrase used by Bob Hope’s sidekick Jerry Colonna, and it didn’t mean anything.

COMICS ON PARADE #104 (United Feature, 1956) – various untitled stories, [W/A] Ernie Bushmiller. Comics on Parade was one of the oldest comic books, dating back to 1938. It seems that this series only ever reprinted United Feature newspaper strips, and never published any original material. By the time of #104, the final issue, it was exclusively a vehicle for reprinting Nancy strips. Most of the strips reprinted in this issue are Sunday. As Karasik and Newgarden explain in How to Read Nancy, which I just finished reading, Sunday strips were never Bushmiller’s strong suit. It’s especially annoying how all the strips in this comic begin with a tier of throwaway panels – that is, panels which some newspapers would remove in order to save space, and which therefore could not contain any essential information.

MOCKINGBIRD #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Daily Blowhole,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. This issue’s “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” cover was one of the catalysts for Comicsgate. It’s also the last issue of the series, and that sucks because it’s a really fun comic; it has all sorts of witty dialogue and even a full-page “Ghost Cowboy Stalker Ex Plan Flowchart.” And there’s also a scene where Bobbi is saved by mercorgis, which are exactly what they sound like. As an overarching comment, Marvel’s treatment of Chelsea Cain has been consistently shameful. They cancelled this series after eight issues, they didn’t explain to her how to attend the Eisners, and now they’ve inexplicably cancelled her Vision miniseries before it was released. I can’t imagine she’ll ever be willing to work for Marvel again. The silver lining is that because she doesn’t depend on comics writing for her income, she’s been able to publicly criticize Marvel for their shortsighted actions. Another writer would have to just grin and bear it, for fear of being blacklisted. Also, Marvel’s loss is Image’s gain. I’m eagerly looking forward to Man-Eaters.

LITTLE LULU #95 (Dell, 1956) – “Big Bite” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. My copy of this issue has some giant holes in the pages, causing multiple interruptions in the stories. I hope I can find a replacement copy someday. The most interesting story in this issue is the Witch Hazel story where the Poor Little Girl and Freddy go to a costume party.

MISTY #3 (Marvel, 1986) – “With a Friend Like Darlene… Who Needs Enemies?” and other stories, [W/A] Trina Robbins. In this issue’s first story, Misty and her friend Darlene both appear on the same TV show, and they both fall in love with the same costar. In the second story, Misty and her friends visit an old house that they think is haunted, and it turns out that a lonely old woman lives there. I don’t like Misty nearly as much as other comparable comics like Amethyst or Angel Love, but it’s an important piece of a story I want to tell in my research, the story of how comics publishers abandoned female readers before recently deciding to reach out to them again. This issue’s letters page provides a rather sad demonstration of why Misty failed. There are two letters from female fans who want to subscribe to Misty, because they’re having trouble finding it. The editor replies, “I’m sorry to say that you can’t subscribe to Misty just yet, but you should be able to find it at any comic book store. If they don’t have Misty at your local comic book store, you should ask the manager to order it for you!” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKflujF_9U/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) No wonder this series was cancelled.

DETECTIVE COMICS #454 (DC, 1975) – “The Set-Up Caper,” [W] David V. Reed, [A] José Luis García López. JLGL is usually described as a Spanish artist, but he grew up in Argentina and started his career there. His artwork in this issue doesn’t look very much like him, and I initially wondered if the issue was drawn by Ernie Chan, who is also credited with the art. I  guess either this wasn’t one of his better stories, or else I’m just not seeing the resemblance to his usual style. This issue’s main story is about a villain who imitates Batman’s fighting style. It’s pretty forgettable. There’s also a Hawkman backup story which is also drawn by JLGL and is equally unmemorable.

SUICIDE SQUAD #58 (DC, 1991) – “Suicide Attack!”, [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. A War of the Gods crossover in which Amanda Waller assembles a huge team of former villains to attack the sorceress Circe. The first highlight of this issue is when a character named Maser asks why he should take Waller’s orders, and she grabs him by his cape and replies that, first, she’s a sick old woman, and second, if he backtalks her, she’ll skin him alive. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKothOl2j7/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) This is a classic Waller moment. Perhaps even better, this issue is the first and only appearance of The Writer, a character who can make things happen by writing them on his computer – except when “the writer who is now writing me intervenes and then I see what’s about to happen.” Unfortunately, he suffers writer’s block at an inopportune moment and gets killed by a werewolf. This is an amazing piece of metatext, and it gets even more amazing when you realize that this character previously appeared in Animal Man #26 under the name of Grant Morrison.

POWER PACK #46 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Great Goo-Gam Rip-Off!”, [W] Terry Austin, [A] Whilce Portacio. I assumed that since this issue wasn’t written by Louise Simonson, it would be bad, but it’s actually not. It’s a direct sequel to #21, which Terry also guest-wrote. It guest-stars the Punisher and Dakota North, who team up with Katie and Jack respectively. The Punisher and Katie Power are a hilarious pairing, even more so than Katie and Wolverine, and Jack’s puppy-love crush on Dakota is cute. So this was a very funny issue. Also, from reading this issue I learned that Strange Tales vol. II #13-14 are a Power Pack guest appearance. See below.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #3 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This issue begins with a tedious eleven-page diatribe about how humans are cruel and inhumane, America is destroying the world, and Cuba sucks less than all the other countries suck. Such a monologue is a terrible way to begin a comic book, especially one whose primary purpose is entertainment rather than high art. I already know how awful the world is, I just want to get on with the story already. After the monologue ends, this comic does include an actual plot, but I can’t remember what it is. At least the art and coloring are good.

STELLAR #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Bret Blevins. I ordered the first couple issues of this series, but I never felt motivated to read them, and I didn’t order issue 3. That was a wise decision, because there’s nothing particularly memorable about this debut issue – I’m not even sure what this comic is about, except that it’s science fiction. Also, this issue ends with an essay about how much Keatinge loved Blevins’s earlier work, Sleepwalker. I have trouble believing this, because I’ve never heard anyone else say anything positive about Sleepwalker.

SHANGHAI RED #3 (Image, 2018) – “In This Wilderness,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. More brutal violence and intrigue set in 19th-century Portland. Because of its setting, this comic reminds me of Elizabeth Bear’s novel Karen Memory, except without the steampunk. This is my least favorite of the Chris Sebela comics I’ve read lately, but it’s very well done.

Another week of reviews

On August 18, I went to yet another Charlotte Comicon. For the first time, this con was held on two days. In hindsight, I should have gone either on both days, or just on Sunday. On Saturday most of the comics seemed overly expensive, and also there were too many booths selling things other than comics. It would have been my most disappointing Charlotte Comicon yet, except that I eventually found a box with about ten old Little Lulus for a dollar each. I also made some other good finds, but overall it was a lackluster show. The major theme of my purchases at this show was Gold Key and Dell comics. I’m slowly discovering the diversity and quality of this company’s output.

Comics I read that week, including new comics received on August 18:

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #27 (Gold Key, 1974) – “The Star-Spangled Spectre” and “Nightmare First-Class,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. I found this in a dollar box, which makes it my second best find of the convention. This issue’s first story is a well-written but unspectacular bicentennial story. The backup story is much better. Its first page includes the caption “These are the heroes whohad the hound that hunted the hoodoo that haunted the house that Hal had,” and it goes on to tell an exciting and complex story about a fake heir. Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby-Doo is just as much of an underrated classic as their later Crossfire and Hollywood Superstars, and it deserves to be reprinted.

FLAVOR #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. Anant surprisingly passes his cooking exam. Geof steals Xoo’s stash of money and uses it to enter her in a cooking tournament. This was a fun issue, but as with last issue, it didn’t include enough worldbuilding.

LITTLE LULU #65 (Dell, 1953) – “Little Lulu Pays a Sick Call” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. As mentioned above, I bought about ten old Little Lulus at the convention. They’re all from the early to mid ‘50s, and are therefore among the oldest comics in my collection. They’re all beat up, but completely readable. (For example, my copy of #65 has a giant rip near the top that goes through every page and is badly fixed with tape.) I’m still kind of shocked that I had these comics; I have a ton of ‘60s comics, but I assumed that anything older than that would be beyond my price range. In terms of their content, these comics are just as amazing now as they were 60 years ago. Stanley uses a fairly small cast of characters and an unvarying 2×4 panel grid. But like Herriman or Prohias or Bushmiller, he develops an endless range of variations out of a limited set of premises, and he constantly surprises the reader. As mentioned in earlier reviews, Stanley’s comic timing is brilliant, and he’s a master at getting his characters into bizarre but believeable situations. The highlight of this issue is probably the story where Lulu and Tubby have to make a delivery to a house that turns out to be a grave.

THIRTEEN #17 (Dell, 1966) – “One of These Days” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. This is my favorite John Stanley comic besides Little Lulu. What separates it from Archie and other teen humor comics is, again, Stanley’s masterful storytelling. As I read this issue, I noticed that Stanley sometimes has important things happen between panels or offscreen, which forces the reader to put in a bit more work to get the joke. For instance, in the story “A Knockout” in this issue, Robert sticks his whole body through Judy’s window while Judy is sitting on a couch reading. The scene then shifts to Val, and Robert doesn’t appear again until two pages later, when we discover him lying unconscious in a bush outside the window. In the last panel of the story, we finally learn that Val hit Robert with a dictionary. ”Hiccups” in Little Lulu #65 has a similar off-panel scene, in which Tubby tries to set a trap for Lulu but knocks himself over instead; however, in that story we never learn what exactly happened off-panel. These unseen moments create a sense of mystery and, as noted, force readers to use their imagination.

USAGI YOJIMBO #36 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Gen, Chapter 3: Lady Asano’s Revenge,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I don’t remember the previous two parts of this story, but in this final chapter, Gen’s old friend Lady Asano and his enemy Oda kill each other. This story is notable because it gives us insight into Gen’s past, and because it shows him acting serious for once, whereas he’s usually a comic relief character.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #52 (DC, 2008) – “Li’l Leaguers Part 2 of 2,” [W] Michael Green & Mike Johnson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This isn’t quite as good as the previous issue, but it’s still an excellent story that blends cuteness with heartbreak. The little Superman sacrifices his life at the end of the issue, which is kind of a horrible moment. The little Joker remains in the adult DC Universe at the end, but I doubt if he ever appeared again. It’s too bad this storyline only lasted two issues, although as noted previously, Wolvie in Exiles is the same type of character as the Li’l Leaguers.

BY NIGHT #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The one protagonist’s dad and her friend go looking for her, and encounter a bunch of punks. The protagonists only appear at the end, and we don’t get to see any of the alternate dimension. This issue was okay, but not great.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #38 (Image, 2018) – “Ambition Makes You Pretty. Also, Ugly,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. There are a lot more plot developments in this issue, but I’ve forgotten most of them. The most notable thing about this issue is the opening scene,  in which Robert Graves uses Ananke and Minerva as evidence for his White Goddess theory.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #64 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Last Gamble,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke and Danny try to track down two villains named Luck and Death, a.k.a. Suerte and Muerte. All the local criminals are terrified of Luck and Death, and Luke and Danny (I just noticed the similarity of names) have to go to extreme measures to find them. This issue is most notable for its witty dialogue.

STAR TREK #49 (DC, 1988) – “Aspiring to Be Angels,” [W] Peter David, [A] Tom Sutton. In my Mind the Gaps paper, I pointed out that even the best Star Trek comics aren’t that good as comics; they never do much to exploit the unique properties of comics. With that caveat, Peter David’s Star Trek comics are probably the best ever written. This issue focuses on three characters who only appeared in DC’s first Star Trek series: Bryce, Konom and Bearclaw. Bryce and Konom, a human woman and a Klingon man, have just gotten married, but when they encounter a half-Klingon child, they realize the difficulties they might encounter in becoming parents. Meanwhile, in this issue’s most memorable scene, Kirk fires Bearclaw from the Enterprise crew. This Star Trek series has nostalgic associations for me because I saw The Undiscovered Country, the last movie with the original crew, in the theater, so to me the TOS movies seem very modern and recent, even though they’re not. I also have some nostalgia for DC’s Star Trek comics because when I was a little kid, I read a lot of them (though not this one) by checking them out of the public library.

FENCE #9 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nick beats Kally 15-14. Then Nick and Seiji are caught in a compromising position in the (literal) closet. This series is going to become TPB-only after issue 12. Fence is at least the third title I’ve been reading that has gone this route (along with Astro City and Goldie Vance), and as a dedicated fan of the comic book form, I’m disturbed by this trend toward abandoning single issues. However, if any title would benefit from being published in TPB format, it’s Fence. As I have observed repeatedly, this series has a glacially slow pace, and is more like a manga than a comic book in its pacing.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #594 (Gladstone, 1994) – Donald in “The Better Life,” [W/A] William Van Horn, and Mickey in “The Monarch of Medioka, Part 2,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson et al. This issue’s Van Horn story is okay, but it seems like Van Horn was only good at imitating Barks’s shorter comedic stories. He doesn’t seem to have done many of the longer adventure stories that Rosa was so good at. “The Monarch of Medioka” is a classic Gottfredson story, a Mickey Mouse version of The Prisoner of Zenda. Whenever I read Gladstone’s Gottfredson reprints, I find myself constantly counting panels in order to figure out where each daily installment begins and ends.

LUCIFER #21 (DC, 2002) – “Paradiso Part 1 of 3,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This issue has one plotline taking place in heaven, and another plotline focusing on the half-angel child Elaine Belloc. I’ve been wanting to read more of this series, but there was nothing especially memorable about this issue.

KICK-ASS #7 (Marvel, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] John Romita Jr. I have a very negative impression of Mark Millar’s writing, although I haven’t read many of his comics. This issue did nothing to change my mind about him. It’s just a lot of mindless violence and torture. Millar’s comics claim to be parodies of ultraviolent superhero comics, but they’re actually among the worst examples of what they’re parodying.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #223 (Dell, 1959) – untitled Donald Duck story, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a hilarious Barks ten-pager in which Donald tries to go fishing, while the nephews try to fly their kites, and they keep getting in each other’s way. Barks was really good at slapstick comedy stories like this, though unlike Van Horn, he was also really good at epic adventure stories. Unfortunately, in my copy there’s a giant hole torn out of the last page of this story. The only other good story in this issue is Fallberg and Murry’s Mickey story “Alaskan Adventure.”

INCREDIBLE HULK #160 (Marvel, 1972) – “Nightmare in Niagara Falls!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. Betty and Glenn Talbot go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. The Hulk follows them there and gets in a fight with Tiger Shark. This was a fairly good issue. Seeing Glenn and Betty on their honeymoon is kind of painful for the reader as well as for Bruce. They were perhaps the least romantic couple in the history of the Marvel Universe, besides Quicksilver and Crystal.

USAGI YOJIMBO #170 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden Part Five,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. At the end of the issue, we learn that the mysterious box contained a Japanese translation of the Bible. No wonder so many people were so obsessed with recovering the box’s contents. However, I think “The Hidden” is a bit too long. It could have included at least one fewer chapter.

LITTLE LULU #45 (Dell, 1952) – “The Case of the Exploding Cigar” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I believe I paid $4 or $5 for this, shortly before discovering a bunch of other old Little Lulus for a dollar each. But $4 or $5 is still a good price for such a great old comic. I’ve already read the stories in this issue, because they’re reprinted in the one Dark Horse Little Lulu volume that I have. But that book is in black and white, and Stanley and Tripp’s art was meant to be seen in color.

LITTLE LULU #88 (Dell, 1955) – “Picnic in the Cellar” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Another collection of brilliant short stories, of which the best may be the one where Lulu tricks Tubby and the fellers into digging a well. At this point I was starting to see some patterns in these comics. In particular, each issue of Little Lulu includes a story in which Lulu tells Willie a fairy tale about Witch Hazel and the poor little girl. One of John Stanley’s many amazing achievements is that he told five or six stories every month about the same very limited cast of characters, and each story was different and unique – they never started to feel stale. Few if any other American comic book creators have ever pulled off this feat.

RUINWORLD #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. This issue introduces a new female coprotagonist, Kale (unless she already appeared last issue), and otherwise it’s mostly the same thing as last issue. Derek Laufman’s style takes some getting used to, especially his dialogue, but he’s a pretty effective storyteller.

MANIFEST DESTINY #36 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. In a flashback, we learn what happened outside the fort during the events of the previous couple issues. As I predicted, Charbonneau’s appearance with the Mandan was part of Lewis and Clark’s plan. The scene at the end, where York resists his impulse to beat Jensen to death, is impressive. It may be this series’ best statement about race.

VAGRANT QUEEN #3 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. This issue mostly examines Elida’s relationship with Stelling. I like this series, but it deserves a better artist. Jason Smith’s storytelling and draftsmanship are average at best.

CODA #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Like Godshaper, Coda is so dense and complicated that I hesitate to actually read it. This is not an uncommon problem with Si Spurrier’s comics, although Angelic and The Spire have mostly avoided it. This issue we learn Serka’s backstory, and the protagonist steals the dead elf dude’s head.

THOR #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “War is Hel,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. After a lot of wacky complications, Hela ends up marrying Karnilla. This was a fun storyline with excellent art. Some comic relief was badly needed after the relentless grimness of the last few Jane Foster story arcs, and I think that shifting the tone of the series was a wise decision on Jason’s part.

LITTLE LULU #87 (Dell, 1955) – “Bubble Bath” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. The best story in this issue is “The Lookout,” in which the fellers offer to let Lulu join their club if she protects their clubhouse from the West Side Boys. She does that successfully, but they refuse to let her join their club, and she wrecks the clubhouse in frustration. Lulu’s unfair exclusion from the boys’ club, despite (or because of) the fact that she’s smarter than them, is one of the most poignant symbols in this comic. This motif is why Lulu was chosen as the mascot of the Friends of Lulu. There’s another story where Tubby changes his name to Lancelot so that Gloria and Wilbur won’t name a hippo after him. This reminds me a bit of the Max Power episode of the Simpsons.

CROWDED #1 (Image, 2018) – “Welcome to the Working Week,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. This new series is a very funny and clever satire of the sharing economy or crowdsourcing or whatever it’s called. The protagonist, Charlotte, works about ten different gig economy jobs – Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, babysitting, etc. Then one day someone starts a campaign on Reapr, the crowdfunding site for assassinations, to have her killed. So she recruits the other protagonist from Dfend, the corresponding site for bodyguards. This premise – that there are versions of Uber for assassins and bodyguards – is ridiculous, yet close enough to real life that it’s almost plausible. The result is a very funny comic that also doubles as a serious critique of the gig economy. I’m looking forward to issue 2.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #33 (DC, 1963) – “The Challengers Meet Their Master,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bob Brown. The Challengers fight a villain called Jacquard who’s better than each of them at their respective specialties. It turns out the whole thing is a setup by Ace to teach them not to be overconfident. There’s also a backup story that I don’t remember at all. The Challengers have some notable similarities to the Fantastic Four, but there are good reasons why the FF are still published today and the Challs are not.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #194 (DC, 1970) – “Inside the Mafia Gang!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Ross Andru. This story refers to the Mafia by name, which was rare in comic books at the time, perhaps because the Mafia controlled the distribution network for comic books. The plot is that Batman and Superman team up to infiltrate the Mafia. This issue is fairly exciting and has some good art, but it’s not a classic.

BATMAN #26 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Dark City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Like most of the Snyder Batman comics I’ve read, this issue is tough to understand. It takes place before Bruce becomes Batman, and includes a flashback to Bruce’s first encounter with Gordon, when Gordon got his trenchcoat as a kickback. And this meeting happened on the day of Bruce’s parents’ murder. Given the number of events that have been stated as happening on that day, it must have lasted far longer than 24 hours (for example, see Batman #430 and Detective Comics #457).

QUACK! #2 (Star*Reach, 1977) – “Newton the Rabbit Wondr!”, [W] Sergio Aragonés, [A] Steve Leialoha, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story resembles Howard the Duck, but with less social satire and more implied interspecies sex. The next story is by Michael T. Gilbert, and it’s kind of funny, but the lettering is hideous. No wonder he teamed up with Ken Bruzenak later on. Other creators in this issue include Steve Skeates (drawing, rather crudely, as well as writing), Alan Kupperberg and Scott Shaw!. Overall this issue is rather mediocre.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #9 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Creeping Greens,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t read this series before. I’d assumed it was an adaptation of Lost in Space, but in fact the reverse is true. Lost in Space was an unauthorized ripoff of Space Family Robinson, and Western Publishing later reached a settlement allowing them to add the title Lost in Space to the cover of Space Family Robinson. As for this actual comic book, “The Creeping Greens” is a well-crafted story by two excellent craftsmen. It’s not Magnus or Scooby-Doo, but it’s a fun comic, and I’d like to read more of this series.

SEA HUNT #11 (Dell, 1961) – “Canyon Danger” and “Davey Jones’s Ledger,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Russ Manning. At Mind the Gaps, I was sitting next to Andy Kunka as he was reading this comic, and I was like, is that a Russ Manning comic I don’t know about? I need to collect it! And he was kind enough to give it to me – it turns out it was a duplicate, and he took it to the conference to give it away. Sea Hunt is an adaptation of a 1958-1961 TV show about two adventurous divers. In general, it’s not the best showcase for Manning’s talents; there’s too much talk and too little action. However, the diving sequences are excellent. They allow Manning to depict the human body in action, which was one of the things he did best. Also, the second story includes a vivacious and proactive female character, who hires the two divers to find evidence to convict her employee of embezzlement.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. As usual with this artist, this comic is beautifully drawn and includes some evocative storytelling about childhood, but its plot makes no sense.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #3 (IDW, 2010) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodríguez. Tyler and Bode find a giant key – this will be important in a comic I’ll be reviewing later. Dodge finds another key that lets him turn shadows into monsters. Gabriel’s depictions of the shadows are just beautiful; they all look terrifying in different ways. This is a really awesome series, and I need to complete my run of it. The only problem is that it’s hard to remember the order of all the different miniseries.

SUPERB #12 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “We Could Be Heroes,” [W] David Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. More of the same plot as last issue. It turns out that Kayla’s dad might not be as dead as he looks.

 

One week of reviews

At the beginning of August I went to the inaugural Comics Studies Society conference in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. It was one of the best academic conferences I’ve ever attended. I felt rather guilty about the quality of my own paper, but I met a lot of old friends, made a lot of new ones, and got some great ideas. After the conference a bunch of us went to G-Mart, a comic store in downtown Champaign, where I bought a few comics. The only one I read before I got back home was:

MR. AND MRS. X #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I couldn’t have ordered this because I didn’t know what it was. This is an adorable comic, a heartwarming piece of nostalgia for ‘90s X-Men fans, and an effective sequel to Kelly’s Rogue & Gambit miniseries. The plot is that during their honeymoon, Rogue and Gambit have to intervene in an intergalactic conflict involving the Shi’ar, Cerise and Deadpool.

New comics that arrived while I was out of town:

FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Signal in the Sky,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli, plus backups. I’ve been looking forward to the FF revival, but this first issue is mostly just setup and flashback scenes. Reed and Sue only appear on a couple pages, and the kids don’t appear at all. Until I wrote this review, I didn’t notice the Impossible Man story on the last page.

MECH CADET YU #11 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. This issue continues to ratchet up the tension, without resolving the dilemma of Buddy having to sacrifice itself. I’m glad this storyline is ending after one more issue, because the suspense is getting ridiculous.

LUMBERJANES: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SCHEME #1 (Boom!, 2018) – “A Midsummer Night’s Scheme,” [W] Nicole Andelfinger, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. The girls are decorating their cabin for a masquerade, but some fairies steal all their decorations. This was an average Lumberjanes story. At one point while reading it I started to feel bored, which hardly ever happens when I read Lumberjanes. There’s a backup story by Brittney Williams. I’m glad to see her working in comics again.

EXILES #6 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Rod Reis. The Exiles visit a Wild West version of the Marvel Universe, where they meet a sheriff/cowboy version of T’Challa. This is a good start to the second story arc, but Rod Reis is a less exciting artist than Javier Rodriguez.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “Last Hunt for Kraven!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This was a fun issue, but this Kraven story arc hasn’t really connected me. Whatever Doreen may think of him, Kraven is a murderer and a villain, and it’s hard to sympathize with him as much as Doreen does. Also, I’ve pinpointed why Ryan North’s writing annoys me sometimes: it feels like he’s talking down to the reader. His bottom-of-page captions, in particular, often feel condescending, or they give the impression that Ryan is trying to show how cool he is. But this may just be a personal pet peeve on my part. I don’t think Ryan is deliberately trying to give this impression.

SHE COULD FLY #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Beware the Bandersnatch,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. Another very strong issue, although it made less of an impact on me than #1, because I was more tired when I read it. The strength of this series is its powerful and realistic depiction of Luna’s mental illness. Luna’s parents are another strong point: the writer shows us that while they truly care for Luna, they aren’t equipped to deal with her problems.

CATWOMAN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Part 2,” [W/A] Joelle Jones. Selina discovers that the women impersonating her are hired actors, not actual villains, and goes on a quest to find out who hired them. Other than Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman, this is the only Catwoman series I’ve been really excited about. This issue has fewer cats than last issue, but it does include some scenes with Selina’s cats, and I love how Selina sleeps in a curled-up position.

NANCY DREW #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. The investigation continues. This was another really good issue, with lots of great character interactions, but nothing about it stands out to me in particular.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #69 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Paul Allor, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Pinkie Pie gains the power to grant wishes. Horrible consequences ensue. This is a pretty average issue, and it offers little that we haven’t seen before in other Pinkie Pie stories. I don’t remember Paul Allor having written for this series before.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Neil Gaiman et al, [A] various. A series of previews of the upcoming Sandman spinoff titles. None of these segments are satisfying in their own right, but they effectively create excitement for the series they’re previewing. I’m especially excited for the voodoo-inspired comic written by Nalo Hopkinson, a brilliant SF writer who has not written for comics before, as far as I know. The last time Neil Gaiman returned to Sandman, I thought it was a cynical cash grab, and that might be true of this new Sandman revival as well. But at least they’re giving other writers a chance to work with Gaiman’s concepts, rather than having Neil retread his old familiar territory yet again.

ARCHIE #153 (Archie, 1965) – “Language Barrier” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of typical and mostly forgettable stories. In the first story, Archie and friends are cavemen (or cave boys and girls), and they all come up with different words for the same things. This was one of a few stories from this period in which the Archie characters were cavepeople.

SAVAGE DRAGON #237 (Image, 2018) – “Beware the Scourge!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. I stopped reading this series because of the tasteless and exploitative sex scenes. I decided to give it another chance, but on page four of this issue, there’s a panel where Maxine is eating Angel out while being serviced by Malcolm. Looks like I’ll be dropping this series again for the same reason.

STAR TREK #8 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Expansionist Syndrome,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Dave Cockrum. In my Mind the Gaps paper I negatively compared Star Trek comics to My Little Pony comics, but oddly, that made me want to read some Star Trek comics. However, this issue is an example of an ineffective comics adaptation of a TV show. It doesn’t feel like a Star Trek story, it has a trite plot with an overly convenient ending, and Dave Cockrum’s art is lifeless.

PLASTIC MAN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Under Cover of Darkness,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Another fun issue, but I have nothing new to say about it that I didn’t say about the previous two issues. The highlight is the panel where Plastic Man becomes a My Little Pony doll.

FARMHAND #2 (Image, 2018) – “The Haunted Man,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. The protagonist investigates whatever bizarre mystery is going on, while his kids have some trouble in school. The highlight of the issue is the opening scene where the woman is provided with a new nose. I expect that as with Chew, this series is going to consist mostly of variations on the central joke.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [A] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Erik Nguyen. In the climactic moment of the series, Pietro reads every book in the library and learns to slow down. Geoff Johns already used this idea with Bart Allen in an early issue of his Teen Titans, but Saladin executes the idea better.

DEN #1 (Fantagor, 1988) – “Dreams and Alarums,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Simon Revelstroke’s real name is John Pocsik. This series is in fact the fourth chapter of an ongoing saga which started in Heavy Metal in 1977, and its protagonist was created in 1968 for a short film. Therefore, this comic’s plot is somewhat inaccessible, but as usual with Corben, the plot is less important than the beautiful airbrushing, muscular heroes, busty women, awful monsters, etc. This comic has a backup story which is a blatant ripoff of Vaughn Bodé’s works.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #1 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Habibi,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornes. I bought this comic because it takes place in the Iron Range of Minnesota, my home state. The writer clearly has Minnesota credentials: on page seven, one character offers another character a “bar,” a Minnesota term for a bar-shaped cookie or cake. The other wrinkle in this comic is that the characters are of Lebanese descent. I like how the daughter works at a fast food restaurant that sells “Mediterranean tuna salad,” which is only Mediterranean because it has olives in it, but she eats dolma at home. It’s an interesting example of the difference between the food people make for themselves and for others. Otherwise this is a pretty standard crime comic, but it’s intriguing enough that I plan to stick with it.

DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE #4 (DC, 1978) – “Six Claws of the Dragon!”, [W] Catherine B. Andrews & Stuart Hopen, [A] Johnny Craig. A pretty dumb comic. The plot revolves around a Chinese ghost, but the writers know nothing about China. For example, the ghost is a mummified princess from Manchuria named “Shieko Morea.” That’s not a plausible Chinese or Manchu name, and mummification was never practiced in China.

THE SPECTRE #46 (DC, 1996) – “Gather the Ghosts,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre encounters an Apache shaman who’s trying to revive the Ghost Dance religion. Meanwhile, some villains are looking for the Spear of Destiny. This story runs the risk of reproducing old cliches about Native Americans, but Ostrander mostly avoids that risk and shows sensitivity to Native American culture. For example, he has a character mention that the Mescalero Apaches never did the Ghost Dance to begin with.

NEW STATESMEN #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1989) – multiple chapters, [W] John Smith, [A] Jim Baikie. This has been described as a political superhero comic. Not having read the first issue, I’m not sure what’s going on in this issue, but I find it intriguing. John Smith’s prose style is very reminiscent of Alan Moore’s, in a good way, and there are moments in this comic that remind me of Watchmen. This comic feels like it belongs to the same corpus of texts as Watchmen, Miracleman, Brat Pack, etc., and I want to read more of it.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #2 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This series is a good example of Kim Thompson’s principle that “more crap is what we need” (http://www.tcj.com/a-modest-proposal-more-crap-is-what-we-need/). It’s not a major artistic masterpiece, but it’s a well-executed piece of genre fiction. It effectively confronts the protagonist, a professional assassin, with a moral dilemma: some unknown clients manipulate him into killing a saintly nun in order to cause political unrest. (This plot resembles that of the “Gateless Barrier” chapter of Lone Wolf and Cub.) The most impressive thing about this comic, though, is the gorgeous coloring.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #84 (DC, 1969) – “The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Neal Adams. This story is a blatant continuity violation on multiple levels. First, it states that Batman fought in World War II, and second, it indicates that Sgt. Rock survived World War II, when Robert Kanigher claimed that Rock died on the last day of the war. Apparently DC later established that this story took place on Earth-B, along with other Bob Haney stories that were impossible to reconcile with Earth-1 or Earth-2 continuity. If you can ignore all that, this is an exciting and well-drawn comic, though it’s not as well-written as other Haney-Adams collaborations.

AQUAMAN #17 (DC, 1964) – “The Man Who Vanquished Aquaman,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman and Mera had a whirlwind (whirlpool?) romance: this is only her sixth appearance and they’re already talking about marriage. In this issue, Mera is kidnapped by Poseidon, who bears little resemblance to how he’s usually depicted in mythology. At one point the writer describes him as Zeus’s son, though he is later correctly identified as Zeus’s brother. The best things about this comic are Nick Cardy’s exciting action sequences and his beautiful renderings of Mera.

BLACK BADGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This series continues Matt Kindt’s usual theme of spies and espionage, while also adding a new wrinkle: the main characters are kids who pose as Boy Scouts. Or rather, they’re Boy Scouts who earn badges by infiltrating foreign countries and assassinating people. I still haven’t finished reading Grass Kings, but Black Badge has a more interesting premise, and I’m more excited about it than I was about Grass Kings.

MISTER X #13 (Vortex, 1988) – “Nightclubs/Daydreams,” [W] Dean Motter, [A] Seth. The best thing about this comic is the beautiful cover by Mike Kaluta (incidentally, the same is true of Doorway to Nightmare #4). The interior story is confusing and incomprehensible. Seth’s artwork is recognizable as his, and there’s one background character who appears to be a self-portrait, but Seth is not well suited to drawing an action comic. Indeed, in most of his comics, barely anything happens at all.

SAVAGE DRAGON #48 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights Powerhouse, and Barbaric and Ricochet’s baby is born. Reading old Savage Dragon comics is a bit weird because it’s hard to keep track of the plot, and so much of the plot has been retconned into nonexistence anyway. I’m not even sure how many different worlds there are in this series, or which world the current issues are taking place in.

FLASH GORDON #2 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Flash in the Forest,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Doc Shaner. Flash and his companions visit Arboria and meet Prince Barin. Flash Gordon has perhaps the most distinguished artistic heritage of any American comic – its past artists include Alex Raymond, Al Williamson and Mac Raboy. A high compliment that can be given to Doc Shaner is that he does honor to his predecessors on this series.

TRIDENT #8 (Trident, 1990) – various stories, [E] Martin Skidmore. A British black-and-white independent comic, published in the American format. Artists in this issue include Paul Grist, D’Israeli, Eddie Campbell, and others I haven’t heard of. Most of the artwork in the issue  is drawn in a style similar to that of Grist and Phil Elliott. I don’t know what this style is called or where it originated from, but it appears to be the dominant style of British indie comics. The Bacchus story by Campbell is easily the highlight of the issue.

KINGDOM OF THE WICKED #1 (Caliber, 1996) – “Chapter One,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. Caliber is a terrible publisher, but this comic is fascinating. The protagonist is a children’s book author who finds himself back in the fantasy realm he created as a child, except that world has taken a very dark turn and has become embroiled in an endless war. The idea of a child’s fantasy world turned real is quite familiar – other examples include Joe the Barbarian or, outside comics, Jonathan Carroll’s The Land of Laughs. But Edginton and D’Israeli approach this idea from a British perspective, creating allusions to World War I, and their writing and artwork are very solid. I want to read more of their work.

CRIMINAL #2 (Marvel, 2008) – “A Wolf Among Wolves,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. An excellent comic. In 1972, Teeg Lawless returns from Vietnam with a massive case of PTSD that renders him unable to relate to his family. He becomes easy prey for criminals, who encourage him to use his military training for evil purposes. Brubaker and Phillips effectively  depict Teeg’s trauma and his inability to cope with civilian life. A visual device they use repeatedly is to interrupt the story with black panels, representing Teeg’s blackouts.

SWAMP THING #7 (DC, 1973) – “Night of the Bat,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Bernie Wrightson. This  Batman-Swampy team-up is probably Wein and Wrightson’s best Swamp Thing story. Wein writes an exciting story that provides a plausible reason for Swampy and Batman to meet. Wrightson’s anatomy, action sequences, and moodiness are amazing, and the Swamp Thing-Batman fight scene is a highlight of his career. It’s too bad he didn’t get to draw Batman again until he was past his artistic prime. Wrightson draws Swampy as a hulking naked guy with a weird-shaped head. I believe it was Steve Bissette who started the trend of drawing Swamp Thing as a man-shaped heap of plant matter, composed of leaves and vines and constantly dripping.

UNDERWATER #4 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1995) – three stories, [W/A] Chester Brown. The main feature in this series is told from the viewpoint of a pre-verbal baby. The baby can’t understand most of the words s/he hears, so much of the dialogue in the series is gibberish, and s/he is unable to distinguish between waking and dream states. This all results in a sense of extreme weirdness. The second story, “My Mother is a Schizophrenic,” presents Chester’s theory that schizophrenia doesn’t exist. As the son of a psychiatrist, I am inclined to be very unsympathetic to this theory, although Chester makes a superficially convincing case for it. There’s also a chapter of Chester’s ongoing adaptation of the New Testament.

THE LAST AMERICAN #2 (Marvel, 1991) – “Apocalypse: The Musical,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. This is one of the most depressing comics ever, which is why I took a while to get around to reading it. The protagonist spends most of the issue driving around a barren, sunless post-nuclear wasteland, and finally decides to kill himself. But on the last page he picks up a radio transmission from another survivor, which is lucky, because I was wondering how this series could possibly go on for two more issues.

DEE VEE #2 (Dee Vee, 1997) – various stories, [E] Marcus Moore. Like Trident #8, this anthology comic includes an Eddie Campbell story which is vastly better than anything else in it. The Campbell story in this issue appears to be a chapter of “How to Be an Artist.” The other artists featured in Dee Vee #2 include Bruce Mutard, Pete Mullins, and lots of people I’ve never heard of, and to put it politely, the material in this issue is of variable quality.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #4 (Dark Horse, 2009) – untitled, [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This comic’s story makes no sense, and the recap on the inside front cover doesn’t help at all, although Gabriel Ba’s artwork is as brilliant as usual.

THE TERRIFICS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics, Part 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ivan Reis. We learn Linnya’s origin, which is sort of a mix of Superman and Mon-El’s origins, and then there are a bunch of action sequences. This issue would have been more impressive if I’d read it when it came out – I bought it at G-Mart in Champaign.

ZOOT! #4 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Mister Piggy Fibs,” [W] Andrew Langridge, [A] Roger Langridge. Not at all what I expected. Roger Langridge is one of the most skilled storytellers in English-language comics, but this issue consists of a series of absurdist surrealist comics, with no apparent plot and with unfunny jokes. Roger draws with great precision and slickness and shows a great diversity of style, but I don’t think I care for Andrew’s writing.

METROPOL #1 (Marvel, 1991) – “Secrets and Revelations,” [W/A] Ted McKeever. I think this is my first McKeever comic. It’s a rather surrealistic and Kafkaesque story, taking place in a grim totalitarian city. It’s well done, but it didn’t make a huge impact on me.

MR. MONSTER #1 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “Origins,” [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert. In the past I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about this series, but I’m starting to really get into it now. Its histrionic, over-the-top style of writing and art is deliberate, and quite funny. This issue begins Mr. Monster’s origin story long before his conception, as Kelly’s mother explains how she broke up with the previous Mr. Monster because he cared more about fighting monsters than about her. The issue also incorporates a reprint of one of the original Mr. Monster stories from the Canadian Whites.

SWEET TOOTH #6 (DC, 2010) – “In Captivity Part 1,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. One of this issue’s plotlines focuses on Tommy Jepperd, a former hockey player, as he carries his wife across a postapocalyptic Canada to bury her. The other plotline is about an antler-headed kid, presumably Tommy’s son, who is trapped in a scientific facility along with other hybrid human-animal children. This issue is hard to understand out of context, but it’s pretty good, and it features a lot of Lemire’s stock themes – hockey, Canada, family, etc.

UNNATURAL #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. Leslie goes to the reproduction center to find a fellow pig to breed with. This comic is still very interesting, and   Mirka Andolfo draws some beautiful animal people, but her use of animals as a metaphor for LGBTQ identity is kind of crude and unsubtle.

BLOODSTRIKE BRUTALISTS #24 (Image, 2018) – “Life in Hell,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. In this final issue, Cabbot goes on a mission to recover (what he thinks are) the dead bodies of his teammates so they can be revived again. On the letters page, Michel Fiffe explains that this series was created to fill in the gap between Bloodstrike #22 and #25, since those issues were published, but #23 and #24 were not – it’s complicated. This was a well-done series with some brilliant art.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #8 (Last Gasp, 1983) – various stories, [E] Kathryn LeMieux & Lee Binswanger. This issue has an amazing lineup of talent: Trina Robbins, Lee Marrs, Lynda Barry, Dori Seda, Carol Lay, Phoebe Gloeckner, Mary Wilshire and Sharon Rudahl, among others. Highlights include: 1) A science fiction story by Marrs. 2) Caryn Leschen’s “Holding the Torch,” a story with obsessively dense artwork, in which some New Yorkrs visit San Francisco and suffer a culture shock. 3) Dori Seda’s story about self-defense against rape. 4) Carol Lay’s “The Misogynist,” which reads like a prototype for Irene Van De Kamp. 5) Sharon Rudahl’s “Mein Rue Platz,” which I believe was discussed in one of Margaret Galvan’s conference papers.

MOCKINGBIRD #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter investigate a murder aboard a cruise ship. It turns out that Bobbi’s dead rapist, the Phantom Rider, is responsible. This is an excellent comic with lots of great jokes, and I’m glad that this creative team has a new series forthcoming from Image.

U.S.AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “$kullocracy Part One,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. A new team of Avengers fights a new Secret Empire. This was okay, but not nearly as good as the later story with the Archie characters.

OMAC #5 (DC, 1975) – “New Bodies for Old!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Omac battles some criminals who are stealing young people’s bodies in order to transplant old people’s minds into them. This is a pretty good Kirby comic, but it suffers from D. Bruce Berry’s poor inking and ugly lettering.