A Dance with Death

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Revival #36

The Cypress sisters are missing and on the run, and the military wants them back in their facility, in jail, or dead — and they’re also working on capturing the disembodied souls of the revivers, so they can destroy the threat of the revivers by letting them self-destruct when they contact their souls. Meanwhile, Lester Majak gets in trouble when he can’t see below his new girlfriend’s surface appearance, and General Cale pays a visit to — no joke — a secret Amish ninja.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s been a while since we’ve seen poor Lester, and it looks like he’s finally realizing what a lousy person he is. And Weaver Fannie, the sword-slinging Amish warrior, looks like an interesting addition to the cast.

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Hellboy Winter Special

We don’t see these nearly often enough — a short anthology comic of Hellboy stories. We get a story skulls and shamans in the distant past (written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie, with art by Tim Sale). We get Hellboy helping settle a bunch of Chinese ghosts trapped in the Midwest (written by Mignola and Chris Roberson with art by Michael Walsh). We get Hellboy and a young Liz Sherman meeting up with a bunch of bad snowmen (story by Chelsea Cain with art by Michael Avon Oeming). And we get Dean Rankine showing us what happens when Lobster Johnson wants takeout.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Stories ranging from goofy to deadly serious, with some late Christmas cheer mixed in with supernatural terror. We should see stuff like this all the time — you can’t tell me there aren’t hordes of comics creators who wouldn’t love to make some short, snappy Hellboy comics, right?

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Dino Delight

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Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #3

Well, Lunella Lafayette has been captured by the modernized Killer Folk, but Devil Dinosaur still manages to rescue her — and soon enough, she also rescues herself and the Kree Omni-Wave Projector she’s obsessed with. She ends up losing the device to one of the cavemen, and after that, her exploits being toted around by a huge T-rex are all over the news. We get to see Lunella’s secret laboratory under the school — where she’s also letting Devil Dinosaur hide out. Her school ends up catching fire, and she and D.D. help get everyone to safety, but next issue’s big green guest-star probably isn’t going to care about that.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s such a grandly fun comic. It’s got dinosaurs, punk rock cavemen, a gloriously weird kid heroine, and so much more. Please tell me you’re reading this.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

A bunch of computer science majors — including Squirrel Girl and Nancy Whitehead — are trapped in the ’60s, while Dr. Doom prepares to begin conquering the future. While Doreen plans to sneak into Doom’s hideout in Central Park and heist away his time machine, the rest of the students start building small EMP generators so they can shut down his electronics equipment. Unfortunately, Doom can’t be defeated nearly so easily. Luckily, Squirrel Girl has a few surprise allies from the future who can help her out.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Another fun comic. We almost get Doreen to defuse yet another major supervillain by talking to him and making friends — and the guest star at the end is pretty amazing.

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All-New All-Different Avengers #4

Edwin Jarvis is employed by the Avengers again — not that he’s very happy about it. I don’t know if he’s just sick of butlering for superheroes or if he’s peeved about the Avengers’ new HQ — a run-down airfield in New Jersey. But the team gets called out to a mission before Jarvis can finish disapproving of the decor — a completely unexpected hurricane has hit Atlantic City. A metahuman called Cyclone is responsible, and dozens of people have been endangered. The new kids knock Cyclone down, but Vision puts him down for the count — in the most creepy way possible. And Thor lays a liplock on Captain America — and the reason why starts everyone wondering if she’s actually a thunder god…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very nice superhero action, plus fun dialogue and interactions.

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Good Golly, Miss Molly!

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Molly Danger, Book One

I genuinely thought I’d reviewed this ages ago, and was completely surprised to discover I’d let it fall by the wayside. Time to remedy that problem before it’s too late.

This comic was a labor of love for writer/artist Jamal Igle, and he only got to do it originally because of a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Our main character is, of course, Molly Danger, a super-strong, super-tough alien superhero in Coopersville, New York. She’s also immortal — she looks like she’s a ten-year-old human girl, but she’s actually at least 30 years old.

She’s also painfully lonely. The military organization in charge of Molly refuses to let her have contact with children her own age, and she get to meet very few civilians. They’re apparently terrified that she’ll accidentally harm a civilian — which seems a bit nuts for a superhero who’s been active for about 20-30 years without killing scads of people…

Anyway, Molly gets to fight a couple supervillains — the super-smart brain-in-a-jar Medulla and his giant robot and the superspeedster Slipscott. She also gets help from Austin Briggs, a pilot for the cops and later for her own organization — he’s a thrill-seeker who’s willing to take on risks to help Molly get the bad guys — and ultimately, to help her connect with real people.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The art is fantastic, the action and dialogue are a thrill, and the humor is top-notch.

The characters are pretty grand. Molly is just fantastic — mostly rambunctious 10-year-old, though her more advanced age pops up here and there when she demonstrates that she’s been trying to figure out what motivates the supervillains who plague her. She knows if she could figure out what they want, she’d have a chance to reform them. But for the most part, she’s all about the action and taking risks — even more so when she has a chance to get to meet and hang out with kids her own age.

If I’ve got a complaint, it’s that there haven’t been more of these books. Molly’s shown up in a small number of guest appearances in other Action Lab comics, and a new Kickstarter funded a new ongoing series — but dang, it’s been a long wait…

If you love superhero comics — and especially if you’ve got daughters who love superhero comics and never get to see anyone like them getting to kick some tail — then you’re probably going to enjoy this one. Go pick it up.

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Flying High

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Captain Marvel #1

Another new #1 issue?! Marvel, I’ma whup you with a Chrysler fender.

Carol Danvers has a new gig — she’s in charge of the Alpha Flight Space Station, which is supposed to be Earth’s first defense from space-based threats. The name of the station is no coincidence — several members of her crew are members of Canada’s once-foremost superhero team, including Puck, Aurora, and Sasquatch. Her second-in-command is Abigail Brand, formerly of S.W.O.R.D., and it looks like Brand is not happy having Carol in charge. Carol and the crew fend off a rogue asteroid, but a member of the science staff determines that the asteroid was deliberately targeted at the station — and an attacking spaceship crewed by dead aliens just opens up more questions.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Everything’s pretty keen, but gotta give credit to the fantastic characterization. Puck is particularly fun, and I hope the rest of Alpha Flight get some great character moments, too.

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Astro City #31

The Living Nightmare returns, leaving havoc and terror in its wake. It’s viewpoint is narrated by the scores of Astro City residents who had dreams about it last night as it rampaged through the city. We get its origin story — the ever-reliable scientific experiment flying out of control — and some of its history, including the period when it was controlled by a military pilot and served as a member of Honor Guard. Now in the present, it attacks Honor Guard again — but this time, it has a very surprising reaction.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve always loved the Living Nightmare, so I was entirely jazzed that it’d be making a return, and even happier that it was going to be the focus character for this issue. But it’s nothing compared the excitement I feel when I see that next issue will feature the return of one of my favorite characters, Steeljack.

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Lumberjanes #22

Well, it turns out Seafarin’ Karen is a werewolf. It doesn’t let her get to the selkies who stole her ship, though. And speaking of shapeshifters, the Bear Woman is leading Molly and Ripley into the alt-dinosaur dimension. Back home, Jo, April, and Mal have a plan to get them and Karen across the water and onto the boat — but even when a plan works, it can still fail.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Another really fun issue, with great art and character work. Lots of clever problem-solving, too, and a decent cliffhanger.

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Ms. Marvel #3

Hope Yards Development is actually being run by HYDRA, and their nanites have added Bruno to the gentrified zombie hordes. Kamala isn’t able to rescue him, but remembering he’d recently told her that his girlfriend Mike had the “key to his heart,” she goes to see Mike and learns that she carries the passkey to the cloud account with all his research. They discover the antidote to the mind-control nanites, but can they save Jersey City from HYDRA before it’s too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, a wonderful comic. Excellent characterization and art, and the action is even better than usual, with Kamala showing a lot more skill with her powers than she has before.

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Silver Blaze

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Silver Surfer #1

Another new #1 issue, Marvel?! I am going to hit you guys with a boat anchor.

The Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood are finally returning to Earth, but first, they have to foil an alien invasion by a species called the Hordax. Once they get to Earth, Dawn is excited to learn that her twin sister Eve is pregnant, and her family holds a celebration for all the holidays she missed while she was in space. But the Hordax weren’t fully defeated, and their next attack on Earth drains the planet of every piece of art, literature, and music — not just the works themselves, but the memories of the works, too.

Dawn and the Surfer fly up to investigate, and they learn that the aliens can use the stolen fiction to take on the appearance and qualities of fictional characters. This leads to several pages of the Silver Surfer dressed up as characters from Doctor Who, Harry Potter, The Terminator, Star Trek, Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Zardoz, Kill Bill, The Little Mermaid, and many, many more. Can even the Surfer’s cosmic powers prevail against all the heroes of fiction?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a wonderfully fun issue, with great character interactions, an all-too-brief cameo by Mike Allred’s Madman, and a ton of aliens cosplaying as fictional characters. This is an issue where you’ll really want to pay attention to the backgrounds, just to try to identify who everyone is dressed up as.

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Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #2

Patsy working retail is really not something that works very well, with constant chaos, rude customers, rude co-workers, a shoplifter with a magical Bag of Holding, and a visit from Patsy’s old nemesis, Hedy Wolfe, who’s begun reprinting all the old Patsy Walker romance comics without Patsy’s permission. Can Patsy make it through her first day on the job without getting fired?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Another outstandingly fun comic — fantastic art and dialogue and quasi-drama. It’s a blast to read, and I hope all of y’all are enjoying it, too.

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I Hate Fairyland #4

Turns out Gert wasn’t as dead as she looked at the end of last issue — just incredibly badly injured, needing a quick heal from Larry’s magic stogie smoke. After that, Gert kidnaps Queen Cloudia to get her to spill about why the noxiously optimistic Happy is prancing around Fairyland questing after the magical key that Gert assumed was fated to be hers. Turns out Cloudia’s plan is to let Happy get the key — and at that point, Gert becomes just another citizen of Fairyland, which means Cloudia will be permitted to kill her very, very permanently. So while Happy is cruising through the quests and getting closer and closer to the key, Gert decides to bypass all that by harnessing the power of one of the Seven Evil Dooms — in this case, Lord Darketh Deaddeath of the Realm of Skulllllllls. Can Gert handle the monsters in Deaddeath’s dungeon?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Skottie Young’s art is really what makes this one so much fun. From Cloudia’s constantly changing cloud-hair to Deaddeath’s skull-themed everything, there’s always something wonderful to see.

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The New Avengers #5

In the future, Billy Kaplan has finally become the Demiurge — unfortunately, he’s been possessed by the diabolical cthulhoid monster Moridun, and he’s tearing the future Avengers to pieces. They make their escape into the past to try to fix things. Meanwhile, the New Avengers are fighting to mad scientists of W.H.I.S.P.E.R., which is led by the Maker — the alternate reality evil Reed Richards. But the team may have much more serious concerns than mad scientists soon.

Verdict: Thumbs up — but I get the impression this is going to get way confusing way fast. I’m still hopeful — as long as they keep up the great characterizations, as well as the fun we’re getting from Squirrel Girl…

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The Hero Sandwich List of Great Comics for Kids

(Hey, y’all, last July, I wrote my first-ever guest-blog post for the Hello Mamas site (dedicated to helping moms meet other mom friends in their area, so their entire social lives don’t devolve into nonstop baby talk and Teletubbies reruns) to talk about great comics you can share with your kids. I’d planned on posting it here a good while back, but I clean forgot for ages. I finally figured to get it dusted off and posted so we can all enjoy it. It might be a bit late for anyone who was going to give comics as holiday gifts, but what the heck, it’s always a good time to start your kids reading comics. Enjoy!)

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Hiya, I’m not parent, but I am a long-time comic collector, and I’ve been known to pass comics on to my friends who have kids. Because comics can be an awful lot of fun, and I like the idea of getting to share a hobby that has lots of fun and adventure with younger readers who also have a taste for fun and adventure.

But this sometimes gets me in a liiiiittle bit of trouble. A year or two back, I was clearing out some of my older comics and set aside a stack to take to some coworkers who had some comics-loving kids. I was a bit mortified a few days later when I was told that the dad I’d given them to had decided he better put them on the top shelf, away from younger fingers, for a few years. One of the comics I’d sent him — a superhero comic starring a bunch of teenaged characters — had included a sequence where someone’s head got blown up. Holy craniums, Batman!

The unfortunate problem for parents of kids who love comics is that a lot of comics just aren’t made for kids anymore. The readership has been skewing older for years, and grownup readers often want to read stories for grownups. So there’s more violence in comics, more horror, more sex, more cussing, and more, well, adult material. They’re often really good comics, too — but you still wouldn’t necessarily want your kids reading ’em.

So yeah, I try to be more careful about gifting comics to younger readers. And if I’m nervous about it, it’s gotta be so much worse for parents who may not know a lot about comics. You head into the local comic shop and grab some Batman comics for your kids, ’cause, hey, it’s Batman! Adam West! Super Friends! Batman’s totally family friendly, right? And then you get home and discover that Batman comics nowadays can be kinda disturbing. Hey, look, it’s the Joker, and he’s straight up murdering people and trying to drive superheroes insane and his face has been sliced off and is being held on with straps, and then Jane and Timmy wet the bed ’til they’re in their 30s…

There aren’t as many kid-friendly comics out there — and if you really want to get depressed, try to find comics for the superhero-loving girl in your family. There are discouragingly few comics about superheroines that little girls would feel comfortable reading. You have to go back a few decades to find a kid-friendly comic book starring Wonder Woman, fer cryin’ out loud.

AtomicRobo

Yes, it’s a definite challenge to find great all-ages comics. But it isn’t impossible, and you don’t have to be too nervous about shopping for comics. May I help make things easier by offering a few suggestions of high-quality kid-friendly comics?

(You’ll notice that a lot of these comics aren’t being published every month. And some of them haven’t actually been printed in years. But they’re all great comics, and they’re worth tracking down in the trade paperbacks in your local comics shop or bookstore.)

And before we get started with the list, could I offer one final piece of advice? Don’t assume my suggestions are guaranteed to be safe for your kids. If you want to get any comics for your kids, I recommend you read them yourself before you give ’em to your kids. You know your kids better than I do, and you owe it to your younglings to make sure I’m not accidentally recommending something your kids — or you — won’t like.

Having said all that — happy reading to both you and your kids! I hope you’ll all enjoy reading some of these fantastic comics!

PRE-READERS

  • Owly – This is a series of short children’s graphic novels by Andy Runton. They focus on a gentle-natured owl named Owly who always works hard to be a good friend and to be kind to everyone around him. The stories are nearly entirely wordless, so kids can enjoy the stories without needing anyone to read them aloud. Kids tend to love this series, as Owly is very charismatic and gentle, and the stories are simple and fun. It’s a great way to introduce kids to comics at a young age.

Owly

EARLY ELEMENTARY

  • Tiny Titans – These were all created by the team of Art Baltazar and Franco — Tiny Titans was the first, with the idea being to take some more traditional comics characters, the Teen Titans, and recreating them as cartoonish elementary school kids who occasionally had adventures as superheroes, but mostly just went to school and did hilarious stuff. You’ve got Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, Beast Boy, Batgirl, Wonder Girl, and many, many more. It’s great fun for kids, and it’s even fun for parents, because the jokes are pretty funny, and there are plenty of nods for older fans who are fans of the mainstream comics.
    Baltazar and Franco also created “Superman Family Adventures,” which is full of humorous family-friendly tales of Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, and all their friends and pets. And they also did “Itty Bitty Hellboy,” which accomplished the seemingly impossible task of taking the dark pulp horror of the Hellboy comics and giving them the Tiny Titans treatment.
  • Batman: Li’l Gotham – This quirky comic is perfect for kids — and grownups — who love Batman and his entire supporting cast. The series featured beautiful watercolor artwork by Dustin Nguyen and almost every superhero and supervillain who’s ever been associated with the Dark Knight. But though Batman himself is the old familiar grim avenger of the night, everything else is played for laughs. Even the villains are more interested in having fun and causing mischief than anything more serious, and it’s a great way to introduce younger Bat-fans to Gotham City’s best superhero.
  • Zita the Spacegirl – This unbelievably fun graphic novel focuses on a girl named Zita who is accidentally transported to the other side of the universe, where she has amazing sci-fi adventures, befriends weird aliens, fights weird aliens, and repeatedly saves the world. You got a daughter who craves heroic action? You need to get her this book. It has two sequels. I recommend the entire series very highly.

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  • Axe Cop – This series was created by two brothers — the illustrator is a 30-year-old comics pro, and at the time of the comic’s debut, the writer… was just five years old. This leads to some astonishingly bizarre and funny stories. Our lead character is Axe Cop, a cop who carries an axe. He fights bad guys and dinosaurs, usually by chopping their heads off. Yes, the series is pretty violent — in a very cartoonish manner — and there’s a very strong focus on poop. Again, the writer was five years old. This may make it a no-go for some parents — but I still recommend it, partly because your kids, no matter how angelic, are probably thinking about cartoonish violence and poop all the time, partly because it’s a great look at how kids tell stories on their own, and partly because we grownups think stuff like this is hilarious, too.
  • Molly Danger – Molly is a superhero — a ten-year-old alien superhero who’s superstrong and supertough. She fights against villains called the Supermechs — and against her own boredom and loneliness. She’s been ten years old for several decades and doesn’t know anyone outside of the government facility where she lives. Can Molly fight the bad guys and make some friends, too?
  • Giants Beware – This medieval action comedy stars three kids — a battle-loving tomboy, a wannabe princess, and a kid who loves baking pastries more than he loves danger — as they go out to hunt a giant who threatens their town. They meet up with many challenges on the way, of course. Fun characterization in this one, from the kids to the grownups who try to rescue them.
  • Phoebe and her Unicorn – Phoebe is a normal girl. Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is a normal unicorn. They meet, become friends, and are hilarious together. This collection of comic strips gets a lot of fun out of Phoebe’s mundane world clashing gloriously with the utter beauty, awesomeness, and magic of Marigold.
  • Super Dinosaur – What’s the only thing better than having a pet dinosaur? How ’bout having a talking pet dinosaur? How ’bout having a talking pet dinosaur who wears battle armor and fights other talking dinosaurs in battle armor? Basically, if your kids love dinosaurs, they’re probably going to love this comic.
  • Marvel’s Oz comics – Marvel Comics has done a number of comic book adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz books, with glorious cartoony illustrations by Skottie Young. If your kids love Oz — or if they’re a bit too young to read all of them — these are really grand fun.

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LATE ELEMENTARY

  • Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade – This is seriously one of my favorite comics of all time. Our lead character is Superman’s cousin Kara, stranded on Earth from her interdimensional home. She has amazing superpowers, but she’s completely and hilariously unused to Earth customs, and soon finds herself at the bottom of the junior high pecking order. Her best friend is Lex Luthor’s Superman-hating sister, her top rival is her own imperfect bizarro clone, and the teachers are hiding a dire secret. This is a wonderful, funny book, and I recommend it for kids and their parents, too.
  • Lumberjanes – This comic focuses on a group of friends at a summer camp — one with monsters and mysteries galore! The emphasis is on humor and the characterization of our counterculture-cool heroines — and how great is it to have a comic starring kick-ass girls whose creators are all women!
  • Mouse Guard – Tasked with protecting a medieval mouse society hidden away inside trees and tucked under cliff faces, the Mouse Guard fight against predators large and small. There’s more violence and death in this series than in most others we’ve discussed, but for the right kid, the action and adventure, coupled with the visions of the miniaturized mouse cities, are going to really light the imagination.
  • Ms. Marvel – One of Marvel’s biggest success stories in recent years, Kamala Khan is a teenaged Muslim girl from New Jersey who acquires shapeshifting powers. Great art, writing, and humor are the hallmarks of this series — and Kamala’s amazing popularity inspired Marvel to rethink how they wrote — and drew — female characters.
  • Yotsuba&! – The mostly normal adventures of the world’s cutest, funniest kid. This slice-of-life series has great characters and a fantastic sense of humor. It’s a manga series — it’ll take a little time for Western readers to get used to the backwards reading required for Japanese comics.

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  • Smile – A comic memoir about the teenaged years of Raina Telgemeier, the author/cartoonist of the book. After a minor accident does major damage to her teeth, our heroine recounts the years of dental and orthodontic therapy that followed. Excellent characters, fun cartooning, great for middle school kids and anyone going through orthodontic treatment.
  • Princeless – Adrienne is a princess being held captive in a tower by her cruel father — but Adrienne decides to team up with the dragon guarding her so she can rescue her sisters from confinement. This one’s notable for being one of the few all-ages comics that stars a heroine-of-color…
  • Cleopatra in Space – What would happen if Cleopatra — as in THE Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile — were accidentally teleported into the distant Egypt-themed future while still in her teens so she could attend space school and fight evil aliens and robots? I’ll tell ya what would happen — AWESOMENESS would happen! Mike Maihack’s comics are fun, funny, charismatic, and action-packed. They’re great for action-loving girls, but everyone in your family will enjoy this series.

MIDDLE SCHOOL AND UP

  • Atomic Robo – The star is an atomic-powered robot created by Nikolai Tesla. He runs his own company, staffed entirely by Action Scientists, and he runs around all over the world having adventures, fighting Nazis, and being awesome. There are giant robots, vampires from other dimensions, and the deranged and hilarious Dr. Dinosaur. Atomic Robo is one of the coolest comics on the planet. Your kids will love it, and you’ll love it, too.
  • Bandette – Follow the adventures of Bandette, the greatest, the most daring, the most charming thief in all of Paris! Bandette, her friends, her rivals, and her foes are fantastic and fun characters. This one will be extra fun for kids who love all things French and Parisian — reading the book is like getting an immersive crash course in French culture — or at least French culture through an Americanized lens.
  • Captain Marvel – There are lots of Captain Marvels at both Marvel Comics and DC, but this one is Marvel’s newest Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers was called Ms. Marvel for years, but since taking on her new name and awesome new costume, she’s gotten a lot more popular with readers and with Marvel itself. There’s going to be a movie about her sometime around 2018, so get in before the Hollywood hype machine drowns everything else out.

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  • Spider-Girl – In an alternate future, Peter and Mary Jane Parker had a daughter, and May Parker inherited her father’s amazing spider powers, fighting crime as Spider-Girl. The series had some teen angst — just like the classic Spider-Man comics — but lots of adventure and fun. Do some digging to find the old trade paperbacks.
  • Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant – A grand swashbuckling adventure starring Delilah, an expert swordswoman, archer, and acrobat, and Erdemoglu Selim, a mild-mannered lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps, whose greatest pleasures involve resting quietly and brewing tea. Due to a misunderstanding, they have to go on the run to escape execution and to enjoy amazing adventures.

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Hammer of the Gods

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The Mighty Thor #3

Loki is back to being, at best, an anti-hero, and more likely, just a regular villain again. He does look an awful lot more like Tom Hiddleston than he used to. He tries to talk Thor into teaming up with him — but Jane Foster has had plenty of contact with Loki before, and he generally just tried to kill her to get back at Thor. So she knocks his head clean off. Of course, that’s no way to kill the God of Lies, and he comes back with a horde of alternate Lokis, including Loki Classic, King Loki, Kid Loki, Teen Loki, Frost Giant Loki, Lady Loki, and even Cat Thor Loki from the Squirrel Girl comic. Does Thor have a chance against all of them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see so many Lokis in one place, isn’t it? Also liked Thor’s rationale for knocking Loki’s head off — he’s always treated Jane Foster as nothing worth bothering with, which means she’d definitely be ready for payback.

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Starfire #8

It’s the second half of Starfire’s team-up with secret agent Dick Grayson. There’s some decent action stuff, and a lot of soap-opera stuff, most of it involving minor characters whose names I can’t totally remember.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I ain’t entirely knocking soap opera, because superhero comics would be damn boring without some soap opera. But most of this issue was soap opera, and it wasn’t really much fun.

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All-New All-Different Avengers #3

The Chitauri warlord called Warbringer just keeps kicking the Avengers’ butts, though he does have secret assistance from Mr. Gryphon, the mysterious businessman who bought Avengers Tower. Warbringer is trying to assemble a device that’ll bring hordes of Chitauri to Earth to conquer the planet for him. The team manages to get the pieces of the artifact away from him, but he’s still powerful enough to easily beat the most powerful members of the group. So Spider-Man is going to have to activate the device and then destroy it with split-second timing so they can push Warbringer through the portal as it opens. Will the plan work? Or will there be other complications?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not at all bad, decently tense — and it looks like the Vision being creepy and weird is something that’s going to carry over into every comic he appears in…

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Con Artists for the Dead

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Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #2

Dancy Flammarion is dead, and Maisie — Dancy’s ex-girlfriend (and werewolf) (and ghost) — is trying to make some money with her only friend, Bird, a talking bird. Maisie is scamming people nowadays, posing as a “medium and Christian spiritualist” so people mourning their loved ones will pay her to talk to the dead. Of course, Maisie can’t talk to the dead, but Bird can sneak into homes and knock on tables so it looks like the dead are communicating with her. Meanwhile, Carson and Hunter, a couple of blood-drenched lesbian occultists, are making their plans while actual demons watch them for signs of weakness.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The dialogue between Maisie and Bird — and between Carson and Hunter — and really, between everyone — is just wonderful and fun, and the visuals are outstandingly creepy.

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All-New Hawkeye #3

In the future, Old Man Hawkeye and Older Lady Hawkeye have raided SHIELD to get the grownup kids from Operation Communion back, with assistance from Captain America Chavez. Unfortunately, they don’t arrive in time for everyone. And in the present, Kate makes bad decisions, Clint visits his brother Barney, and they decide to fix their errors while time is still on their side.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see the band getting back together. Also cool to see America Chavez being as badass and super-cool as always in the future.

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All-New Wolverine #4

Trying to keep her clones safe from Alchemax, Wolverine takes them to a place she knows can’t be spied on — the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange. Unfortunately, the place freaks Bellona out, and she accidentally releases a magical monster from captivity. When one of the clones falls severely ill in the aftermath, Strange teleports all of them to the local hospital to take an MRI — and what he finds is something he can’t handle with magic.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Always fun seeing highly physical characters like Laura interact with more cerebral ones like Strange. Laura’s clones are still good fun, and the humor and action are very nice.

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Batman vs. Cthulhu

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Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham

This is normally something I’d prefer to review before Halloween. But DC, in its infinite anti-wisdom, chose to release this last week instead of in October, and I’d rather not wait ’til next Halloween to review this. Heck, it took us 15 years to even get this collection, so who knows if DC will leave it in print for the next ten months.

So the plotline? Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City after years exploring the world and discovers a secret conspiracy stretching back years that threatens to destroy the city, if not the rest of the world. So far so typical? Sure, sure, almost every Bat-storyline reads something like that.

But in this case, everything’s been crossed over with H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. You’d think that’d be a strained concept, but it works out amazingly well.

Oswald Cobblepot is a mad professor, waddling naked around the Antarctic with a bunch of tumor-covered penguins. Mr. Freeze has more in common with the cold-dependent Dr. Munoz from Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.” Killer Croc is a mutated Deep One. Poison Ivy shows up as a seductive plant monster. Barbara Gordon is a literal Oracle, interacting with the spirit world to see the future. Ra’s Al Ghul shares an origin with the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. We get appearances from Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent, Jason Blood, Oliver Queen, and more, all twisted around the axes of pulp fiction and cosmic horror.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If you’re not a Lovecraft fan, you’ll get a very good pulp horror story. If you are a Lovecraft fan, you’ll get shivers of joy every few pages whenever a new permutation on HPL’s creations appears. It’s really pretty amazing how perfectly some of Batman’s rogues gallery fit into Lovecraft’s archetypes.

This was written by Mike Mignola and Richard Pace, and though the art is by Troy Nixey, it’s clear that Mignola dropped some heavy hints about what the art should look like, ’cause it’s very Mignolian (Mignolanian? I don’t know.). Of course, Mignola specializes in pulp, especially pulp horror, and some of the images we get here are just gloriously creepy — Cobblepot wandering in the Antarctic, Wayne’s ship frozen in the bay, Harvey Dent’s transformation.

The only villains we don’t get are the two we might most expect — there’s no Joker, and there’s no Cthulhu. Perhaps Mignola planned them for an eventual sequel?

Again, this series has been colossally rare for the past 15 years — the few copies for sale online would cost you about $50 for each of the three issues. But here it is, all collected into a single volume at last. If you let this one slip away from you this time, you don’t need cosmic horrors to drive you mad.

No Amazon link this time — it’s brand new, so check at your local comic shop.

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Chained Heat

BitchPlanet6

Bitch Planet #6

Last issue, Meiko Maki was murdered by the guards on Bitch Planet. In this issue, we learn who she was and what she did to piss off the Powers That Be. Her parents were secret rebels against Earth’s male-centric corruption. Her mother is a violin teacher — but her violin lessons are just a cover so she can teach girls forbidden subjects like math. And her father is a spaceship engineer who’s just made a not-so-accidental error on his latest design that would fatally sabotage a spacecraft. Unfortunately, his latest error has been caught by a colleague who plans to blackmail the family — he’ll help cover up the error in exchange for having sex with his daughters. But Meiko has her own plan to save her family, even if it dooms her to an early death on Bitch Planet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is really wonderful, the characterization is great. I love the violin lessons as cover for secret math class. And I must say, I’m becoming more and more amazed, happily amazed, by the devotion the series is shown by fans. Women getting the “NC” (Non-Compliant) tattoos from the comic in real life? Do you know of any other independent comic series that inspires fans like that? And I love the way the comic is now including short articles on feminism and related topics in the back pages. This comic is something special, and while I want to learn what happens next in the story, I also want to learn what happens next with the fandom.

TotallyAwesomeHulk2

The Totally Awesome Hulk #2

Amadeus, Maddy, She-Hulk, and Miles Morales meet up with Lady Hellbender, the Monster Queen of Seknarf Nine. She and her giant lizard mostly knock the Hulk around, mainly because Amadeus is a sexist dweeb. Maddy settles most of the problem, Amadeus loses control of his temper, Lady Hellbender reveals that she collects monsters to take them to her homeworld, and we catch a glimpse of next issue’s Big Bad.

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. I didn’t find myself particularly entertained, and I’m starting to wish this comic had Banner in it as something other than a flashback.

Ultimates3

The Ultimates #3

Fresh off their success in evolving Galactus into a being who brings life to the universe instead of death, the Ultimates have just found out that the Shi’ar Empire is good and angry about the change in the Devourer. Meanwhile, it’s been discovered that too much time travel has caused severe damage to the space-time continuum, and in order to diagnose how bad the problem may be, the team will actually have to travel outside the universe in order to get a look at time from the outside. And once they make it to the Neutral Zone, the Blue Marvel discovers an old friend waiting for them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding superheroic sci-fi, with wonderful characterization and art.

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