Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1, which was really good ("There will be no eating of teammates."), and G.I. Joe: Cobra #1-3. People who know me know that I don't just pick up and read a G.I. Joe comic. I've never been into them, and I was never even into the toys, really. But the guys on iFanboy really recommended this book, saying it doesn't feel like a Joe book at all. And it really doesn't. It's a lot more like a Queen and Country story. One of the guys (in the Hawaiian shirt) goes undercover, and it's an extremely good spy story so far. Cobra nor G.I. Joe (I believe) have never been mentioned in this book, but some of the characters have. VERY highly recommended!

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Lucifer Vol. 3: Blood in the Streets
Richard Kadrey, Holly Black, writers; Lee Garbett, Marco Rudy, Ben Templesmith, artists
Vertigo Comics, 2017

The conclusion to the second Lucifer series is mainly the work of new writer Richard Kadrey and continuing series artist Lee Garbett. The first issue in the collection is a holiday issue, a strange mix of a Krampus story and "Secret Santa" with art from Ben Templesmith (whose horror artist credentials make him a perfect match for the series). The title arc picks up with the story arc established by previous writer Holly Black. There were several unresolved story lines at the end of the previous collection, and they are all resolved by the series conclusion. Lucifer enlists the aid of a magician named Arabelle Crane--who has something of a female John Constantine air about her, including wearing a trench coat during her first appearance. The story says she and Lucifer have a history, but I don't recall seeing her before. Mazikeen sorts out the Hell situation (we even see her without her mask at one point) while Lucifer takes on the new god in the Silver City.

LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE

MAY ’27: If I haven’t mentioned it already, the town Annie is now living in is called Bluebell.

Annie finds one marble and ends up winning all the marbles from all the kids. When the old biddies in town hear about Annie playing for keeps, they denounce it as “gambling” and complain to Mr. Flint. Flint considers it good Scotch business sense, though. Flint has business in the city. At Annie’s request, Flint enquires about Warbucks’ whereabouts. No one has heard from him in four months, and pieces of a lifeboat from his yacht were found washed up on shore. He is presumed dead, but Flint lies to Annie, telling her that he is well but will not be returning for a long time.

George Mack proposes a merger of his and Flints banks because Bluebell cannot support two banks. Flint doesn’t like the way Mack does business and refuses. Flint is losing money. Farmer’s cannot repay last year’s loans due to a flood, and Flint refuses to foreclose on his friends. Meanwhile, the farmers are going to Mack for new loans. Mack is loaning on chattel mortgages, which Flint considers a “vurra low practice.” (I Googled “chattel martgage” and it doesn’t sound that bad, but we’ll see more of Mack’s dealing in the weeks ahead.) Mr. Flint must refuse to increase old Amos Todd’s loan because there’s little chance he will be able to repay the note he already owes. Upon hearing the news, Mrs. Todd takes sick and Amos again asks Flint to loan him more money. This time Flint agrees.

JUN ’27: Annie buckles down studying for her final exams. She’s none too confident going into them, and in the middle of the test she sees Pig Eye cheating. She doesn’t tell the teacher, but confronts him about it later. When the grades are distributed, Annie passed and Pig Eye not only failed, but he flunked the entire grade.

Now that it’s summer vacation, Annie needs to find something to do to occupy her time. She knows the town of Bluebell pretty well, but she sets about exploring the woods just out of town. A local farmer tells her of a haunted house down by the river. He spins a yarn of pirates, murder, tunnels and secret passages. She asks around and hears other tales. A French Fort on the spot was once destroyed in an Indian massacre. A family of seven who once lived there disappeared overnight some 50 years ago. One day, while on her way to the house, she sees Mr. Mack coming from that general direction.

Mr. Mack has recently donated a new pipe organ to the church, which puts him in good with the townsfolk. The week before, though, he evicted a widow from her farm. Annie observes that he could do more real good by helping the farmers than by donating an organ. Mack begins to spread rumors about flint’s bank failing, forcing Flint to consolidate with a big city bank, but an honest one. Flint’s bank is now a branch, but it’s still in business. When Flint sees the city banker walking down the street, he ducks down an alleyway. The banker seems to recognize him and asks Flint, but Flint didn’t see who it was.

Meanwhile, Annie, convinced the house is haunted, gathers a gang of kids to investigate. (They go at night, of course.) They don’t see anything, but they are all frightened by a ghostly howl coming from inside the house. The next day the adults investigate, but don’t find anything out of the ordinary. When Annie bumps into Mr. Mack on the street he is cordial, but when she turns to walk away, he shakes his fist at her behind her back.

Amazing Spider-Man #801: They were going for heart-warming here -- the editor claims to have cried while reading it. Maybe I'm made of stone but I didn't. Maybe if the art was less cartoony.

Ant-Man and Wasp #2: They're going for screwball comedy here, and it works for me. Scott Lang and Nadia Van Dyne are both pretenders of a sort, so nobody is really in charge and everybody's doing everything wrong. And the antagonists are bizarre germ-like creatures who are equally amusing, as they run through the cliches the humans usually did in 1950s big monster comics, because they're faced with a big monster: A too-big Nadia, who is unaware she's Godzilla-ing through their civilization. You have the gun-happy general germ, the peacenick scientist germ, the hapless politician germ, and so forth. Good fun.

Infinity Countdown: Black Widow #1: I'm not sure what the point of this is. I'm always glad to see Natasha, but this seems like a placeholder. Once they establish that she has the Space Stone (which we already knew), nothing much happens that we haven't seen before. Well, there is a guest spot by Merlin, so maybe the point is to establish him in the Infinity Countdown story. *shrug*

Infinity Countdown: Champions #1: I don't usually read Champions, so it was nice seeing these kids. If the regular book is this charming, I might be missing out.

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #305: I've been keeping up with the Spider-books for my upcoming book (yes, I have one), but while ASM has been OK, this book has been a chore. The art's mediocre, and I don't think JJJ's participation here is as hilarious as the writer thinks it is. Now that the current storyline has wrapped -- a time-travel story teaching a lesson about power and responsibility, how original -- I'm dropping this one.

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1: I usually like Mike Allred, but his work here seems below his normal standard -- perhaps he was rushed. Anyway, it's more hi-jinks with Jonah, plus the redemption of Barney Bushkin, who is virtually the definition of "throwaway character."

Daredevil #604: What is it with the vaguely amateurish art at Marvel these days? Are they going for a manga vibe and just missing? Anyway, I'll be dropping this title when the current "Mayor Murdock" story ends, which will probably be right before an all-new, all-different Daredevil #1 appears.

Cable #158: Running out the string on this one, which ends with the next issue. This issue is sort-of a Cable's greatest hits, as his latest antagonist is retconned into his entire comic book career. Can I start calling him Hush now? Seriously, Cable's never been a huge favorite of mine, so visiting all these old stories I read and forgot is just a reminder how little I care for the character.

Captain America #704: Captain America doesn't appear in this multi-issue storyline, set in the future, which turns out to be sort of the point. It's been mildly entertaining -- Mark Waid never disappoints -- but I'm ready to read a Captain America title that actually has Captain America in it.

X-Men Gold #30: I'm not even going to post a Spoiler, as I ran the press release a day or so ago, and it's all over the Internet. So that's right, Peter and Kitty do NOT get married, despite all the build-up. Two other characters do, who will appear in their own title later this year, Mr. and Mrs. X. I wish I could say I was excited, but I haven't really enjoyed X-Men since they killed off Cyclops, Wolverine and Professor X. Yes, two of those are back, but the whole franchise seems to be running on fumes, relying on B-list characters and content to repeat past story beats.

Tony Stark: Iron Man #1: Big ideas, lotsa fun. If Iron Man had always starred Robert Downey Jr. in full manic genius mode, it would have been an A-list title from the get-go.

Aquaman #37: The battle against Corum Rath nears its climax. Some Atlantean history gets a rewrite. This would be meaningless gibberish in the hands of a lesser writer, but Dan Abnett has made me care.

Batman #49: Tom King goes whole hog in the premise that The Joker loves Batman and thinks they need each other. Never could get into that interpretation of Joker. Still don't.

Green Lanterns #49: A new storyline about a Madbomb. Not the Kirby one, but similar. I do like these two Lanterns, so I can enjoy this title even when it’s coasting like this.

Justice League #2: Big fun. I wrote my column this week on this series.

Man of Steel #4: The mystery of the new bad guy – who is more than a match for Superman and Supergirl at the same time– moves forward only a tiny bit. But Kevin Maguire’s artwork is always welcome, and hey, there’s a nice Hal Jordan cameo.

New Challengers #1-2: I was never much of a fan of the old Challengers, which I found a bit preposterous. Yes, this from a guy who reads superhero comics. But honestly, if you’re going to have non-powered heroes in a super-powered world, they need some kind of edge – or they need to stay away from that world altogether. Every issue they should have been dead by Page 2. For me, the Challengers would have worked better if it had been more grounded, eschewing supervillains and aliens in favor of ground-level mysteries like Bigfoot or Indiana Jones-type stuff. Anyway, I’m trying to care about these new Challengers, but so far they’re not much more engaging than the old ones.

LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE – JULY 1927: Annie leaves Sandy at home so she can more secretly observe the old house, but without Sandy there, Mr. Mack follows her. Pig Eye taunts Annie that his dad is going to drive Mr. Flint out of business and out of town. Annie finds evidence that someone was spying in the flint window the night before. The next night, she catches Pig eye setting fire to the house. He is jailed, and Mr. Mack hires a big city lawyer to get him off. Annie is cynical that those with money can get away with crimes, but Pig eye is found guilty. He tounts Annie from his jail cell window as she walks by. The lawyer tries for a new trial. Annie is, again, cynical, but the judge denies the request and sentences Pig Eye to reform school.

Exploring the far side of the old house for the first time, Annie discovers a cave by the river. A boulder rolls down the hill from above, narrowly missing her. On top of the hill, Annie discovers evidence that it had been pushed.

There was a bank robbery in a town 10 miles away. The robbers were heading toward Bluebell and last seen near the old house. Neighbors Sam and Ezra saw a brief light that night coming from the old house. When Ezra went home, Sam went to investigate. The next day, Sam was gone. The sheriff and a party of armed men search the old house but find nothing out of the ordinary.

Annie catches a glimpse of someone peeking in the Flint’s window again one night. The next day, Annie and Sandy find footprints. When they meet Mr. Mack on the street, Sandy sniffs his feet than growls.

There is another bank robbery in a town five miles away from Bluebell in the opposite direction of the first town that was robbed. Again, the getaway car was last seen on its way to Bluebell, but it, too, disappeared. The old house is searched again. A stolen car was found abandoned by the river, and the theory is that the thieves escaped by boat.

Mr. Mack becomes leader of the town’s new vigilance committee (his idea). He recruits Mr. Flint, and takes a good look at the layout of Flint’s bank while he’s there.

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