The Captain's Comments

Batman the Detective #1 (of 6)

DC Comics | $3.99 | Card Stock variants $4.99 | 32 Pages

Writer: Tom Taylor | Art/Cover: Andy Kubert | Card Stock variant: Andy Kubert | 1:25 Card Stock variant: Riccardo Federici

This 6-issue miniseries tells a story of an older Batman, drawn out of Wayne Manor to Europe when something that happens there he can't be ignore. Writer Tom Taylor describes this older, jaded Batman this way:

“Andy (Kubert)'s Batman never skipped leg day. His legs are like tree trunks. He's a bit older, he's a little slower, but he's efficient. He's muscle and bulk and power and he moves like a battering ram. He interacts a little like a battering ram too. He's singularly focused. He has a mission, and he won't be pushed off track by hordes of attackers … or even Andy's terrifying Gentleman Ghost. While this is about an older Dark Knight, we also had an opportunity to flashback to his past, to see a younger Bruce Wayne in training in a way never expanded on before.”

He's evidently going to partnering with either Knight or Squire, although whoever's behind the mask may be new. And a new villain is promised, whom I expect to be named Equilibrium from the hints in the PR. Could be wrong, though.

You may have seen this cover or the name Batman the Dark Knight bandied about the Internet. That's because the book was originally solicited as Batman the Dark Knight, but was changed to Batman the Detective by the second issue's solicits. I don't know why the name was changed, but with Legends of the Dark Knight launching in March and the famous Batman: The Dark Knight already extant, it was probably to avoid marketplace confusion. Of course, "Batman in Detective Comics" is also a thing, so I dunno.

Children of the Atom #1 2nd Ptg

Marvel Comics | Teen+ | $4.99

Writer: Vita Ayala | Art: Bernard Change | Cover: Iban Coello

Children of the Atom #2

Marvel | Teen+ | $3.99

Writer: Vita Ayala | Art: Bernard Chang | Cover: R. B. Silva

I didn't know when Children of the Atom #1 came out last month that it's part of "Reign of X," the next big X-crossover by Jonathan Hickman. If you're X-cited about that, but missed CotA #1, you're in luck: The second printing comes out this week, along with the second issue.

And I am X-cited about it. I'm very impressed with Hickman's revamp of the X-books — not only because it's genuinely original, but for its longevity. Usually radical revamps last about six months before reverting to status quo, and this one hasn't. That means for people who have been reading X-Men for only a year or so, this is the only X-Men they've ever known.

And it is radical. I'm still getting used to seeing Magneto fighting alongside original X-Men like Jean Grey and Cyclops, but that apparently is going to stick. Which is part of what's so radical about this revamp: We've seen foes fight alongside the X-Men before in extremis, and we've seen mutant island refuges before (Island M, Genosha, Utopia), but this is the first time the X-Men have thrown in their lot with every other mutant in a single nation — warts, Apocalypse and all. They have apparently renounced Xavier's Dream of mutants and humans living in peace with each other as equals, and instead embraced Magneto's idea that mutants are superior and should act like it. That's an ... X-treme shift in the core concept of the X-books.

And they've all made this decision at once in unison, down to every man, woman and Blob.

That's so odd that my Spidey-sense is always tingling. And it's not the only odd behavior.

Do the X-Men not remember and resent all the times Magneto tried to kill them? When did Cable and Vulcan have complete personality transplants? How can Wolverine, Jean and Cyclops be a throuple when Logan and Scott used to fight to the death over her? And, if Xavier is subtly influencing everyone to get along, as many suspect, A) why didn't Xavier include Sub-Mariner, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and B) how long before people find out and this arrangement blows up in his face?

Further, where is Moira MacTaggert? We know from her past lives that this trick never works, that mutants always get annihilated. Why do Xavier and Magneto think this plan will work, when all the others haven't? What is the endgame? What are the conversations about that? When will we be privy to them? And why did she bother to fake her own death when she could be living openly on Krakoa? Methinks there's an enormous lie and/or secret plan at the heart of Krakoa, something too terrible to tell all the other mutants, who are pretty accustomed to bad news.

Of course, I could be wrong.

These and other questions have me reading along, marking time until I get answers. And if I don't, and this is all for real and for good, I'm going to have to re-think a lot of what I thought about the X-Men, and possibly re-evaluate my allegiance. Either way, it's really interesting.

Meanwhile, here's a preview of Children of the Atom #2.

And, hey, what about "Reign of X"? Marvel hasn't revealed much, but here's what PR I have. Bleeding Cool thinks it's going to involve Scarlet Witch on trial for "no more mutants" and the Moira MacTaggert reveal. I don't know what they're basing that on; I'm just passing it on.

Darkhawk: Heart of the Hawk #1 one-shot

Marvel Comics | Teen+ | $4.99

Writers: Danny Fingeroth, Dan Abnett & Kyle Higgins | Art: Mike Manley, Andrea Di Vito & More! | Cover: Inhyuk Lee

Darkhawk launched in the '90s, when Marvel had a rash of teens transforming into, or switching places with, adult super-characters, Billy Batson-style (Darkhawk, Ghost Rider II, Sleepwalker). I honestly didn't care for any of them.

In the years since, the Darkhawk mythos has been expanded to an entire race of mystically powered, raptor-armored bad guys, which our hero naturally resists joining. I don't know if that's an improvement, or if it's even still in continuity. I suppose this 30th anniversary book will answer those questions, and re-establish the character's status quo so he can be used again.

*Shrug* Still don't care. But maybe you do.

Doctor Who: Missy #1

Titan Comics | All Ages / 170 x 258mm / 32 pages / $3.99

Writer: Jody Houser | Art: Roberta Ingranata | Cover A: David Buisan | Cover B: Photo Cover | Cover C: Claudia Caranfa | Cover D: Roberta Ingranata

Celebrating The Master's 50th anniversary!

This issue opens with Missy pretending to be Doctor Who and visiting a previous incarnation of The Master in prison, to enlist his help in acquiring a fragment of the Key of Time, which the actual Doctor has locked away. I can understand Missy's masquerade when it pertains to gaining entrance to The Master's prison, but I don't know why she continues it when she's alone with him. Part of her (ahem) Master plan, I assume.

We are promised a team-up of the Third and Twelfth Doctors in future issues, to which I'm quite looking forward. The game's afoot, as some other British character used to say.

A Fire Story TPB

Abram ComicArts | 192 pages | $18.99

Writer/Art/Cover: Brian Fries

I've been promised a Digital Review Copy of this GN, but haven't seen it yet. I was intrigued enough to ask for one by the PR, which promises the book will combine an individual's experience with the broader story of the October 2017 wildfire in California.

Most of us can't imagine the scale of this sort of catastrophe, and "most" definitely includes me. I expect to learn a lot, at least enough to understand the difficulties some of my fellow Americans have experienced.

Garth Ennis' Tankies GN

Dead Reckoning | $24.95

Writer: Garth Ennis | Art: Carlos Ezquerra

These are three tank-combat stories previously published by Dynamite in its various Battlefields series, and already collected in various Battlefields collections. If you have those — and I do — then you don't need this.

If not, though, rush right out and get every Battlefields story Garth Ennis ever wrote. He has a gift for poignant, realistic (or at least plausible) war stories. Plus, he finds unusual angles to write about, like a nurse traumatized during the invasion of Singapore in "Dear Billy" and the female Soviet pilots of World War II in "Night Witches." Both are stunningly good, with a patina (deserved or not) of biography.

Neither of which is in this book, which contains only tank stories. They're good tank stories, but they're not the best war stories in Ennis' oeuvre. They're closer to Sgt. Rock than to "Dear Billy."

Godzilla: Dominion GN

Legendary Comics | $16.99

Writer: Greg Keyes | Art:  Drew Johnson

Kingdom: Kong GN

Legendary Comics | $16.99

Writer: Marie Anello | Art: Zed

Here's another couple of books where I've requested DRCs, but in this case I never even heard back. So I don't know much about them. I do know they're prequels to Godzilla vs. Kong. Godzilla: Dominion occurs directly after Godzilla: King of Monsters and Kingdom: Kong is set just after Kong: Skull Island. Both lead directly into Godzilla vs. Kong.

The only further guidance I can offer is this video from Legendary Comics, which appears only on their Twitter feed.

Guardians of the Galaxy #13

Marvel | Teen | $4.99

Writer: Al Ewing | Art: Juan Frigeri | Colors: Federico Blee | Cover A: Brett Booth | Cover B: Rob Liefeld | Cover C: Carlos Pacheco | Cover D: Ron Lim

Marvel is hyping this issue of Guardians as a sort of mid-series re-launch, which makes me wonder why they simply didn't start over with #1, as is routine these days. Well, they didn't, but they still promise "new teammates, new costumes and new enemies."

Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket and Groot are now joined by Wiccan, Hulkling, Wendell "Quasar" Vaughn and Doctor Doom. Yes, you read that right. I don't have any idea why Dr. Doom would sign up, but then again, why is Hulkling here instead of fulfilling his duties as the Emperor of the Kree/Skrull alliance? That's a fairly important job. And hasn't Vaughn been dead since, like, the Hoover Administration? I think there's been a couple of Quasars after him already.

Home #1 (of 5)

Image Comics | 32 pages | Teen | $3.99

Writer: Julio Anta | Art: Anna Wieszczyk | Cover A: Lisa Sterle | Cover B: Jacoby Salcedo

This was a very hard story to read, for all the right reasons.

We open with Mercedes Gomez and her son Juan leaving Guatemala for the United States. We learn in the course of the story that Mercedes' husband and family have been murdered by drug gangs, who are pressuring Juan to join. So they up and leave for asylum in the U.S., where Mercedes has an aunt willing to take them in.

While the name "Trump" is never mentioned, the story obviously takes place around the time the Trump Administration instituted its kids-in-cages policy. By the time the Gomezes reach the border station between Hidalgo, Mexico, and McAllen, Texas, that sea change in U.S. immigration policy has begun. Instead of their request of asylum-with-existing-place-to-stay being quickly granted, as they expected, Mercedes and Juan are put in the "icebox" overnight, with Juan then separated from Mercedes the next day and taken to another facility in San Antonio. Both are treated really rudely by most of the officials they meet.

"You may have some of the guys out there fooled, but I'm onto you people," one guard says to Juan as he is being put into solitary for bringing an orange back from lunch to his cage. "Your mom messed up bringing you here, you know. The truth is, you're probably never going to see her again. She's going to be deported, and you will, too ... but not before you spend a few years in this place with me. This isn't the same country you saw on TV back in whatever sh*thole country you came from. We're taking it back from you people."

The only saving grace in this scene is that Juan is spared most of the threats, because he doesn't speak English.

I have a story-based complaint about these scenes, though: All of the awful people are white, and all of the white people are awful. The occasional non-white authority figure is generally sympathetic, but every single white person is a bad person. That's a storytelling mistake; painting any ethnic group with a single brush is plain old prejudice.

On the other hand, we know this sort of thing happened on the border routinely in the Trump Administration. Cruelty was the policy. The new broom is trying to sweep clean, but there are still hundreds of kids whose parents we can't find, because the Trump Admin never planned to reunite them and didn't keep any records.

So most of this rang true, and all of it would have, had the creators included an occasional decent white person, even if it was some rando just passing through. Anyway, this story brings home viscerally the kidnapping, child abuse and false imprisonment we, as a country, committed on the border during the last four years.

Then a twist at the end promises to radically change the direction of the series (see cover). I don't know what's going to happen next, but I'm interested enough to keep reading.

Jenny Zero #1 (of 4)

Dark Horse | 32 pages | $3.99

Writers: Dave Dwonch, Brockton McKinney | Art/Cover: Magenta King | Colors: Megan Huang

The premise is that Japan once had a great protector from giant kaiju, which are a constant problem in this world. After his death, his daughter filled his shoes — not shoes, exactly, but some sort of quasi-sentient kaiju-fighting equipment. She quit for unspecified reasons (which are hinted at and I'm sure we'll learn) before the series opens. Now she spends her time drinking, doing drugs, dancing drunkenly at clubs and hooking up with her dealers.

Not a pretty picture.

Not that any of this book is terribly pretty; Magenta King (with whom I am unfamiliar) comes from the Geof Darrow school of hyper-detailed art, which is amazing in its technique but is kinda unpleasant to look at. That is to say, like Darrow, King draws tons of debris, garbage, flotsam and jetsam, making every panel look like a landfill.

Worse, this approach fails to guide the reader's eye past all the incidental detail to whatever in the panel is important. That's a fundamental storytelling fail. There were a couple of times when I had to re-read pages to figure out what was going on, and was only able to because decades of reading comic books told me what to look for.

Still, I rather like Jenny, and am rooting for her to pull out of her spiral. Since that is obviously the direction this series will go, I may stick around for it.

John Romita’s Amazing Spider-Man Artisan Edition

IDW | $39.99

Writer: Stan Lee | Art/Cover: John Romita

I know this is heresy to some, but the definitive Spider-Man to me isn't Steve Ditko's. It's John Romita's.(Senior.)

Part of the reason for that is the obvious one, that Romita was drawing Amazing Spider-Man during my formative years. His uninterrupted tenure (he came back for some issues after a short Gil Kane stint) ran from 1966 to 1971, during which I was ages 8 through 13. I had read most of Ditko's Spidey before I began reading Romita's run, but the earlier books I read all at once, while the latter ones I read in real time. So, in the vernacular, that makes Romita's version "my" Spider-Man.

But it's more than that. For one thing, I just love Romita's cleaner style on Amazing.

Again, I know: heresy. But I always found Ditko's Spider-world shabby and old-fashioned. Clothes, cars and styles were all from the '50s, and everything looked like it had been rode hard and put away wet. That actually worked very well when depicting Aunt May's blue-collar Queens neighborhood (and in Ditko's many suspense/crime stories and Dr. Strange's Greenwich Village digs). But it ran square against the story in any scene with an upscale setting. Even rich people wore old-fashioned clothes in Ditko stories. 

The artist's fidelity to his own youth ran across the board, even to the military. As late as his run on ROM in the 1980s, Ditko still drew military tanks, uniforms and equipment as if they were from the Korean War.

And Ditko's people were all ... well, not especially attractive. Again, that works well in certain cases, such as villains, and J. Jonah Jameson, and in simply showing variety in the human face and figure. And Ditko's tendency to draw everyone in exaggerated poses made Spider-Man as creepy as could be.

But pretty girls? Forget it. I only knew that Gwen Stacy, Liz Allan and the faceless Mary Jane Watson were attractive because the other characters told me so. They sure didn't look attractive to middle-school me, with '50s eye makeup, pointy breasts, exaggerated hips and Eisenhower-era fashions. Not to mention their awkward body language. Despite being teenagers, they looked like they were all pushing 40. Betty Brant could have been Peter Parker's mother. Ditko's women sure didn't look at all like the women I saw around me in day-to-day life in 1966, adults or teens. It's like they were from a different era, or a different planet.

But Romita? As a former romance-comics artist, he was well practiced in keeping styles and fashions as up to date as the latest issue of Vogue. His 1966 looked like 1966, maybe even 1967 (since it took a while for New York fashions to reach the rest of us).

And he had a sleeker style. Everything in a Romita story looked shiny and fresh and smooth. Even things deliberately drawn old looked as if they'd been dusted recently. Romita's world was so much more attractive than Ditko's. It was simply more pleasant to look at.

Needless to say, that included his women. I don't really have to say anything about his Gwen and MJ, do I? Yowza.

And that includes his Peter Parker, which draws some complaints. Yes, Ditko's Parker was bespectacled and scrawny, while Romita's was filled out and handsome. Well, I happen to know of another fellow who was bespectacled and scrawny in high school, who filled out in college and suddenly discovered that some women found him attractive. Even without Spider-powers! I won't say who, but I will say that he's a writer of your acquaintance who has written an essay on this board about how his own life path followed Peter Parker's pretty closely. So, you know, I find Peter's maturation and budding girl-magnet gifts pretty plausible.

Romita's advertising-quality polish also includes his Spider-Man. Some will prefer Ditko's, and sometimes I do as well: Spider-Man should be creepy, not glossy. But Romita did something else that made my young eyes bug out: He drew Spider-Man's costume as if it was stretched across his frame. He did this by ordering the webbing on the costume with perspective.

Where the costume would naturally stretch — at the ends of Spidey's feet, across his face, across his chest — the webbing spread out. Where the fabric would naturally bunch — fingers and neck — or change due to perspective — outstretched arms or legs — Romita would draw the webbing lines closer together.

For Ditko, the webbing was a chore (see "How Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Create Spider-Man!" in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1). For Romita, it was a powerful tool to show perspective, and to delineate the human form. I know which approach I prefer.

Just to be clear: I love Ditko's body of work, and especially Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1-38. The man created the, eh, amazing look of the character and strip. I don't want to take anything away from his remarkable career, or his co-creator status. I own every single Ditko collection that any publisher has published, and enjoy them.

But I love Romita's Spider-Man work a quantum level more, which leads me to rapturous prose and unflattering comparisons.

All of this bubbled up in my head when I saw the solicits for this Artist Edition. I've said in the past I don't like to spend money on B&W reprints of stories I've already seen in color, especially as my aging eyes lose more and more of their ability to appreciate fine lines.

But I actually considered buying this one — a first for me.

However, I'm not going to. Because this isn't a good example of Romita's best work, which is usually when he inks himself. This book reprints Amazing Spider-Man #67-69, 71, 75 and 84. And while Romita is credited with breakdowns (and drew the faces and covers, I imagine), Jim Mooney did the interior finishes. In several cases, Mooney did all the heavy lifting, and is listed in the credits as "Illustrator."

A better choice to show off Romita's skill would be Amazing Spider-Man #115-119, or thereabouts.

While Romita's stamp is unmistakable, this is really more of a Jim Mooney Artist Edition. And while I like Mooney's work — he made me enjoy Supergirl in Action Comics, even at an age when I thought girls had cooties — I'm not in the market for that.

Here's a sample:

Jules Verne's: Lighthouse #1 (of 5)

Image Comics | 48 pages | Mature | $4.99

Writers: Brian Haberlin, David Hine | Art: Brian Haberlin, Geirrod van Dyke | Cover A/Cover B: Geirrod van Dyke, Brian Haberlin

I confess there's no way I'm going to dislike a book with a title as evocative as "Jules Verne's Lighthouse." Even as the place in question is never referred to as that.

The setting is a navigation station on a small asteroid near a bunch of black holes, one that guides ships through the area — a metaphorical lighthouse. The computer at the station does most of the work; it's not entirely clear why there's a small crew stationed there by the galactic governing body called The Conglomerate.

Especially when some pirates show up and take over the station easily. One character and her robot escape capture, and plan a counter-attack. The rest of the issue is the duo's attempt to figure out the pirates' plan and stop it, along with lots of character bits and backstory hints.

It's not the best Image book I've read lately — that would be Nocterra — but the writing kept me engaged and the artwork is slick. I'll stick around a few more issues to see if I want to go the distance.

Locke & Key/The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone #1

DC/IDW | $6.99

Writer: Joe Hill | Art: Gabriel Rodriguez | Cover A: Gabriel Rodríguez | Cover B: J.H. Williams III | Cover C: Kelley Jones | Retailer incentive variant: Rodriguez | Retailer incentive variant: Williams

It's not often I can recommend a book without any caveats, but I can do so here.

The creators have found the perfect way to mesh these two series, by setting the story chronologically before either Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Joe Hill's Locke and Key begin. The concepts are already natural fits, but by going back a generation (or two), the story isn't encumbered by any pre-existing characters, events or tones that we'd expect in a story set in modern times. The creators are free to set their own course.

And they do so with gusto! We meet the Locke family of World War I, where a son with the Anywhere Key goes to war but flees back to the mansion, bringing Huns with him. Mother Locke is killed. The son ends up committing suicide, and it his shade that is in the well in the gazebo. The father is ill (cancer, we discover), and the two daughters — Mary and Jean — are traumatized.

These are not spoilers. All of this is told in prose on the first page!

Fast forward a few years, and Mary has grown into a sassy, Roaring '20s-style feminist. I have no idea if her dialogue is chronologically accurate, but I detect no obvious anachronisms, and it is a joy. She hears about a "devil" being kept in the basement of English ne'er-do-well Roderick Burgess, and decides to use the Anywhere Key to go there and deal with the devil to fix her family. (Yes, this twentysomething is bold as brass, like her dialogue.)

So a Locke scion meets the Burgess family, and the "devil" is you-know-who. I won't tell you what happens next, but it's not at all good, nor is it what any of the characters was expecting. I will say two words, though, just to send a chill down your spine: "The Corinthian."

The art is luscious. The story audacious. The landscape familiar.

What's stopping you? Go buy the thing already!

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla #1

Writer/Art: Cynthia von Buhler | Cover A: Robert McGinnis | Cover B: Dani Strips | Cover C: Burlesque Photo Cover | Cover D: Cynthia Von Buhler

Titan Comics | Mature Themes | 170 x 258mm | 32 pages / $3.99

As you can tell from the covers, and from the previous Minky book (Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini), this isn't for the kiddies.

Minky Woodcock is the daughter of a famous detective, who runs a detective agency. Minky wants to be a detective, too, but golly! She's a girl! Since her stories take place roughly 100 years ago, that is quite an impediment.

But Minky perseveres, solving cases her father can't, because not only is she a brilliant detective, but she is not averse to using sex to, er, pump her sources. Or just for fun. Minky is a free-spirited kind of gal, probably like her creator, Cynthia von Buhler.

"Countess" von Buhler is a multi-hyphenate whose many creative endeavors definitely include the off-color kind, like burlesque. But her CV also includes author, playwright, sculptor and illustrator. The girl gets around.

The first Minky story involved Houdini, and yes, Minky slept with him. But I don't find that off-putting, despite the easy slut-shaming that our society likes to do. Were this character a man — say, James Bond — we would see his sexual exploits as a positive. Why, when a woman does the same, do we see it as a character flaw?

My only question is the setting. This story takes place during World War II, and we are explicitly told that it takes place more than two decades after the first. Are we to believe Minky is still a minx? That she is still as seductive in her 40s as her 20s? Have her personality and status quo not changed at all in 20 years?

Well, I wasn't provided with a DRC in time, so I can't say how the story deals with the lead character's age. But I imagine the Countess is as age-positive as she is sex-positive. I'll find out when I do read it, which I will.

MPLS Sound TPB

Humanoids | $19.99

Writers: Joseph Illidge, Hannibal Tabu | Art: Meredith Laxton | Cover: Jen Bartel

I really, really wanted to like, and recommend, this book. I find I cannot.

The creators, by their own description, wanted to write about the "Minneapolis Sound" during the time of Prince, and to show his enormous impact on the aspiring musicians of that city. That sounds like a fine idea.

But what they did was create a fictional band to illustrate these points. And therein likes a problem. These fictional people cannot succeed, because we haven't heard of them. They didn't become famous. So they're destined to fail. Is that a story we want to read?

Especially when there are non-fictional people who would make a better story. I'd enjoy a new comics biography of Prince. And if Prince's impact is what the creators want to show, how about GN biographies of Sheila E! or Morris Day and the Tyme? Sign me up for those!

Instead we get the plodding, predictable death march of a rising garage band, checking off all the cliches for such an endeavor. And they fail. We don't see what happens next, but I assume they went on to become accountants or Realtors or something, their lives having peaked in their teens.

Excuse me, while I put on Springsteen's "Glory Days."

OK, I'm back. Look, I hate to pan things, because I know creators are doing their best, and want readers to love their babies as much as they do. Nobody sets out to tell a bad story, or tell a good story badly. But:

These people are presented as interesting, when they are not.

The story is presented as important, when it is not.

Being in a band is presented as an inherently valuable, interesting and noble pursuit, when it is not.

Sure, it doubtless a  plus for a band to create its own music; and to defy 1980s social expectations by featuring a black, chubby girl as the lead singer/songwriter; and to battle to retain your principles when evil capitalism wants you to sell out. When you are in that band. But to the rest of us ... well, so what? There isn't anything wrong with trying to get rich and famous with your side hustle, but it isn't exactly curing cancer, is it? Good luck with that, but don't expect more than a shrug from those readers who never daydreamed about being in a band.

The art doesn't help, being (as you can see below) pretty bland. The quotidian daily stuff — meetings, discussions, band practice — is boring. And what should be the highlight — the big, live performance at the end — looks like an assemblage of screen shots from the 1970s, when the only way producers knew how to make someone singing a song visually interesting was to use different camera filters. (To be fair, I'm not sure even Jack Kirby could make this material visually interesting.)

Maybe if I was an aspiring musician, I'd get more out of this. Other than that, I'm not sure who would.

Cautionary Fables & Fairy Tales Vol. 4: Night Marchers & Other Oceanian Tales TPB

Editors: Kate Ashwin, Sloane Leong, and Kel McDonald |Writers/Illustrators: Various

Iron Circus Comics | Middle Grade (10-12) | 254 pages | 6x9 | B&W | $15.00

I haven't seen the first three volumes of the "Cautionary Fables & Fairy Tales" series, so I don't know if this is in line with those, or better/worse.

I did enjoy it, primarily because I love learning about legends, mythology, folklore, fairy tales and fables from other cultures. I love the universal aspects (We are all the same!), and I love the unique ones (We are all different!). This book gives us adaptations of Filipino, Hawaiian and other Pacific peoples' stories. The tone varies from serious to madcap, the characters from gods to kids. 

I can't say I loved all the art, some of which bordered on amateurish. But the creators appear to be representative of the cultures depicted, and that erases a multitude of sins.

Riverdale: The Ties That Bind OGN

Cover: Thomas Pitilli

Script: Micol Ostow • Art: Thomas Pitilli, John Workman, Andre Szymanowicz

$14.99 US • 6 x 9 ” • 144 pages • FC

Well, that happened.

Seriously, I didn't doze off reading Ties That Bind, but I forgot it the instant I finished it.

Ties features the TV version of the Archie characters from Riverdale, a show I watch with a sort of morbid glee to see how far they'll go with these formerly wholesome characters. In Ties, we get one story each of the Big Four on separate adventures.

Do the four stories tie together, justifying the title? I don't remember. Archie, Betty, Jughead and Veronica are at their most interesting when they interact with each other. But they don't do that here until the end, which deprives the book of its strongest asset.

tl;dr Riverdale: The Ties That Bind was mildly diverting, but forgettable.

Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1 (of 4)

Writer: Chip Zdarsky | Art: Pasqual Ferry | Colors: Matt Hollingsworth | Cover A: Phil Noto | Cover B: Pasqual Ferry | Cover C: Ron Lim

This is a "What If" story, to wit: "What If Peter Parker never took off the Venom symbiote and became evil?" Or whatever symbiotes are now. Still evil, right? I don't know and don't care, because I despise Venom, Venom spinoffs, Venom associates, Venom-adjacent stories and any other variety of Venom you've got lying around.

I won't be reading this series. And I will go to bed tonight despising it, just on principle.

 

Why She Wrote: The Graphic History of Classic Women Writers

Chronicle Books | $19.95

Writers: Lauren Burke, Hannah Chapman | Art: Kaley Bales

Here is another book I can recommend without qualification. Well, unless you don't like literature or women, in which case, why are you my friend?

Why She Wrote has taught me a lot of history about famous female writers that even at my advanced age I didn't know, and I'm only halfway through. That is to say, in school I read books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but didn't know much about the authors, or the environment in which the books were written (which is often necessary to understand them). I mean, I was probably in 11th grade before I realized there was more than one Brontë!

That is an important void in my education, one this book actively corrects.

And what fun it is! I had no idea how much of Frankenstein was a metaphor for Mary Shelley's life and outlook. Or why Charlotte Brontë was so interested in women locked in attics. And here's a kicker: Since Jane Eyre mentioned Ann Radcliff and her The Mysteries of Udolpho, until last night I thought she was a fictional character.

Needless to say, this misapprehension has been corrected, and my thirst to read me some Radcliff has been stoked. For God's sake, she virtually invented the Gothic genre! This was a thing I did not know, and glad I am to know it now.

For the record, the book profiles Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Anne Brontë (Acton Bell), Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Frances Burney, Edith Maude Eaton (Sui Sin Far), Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot), Elizabeth Gaskell, Frances E. W. Harper, Anne Lister, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Beatrix Potter, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft. 

I can't wait to see what other surprises What She Wrote holds for me.

THE FULL LIST

Adventures of Dusty Dabbert Vol 1: Secret Animal Kingdom GN

Amazing Spider-Man #61 2nd Ptg

America Chavez: Made in Usa #1 (of 5) 2nd Ptg

American Vampire 1976 #7

Archie 80th Anniversary Jumbo Comics Digest #2

Arifureta Commonplace to Strongest Zero Vol 04 GN

Atlantis Wasn`t Built tor Tourists TPB

Autumnal #6

Avatar: The Next Shadow #4 (of 4)

Baloney & Friends GN

Batman: A Death in the Family Deluxe

Batman & Scooby Doo Mysteries #1       

Batman the Detective #1

Batman: Urban Legends #2

Before They Were Artists: Famous Illustrators as Kids GN

Big Ideas That Changed the World: A Shot in the Arm GN

Birthright #48

Black Cat #5

Black Hammer: Visions #3 (of 8)

Blowtorch #1 (of 5)

Blue Giant Omnibus Vol 2 (Vols 3-4)

Call of the Night Vol 1 GN

Canto and the City of Giants #1 (of 3)

Case Closed Vol 78

Cat Shit Vol 2 #3

Chained to the Grave #2 (of 5)

Challenge of the Super Sons #1

Chariot #2

Children of the Atom #1 2nd Ptg

Children of the Atom #2

Children of the Grave #4

Complete Crepax Box Set Vols 5-6 American & Liaisons HC

Complete Witchblade Vol 2 HC

Corsair GN

Daredevil #29

Darkhawk: Heart of the Hawk #1

Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight GN

Dejah Thoris (2019) #12

Disney Kingdoms: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad GN

Dinosaur Explorers Vol 8: Lord of the Skies GN

Doctor Who: Missy #1

Duplicant #1 (of 3)

Earth Before Us Vol 3: Mammal Takeover GN (Young Readers)

Fantastic Four #30

A Fire Story Updated & Expanded GN

Freakshow Knight #1 (of 5)

Garth Ennis Tankies GN

George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings #12

GI Joe: A Real American Hero #279

GI Joe Vol 1: World on Fire TPB

Godzilla Dominion GN

Guardians of the Galaxy #13

Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey #5 (of 8)

Harley Quinn Vol 5: Hollywood or Die TPB

Heaven No Hell HC

Home #1 (of 5)

Home Sick Pilots #5

Honor and Curse #10

Horror Comics Black and White #3 (of 3)

Hotline Miami Wildlife #8 (of 8)

A House Divided Vol 3: Winter of Walking Stone GN

In Another World with my Smartphone Vol 1 GN

Incredible Hercules: Complete Collection Vol 2 TPB

Infinite Frontier #0 2nd Ptg

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #4 (of 6)

Iron Man #8

Jenny Zero #1 (of 4)

John Romita’s Amazing Spider-Man Artisan Edition

Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 2nd Ptg

Joker #2

Jules Verne’s Lighthouse #1 (of 5)

Karmen #2 (of 5)

Kingdom Kong GN

King in Black: Namor #5 (of 5)

Komi Can’t Communicate Vol 12 GN

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2: Trial of the Legion TPB

Liu Cixin Vol 1: Sea of Dreams GN

Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1

Locust #1

Lonely Receiver TPB

Mad Magazine #19

Maestro: War and Pax #4 (of 5)

Magika Swordsman & Summoner Vol 14 GN

Man Goat & Bunny Man #1 (of 3)

Man in the Painters Room GN

Maniac of New York #3

Maria Llovet’s Eros Psyche #2

Mighty Morphin #6

Minions Sports #2

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla #1

Mississippi Zombie Vol 02 GN

Mpls Sound TPB

Murder Hobo: Chaotic Neutral #1

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #96

Namor the Sub-Mariner Epic Collection: Enter the Sub-Mariner TPB

New Gods Book One: Bloodlines TPB

Night Hunters #3 (of 4)

Night Marchers & Other Oceanian Tales GN

Non-Stop Spider-Man #2

Norroway Book 2: Queen on High Mountain TPB

Paranormal Hitmen #3 (of 4)

Peanuts: Scotland Bound Charlie Brown OGN

Penguindrum Vol 4 GN

Persona 5 Vol 06 GN

Phantom on Scan #1

Picture of Everything Else #3

Planet Comics #3

Pokemon Adventures: Black & White 2 Vol 3 GN

Pokemon Adventures: Collectors Edition Vol 7 TPB

Power Pack #5 (of 5)

Prison Earth GN

Proctor Valley Road #2 (of 5)

Redemption #3

Red Sonja: The Superpowers #4

Resident Alien: Your Ride’s Here #5 (of 6)

Riverdale: Ties That Bind OGN

Robyn Hood Vigilante TPB

Rorschach #7

Sanity & Tallulah Vol 3: Shortcuts GN

Savage (2020) #3

Scouts’ Honor #4

Scumbag #7

Serial #2 2nd Ptg

Serial #3

Sh*tshow #3

Shepherd Vol 01 TPB

Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle Vol 14 GN

Space Bastards #4

Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1 (of 4)

Spy Who Raised Me GN

Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Gift

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #11

Super Sentai Himitsu Sentai Gorenger Classic Collection 

Superbabes Starring Femforce #6

Superman #30

Superwomen in Love Vol 1 GN

Sweet Tooth the Return #6

Tamamo Chan’s a Fox Vol 2 GN

They Fell from the Sky #3

Thor #14

Thor and Loki: Double Trouble #2 (of 4)

TMNT: Jennika II #6 (of 6)

Undone by Blood: The Other Side of Eden #2

Usagi Yojimbo #18

Vampirella: Dark Powers #5

Wayward Legends #3

White Lily #2

Why She Wrote: The Graphic History of Classic Women Writers

Wicked Things TPB

Witchcraft Works Vol 15 GN

Wolverine #11

Wonder Woman #771

Wonder Woman Vol. 4: The Four Horsemen

World’s End Harem Vol 10 GN

World’s Greatest First Love Vol 14 GN

X-Men/Avengers Onslaught Vol 3 TPB

Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #3 (of 4)

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"But I actually considered buying this one — a first for me.

"However, I'm not going to."

I have several "Artist's Editions," and this one by John Romita is one of my favorites. Before I explain why and make a recommendation, though, I would like to make sure everyone reading this post is on the same page regarding IDW's various original art reproductions.

ARTIST'S EDITION - hardcover of several complete issues

ARTISAN EDITION - softcover of complete issues; much less expensive

ARTIFACT EDITION - hardcover of incomplete issues

First of all, I would like to say that I agree with you 100% about the relative merits of Steve Ditko vs. John Romita. 'Nuff said. Beyond that, it's horseraces. Personally, John Romita AE v1 ranks among my favorites because it really shows the process. By that I mean every brush stroke is visible and there are lots of blue line marks and notations in the margins and whatnot. 

Judging from your comments, John Romita AE v2 might be more to your liking. It includes #106 and #108-115, plus a variety of covers. That one shows lots of bushstokes and linework as well, but is not yet available in an "Artisan" edition.

the one I'm going to recommend to you, however, is John Romita's Amazing Spider-Man Artifact Edition. This one is earlier stuff from before Marvel reduced the size of its original artwork across the board. Pages are from #39-53, with inking chores split between Romita himself and Mickey Demeo. Stories are incomplete, but it's not as if you would necessarily be buy this to read, per se, so much as admire. this one's not available as an "Artisan" edition, either (and I'm not sure it ever willl be, because they are smaller), but you might consider springing for the "Artist's Edition" in this case. 

I appreciate the terminology lesson. Since I don't buy these, I never noticed that there were three different kinds! Glad to know the difference.

If my LCS has the book you recommended, I'll take a look!

"...but you might consider springing for the "Artist's Edition" in this case."

Oh, crap! I meant Artifact Edition

ARTIST'S EDITION - hardcover of several complete issues

ARTISAN EDITION - softcover of complete issues; much less expensive

ARTIFACT EDITION - hardcover of incomplete issues

It seems like they went out of their way to come up with easily-confused terms.

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