Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/23/17

This was not a great week to be a comic book fan! Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good comics this week, but there was a flood of cancellations are Marvel. Both Iceman and Hawkeye, two of my favorite Marvel comics, are getting the ax by March! That’s disappointing. But I’m used to good comics getting cancelled these days. It’s the nature of the business.

Fortunately, we’ve got some solid, non-cancelled comics this week! Ms. Marvel is back, and if we ignore the renumbering, we’re apparently at the 44th issue! That’s practically a record for a new comic in this day and age! And it’s still a great series! But Comic Book of the Week goes to an absolutely fabulous issue of Tom King’s Batman, with a focus on his friendship with Superman!

Superman Bat 01

Batman, a short story

This week also saw the release of the latest issue of DC’s big Metal event. I can’t say as how I’m a fan. It’s a big, crazy mess of insanity, with a scope that I don’t think the book is handling well. Batman and Superman literally visit the forge of all creation in this issue. It’s nuts! Maybe this story would feel stronger if continuity mattered anymore, but Metal seems to be rewriting DC continuity on the fly to fit its story.

Comic Reviews: Batman #37, Harley Quinn #33, Marvel Two-in-One #1, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #22, Mighty Thor #702, Ms. Marvel #25 and Nightwing #35. 


Batman #37

Batman #37
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann

Damn, this is good comics. This is insanely good comics. Tom King’s Batman is everything I love about comics, whereas Scott Snyder’s Dark Nights: Metal is a lot of things I don’t like about comics. Odd parallels here.

Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle go on a double date with Clark Kent and Lois Lane. They head to the county fair, but it’s Superhero Night, and you can only get in if you’re wearing a superhero costume. So everybody switches costumes (so that they don’t look exactly like themselves) and head on inside. It’s a lovely night out, with the boys as gentle rivals, and the girls bonding over their respective choices in men and the fun of getting married. At one point they stop a mugger.

Throughout the night, Bruce and Clark debate back and forth whether or not Bruce could hit a fastball from Superman. So after the fair, they head to a private place to test out their theory. Bruce knocks it out of the park!

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

While not as good as the issue from two weeks ago that I missed reviewing, this is still an amazingly delightful issue of Tom King’s Batman. I thought he was killing it with some of his previous stories, but man oh man, the simple grace of this Batman/Superman/Catwoman/LoisLane two-parter is magical. In my curmudgeony old age, I’m losing interest in superhero comics that simply pit a hero against a villain for the same type of go-around that we always see. Instead, I’m loving this sort of comic, where the superhero tropes rise above the ordinary and cliched to deliver a story that is rooted in both character and classic continuity, but delivers something new and exciting. This is fundamentally and perfectly a story about Batman, Superman, Catwoman and Lois Lane as real people, enjoying each other’s company on a double date. They don’t ignore their superheroic lives, instead allowing those facts to fuel their conversations and bonding.

Batman Superman 01

Remember, they’re wearing each other’s costume

And the issue is just fun beyond that! It’s these nice, friendly characters having a good time at a carnival. The issue treats them as people first, which is something I personally love in my superhero comics. And the little touches that King includes are too fun to ignore, like the rivalry between Bruce and Clark about whether or not Bruce could hit a Superman fastball. And especially the budding friendship between Lois and Selina as the two women find common ground in loving the two greatest, larger-than-life superheroes on Earth. Those two are adorable together.

Catwoman Lois 01

Again, each other’s outfit

Of course, Mann is an amazing artist and he gives this issue everything he’s got! The detail is phenomenal and the emotions are real. Perfect art. Perfect characters. Perfect little story.

TL;DR: Writer Tom King works his magic on the Batman/Superman friendship, delivering a series highpoint two-parter. He also introduces us to the magic of Selina Kyle and Lois Lane becoming fast BFFs.


Harley Quinn #33

Harley Quinn #33
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Bret Blevins, Otto Schmidt and Moritat

It’s going to be sad to see this Harley Quinn creative team go, but I wish they could have gone out stronger than this.

Harley and the gang are all super sad that Mason is dead. There’s a funeral and a burial and Mason’s mom says she’s going to take off to be by herself for awhile. There’s also a hurricane coming in, but it mostly blows over, with Big Tony manning the sandbags and keeping the building safe. Harley is all manner of verklempt, so she goes to roller derby and beats the stuffing out of a new skater who uses hypnosis to try to win. Then Harley gives her winnings to a homeless guy.

When she returns home, Tony informs her that he’s going to take a road trip to Florida to visit some of his and Mason’s old friends. Harley is definitely up for a road trip, and they bring Poison Ivy and another one of their friends along.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

If the creative team wanted to really make Mason’s death mean this much, they shouldn’t have sidelined him for nearly the entire comic. He was either in prison or in witness protection for almost the entirety of their comic book run. His relationship with Harley was only ever fleeting. She’s had more of a relationship with Ivy or Tony or Red Tool. Meanwhile, the apparently much stronger relationship between Tony and Mason is kind of glossed over. They bring it up, but I had completely forgotten it was ever a thing. So I don’t really buy the emotion at the heart of this issue. And after that, the rest of it kind of falls flat.

Harley Ivy Sad 01

Not a fan of the art, either

The roller derby angle in this new series was always fun, but if this was the last we see of it, who cares? So Harley takes out some flashy new skater? Big whoop. Rather than say anything meaningful about Harley’s time with the roller derby or her friends there, we just get another go around. Likewise Harley’s care and concern for homeless people. We kind of just revisit these aspects of the character and this run, and that’s supposed to be enough. I guess I would have liked something a little deeper, something to really tie off this stuff.

Though I suppose the incoming creative team might pick these threads right back up, which would be fine. But Conner and Palmiotti could have really left their mark on some of this stuff.

Also, not to be too much of a jerk, but the art in this issue was a real let down. There’s only two issues left, but DC has to string three different artists on this issue? And they turn in such crummy work? Blevins, especially, shocked me with how bad the art looked. Not sure how this ball was dropped.

TL;DR: Harley’s creative team is going away soon, but they don’t do too much with this, one of their final issues. Some bad art and a hollow emotional core don’t help.


Two-in-One #1

Marvel Two-in-One #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jim Cheung

I’ve never been a particularly big Fantastic Four fan. So it doesn’t bug me in the least that Marvel doesn’t have a current ongoing Fantastic Four comic. Instead, I’m kind of loving the idea that the Marvel Universe and some of these characters in particular actually get time to mourn. Nobody had time to mourn Wolverine because Marvel introduced half a dozen new Wolverines to just step up and take his place. That’s not the case here.

I’ve actually really loved what Marvel has done with characters like the Thing, Human Torch and Doctor Doom in the wake of Secret Wars and the loss of Reed and Sue. Writer Brian Michael Bendis really wowed me during Infamous Iron Man. This new series isn’t as good or as poignant as Infamous Iron Man, but I still liked this first issue.

Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm have been trying their best to live their lives after the end of the Fantastic Four. Ben gives a speech at a black tie gala for the new Fantastic Award grant for space and dimensional exploration, but he’s pretty melancholy about the whole thing. Ben runs into Spider-Man, who asks him to check in on an increasingly reckless Johnny Storm, and he gives Ben the keys to a warehouse where all the old Fantastic Four stuff is stashed. Ben goes to check it out and wallow in the memories, but Doctor Doom shows up and (after a fight) gives Ben a secret message ball that Reed left for Ben (and which Doom stole, but couldn’t open, so he’s passing it along). The message is that Reed has left Ben a special dimensional-hopping device so that he and Johnny can keep having adventures.

Ben goes to find Johnny and finds him pulling off risky stunts, like flying into space until he passes out and then re-igniting before hitting the ground. Johnny is super hurt and upset, still unable to fathom that his family is gone. He also thinks he’s losing his powers. To try and cheer him up, Ben starts to tell him about Reed’s message, then switches to say he thinks Reed, Sue and the family are still alive. Meanwhile, Doom is spying on them.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The success of this series rests on the idea that the three main characters feel pretty lost without the Richards family to ground them. It makes sense and I love it. Who is the Thing without the Fantastic Four? Who are Johnny Storm and Doctor Doom without the Fantastic Four? I really hope this series is about exploring those questions more in depth. The title is pretty dumb, but perhaps they’re playing with the ‘number in the name’ thing. Either way, this is a solid, entertaining introduction to the shattered lives of these characters. Not shattered as in broken, just shattered in that they are struggling with real feelings of grief, mourning, and moving on.

TwoinOne 01

“It’s not your fault…”

Zdarsky doesn’t write the good-guy Doctor Doom as well as Bendis does, which is fine. I’m sure that’s Bendis’ pet character at the moment, and not everybody is going to be able to nail exactly what I loved about Bendis’ Infamous Iron Man. But Zdarsky does a really solid job setting up the three main characters here as shadows of their former selves, some of them just going through the motions in their lives. And the art, of course, is phenomenal. That’s to be expected when you’re got Jim Cheung on a comic.

If anybody questions why Marvel doesn’t have a Fantastic Four comic anymore, this is the answer. So that these characters can at least have a moment of growth and introspection, so that they can move on with their lives and reflect on the loss of the team on a much deeper level than we can. The Fantastic Four will be back one day, there is no doubt. But for this brief moment in time, we get to enjoy this fascinating exploration of grief, acceptance, and moving on.

TL;DR: Marvel uses the missing Fantastic Four to tell a compelling story about how the remaining characters are dealing with their now emptier lives. This is solid, character-based storytelling that is worth the cost of not having a Fantastic Four comic for a couple years.


Power Rangers #22

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #22
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Jonas Scharf

There’s a big Power Rangers crossover event coming up, and I’m kind of nervous that the scope might exceed the more intimate portrayal of the Rangers in BOOM! Studios’ two ongoings. But I trust in Higgins!

This is an issue about conversations as everyone passes the time waiting for the next monster attack. Zordon has returned and the Rangers welcome him back, but they question why he would keep Grace Sterling and the Moon Landing Rangers a secret, or why he would keep any secret from them. Zordon says it was his great shame that so many Rangers died on that mission. He also warns against trusting Grace completely. She and her company want to change the world, but the Power Rangers are only supposed to protect and defend the world. Still, with Finster’s monsters a grave threat, Jason and the Rangers decide to trust in Grace’s tracking technology for now.

As such, the Rangers get to work at Promethea helping to boost the tracking signal, while studying the latest monster. Billy and Tommy have a chat, Kimberly and Trini have a chat, Tommy and Kim have a chat that goes awkwardly. Jason and Grace talk about how heavy wears the Red Ranger helmet. Only Zach gets short-changed in the chatting department. Saba also has a talk with Finster, offering him the creative and potentially artistic wonderment of his current pocket dimension prison. But Finster, though tempted, believes that true art needs an audience. What’s the point of creating and giving life to monsters if nobody is able to then experience them?

In the end, there’s another monster attack, and the Rangers rush off. And Grace has some kind of secret she’s keeping from them, obviously.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I like a good talking heads issue, especially when they’re talking about interesting stuff like this. The conversation between Finster and Saba is fascinating. Higgins has done a phenomenal job in the past few issues of turning Finster into a legitimate character and villain. Framing him as an artist is a brilliant move and it works really well in this issue. The art, also, does a phenomenal job of shading the odd-looking Finster in sinister shadows. That is the stand-out conversation, but the rest are great too! Kimberly and Trini talk about how freaky it is that Finster is essentially able to create life. His monsters have personalities. Think about it. And Kim and Tommy awkwardly can’t settle on embracing their feelings for each other, like teenagers might do. Almost everybody gets a solid chance to shine in this issue, and it really helps to solidify the grounded, human approach to this series. I love that sort of thing.

TL;DR: The latest issue of Power Rangers trades high-kicking action for a lot of talking heads, but the quality of the characters and the conversations keeps this issue exciting.


Mighty Thor #702

Mighty Thor #702
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman

We might finally be drawing to the close with the War of Realms, and this kick-off issue definitely feels like it!

As the War of Realms rages, Thor arm-wrestles Hercules in a pub in England to try and recruit the Greek Gods into the war. Odinson finds them and takes Thor to see Volstagg, who is alive, but on life support. He informs her about Mangog. Thor is ready to get into the fight, but Odinson points out that she has been ignoring her cancer treatments and she needs to take some time as Jane Foster. She reluctantly agrees and sends Mjolnir away.

Before she does that, though, Jane bangs on Odin’s door and demands he come out and get involved. Odin has been at his queen’s side since she was stabbed by Loki. When Odin doesn’t come out, Jane begins to incite revolution among the gods of Asgardia. Cul shows up to try and arrest them, but nobody is about to listen to that snake. So Odin eventually does show up and starts chewing Jane out for thinking she has any authority here. Then a weakened Freyja finally wakes up and gives a nice speech about how Jane is right! Too bad Jane Foster has since passed out.

Meanwhile, outside on the Rainbow Bridge, Heimdall stares down the arrival of Mangog at the gates of Asgardia!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

For the first time in awhile, I actually felt like the War of Realms is escalating! I really bought into the rallying of allies at Asgardia, even as Odin provided that he hasn’t changed one bit. But I definitely liked the idea of Jane Foster really pushing for Asgard to act, to really kick this war into high gear. It was a really strong moment. And the idea that she’s now fainted, just as Mangog arrives at Asgardia, should make for some exciting stories to come. These are all fascinating characters, and they’re about to be pushed into a fascinating corner. I can’t wait!

It also helps that we’ve got Dauterman back on art. This man is a god himself with the pencils. His Mangog is great, too!

Thor Arm Wrestling 01

No honor among arm wrestling

The Hercules cameo was fun. I really like the idea of the Gods of Olympus joining the big fight. I wonder if Aaron has any plans to explain how both the Greek Gods and the Norse Gods exist. Has it ever been explained? Doesn’t really matter, but the scene in the bar was fun. I also like the role that Odinson has now, and I look forward to him stepping up as this story reaches its conclusion.

Also, you know who would make for a good soldier in this war? Beta Ray Bill. Just saying.

TL;DR: The War of Realms storyline appears to be ramping up, and the Aaron/Dauterman creative team are the exact people I want to see taking this comic to the next level!


Ms. Marvel #25

Ms. Marvel #25
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Nico Leon

Huh. I’m not really sure what’s going on with this issue…seems like it could be good, with a nice message, but there are some really weird suspensions of disbelief.

Ever since the train rescue last issue, both Ms. Marvel and Kamala Khan are missing in action. Then for reasons that are not explained, all of Kamala’s friends have taken it upon themselves to pose as Ms. Marvel and go around the city like amateur crime-fighters. They’re doing this despite not knowing that Kamala is Ms. Marvel. They’re also worried about their missing friend Kamala, but their pal Naftali goes to her house to see what’s up, and Aamir (who is in the process of moving) tells him and everybody that Kamala is fine, she’s just taking some personal time right now.

Later that night, Zoe plays Ms. Marvel and runs into Red Dagger. They find a senior citizen going crazy on his motorized scooter and screaming about somebody locking his friends in a science dungeon! They take him back to the senior center and then get shooed out by the Inventor, who was recently paroled and who is posing as an orderly at the senior center. Then the pair of them are attacked by a giant lizard with cyborg parts!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

So OK, I get that Kamala Khan feels the need for some self-reflection. There’s nothing wrong with that. And it makes sense, thematically, that we’re not following her self-refleciton. We’re focusing on the other citizens of Jersey City and how the absence of Ms. Marvel effects them. This is a story about her legacy as a superhero so far. That sounds like a fine story to me. But Wilson has some really, really weird ideas for how to go about this exploration.

For one thing, are Kamala’s parents really the type to let her essentially drop out of school? That doesn’t seem realistic at all. Then there’s this Naftali fellow, who shows up in the middle of the  school day and pulls out a giant, 3-foot-long subway sandwich, declaring like a bad theater actor that he and Kamala have some kind of standing sandwich lunch deal? Then he just whips over to the Khan household? Where the hell did he come from?

MsMarvSandwich 01

He can also pull giant sandwiches out of nowhere

But craziest of all, is that when Ms. Marvel disappears for a couple weeks, this group of high school friends take it upon themselves to dress up as Ms. Marvel and run around on rooftops fighting crime?! As if it somehow falls to them to impersonate Ms. Marvel and…what? Just keep her in the public consciousness? Not allow people to think that Ms. Marvel is gone? Wilson doesn’t bother to explain how the friends came to this conclusion. What the heck are they thinking? Especially since Red Dagger is around, so it’s not like Jersey City is without superheroes.

It’s especially weird when it’s real only Mike who is posing as Ms. Marvel. And the issue gets really, really weird with it.

MsMarvelMike 01

This is not staged

That burglar is too much.

Zoe only agrees to do it in this issue, and they’ve clearly been at it for awhile. The other friends don’t want to do it. So where the heck did this idea come from? And why do these kids feel like it has to be them? And Mike specifically?

Especially when you consider that NONE OF THEM KNOW KAMALA IS MS. MARVEL! It would be one thing if they were covering for their friend, but that’s not the case! Somehow, when both Kamala and Ms. Marvel go missing, none of these kids put two-and-two together, and then on top of that, they decide it’s their job to put their lives on the line to pose as Ms. Marvel, complete with costume and fake powers, for no apparent reason.

Ms. Marvel the comic and Kamala Khan the character have always benefited from a more grounded approach. But this issue goes way too far in the opposite direction. I can appreciate the sentiment of exploring Ms. Marvel’s legacy, but Wilson has some strange plans for doing that.

TL;DR: I kind of think the creative team has gone off their rocker with this one, and not in a good way, but it’s still an enjoyable Ms. Marvel comic.


Nightwing #35

Nightwing #35
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Bernard Chang

I really enjoyed Tim Seeley’s Nightwing, even if, partway through, I lost touch with it and stopped reading. I’m still not sure why. Though sometimes I think my interest in Nightwing is in direct proportion to how closely his stories connect to his time as Robin. I can’t help myself.

Whatever the case may be, there’s a new writer, so here I am to give Nightwing another try!

Nightwing is still fighting crime in Bludhaven as a very public hero. He’s got the mayor mad at him, but he’s also working closely with local police detective Svoboda. Meanwhile, as Dick Grayson, he’s spent the last of his savings to set up a gym to earn a living. I keep finding it weird that every time Dick Grayson tries to start a new life, he makes a point out of turning down any money from Bruce Wayne, as if that’s really independent or noble of him. Dude, he’s family and he’s a Billionaire. It’s OK to use that money. Though considering how many times Dick Grayson keeps reinventing his life, maybe Bruce should reconsider offering money for each of his son’s crazy ‘get-my-life-in-order’ schemes.

Anyway, there’s a new villain named the Judge in town. He looks like a normal guy, but he hypnotizes people. He’s at a casino one night and convinces the sweet old lady at the blackjack table to kill the dealer. There’s also some kind of shark man who he convinces to be his patsy? Think Killer Shark, but he’s a perfectly cognizant fellow who dresses in clothes and goes around town and casinos like a normal person. It’s weird. Anyway, the Judge uses golden poker chips and Nightwing has encountered these chips twice before in his crime-fighting career. The Judge definitely knows him and is after him. So I guess it’s personal?

In the end, during a meeting with Svoboda, she pulls out a gun and shoots Nightwing! She’s under the Judge’s control!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue was fine, but there’s nothing really special about it that catches my fancy. It’s just Nightwing hanging out in Bludhaven and being put up against a new villain. Attempts are made to tie this villain into Nightwing’s past, but they fall flat. Not every new villain put up against Nightwing has to have some history with him. And so far, the Judge doesn’t seem all that interesting. He’s just a normally dressed dude who has mind control powers, to some degree. So the villain doesn’t strike me as anyone particularly interesting, especially in the weak attempts to tie him into Nightwing’s past. And Nightwing himself seems to be right where he’s always been, just a young guy trying to make his own life, but that life is just going to get swallowed up by super-villain stuff. Rinse and repeat.

TL;DR: A new creative team on Nightwing doesn’t bring anything really new or creative to the title in their first issue.

The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I pick up from my local shop any given week, along with a few impulse buys I might try on a whim. So if there are any comics or series you’d like me to review each week, let me know in the comments!


About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on December 23, 2017, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Bummer about Iceman. I hadn’t heard.

  2. Two-in-One is good. Lots of heart.

    Thor is good. The Jane/Odinson scene is really nice and touching. And Jane yelling at Odin is fun.

    Ms. Marvel is great. So, so much fun. I love the supporting cast, so getting to see so much of them here was a treat. And there’s so much humour. Including the visual humour that’s always added extra charm to this series. As far as why the gang are posing as Ms. Marvel, Mike has worked with her before, and she seems to be the only one really invested. Nakia said she has problems with the whole thing, Gabe said he’s only providing a basement, and Zoe just seems to be there. And she poses as Ms. Marvel just because. Something to do. Though she’s also worked with Ms. Marvel, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually has figured out Ms. Marvel’s secret. I’d like it if the whole group found out.

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