Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/20/18
Comics! We’ve got comics! So many comics! There are a bunch of cancelled titles out there, but I’ve still got plenty to read. In fact, this week features some of my favorites, like Power Rangers and Mighty Thor! We also get the new Harley Quinn creative team!
Unsurprisingly, Comic Book of the Week goes to Tom King’s Batman. That guy is killing it on this title! And artist Joelle Jones is back to draw Wonder Woman, so everything is pretty much perfect.
Meanwhile, in other comic book news, Marvel announced the upcoming wedding of Colossus and Kitty Pryde. I have zero interest in this union. My introduction to the X-Men came through the 90s cartoon show, where both characters were absent. So I’ve never had any investment in their relationship, unless you count Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, but I don’t remember that series for Kitty and Colossus.
But hey, if that’s what Marvel wants to do, more power to them, I suppose. I’m sure some fans are happy.
Comic Reviews: Batman #39, Harley Quinn #35, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #23 and Mighty Thor #703.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Joelle Jones
I loved Tom King’s take on Superman and now we get to see him take on Wonder Woman! How are we so lucky? I hope Aquaman or Hawkman is next!
In a demon dimension, a lone knight known as The Gentle Man has been protecting the Earth from an invading horde for thousands of years. Once upon a time, Batman and Wonder Woman traveled to that dimension and fought alongside him, then offered to take his place for a bit if he ever wanted a break — well now he’s calling in that favor. Our heroes gear up and take over the fight, while Catwoman shows The Gentle Man around Gotham City.
After spending the day together, Catwoman learns that time moves far, far more quickly in the demon dimension. The Gentle Man may have been fighting for thousands of years, but he’s real only been at it for about a year in real-world time. He’s a modern day guy from Gotham! Which means…
Batman and Wonder Woman have been fighting the demon hordes for 10 years, just the two of them, alone, in nigh endless battle. They’ve begun to worry that something has gone wrong, and that this might be their fate. As they huddle around a fire in a lonely cave, Bruce and Diana move towards one another…
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
The Superman story hinged on the famous, decades-long relationship between Batman and Superman, and King made great work of that. Batman and Wonder Woman don’t have the same history to build off of, but King still tells an amazing story about the pair of them. This one hinges on the creativity and inventiveness of the story. In nearly any other comic, The Gentle Man and his invasion would be this big, epic adventure that ends with the guy making the sacrifice to hold the line. In this comic, it’s all backstory and backdrop for nice story about two other characters. King expertly presents all these big, comic booky ideas as just that, comic booky ideas, the sort of shorthand stuff that we readers already know and understand and can easily wrap our heads around. It’s crazy and wild, but it’s not the point, and King keeps the focus where it needs to be.
Speaking of which, hats off to artist Jones, whose Wonder Woman is equally parts mighty, gentle and sexy as hell.
The story isn’t really about her. It’s about Batman being tempted away from his fiancee by the kind of life he leads and the kind of perfect people he hangs out with. So Wonder Woman isn’t written as strongly as Superman was over the past two issues, but she’s still a great guest star. The issue starts with an adorable moment of Wonder Woman using the Bat Signal, and she only gets more fun from there. I’ve always liked the Batman/Wonder Woman romance, so I was definitely on board with this story.
Also, the art is simply amazing. I loved Jones’ last appearance on this book, on the two-part Tahlia storyline. And here she’s even better! There’s just so much detail and personalty imbued in every character, whether they’re in costume or just civilians. Mitch Gerads is doing fine things with Tom King on Mister Miracle, but Jones’ art truly matches and lifts King’s writing here on Batman.
TL;DR: Tom King and Joelle Jones work their magic on a Wonder Woman guest appearance that uses typical comic book insanity to tell a surprisingly intimate story.
Harley Quinn #35
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Inaki Miranda
And here we go! Harley Quinn in the post Conner/Palmiotti world! Their pal Frank Tieri has taken over, and he’s worked on this comic and it’s spin-offs before. I’ve been reading Tieri’s work since way back when he wrote Wolverine. Let’s see how he does!
In the wake of everything, Harley Quinn has told all her friends to leave her alone while she mopes around Coney Island. Tony has been giving Harley her space, but one night he’s kidnapped by a monster off the boardwalk. The Gang of Harleys haven’t been giving Harley her space and have taken to stalking her across the island, but she informs them that of course she knows they’re there. Coach, Eggsy and Goat Boy inform Harley that Tony has gone missing and she tells them all to back off, that she’ll investigate this alone. So of course all her friends get Red Tool to just keep following Harley.
Harley hits up Tony’s bar for answers and finds out that he was kidnapped by a giant bat. She then informs Red Tool that of course she knows he’s following her. The two of them are then promptly attacked by a giant Man-Bat and, after a tussle, it’s revealed that the Man-Bat is Tony! Then they all get kidnapped.
Meanwhile, the Gang of Harleys get Chief Spoonsdale to take them to Arkham Asylum to confirm in person that Kirk Langstrom is locked up tight. But Kirk drops a Star Wars reference to say there is another Langstrom.
Sure enough, Harley and Red Tool are prisoners of Francine Langstrom, who injects Harley with the Man-Bat serum.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
The biggest fear of having Tieri just pick up where Conner and Palmiotti left off is that we’re just going to get warmed over Harley Quinn. Usually when a new creative team comes on a book these days, it means a whole new direction. But Tieri seems to be taking over all the characters and shenanigans from before. That’s all well and good, and I’m mostly glad that we’re not losing these characters, but there’s definitely going to be an adjustment period as Tieri finds his groove. Most of the characters feel just slightly off, including Harley. Hopefully this will pass quickly and we can have normal fun again. But it’s all going to take some getting used to, for now.
It’s nice to see Francine Langstrom again! Though I think she’s wasted as just another diabolical villain.
Also, while I’m here, I’ve got a pretty big nitpick. Was it really necessary for Chief Spoonsdale to personally drive the Gang of Harleys all the way to Arkham Asylum just to see that Kirk Langstrom was still in his cell? I get that comics are a visual medium, and the reveal that Langstrom is a crazy person in a straitjacket muttering in his cell is a solid reveal. But the scene makes no logical sense. If the Chief of Police for New York City wants to check on known criminal the Man-Bat’s custody status, can’t he just make a telephone call? And can a bunch of civilians like the Gang of Harleys really command enough authority to get the Chief of Police for New York City to personally drive them across state lines, then let them all walk through Arkham passed all the criminals cells, to personally check in on a single patient? Does Jeremiah Arkham not have an office that the public can visit without having to literally walk passed Black Mask, Riddler and Two-Face making threats? And does he not have a security camera he can look at to show them that Kirk is still in his cell?
I dunno, just bugged me is all. Likewise, why do that same “I know you’re following me” gag twice in the same issue?
TL;DR: The new creative team is off to a rocky but acceptable start. There might be an adjustment period, but I think they can pull off a good comic.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #23
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Jonas Scharf
The big Power Rangers crossover is coming and I’m very excited! It sounds a little crazy, uniting a ton of different Ranger teams across time, but I have more than enough faith in Higgins and Co.
The Power Rangers face off against Finster’s latest monster, a giant sheep creature called Sheeple who shouts crazy Internet conspiracy theories, like the Earth being flat or there being only one Olsen twin. Sheeple also launches wool blobs, which turn into mindless slaves who obey his every command. Billy deduces that he can copy Sheeple’s voice patterns and he uses that to command the sheep blobs to attack their master, saving the day. The Rangers are then called to another problem in Vancouver, where Grace Sterling’s people have detected an upcoming monster change, but can’t pinpoint it beyond a few city blocks. The Rangers arrive to find Grace’s soldiers out in full force, quarantining citizens to find the threat. The Rangers are not comfortable with Grace taking such extreme measures.
Meanwhile, Billy teleports back to Promethea to build a better monster detector, which he passes off to Trini. Billy stays behind and chats with one of the lab techs, deducing that there’s something fishy in Wing A. Billy sneaks passed the armed guards and discovers a prisoner: Lord Drakkon!
Meanwhile, Rita returns to her palace and summons Finster, who simply creates a portal and leaves his prison. He could have done it the whole time!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This issue gets such a high grade almost entirely for the Sheeple thing. It’s hilarious. I haven’t focused much on Higgins’ monster ideas — I assume the concepts are his — but this one was particularly funny. My hat is off to the opening scene in this issue. It’s a cut above the rest.
The rest of the issue isn’t as strong, but it’s still enjoyable. Personally, I’m with Grace on how to handle the people in Vancouver. Getting all the people out and into safe custody until the threat is discovered is a solid option, especially since she says she has the permission of the local authorities. If the Power Rangers weren’t a thing, this is pretty much how normal people would have to handle the situation. The Rangers may have rules about not escalating a situation, but Grace Sterling and her people don’t have to obey such rules. I like that her actions are not outright villainous, just that they butt up against the Rangers’ code.
Of course, she’s also holding Lord Drakkon captive, so that’s probably a big, evil deal. I still don’t particularly like Drakkon as a character or villain, but bad guys are bad guys, so I’m down. At least Billy had some pretty great scenes in this issue.
TL;DR: A truly hilarious monster raises the profile of this issue, while the rest is largely set-up and growing tension.
Mighty Thor #703
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Everything is big and crazy in the world of Mighty Thor! Let’s keep it going!
After Jane Foster fainted last issue, Odinson rushed her to a hospital on Earth and called on Dr. Strange to attend to her medically. He also called Roz and Sam Wilson to be at bedside. Strange recaps for everybody that Jane has been slowly killing herself each time she becomes Thor. The transformation voids the chemotherapy drugs in her system, but leaves the cancer since the magic reads that stuff as part of her. She’s only gotten worse, and he surmises that if she becomes Thor one more time, she won’t survive the change back to Jane — which is about when Mjolnir shows up at the hospital room to grab Jane for the war. She climbs out of bed and approaches the hammer…but Jane eventually decides to pass and returns to bed.
Meanwhile, Mangog continues his assault on Asgardia, tearing through the armies and soldiers as if they were nothing. He even destroys the Rainbow Bridge! Freyja dons the Destroyer armor to fight him, but even that is no match for the Mangog, who fights a beeline towards Odin, who is hiding in his throne room. As Odin girds himself for battle, Odinson arrives as back-up, and father and son prepare to take on the Mangog!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This comic is definitely in a very epic spot, though I still feel like it could get more epic. Like, I know Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman can get bigger and better than this issue. Not to knock this issue in any way, but I know from previous comics that these guys know exactly what they’re doing and know how to bring the awesome. So this issue isn’t scored as high as it could be because I have a feeling we’re going to get that awesome soon. Odin and Odinson vs. the Mangog? Sounds damn fine to me! Next issue, though. This issue was all about Jane making the decision to stop being Thor.
Personally, I thought she’d take the hammer and go for it. Her pride at not using magic to cure her cancer still doesn’t strike me as anything but the writer trying desperately to solve a problem of his own making. Jane is willing to embrace Thor and Asgardia as much as she does, but she’s too proud to use their instant healing magic to beat cancer? It’s freakin’ cancer, Jane Foster! But hey, when the comic is this damn good, I’m more than willing to overlook something like this. I’m very much looking forward to the battles to come!
TL;DR: Another fun issue of the War of Realms sets up more and more excitement to come!
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!