Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/23/18

This was a really fortunate week for comics! A ton of comics came out that I like to read, and since I had Wednesday off from work, I had plenty of time to sit and read a whole bunch! This is a jam-packed review column!

We’ve got some pretty stellar issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Justice League and especially Runaways, with some middlingly OK issues of Batman, Avengers and Man of Steel. The standout for the week — and Comic Book of the Week — is the first issue of Dan Slott’s Tony Stark – Iron Man. It was a fun introduction to Slott’s new series.

Iron Man Nano 01

The future of Iron Man is tiny

Meanwhile, I finished all of Gwenpool, and it was really nice, with an especially powerful ending. Totally worth buying all those books. Now I can’t wait to see her in West Coast Avengers, and I’m even considering buying her action figure, just to have a memento. She’s a really fun character.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #801, Avengers #3, Batman #49, Justice League #2, Man of Steel #4, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #28, Runaways #10 and Tony Stark – Iron Man #1.


Amazing Spider-Man #801

Amazing Spider-Man #801
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Marcos Martin
Colorist: Muntsa Vicente
Letter: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Turns out, the last issue wasn’t the last issue of Dan Slott’s Spider-Man! He gets this final cheerful goodbye issue!

Once upon a time, back at the start of Spidey’s career, he foiled a convenience store robbery and saved a man named Ken, who had popped in for a pack of smokes and was having the worst night of his life. Despite the robbery, and the police needing his statement, Ken was able to make it to the hospital on time to say goodbye to his dying father. After that, Ken lived a pretty good life, complete with a loving wife and a proud son.

Now, in the present day, Ken finds himself a bystander in a crowd as Spider-Man fights Mr. Negative’s goons. Ken sticks his foot out to trip up a fleeing goon, stopping the bad guy from getting away with a briefcase. Spider-Man thanks Ken for helping him out, and Ken says they’re even, because once upon a time, Spider-Man saved his life — by convincing Ken to quit smoking.

After Spidey swings away, Ken’s niece complains that Spider-Man is lame. She wanted to meet a real, world-saving superhero. So Ken explains to her that Spider-Man saves the world every single day, by saving people. And those people are the whole world to their loved ones.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This is a lovely little story, free of cynicism or doubt or tragedy. It’s quaint and playful, friendly and warm, and with a lot of neat Spidey action. It’s about as gentle a story as you could ever get about superheroes. And it’s just clever enough to be extra special. I really liked the twist that Ken considered his life saved not from the robbery, but by getting him to stop smoking. A twist like that really ties the story together nicely, a solid callback to the start of the issue, to a moment you don’t even necessarily remember until Slott drops the other shoe. That’s just quality writing. I also liked the diversity in Ken’s family. I was slightly confused at first, but there are more than enough context clues to figure out that Ken has an Asian wife, that he has a sister, and that his sister has a white husband. That was a fun, subtle aspect of the story that I liked, especially when it put the focus in the end on Ken and his niece as opposed to Ken and his son. Spider-Man and uncles are pretty important.

SpiderManLame 01

Kids these days

And, of course, the art of Martin and Vicente can not be overlooked. According to the letters at the end of this issue, the pair has left steady comic book work, but promised to come back for Dan Slott’s final issue. That’s pretty brilliant, and they draw a brilliant, energetic, colorful and heart-warming comic. This little issue is solid all around.

TL;DR: Dan Slott says goodbye to Amazing Spider-Man with style and class.


Avengers #3

Avengers #3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Paco Medina and Ed McGuinness
Inkers: Juan Vlasco, with Mark Morales and Jay Leisten
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

If I may be brutally honest, I think I’m enjoying the relaunched Justice League more. Avengers is a little too rushed and a little too exposition-heavy.

The Avengers (who keep insisting they’re not officially the Avengers) manage to launch all of the bad guys into the Sun, including Cap, who accidentally hitches a ride in what he thinks is a noble sacrifice. But Loki keeps everybody alive and the Final Host get back to their goal of cleansing the Earth. Loki keeps Cap around so that he has somebody to monologue to, and he shows Cap a Progenitor hidden in the North Pole. A quick Google search showed me that the Progenitors are relatively new creations from one of those Inhuman comics nobody read. Alright.

Meanwhile, Ghost Rider saves Black Panther and Dr. Strange from the bowels of the Earth, and then they regroup with Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain Marvel to figure out what to do next. Everybody splits up to pursue different tasks in the hopes of getting to the bottom of what’s happening and stopping it. And, again, I just want to point out that a big deal is made about going to visit the Eternals. I know it’s been explained to me that the Eternals are really close to the Celestials, so they would have expertise, but it still feels forced thanks to the rumors of a possible Eternals movie. The Celestials show up in a ton of comics without the Eternals being mentioned.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This is still an exciting comic, but it’s not nearly as good as Jason Aaron’s other work. This issue, in particular, feels weighed down by so much exposition. Loki monologues for what feels like forever, and I don’t even really remember what he was talking about. There’s just so much going on, and Aaron feels the need to try and explain all of it. And maybe it makes sense somewhere, but it’s totally lost me. All I know is that something crazy is happening involving Celestials, and a bunch of Avengers characters are going to stop it, like the Avengers do. And that something crazy is SO crazy, with SO much going on at once, that the characters in this comic barely have enough time to talk to each other unless it’s worried panic. Aaron does get in some good character bits here and there, like Tony and Carol snipping at each other, with Thor separating them. Or Doctor Strange as a bit of comedic relief. And Iron Man dismissing Ghost Rider because he has no idea who this random kid is and there are bigger things to worry about than some tagalong superhero-of-the-week. So the issue/series isn’t totally without merit. It’s just getting really, really bogged down in plot.

TL;DR: There is way too much plot and way too much exposition explaining that plot for this issue’s own good. There are hints of a good time, but they are buried.


Batman #49

Batman #49
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: June Chung
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Tom King’s Joker two-parter, where everybody just kind of sits around talking, comes to a solid conclusion this issue!

Catwoman faces off against the Joker in the church where he murdered everyone, though he’s only knocked out Batman. In the battle, Catwoman slashes Joker’s neck and Joker shoots her in the gut, so they’re both lying on the floor covering serious wounds that would bleed out if they let go. So the two of them just lie there and talk; about the good old days, about their Rogues Gallery colleagues, about movies, and, most importantly, about what makes Batman Batman, and why the Joker can’t let this wedding happen. If he allows Catwoman to give Batman this joy, then he will no longer be Batman, and it won’t be fun for the Joker anymore.

Joker finally decides to let go of his wound so that he can reload his gun and shoot Catwoman…but he bleeds out before he can pull the trigger. Later, when Batman is able to wake up and see them, Catwoman is holding Joker’s body and laughing that maybe the Joker won after all.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I liked this issue more than the previous one, not least of which is because I wasn’t as disgusted with the Joker in this issue. I love character-based comics, and King is great when it comes to character building and conversation. So Catwoman and Joker having a real heart-to-heart about their lives, their work and their relationships to Batman was really neat. I mean, it’s not a great…story, I guess. If talking heads comics are not your thing, I’m sure it’s a really bad comic. And it does little to make the Joker answer for the crap he pulled in the previous issue. But I dunno, it’s just a nice chat, sometimes funny.

Penguin Umbrella Chat 01

Best Joker interaction I’ve read in years

Personally, I don’t care for the Joker, because I don’t like the crazy whack-a-doo villains. So this Joker, who seems much more on the level, and capable of having a conversation, is a nice change of pace. Their conversation also does a fine job in explaining Joker’s reaction to the wedding announcement, because of course his opinion had to be heard. And, like I said, it’s just a nifty conversation between two classic, long-standing characters who don’t get to interact much.

TL;DR: Talking heads comics are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I rather enjoyed this chat between two long-standing characters. It was witty and clever at times.


Justice League #2

Justice League #2
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

In which I attempt to explain why I am liking Justice League more than Avengers, despite the two comics being very similar right now.

The Totality has landed on Earth in the Nevada desert, and the League is studying it from afar and hiding it from the rest of the world. The Suicide Squad found out and sent Killer Croc through its walls, and he emerged recently as a godzilla, which the League had to take down. Batman sends a message out to Green Lantern Jon Stewart in space to get him to come back to Earth and help, but Jon is reluctant.

So the League figures out a way to send Superman and Martian Manhunter through the barrier, with Batman and Hawkwoman riding microscopically inside their bodies. Also, the shell around the Totality is a giant head that everybody thinks looks suspiciously familiar.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor tells his new Legion of Doom that he has cracked the code that the Totality is broadcasting, and there are seven hidden forces of the universe that need to be unlocked before they can claim the power. One of them might be the Still Force, which the Turtle believes is the opposite of the Speed Force. The other is the Invisible Emotional Spectrum, which Sinestro has unlocked in space, and he immediately kidnaps Jon Stewart into the Ultraviolet Corps. This new angrier Jon attacks the rest of the Justice League while they’re monitoring Superman and Martian Manhunter.

Also, the Lex Luthor talking to the Legion is a robot. The real Lex is also miniaturized inside Superman, hitching a ride!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Snyder is playing Clever Continuity Bingo again. Remember that feeling when Geoff Johns revealed the Sinestro Corps? When he reached back into old continuity and came up with a clever idea as to why Sinestro had a yellow power ring, and how it would be fun to make an entire Corps out of that yellow ring, to match the Green Lantern Corps? It was a fun feeling! And then he found ways to tie things like Parallax and Star Sapphire into his growing mythology. That was cool too!

Well now Snyder is trying his best to do the same thing, like he did in Dark Knights: Metal. First we’ve got Sinestro, who claims that he’s wearing his original colors again because they represent what he was searching for from the beginning: the Invisible Emotional Spectrum. Uh huh, sure. That’s what his original costume means. Then you’ve got these seven hidden forces of the universe, one of which is the Still Force from the Turtle? I’m pretty sure that’s just Snyder wanting to take a bunch of other disparate DC Universe concepts and tie them all into something new as part of Clever Continuity Bingo.

It’s often clever! It uses old continuity to make it extra sweet! And who knows what random bits he’ll pick. I’m not saying it isn’t fun to read, I’m just saying it’s a little obvious.

Sinestro Old Costume 01

Head canon: Sinestro is just making it up to sound important

Beyond that silliness, though, the issue is still pretty fun. I’m liking Snyder’s balls-to-the-wall take on the Justice League. We’ve got strange alien objects, giant dinosaur men and the Legion of Doom up to no good, and the League just keeps throwing whatever the heck they can think of at the problems to cause as much comic book fun as possible! Batman and Hawkgirl shrinking down in Atom ships to hide inside the bodies of Superman and Martian Manhunter while they go explore a strange artifact that might contain the building blocks of the universe? Cool! Lex Luthor hitching a tiny ride as well? Also neat! And let’s throw in a wild Green Lantern twist on top of it all just to shake things up.

The big difference between Justice League and the Avengers, I think, is that the Justice League storyline is leaving things a mystery right now. So the Justice League are learning while the reader is learning, with Lex Luthor as a wildcard on the side. This gives the League time to interact and deal with the problem, falling back on previously established team and character dynamics. Whereas in the Avengers, everybody is just scrambling, and they keep insisting they’re not the Avengers, so there’s no chance to bond or develop team dynamics. And Loki is at the center of the big crazy threat, which just keeps getting explained in dull detail.

So yeah, I’m enjoying Justice League more.

TL;DR: This is a wild and fun superhero team comic that does not feel beholden to the whims of Hollywood executives or quotas.


Man of Steel #4

Man of Steel #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Kevin Maguire and Jason Fabok
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Josh Reed

It’s definitely getting hard to care about this series, and we’re only four issues in, and it’s a limited series!

Rogol Zaar mops the floor with Superman because he’s five steps ahead of the hero, but then he takes off after promising a Kryptonian cleansing. Green Lantern shows up to help clean up and help Superman start to figure all this out. Supergirl rushes off to find Rogol. Superman returns to the Fortress to call someone and alert them, but Rogol is there to press Supes for more information. Supes gets angry and the Fortress explodes!

Also, the mysterious visitor that came to the Kent family was Jor-El, Superman’s dad, because he was retconned as being alive a couple months back. Jor-El wants to take Jon somewhere.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Eh, none of the twists or reveals in this issue are all that interesting. Rogol Zogol is still a boring as hell villain. If he didn’t have that ridiculous retcon hanging over his head, he’d be less than a nobody. Just some space jock who can beat on Superman for a bit. His destroying Krypton hasn’t really come into play whatsoever in this series, and it still feels at arm’s length at best. Likewise, Jor-El showing up in the flashback segments is equally boring as hell. I wasn’t reading Superman comics when they retconned Jor-El as being alive, but that is one story idea that I really don’t care for. If his arrival in this comic has anything to do with Rogol Zogol, fine, get on with it. The overall mysteries and plot leave much to be desired, but at least I still like Bendis’ take on Superman as a person. He’s still got some solid insights into the Man of Steel, and he bounces that character well off everybody else, like the random Green Lantern appearance. And the art teams remain phenomenal on this book. I just hope Bendis gets his act together on some legit interesting and engaging plots. We all know he’s capable of that.

TL;DR: Man of Steel is past the halfway point, but it’s done little to present a compelling plot.


Power Rangers #28

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #28
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Inker: Simona Di Gianfelice
Colorist: Walter Baiamonte
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

I think this was my favorite issue yet of the otherwise underwhelming Shattered Grid.

Meanwhile, did you hear that Higgins is leaving this comic?! And it’s going to be relaunched-ish with a new, composite team?! I should do a bigger post on it.

The fight against Lord Drakkon continues on multiple fronts! In one, the two Pink Rangers are zooming through the cosmos, picking up errant Rangers. They then rush to provide back-up to the two Red Rangers, who are directly fighting Lord Drakkon’s forces in the RPM universe. Doctor K doesn’t want to flee, but as Drakkon’s forces continue to win, she’s finally convinced to abandon her home and escape with everyone else.

Meanwhile, Zach and Alternate Reality Zach follow Skull into Drakkon’s fortress to rescue Ninjor. They are ambushed inside, and only Zach and Ninjor make it out. Once everyone is regrouped, Ninjor explains that Drakkon isn’t just conquering Rangers, he’s doing so in order to break into the Morphin Grid!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Now that everything in Shattered Grid has been largely set up, Higgins is able to slow down and have a lot more character focus — and to that degree, it’s a fun issue. The Pink Rangers get to have a talk about the troubles with time travel. Zach has a heart-to-heart with his alternate future self. Events and interactions in this issue just feel more meaningful than we’ve been getting, when Shattered Grid needed so much exposition. There’s still a lot going on, and there are so many Rangers that it’s easy to lose track of pretty much all of them, but Higgins has finally found time to play around and have fun with them.

ShtteredGridFun 01

Dino Charge Purple knows dinosaurs

I still don’t care much about Drakkon or his quest. He wants to break into the Morphin Grid? I have no idea what the Morphin Grid even is at this point, so whatever. The bad guy can do whatever the bad guy wants to do. That doesn’t matter. But Higgins and his art team creating fun and engaging character moments, be they conversations or fight scenes, is exactly this comic at its best. And after so many issues and such a big deal made, Shattered Grid is finally tapping into this comic at its best.

TL;DR: At the height of the action, Power Rangers finds time to stop and enjoy its many characters, making for the best issue yet of Shattered Grid.


Runaways #10

Runaways #10
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

This comic is so much fun! Even when it’s breaking my heart, it does so in such a fun manner that I’m perfectly OK with it!

Now that Julie Power has been turned into a little kid, Molly is forced to come clean about her friend Abigail’s magic cupcake (which she got from the Enchantress). The gang loads up in their van and drives over to Abigail’s place to get her to change Julie back, but Abigail has had 50 years to learn all sorts of martial arts, so she’s a tough fight. And she’s super angry about Molly betraying her. And Julie is very hormonal as a teenager. But eventually they find the one bottle of cure and the Runaways give it to Julie, taking away Abigail’s only chance at reversing the spell, because the Runaways take care of their own.

Afterwards, Julie breaks up with Karolina (as she’d been planning to do that night in the first place) because Karolina has felt so distant lately.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

The writing in this comic is just so damn good! It’s clever and fun and full of energy, with a strong emphasis on the characters. Gert is clearly Gert in everything she does and says. Like when Karolina heroically says they can’t take the only antidote away from Abigail just to save Julie, Gert says they totally can, that they protect their own, and then she just snatches the bottle out of Karolina’s hand. It’s hilarious, and totally Gert. The rest of the characters are the same way. Rowell has these characters down pat! Even hormonal teenage Julie was on point. And the fact that the issue ended with the Runaways slinking away in a sort of shame after sentencing Abigail to stay a child forever was so good. The day wasn’t saved for everybody. The Runaways just got what they came for and left with their heads held low.

Runaways One Direction 01

The present day is a dark and horrible place

Runaways is about as fun as comics get. Even when the comic is dealing with something as heart-breaking as Julie and Karolina breaking up, the comic is still so much fun. I’ve definitely come around on Rowell breaking the couple up, even though I was totally against the idea a couple issues ago. In the end, the two of them only got together in the margins of other Marvel comics. And while it’s disappointing that one of the company’s most prominent lesbian couples has broken up, the truth is that they barely ever appeared as a couple, and yet they were about as famous as lesbian couples get at Marvel. I have confidence that Rowell has plans. I totally support a Karolina/Nico ‘ship.

TL;DR: Runaways is one of my favorite comics because of the stellar writing. Rowell and her creative team are clearly having so much fun with this book, which is just off-kilter enough from usual superheroics as to be something truly unique and special.


Iron Man #1

Tony Stark – Iron Man #1
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

And here we go…Dan Slott has left Amazing Spider-Man to take on two of Marvel’s biggest properties: Iron Man and the Fantastic Four! He kicks off his Iron Man comic with a solid done-in-one introduction that really sets the stage for the story to come.

Once upon a time, kid Tony Stark kicked butt in a robot soccer game with his futuristic soccer bots. Now, in the present day, Tony seeks out the roboticist he defeated — Andy Bhang — to recruit him for the new Stark Unlimited super science company. Bhang’s specialty is in coding robots to work in tandem. He gets a quick tour of all the crazy science experiments going on, meets his new boss, Jocasta, and then a mindless Fin Fang Foom attacks New York City.

Tony rushes out to go Iron Man on the dragon, first trying his giant Jaeger armor, the Fin Fang Foombuster. When that gets defeated, Stark switches to a nano-Iron Man inside Foom, but that little guy gets overwhelmed. So Bhang steps up with his code and is able to get a bunch of nano-Iron Mans to work together, using tricks he remembered from his robot soccer game against Stark 25 years ago. They discover that Fin Fang Foom is being controlled by classic Iron Man villain The Controller. They break the control disk, Foom regains his mind and he retreats. The day is saved and Tony Stark talks up the awesomeness of Stark Unlimited for the press.

Meanwhile, The Controller used Foom as a distraction so that his mole inside Stark Unlimited could steal the secrets of Tony’s pet project: The eSCAPE.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I dug this issue a lot for its simplicity and its energy. There’s a style to Slott’s writing that is both all-encompassingly generic, but individually on point. Like, if you step back and look at the big picture, this is just a plain as day Iron Man comic. There are no crazy twists or story beats that try to upend everything we thought we knew about Iron Man. It’s just Tony Stark being a fun and carefree guy, surrounded by armors and super science. And everybody is having fun. Whether it’s the weird science experiments of Stark Unlimited (the talking cat is pretty funny), or Stark rolling out all his different armors to take on Fin Fang Foom, this could all be regarded as what you’d expect from an Iron Man comic. But Slott also makes it really personal and fun, focusing on key characters and getting the most out of the comic through them.

Iron Man Calling Shots 01

Kids love a good Gigantor reference

Though I think it’s a little silly that everyone involved allowed the brand new guy, first day on the job, to be in on the conversation while Iron Man is trying to save the city from Fin Fang Foom. Seriously, there are several moments where somebody has to tell Andy to shut up and relax. Just because he’s standing in the command center does not mean this brand new employees needs to contribute to the ongoing crisis. That just doesn’t make any sense, but obviously Slott built his climax around Andy’s input. Still a slightly iffy plot hole.

But beyond me nitpicking everything to death, this was a really fun issue and a solid introduction to Dan Slott’s Iron Man. It looks like we’re going to have a lot of enthusiastic robotics and superheroics, which I’m always in favor of. Slott’s already trotting out classic villains and sidekicks, which is cool. And the new characters should provide a good supporting cast.

TL;DR: The debut issue of Dan Slott’s Iron Man comic is a lot of fun and full of creative energy. Definitely a lot of potential in this relaunch.

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 June 23, 2018, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. ASM is a solid send-off issue, a nice look at what Spider-Man really does. A nice love letter from Slott to the character.

    Avengers is fine. It’s OK. I find it hard to think enough about it to even find things I dislike. It’s just pretty much there.

    Runaways is good, though I’m pretty sure this story was just a way to get Julie out of the picture so the Karolina/Nico ship could be pushed, instead.

    Iron Man is good. It’s a lot of fun. Again, if I cared enough, I’m sure I’d find all sorts of little things that bugged me. The pace did feel perhaps a bit too frantic at times. But eh, it’s the first issue and there’s a lot to set up, and it did feature Jocasta in a suit. And that’s the really important thing, and it makes clear that she needs to wear more suits.

    • I definitely agree with pretty much all of that. At least it’s nice that Rowell went to all this trouble to remove Julie properly instead of ignoring that she and Karolina became a thing. Another testament to Rowell really tapping into everything the Runaways were up to the past few years to inform her comic. I’m perfectly fine with a Nico/Karolina ‘ship.

  2. Yesterday I bought Power Rangers #28 for my four-year-old because he loves the issue from Free Comic Book Day. That one was mostly talking, so I was looking forward to an issue with more action. But holy crap. I mean holy crap. It had tons of talking, and I still have no idea what happened.

    I’m fine with stories that are so complex that you can’t just jump in halfway through. But a big problem was the layout of the action scenes. I couldn’t explain what was happening because I could never tell. Most of the panels are small and zoomed in, so the action is cut off in a way that you never get the full picture. Once in a while there was a sound effect, a grunt, or a groan, but I couldn’t tell why.

    I guess you didn’t have this problem.

    • Well, to be fair, I’m not trying to interpret the comic for a 4-year-old. I highly recommend picking up some of the earlier issues, or the tpbs, because it’s a solid, enjoyable series.

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