Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/1/18
Welcome to a surprise women’s week in comic book review land! It’s a Fifth Wednesday, so there wasn’t much to choose from this week. But it just so happens that three of my favorite comics came out this week: Ms. Marvel, Runaways and X-23. And it just so happens that all three comics not only star mostly female main casts, but all three are also written by women! That’s pretty darn neat, if I do say so myself!
Rainbow Rowell’s Runaways wins Comic Book of the Week, beating out the grand finale of Power Rangers: Shattered Grid. Sorry to all Power Rangers fans.
Meanwhile, for anyone curious, we don’t yet know the fate of the Mimic in the Extermination mini-series. But there’s no way that the universe keeps one of my all-time favorite obscure comic book characters alive now that he’s been dragged out of comic book limbo. His revival from totally obscure to slightly less obscure and totally badass is probably at an end.
Comic Reviews: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – Shattered Grid #1, Ms. Marvel #33, Runaways #12 and X-23 #3.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – Shattered Grid #1
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artists: Daniele Di Nicuolo, Diego Galindo
Ink Assist: Simona Di Gianfelice
Colorists: Walter Baiamonte and Marcelo Costa
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Here we go! This is it! All the marbles are in play! Kyle Higgins has been a rockstar on this Power Rangers comic, and this is his grand finale!
The big assault on Drakkon’s fortress comes to an end when Drakkon breaks through to the Morphin Grid and the world goes white. He uses the power to create a fantasy world where he’s a superhero Power Ranger and is beloved by all, including the original Rangers in their new created identities (as well as Lauren and Jen). But he’s plagued with self-doubt, and the Rangers use this to break into the fantasy world and regain their memories. They are aided by a revived Tommy Oliver. You may recall from the last issue of Go Go Power Rangers that Dark Kimberly shot Past Tommy with a magic arrow, and that is indeed how he is resurrected. His soul was pulled from his body to a different plane, where he met with the Emissaries, the red, yellow and blue focal points inside the Morphin Grid. They helped Tommy recover everybody, and they fill in the Rangers about how everybody survived, and how Drakkon stole a McGuffin called the Heart of a Master.
Drakkon interrupts the little pow-wow and fights off all the Rangers, until Green Ranger Tommy grabs the Heart of a Master and both he and Drakkon are brought inside. Free of their powers, they fight hand-to-hand, with Tommy easily winning. He lays out all of Drakkon’s insecurities, how he’s the only evil Tommy in the multiverse, and that horrified him, so he doubled down on being evil. And how he isn’t different because he stayed with Rita, he’s different because he didn’t let his new friends in to help him. Tommy grabs the Heart and the world starts to repair itself. He offers his hand to Drakkon, but Drakkon turns away.
Then the Power Rangers, with the help of the Emissaries, use the Heart to rebuild the Multiverse, even though it means they will forget everything that happened.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The big finale of Shattered Grid ends like the entire crossover: tripping over itself with exposition and action scenes. All of the build-up and massive armies of Rangers we’ve been reading about amount to absolutely nothing. The big fight literally fades to white so that the real climax can take over, and while it’s a big, fun adventure, it’s not nearly as good as this comic normally is.
Instead, it’s a pretty straight forward take on the bad guy created his dream world, only for it to fall down around him because he doesn’t believe in the power of friendship. And it doesn’t help that a good chunk of this issue is taken up with even more exposition, as Tommy has to explain the Emissaries, explain the purpose of this new fantasy world, and then establish that this entire gorram crossover rests on a McGuffin that is only introduced in this final issue.
It doesn’t help that we don’t know anything about how the Morphin Grid works. Drakkon can use the Grid to create his own personal fantasy world, with the souls of the Power Rangers somehow trapped inside? The stakes of this series are grounded in nothing, meaning the stakes don’t really matter at all. And that’s very frustrating.
Too much of this crossover has been taken up by exposition. A lot of time was spent explaining how the Power Rangers multiverse worked, and how it was being split. Somebody had to explain how Dr. K’s technology worked. And then this issue is is even more exposition. Higgins has to explain how Tommy came back, he has to explain the intricacies of the fantasy world and Drakkon as a character, then he adds a ton of new lore, which is accomplished by having someone stand there and explain it. And while some of it is interesting lore, it’s not like Higgins is going anywhere with it. He’s done with the series, so it’s not like he has something he wants to explore going forward. That’s disappointing.
Of course, all of this grousing is me just nitpicking my general disappointment with Shattered Grid. The issue is still fun, even with its problems. What little we do get of the Big Ranger Battle in the beginning is pretty awesome. Finally exploring Drakkon’s motivations is a neat journey, as he has remained largely one-dimensional this whole time. Seeing the Rangers come together like the awesome heroes they are is, likewise, really neat. And I’m not going to complain that Tommy is back from the dead. He’s my favorite.
Though I’m also a little annoyed that the Rangers have to forget everything in the end. That comes out of nowhere, and serves only as an unnecessary excuse to keep this series in line with the TV show continuity. Considering the original Mighty Morphin show is 25 years old, I think we can let the comic get away with a few awesome changes.
I will miss Kyle Higgins on Power Rangers. This became one of my favorite comics because he focused on the characters as people first, Power Rangers second. That is the key to any successful story, and Higgins nailed it on this comic. Which is why Shattered Grid was a disappointment overall, because it switched the focus to action and exposition over character. Sometimes that action was really cool, and Higgins and his creative team no doubt had a lot of fun on Shattered Grid, but in the end, I think it was just one big, loud mess of a crossover. Still, they pulled it off, and that counts for a lot.
I definitely think I’ll stick around to see what Marguerite Bennett does with her new ragtag Ranger team.
TL;DR: As with the rest of Shattered Grid, action and exposition crowd out the normally strong character work. But it’s still a big, loud, action-packed grand finale, which is always fun.
Ms. Marvel #33
Writer: G Willow Wilson
Artist: Nico Leon
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
The new issue of Ms. Marvel commits that unforgivable of all comic book writing sins: getting my favorite obscure characters’ personality wrong. It’s happened with the Shocker and I’ll probably never be able to take G. Willow Wilson seriously again.
Nah, I’m kidding. It’s fine.
Ms. Marvel chases after the Shocker, even though her powers keep going a bit haywire. She arrives at his weird Mouse Trap-like headdquarters, with all manner of booby traps and giant puzzle traps. It’s weird. Anyway, they face off.
Meanwhile, Bruno rushes back to his lab to try and figure out why Ms. Marvel’s powers are going haywire.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This is a fine issue of Ms. Marvel, but it suffers from clearly being a transitional issue. Wilson tries really hard to make that transition entertaining — and the issue definitely has a lot of charm and fun —but it’s still a very light issue. Ms. Marvel chases after Shocker and has a bunch of silly stuff happen, both with her powers and in his crazy hideout, but none of it amounts to much. It’s just a series of fun/weird stuff that happens.
And Bruno only starts his experiments in this issue, throwing out a bunch of complex science words to try and justify doing the thing with the thing and getting the science reaction. We have to wait until a future issue to see the real confrontation with Shocker and to see the outcome of Bruno’s experiment. It’s not a bad thing, per se. The issue is still perfectly enjoyable. But it’s all just surface level fun as we journey along.
Also, if I may nitpick, the Shocker has always been portrayed as a blue collar type of crook, an ‘everyman’ sort who is in it to rob banks, not to psychotically get his revenge on Spider-Man. That’s what I like about him, and what Wilson seemed to get right about him at the start…only to suddenly give him a weird, cobbled-together hideout built like the board game Mouse Trap? Full of giant Rube Goldberg-esque traps? That…kinda came out of nowhere…
TL;DR: A light, fun issue moves us breezily along through a couple different plots.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
It’s the issue we’ve been waiting for, people! Set your adorable meters to maximum!
Nico has since come to realize that she was wrong to turn away from Karolina’s attempted kiss back in the original Runaways comic. When the opportunity arises to accompany Karolina to a big, fancy Dean Foundation banquet, Nico jumps at the chance and they both get dolled up to the nines and have a nice evening — that ends with Nico and Karolina finally getting that kiss!
Meanwhile, Gert remains in a funk, and she’s chosen to mope over her parents’ nonworking time machine. Victor flies down to cheer her up and helps her turn the time machine back on. They travel back to a meadow in California in the early 1900s to witness the migration of the now-extinct California Blue butterfly. While sitting there alone, Gert opens up about her uneasiness with how she’s messed up the timeline, and how maybe there isn’t a proper timeline of things. She then gets Victor to open up about how he accidentally killed the Vision’s son, and how he thinks that means he has become the evil future version of himself, Victorious.
Gert holds Victor and convinces him that he’s not Victorious, that the death of Vin was an accident, and that he’s not evil. At that moment, while they cry together, the florescent butterflies take flight, and it’s magical, and they totally kiss!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I love me a good comic book romance, and seeing Nico and Karolina finally come together warms my heart. Rowell has been building to this moment for the whole comic, and while that expectancy takes a little of the shine off, it’s still a nice moment and worthy of the comic’s focus. It’s made especially better because they’re not interrupted by a random super-villain. In any other comic, Mr. Hyde would be in attendance at that Dean Foundation dinner and would totally ruin their kiss. But Runaways is allowed to be itself, to let the character drama actually happen instead of forcing comic book tropes.
That’s what I love about this book.
The Gert/Victor scene is also super sweet. I love the casual use of the time machine, which, again, doesn’t involve any larger narratives or superhero cliches. Gert is feeling mopey, and the team already has access to a time machine, so why not use it to give two characters a really strong, emotionally-charged scene together? That it also ends in a kiss is pretty surprising, but that should lead to some stellar drama. Will the two of them still be as comfortable with Victor only being a head now that they’re hooking up? And what will Chase think? Won’t anybody think about Chase?!
TL;DR: The character drama gets an issue to dig deep and produce some really wonderful moments in the new Runaways.
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Juann Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
We finally get the answer as to why Laura changed her name back to ‘X-23’ in this issue! And the answer sucks! Wolverine 4 Life!
The Cuckoos have kidnapped Gabby and manage to lose Laura, by tricking her into following the wrong van in a pretty cool highway chase, with Laura running and jumping over the tops of cars. Laura heads back to the church and interrogates the kidnapped scientist, where she finds out that the Cuckoos plan to transfer the consciousness of their dying sister into Gabby’s body, because X-23 clone bodies are good for that sort of thing. Laura gets Angel’s help in dive-bombing the Cuckoo’s new lab, but she might be too late!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Much like the Ms. Marvel issue this week, X-23 is another transitional story. Both Laura’s storyline and the Cuckoos’ storyline simply move forward in this issue until they collide in the end, and even then, we won’t know what actually happens until next issue. That makes for another very light issue, where the bulk of it is spent having a character simply explain the Cuckoos’ plan. It’s a solid plan, and definitely worthy of a storyline, but yeah, it’s still just straight exposition as pieces are moved forward on the board. Tamaki also gives us an Angel cameo, but his role in X-23’s life has been so neutered that he doesn’t matter in the least.
Honestly, I hope Tamaki has some romance plans for Laura in her run. As I’ve said before, I love a good comic book romance, and Laura could use more of that kind of character building.
And like I said, we do get an explanation for why she changed her name back to ‘X-23’.
Honestly, it’s not a great explanation. Obviously, Marvel was bringing back the original Wolverine and weren’t going to muddy the waters by having two Wolverines, because they’ve got a brand to protect. But Laura could have been given a cool new name. Surely there are a bunch of other snarly forest critters that could be tapped. Tasmanian Devil? Yellow-throated Marten? The Stoat? The Mink? Polecat? There’s got to be something!
TL;DR: X-23 gets a brief transitional issue that just moves us along. Simple and easy.
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!
Posted on September 1, 2018, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Boom!, Honey Badger, Kamala Khan, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Ms. Marvel, Power Rangers, Runaways, Shattered Grid, X-23. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.