Hench-Sized Comic Reviews – 10/20/18
Happy New Daredevil Season Weekend, everybody! I’m up to my eyeballs in new Daredevil episodes, and it’s pretty grand. I’ll try to get a review post up next week. But until then, how about some comics? Not many this week, or at least, not as many as I should have read.
We’ve got new Batman, new Runaways and new Mr. & Mrs. X, but Comic Book of the Week goes to the return of Unstoppable Wasp! Love me some Unstoppable Wasp!
Meanwhile, I continue to flake out on reading Thor. I dunno what’s happened! I’ve loved Jason Aaron’s Thor since the beginning, but I think the art and the weak storyline of the revived series turned me off, and then we’ve got this current far-in-the-future storyline. I’ll try to read them someday. I also keep failing at reading Nightwing’s new status quo. I should get into that too.
Comic Reviews: Batman #57, Mr. & Mrs. X #4, Runaways #14 and The Unstoppable Wasp #1.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Tony S. Daniel, Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
And we’re back to my pea-brain not understanding Tom King’s symbolism and subtext. Gorramit!
Once upon a time, a Russian father reads to his son the story of the animals in the pit. Pig was going to town, and he was joined by Wolf, Fox, Hare and Squirrel, when they all fell in the pit. First they ate the animals with the weakest voices — Hare and Squirrel — then they ate the animal with the fattest voice — Wolf — and the Fox tricked the Pig into trying to eat himself, which killed him, so Fox ate Pig. Did Fox then climb out of the pit? Nobody knows. At the end of the issue, it’s revealed that young Bruce Wayne used to love having his father read him that story.
In Russia, Batman faces off against the KGBeast in a dialogue-less battle as the two men grunt and snarl as they beat each other up in the snow. KGBeast gets the advantage, so Batman shoots him in the chin with a grappling gun. This breaks the Beast’s neck. While lying in the snow, the Beast asks Batman to get him medical help, at which point he’ll reveal who hired him to kill Batman’s son. Batman spits out some blood and tells the Beast that he is the world’s greatest detective, so he’ll find out on his own who hired Beast, and Beast can get his own damn medical help.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I dunno, you guys. If you want someone to break down how the story of the Animals and the Pit ties into Batman fighting KGBeast in the snow, you’re gonna have to find a different reviewer, or ask Tom King himself. This flew right over my head. Unless…I dunno…Batman tricked KGBeast somehow? Or KGBeast tricked Batman? Like, he tricked Batman into exposing himself and that was a victory…but then KGBeast was still trapped and couldn’t do anything about it? Or I read somewhere else that maybe it represents the dangers of thinking short term when you’ve got a long term problem? I guess that’s going to have to be good enough. If that’s the case, it’s a fine bit of storytelling, mixing the fable with the fight, even if it comes out of nowhere this issue.
The rest of the issue continued the straight-forward, no-nonsense storytelling of the past two. Batman and KGBeast fight without the usual dialogue one gets from hero/villain fisticuffs. Just two men beating the ever-loving crap out of each other, until Batman claims the victory and walks off. I liked it. Not much depth to it, but that’s fine, there doesn’t need to be. KGBeast struck Batman where it matters most, and Batman responded with a ruthlessness that only comes out when you strike at his heart. I’ve seen some people online complain about how out of character it is for Batman to leave KGBeast injured like that, and I had no problem with it. KGBeast shot and just about murdered Dick Grayson right in front of him. Batman would burn mountains to the ground to get his vengeance.
I just wish King had delved a little more deeply into Batman’s ‘burn mountains to the ground’ mindset. That would have really elevated this whole story.
Also, do people not like Tom King’s Batman? I keep seeing people online hating on his whole run and I just don’t get it. I love Tom King’s Batman! It’s great!
TL;DR: Another light issue of Batman beating up a guy, crossed with an old fable that probably went over my head. But that’s on me.
Mr. & Mrs. X #4
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Oscar Bazaldua
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
The character cameo cavalcade continues with an appearance by the Starjammers! Because why not?
Rogue and Gambit are imprisoned on the Shi’ar homeworld, but a quick smooch allows Rogue to slip her beau a lockpick, and they’re soon free. They find Xandra nearby, and she uses her mental powers to give them disguises so they can slip out easily enough and steal a ship. They’re soon ambushed by the Starjammers, but everybody makes peace and realizes what’s up.
During some downtime, Xandra asks if she can fiddle with Rogue’s brain to turn off the bad parts of her powers. Rogue explains to Gambit that she doesn’t want to do it because it means somebody else is ‘fixing’ her powers rather than her gaining control, and it’s just not right. Nor has it ever worked before. Gambit is totally on her side after hearing the explanation.
Then everybody is ambushed by, first, the Imperial Guard, and second, Deathbird, who stabs Gambit in the torso. Rogue then touches Xandra to get her powers, but that results in a big, crazy explosion that leaves Rogue and Xandra seemingly disintegrated!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Another solid, enjoyable issue as this story skates along like the fun adventure it is. Thompson is doing a better job of keeping the focus on Gambit and Rogue while other characters and madness swirl around them, and that makes for a stronger issue and overall story. Their heart-to-heart about Rogue’s powers is really nice and makes total sense. A quick fix from Xandra wouldn’t really solve anything, and Gambit is right to both wish it was that easy but totally respect Rogue’s decision when she tells him it wouldn’t be. And Rogue does a fine job laying out her thoughts and feelings on her own powers. It’s a really nice moment amidst the madness.
The madness is alright, too. Xandra is a fun character so far, and hopefully Thompson has some bigger plans for the character. Right now she’s pretty light. And I didn’t really understand what was happening in that final moment. Might be a glitch between script and art. But otherwise, it was a dramatic ending, and that’s good stuff. Thompson uses all of her guest stars well, and the action is good. And I still very much enjoy Bazaldua’s art on the series. He does action really well, and I like how he draws characters.
TL;DR: The enjoyable Rogue & Gambit series continues its enjoyableness unabated, and throws in a deeper understanding of its characters for the fun of it.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artists: David LaFuente and Takeshi Miyazawa
Colorists: Jim Campbell and Michael Garland
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
You should have committed, Rowell. You should have gone for it.
The Gibborim children want the Runaways to become a new Pride and get back to sacrificing innocents to give them power. The Runaways are ready to throw down, but Alex convinces the Gibborim to give them a week to get the new sacrifice, buying them all time. The Gibborim leave one of their own to keep watch, while the rest of the Runaways tell Alex to go screw, since they’re not sacrificing anyone. So maybe Alex will team-up with Gib, the Gibborim they left behind.
Then we get a short story of Old Lace weaving through the Hostel, checking in on everybody. She sees Alex making peace with Molly, angers Gert when she snaps at Victor, sees Nico and Karolina making out, then Karolina brings a sandwich to Gib (who then gives it to Old Lace). The velociraptor then finds Chase, whom she totally loves, implying that Chase might be the one still in control of Old Lace these days?
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
What should Rowell have committed to? An entire Old Lace issue. I’ll grant you that this was not the time for such an issue, considering Rowell has to start laying out this Gibborim Jr. stuff, but maybe she could have done it next issue. I’m picturing the now-classic Pizza Dog issue of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. I think Rowell and her art team could have pulled it off. They do a solid job with the half-issue Old Lace back-up feature. I definitely think it would have been a fun issue and Rowell should have gone for it. Commit! Have faith in yourself! Or if it was editorial that wouldn’t let her do a full issue, have faith in Rainbow Rowell! She’s great!
The Old Lace backup stuff was quaint, with a lot of interesting bits and peaces. I liked Old Lace’s sly smile when he saw that Nico and Karolina were finally together. And I liked his jealousy of Victor, his protectiveness of Molly and his adoration for Chase. Rowell and the art team were able to convey a lot with the non-verbal pet — and the non-verbal sequences as a whole. Karolina bringing a sandwich to Gib is nice, as is Gib giving the sandwich to Old Lace and giving her a pet. It does so much to humanize this Gibborim Jr. problem. Very good job.
The main issue was solid, though it was obviously shortened. Rowell easily sets up the conflict at hand, making it glaringly obvious how out-of-place Alex is with the old team. I still think Alex is behind all of this Gibborim Jr. stuff, so Rowell ain’t fooling me. But I like how everybody is immediately against Alex even breathing near them, let alone whatever plans he’s attempting to pull off. Makes for a really fun dynamic to shake up the really solid nature of the core team.
TL;DR: I think the creative team could have easily pulled off an entire issue from the perspective of Old Lace, but half-an-issue is good too. The story moves along in interesting ways.
The Unstoppable Wasp #1
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
The pure joy and positivity that is Jeremy Whitley’s Unstoppable Wasp is back! And I’m thrilled!
Nadia is called into stop some A.I.M. goons from stealing a thing, and she’s got her G.I.R.L. squad (Taina, Priya, Ying and Shay) back at base as the so-called ‘guy in the chair’. All four of them get their own chair, and they control combat drones that help Nadia as she breaks into the science building, beats up the bad guys and faces off against the new villain Seeker — who turns out to be Amber, a badass science girl that Nadia met back in issue #3, but who disappeared afterwards. Amber teleports away, but not before informing Nadia that Hank Pym is still alive and evil (I think he’s merged with Ultron, maybe?)!
Meanwhile, Janet and Alexis make a presentation to some investors to host a G.I.R.L. science expo, and it’s a success! But they’ve only got two weeks to pull it together!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue is a great jumping-back-in point for the Unstoppable Wasp series. The original series laid all the groundwork for where we are now, with Nadia operating at full efficiency, with her G.I.R.L. team set up, and both Janet Van Dyne and Jarvis in her corner. It’s super fun! I love that all four of her science crew join her in the field with wasp-themed drones, and Whitley does a really nice job giving everybody some dialogue and character-building. A lot of them are very similar characters, so hopefully he finds ways to distinguish between the lot of them. But for this introductory issue, he does great work.
Of course, Nadia is the real star of the issue, and everybody does such a good job with her! I like her friendly, outgoing personality, especially in the face of fighting A.I.M. goons. I’m afraid Squirrel Girl has her beat on trying to talk out conflicts with villains, but it’s nice that Nadia tries, and it’s nice that she can kick butt when she needs to! She’s such a fun character to put in the lead role, especially with the wonderful supporting world Whitley has built for her. I especially like the troubles he’s putting against her, like that villain, whom he clearly had plans for in the beginning, this upcoming science expo, and having her confront the horrible truth about her father’s current weird status quo. That’s some good storytelling and planning right there.
Though if I’m going honest, Whitley and his art team could have been more creative with this Seeker person. Generic name and generic outfit don’t make for memorable adversaries. Hank Pym’s best-known adversary is Egghead, a very memorable guy. And while the original Wasp doesn’t have many adversaries, I think her biggest villain is Whirlwind? Again, very memorable. Whitley and team should have really flexed their creative muscles to give Nadia a truly memorable arch-nemesis.
TL;DR: A very welcome return for this wonderful, personable and adorably charming comic!
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!