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Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/10/18

If anybody is curious what to get me for Christmas, I will gladly accept an infinite number of official Multiple Man action figures. We now live in a world where they exist, and I need to embrace and celebrate that fact.

Other than that, pretty solid batch of comics this week! Batman, Runaways and X-23 deliver the goods, like usual, but the battle for best comic came down to a delightfully fun Iceman — featuring the first in-canon team up of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends — and the mind-warpingly terrific first issue of Grant Morrison’s The Green Lantern. I gave Comic Book of the Week to GL because it’s just slightly more momentous.

The GL Light 01

Power pose

Meanwhile, is anybody watching that Titans TV show? I don’t have the DC Streaming Service thing, but I might check it out if anybody has good things to say about Titans. Having a legitimate live action Robin storyline is not something I can pass up.

Comic Reviews: Batman #58, The Green Lantern #1, Iceman #3, Runaways #15 and X-23 #6.


Batman58

Batman #58

Batman #58
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I’ve never been one for dense poetry.

The Penguin is summoned before Bane at Arkham Asylum as part of Bane’s ongoing plan to get Batman. Bane killed Penguin’s wife to send the summons (or possibly one of his penguins that he was particularly attached to. It’s purposefully vague). Penguin is informed that Bane is upset about the thing with Mr. Freeze, though he blames a lot of it on Bruce Wayne swaying the jury. Penguin is ordered to kill Wayne’s butler in retribution. So he kills another woman like the first three from the Freeze case to draw Batman out, then sends a sniper to Wayne Manor.

As Alfred falls prey to the sniper’s trap, and Batman fights his way past Penguin’s goons, we’re treated to a really elaborate, exhausting, overly complicated poem from Penguin about birds or some such. It’s exhausting to read.

Anyway, once we get through it and Batman confronts Penguin, the villain reveals he has Alfred in the sniper’s sights — but then he orders the sniper to kill himself instead. Penguin tells Batman they have much to discuss.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I’m taking a point off for that ridiculous poem. That feels petty of me, but just read it for yourself and tell me I’m wrong. It’s written in Ye Olde English, or something, and drones on and on and I just couldn’t parse the individual words after a bit. Maybe I should be more forgiving, but I say thee nay! My reaction to this comic is that the poem King shoved into his comic detracts from the enjoyment of the comic. The rest is fine, though. I especially enjoyed the twist ending.

Penguin Penny 01

There’s probably a dead penguin in there

The idea that Penguin had a young wife is a bit jarring, especially since we’re only meeting her now that she’s dead. Of course, Googling “Penny Cobblepot” reveals that a lot of people online think Penny is one of his penguins. And reading back over the dialogue, that could definitely be the case. And having the Penguin so deeply mourn the death of one of his penguins makes a lot more sense than Tom King inventing a wife offscreen and just killing her. If Penny is revealed to be a penguin, I might retroactively bump my rating up a point for the sheer silliness of it.

Tangents aside, this was a solid opening issue to a Penguin story. It builds on everything with Bane and Mr. Freeze so far, and I was this close to believing King would kill Alfred…until that twist ending, with the Penguin taking Batman’s side against Bane. Now that’s some fun storytelling! It’s got me jazzed for what King has planned with the Penguin. This issue had some solid tension, too. And Janin’s art is always gorgeous.

TL;DR: A tense and twisty issue has some odd storytelling choices that hold it back.


TheGL1

The Green Lantern #1

The Green Lantern #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski

I can’t remember a comic I was more hotly anticipating from DC Comics than Grant Morrison doing a police procedural version of Green Lantern. Now that it’s here, it’s definitely a Grant Morrison comic.

The Green Lanterns in Space Sector 2018 round up a pack of dastardly and varied alien criminals, who are working for Controller Mu of the Blackstars to steal a Luck Dial. They load up the captured crooks in a ship to take back to New Oa, while the Sector 2018 GL goes to investigate further reports of criminal activity — but he’s then ambushed and murdered!

We then visit with Hal Jordan living a pretty vagabond life on Earth. He can’t hold down any dead end jobs, because his Green Lantern duties take precedent. But he’s got a cool girlfriend and plenty of free time to relax — until the ship of crooks crashes on Earth, and he must suit up to round up the escaped criminals. Hal defeats them with a combination of punches, smarts and proving he’s the damn best. Then he’s summoned to deliver the criminals back to New Oa.

One of the Guardians pulls Hal aside to tell him that the Book of Oa has been tampered with, most likely by another Green Lantern (or maybe Doctor Manhattan). I think the implication is that the Guardian suspects Hal…

Meanwhile, Controller Mu has criminal plans in the works. He has possession of a Luck Dial, and his operatives are tearing out of the heart of what they call the Antimatter Green Lantern…but I think it’s actually Bizarro Green Lantern/Yellow Lantern. Or a combination of the two that Morrison just invented.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue is growing on me the more I think about it, but first and foremost, it is a typical impenetrable Grant Morrison first issue. I can still remember reading the first issue of his All-Star Superman and being completely lost, whereas now I consider that whole series to be the greatest Superman comic I have ever read.  Morrison likes to start a comic mid-sentence (not literally) and expect his audience to catch up immediately as he tells his dense story. In my experience, this can lead to some pretty rough single issues, especially at the beginning, only to open up to a big, wide and wonderful overall story. So while this first issue definitely hit the ground running, it wasn’t in the specific direction I was hoping/expecting to see. Still fun.

The GL Wins 01

You can’t escape the law!

First and foremost, the comic is nigh impenetrable in its writing style. The plot is pretty straight forward, but just the way Morrison conveys the story is a little stiff, with a flighty sort of art. There’s a ton of world-building in this issue, but like I said, Morrison expects the reader to just go along with it. No hand-holding involved. And that can be a little jarring when you’re first diving into a Morrison comic. But the basics of Green Lantern work are there, and they really do make for a solid foundation. We get a wide variety of different alien Lanterns — with Morrison writing a great scene for Floozle Flem, the Green Lantern that’s a sentient flu virus — and a lot of general cop work. But this issue isn’t Law & Order the superhero comic. It’s far too removed for a straight police procedural adaptation.

I suppose it’s hard to describe what it’s like reading a Grant Morrison comic unless you actually read a Grant Morrison comic. His style is all over this first issue, for good or ill. But overall, it’s definitely an interesting start to this much-heralded series.

TL;DR: Not surprisingly, the first issue of this hotly anticipated Grant Morrison comic reads exactly like a Grant Morrison comic. It feels a little stiff and impenetrable at first, but overall it’s a solid start to a hopefully refreshing Green Lantern series.


IcemanNew3

Iceman #3

Iceman #3
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Nathan Stockman
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Grace brings Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends into proper Marvel continuity! If we don’t count that one page in Spider-Verse, I can’t remember if this has ever happened before now…

Bobby, Angelica and Peter are all on dates at the Manhattan Street Cart Named Desire Festival, with both Bobby and Angelica on first dates from dating apps. But the festival is attacked by a giant ice golem, and our heroes leap into the fray to stop it from destroying the city. They eventually take off a restraining device, and the ice melts to reveal Ash, the Morlock kid from the first issue, who is rambling about a “red diamond”. Iceman figures out he means Mr. Sinister and goes down into the catacombs to let Ash’s sister know he’s going to break him out of jail — though she’s mostly just pissed that ugly Morlocks keep getting used as props.

But not before Iceman, Firestar and Spider-Man hang out for a bit lamenting their bad luck in love and enjoying churros. Angelica’s date dumped her after seeing her go crazy superheroic. And Bobby had to dump his date after the guy tagged along in the fight just to get selfies.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As expected, this was a super fun issue that made great use of the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends crossover. It helps that all of the characters already know each other, so it was a simple matter of just putting them in the action together, and Grace had fun with that. The opening scene at the food truck festival is a wonderful character scene. All three heroes are out of costume on dates, having some great characterization. Grace does more with Peter and Mary Jane as a romantic couple than Nick Spencer has done in Amazing Spider-Man so far. They’re cute together. And Bobby and Angelica on good/bad dates is super fun too!

Iceman Amazing Friends 01

So close

The fight has some great action, with Stockman and his art team delivering a lively, colorful battle. I kind of wish Grace had picked an actual villain for the trio to battle instead of some random ice golem, but then he tied the whole thing into his ongoing story with the Morlocks and Mr. Sinister, so that’s good. Glad to see Grace is growing something with this short series, even if he doesn’t have a lot of issues to work with. He’s making the most out of this revived comic, and for that I’m glad. Iceman is a fun, colorful comic with delightful characters and plenty of action.

I hope to see Grace getting more comic work in the future.

TL;DR: This very special crossover issue of Iceman is about as delightfully fun as comic books can get.


Runaways15

Runaways #15

Runaways #15
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Rowell sure is finding a lot of tangents in her big Gibborim Return story…

Before the Runaways can settle down to figure out their Gibborim/Alex problems, Nico needs some air and she leaves the Hostel. She summons the Staff of One, but a wizard appears instead. He explains that he is the Staff of One, defeated by one of Nico’s ancestors centuries ago and imprisoned as the Staff, with certain rules for his imprisonment. The Wizard explains the whole deal with his imprisonment, and Nico is ready to let him go (she’s not the type to keep prisoners), but he lets it slip that he’s an Evil Wizard, so she can’t do that. Instead, they change the rules so that she doesn’t have to bleed to summon the Staff, and instead, little bits of him will bleed into her, so that he can experience the outside world through her. And after about 100 spells, he’ll be able to escape. Nico doesn’t plan on casting that many spells ever again.

She returns home and gets a big hug from Karolina, who uses the “girlfriend” word, much to both of their pleasure.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

As far as retcons go, this one is fine. It’s a pretty neat idea. Not that the Staff of One needed such an elaborate explanation. But like I said, it’s a fine retcon that will clearly lead to some more trouble down the line. And the issue gives us a nice look into Nico’s mindset these days. But other than that little glimpse at Nico — and a couple stellar jokes — this issue is basically one big exposition dump on how the Staff of One and the Wizard work, who they are and what’s going to happen going forward. Rowell and Anka find excuses to change the scenery, so it’s not just the two of them standing in one place and talking, but the issue really is just the two of them talking. It’s still entertaining, because of the skill of the creative team, but it’s also still an issue-long bout of out-of-the-blue exposition.

TL;DR: An issue full of exposition about a nifty new retcon. The issue is entertaining enough, but still little more than an info-dump.


X236

X-23 #6

X-23 #6
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Georges Duarte
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

This is going to be one of those reviews where I regret the loss of storytelling potential more than I enjoyed the actual issue.

Laura and Gabby are undercover in a local high school tracking cloning material shipments, with Gabby as a student and Laura as the new gym teacher. They suspect the math teacher, but an annoyingly prissy student tips Gabby off to a pretty advanced science club, and sure enough, they’re responsible. But the annoying girl has figured out who Gabby is and wants her genetic material to help her cloning projects, and it just so happens her science fair project is a giant robot! But Gabby and Laura defeat the giant robot, capture the annoying student and save the day.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Honestly, I could do with an entire 6-issue story arc of Gabby going undercover in a high school. Not just because she’s super entertaining trying to pose as a high school student, but because it would be a treasure trove of character development potential. Much like Tamaki did with the birthday storyline in previous issues, why not explore Gabby missing out on high school and childhood? I would love to see Tamaki develop Gabby’s personal life, because I honestly don’t think she has a personal life. She and Laura apparently spend every waking moment going on missions. And even though that can be fun, the heart of any good comic is in strong characters. She’s throwing away a ton of storytelling potential by making this a one-off.

Gabby Roberta Likes 01

Likes also include “walks in the park” and “90s trivia”

As for the issue itself, it was fun. Tamaki mines a lot of humor out of Gabby going undercover and playing up the detective angle to the hilt. And there’s some fun action as they fight a robot with giant goo bombs. But the more I think about what Tamaki is missing out on, the more this issue is bugging me. Like, Gabby posing as a high school student is one thing (and, I repeat, a great idea), but how and why did Laura get a job as a gym teacher? She’s shown actually teaching a class and attending faculty meetings. Was that really necessary for their investigation into one teacher? Laura couldn’t follow him off school grounds? Or just sneak around school grounds at night? And how old are Laura and Gabby supposed to be anyway? Isn’t Laura a teenager herself? How is she getting a job as a teacher? And isn’t Gabby supposed to be younger than high school? I suppose she could be 13ish…

Also, why doesn’t Laura have a real job? That would be a great storyline too!

And why did the snobby girl student build a giant robot if she was into cloning experiments? That seemed a little weird, like Tamaki was stretching to put some conflict in this issue. Can’t have Gabby and Laura cutting up evil high school students, so how about one of them has randomly built a giant robot for the school science fair? And it shoots goo bombs, because that will be a fun visual?

Was Tamaki really having a hard time coming up with storyline ideas of Gabby posing as a high school student? That kind of story writes itself! So why aren’t we getting that story? It would be so much fun and have such character growth potential!

TL;DR: X-23 delivers a pretty fun one-shot high school adventure, while completely ignoring all the great stories that could exist if this wasn’t a done-in-one 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!

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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 November 10, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. X-23 is either 20 or 21. Taylor said she was cloned “twenty years ago” during Orphans of X, so she was either 19 about to turn 20, or 20 about to turn 21. That’s a LITTLE on the young side to teach, but not impossible.

    Gabby is a traditional “rapid aged and grown in a tube” comic book clone, but her “physical” age is 13, which puts her just old enough to be a high school freshman.

  2. Iceman was lots of fun. I hated Angel’s date. Doesn’t read? Dump that guy. The little chat at the end about the hardships of dating as a superhero is what I love in superhero comics. For the record, though, it’s not the first in-universe Amazing Friends team-up. It happened in an issue of Amazing X-Men, as well. By Kathryn Immonen and Paco Medina.

    Runaways is good. The wizard is very sexy, as one would expect of an Anka design.

    X-23 is fun. Just an enjoyable done-in-one. I would’ve loved if it was a two-parter, just to get more room for Student Gabby and Coach Laura.

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