Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/22/18

Merry Christmas everybody! Or at least in a few days for those of us who celebrate. I’ve got a long weekend of hanging out with family ahead of me, and hopefully some sweet presents!

We had some boffo comic book presents this week, with new issues of Aquaman, Batman, Uncanny X-Men, West Coast Avengers and more! Comic Book of the Week goes to an absolutely delightful Runaways Christmas special!

Runaways Christmas 01

Also, watch Runaways season 2 on Hulu!

Meanwhile, how about that Aquaman movie? Was that insanely cool or what? I can’t remember a movie with that level of size and scale, and who actually pulled it off. So much fun! Such madness!

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #43, Batman #61, Catwoman #6, Iceman #4, Runaways #16, Uncanny X-Men #6 and West Coast Avengers #6.


Aquaman #43

Aquaman #43
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Robson Rocha
Inker: DAniel Henriques
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I keep trying to interest myself in Aquaman comics, and I keep failing. Let’s see if Kelly Sue DeConnick can win me over!

Following his heroic sacrifice at the end of Justice League: Drowned Earth, Aquaman has washed ashore in the Village of Unspoken Water. He’s lost his memory, and was named Arausio by the pretty lady who pulled him from the water. She’s Caille, and she’s generally hot and spiritual. Being a strapping young man, Arausio helps out around the village, making a life for himself. After he heroically rescues one of the village elders, and while their latest fish haul is rotten, the villagers tell him that everyone washes ashore on this island after they have sinned against the ocean. And they’re all trying to appease the ocean and repent.

All except Namma, who rebelled and raged against the stupid ocean. The villagers banished her to some outlying islands, but kept her daughter — Caille. The villagers offer Aquaman a potion to restore his memory if he will take Caille back to Namma.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I like Aquaman, in general. He’s a cool guy who doesn’t get enough credit. So I keep trying out these new Aquaman relaunches in the hopes I’ll get hooked. It’s worked for both Thor and Iron Man over at Marvel, two characters whose interest I have is about equal to Aquaman. Unfortunately, this new issue doesn’t wow me very much.

It’s a pretty solid story overall, setting up the new status quo nicely. But it doesn’t do anything particularly special. Aquaman is amnesiac in a village we’ve never seen before, which has some mysteries in its past. That’s all fine. And DeConnick writes everybody fine, with perfectly fine art. None of the characters really stand out, and the mystery isn’t all that compelling. This Caille character comes off as a really obvious mystical hot chick trope. Everybody else in this village is some dumpy fish wife-type, but Caille is super hot, and wears a sexy black corset and flowing red robes.

Aquaman Caille 01

I wonder if she’s important

If this was a role-playing video game, she’d be the NPC with far more detail in her design than the other NPCs.

This could be a pretty good start, and perhaps DeConnick has some good mysteries planned, but so far this issue presents some standard stuff. And it’s not much to sink our teeth into just yet. But I’m willing to see where this goes.

TL;DR: The new Aquaman relaunch doesn’t offer anything too bold or exciting to kick off the new story, but is otherwise fine.


Batman #61

Batman #61
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Travis Moore
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

New storyline starts here! With no mention of the evil Thomas Wayne showing up at the end of last issue!

We go through a retelling of the night Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered, only this time there’s a Batman, and he investigates the killing. He finds the guy that did it through solid detective work, and the guy gets put away. Young Bruce Wayne then uses his connections to get an audience with the killer to help his grieving — only for Bruce to pull out a razor blade and slash the guy to death!

Turns out it’s not really Bruce Wayne and this has all been in the head of that new villain King created called “Master Bruce”. Do you remember him? The kid who so fantasizes about having the life of Bruce Wayne that he killed his parents and carved the names “Thomas” and “Martha” into his cheeks? This kid keeps killing his cellmates or other prisoners, claiming that they were the man who killed his parents. The prison administration decides it’s time to ship the crazy kid off to Arkham Asylum.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This would have gotten a higher rating if more stuff happened, but this issue is just a flowery re-introduction to Matthew Warner, the villainous “Master Bruce”. Granted, it’s been a year since King’s original story, and a refresher is probably needed, and it’s not the sort of story that could have a B-plot. And on its own, it’s a fine little story. It doesn’t really present anything new about Matthew Warner, it just doubles down on his particular psychosis. There’s a neat little shock where we have Batman investigating the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne as if they just happened, but that just leads to the Matthew Warner reveal. He’s a fine villain, and having him within Bane’s clutches in Arkham should be fun, but this issue does little more than re-introduce him in a really basic way. The art is strong and the writing is good, but as a single issue overall, it’s breezy and simple.

TL;DR: Tom King gives us a neat little refresher course on one of his new villains, and little more than that.


Catwoman #6

Catwoman #6
Writer and Artist: Joelle Jones
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Josh Reed

The opening storyline comes to a fairly lackluster ending.

Catwoman fights her way through all of the guests at the Creel’s wake, even fighting through one of her drugged-up bodyguards. She finally confronts Raina Creel, who has a gun pointed at Selina. Catwoman scoffs at how much pursuing her has cost Creel, and then Creel’s youngest son shows up to intervene and he accidentally gets shot in the scuffle. Catwoman takes off, Creel disappears and the detective is arrested…but another officer tries to make him a deal to hunt down Catwoman.

Later, Catwoman visits her sister and suggests moving her out of the asylum into Selina’s apartment.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This was fine, but nothing special. Seeing Catwoman kickass her way through the bad guys was fun, but it all builds up to a pretty lackluster confrontation with Raina Creel. I suppose it ends how it had to end, and Catwoman remains a badass, but eh. Catwoman gets away and continues on with her business. Creel’s son is killed and that sucks for her, but the son hasn’t been much of a character. Perhaps this is all building to an even bigger and better Raina Creel story. I would be down for that. I’m not quite sure why the detective got arrested. He hasn’t been much of a character either. I guess I’m just going to have to hope that Jones is going somewhere fun with all of this. At least her art remains phenomenal.

TL;DR: The opening storyline in Catwoman ends with more of a whimper than a bang, but it’s good enough that I hope it’s building to something bigger and better.


Iceman #4

Iceman #4
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Nathan Stockman
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

The penultimate issue of Iceman is here again! I’m a little disappointed that this series came back only for another five issues, but I’ll take what I can get.

Iceman is ready to bust Ash out of prison, but the Morlocks talk him down. So Iceman instead goes charging after Mr. Sinister, fighting his way through Sinister’s mutates, only to get caught and placed in a tube in the end. Sinister monologues for a bit about how he’s going to kill Iceman to study him, only for Iceman’s body to disintegrate in the end.

Meanwhile, Bishop heads down to the Morlock tunnels to recruit their best fighters for something.

And, inexplicably, Kitty Pryde and Storm host a Mutant Pride Day in Manhattan while all of this is going on.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I am 100% in favor of the X-Men doing something legit like a Mutant Pride Day (complete with Dazzler concert)…but why is it being randomly inserted into the middle of an Iceman comic? Like, this is the first I think we’ve heard about the event even in this series, and Iceman has nothing to do with it. So why is it here? Kitty and Storm’s speech doesn’t even feel thematically relevant to Iceman’s fight against Mr. Sinister. I applaud Grace for having such a nifty idea, but it absolutely does not fit in this random issue of his resurrected Iceman comic. Grace should have pushed the X-Offices to somehow work it into one of the main comics. Honestly, replace all of the gibber jabber from the first half of Uncanny X-Men with a Mutant Pride Day and have X-Man attack during that and then you’d have something. But it’s totally out of place in this random fourth issue of Iceman.

Iceman Pun 01

The Iceman/Bishop team-up is now known as “Iceshop”

I still love the writing and art in this comic, and the rest of it builds nicely towards a strong final issue, but a few other things bugged me. Like, the Morlocks tell Iceman not to worry about them, and to instead get them a lawyer instead of busting Ash out of lockup. That’s great and all…but the Morlocks as a concept don’t work very well in modern X-Men. When you’ve got kids like Glob Herman and Anole among the X-Men, why would you leave the Morlocks down in the sewers? I’m sure there was some reasoning back when Grace first introduced this squad, but I’ve already forgotten it. Whatever pride they may feel isn’t important enough that they couldn’t easily find room for them in the freakin’ X-Mansion. So the Morlock getting all uppity with Iceman for wanting to help Ash doesn’t ring true.

Likewise, Iceman’s capture is a little too easy. He spends the sequence fighting off a small army of mutates and genetic monsters, kicking butt and fighting all the way through to Sinister’s inner chamber…only to have those same monsters suddenly just grab him and shove him in a tube in a single page. Felt like a weird ending to the scene to me, just to get Iceman into a position where Sinister can start monologuing.

Although now that I think about it, Iceman never says anything during his entire attack…and then his body disintegrates at the end…it was probably a decoy! Ah dang, you got me, Sina Grace! You got me!

TL;DR: Another enjoyable issue of Iceman builds to another finale, though there are a few nitpicks along the way.


Runaways #16

Runaways #16
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

What’s this? A Christmas special? I didn’t think comic books did that anymore!

It’s Christmas and the Runaways are still under Gibborim-ordered house arrest, so Nico whips out the Staff of One and transforms the hostel into a Christmas wonderland! And Doombot shows up for Christmas dinner. It’s all so nice that they guilt themselves into inviting Alex to the table, but all he wants to talk about is his plan to kill their guardian, Gib, and use that to weaken the rest of the Gibborim. Doombot is totally down with that plan, but most of the others don’t want to kill anybody or discuss Alex’s evil schemes at the dinner table.

After dinner, they all open the presents that magically appeared under the tree. But since the magic spell used Nico’s memories of her grandmother’s Christmases, everybody gets socks. Including one final present for Gib…which is socks.

Meanwhile, Gert continues to struggle with feeling out of place. Even Victor getting a rudimentary robot body doesn’t cheer her up. He suggests that she could use their time machine to go back two years, so that she could live the two years that were stolen from her, come up with a plan to stop these Gibborim and then rejoin the crew when she’s at the right age.

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

I’ll say it every issue if I have to: Runaways is delightful! A Christmas special? Complete with opening presents and sitting down to Christmas dinner, with characters using Christmas as a story point? It’s great! I’m a big fan of the holiday spirit, and I love how Rowell incorporates it into her ongoing narrative. Like the team regretfully and sulkingly inviting Alex to dinner, because it’s Christmas…only for Alex to keep pushing his agenda, which Doombot wholly supports. Honestly, if I could just do an entire article about all of Doombot’s great lines in this issue, I would.

Doombot Quote 01

And then you’ve got the ending, where everybody gets socks for Christmas. That’s great! Rowell set up the presents at the start of the issue when the spell was cast, then we finally get to the scene and it’s a great joke. And then she takes it one step further by having Molly be the one to discover the present for Gib and taking it over to him. Molly is one of the most conflicted on the team. She still likes Alex and is willing to hear him out, but she also doesn’t want to murder Gib. So while nothing gets settled during dinner, she’s still got to see that Gib got a present, and she brings it to him. It’s rather crushing, while also being adorable, because the spell gave him giant socks to fit his giant feet.

Doombot Quote 02

I also really love that idea for Gert. Send her back in time to live the two years she lost, come up with a plan to save the day and rejoin the team as an even more awesome Gert? That sounds pretty darn amazing! I really hope Rowell follows up on that idea, even if it seems a little heartless for everybody to abandon Gert two years in the past…but it would eventually work out in the end!

Doombot Quote 03

That’s another funny one.

TL;DR: The amazing Runaways comic has an amazing Christmas special that still adds to the ongoing storyline.


Uncanny X-Men #6

Uncanny X-Men #6
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

This is one of the better issues, because stuff actually happens. I renew my theory that most of this Uncanny X-Men series was filler in order to fulfill an issue order from up top.

Archangel is really peeved that the X-Men forced him back to his Angel of Death state, but he grumpily agrees to take everybody to X-Man’s HQ anyway. Everybody regroups and X-Man comes out to greet them, trying to forcefully explain his plan, but the X-Men decide to just bum rush him Ghosterbusters style and get promptly whooped. The Young X-Men show up with Legion and Madrox, and Hisako asks X-Man why he’s doing all this — and he explains that it’s because he’s dying, and he wants to make the world a utopia before he goes. Hisako seems to be making some progress, but then Legion gets impatient and casts X-Man back where he came from, resulting in the Young X-Men transforming into gnarly-looking Age of Apocalypse variants.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

First of all, I complained about this last week, but it needs to be said again: Archangel comes off like a petulant child. He’ll never forgive Psylocke for turning him back into Archangel to break X-Man’s mind control? Please. But I do love his grumpy child response to the X-Men after he’s Archangel again. It’s like he crosses his arms and pouts, but then agrees to help the X-Men after all with nary another word on his anger.

Second of all, this issue was good solely because stuff is happening. The X-Men confront X-Man and we actually find out more about what’s going on. There’s still no explanation for why X-Man is suddenly all Jesus-like, or why he thinks this is a good idea. But at least he’s explaining himself to the X-Men, both the adults and the teens. And that’s progress. I’m also tickled pink that the X-Men’s idea for taking on this Omega-Level psionic to basically just “get him!”

XMenGetHim 01

“This is the extent of my leadership skills!”

Seriously? No plan? No strategy? You’ve got a dozen X-Men with wildly different powers facing off against an extremely dangerous and unpredictable mutant, and you’re just gonna wildly rush him? It works about as well as expected. And then, of course, Legion ruins everything by just zapping X-Man. And why did he need Multiple Man for that? To just zap X-Man? Again, whatever. All evidence that the creative team was killing time as they spread this story about to a weekly series, getting to the Age of X-Man stuff as effortlessly as possible.

But again, it makes for a perfectly fine comic. Even an enjoyable one, now that things are happening. The X-Men confronting X-Man and making him actually talk about his plan works for this quickie series, especially when it’s Hisakto really testing him on his ideas. And if you’re like me, reading this whole darn thing, an issue where stuff happens is a good issue.

TL;DR: More stuff actually happens in this issue, so it’s a good read. But a lot of really inexplicable stuff also happens.


West Coast Avengers #6

West Coast Avengers #6
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Danielle Di Nicuolo
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I’m quickly running out of nice things to say about West Coast Avengers. By that I mean it’s largely enjoyable each and every issue, in all the same ways.

The West Coast Avengers are being held in cages suspended above a shark tank by the villains: Madame Masque, MODOK, Satana and the Eel. Masque is going to let the villains play with the heroes, while Lady Bullseye and another secret member go after Kate Bishop. Kate is in the process of escaping with her mom, but when she finds out that her mom intends to have Kate just flee the scene entirely, our hero heads back inside to rescue her friends. Kate defeats Lady Bullseye, but the secret member gets her…it’s Noh-Varr, her ex-boyfriend! And he seems to want to help.

Also, our other heroes manage to escape their cages and the sharks because they’ve still got tiny bits of their powers. But they’re still prisoners in the shark tank, with the bad guys toying with them.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Just heap all of the praises on this comic. It’s delightful, the characters both good and evil are fun, the dialogue sparkles and the action is a hoot. A team of interesting bad guys get together in order to rough up the West Coast Avengers just enough to scare them out of LA, so that they can have their West Coast crime back? Sounds awesome! Our heroes trapped in cages suspended above a shark tank, straining through the power dampeners to try and save the day? Nifty! Great character moments throughout, like Gwenpool punching sharks in their faces, Kate rejecting her mother’s offer to escape or Fuse becoming water to get out? That’s the bee’s knees!

West Coast Avengers is a damn fun comic that keeps getting better and better.

TL;DR: A packed issue offers plenty to love, with great characters and really nifty action.

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 December 22, 2018, in Avengers, Batman, DC, Marvel, Multiple Man, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Iceman was good. The Mutant Pride Rally was the definite highlight. A mutant drag queen is pretty great to see, but mostly, I loved how positive the rally was. The X-Men franchise is horribly lacking in stuff like that, stuff that treats mutants as an actual community.

    Runaways was good. I love me some Doombot.

    UXM was good, though the fact that even Jubilee is now condescending to the New X-Men is grating. As I keep saying, if the X-office doesn’t have long-term plans for these characters, then this subplot is pointless.

    WCA is a lot of fun, but there is still some real sincerity and drama, too.

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