Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/5/19
Welcome to the first comic reviews of the new year! Huzzah! I’m hoping for a nice big year of fun and adventure, and we definitely start off in that direction, so that’s a plus.
This week delivered a ton of fun new issues, from Action Comics to Uncanny X-Men to Mr. & Mrs. X! Comic Book of the Week goes to Runaways for another delightfully fun issue. This issue is another solid example of why I picked Runaways for my favorite comic of the year from last year.
Meanwhile, I’m going to spend this weekend getting caught back up on Jason Aaron’s Thor. His War of the Realms Big Event is really picking up steam, and even though I’ve mostly sworn off of Marvel’s Big Event comics, I’m going to give War of the Realms a try. For one thing, it’s the culmination of everything Aaron has been writing for years, almost all of which I’ve enjoyed. And for another thing, it’s not a forced tie-in to any Marvel movies, that I can tell. So I’m going to give it a try!
Comic Reviews: Action Comics #1006, Heroes in Crisis #4, Mr. & Mrs. X #7, Runaways #17, Tony Stark – Iron Man #7, Uncanny X-Men #8 and Wonder Woman #61.
Action Comics #1006
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
I keep reading Action Comics in the hope that it gets better. Maybe I should stop.
Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent confronts the mayor with what Melody Moore told him about shutting down the arson investigations — though the mayor points out that he only told her that such investigations become “tainted” when superheroes get involved. Still, as the mayor drives away, Clark listens to him get nervous about what was said and where, and he correctly figures out that it was likely Melody Moore who spoke to the press. And sure enough, the Red Cloud then attempts to kill Moore outside the fire station, but Superman arrives to stop her.
Red Cloud is all manner of confident about tussling with Superman again, but his super breath and super speed keep her at a distance. Superman tries to talk to the Cloud to get her to come around, but she disappears. Supes then comforts Moore.
Later, Goode visits her boss with the good news that Superman didn’t defeat her a second time, so he introduces her to his boss: Leone. She’s a crime boss who claims her operation has secretly been running Metropolis for years, and she’s rather pleased with Red Cloud’s work. She also reveals that she’s the person who bought the Daily Planet.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
All of the pieces are in place for this to be a fun comic, but Bendis isn’t bringing them together. We’re missing one key detail: What is Red Cloud’s purpose in all of this? We get one sense in the reveal of Leone: she says her people ran a bunch of computations and decided that somebody with smoke powers would be tough for Superman to handle, so they hired Red Cloud. That makes some sense. But what’s up with her working at the Daily Planet? What’s up with her hatred of Superman? These would be interesting mysteries if Bendis actually made them out to be mysteries instead of just matters-of-fact, and if Red Cloud was a formidable villain. But she’s just a random low key villain with a unique power. And her encounter with Superman this issue makes it quite obvious that Superman could easily take her out if he was so inclined to be meaner about it.
Instead, we’ve got this albatross of an problem about what Goode is even doing with the Daily Planet. And it’s bugging me. Another millstone around this comic’s neck is Bendis’ weird insistence that Lois Lane not being in Metropolis is some kind of juicy, scandalous tidbit. But we already know that she’s just writing a book in another town, and that she and Clark are fine.
I guess I’m just not willing to suspend my disbelief in all the ways Bendis needs me to to be interested in his story. I need more explanation for what Ms. Goode is even trying to accomplish. I don’t believe him when he paints Lois Lane’s book project as some kind of “talk of the town” scandal fodder. And I don’t buy it that this criminal organization has been running Metropolis in secret for years. All of these things seem like something that either Superman or Clark could settle in half a minute, but instead Bendis is dragging them out.
“Haha, hey Kent, where’s your wife? Shacking up with Lex Luthor?”
“She took some time off to write a book. She’s in Chicago working. I saw her the other day.”
“Oh, uh, OK.”
Still, the art is phenomenal, Bendis writes a pretty solid Clark Kent and I still like Melody Moore as a supporting character. And Red Cloud isn’t terrible as a villain. So Action Comics is still readable.
TL;DR: Bendis has a lot of potentially neat ideas, but his execution leaves something to be desired.
Heroes in Crisis #4
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
As is usually the case with Tom King, I’m probably missing some deeper theme or trick. On the surface level with which I’m reading this comic, it’s still not won me over.
After investigating the crime scene, the superheroes can’t decide whether Booster Gold killed everybody at Sanctuary or if Harley Quinn killed everybody at Sanctuary. Booster is in lockup at the Hall of Justice, but Blue Beetle breaks him out because they’re buds. And Batgirl finds Harley Quinn first, promising to help her. Meanwhile, Lois Lane keeps getting sent the Sanctuary confessional videos, so she writes a big article about Sanctuary for the Daily Planet. Because of the confidence of their marriage, Superman doesn’t tell the other heroes it is coming until after the article is already published.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I’m just not seeing the appeal of this comic. Perhaps it’s going over my head, and that’s entirely on me, but from whatever level I’m reading Heroes in Crisis, I’m not enjoying it. It’s a competently made comic, by all means, but it’s rather uninteresting. There’s possibly a good story to be told about superheroes and PTSD, among other mental health issues, but this comic isn’t about that. This comic uses those things as window dressing in order to slaughter a bunch of superheroes and then offer a weak mystery as to who killed them all. This issue just keeps that mystery going by putting Booster Gold and Harley Quinn into motion. Did one of them kill everybody? I don’t know, and it feels like we’re going to find out simply because we reach the issue where King just tells us. And what mystery is going to be worth all of those deaths?
TL;DR: I feel that Tom King has lost touch with whatever point or theme he’s trying to make about superhero mental health by focusing more on plot points.
Mr. & Mrs. X #7
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Oscar Bazaldua
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
I don’t know what Mojo and Spiral have been up to lately, but Thompson casting them back to their classic versions is pretty fun!
Rogue and Gambit are prisoners of Mojo, who wants to use their romance to make a hit new TV show. He spins the Wheel of Genre and lands on “Noir”, so our heroes play out a heist caper, trapped in Mojo’s spell. Their target turns out to be a baby bird, which nobody expected, not even Mojo. Seems mysterious. And it also seems to snap Rogue out of her spell, causing her powers to freak out again and suck the life out of Gambit, until he’s a withered husk. Mojo isn’t happy with the death, so he has Spiral wave another spell, this time going with sleeping princess and her roguish suitor…only he’s recast the love interest role with Longshot!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Mojo is one of those really insane comic book ideas that just happens to work. And Thompson works him like magic in this off-kilter issue. Granted, the bulk of the issue is taken up by Rogue and Gambit living out a pretty standard heist scenario, completely under Mojo’s sway, but it was still fun to read. And I still very much enjoy Bazaldua’s art. And Mojo and his team providing color commentary was super fun! Mojo has never been a favorite villain of mine, but the sheer insanity of his existence and his modus operandi make for entertaining comics. And Thompson makes it into an entertaining comic! While adding some pathos and twists, like Gambit “dying”, Spiral possibly rebelling to help the X-Men and Longshot showing up. Should all make for quality hijinks.
TL;DR: Thompson brings Mojo and his classic madness into her already fun comic!
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Still great, even in the new year!
The last night before the Gibborim return is here. Doombot went out to get help, but Gib destroyed him (the Runaways don’t know). Then one by one, the various Runaways decide to go with Alex’s plan to sacrifice Gib and take the power for themselves…though everyone, especially Chase, is really reluctant. When they go to Gib, the other Gibborim show up, ready to settle this. Alex rushes them to kill, but Chase stops him because Gib reveals he’s switched sides. After spending a week with the Runaways, he sees humanity as worthy beings now, and Gib fights the others to protect the team! And the Runaways join in, cutting loose and going nuts and hoping everything works out!
But the Gibborim are strong and are easily winning. Victor urges Gert to go back in time to give herself time to solve this, but she doesn’t want to change everything about the present anymore…and then she rushes off to help Chase. Which gives Alex the chance to sneak up behind Victor and put a knife to his throat, offering Victor as a sacrifice for the Gibborim!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Man, that page turn reveal to show that Doombot was smashed was pretty heartbreaking. Followed up by the fact that the Runaways thought he was fine and out there getting help.
This was a stellar issue, with some great character moments and some even better action! I was just as incredulous as Chase that everybody would follow along with Alex’s idea, but then Gib went and showed us all what Rowell has been building towards with these various humanizing moments. Gib turning on his fellow Gibborim (who are named Bo and Rim, because of course they are) was a great moment, as was the craziness when the Runaways jumped into the fray to help out! They quickly got whooped, but it was exciting nonetheless! Runaways, go!
Rowell mixes in the quality drama alongside the action with ease. The ongoing debate between Gert and Victor over whether or not she should run to the past is great. It’s a very interesting conundrum, and I do kind of want to see Gert go. But she’s also right in that her life will likely be vastly different when she catches up to the timeline, and what she has with Victor might be gone. On top of that, you’ve got smaller personal moments, like Molly tearfully going along with the plan, or just scenes of Nico and Karolina together.
Then we’ve got that stellar cliffhanger ending! After an issue of the Runaways reluctantly going along with Alex’s plan, he reveals his true nature for sure in the end! Or maybe he thinks it’s a feint, that he thinks Victor doesn’t have a soul. Either way, nobody should be happy that he’s got a knife to Victor’s throat!
TL;DR: A great new issue of Runaways delivers shocking twists, exciting action, touching drama and a solid cliffhanger.
Tony Stark – Iron Man #7
Writers: Dan Slott and Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Dan Slott is finally digging in deep to a single storyline (though this one has been building for awhile), and this comic is still damn good!
Amanda Armstrong is trapped in the eScape, shuttled to somewhere deep into the code, a secret room where she meets Howard Stark and Motherboard…a psycho Maria Stark! In the real world, Tony takes command of the situation and tells all the human players to log off — which is when the Controller reveals himself and his plan. Tony knew the Controller would show up eventually, and he’s got a program ready to track his location. Iron Man, Rhodey and Wasp head out to take on the Controller, during which he reveals that all of the jerkwad banned members that he snuck back into the eScape think they’re still in the digital plane, but in reality, he’s got them going out and conducting their war games and shooter fantasies in the real world!
Meanwhile, Jocasta recruits Machine Man to use his illegal eScape interface to go back inside and try and save Maria. Then Jocasta passes out from using up her battery life. Also, Tony had to put Friday back into his armor to help guide him, since Motherboard is compromised.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This issue is stuffed with activity and all of it is an exciting part of Slott’s new story! The action and excitement builds, the mysteries deepen and Iron Man is front and center being awesome. Slott also uses a classic villain well, taking the Controller’s regular schtick and applying it to this very modern new Tony Stark invention. And Slott doesn’t just wimp out Tony to make it happen. Tony knows his classic villain well enough to have some safeguards in place, even if he can’t predict everything. It’s small touches like this that really make Tony Stark – Iron Man sparkle with energy and entertainment.
The large amount of subplots and the like keep things fun too, from Machine Man cameos to whatever is troubling Jocasta, to even smaller subplots like Friday the former A.I. Slott keeps everything moving and keeps many plates in the air, all of which contribute to the fun issue. That’s what his Iron Man comic has been from the start. This series doesn’t slow down and he makes it all fun to read (except for that one issue I didn’t care for…).
TL;DR: The wild energy of Tony Stark – Iron Man starts to really sink its teeth into a solid ongoing story.
Uncanny X-Men #8
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson
Artist: R.B. Silva
Inker: Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
It’s just an unending cycle of madness and cliffhangers.
So the Young X-Men aren’t really in the Age of Apocalypse. Instead, Legion just shoved everybody into his mindscape and made it look like the AoA. In reality, the kids have only been gone a couple of minutes, while the X-Men in the real world take down the Horsemen and try to figure out where they went. Kitty managed to escape when X-Man went away, and she’s brought the senator and Apocalypse out with her. They soon suss out that everybody’s in Legion’s head, and Bishop goes inside to stop Hisako from killing X-Man and fill everybody in on the plan to get them out. Hisako is 110% into murder now, but Bishop attempts to talk her out of it with the same logic she was spouting only one issue previously.
Eventually Legion shows up and takes on X-Man and the two duel deeper in Legion’s mind, until X-Man takes over Legion’s whole body. Everybody returns to the real world and X-Legion is ready to go end the world all over again.
Meanwhile, Beast has discovered that it was Anole who stole the vaccine from his lab.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
How many more weeks must we be subjected to this madness? It feels like I’ve been reading Uncanny X-Men for a whole year. It’s just an endless cycle of cliffhangers and stuff happening, none of it meaning anything or having any lasting impact. Just whirl and swirl the characters around in a stew and blather dialogue and action onto the page! Suddenly Armor is so gung-ho about killing X-Man that she’s ready to fight for it? She was against killing him only an issue ago! And X-Man ends up possessing Legion’s body? How is that any different from what X-Man was doing a couple issues ago? Is he supposed to be more scary now? He’s the same level of conqueror that he was before! And it still feels like none of it matters.
There are parts of the issue I do like. I like how Bishop jumps in to help the kids as matter-of-factly as possible. I like how Kitty Pryde has more than enough faith in the X-Students to let them handle the Age of Apocalypse while the X-Men suss out what to do…even if no one else on the team agrees with her. I like Apocalypse sort of playing along with it all. I like the art.
I don’t care for how useless the Horsemen are in this whole storyline. I don’t like that the X-Kids spent nearly a year in this mindscape. Didn’t Glob already spend several months in some alternate post-apocalyptic future a few storylines ago? Poor guy. And I don’t like how Armor is able to just jump wildly back and forth from non-murderous to murderous depending on the needs of the specific issue. Why even have her change her mind about killing X-Man? Why not having Pixie or Rockslide argue with Bishop in favor of killing X-Man?
Uncanny X-Man is largely readable. I can’t knock that part of it. But this is starting to get maddening at how we’re thrown willy nilly in all manner of directions, issue after issue. And none of it really feels like we’re going anywhere. How are we any different than where we started this series?
Also, I don’t know Anole at all. Is he the sort of guy who would want to be cured of his mutation?
TL;DR: Uncanny X-Men is a whirling, swirling mess of characters and plot lines and madness.
Wonder Woman #61
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Ares sucks. He just plain sucks. Wonder Woman writes need to stop using Ares.
Steve Trevor is greeted by Aphrodite, who is bored with this whole war and confused as to why she’s on Earth in the first place. She heels his wound and takes him to find Wonder Woman, leaving behind all those mythical creatures from the first couple of issues. They find Wonder Woman in the Parliament building, after she rescued the grandchildren of the Prime Minister and brought them to him. It’s a pair of touching reunions, but Aphrodite doesn’t know anything what has become of Themyscira or why gods walk the Earth. While in the building, the PM gets a message from the rebels that they’re willing to talk.
Wonder Woman and the gang take the PM through the city to the proposed meeting ground for peace talks, with air cover from Etta Candy. But when they arrive at the pavilion, Ares is lying in wait to attack!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This was the best issue of Wilson’s Wonder Woman so far, for a number of reasons. For one thing, we’ve ditched the wishy-washiness of Ares. He doesn’t show up until the end and that gives everybody else times to actually do something, especially Wonder Woman. She’s much more front and center this issue, and it makes for a much better issue. Wilson writes a good — if so far generic — Wonder Woman. For another thing, the story gets more focus, as Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman are brought together and we ditch those confusing mythical beasts. So there’s no more uninteresting side plots. It’s Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, doing what they can to bring peace to a warzone. The tighter focus makes for a much better issue.
The art is also much better. I don’t know the sorcerer Xermanico, but they do mighty fine comic book art. Everybody looks dashing and cool, the action is great and it just makes for a better comic overall. Art counts for a lot, even if I’m terrible at critiquing it.
Don’t get me wrong, the story still lacks a solid foundation. I’ve forgotten what side is fighting for what in this story. We started out disliking the Americans for propping up a government against some righteous rebels, but now we’re on the side of the Prime Minister against these overly violent rebels? And the Prime Minister comes out of nowhere rather than being a character all along. And Etta’s Air Force assistance comes and goes as it pleases. And again, we just dropped those mythical creatures, or at least traded them in for a largely indifferent Aphrodite.
But overall, this issue was very much improved on what we had been getting, and I like that.
TL;DR: Wilson’s Wonder Woman gets a better focus and a new artist, and the overall quality noticeably improves.
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 January 5, 2019, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman, X-Men and tagged Action Comics, Gambit, Heroes in Crisis, Iron Man, Mr. & Mrs. X, Rogue, Runaways, Tony Stark, Tony Stark - Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men, Wonder Woman. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.