Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/12/19
Holy guacamole, it’s another big week for comics! Not only were there a bunch of my favorite titles already, like Squirrel Girl and Go Go Power Rangers, but there were also a couple of brand new comics I wanted to try out, like Captain Marvel and Young Justice! So be prepared for plenty of reviews!
Comic Book of the Week goes to the final issue of Iceman, where writer Sina Grace goes all out in his second grand finale!
Meanwhile, I continue to fail at catching up to Jason Aaron’s Thor comic. I have a digital stack just waiting for me to read, but I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. I want to get caught up on Thor! I really do! But I’ve also got random YouTube to watch…
Comic Reviews: Captain Marvel #1, Go Go Power Rangers #16, The Green Lantern #3, Iceman #5, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #40, Uncanny X-Men #9, X-23 #8 and Young Justice #1.
Captain Marvel #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
A new era of Captain Marvel is here! The fourth or fifth new era of Captain Marvel of the past few years, as Marvel keeps trying to turn her into someone really special. I think she is someone really special, and if anyone can bring it out in her, it’s Kelly Thompson!
She mostly succeeds.
Most recently, Captain Marvel took a sabbatical from leading the space defense force Alpha Flight to go home and take care of her family. She found out her mother was a Kree alien, so Carol is half-Kree. Then her mother was killed, and now Carol is ready to get back into the swing of superheroics.
This issue opens with Captain Marvel fighting a giant kraken monster in the middle of Manhattan with Spider-Woman, leading to plenty of banter between the two best friends. Then Carol sits down with Tony Stark to discuss her re-introduction to the world of ground-based superheroics, and he sets her up with a media interview so the public can be reminded about Captain Marvel. Carol reluctantly agrees, and she also agrees to mentor Hazmat, the former Avengers Academy student whose powers are getting a little out of control.
Carol bumps into her ex-boyfriend Rhodey and they go out to lunch, with Rhodey wanting to rekindle what they had before. They’re interrupted by Ripley, the interviewer, and then they’re interrupted again by old Fantastic Four villain Mahkizmo, known as the Nuclear Man. Carol knocks him around for a bit before he escapes in a portal, kidnapping Ripley. Carol follows after them through the portal.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
For starters, this is an enjoyable issue and a solid re-introduction to Captain Marvel’s adventures. The dialogue is typically fun, there’s enough action to really let Captain Marvel stretch her super-powered legs, and Thompson firmly establishes all the major relationships in Carol’s life. This is a good look into this high profile Marvel superhero, written by one of my favorite current writers, with some truly phenomenal artwork.
But if I’m being honest, this issue also feels a bit manufactured.
Think of it like this: there’s a big Captain Marvel movie coming out, for which the Marvel company hopes to earn another billion dollars. As part of typical movie/comic synergy, there’s a high profile new #1 issue for Captain Marvel, with a new creative team and direction. So it’s in Marvel’s best interest to make sure this issue is as generally well-regarded as possible by as many people as possible. So honestly, it feels like this issue went through several levels of editorial oversight to make sure the perfect introductory issue was crafted. As such, Captain Marvel #1 feels a little shallow.
The main issue is the ceaseless banter. This issue is basically three long conversations, with a touch of action to spice things up. First, Carol banters with Jessica Drew about fighting a giant monster. Then Carol banters with Tony Stark. Then Carol banters with Rhodey. There’s a little bit of banter with Hazmat, but she leaves the story quickly after her subplot is established. Thompson writes good banter (though I’m not a fan of her Tony Stark), and it’s all fun to read, but it’s also really surface level stuff. It establishes basic relationships for Carol, gives a glimpse of her personality, and basically sets up the various plots and subplots going forward. Obviously, that’s what a first issue is supposed to do, but I just don’t feel like the dialogue was as natural as it could have been. Thompson can clearly write natural-sounding, personally-important dialogue. So I feel like extra effort was taken with this issue to be as broadly appealing as possible.
Likewise, the kraken is a largely generic threat with — so far — no connection to anything else. Just something big for Carol to punch and banter about with Jessica. And then the choice of Nuclear Man as the villain in the end feels like a forced choice. I had to Google him to find out who he was, and the Wikipedia abstract literally says he’s an “extreme male chauvinist”. There are two sentences in the abstract, and that’s one of them. So if you’re going to really push Carol’s feminist bonafides, why not put her up against a chauvinist straw man? I think a sharper choice could have been made in terms of villain, especially since he just shows up out of nowhere to fight Carol.
Of course, I go on this little rant about how artificial parts of the comic feel, only for the final page cliffhanger and the upcoming issue solicitations revealing that Carol and her squad are going to end up in some Mad Max-style dystopia, and that’s about as far from Captain Marvel movie synergy as one can get. So maybe this series will be about Thompson spreading her wings with the character and telling the story she wants to tell.
I am legit excited to see this cool dystopia stuff. And since Spider-Woman is involved, I hope Thompson plans to at least mention my current favorite comic book romance.
TL;DR: The new Captain Marvel relaunch is a fun read with a lot of promise, but it does feel just a touch manufactured.
Go Go Power Rangers #16
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Eleonora Carlini
Ink Assist: Simona Di Gianfelice
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Being a big Green Ranger fan, this issue was another delightful look into the lore of the rogue Power Coin!
The issue opens with an awesome flashback to how Rita acquired the Green Power Coin in the first place. One of her lackeys, Loriyan, stole it for her from Ninjor over 10,000 years ago, but then tried to use the power for himself. Rita defeated him and imprisoned him in the cave.
In the present day, Rita has successfully retrieved the Green Power Coin and Dragon Dagger from their resting spot, but she’s immediately betrayed by the native queen, Adriyel. That’s when Jason and Trini make their move, and Adriyel sends her soldiers after the Power Rangers while she battles Rita. The rest of the Rangers teleport in to help, and their colors are also switched around. It’s fun, everybody fights, and the Rangers inadvertently help Rita when they use their Power Cannon to destroy Adriyel. Rita escapes and the Power Rangers teleport home.
Once back on the moon, Rita hosts a feats to celebrate her victory. And she reveals that she asked Baboo to mount an insurrection to see which of her crew might betray her…and none of them do. They’re all loyal and ready to embark on the new Green Ranger mission. Which is a nice change of pace for her, considering the betrayals of both Loriyan and Adriyel in this issue.
Meanwhile, Jason and Trini decide to table their kiss for now. And Billy and Zach discover that some strange version of Alpha was helping maintain Jason and Trini’s school assignments while they were missing.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I love these deep dives into Power Rangers lore. We didn’t get a whole lot of that from the show when I was a kid, so having these comics come along and really dig into all that backstory stuff is really neat — even if it’s all probably being created on the fly by the creative teams, rather than ages old stuff that’s only coming to the surface now. It’s still cool to get a story of how Rita acquired the Green Power Coin and what it meant for her. As a fan of the Green Ranger, those bits of the story were right up my alley, and Parrott came up with some great stuff, writing all the scenes well. He’s done a lot to flesh out Rita.
Also, in the flashback, we don’t see the Dragon Shield on the morphed Loriyan, so that story could still come!
Meanwhile, having the Power Rangers switch colors is just plain fun! It might be just a quick gimmick for this storyline, but Parrott again has a lot of fun with the idea. The other Rangers seem to inhabit a bit of the personalities of their switched colors, so you’ve got Zach in Pink acting more adventurous, like a Kimberly. And you’ve got Billy in Black more excited and into rough-housing. It’s a neat idea and is used really well in this issue, making a typical fight scene into something more.
I’m disappointed that Jason and Trini put off their kiss and feelings for now, but hopefully that will go somewhere!
TL;DR: A fun issue that plays around with both the Power Rangers themselves and takes a deep dive into some fascinating new lore.
The Green Lantern #3
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Grant Morrison is just getting crazy with it, and it’s great!
Earth was stolen by the slavers of Dhor to be sold in an intergalactic auction — which the Green Lantern Corps is ready to bust up. After some heavy bidding, a being known as The Shepherd, who looks suspiciously like the Biblical God (see the issue cover) buys the planet and intends to take it to his garden. The Lanterns raid the auction and start catching bad guys, while Hal goes to confront the Shepherd. The being claims that he’s already spoken with the lifeforms of Earth, including the insects and bacteria, and the majority want to stay in his care. He’s managed to give them all super-powers…so what if The Shepherd is actually a planet-eater who will consume every living thing, down to the planet core, in a thousand years? Hal gets more and more angry as the witless, brain-warped people of Earth are ready to sell out their great great grandchildren for super powers now.
Hal puts Earth on lockdown and joins the rest of the Lanterns as they mop up the mess. Hal catches the fleeing Dhorians and stops the Blackstars, but then gets a look at the crippled, warped and irradiated slaves the Dhorians were using to power their ship. Hal is so angry that he kills the lead Dhor, then tells his fellow Lanterns that “You all saw, it was self-defense!”
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
The mystery of the disappeared Earth gets pretty crazy, as everything he’s been building with the Dhorians and the Blackstars finally comes together. It’s really funny and creative! Earth on auction? Bought by some guy that looks like God? It’s crazy! And then he mixes in the Green Lanterns performing a police raid, keeping with that procedural police stuff I’m really digging about this series. Likewise, that ending, with Hal committing the “typical” cop killing scenario. That’s some dark stuff, and I’m very curious to see where he goes with it. I also really enjoyed the camaraderie between the Lanterns. They work like a professional unit, with Hal Jordan standing out as a tough cop. It’s a great take on the Green Lantern Corps! Morrison also mixes in some of his subtle humor throughout the issue. Like when Hal Jordan reveals the Shepherd to actually be a planet-killing monster, and that his true form is as a tentacles and toothed beast, and the Shepherd just goes, “So?” Loving it!
TL;DR: Morrison mixes the police procedural stuff with some really far out and cosmic ideas, really pushing this comic to its potential!
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Nathan Stockman
Colorists: Andres Mossa and Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
For the second time too soon, the Iceman comic is coming to an end. It’s still amazing that Marvel brought it back like they did, but losing it again is a weird choice. At least we can say it existed and we enjoyed it.
Iceman tricked Mister Sinister with a decoy and the fight is on, with Iceman revealing some new tricks to help fight his sinister foe. Meanwhile, Sinister’s stooges attack the Mutant Pride Day festival to kill some muties and humies, but Bishop and his Morlock allies arrive just in time to fight back — with help from the X-Men, Emma Frost, Emma’s brother and Grace’s new mutant, Shade, the first mutant drag queen. Bobby eventually pulls out all the stops to send Sinister shooting off into the stratosphere, then he helps stop Sinister’s various armies, revealing that Sinister was using the missing Morlocks to power his ice golems. The day is saved and Iceman gets to relax — but Old Man Iceman is waiting in the wings, and there’s a one-shot special coming out soon with his name on it (not really, it’s just a saying)!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Grace pulled out all of the stops to end his second Iceman comic, and we’re all reminded why it sucks that this comic is ending. This issue is great! Every single storyline is strong, and every supporting character serves a purpose, while never losing sight of Iceman himself as the main character. And it’s a great Iceman showcase! It starts with him tricking Sinister with a decoy, then features a lot of really fun jokes as he takes on the villain, then Iceman goes into “Omega Level” mode to finish Sinister off, giving us a really great use of his powers. Then Iceman helps clean up the rest of the mess like only he can, and we get a nice little epilogue with Kitty Pryde. And I didn’t even mention the prologue flashback that showed a short scene between Bobby and his ex-boyfriend Judah, when a biking date allows Bobby to just relax and be himself instead of “performing” as the team jokester. It all works.
The rest of the issue works just as well. In the previous issue, I felt that the Mutant Pride Day event felt wildly out of place. Why put such a big event in the Iceman comic? Why aren’t the actual X-Men comics doing something fun like this? But Grace reveals it was all part of his plan to up the stakes with Mister Sinister, so the festival absolutely works for the story. And he puts the Morlocks to good use as well, tying them back into the conclusion. This was a really well contained 5-issue story with a great use of the main character and a an exciting use of the X-Men overall.
TL;DR: This is an expertly crafted issue that not only tells a really fun comic book story set firmly in the world of the X-Men, but is a wonderful showcase for Iceman himself.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #40
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Derek Charm
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
I think this issue is more message than comic book.
The mystery Skrull girl, G’illian, tells everybody her story: she’s a mutant with much stronger shape-shifting powers than other Skrulls. She came to Earth as part of Secret Invasion, but used that as an opportunity to stay behind and try to find a better life on Earth. She spent the past several years in hiding, and came to admire Squirrel Girl from afar. When she learned that the Skrulls had noticed her absence and were going to invade Earth to find her, she posed as Squirrel Girl and got herself “killed” so that her leaders who believe she’d completed her mission after all — except the real Squirrel Girl laid low rather than reveal she wasn’t dead, so nobody knows it was really a Skrull impostor that died, so the invasion was still on.
Once she explains the predicament, Squirrel Girl and her friends are ready to help, but Tony Stark doesn’t trust a Skrull. So Squirrel Girl gives him a talking to and Tony comes around. He holds a press conference to reveal that Squirrel Girl is not dead, but the Skrull soldier is. And then he helps set G’illian up with stuff she’ll need to start a real life on Earth.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
There honestly wasn’t much to this issue. G’illian’s story takes up most of the issue, and it’s pretty bare. As is Squirrel Girl’s response, wherein she does the most obvious thing she would do, and it takes a simple dressing down for Doreen to get Tony Stark on her side. Honestly, I think this is just a big allegory for illegal immigration, and how good people help immigrants in trouble and help them build new lives rather than kick them out. And if that’s the case, then cool, good story. This totally works as an allegory for immigration, but it doesn’t really do much beyond that. It’s not nearly as funny as the typical issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and there’s just not much of a showcase for any of the characters. The whole issue is rather muted, considering what we normally get from this great comic. But a muted message is perfectly fine for Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. There are worse ways to spread this kind of message.
TL;DR: I think Squirrel Girl is attempting to spread a message about immigration more so than be its usual comedy-heavy self, and that’s perfectly fine.
Uncanny X-Men #9
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Welp, confirmation was coming one way or another. This isn’t really Multiple Man. At least not in the ways I care about.
X-Legion is super mad and he just goes super crazy on everybody. He tries to use Multiple Man to make an army, but Jamie Prime has already fled the battle, and his duplicates can no longer create duplicates, so that plan fails. So X-Legion just goes nuts and everybody’s fighting. He turns Storm into a new Horseman…but can’t just do that with everybody else? I dunno. It’s madness. Jean sends out a distress call to every available member of the X-Men in the world, and Pixie teleports around to pick them up. So it’s gonna be a fight!
Also, during the battle, Kitty saves the senator from Apocalypse. And we find out that Anole stole the vaccine from Beast’s lab for the most obvious reason: so weird-looking mutants like him can be cured.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
Ugh, this was the worst issue yet of this madcap series. It’s an issue-long fight scene with little rhyme or reason. They’re just throwing everyone into wild abandon and it makes for a bad issue. X-Legion is just crazy now, with powers that allow him to do anything he wants…but only what the writers want to happen. For example, he transforms Storm into one of his Horsemen practically off-panel, and yet doesn’t do that to anybody else? Why stop at Storm? And why Storm? So X-Legion is inconsistent and crazy, able to do anything, making for an even more hectic fight scene. And then you’ve got the X-Men who continue to not work together as a team, even though that’s not a plot point. It’s not like the X-Men are struggling to come together as a team, they’re just not written with any sort of leadership or strategy or teamwork. It’s all just a big mishmash of characters fighting.
There are a few singular moments throughout the fight and they’re all silly or ridiculous. Like when Kitty saves the Senator from Apocalypse, and the Senator is surprised that she’d help him. Kitty says something like, “That’s what heroes do”. It’s supposed to come off as some grand statement, but it feels so manufactured. And then you’ve got Anole, whose reason for stealing the vaccine is the most basic reason possible. Again, I don’t know the character, but would he really do something like that after all this time? And why did Beast make the vaccine in the first place? It’s weird. Or there’s the moment where Armor creates a ball with her powers to trap all four Horsemen, intending to have Rockslide and Glob keep them busy and out of the fight. So…not only are Magneto, Blob, Omega Red and Storm standing close enough together to get trapped in a small Armor ball…but Rockslide and Glob Herman are supposed to keep all four of them busy?! It comes off like a quick workaround to a problem the creators don’t really want to deal with.
At least Maggott shows up as one of the X-Men at the end. Though considering my track record with fan favorite characters lately, he’ll probably get killed next issue.
TL;DR: The quality of Uncanny X-Men remains wildly inconsistent, with this issue devolving into a wild, senseless fight scene.
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Diego Olortegui
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
The X-23 comic continues to hum along nicely.
X-23 and Gabby escape the prison with their robo-clone after Gabby destroys all the armed soldiers. They hitch a ride with Hank back to the X-Mansion, where he reveals that she is indeed another clone, but her healing factor is suppressed and she’s got a lot of robot parts in her. Laura still doesn’t trust it, but Gabby sneaks it cookies later at night and tells the robo-clone her life story. The robo-clone is shut down throughout this entire experience, though its eyes glow in the end.
Elsewhere, Dr. Robert Chandler, the scientist who made Gabby and her sisters, is in a room with all manner of evil people, and he’s looking to sell them on his new invention. He names the robo-clone as “X-Assassin” and promises that it will be super awesome, though at least one person points out that all Chandler has done is made an enemy of the very deadly X-23.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Gabby is the saving grace of this comic and it’s not even funny. Gabby is funny, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a great scene in this issue where she dives at the armed gunman shouting, “Hi, everybody!” It’s funny and charming and Gabby is amazing. But Laura remains a dull character, and the story isn’t lighting anything on fire. I’m going to be especially disappointed if this X-Assassin storyline ends up being as predictable as it seems: that this new character will be as goody goody wonderful as Gabby thinks she is, and she’ll join the good guys and the good guys will fight Chandler for her freedom. As much as I enjoy Gabby, I want her to get a harsh lesson in the ugliness of the world in this storyline, that not every clone is going to be as awesome as she is, and that evil scientists will make evil creations. But other than that, I am firmly on the side of the doubters at Chandler’s meeting: he doesn’t have any way to guarantee that his new creation (which he, of course, hails as the future of weapons) won’t just develop a conscious and turn good, while catching X-23’s attention and causing X-23 to kill them all. That he doesn’t know that exact thing will happen is silly at this point in the ongoing story.
TL;DR: X-23 continues to make the case that Honey Badger is simply a far more entertaining character.
Young Justice #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: DC Lettering
I never read Young Justice back in the day, so I don’t have any nostalgia for this series. But I like Bendis, Tim Drake is back to being just Robin, and I’m curious to see what happens here.
The denizens of Gemworld invade Metropolis, their world having been devastated by all the various DC Comics Crises over the years. At their invasion site, the likes of Tim Drake, Cassie Sandsmark and Jinny Hex happen to be hanging out completely independent of one another. And they all jump into the fray when the invaders start attacking people. Then Impulse shows up out of nowhere, as does Teen Lantern. And basically everybody just fights until the Gem people retreat back into their portal, the Young Justice members dragged along with them. They get separated on the other side, and Robin runs into Amethyst, while Impulse randomly runs into Superboy!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Your enjoyment of this issue will depend almost entirely on how much you enjoy Bendis-style dialogue. I like it just fine, so I was largely cool with this issue. It’s mostly just characters bantering and chattering between each other, with some generally generic fighting going on. It’s all perfectly enjoyable, especially if you just ignore any questions of continuing. What have Robin, Wonder Girl and Bart Allen been up to recently? Who cares! It’s been a long time since the train wreck of the New 52 Teen Titans comic, and I have no problem whatsoever with ignoring continuity to make this series happen. I’m all about reading good comics, and this is a good, solid comic.
It’s not without it’s fault, of course. I don’t like how all of the characters basically just happen to be in this one spot in order to respond to this invasion threat. Tim Drake just happens to be driving through Metropolis? And the moment he pulls up to the curb and takes off his motorcycle helmet, Cassie Sandsmark just happens to be standing there to recognize him? And then Impulse shows up out of nowhere? Same with Teen Lantern? To say nothing of Superboy just being in Gemworld at the end, right where Impulse shows up. And to say nothing of Jinny Hex likewise just being at the scene, and everybody treating her as one of the gang, even though she’s dressed in normal clothing and is armed with just a shotgun. It feels a little weird that all of these superheroes would treat a seemingly ordinary civilian armed with a gun as an equal. There’s a scene where Impulse uses his speed to get a bunch of Metropolis police officers away from the scene…but he leaves the young woman trying to take on alien invaders with a shotgun? And everybody is fine with her climbing into her pickup truck and joining them through the portal at the end? Seems a little too convenient in team-forming.
TL;DR: It’s a wild and crazy issue, but in its rush to just get on with the story, it bypasses a lot of storytelling hurdles.
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 12, 2019, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged Captain Marvel, Go Go Power Rangers, Green Lantern, Green Ranger, Iceman, Power Rangers, Squirrel Girl, The Green Lantern, Tim Drake, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Uncanny X-Men, X-23, Young Justice. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.