Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/11/19
It’s another one of those magical weeks where all of my favorite comics come out! Squirrel Girl! Unstoppable Wasp! Wonder Twins! How did I ever get so lucky? Well, this week turned out to be a bit of a stinker! But I might just be feeling salty this week for some reason.
Wonder Twins easily wins Comic Book of the Week! It’s not as strong an issue as the previous three, but both Squirrel Girl and Unstoppable Wasp let me down.
Meanwhile, I haven’t read one of Marvel’s Star Wars comics in awhile, but I snagged their new Boba Fett one-shot. I’m a big Boba Fett fan, and the issue was fine. A little rough around the edges, but otherwise fan. I do hope we get that movie about him someday…
Comic Reviews: Captain America #10, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44, Unstoppable Wasp #7 and Wonder Twins #4.
Captain America #10
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Adam Kubert
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
I’m a sucker for grounded villains who are capable of working with heroes. And I’m a sucker for superheroes in prison who have to deal with those villains. So I’m all about this issue.
Invisible Woman sneaks into the super prison because she’s been working with Thunderball — who prefers his real name, ‘Dr. Franklin’ — to help Cap. She injects him with something mysterious that later gets him taken to the infirmary. Also, apparently, Cap is in an MMA fight with Baron Strucker in the middle of the prison, with everybody watching? Was that a thing that was mentioned last issue? I think maybe it’s come up before. But anyway, they fight and Cap goes down, largely because of the power dampeners in the prison. He knew it would happen.
At about that time, the injection reveals itself to be some kind of EMP, which cuts out all of the power to the prison, the cells and the power dampeners. Looks like Steve’s got an all-villain cavalry!
Meanwhile, the Foreigner is upset with Lukin since the Dryad has been hitting his safe houses. Lukin doesn’t care for that attitude, so he calls up Crossbones.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Strucker Fight Club thing was set up in previous issues. But it was still rather glaring to show up in the middle of this issue. It’s a good fight, though, with a lot of strong character work for Cap. That it leads to the Wrecking Crew and the other inmate villains stepping up to help Cap, in a way, is fantastic. That’s the exact sort of excitement I want! Though why Invisible Woman needed to sneak into the prison to work with Thunderball to inject him with an EMP thing I don’t know. Couldn’t she just sneak into the prison and set off some type of EMP herself? Anyway, that’s not important. This was an issue with strong build up and strong character work, with the potential for more excitement next issue! And the Dryad doesn’t appear in the issue at all, so I don’t have to worry about her. The Foreigner seems like a fascinating guy, and I look forward to him being a wild card. He’s got a pretty neat M.O.
TL;DR: An exciting and character-driven issue builds to an even more exciting cliffhanger ending!
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Derek Charm
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
This War of the Realms tie-in has about as much depth as the regular War of the Realms comic.
Ratatoskr reveals that she came to Midgard to help fight against Malekith and his forces, because as the Norse Goddess of Chaos, what sort of chaos will there be when all 10 realms are under the iron fist of Malekith? Squirrel Girl has a hard time believing her, but they do take down the two frost giants together. The pair then head into town to see if the locals know where the frost giants are coming from, with the two of them going in disguise. Ratatoskr assumes a snarky, goth-like human form. Why Doreen doesn’t go into town as Squirrel Girl, declaring herself a superhero come to rid the town of frost giants, isn’t explained. Probably so that Ratatoskr’s human form can cause wacky hijinks by being largely unable to adapt to human customs.
So yeah, Ratatoskr nearly gets them beaten up by the rough-and-tumble locals in the bar, but they at least find out that the frost giants are coming from further north. But one of the humans makes a passing generic insult — “ugly mugs” — and that annoys Ratatoskr to the point of attacking.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue was funny, but it sure was a whole heck of a lot of standing around and talking. This issue is really just a showcase for North to write Ratatoskr being chaotic. She’s not wacky, like Deadpool. She’s sharper and more cutting than that. But she never shuts up, whether she’s convincing Doreen to trust her to baiting/needling the humans in the bar, it’s a constant stream of Ratatoskr. Doreen is stuck trying to catch up and smooth over the needling, and there are a couple of funny bits here and there, but it’s an overall underwhelming adventure. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s no explanation for why Doreen doesn’t approach these people as Squirrel Girl. The people want to stop the frost giants, and Squirrel Girl is there to stop the frost giants. The main conflict in the issue is whether or not these random people in this random bar believe Doreen and Ratatoskr’s cover story. But what happens if they don’t? The people attack? Then Doreen and Ratatoskr just leave. Heck, if she’d gone in as Squirrel Girl, Doreen could have left Ratatoskr outside and the issue could have moved on to more exciting things.
I think I’m just feeling extra salty this week. It’s a fine issue, but man is it a lot of Ratatoskr standing around needling people.
TL;DR: This War of the Realms tie-in screeches to a halt so a guest character can burgle the spotlight.
Unstoppable Wasp #7
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Alti Firmansyah
Colorist: Espen Grundetjern
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Oh man, you do not know how disappointed I am that Nadia’s birthday party is so lame! And not lame in a good, story-driven way, but lame in an I can’t believe this is what the creative team did with the idea! At least the art is phenomenal!
Nadia attends her birthday party, and all of the current teenage superheroes show up, along with a couple of the adults. Then the issue is pretty much nothing but Nadia being taken around one-by-one to be introduced to these characters, where she is characteristically excited to meet them. There’s a little bit of drama when the Winter Soldier shows up, because he’s the one who delivered Ying to the Red Room and she remembers him, but that’s quickly cleared up by his being under mind control at the time. Then all the kids go off to a dance club, which is robbed by The Menagerie (Nadia’s friends knew they’d show, so they arranged this “coincidence”), and there’s a big splash page fight.
On the last page, while she’s getting ready for bed that night, Nadia’s mom suddenly appears on her computer screen claiming she’s back. Nadia falls for it completely and her mother asks Nadia to catch her up on everything.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed. We’ve got the perfect setting — Nadia’s first ever birthday party — and the perfect cast of characters — a bunch of fellow teen heroes — and it’s utterly wasted. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around how much of a stumble this issue is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still entertaining because everybody is having fun, and the new artist is phenomenal. But there’s no story to this issue. It literally is just Nadia being led through the gathering of characters and introduced to one character after another, some of whom she’s complicatedly related to. And that’s not even played for laughs. It’s played for like a Wikipedia article, as if it’s super important that the reader know how exactly Nadia is related to Hulkling, et al.
There is no story to this issue and Nadia reacts in the same exact, predictably positive way to everybody.
There’s no conflict. There is no chemistry. Nadia doesn’t have time to develop any chemistry with these characters because she only spends a couple panels with any of them. Viv and Cassie Lang are the ones leading her around, but Nadia still only really interacts with them for a panel or two. Nadia and Cassie declaring that they’re best friends now is not better than the two characters actually spending quality time together and developing a real friendship. And it’s Ying who has the angry reaction to the Winter Soldier, unlike what we see on the cover. Nadia barely remembers him, and both Ying and Nadia immediately forgive him because of the mind control thing. Which, it’s right to forgive him, but c’mon! Give us some drama!
Nadia’s “mom” showing up at the end doesn’t count. It’s a single page, comes out of nowhere and is “obviously” some kind of trick — yet Nadia falls for it immediately. I put “obviously” in quotation marks, because as with the recent case of Kate Bishop, sometimes the long dead mom really is actually alive and is a half-vampire. Dear lord.
Even the villains for the mostly off-panel fight at the end seemed randomly picked — though points for the continued use of Panda-Mania.
This is just really bothering me. I’m all for positive and enjoyable characters in comics, but there’s got to be more depth! This comic can’t just be every character flashing BFF hand signs at each other all the time. I know Whitley can deliver more. He’s done so before in this comic. He’s created actual character drama. But it’s nowhere to be seen in this wafer-thin issue.
Even the My Little Ponies are capable of getting mad or annoyed at each other from time to time.
Also, random tangent, what’s stopping the girls of G.I.R.L. from becoming superheroes themselves? Nadia’s powers are technology based, and they’ve just met a bunch of other super-powered and costumed teens. Is there no motivation for the girls to use their scientific talents to create costumed identities for themselves? I think Priya said last issue she didn’t want to, which is very reasonable. But what about the others? I dunno. Just something else I was thinking about when I saw all the G.I.R.L. scientists casually interacting with all the superhero guests.
The art is fantastic. It’s detailed and colorful, which I like. The character work is very strong, while still being friendly and cheerful, which this comic needs.
TL;DR: The issue completely blows a solid premise by turning itself into an elaborate Marvel Handbook article.
Wonder Twins #4
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
It’s only May, but this is probably going to be my comic book of the year. Wonder Twins is such delightful fun!
It’s the science fair! Jayna has invented a solar-powered flashlight and Zan scores a date with Debbie Schwartz! Polly Math also reveals her project on how the internet is possibly a sentient being that is in a dream state right now, and might one day wake up and take over the world. So everybody’s having fun at the science fair. On the way out, Jayna meets a macho guy, Red, who invites her to a party later. So both Wonder Twins have a date!
Zan and Debbie go out to dinner and then to the movie Gun Cop, where Debbie runs into her ex-boyfriend, Trevor. Zan innocently encourages her to go talk to him, but it looks like Debbie and Trevor might be getting back together right under Zan’s nose!
Meanwhile, Jayna’s date ends up being the Legion of Doom cocktail mixer! Red is actually super-villain-in-training Red Flag (and yes, the name is entirely on the nose). They go to dinner afterwards and Red is not only rude to the wait staff, but he spends the whole time talking about other women he’s dated. Jayna reluctantly and uncomfortably goes along with all of this until they run into her brother by himself afterwards. Zan is still thrilled because he had a great time on the date, and he’s happy that Debbie is happy getting back with Trevor. Just because Debbie wasn’t into him in the end doesn’t mean they can’t still have a good time and can’t be friends afterwards. Zan considers it a win and Red considers him a loser. Jayna then uses the fist bump she shares with her brother to turn into a cheetah and get out of there fast!
Double meanwhile, Jayna also invited Polly to the party as well, and she saw her father there, since he’s now a member of the League of Annoyance. We find out that Polly’s mother was killed because of her dad’s work with Lex Luthor, so she’s pissed that he’s working with villains again and she runs out. Also, the Scrambler is up to something.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
The comic almost lost me with so much focus in the middle on Polly and her father. They aren’t the Wonder Twins and it isn’t as fun to have a whole issue of this short series dedicated to them. And Red Flag was really on the nose. But, man oh man, did Russell pull everything together wonderfully with the end of Zan’s story. This was an expert swerve. Russell set us up to feel sorry for Zan, that he was completely oblivious to Debbie and Trevor getting back together. It was a classic sitcom trope. But then Russell nailed the twist: that Zan knew exactly what was happening and he was happy for Debbie. He’s not possessive, he’s not jealous; he’s Zan and he’s awesome, and he’s happy that he’s made a friend like Debbie. If they weren’t meant to be romantically linked, so be it. He’s made a friend and there are more fish at the science fair.
The Polly and Jayna stories weren’t as strong, but they were mostly still enjoyable. Polly and her dad work fine as foils for Jayna, but their story itself isn’t particularly interesting. At least not to the degree that the rest of Wonder Twins is interesting. This is such a short mini-series that I really was disappointed when the biggest emotional moment of the issue didn’t involve the Wonder Twins at all. But I have faith Russell is taking that Math storyline somewhere. The Jayna story was stronger. Red Flag was a pretty funny gag, and Russell definitely didn’t go for the obvious options for Jayna. She continued to downplay all the red flags and just seemed to be going along with the guy, which probably happens with introverted women and men more than we realize. Thankfully, her brother came along to help put her date into perspective!
TL;DR: Another delightful issue almost loses focus, but the wrap-up at the end brings everything together so well that it can be forgiven. Another jolly good Wonder Twins adventure!
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!