Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/18/19
I think I’m reading less comics these days. I don’t know if I’ve run out of time or if I keep running out of comics I actually enjoy. I’ve dropped most of the X-Men comics I’ve been reading. I dropped Amazing Spider-Man and didn’t pick up any of the other supplemental Spider-Man comics. I dropped a lot of DC Comics. Am I…am I falling out of love with comics?!
Let’s hope not. I think it’s just the current business practices of the Big Two.
Some solid comics this week, from War of the Realms to Go Go Power Rangers. Comic Book of the Week goes to the new issue of Tom King’s Batman, which I’m finally back to reviewing! I think it’s my favorite Tom King series ever, and he still brings the deep character drama.
Meanwhile, some big cancellation news this week. We’re losing Unstoppable Wasp again, which is a damn shame. Gonna miss that book. And the entire X-Men comics line is being cancelled to make way for Jonathan Hickman’s plans. I’m more excited about that…though now I fully regret buying all of X-Men: Disassembled and anything they’ve done since. Marvel’s X-Men relaunches get shorter and shorter. And now all those character deaths really were meaningless. Unless it was part of Jonathan Hickman’s grand plan that Strong Guy be dead. If so, I feel personally attacked.
Comic Reviews: Batman #71, Giant-Man #1, Go Go Power Rangers #20, Guardians of the Galaxy #5 and The War of the Realms #4.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Batman’s back, baby! Back on my review list, that is. I’ve skipped the past several issues because Batman was trapped in a bunch of weird, fear-induced dream sequences and I wasn’t sure how to really review each individual issue. Now he’s out and back to hunting Bane, so my reviews are back!
The basic gist of the dream sequences is that Batman is struggling with the idea that he’s incapable of love, due to the dedication in his soul to being Batman. His attempts to marry Catwoman were a desperate hope that he could prove to himself that he could love something or someone other than Batman. I dug it.
In this issue, the newly freed Batman lights the red bat signal, summoning his allies (at least those who are willing to come and aren’t tied up in other storylines at the moment, like Nightwing and Red Hood). Batman fills them in on what Bane has done and they storm Arkham Asylum — only to discover that the asylum is perfectly fine, with Bane comatose. They regroup on a nearby rooftop while Batman broods, and Tim explains that he hacked Arkham’s systems and discovered zero signs that Bane is freed or in control or let anyone go. The family tries to comfort Batman and help him, but when Tim mentions Catwoman, Batman punches him!
Meanwhile, a few days later, in a story that runs intercut with that first one, Batman is confronted by Bane and Thomas Wayne at Wayne Manor. Bane attempts to get Bruce to sit down to eat dinner, but Batman is very angry and tries to fight, and Bane smacks him around. Alfred was with Bane and Thomas Wayne during the weeks that Batman was their prisoner, and he tries to convince Bruce to give up, that he’s really, truly lost.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue does a great job of winding Batman up tighter and tighter as Bane’s conspiracy gets stronger and stronger, while also leaving the possibility that something even more meta is going on and Batman is being tricked. I don’t really have too much proof of that, considering how direct the Bane scenes have been in this comic, but anything is possible. Still, you can cut the tension with a knife; it’s a masterfully crafted issue. King and his artists successfully weave together two very distinct stories and they work so well together. Janin draws the far more superheroic story, as Batman and his allies race to save the day, only for everything to fall apart around him in the end. Punching Robin (because yes, Tim Drake is Robin again these days, huzzah) is a really big deal, and the issue sells the importance and the cost on Batman.
Then Fornes draws a very Year One-style separate story that really hammers home the human nature of Bruce Wayne. He’s a man struggling against this seemingly unstoppable force, pushed to the very edge by how well Bane has crafted his conspiracy. It’s especially powerful when Alfred steps up and tries to get Bruce to surrender. I had to remind myself that Alfred has spent all the weeks that Bruce was hallucinating with Bane and Thomas Wayne, so it makes sense. The whole issue makes a lot of teeth-nattering sense!
TL;DR: This is a tightly constructed ratcheting of tension that pushes the story to the very edge, with strong writing and perfect art.
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: Marco Castiello
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Giant-Man is the one War of the Realms tie-in that I was really looking forward to (with the exception of the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl ongoing tie-in). I like Scott Lang, I’ve been very interested in seeing more of the new Giant-Man, the idea of all the size-changing heroes teaming up is neat, and it’s written by Leah Williams! All great things.
Lady Freyja tasks Scott Lang with hunting down and destroying Ymir, the first frost giant, in the frozen wastes that have become Florida. She wants revenge for Laufey eating Loki in the first issue of the main event. Ant-Man teams up with Giant-Man, Goliath and Atlas to all grow big, paint themselves blue and go undercover in frost giant territory. They head to a local market to get supplies for the trek, but they keep either butting heads with each other or getting upset with frost giant culture. Goliath can’t stand that humans are being enslaved and he nearly blows the whole mission. They do what they can to stay in cover, but some ice hounds detect them as human and they make a run for it! They escape the giants from the market, but a wall of skeletons has them trapped!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I was right. The interplay between these four very different, yet very similar, characters was worth the price of admission alone. Williams has a ball writing the foursome butting heads, trying to work together, and doing their best at being heroic people. They’re all interesting characters in their own right, and they make for a compelling cast. Each one has their own unique personality and attitude about the mission at hand and they work so well together as a starring quartet. The mission isn’t too deep yet, but this is fine for a first issue. And again, I can’t stress this enough, the characters work so well together on the page. The comic really is about them, as it should be.
And I just love the concept. Teaming up all the main giant-size characters for a mission? It’s already a fun idea, let alone tying it into War of the Realms. We don’t get enough of this specialized stuff in Marvel. It’s so neat. Granted, without any normal-sized characters, it’s a little tough to appreciate the actual scale of what we’re dealing with here. Like, if all four main characters are giants, and all of the frost giants are giants, then we might as well just be looking at normal-sized characters. It’s a strange sensation, but it’s still cool overall.
The only real complaint I have is that the art isn’t all that great. It’s sketchy and rough, as if clearly Marvel put one of their lesser talents on this completely superfluous side comic. But it’s still workable art.
I hope Williams puts in the work to make the new Giant-Man character really stand out, and Marvel continues this series after the tie-in. Surely that’s the reason the comic is called “Giant-Man” and not something like “War of the Realms: Giant-Men” or something more tie-in oriented.
TL;DR: Leah Williams takes the neat concept and runs with it, writing a really fun and entertaining tie-in issue.
Go Go Power Rangers #20
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Eleonora Carlini
Ink Assist: Simona Di Gianfelice
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before, but Rita’s mom’s ghost is wearing the dragon shield. She wore it in the flashbacks to 10,000 years ago as well! So now we know where the shield comes from! Neat!
A flashback shows us opening day at Ernie’s Juice Bar through young Zach’s eyes, with a touching story from Ernie about how he opened the place to give kids somewhere to go if they had nowhere else. In the present day, Goldar and the other goons attack the juice bar and take hostages, planning on trading the hostages for a single Ranger to take back to the moon (to sacrifice to unlock the Green Power Coin, though they don’t reveal this). Since the Rangers were all in difference places, they show up one-by-one, with Jason facing off against the villains first. He attempts to surrender himself, but angry juice bar patrons won’t have it! This revolt gives Kim and Trini the chance to sneak away and morph.
There’s a brief scene where Matt thanks the Pink Ranger for saving him. It’s great.
Zach and Billy arrive with Alpha-1 after Zach insists to Zordon that they bring him along. Alpha-1 is a beast and is eventually able to subdue Goldar. He’s ready to execute the villain, but the Rangers balk. They turn on Alpha-1 to stop him, and the robot traps them in a bubble and contacts Zordon to taunt him for being such a peacenik. According to Alpha-1, all of Zordon’s great virtues about never escalating a battle and never just killing his enemies has perpetuated this intergalactic war for thousands of years. Innocent lives have suffered, Alpha-1 has suffered, because of Zordon’s namby-pamby attempts at war. Zordon agrees, but is willing to make that sacrifice if it means fighting the good fight with compassion and other heroic traits.
Alpha-1 has heard enough. He starts summoning technology and machinery to him from the surrounding area, turning into a giant robot!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I still don’t know where Parrott and BOOM! Studios are going with Matt, but I hope it’s going to be great. His story is on the back-burner for now, but that brief scene with Kimberly really reminded me that he’s still the biggest wild card in the entire Power Rangers universe right now. I can’t wait to see what happens to him!
Beyond that short scene, this was another great issue! We get a lot of cool action, coupled with some more grounded realism for our characters. I love it when the Power Rangers are staggered in arriving at the scene of a monster attack. It just feels so real, as opposed to always being a group, like on the show. It adds an extra, interesting wrinkle to the scene. Then we get a nice action scene against Goldar, and then finally some really good monologuing from Alpha-1. His heel turn has been obvious since the very beginning, and he makes a lot of good points. All the best villains make good points, and Alpha-1 is right. Why not execute Goldar? This is a war that has been raging across the universe for thousands of years, and now one of the top lieutenants (or whatever rank) is at their mercy.
Who doesn’t love the moral quandaries of war mixed in with their Power Rangers comics?
Of course, Alpha-1’s biggest mistake is turning himself into a giant robot. But maybe he’s not fully aware of the Megazord? I dunno. I’m still mostly geeking out over finally spotting the dragon shield!
TL;DR: A jam-packed issue features a lot of great moments both big and small in the ongoing story.
Guardians of the Galaxy #5
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
This is starting to read like more of an effort to resurrect Thanos than it is an actual Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch. I mean, c’mon! They only just killed Thanos a couple months ago. What was the point of that?!
The Guardians recover from last issue’s attack, what with the Dark Guardians having completely let them go after they took Gamora. Peter Quill survived the blast he took last issue because he’s wearing armor. Beta Ray Bill then summons his pal Lockjaw to track where the Dark Guardians took Gamora, but they arrive too late to stop Thanos.
Turns out Thanos did not put his consciousness in Gamora, like the others thought. He put his consciousness in Starfox, and Hela and the Black Order arrive to take him. Sure enough, Thanos is revived inside Starfox, and Hela takes him to his original body, which she has rebuilt. Thanos lives!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue is definitely all about resurrecting Thanos and the twists that go along with it than it is about the titular team. That definitely kills my interest a little. Cates writes the team pretty well, and I’d love to see more team-building and bonding stuff. But much like Beta Ray Bill expressed in a previous issue, this series feels like anything but a new iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy. It feels like Cates and/or Marvel have certain things they need to accomplish with the Marvel cosmic comics in the wake of all that Infinity Wars nonsense and they’re using this comic to do it. Kill off Thanos? Well here’s a quick way to bring him back. Establish some weird new status quo between the cinematic Guardians team? We’re definitely working to fix that!
But it’s all written well, and I can live with the art, so it’s all largely fine and dandy. Beta Ray Bill continues to be used in a lot of fun ways, as seen in the panels above. He gets an extended sequence where he teams up with Lockjaw, and it’s just plain fun. And yeah, maybe I am only here for fun Beta Ray Bill scenes. So what? I’m not getting much else from this series. Phyla-Vell and Moondragon remain non-entities. Peter Quill is depressing. There’s very little work put into the team becoming a team. And this issue, in particular, is only really about one twist that brings back Thanos. I didn’t even read the comic where he was killed and I don’t want him to come back yet.
Comic book Thanos is never going to top movie Thanos, especially if you overuse him. Give the guy a break for awhile and focus on the actual team whose name is on the cover.
TL;DR: The new issue is focused more on correcting recent “mistakes” from other comics than it is about building itself into a good comic.
The War of the Realms #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
I think I’m going to stop worrying about The War of the Realms not living up to my expectations and try and just enjoy it for what it is. This issue helps.
Lady Freyja has taken control of the Black Bifrost and uses it to send her operatives out into the various realms to recruit back-up, like the remaining light elves and dwarves. Freyja stands alone against the encroaching dark elves trying to take back the bridge, and she holds on long enough for everybody to get back to Midgard with their reinforcements, including a wounded Thor.
Desperate to help his wife, Odin suits up in a Tony Stark-designed, dwarven-forged suit of All-Father Iron Man armor and joins Freyja in fighting off an army of dark elves, including Malekith himself (who has made a weapon out of the Venom symbiote). Odin and Freyja finally patch up their differences, get a little romantic in the heat of battle and go out in a blaze of glory, destroying the black bifrost. Now nobody can teleport between the realms.
With Malekith’s forces now trapped on Earth with no reinforcements, a revitalized Thor declares that he will lead the forces of good into battle!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
On a completely unrelated tangent, you know what really grinds my gears? When characters act like they’ve known about a recent, weird retcon all this time. I don’t know much about what Marvel has been doing with Venom recently and the lore of the symbiotes. I know it involves some symbiote god named Knull. I also know this stuff has only come up in the past year or two. It’s a brand new retcon. Yet in this issue, Malekith seems to know all about Knull and symbiotes, as if he’s some expert. It just bugs me.
As for the issue itself, it was a good use of everyone’s time! There still doesn’t seem to be any deeper level to The War of the Realms, but Aaron makes the most out of everybody being engaged in one activity or another. And the final showdown with Freyja and Odin is fantastic! I’ve enjoyed Aaron’s ongoing takes on both characters, and all of it has built nicely to this badass moment of this badass marriage. Aaron has been embracing the poetic purple prose of a Thor comic quite well during this event, and he really has some fun with this scene.
There are still a bunch of problems with War of the Realms. There’s a lack of urgency. There’s a simplicity to all of it, and a general sense of business as usual. But Aaron is a great writer, Dauterman is a great artist, and the overall event is fine. It’s fine. Enjoyable even, at times. I’ve just got to set aside my expectations and embrace the adventure.
TL;DR: A fun and energetic issue of War of the Realms injects some much-needed gravitas, while mostly just telling an engaging story.
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 May 18, 2019, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged Ant-Man, Atlas, Beta Ray Bill, Boom!, Giant-Man, Go Go Power Rangers, Goliath, Guardians of the Galaxy, Power Rangers, Scott Lang, Thor, War of the Realms. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.