Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/1/19

This was the week that DC Comics upended their entire comics line with a bunch of stuff! Doomsday Clock! The Last Knight on Earth! Leviathan Rising! And I read none of it. I wonder if that makes me a bad comic book fan…

I did read a bunch of other relatively enjoyable comics — though the latest and last issue of X-23 has made an enemy for life. Beyond that, the Comic Book of the Week was the new issue of Giant-Man! Leah Williams is doing everything right in my eyes in all of her comics.

Giants Mission Sucks 01

Not all superheroics are glamorous

Meanwhile, speaking of Leah Williams, X-Tremists had another strong issue as it starts to delve into the erasure of homosexual feelings in the Age of X-Man…Except that I guess the whole overall world starts to fall apart at the end of the issue, so this whole crossover is coming to an end before Leah Williams will get much of a chance to really play in the space. I know Jonathan Hickman is coming back to remake the X-Men from top to bottom, but surely Marvel can make room for a Leah Williams’ solo Blob comic…

Comic Reviews: Giant-Man #2, Heroes in Crisis #9, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #3 and X-23 #12. 


Giant-Man #2

Giant-Man #2
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: Marco Castiello
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

The best War of the Realms subplot I’m reading continues to get better in Giant-Man!

Our giant heroes continue their trek into Frost Giant territory, with Scott filling everybody in about his side mission to rescue his daughter. Everybody is on board to help, but they haven’t seen any female prisoners anywhere so far…Anyway, an attempt to cross a bridge without paying the toll leads to the gang joining a Frost Giant party full of drinking, songs, merriment and fighting. They head off in the morning and reach Miami, but a couple of heavy facts are starting to weigh on the crew: they’re going to have to come up with a way on the fly to kill the immortal god Ymir…and this was always a suicide mission.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

The camaraderie that Williams has developed in these four characters already is so damn fun and so damn meaningful that I can’t remember the last time a team book felt this cohesive. Team books wish they could express this level of team bonding. The characters all have their own tics, and Williams makes them work so well together. It helps that they’re on such a dangerous mission, and the stakes are huge. But she’s also able to find a lot of really strong quiet moments, like Scott appealing to the others to help him find his daughter, and how everyone is readily on board. Or at the end of the issue, when they all admit to themselves that they knew this was a suicide mission. It works so damn well!

Giants Suicide Mission 01

Spider-Man and teen Ghost Rider ain’t being sent on suicide missions

Though if I could get a little meta for a second, Williams and the Giant-Men are getting way more serious about War of the Realms than anybody else seems to be. I’m reading the main series, and that seems to be going pretty smoothly. Some people have died in battle, sure, but the Avengers have been pretty chill as they regroup and get ready to fight back. Wolverine and Spider-Man are having a walk in the park on the front lines. But here, four men have been condemned to a suicide mission deep in the recesses of this war. Seems a little unfair to this lot.

Nevertheless, great use of characters, fun premise and wonderful execution.

TL;DR: Giant-Man is the best part of The War of the Realms so far! The writing and characters are superb.


Heroes in Crisis #9

Heroes in Crisis #9
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Welp, this final issue didn’t fix anything, so I’m ready to consider Heroes in Crisis a dud.

Booster Gold, Harley Quinn, Blue Beetle and Batgirl travel to the time when Wally West kills Wally Wast and stop him (Harley is also reunited with the new Poison Ivy). Everybody stands around and talks to Wally, convincing him that everybody makes mistakes and he can live with this one. Wally explains that he released all of the Sanctuary files to the public to show the world that superheroes need help too, and if they can get it, then ordinary people who are hurting can also get help. They all manage to convince Wally to keep living.

After a quick trip to the future to get a clone of Wally West made to close the time loop of the “dead” Wally West from earlier in the story, Wally turns himself in to the Justice League and winds up in a cell. Then Sanctuary reopens and all the superheroes get in to get analyzed.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Man, I don’t even know where to begin. So let’s start by saying that this whole series is a dud and did not achieve whatever it set out to achieve, at least not in my eyes. I liked parts of Heroes in Crisis, but those parts had little to do with whatever Tom King was trying to write. Something about mental illness? I dunno. It doesn’t come to together very strongly. Wally West is somehow convinced that it’s OK to live with this mental illness, but gets locked up anyway rather than be given treatment. Though I suppose the point was to convince all these other heroes to also get help. I dunno. The whole mental illness angle was always overshadowed by the murder mystery and the overwhelming character slaughter.

Booster Explains Heroes in Crisis 01

See, it’s all so simple

I just don’t think any of the story threads really come together. Why were Booster Gold, Harley Quinn, Blue Beetle and especially Batgirl integral to this story? Why were all the character deaths necessary? And this issue, specifically, is just a bunch of standing around and talking. Here’s a random assortment of DC characters who are going to talk away mental illness. And then we’ll throw in a random future clone solution to tie up loose ends. This final issue just doesn’t make the overall story worth it.

That’s not to say this isn’t a quality made comic. King’s writing is good, Mann’s art is good; this is a well-constructed comic. And there’s always a very strong chance that other people might feel and understand this comic differently than me. That’s why I’m at least saying this overall comic is good instead of bad.

I just didn’t think it was very good.

TL;DR: Heroes in Crisis ends with a whimper, not quite nailing the landing as it fails to really tie everything we’ve experienced together into one coherent story.


Ms. Marvel #3

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #3
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Minkyu Jung
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I’m on the verge of dropping this comic, but one special comedic bit is keeping me on board. It’s not that this new relaunch is bad, it’s just playing right into some of my least favorite comic book storytelling tropes.

The aliens explain that Kamala is the Destined One, destined to save their planet. She’s quickly convinced and decides to go back with them, but her father forbids it. Kamala’s mother then suggests they go with her, and the aliens readily agree, teleporting them all to a gaudy throne room. Kamala meets the planet’s leader — Maliq Zeer — and they’re given a more in-depth explanation for this whole ‘Destined One’ thing. Apparently, when their people lived as slaves to some grand machine, a figure wearing Ms. Marvel’s upcoming new costume showed up out of nowhere and freed them all. Their former masters were prophesized to one day return, along with the Destined One. The aliens have settled on that being Ms. Marvel, because her costume and powers are similar.

Everyone heads to bed, and Kamala sneaks out to go exploring. No sooner is she out the door than she stumbles upon some of the aliens being suspicious. She follows them down into the dungeon, where they’re torturing a handsome, shirtless rebel. Kamala breaks him free and he explains that Maliq Zeer is evil, and he needs help rejoining the other rebels. Kamala is quickly convinced, wakes up her parents and they steal a jet to get away. But Maliq Zeer orders the jet shot down.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

The only saving grace of this comic is that Kamala’s parents came along. Their incredulity at being on an alien planet and seeing all these prophecies about their daughter is good fun. The rest of the issue feels so painfully cliche that I wish Ahmed had done more to play it up as a joke. With the slight exception of the parents making off-hand comments, the basic story is so boring — especially since I hate both prophecy stories and stories where the street-level hero goes into outer space. Kamala immediately believes the aliens when they ask her to come back to their planet, with no hesitation. The prophecy about the Destined One is so basic it’s like an ad for Ms. Marvel’s new costume. Then we’ve got the big secret that the aliens are secretly evil and torture people, then there’s the handsome, young rebel that Kamala also immediately believes. This is all so…not good.

Except for the parents, they’re great!

Kamala Parents 01

Second honeymoon!

I wish Ahmed had played it all as more of a joke. Play up the idea that Kamala is just naive enough to keep believing these different alien stories, or perhaps not naive, but just so enmeshed in the world of superheroics that all of this seems perfectly normal for her, and that’s why she keeps going along with it. Then you really play up the parents on the sidelines lampshading everything. As it stands, cramming all of this alien stuff into a single issue and playing it perfectly straight makes Kamala seem really naive. Especially when none of it is particularly noteworthy. This is Basic Sci-Fi Aliens 101. There’s nothing really unique or interesting about them. Heck, didn’t Joss Whedon do this exact thing with the Breakworld back in his Astonishing X-Men? That some strange new alien race that we’ve never seen before has some ancient prophecy that just so happens to involve a modern day superhero? This Ms. Marvel comic is like that Breakworld storyline, only with far far less creativity and originality involved.

But then Joss Whedon didn’t think to include Colossus’ parents!

TL;DR: A fairly rote and unoriginal story is saved by the sheer comedic charm of Kamala’s parents tagging along.


X-23 #12

X-23 #12
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Diago Olortegui
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Nothing matters anymore. It’s as if a great, bright light has been snuffed out.

Honey Badger stormed off to go stop a train full of X-23 clones, and Laura rushes out to help her — only for both of them to discover that the “clones” are genetically-modified turkeys carrying their DNA. Why? Dunno. It’s not really explained, I don’t think. Anyway, the train is set to self destruct and they get away, and the turkeys are able to heal and fly, so they don’t blow up, and the girls drop them off at a mutant-run farm. Then they talk about their missions, and how Gabby wants to keep helping clones.

Then Gabby changes her name from Honey Badger to “Scout” because nothing matters anymore and God is dead.

In actuality, she names herself after that assassin clone from the previous storyline to dedicate herself to the cause of rescuing clones. But this series is over and the X-Men are being rebooted, so we’re not going to see this journey and there was no reason to change her name at the very end.

Comic Rating: 1/10 – Terrible.

Look, I’m being extremely unfair to this comic by rating it so low. I know I am. But it’s my choice and I stand by it. Ending this X-23 comic by changing Honey Badger’s name is so despicable that I wrote an entire separate blog post about it.

Have you ever watched a thoroughly mediocre movie, only to have them do something so colossally stupid or repugnant right at the very end that it sears your soul? The movie Jeepers Creepers was like that for me. Remember that movie? Probably not, because it’s nearly 20-years-old and was so thoroughly mediocre. But I will never forget the movie because I hated the ending so damn much that it is forever burned into my brain as a thing of pure hatred. This issue of X-23 is similar. Maybe I don’t hate it with the heat of a thousand suns, but this Honey Badger name-change is a violation of all that is good in this world.

Honey Badger Gone 01

The worst pair of panels of the entire year

This is the sort of change and the sort of ending that overshadows anything else this issue was trying to accomplish. It’s nice that Gabby has given herself a mission, and trying to help all of the X-23 clones is a noble mission, and it works well alongside Laura’s mission to shut down all X-23 cloning operations. But why did she have to change her name? The X-Assassin was named Scout. And it’s a dumb name! What a boring, generic word. Not like Honey Badger at all, which has personality and character to spare, and which was utterly perfect for Gabby!

Not even the turkey joke gets to be funny after the fact because of this bad decision. And I know I’m probably being hyperbolic for the purposes of comedy, but that’s how I deal with something so painful.

Can we not have nice things?! They’re cancelling Unstoppable Wasp, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is coming to an end, and now Honey Badger has changed her name right before fading into character limbo. It’s like some dark spear of fate has specifically reached out to stab me in the heart, possibly for not loving this X-23 comic enough? I just don’t know. I know only darkness now.

TL;DR: This rating is completely unfair and based solely on the monumentally bad decision to change Honey Badger’s name. The issue itself is mostly mediocre.

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 June 1, 2019, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Giant-Man is so great. Williams is so good at balancing humour and pathos.

    Ms. Marvel is good. Nice to get an issue from her mom’s point of view. There’s some really nice stuff in there.

    X-23 is fun. Yes, Scout is a boring codename, but on the other hand, X-Turkeys. So.

    X-Tremists is SO FRIGGING GOOD. And holy shit, those last couple pages, when they start remembering. Damn. Such a phenomenal comic. Leah Williams is one of the best writers working at Marvel right now.

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