Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/8/19
You know what’s sad? I was so disinterested in Dark Phoenix, the end of the X-Men movie franchise as we know it, that I didn’t even bother to come up with an X-Men-themed List of Six this week. That’s how little this movie matters. I’m going to see it this afternoon.
I don’t even have any X-Men comics on my review pile this week. I’ve got Batman, War of the Realms and the new Black Cat comic, but not a lick of X-Men. Oh well. Comic Book of the Week goes to a lesser issue of The Green Lantern, but pickings were slim.
Meanwhile, I’m skipping a bunch of War of the Realms tie-ins in regular ongoing series, from Iron Man to Fantastic Four. The main series hasn’t excited me enough to bother with the tie-ins. And the new issue of Young Justice was painfully uninteresting, so I scratched it off my list too. So…I really need to find new comics that I actually enjoy reading.
Comic Reviews: Batman #72, Black Cat #1, The Green Lantern #8, and The War of the Realms #5.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
This is one of those issues where Tom King uses narration to just explain everything that’s been going on. I can’t seem to recall what issues I saw this in prior, but it feels like a thing he does. It’s also narration set over a silent fight scene, which is another thing he’s done before.
Through narration of Thomas Wayne, Tom King lays out how his entire saga has strung together — a little too cleanly, if you ask me. Basically, the plane crash at the very beginning was meant to make Bruce second-guess his mortality. Gotham Girl and the first attack on Bane were meant to get Catwoman back into his life, and get Bane into Arkham. The second-guessing of his mortality was meant to prompt him into proposing marriage to Catwoman. And all of this was built on Batman’s fear that he was exactly like the criminals he fought. Then Bane manipulated Catwoman to leave Bruce at the altar, so that Bruce would be lifted up so high before crashing back down.
Thomas Wayne is watching Bane beat up Bruce in Wayne Manor. Bane wins in the end, with Thomas looking on.
Comic Rating; 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Yeah, look, this narration thing is not a good way to reveal Bane’s master plan. King couldn’t have found a more organic way to reveal everything within the story? He’s got to just spell it out, connecting one dot to the next, via narration? Over the top of a not particularly engaging fight? It’s a fine overarching villain scheme — though more on it in a bit — but having it spelled out to me like this saps some of the energy and excitement. It’s basically a power point presentation. And the fight with Bane, while nicely drawn, is just another fight with Bane. It even ends with Bane smashing Batman over his knee. How many times has that happened now? Despite everything King is doing with Bane in this story, he still falls back to having Bane smash Batman over his knee?
To say nothing of the fact that the meta-knowledge we have that King is being kicked off Batman early and won’t get to tell the full story he’s trying to tell doubly saps this issue of energy. King had been talking online about how he was going to completely alter Batman’s character unlike anything before, so much so that higher ups at Warner Bros. needed to approve of the change. And without that change, with the story being shunted into some side story, why should we care about this Bane scheme? If it’s not going anywhere, then it never mattered, and we spent all this time doing nothing. DC really cut themselves off at the knees here.
While I didn’t particularly care for how King revealed his master plan, I’m also less than convinced at how it all plays out. Too many parts of the plan rely on things Bane could not control, so it feels like King worked backwards to figure out how to tie everything together or make it happen to reach the conclusion he wanted. For example, the plane crash at the very beginning of the series, orchestrated by Bane. How did Bane know that Batman would attempt a suicide save and cause him to take a hard look at his mortality? How did Bane know that Batman taking such a hard look at his mortality would cause him to ask Catwoman to marry him? Batman going for a suicide save, Batman considering his mortality and Batman proposing marriage to anyone at all are all really big, out-of-character behaviors. They work in an ongoing story, but they don’t really work as lynchpins for Bane’s master plan to work.
“My master plan will only work if Batman proposes marriage to Catwoman, something he’s never done before or has given any indication that he ever would. What’s that? He did it? Great! The plan can move forward! Now my master plan will only work if I can successfully manipulate Catwoman into leaving him at the altar. If she goes through with the wedding for any reason, my plan fails! What’s that? She didn’t marry him? Great! The plan can move forward.”
TL;DR: The now classic Tom King trope of just explaining everything via narration, clip show and silent fight scene saps some of the energy out of the big reveal of the villain’s master plan.
Black Cat #1
Writer: Jed Mackay
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Ferran Delgado
With most of my favorite comics either getting cancelled or coming to an end, I need to branch out. I’m mildly interested in Black Cat as a character, so let’s see what we’ve got…
Also, I’d like to preface this review by reminding readers that everything I say is out of love. I don’t know Jed Mackay, but a quick Google search shows that he’s a big time writer for children’s television (if this is indeed the same Jed Mackay). But the fact that he’s here debuting his own Marvel Comic means he’s yet another person living my dream, so I’m probably super jealous of his success. Just wanted to remind everyone of that fact.
Black Cat organizes a heist at a fancy art gallery gala. She goes in the front door in a slinky black dress and provides the distraction, while her two henchmen are in the back conducting the actual theft. Sonny, the head of security, recognizes her immediately and falls for her ruse, escorting Felicia from the party. But she doesn’t get away clean, as the theft is discovered just in time for Sonny to shout angrily at Felicia’s fleeing getaway vehicle.
Also at the party was the head of the New York Thieves Guild, whom Felicia pissed off in a recent Amazing Spider-Man story. She sends some ninja thieves after Felicia, who changes into her Black Cat costume and fights them off, all while riding the speeding getaway vehicle. Sonny also catches up to them on a moped, but Felicia flirts with him to distract him, causing him to crash.
Felicia and her henchmen arrive back home, basking in their success. But they have a visitor: the Black Fox! A quick Google search of him shows that he’s an old school Spider-Man villain, and old man thief. He was last scene in The Irredeemable Ant-Man. Felicia reveals that the Black Fox is the one who trained her father in crime.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
This issue reads like exactly what you’d expect from a newish comic book writer getting to write a new solo comic starring a semi-popular B and/or C-list character. It’s got all of the pieces to make a comic, but it lacks chutzpah. There’s nothing in this comic to warrant its existence. It feels like the sort of comic Marvel would put out if Black Cat was going to appear in Spider-Man: Far From Home next month, wherein they want a comic with her name on the cover in case any fans bleed over from the movie. But she’s not in Far From Home, at least as far as I know. Surprise cameo, maybe?
Black Cat #1 feels very rote. There’s nothing new or particularly refreshing about Black Cat in this issue. She is exactly on character and she goes through her great hits: heist, jovial attitude, fights a bunch of guys. Then all of the supporting characters get really specific names and back stories, like that guy Sonny, and her two henchmen, who Felicia claims have been with her since the very beginning. It comes off like hitting us over the head with “these characters are important supporting characters, remember them!”. The conflict with the New York Thieves Guild feels half-baked, especially since it’s bleeding over from an already unconvincing Amazing Spider-Man story that occurred months ago. And that last page reveal of the Black Fox means nothing. Nobody cares about the Black Fox, and he feels like a random character plucked from obscurity and dusted off just to add some dash of flavor to this comic. Happens all the time with these types of comics.
I don’t normally talk about comic book art because I simply don’t know how to review it. I’m a writer, I care about the storytelling. Usually comic book art is good enough that I never notice. But this time it’s not that great, and it’s noticeably not that great. Characters and panels feel sparse and a little wobbly. It’s just not strong, dynamic art. It’s a little too loose. And the lettering — which, again, I never remark upon — feels just enough off from standard that it’s noticeable.
This is the sort of comic that will exist for maybe 6 issues and no one will ever remember it. There’s no hook, there’s no real charm; it’s a comic and that’s it.
TL;DR: Black Cat #1 is a competent comic made by people with a general idea of how to make a comic. Rote and lacking any real hook or selling point.
The Green Lantern #8
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
This is a weird one, folks. Sometimes Grant Morrison tells a killer, easy-to-follow story. And sometimes he plays around with ancient, obscure comic book stories from the early 20th century that just serve to muddy everything up.
On the murder planet Hadea-Maxima, some criminals are complaining about a mysterious new drug and its dealer, Glorigold. The boss villain sends an assassin to Earth to kill Glorigold. On Earth, Green Arrow has been dealing with this drug, and Green Lantern shows up to help him squash some dealers. The duo hang out and catch up, recalling the good old days and ribbing each other for their current lifestyles. Then they head to the docks to follow a tip on the drugs and they encounter Xeen Arrow. I just…sigh. This old Comics Alliance article is a good place to explain him.
So basically, Xeen Arrow is a giant, very thin, alien version of Green Arrow from Dimension Zero. He was in one Green Arrow story from 1958, and would you look at that, he’s randomly on these docks. He normally wears a special belt that allows him to survive in Earth’s atmosphere, but it has been damaged. GA and GL then confront Glorigold, who is also from Dimension Zero, and who has been collecting the souls of his drug users in order to make new drugs. He uses his ghost sirens to pit GA and GL against one another. Then the assassin from Hadea-Maxima shows up on the moon, ready to destroy all of planet Earth to kill Glorigold. GA and GL fight the siren’s song in order to fire Xeen Arrow’s giant arrow at the moon to take out the assassin, who they then also beat up.
Glorigold is captured by Xeen Lantern, revealing that Green Arrow and Green Lantern actually stumbled into a Xeen Arrow/Xeen Lantern team-up story. Because insane. In the end, GL departs, bidding a sad farewell to his friend, and the boss villain kills the assassin for his failure. Then a very cheery looking Sinestro shows up alongside the boss villain!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This is one of those issues where Morrison and Sharp seem to skip over some of the basics of comic book storytelling in order to tell their weird story. Like, we open on the planet Hadea-Maxima and some weird aliens, then a Guardian head pops onto the page to explain to the reader the murder gimmick of the planet. It’s a little jarring. Then we’ve got Xeen Arrow showing up out of nowhere with little attempt to explain him or put him into context. And Glorigold is never not confusing. At one point, he takes off his hood to reveal his weird alien face…but there’s no art to indicate he’s taking off his hood to reveal himself. We just get a panel of Glorigold in full costume, then on the next panel there’s a close up of a weird alien face talking about something else, with his identifying costume mostly cropped out of the panel. And considering all of the other weird aliens we’d already met in this issue, it took me a moment to understand that this was Glorigold. Little things like that happen throughout the issue, as if Morrison just rushed through this already insane script and he forgot some of the typical reader-help stuff.
That all made the issue a little choppy and sometimes tricky to follow, and that’s on top of a really weird story! Xeen Arrow? Really Grant Morrison? I know this is exactly up your alley, but this one was weird even for The Green Lantern. And that was just one of several weird plot threads this issue, but they did all weave together nicely in the end. So even though Grant Morrison gave into some of his weirder proclivities, he still made them work, and kept the friendship of Hal and Ollie at the center. The issue holds together once you can take a step back and look it over in its entirety. It’s just a really weird, sometimes stumbling story when you get right down into it.
TL;DR: Grant Morrison employs a couple of his signature oddities in what is otherwise a solid comic.
The War of the Realms #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Aaron suddenly adds unnecessary time jumps into War of the Realms and it’s a little confusing.
Also, considering this issue, I reiterate my point that the Giant Men are getting a raw deal by being sent on an unnecessary suicide mission.
All around the world, the forces of good are fighting back against Malekith’s forces and they appear to be doing fine. It’s a bunch of quick cuts rather than digging in deep to any specific story. Meanwhile, Malekith has Odin and Freyja alive and imprisoned at Stonehenge, with an energy bubble that only Thor can pass through. Also, it looks like Jane Foster is picking up the broken hammer of the War Thor.
As for the time jumps, there are a couple random cutaways to some time in the future, where Thor discovers that a new World Tree is growing out of the Sun. So he nails himself to the tree to gain wisdom, something Odin did in legend. It doesn’t play a part in the rest of the issue, but for some odd reason, we flash forward to those moments seemingly at random in this issue.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Jason Aaron keeps ruining the awesome deaths he sets up. First, he didn’t kill Jane Foster after crafting the most glorious and meaningful comic book death Marvel has had in years. For once, a death wasn’t going to be just cheap shock during an event…but nope, Jane Foster lives and is fine. Then Odin and Freyja go out in a blaze of glory last issue…but nope, they’re fine in this issue, both of them alive. That sucks some energy out of the event. But the biggest problem of the issue is how quickly it just jumps from one single-panel fight to the next. Aaron tries to weave them together with his flowery prose, and Dauterman is Artist Supreme, but there’s no real stakes or personal attachment to this story. It’s just the Marvel Superheroes now fighting the various bad guys rather than being beaten up by them, as if the turning the tables was simply a matter of getting to the next issue rather than something earned within the story. And Thor does not provide a proper through line for the issue. There’s nothing in the story at all so far to explain why Thor is so vital to defeating Malekith, other than this obviously being Thor’s event. It’s weird.
TL;DR: War of the Realms is just a bunch of big, well-drawn panels of superheroes fighting bad guys and little more than that.
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!