Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/13/19
Welcome, to the world of comics! Buncha fun reads this week, from Batman to the new era of Go Go Power Rangers. Most monumental is the temporary return of X-Statix! Against all odds! I’m excited to see where that book goes, but for now it’s just a simple reintroduction.
Comic Book of the Week goes to the final issue of Wonder Twins for a really enjoyable, meaningful ending to this short but sweet mini-series. Thankfully, we’ll be getting more from this comic in a couple of months!
Meanwhile, the War of the Realms is over and now is the time for aftermath stories! I skipped the Omega issue out this week, because it was just short advertisements for upcoming series. I might check out the new Valkyrie. We’ll see. The new issue of the regular Thor series was a fun coda. We finally get that nice Thor/Odin moment we’ve all been waiting for, so that’s nice.
And the second issue of Event Leviathan was actually really well done. I’m legit excited for that comic now, thanks to issue #2.
Comic Reviews: Batman #74, Black Cat #2, Giant-Sized X-Statix #1, Go Go Power Rangers #21 and Wonder Twins #6.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Batman finally has it out with his father!
Batman is now cooperating with his dad as they head across the desert to the Nain Pit, where they will trade the life of one of the desert ninjas for that of Martha Wayne in the casket. As they make their way across the desert and down into the pit, Thomas Wayne goes on and on about that story he read to young Bruce that King brought up a couple issues ago, that Russian story about a bunch of friendly animals falling into a pit and then turning on each other for food. He won’t shut up about it! Thomas reveals this weird battle he waged with Bruce, where the young boy would scream whenever it wasn’t being read to him, so Thomas read it again and again.
Once they’re in the pit, Thomas apologizes for not denying young Bruce the book, thereby fostering in him an addiction, which would later turn into this addiction to being Batman. Bruce explains that he loved the story so much because he always held out hope that it would change with each retelling, that there would be a solid ending and he’d find out if any of the animals got out of the pit, instead of the vague ending in the actual book. Young Bruce clung to that hope.
Bruce then socks his father in the jaw and they fight around the pit, while King again retells the story in narration, only quicker this time. Bruce throws his dad into the casket, revealing it to be full of rocks. Bruce buried the body of Martha Wayne in the desert while Thomas slept. He has come to accept only one truth: his parents are dead and he is still alive.
Later, we see only one hand climb out the edge of the pit.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
As annoying as I find this weird retcon about this Russian storybook, I can readily and happily say this was a solid, enjoyable issue that strikes at the core of Batman and prepares him for his journey back to fight Bane. It’s just weird to think that Thomas Wayne started reading Bruce this random, Russian fairy tale as a kid, and that Bruce was so obsessed with it that he would scream every night to have it read again multiple times. It feels like a forced flashback to justify the story King wants to tell here, and something forced like that weakens the story. But looking passed the forced nature of this tidbit, it does make for an interesting look into Bruce and the current storyline.
I wish Thomas Wayne had been a larger figure in King’s storyline, but he’s really only been a factor for a couple of recent issues. This confrontation would feel more meaningful if we’d known longer how deeply involved Thomas was in Bane’s plan. But King does a good enough job establishing the stakes for Thomas Wayne, and then shoving those stakes in his face when Bruce reveals that he’ll never be broken! I always enjoy a triumphant and ass-kicking Batman. He just needed this nice trip through the desert to clear his head, then he takes down his alternate reality father and heads back out to stop Bane. It’s an emotionally strong, kickass issue that sees Batman return from a low point.
TL;DR: Batman battles his father in a strong, meaningful issue, though I wish there had been more build-up.
Black Cat #2
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Ferran Delgado
Welp, Black Cat didn’t make a surprise appearance in Spider-Man: Far From Home, so it looks like this series has to stand on its own.
Black Cat and her henchmen (who I have since learned made a few brief appearances back in the 70s) now work for the Black Fox, a one-time burglar tutor of Felicia’s. He sends them into the Sanctum Sanctorum to retrieve an object. In order to get inside, they have to hire a “merlin”, which is the nickname for magic guys you hire for gigs, like the hacker or the wheelman. They get Xander the Merciless, a one-time Dr. Strange foe whose lost his mojo when the good doctor took away his Starstone.
Xander leads the crew through the Sanctorum, past all manner of crazy magical defenses and troubles. When they arrive at their destination, Felicia and her crew seize their prize: the original deed to the island of Manhattan. Then Xander sneaks away and recovers his Starstone, turning him back up to full evil power!
Meanwhile, that security guard that Felicia hoodwinked last issue is hired by the Thieves Guild to hunt her down — because I guess the Thieves Guild is so lacking in manpower that they need to hire some random nobody with no skills and/or training?
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
There’s a good comic at the heart of this issue, but it’s hampered by terrible art and not enough room to breathe. A heist on Dr. Strange’s house for the original deed to Manhattan is a great idea for a story in the Marvel Universe, especially for this comic. But this issue suffers from fugly, god-awful art and not enough room to really explore the space. All it takes to break into the very heart of the Sanctum Sanctorum is some washed up, single-issue villain from decades ago? They basically just walk in, with occasional gasps of action as they fight magical monsters and defenses. All of it passes by very quickly, with nary a concern from the crew. They get through it all without a scratch. Heck, once they reach the treasure room, the science guy professes that he still doesn’t believe in magic. Why couldn’t that be explored when they were dealing with all the magic?
There’s a fun idea at the core of this issue, but the execution is lacking. I applaud MacKay for digging deep into Marvel lore to find his supporting characters, but they’re all pretty one-note and lame so far. How much cooler would this issue have been if Felicia hired known villains to serve as her crew? MacKay is clearly trying to build up the camaraderie between this crew, and it’s OK to some degree, but it’s not particularly exciting. And the dangers they face in Doctor Strange’s house look cool, but they all pass quickly, with only a few panels per danger. I would have liked to have seen more troubles. And those talking snakes, jeez! Jason Aaron comes up with some cute throwaway ideas for the Sanctum Sanctorum back in his Doctor Strange comic and suddenly everybody is falling over themselves to use them!
And the art, jeez louise. I don’t normally like to talk about art because I’m no art critic. I only know what I like and what I don’t like. But the art in this issue is terrible! There were some saving graces in the first issue, but they are all gone now. The characters are fugly, lumpy and ill-defined. The backgrounds are weak. I’m shocked that this is considered professional comic book level art.
Also, you need to hurry up and give me a reason to care about this security guard character, MacKay. Because right now he feels like an author-insertion character who is going to end up as Felicia’s love interest, and that’s just creepy.
TL;DR: This new series is off to a rough start, with bargain basement art and too much story crammed into a single issue.
Giant-Sized X-Statix #1
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot Studios
I was slow to glom onto X-Statix/X-Force when it first arrived back in the day. That was back in my super geek days, where I was butt hurt that Marvel had so drastically changed X-Force (even though I didn’t read or care about X-Force). Thankfully, I came around quickly and enjoyed it all the way through to the end. That Marvel is bringing them back with the original creative team is the bee’s knees!
Katie Jones is an X-Statix fangirl and the younger sister of U-Go Girl. She unknowingly teleports to her mother’s grave one day and is met by Dead Girl, who brings U-Go Girl back from the dead for a couple minutes to tell Katie that Edie Sawyer was her actual biological mother, who got pregnant at 17 and dumped Katie onto her own mother while she went off to pursue fame and fortune. Katie is pissed and doesn’t accept that she’s also a mutant who inherits her mother’s skin color and teleportation powers.
Meanwhile, Doop and Dead Girl have recruited the apparently still-alive Mr. Sensitive and Vivisector to form a new team to face an upcoming evil. They’ve also recruited the previously unknown son of The Anarchist, who has his father’s corrosive sweat powers, and genetically created daughter/clone(?) of Phat, who shares his powers.
Meanwhile, Katie is kidnapped by Zeitgeist, who is also still alive and has formed his own new team, the X-Cellent. He wants Katie to be his team teleporter, but she’s stubbornly refusing to face any of this mutant/superhero stuff. Then the new X-Statix bust in for a big fight. After a bit of back and forth, X-Statix at least convince Katie to teleport them to safety. She still wants nothing to do with the team, but after the sudden fame and social media likes…she’s starting to reconsider.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This comic was a little too straight forward for an X-Statix relaunch. I expected this comic to have more teeth. Instead, it stretches comic continuity credibility to hastily throw together a new X-Statix team to go through the motions. Mr. Sensitive and Vivisector are randomly still alive? Both The Anarchist and U-Go Girl have teen/adult children that were just a secret the whole time? Zeitgeist has been secretly alive this whole time? No real effort made to fit the team’s history or the new team into the existing Marvel Universe? The original first issue of the X-Force relaunch back in the day ended with with the shocking twist of seemingly killing most of the new cast. And that was just the beginning for this “bad boy” of comics. But this Giant-Sized issue doesn’t offer anything even remotely close to that shocking, edgy, teeth-gnashing cool factor.
It’s still a fine issue, though.
I was a little surprised at how straight forwardly mawkish the issue was. Katie Jones spells out her life and connection to X-Statix pretty succinctly, and then the issue immediately launches her into that world. Soon she’s got her mother’s skin color and exact same teleportation powers, essentially making her a re-do of U-Go Girl. They couldn’t even give her a new hair color? Then the issue rushes through all the returning and new characters, with pretty weak reasons for bringing in new versions of Anarchist and Phat. Why not come up with entirely new characters? Milligan and the Allreds were brilliant at that in the first series, and they’ve even got a couple new characters on Zeitgeist’s new team. It’s not like The A and Phatty (the new versions) get much to do on the page.
As much as I’m harping on this issue for not living up to my expectations, it’s still a fine, enjoyable read. All of the characters work nicely, and Katie is a fun enough main character as she stubbornly fights against giving in to this superhero world. And the art is as legendary as the Allreds always are. There is no one else like them in comics, and issues like this one remind us all way. They are living legends.
Also, Lacuna does not appear at all in this issue. That’s promising, because it means she’ll get to stay alive in my head cannon.
TL;DR: The return of X-Statix is good enough with amazing art, but it’s not as sharp or as shocking as the good old days.
Go Go Power Rangers #21
Writers: Ryan Parrott and Sina Grace
Artist: Francesco Mortarino
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
A new era of Go Go Power Rangers begins, and I’m both pleased and not pleased!
The issue opens with Tommy and Kim’s first date, which we last saw at the start of Shattered Grid. Only instead of Tommy getting stabbed by Drakkon, he’s kissed by Kimberly and they have a nice time. Flash forward a couple of months and we’re at the point where Tommy loses his Green Ranger powers for good. He’s struggling with feelings of jealousy, while the other Rangers are worried about him. Kim insists Tommy is fine, but then he takes off, like he did on the show.
The issue ends with the Blue Emissary appearing to Jason and asking for his help to save the universe. Remember at the end of Shattered Grid, where the Rangers met a red, blue and yellow spirit at the heart of the Morphin Grid? This is one of them.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
To be entirely honest, I’m not very happy with the new time frame. I thought Parrott was going to tell a new, more in-depth version of the original Green Ranger saga, building on the existing Go Go continuity. Instead, we’ve jumped past the entire Green Ranger time frame, to a period even after the original Mighty Morphin comic time frame. That’s not ideal. Now there’s nothing particularly special about Go Go Power Rangers. Now it’s just the Power Rangers in the middle of their careers. That’s a little boring, and this issue doesn’t provide any reason why this time period is going to provide any compelling stories or comics. All of the Rangers are seasoned, even Tommy is seasoned, and that’s that.
Thankfully, the issue still provides the brilliant and emotionally meaningful character exploration of the Power Rangers comics. We get the great introspection, the inter-character drama, and some hints that some story bits in the corners will play out nicely. This issue is a solid, if not overly enthralling, look at Tommy reluctantly accepting that he can’t be the Green Ranger anymore, and how that effects the other Rangers. Tommy’s relationship with Kim is over before we really get to experience it. So the character drama is still very much on point, and I’m personally unable to tell where Parrott ends and Grace begins. I very much look forward to Sina Grace helping out with this comic. And the new art team is fantastic, so no complaints there.
Also, there’s a hint that something has happened to Matt. Hopefully something has actually happened and that throwaway line was not referring to general past events or some event we’ve already seen that I’ve simply forgotten. I will not give up hope that the Matt storyline is actually going somewhere important!!!
TL;DR: The new time frame for this comic isn’t particularly exciting or interesting, but Go Go Power Rangers is still built on a foundation of strong character drama and exploration.
Wonder Twins #6
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
This is exactly what I want from my entertainment. Not all stories have an actual point to make by the end and spell it out so clearly and confidently.
The Scrambler has threatened to randomly switch the minds of everyone on the planet in 30 days and everybody is panicking! The Justice League search every secret bunker and villain safehouse in the world but can’t turn up the Scrambler because he’s just laying low at Polly Math’s house. Jayne figures this out when she spies on the League of Annoyance in prison, and she goes there to talk sense into her friend. But Polly and the Scrambler explain that they’re doing this to change the world for the better, that politicians and billionaires will only enact global good under threat of becoming lowly poor people. Jayna leaves, unsure if they’re right or wrong.
Sure enough, by the end of 30 days, politicians all over the world have banded together to write laws fixing every single problem, from the wage gap to climate change, all because they’re afraid what bodies they’ll end up in during The Great Scramble. Jayna realizes that the mere threat of the scramble was enough to get everyone to do good, so she rushes to Polly’s house to tell her — only to find the Justice League ripping it open to arrest Polly and Scrambler.
Turns out that while Jayna was lost in her own head, Zan turned himself into water, separated himself into individual water molecules and searched every house in Metropolis until he found them and immediately turned them in. Polly is furious with Jayna as she’s taken away to prison. All of the world leaders breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t actually have to sign these new laws into actual law. Everything can go back to normal!
Later, when they’re alone, Jayna asks Zan why he turned them in, when their plan might have actually saved this garbage planet from being such a garbage planet. Zan tells her it’s really quite simple: you can’t expect life to carry you through life, you have to instead focus on the people you love and care about.
Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.
This is what I love in storytelling. That moment when all the pieces fall into place and you realize what the story was telling you, what message was being imparted and why it all matters. Russell has been building to that Zan moment for the entire series, especially in this issue, and it lands so nicely. Especially considering he’s had Jayna building to this moment as well. And it’s such a great message for a comic like Wonder Twins, about a brother and sister team who really do only have each other to rely on. Everything falls together so nicely in the end. It’s sweet and moving, while still being a crazy superhero comedy with some biting social satire.
I was disappointed with the previous issue because it didn’t focus on the Wonder Twins themselves, but this issue more than makes up for that. Jayna and Zan get the lion’s share of the action and the introspection, in really neat and gripping ways. I feel for Jayna, since the bad guys’ plan isn’t so terrible. It’s easy to root for them when Russell makes all the politicians into such scumbags, but understandable scumbags. The jokes about the Luthor-run prison industrial complex are still hilarious, as are the ways Luthor seeks to profit off The Great Scramble. It’s painfully true to life. Russell does a phenomenal job of setting up the conflict, only to undercut himself and deliver that solid life lesson from Zan in the end. It’s wonderful storytelling. And in retrospect, I understand why the previous issue spent so much time setting up Polly Math’s heel turn. We needed her story to contrast with that of Zan and Jayna.
The art, likewise, has been nothing short of gorgeous for this entire series. Byrne has been perfect for the story Russell is telling, with eye-popping colors and real emotion.
I can’t wait for volume 2 in September!
TL;DR: The first Wonder Twins mini-series ends with a strong message, capping off a truly wonderful little comic! Wonder Twins is everything I love about comics!
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!