Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/3/19
Comics, Comics, Comics! Comics, Comics, Comics! Let’s all read some comics! Some pretty good ones this week!
We’ve got more Captain America and Fantastic Four! We’ve got the bold first issue of Powers of X! And we’ve got the Comic Book of the Week, a wonderfully drama-filled issue of Runaways!
Meanwhile, I got a request from writer Scott Snyder to check out his Last Knight on Earth and Batman Who Laughs issues this week. Expect the review of the first, but I haven’t been following Batman Who Laughs, and wasn’t going to buy and cram in seven whole issues this week. But any professional comic writers who want another review of their comics, feel free to reach out and let me know!
What would you henchies think about me reviewing indie and amateur comics? Being a self-published comic writer myself, I want to help my fellow writers, but I can be really, really lazy. Would you readers like to see some amateur comic reviews on my blog? Let me know!
Comic Reviews: Batman – Last Knight on Earth #2, Captain America #12, Fantastic Four #12, Powers of X #1 and Runaways #23.
Batman – Last Knight on Earth #2
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Color: FCO plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
I haven’t been following Scott Snyder’s Batman work since the end of his regular run, so it’s possible I’m missing some context. But as I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I don’t care about the Joker, or about stories that take it as a given that Batman and Joker are entwined by destiny.
To get you up to speed, since this issue #2, Last Knight on Earth is basically Old Man Logan, but with Batman and the DC Universe. It’s a post-apocalyptic future where most of the superheroes are dead and there’s a bunch of darkly clever Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the wasteland. Remember how the giant skeleton of Giant Man was just lying on the ground in Old Man Logan? Or how the Venom symbiote had possessed a T-Rex from the Savage Land? Well here we’ve got the Specter’s giant cloak just lying on the ground where he fell. Or all the Flashes trapped in a never-ending Speed Force Tornado that travels the country.
The story doesn’t actually focus on the Batman we know and love. Instead, it’s about a clone of Batman awoken fresh into this hell, with no memory of how it came about. Do you remember the end of Snyder’s regular Batman run, where Bruce built a device to clone himself for every future generation? Yeah, it’s one of those clones. And he’s teamed up with the Joker’s head in a jar to travel the land and try to save it, despite everyone telling him it’s crazy. Wonder Woman is still around and attempting to leave the surviving humans into a safe haven in the Underworld. And some major villain named Omega has taken control of the wasteland, and he’s rumored to be somehow connected to Batman.
This second issue picks up after Batman has rejected Wonder Woman’s offer to join her in the Underworld. He and Joker’s head travel the land in search of Superman, who is rumored to still be active in the Fields of Solitude in the heartland. When they arrive, they instead find Lex Luthor and some Superman robots. Lex reveals more of how the world fell: he challenged Superman to a final debate in front of the world: good vs. evil. Turns out, all of the people of the world liked Lex’s selfish argument better, and that’s how the people of the world chose evil, rose up, killed a bunch of heroes (including original Batman) and that’s how the world fell into chaos.
Wonder Woman comes back to save Batman from the soldiers of Omega, and she joins him on his journey to Gotham City, where perhaps all of this can be settled. No sooner do they step foot in the city than they’re confronted by the Court of Owls and their familiar leader: Dick Grayson!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
It’s good. It’s enjoyable. The art is spectacular. But it’s really just Old Man Logan by way of the DC Universe. It’s just a fake Batman going on a tour of all the clever and nifty post-apocalyptic things Snyder and Capullo could come up with, some of which we get to see and some of which is just mentioned in captions. There’s nothing particularly deep or exciting about how the world collapsed, and there’s nothing yet about this protagonist to make all this worthwhile. I think I’d prefer if this was Old Man Bruce. As it stands, this is just a fun trip through some crazy ideas, all of which will inevitably lead to a confrontation with this Omega person, whose secret identity apparently wasn’t worth using this issue’s cliffhanger ending on. It’s cool that Dick Grayson is still alive. And I’m glad he’s not the supreme super villain. But whoever this Omega guy is, not enough has been done to set him up as the purposeful climax of this story. Maybe it’s Harley Quinn! That’ll be fun.
TL;DR: Old Man Batman is full of darkly clever ideas and the creators are having a lot of fun, but the opening issues don’t feel too deep just yet.
Captain America #12
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Adam Kubert
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
As much as I’m enjoying Coates’ overarching storyline, the finer details and story choices are bugging me.
Captain America has been doing what he can to fight HYDRA around town, but the bad guy’s propaganda machine is too strong, and the world is convinced that Steve and the Supreme Commander were the same person. Captain America is a wanted man, with Nick Fury Jr. chasing after him. So Sharon convinces Steve to hang up the shield and just be superhero Steve Rogers to fight this. As such, Steve gets out of storage that costume he wore when Bucky was filling in for Cap.
Steve also checks in with the Daughters of Liberty to ask for their help. They tease him when he tries to ask why they’re a team of only women, and state that they have been a team since the founding of America.
Meanwhile, the Dryad is working with Bucky to download bad guy secrets out of Von Strucker’s brain. And we learn the Dryad’s secret identity is…a de-aged Peggy Carter!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was an issue of seemingly big moments that fall flat in their actual execution. These are the finer details that are bugging me. So Steve decides to retire Captain America for the time being and go under a different identity to fight this new threat. Steve mentions that he’s been a wanted man before, and he’s used other identities, but Sharon insists this is bigger. So surely that would require a bigger solution…right? Nope. Just grab some old costume out of storage and just be “Steve Rogers”. He’s still a wanted man as “Steve Rogers”! And what a boring costume to choose. Why wasn’t this the triumphant return of the Nomad identity? Or something new and cool?
When Spider-Man was a wanted man, we had the whole Identity Crisis saga and it was awesome!
The Daughters of Liberty also continue to annoy me. It’s too big of a retcon to not yet have a proper explanation, and this issue just adds more vague details to the squad. I can buy that a secret group of patriot women has existed since the Revolution. That’s pretty cool. And it makes sense that the modern incarnation would involve superhero women. But…like…it just doesn’t fit with the Marvel Universe. You’re telling me this group of specific superheroes has had this secret side gig all this time and it’s never come up before? They haven’t bothered to activate all the other times Captain America was in trouble? I need an explanation, and one that actually makes sense. Not just teasing Cap for trying to ask questions. None of you make sense here, least of all Dryad.
Though revealing her to be a younger version of Peggy Carter is solid. She’s even got a nose ring! That’s the one story choice I actually kind of like in this issue.
The overall story is great. Evil extremists have used their evil propaganda machine to turn the country against Captain America. It’s politically relevant to today’s world, which is exactly the sort of real-world politics I want Cap to tackle in his comic. I just wish Coates was making better in-story choices with his characters.
All will be forgiven, however, if he slips in a Porcupine guest shot. Spider-Woman is on the Daughters of Liberty, and I may be the only person in the world still in love with the Spider-Woman/Porcupine romance from Dennis Hopeless’ Spider-Woman comic. There’s plenty of reason for her to bring Roger into the mix! The classic Porcupine was a Captain America foe, and Cap and Roger have interacted before. Make it happen, Coates, and make me the happiest geek in the world!
TL;DR: The overarching storyline is fantastic, but the smaller story choices Coates is making aren’t nearly as exciting as they could be.
Fantastic Four #12
Writers: Dan Slott and Jeremy Whitley
Artists: Sean Izaakse and Will Robson
Inkers: Daniele Orlandini and Robson
Colorists: Marcio Menyz and Greg Menzie
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
I took a quick break from Fantastic Four for what I thought was a War of the Realms crossover. It wasn’t really, so my bad. But now I’m back at the start of a new story!
Ben Grimm heads off on his honeymoon with Alicia, with a 12 hour countdown until he reverts back to human form. They head to a tropical island, where Alicia gives him a ring to wear when he’s human again, in a really sweet moment. But then the Hulk shows up, controlled by the Puppet Master, and sets about walloping the Thing. He’s got less than an hour until he’s human, Alicia is trapped under some rocks, so the Thing puts up his dukes.
Meanwhile, we also get a short story setting up Whitley’s upcoming Future Foundation comic. The team is trapped on an alien planet in a cave, surrounded by creatures whose only weakness is light. They set up a complicated program where Dragon Man can teleport to any singular person in the galaxy who can solve whatever crisis they’re dealing with, and this time it’s Julie Power. She’s been pretty depressed since she broke up with Karolina Dean and flunked out of college, but her light powers are perfect for saving the day. Afterwards, she volunteers to stick around and help her brother run the Future Foundation! So yay!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I’m gonna do that thing again where I complain that a comic throws away a perfectly good, down-to-Earth story in favor of unnecessary fisticuffs, as if comics only work with hero vs. villain slugfests. I feel like Dan Slott could have written a perfectly wonderful comic of Ben and Alicia Grimm enjoying their honeymoon. Instead, most of that story is taken up by the Hulk showing up and knocking the thing around, with classic villain Puppet Master at the controls. It just wasn’t very interesting. The Thing and the Hulk have tussled plenty of times, and the Thing has gone up against someone the Puppet Master controls plenty of times. But he’s never been on a honeymoon with Alicia before this issue. Why can’t we have that story? Why did it have to devolve into mindless punching? Slott still wrote the mindless punching very well, and the few down-to-Earth scenes we got were really nice, so I can’t complain too much.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Whitley’s back-up story was all manner of great and I can wait for that new series to arrive!
TL;DR: The issue starts with a really nice, grounded and romantic story, but then devolves into the typical superhero punch’em’up.
Powers of X #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: R.B. Silva
Inkers: Silva and Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Here we go again! And Powers of X is even crazier than House of X! Perhaps too crazy…
So Powers of X takes place across four different time periods, reflecting on the new status quo from House of X. We’ve got the X-Men in Year Zero, Year Ten, Year One Hundred and Year One Thousand.
In Year Zero, a young Charles Xavier is fresh off of coming up with his dream for mutants and humans when he’s approached by Moira McTaggert…but he doesn’t know her yet. This Moira seems to be from the future, and she invites him to read her mind to see what becomes of his dream.
Year Ten is the present, from House of X #1. We follow along with Mystique after she returned from her mission to Damage Control. She passing along the intel to Magneto and Xavier, but she’s wants more payment. Xavier tells her that he also wants more from her, because those who want to live in this brave new world will need to give more.
We spend most of our time in Year One Hundred, where we learn from supplemental materials that the humans and/or robots teamed up with Mister Sinister to bio-engineer new combined mutants using the DNA of classic X-characters. This all occurred after the fall of Krakoa, and Year One Hundred takes place after it all fell apart with Sinister’s sudden but inevitable betrayal.
We meet four such mutants: Rasputin, Cardinal, Percival and Cylobel. After an attack on the robot Nexus to gain intel, Percival is killed and Cylobel is captured. Rasputin and Cardinal retreat to their HQ, where we find an older Wolverine, who is joined by who appeared to be Magneto, Xorn and Groot. Meanwhile, Cylobel goes before Nimrod, who stores her in a giant science tube, which he’s using to create some kind of mutant catalogue/brain thing? I dunno.
In Year One Thousand, the robots have seemingly taken over the world, with a pen of naked humans kept for study, like dinosaur bones. A being who looks biological, but who could be a robot, named the Librarian is studying the leftover materials from Nimrod’s cathedral. Librarian laments that it was all pointless, considering how the mutant/human/robot wars ended. And we see that Cylobel is still in her science tube.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Oh man, I’m not even sure how to react to this comic. It’s bold, I’ll give it that. And the boldness is what I like about it. But in its boldness, in its info dump, the issue does get a little too crazy for its own good. It doesn’t flow as easily as House of X, and there are not many classic characters to really help ground us. It’s mostly all wild and crazy ideas for far off futures, and that isn’t as comfortable and as enjoyable as what we got in House of X #1. Perhaps I’ll grow to love the likes of Rasputin and Cardinal, but we’ll see. For now, they come off as gimmick characters playing their assigned roles in a wackadoo crazy future world.
Powers of X #1 reads like a comic that needs the full picture to be appreciated. On it’s own, it really only has its boldness and its promise to keep it all together. But that boldness and the promise of something grander than we can imagine are more than enough to make it a worthwhile read. It adds to the growing mystery around Charles Xavier, which I like. And I suppose Magneto and Mystique get some solid moments.
But Powers of X #1 comes off as more of a tip-of-the-iceberg sort of thing. It keeps my excitement about this new X-Men direction afloat, and that’s all that really matters at the moment.
TL;DR: Powers of X #1 is Bold with a capital “B” in terms of expanding Jonathan Hickman’s new ideas, and that is really exciting.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artists: Andres Genolet and Niko Henrichon
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
My enjoyment of this issue waxes and wanes depending on which character is getting the awesome drama per page.
Victor and Doombot are in their metal mindscape, with Victor pleading with his friend to reject his Dr. Doom programming and go back to being his normal self. This is the one I don’t really care about, simply because I’m not personally invested in Victor and Doombot. Their drama boils down to Victor repeating that Doombot should self-actualize, and Doombot slowly acquiescing.
Meanwhile, Gert keeps watch over Victor’s “unconscious” body, with Chase unable to pull himself away from her. He awkwardly tries to apologize for screwing everything up between them, and Chase and Gert have it out in a sad drama that I much preferred, because I love these characters. Gert insists she was never planning to dump Chase and move on to anybody else, but Chase can’t help but feel like he’s ruined everything. Gert didn’t mean for her romance with Victor to happen, but there’s such a gulf between her and Chase now. These two crazy kids just can’t wrap their heads around this craziness!
Double meanwhile, Nico finds out that Karolina has been moonlighting as a superhero, but Karo tries to deny it at first. Nico tells her there’s no need to hide it or be embarrassed, and Karo gushes about how much fun she’s having. She also manages to convince her girlfriend Nico to do it with her!
Triple meanwhile, Gib is still having trouble adjusting because, in order to feed, he needs soul sacrifices and they don’t just have that in the fridge.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
As hilarious as Doombot has been in Rowell’s Runaways comic, I’m just not invested in him as a dramatic character. His scenes with Victor are written quite well, and I hope someone who cares more than me really enjoyed them, but they fall flat to this reader. Doombot’s is a pretty straight forward and kinda basic problem. Whereas Chase and Gert’s drama is so wonderfully crazy, unique and is built on years’ worth of stories. Has this conflict ever happened anywhere else in fiction? You go back in time to save your girlfriend from a tragic death, only now you’re way too old for her, and you’ve got to answer for why it took you so many years to do it? And she’s falling for someone else who is closer to her age and interests? I love it! And Rowell writes the hell out of those scenes. These poor kids are heart-breaking!
On the lighter side comes the Nico/Karolina storyline. There’s a brief bit at the start of the issue where Gert and Nico snipe at each other, so that was a great kick-off. Then Nico and Karolina get a really positive story about doing good and being superheroes! It’s nice to see Karolina so excited about something, considering how depressed she’s seemed since the start of this series. And it’s so good to see Nico being a supportive girlfriend! And I love the casual, down-to-Earth way they discuss superheroics.
There was a lot of rich drama in this new issue of Runaways, and all of it was golden! Some of it worked better on me personally than others, but that doesn’t take away from the quality writing and art.
TL;DR: The rich character drama is off the chain in the latest issue of Runaways!
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 August 3, 2019, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Captain America, Fantastic Four, House of X, Last Knight on Earth, Powers of X, Runaways. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.