Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/24/19
What a roller coaster week for comic book fans! In the same week that we lose Spider-Man in the MCU (for now), we also learn that we’re getting Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk in the MCU! Honestly, I’m OK with that trade, though I’m confident Disney and Sony will return to the bargaining table. Spider-Man isn’t even part of Phase 4, so there’s plenty of time.
At least this week’s comics were pretty great! Batman, Jimmy Olsen, Iron Man, Valkyrie; all quality comics. But I’m going to give Comic Book of the Week to Powers of X #3 for a twist that gives this event a nice shot to the arm as we near the midway point.
Meanwhile, I may give up on Guardians of the Galaxy for now. I’ve always been lukewarm about this comic. It’s fine and enjoyable, and clearly well written, but it hasn’t really been doing anything for me, personally. The latest issue is mostly a recap of Rocket Raccoon’s origins, coupled with what turns out to be a really lame reason why everybody hates Rocket. Maybe I’ll keep trying going forward, but based on solicitations for November, Beta Ray Bill might be moving on to a new Annihilation story anyway.
Of course, that comic is written by Matthew Rosenberg, killer of superheroes, so maybe Bill’s inclusion is a bad sign.
Comic Reviews: Batman #77, Jimmy Olsen #2, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #6, Powers of X #3, Tony Stark – Iron Man #15 and Valkyrie #2.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin and Tony S. Daniel
Inkers: Janin, Daniel and Norm Rapmund
Colorists: Jordie Bellaire and Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Claytown Cowles
Could this issue contain the big moment that got Tom King’s Batman run cut short? Maaaaybe!
Robin (Damian) defies all the warnings and sneaks into Gotham City. He’s immediately found by Gotham Girl, but he defeats her with some magic. Then he confronts Evil Batman, his alternate reality grandfather, with all of the defiance that Damian is known for. But Evil Batman wins and Robin is tied up at Wayne Manor. Bane breaks Alfred’s neck in front of Robin, killing Alfred. And Evil Batman warns Robin that he will take Alfred’s place as the new hostage to keep out the rest of the Bat-Family.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne wakes up while under Catwoman’s care in Paris. He’s determined to head back to Gotham City to fight, even if it means his death. But Catwoman tells him there’s another way: her way.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I’m not going to believe that Alfred is really dead until all the chips fall. There are too many ways this could be a fake out and/or reversed. And I will refer you all to my previously written “Killing Alfred” theory of comics. No story in the world is worth killing Alfred, because Batman comics don’t end. So we’ll see what happens going forward. In the moment, it’s effective, because it reinforces the rules laid down to keep Robin out of the city. Bane and Evil Batman mean business and don’t go back on their word.
(While we’re on the topic of reviving Alfred, Tom King did introduce a new super Lazarus Pit in his run which can bring people back from the dead with a sacrifice. Perhaps to atone, Evil Batman sacrifices himself to bring Alfred back from the dead. Just throwing that out there).
The rest of the issue is good! If I still didn’t dislike Damian as Robin, I’d probably really enjoy this Robin-heavy issue. But Damian is just never going to really be Robin for me. Such is the way of things.
At least Damian is cool in this issue, and we get Mikel Janin drawing Robin for once. He kicks butt, defeats all challengers…until he gets his butt whooped, and Alfred’s death is on him. That should make for some solid character growth going forward. And like I said, the villains carrying through their promise to kill Alfred ups the stakes, even if I don’t think it’s going to stick (remember when Joker cut off Alfred’s hand? He was fine).
I also like how the Batman/Catwoman subplot plays out. Obviously Bruce wants to charge back into Gotham City and save the day, but I love the idea that Catwoman just sighs, shakes her head and points out that there’s another way. I like the idea that their whole storyline has been leading to this: that Batman hits rock bottom and has to adapt and change his style — to that of Catwoman — in order to save the day. That is a great endgame for their storyline over the course of King’s run on Batman, and I’m looking forward to how it plays out.
TL;DR: The stakes get more serious and the tension builds as Robin takes on the City of Bane, with disastrous results!
Jimmy Olsen #2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Two issues in and the weird structure of this comic is already getting to me. I admire its creativity, but I’m starting to get a little lost.
We flash back again to Jimmy’s pre-Metrpolis ancestor, and how he struck it rich after stumbling into a gold mine after Luthor’s ancestor threw him off a cliff.
In the…recent past? Jimmy has an argument with his older brother, who is supremely pissed off that Jimmy destroyed the Monarch of Metropolis statue, which Julian Olsen is trying to repair, and which Lex Luthor is trying to tear down so that he can build a no doubt nefarious light rail public transport system. Jimmy also shares the story of how he tripped on his shoelaces and got a Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Lex Luthor. Lex and Julian go on TV again, where Lex can rub it in Julian’s face that Jimmy destroyed the statue.
We get a nice scene of Superman doing some tricks and gags for Jimmy’s internet show. Jimmy insists he needs to stick to silly things like this, and Superman is glad to help goof around, but Supes thinks Jimmy is capable of much more.
In the…present? Jimmy is in a Gotham City flop house trying to figure out why everybody keeps dying around him. So he calls Lois Lane for help.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Individual parts of this comic are really good, but Fraction’s framing device and non-linear structure are already starting to work against this comic. I actually really like that he uses a whole narration box/title like old timey comics to start each individual chapter. It’s a neat gimmick and it works for this comic. But they’re starting to wear thin already. And it doesn’t help that I’m not sure what order things are supposed to be happening. How does Jimmy arguing with his brother line up to Jimmy goofing off with Superman to Jimmy and this Gotham City story? Individually, I like the stories. An Olsen/Luthor family feud is fun, and those historical flashbacks are neat. I also really enjoyed the scene of Jimmy and Superman goofing off.
Fraction writes these characters very well, and they are presented as characters worth reading about. Jimmy is just as wacky and entertaining as one could hope, with an extra dose of pathos. His sadness at having to turn down Superman’s offer to tag along on some heroics was great. It’s clear Fraction knows where he is going with this series, he knows exactly the sort of comic he wants to create, and he’s pulling it off with aplomb. My patience is just being strained a little.
TL;DR: The Jimmy Olsen series is as zany and heartfelt as one could hope, though some of the unique trappings on the comic are already starting to wear out their welcome.
Magnificent Ms. Marvel #6
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Minkyu Jung
Inkers: Jung and Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Oof. I might be done with Magnificent Ms. Marvel. I had hoped things would get better now that the alien planet arc is over…but I’m just not feeling it anymore. All of the joy and fun has been sucked out of this comic.
Kamala is shocked to learn of her father’s deadly illness. It’s a brand new disease and there’s no cure, and he’s one of only a few people to have it. Kamala also confirms that her parents have completely forgotten about the alien adventure and her being Ms. Marvel, so there’s that. When Kamala gets a text from her friends, her dad insists she go out and live her life rather than turn their home into a graveyard, so Kamala goes to meet Nakia and Bruno at a coffee shop, where she fills them in on what’s happened.
Their meal is interrupted by a news report about the villain Deathbringer, who had a brief appearance in the first issue of this relaunch. He has kidnapped a bus load of people and challenges Ms. Marvel, so she goes to meet him in her new costume. Ms. Marvel is nearly overwhelmed by his shadow powers, but her new suit can fight on its own and saves her. She feels a little guilty about the returning villain, but the friendly cop tells her she’s not responsible for villains doing villain things.
Then Iron Man shows up (she texted him earlier) to offer his shoulder to cry on, while confirming that there’s no medical science currently capable of curing her dad’s illness.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I just don’t feel anything towards this comic anymore. The issue is fine. It has all the hallmarks of being a good issue. But the heart and soul are gone. It feels like the issue is going through the motions, even though I know Ahmed is surely trying his best. And the art is great. But ugh, I just don’t feel anything anymore. Her father’s illness isn’t sad, because it’s just a plot point, especially since it’s been decided that her parents will forget everything to do with her being Ms. Marvel, so all of that great character development is just gone. Instead of being a character who just survived a trip to an alien planet, who is grappling with the realities that his teenage daughter is a superhero, Kamala’s dad is now just a blank slate. A blank slate who is probably going to be killed off for empty pathos. It feels especially artificial when steps have to be taken to ensure the illness doesn’t have an easy cure…while simultaneously ignoring all of the easy cure options available in the Marvel Universe. It’s like when Aunt May got shot and no being in the entire universe — not magical, mystical, mutant or cosmic — could fix a bullet wound.
So we all just have to grin and nod our heads that there’s no easy fix for her father’s illness, delivered in what should be a touching scene between Kamala and Tony Stark — but I don’t recall any particular relationship between them. So that falls flat, especially when Tony needs a couple panels to gush at how cool Kamala’s new suit is. Ugh. Two different characters compliment the new uniform, and Tony even runs a diagnostic to tell us all about it’s cool new features! It would feel like a parody if it wasn’t so oblivious.
Mostly I just don’t feel anything from Kamala’s voiceover anymore. She says and feels the most obvious things all the time, or she gets needlessly melodramatic. When she’s fighting Deathbringer and his shadows overwhelm her, she thinks to herself that this might be the end, that perhaps God Himself has decided he’s had enough of her escaping death…only for the costume to save the day, and for Kamala to think that perhaps God Himself doesn’t feel that way. And she cries about wishing she didn’t have to be so heroic and magnificent. And she’s obviously worried about her dad. And she loves Nakia and Bruno unconditionally, even as their scene is cut short. And there’s zero depth to Deathbringer.
This issue is written fine with fantastic art, and if I wasn’t so burnt out on his comic from that horrendous space story, maybe I’d be more forgiving or lenient. But I just don’t like the voice of this comic anymore. I don’t like what it has to say and I don’t like how it’s saying it.
TL;DR: This is a fine issue that is probably better than I’m giving it credit for, but it just rings hollow to me due to the various story and character choices.
Powers of X #3
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: R.B. Silva
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Here comes another twist! Buckle back in, everybody!
In Year One Hundred, the X-Men launch their assault on Nimrod’s forces. While one half of the team causes a distraction, Apocalypse, Wolverine and Krakoa head deep into the old archives in search of key information on when exactly Nimrod came online. It’s a rough fight, with pretty much everybody getting killed. But Wolverine gets away with the info and he goes to Moira to give her the info. We then find out that Year One Hundred takes place during Moira’s ninth life, when she was a disciple of Apocalypse. She’s given the information on Nimrod and Wolverine kills her, which leads into her tenth life, the one from House of X.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Now that’s the sort of twist I can get behind, and the sort I’d hoped to see while we make our way through this event. It’s that warm, happy feeling of a plan coming together, of the pieces falling into place exactly when they’re supposed to. I’m already pretty fascinated by these different lives of Moira, and to reveal that the Year One Hundred storyline was part of the aforementioned Ninth Life is a neat twist! It also helps to ease the fact that alternate futures are never written in stone, so these alternate futures didn’t matter too much. But this issue was a lot of fun, with a lot of character focus. Hickman’s futuristic Nimrod is a pretty funny guy, all things considered. And the heroic assault on the forces of evil is equally entertaining, like Wolverine and Apocalypse teaming up. Granted, it doesn’t feel like Wolverine and Apocalypse are teaming up. Apocalypse acts nothing like the one we know, but it’s still a fun idea and Hickman pulls it off nicely.
And like I said, that twist about this being Moira’s Ninth Life really juices this whole project right as we near the halfway mark. I needed that juicing.
TL;DR: An entertaining and focused issue, coupled with a neat, new twist, provides a needed jolt to Hickman’s overall project.
Tony Stark – Iron Man #15
Writers: Dan Slott and Jim Zub
Artists: Juanan Ramirez and FRancesco Manna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Dan Slott’s robot revolution just keeps reaching crazier and crazier heights, and I love it!
Tony Stark is testifying before Congress about the eScape disaster, as well as the general topic of A.I. rights. He’s being grilled by a particularly nasty Congressman who is really nailing Tony on the details of what constitutes A.I. and how responsible a robot is for their actions. The Congressman then brings out the Tony Stark A.I. that used to be in Ironheart’s suit to question if this A.I. Tony has as many rights and responsibilities as flesh and blood Tony. The biggest moment of the testimony is when Tony reveals on national TV that he himself might be considered an Artificial Intelligence, considering his recent body/mind reboot.
The Tonys get a recess to try and present a stronger case, and they decide that A.I. Tony would make a great on-board system for the Iron Man armor, considering the previously questionable use of Friday. And they suit up together just in time for an attack from some sort of combined version of Vision and Wonder Man. We saw them earlier arriving at Avengers Mansion, seemingly to help Tony with his testimony, but they were ambushed by a mind-controlled Jarvis.
The new Vision/Wonder Man hybrid attacks the Wasp during a robot protest outside Stark Unlimited. Iron Man is there to help her take on the hybrid, but the Tonys realize that the only way to stop this thing is with an EMP Cascade. This succeeds, but it kills A.I. Tony in the process…and all of the protesting robots. When the dust settles, Tony looks around for Janet, but she’s been kidnapped by Jarvis and taken to his master: the Hank Pym/Ultron hybrid!
Meanwhile, Jocasta is looking to get a more human body built by Arno Stark, and Machine Man strongly disagrees.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
It’s blowing my mind how intricate and well-thought-out Slott’s robot revolution storyline is becoming. As someone who has clearly overlooked robots for all the decades of his comic and science fiction-loving life, I’m finding all of this fascinating! The Congressman is an obvious jerk, but he’s making some solid points about how U.S. laws are supposed to incorporate robots and A.I. And Tony Stark is a great character to explore this idea with, even though he’s got his own crazy personal storyline going down. Slott is juggling both quite well, and this issue really twists the knife on all of it.
I loved the two Tonys interacting, and how it makes perfect sense for the A.I. Tony to be inside the Iron Man armor. I wish that had lasted longer than just this issue, and it’s a great use of that former A.I. character from Ironheart. Then Slott ups the ante even more, not only with a robot protest outside Stark Unlimited, but then by having Tony wipe them all out with an EMP! Using an EMP to take out a cybernetic enemy is classic comic book storytelling, but now there is collateral damage, to a degree that we’ve never really explored! This is fascinating stuff, and Slott, Zub and their whole team are doing a wonderful job exploring all these neat new ramifications.
The arrival of the Ultron/Hank Pym villain is cool too. Hopefully Slott can bring in Nadia Van Dyne so that she can help fight/deal with him.
TL;DR: The robot storyline just keeps getting crazier and more fascinating, while the creative team easily juggles several other subplots.
Writers: Jason Aaron and Al Ewing
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Valkyrie battles Bullseye, with a little assistance from the dying Heimdall. But Bullseye is a monster, and he kicks Heimdall off the building. The battle reaches the ground with Jane giving it her all to try and stop Bullseye and retrieve the magic sword, Dragonfang. But the words of Heimdall and Brunnhilde echo in her mind: a sword is just steel and magic, the real Dragonfang is the friends we made along the way. So as hero and villain clash, Jane shatters Dragonfang, robbing Bullseye of all his power. She then defeats him with ease.
But it’s too late to save Heimdall. He’s dying, and he requests that he not be taken to Valhalla, because he’s already seen Valhalla. He wants to go beyond. So Valkyrie promises to take him into the unknown, on a Journey Into Mystery!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I still think Bullseye was an odd choice for the villain in this issue, but Aaron and Ewing use him well as a truly psychotic monster with the skill to turn Dragonfang into a truly deadly weapon. He’s a legit challenge to Valkyrie, though she holds her own and their fight is exciting to behold. Heimdall works great as a wounded ally who gets in some good lines and blows, but the real meat of the issue is Valkyrie vs. Bullseye, and it works! I especially enjoyed the end of the fight, as the creative team flipped the script and destroyed Dragonfang. I definitely didn’t see that coming, and it worked really well for the story. I also really liked the “Journey Into Mystery” joke at the very end. That’s quality writing and it made me giggle. Everything is really good in this comic, from the story to the characters to especially the art. The only gripe I have — and it’s a weak gripe only two issues in — is that I would like to see more from Jane as a person.
TL;DR: This is a really enjoyable issue that sinks its teeth into a quality hero-on-villain fight.
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 24, 2019, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged House of X, Iron Man, Jimmy Olsen, Kamala Khan, Magnificent Ms. Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Powers of X, Tony Stark, Tony Stark - Iron Man, Valkyrie. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
Ms. Marvel is a little better, now that it’s grounded itself again, but the fact that even Kamala thinks her parents’ memories getting wiped is garbage leaves me wondering why Ahmed did it. (As for Kamala and Tony, they were Avengers together. He popped up in Wilson’s run, too, shortly before CWII, when her clones were running wild.)
Powers of X was fine, though if Rasputin doesn’t enter the main timeline, I’ll be left wondering what the point of that whole future was.
Yeah, I was probably overlooking some Kamala/Tony stuff. But why this mind-wipe even happened is a very, very good question…