Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/14/19
We’ve got a big, fat stack of comics this week, and all of them were good or better! Sometimes I worry that I’m too positive in my comic reviews…but then I remember that I only really read comics I already enjoy. Perhaps I’m a fraud!
Nah, I don’t think that. I’m just a dude giving my thoughts on the comics I like! And hopefully you all enjoy reading. This week we’ve got some real zingers from the likes of Batman, Go Go Power Rangers, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and much more! Comic Book of the Week goes to the return of Wonder Twins for another perfect issue!
Meanwhile, I am really liking Event Leviathan! It’s a whole mess of Bendis-speaking and not showing, but it involves some interesting characters, an interesting mystery, and some of the best cliffhangers I’ve seen in comics in a long time! It’s like comics forgot how to do a proper cliffhanger, and Bendis is schooling everybody with these twists and surprises!
Comic Reviews: Batman #78, Black Cat #4, Go Go Power Rangers #23, Gwenpool Strikes Back #2, King Thor #1, Powers of X #4, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #48 and Wonder Twins #7.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
Batman and Catwoman are recovering/training/preparing down in the tropics. They’re taking time to relax as civilians (Matches Malone), while also doing some exploring and training in costume. They go around and around about the usual topics, neither one quite saying what they want about what happened. Catwoman believes that she stole Bruce’s happiness when she left, that she thought she was doing the heroic thing by forcing him to be alone and be Batman. But he tells her she only did that because he believed he needed to be alone and to be Batman, and she was responding to that fear. But now that he’s hit rock bottom and is recovering, he’s seen that they don’t live because of their hurt, they live to fight their hurt…which they can do together.
The two of them get back to smooching.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Look, I don’t know what to tell you people. It’s just a nice issue of Batman and Catwoman and their usual Tom King banter hanging out on a beach. Clay Mann draws them very well as they’re both sexy people in beach wear, but they do look a little out of place in full costume in broad daylight. The lessons they’re revealing about what’s happened to Batman and what’s happened to them are very nice. I still enjoy King’s character work on this series. But this is another issue-long…I don’t want to say detour. It’s an issue of the two of them slowly walking circles around one another, of saying “Bat” and “Cat” over and over. It’s fine. It’s enjoyable. I like seeing Batman relax and have a little fun. I like the two of them exploring their relationship. And Mann is a phenomenal artist, so it all looks lovely! It’s just a very light issue, for the most part. Those are some strong developments and understandings for Batman at the end, but we take a while to arrive at that point.
And to think, Alfred was brutally murdered last issue…
TL;DR: A perfectly fine issue has some sprinkles of character development, while mostly slowly walking circles around itself.
Black Cat #4
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Ferran Delgado
What’d’ya know! This issue was actually really fun. I still don’t like most of the characters or the art, but Felicia being Felicia is really fun.
Also, to note, this is the first of two issues this week that deal with seducing a member of the Fantastic Four in order to get something the protagonist wants. Weird.
The plan is to break into the Fantastic Four’s new home on Yancy Street and steal a book by Phineas Randall (father of Orson Randall, former Iron Fist, in a nice bit of continuity call-out), which they will use to open a portal to the interdimensional vault of the New York Thieves Guild. The Black Cat’s plan is to simply arrange a lunch date with Johnny Storm and waltz right in, then grab the book and hand it off to her crew, who will be posing as sushi delivery people. The plan goes wrong when that security guard from the first issue shows up, attempting to catch Felicia for his new bosses, the Thieves Guild. He is somehow able to not only get into the F4’s building, but also make it deep into one of the labs, pursued by Felicia’s crew trying to stop him. Johnny and Felicia stumble upon them, confused.
And then Blastaar rips open the door to the Negative Zone in the lab, declaring revenge against the Fantastic Four!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
What can I say, I liked it! I pretty much dislike every supporting character in this comic, and the art is still atrocious, but MacKay writes a really good Felicia. I enjoyed her plan here, casually flirting with Johnny Storm to get a tour of the place. It’s a fun heist plan, especially since we just did a ‘put a team together’ heist plan in the previous story. So we’ve still got the basic central conceit of conducting heists against known characters, which is fun, and then we’ve got MacKay and Felicia mixing it up a bit. I like it. I like the way she’s written as she lets Johnny take her on the tour. I like the mix of the professional and the casual, with Felicia in full costume and with her game face on, but then cutting loose and digging into some lobster with her pals back at base.
And that Blastaar cliffhanger was really fun! Great twist to throw into a story that uses the Fantastic Four in a guest role. Though this makes two heists in a row that get interrupted by a powerful super-villain showing up as a surprise cliffhanger.
The Black Cat comic is really coming into its own, and that’s a good thing. There are just parts of it I still don’t like. The art remains really sketchy, operating without solid enough lines, while also just not being up to snuff. And I just don’t care for the supporting cast. The Black Fox is a nobody, and he doesn’t matter to me. MacKay is trying really hard to make Felicia’s two henchmen into interesting characters, but it’s also not working on me. The smart one just rubs me the wrong way. And this security guard bozo remains a complete and total waste of space. His plan to find the Black Cat is to surveil one of the Tinkerer’s shops in the hopes that she randomly shows up? His buddy finds her on social media within seconds. Ugh. And then he blunders into the case like a total tool.
I swear to god, if this comic leads into Felicia hooking up with this loser I will take back everything nice I have ever said about this comic. He’s such a drip!
TL;DR: The Black Cat comic improves by leaps and bounds with a great lead character and a great story…it’s just everything else about the comic that stinks, from subpar art to a poor supporting cast.
Go Go Power Rangers #23
Writers: Ryan Parrott and Sina Grace
Artist: Francesco Mortarino
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
You can keep your House of X theories. I want to know what becomes of Matt in Go Go Power Rangers! Give me your Matt Cook fan theories!
The Power Rangers do what they can to fight the Warbunny without Jason, including having to use their utility Zords to fight. Jason’s mind is being exposed to all of his memories again, and it’s compensating by playing out a fight between Jason and Drakkon. When Jason finally awakens, he rushes off to join the others, and they trick Warbunny into defeat instead of going to full Megazord. It…it doesn’t make sense. Trini comes up with the idea to taunt him about being a warrior, so he rushes her Zord…but then the plan is to have Jason’s Zord punch him in the knee? And that somehow reverts him into being just a bunny again? I’m not entirely sure what happened, but everybody congratulates Trini on her great idea.
Anyway, after it’s over, Zach is surprised to learn that Trini has quit her community center job because Zedd targeted the building because of her. The Rangers are fraying, because Zedd keeps attacking their personal lives. Kimberly unloads all of this onto Matt in a nice, evening chit chat, with the two of them wondering where they would be in their lives if Matt had been chosen to be a Ranger…
Elsewhere, Jason agrees to help the Blue Emissary, but he wants to build a new team to do it. In his visions, he saw three shadowy villains yet to come, and he wants to be ready. I think one of the villains was Dayne from the other comic, but I don’t feel like looking it up.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was a very simple issue, but still very good. Nothing really new gets brought up or established in Jason’s mind flashes, other than teasing some upcoming villains. And the fight against Warbunny is pretty normal — other than that ending, which I did not understand at all. I get Trini taunting the bunny…but for Jason’s Zord to then just pop in and punch him in the knee? Was that the plan? Taunt him into attacking and then hit him with a surprise punch? He was already attacking! Why not just hit him with a normal punch? And was he meant to punch him in the knee or is that just how the art looked? I dunno. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is how the fight affected Trini emotionally, and it worked well for Parrott and Grace building the framework of a team out of sync. The Rangers are getting hit on a personal level, and it’s wearing them all down, and I’m excited to see how it leads to the Omega Rangers.
I’m also super excited to see what happens to Matt! You can’t throw in a line about him and Kimberly wondering what life would have been like had he been chosen to be a Ranger without it going somewhere! My body and mind are ready, Parrott! Reveal to us your Matt endgame! I trust you!
TL;DR: A simple issue still contains some strong emotional work going forward. I’m very excited for what’s to come.
Gwenpool Strikes Back #2
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldeon
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
And here comes the second comic about seducing a member of the Fantastic Four. Weird.
In her next effort to become an important comic book character, Gwenpool hires Deadpool and they break into the basement of the Fantastic Four’s home. The plan is to seduce one or both of the Richardses because sex sells, especially with an A-list comic book relationship like this one…but Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman are no slouches, and they catch the two ‘Pools after a bit of shenanigans. Reed has them both wrapped up in his stretchy body while they wait for the cops. While chatting inside, Deadpool finds out that Gwenpool sort of unmasked Spider-Man in the previous issue. Deadpool doesn’t take too kindly to this, and pulls out a big gun on Gwen.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I liked this issue more than the first. I think it’s because Deadpool is a much better verbal sparring partner for Gwenpool than Spider-Man was in the previous issue. So while Gwen does just go on and on this issue, at least now she’s got someone to actually balance her out. It makes for a stronger issue, especially as Deadpool joins in on her fourth wall-breaking ways. It just makes the whole issue more palpable. And Gwenpool is funny, and Deadpool is funny too, and Williams writes them both well. So I dig it all. And if this is a mini-series about Gwenpool rubbing elbows with the A-list characters in a desperate bid for relevancy, I’m cool with that too. Especially since Williams is clearly working some other angles. I like that Deadpool got upset over Gwen’s actions in the previous issue, since Deadpool/Spider-Man is a thing (though I’m not a fan, in theory; I’ve never read the comic). And I like the single panel of dark doubt that Williams and Baldeon insert towards the end, pointing towards some deeper emotional themes forthcoming. That’s something this comic really needs. I disliked that nobody on the Fantastic Four acknowledged Deadpool. Surely the Thing knows him, right?
TL;DR: The wackiness and wordiness of the first issue is balanced out much better by adding Deadpool as a supporting character, making for a stronger issue overall.
King Thor #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
The end is the beginning is the end. Jason Aaron’s Thor ends in this short mini-series. Let battle commence!
The final battle is upon us: King Thor vs. Loki the All-Butcher, wielder of All-Black the Necrosword. The two do battle that shakes the very cosmos, smacking and taunting each other from one dead planet to another. Thor gives it everything he’s got, including wrapping his own intestines around Loki’s throat and using Mjolnir to drag Loki into a sun…but it’s not enough, and Loki is on the verge of victory, ready to kill Thor and destroy the revived Midgard — until he’s stabbed in the back by Gorr, God of God Butchers.
Meanwhile, Thor’s granddaughters search Omnipotence City for some way to prevent the end of the universe. They’re aided by a crazed Shadrak and attacked by Loki’s dark minions, but they manage to escape with the book to end all books (and Shadrak blows up the whole dang library).
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I didn’t much care for Gorr back when this whole thing first started, but he’s grown on me by leaps and bounds with his absence. The philosophical quandaries he brought to the table have truly defined Aaron’s run on Thor, so I’m excited to see what becomes of him now. I think it’s a little…trite to bring him back at the end, considering he was killed off back at the beginning, but it’s fine. It’ll be a nice bookend. And I’m excited to see Aaron really underline everything he’s done so far on this title. I’ll say more about the run as a whole when we finally get to the end of King Thor, but this issue was a nice kick off adventure.
It’s mostly a huge slobberknocker between Thor and Loki, with some truly great trash talk. Fight issues tend to fly by for me, but Aaron kept this one humming along nicely as the pair battled through the cosmos. Ribic was readily on hand to keep things lively — that intestines/Mjolnir/sun maneuver was especially cool — and I just like the story as a whole. Here at the end of all things, Thor and Loki battle one last time for the fate of the universe. And the sisters’ subplot was a nice addition to keep things balanced, along with that nifty Shadrak cameo. Gotta work in those fun characters!
TL;DR: A big, crazy brawl opens Jason Aaron’s final Thor story, kicking things off rather nicely.
Powers of X #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: R.B. Silva
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
For every cool new twist that adds something neat to this story, there’s also always the thick, impenetrable babble that I’m a little too dense to wrap my head around.
In Year Zero, Xavier and Magneto visit Mister Sinister at his palace, which is full of clones. They address one Sinister with their proposal to have him catalog all mutant DNA, but he refuses — so a more familiar Mister Sinister with some mutant DNA himself kills the first one and takes over, agreeing to terms. Then Xavier makes him forget they had this meeting…though a prose piece on Bar Sinister gossip indicates that maybe Sinister is playing all of them? I dunno, this part was a little hard to grasp. Basically it was a bunch of “Sinister Secrets” like a gossip column, with little hints towards other characters, stories and twists.
In Year Ten, minus a few months, Professor X takes Cypher to Krakoa to begin work on their new House of X. Cypher discovers the secret history of Krakoa: he was once one island, then split into two. When some demons came, Apocalypse fought them and pushed the second island, Arakko, through the rift. Then he sent his original Four Horsemen through the rift to keep it closed forever. Cypher is totally on board with Xavier’s crazy, awesome plans.
In Year One Thousand, the largely impenetrable stuff, the various humanoid blue people are trying to “trick” the Phalanx into absorbing and ascending their race. But since the Phalanx only accepts machinery, they uploaded one of their minds into a machine and let them absorb it. Now they’re waiting to see if the Phalanx will allow for ascension.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This issue was a blend of weird stuff that was a little hard to wrap my head around along with some solid, enjoyable character stuff. I really liked the scene between Professor X and Cypher, giving the latter some real personality, while showing a bit behind the curtain how all of this started. We also got to see Xavier without that giant helmet for the first time, so that’s a plus (though instead, he was dressed like Cassandra Nova). The new retconned backstory with Krakoa’s sibling and Apocalypse’s original horsemen is a bit obvious, especially since one of the “Sinister Secrets” is that Apocalypse can’t wait to get those originals back. Two guesses what’s going to happen.
The meeting between Xavier, Magneto and Sinister was fun, too. Though I don’t know much about Sinister — never cared for him — so all the clones were a little confusing. I suppose I didn’t realize that, in the pre-X-Men era, Sinister already had an island, crystal palace and a whole court of clones? I dunno. And those “Sinister Secrets” were just dense enough that I struggled to figure them out. I only got through a few. But they come off as hints to everything that’s going on, so it was a bit frustrating how opaque they are. Granted, they probably should be opaque, but I was more annoyed than thrilled at such hints. Is nothing what it seems in this story?
The less said about the dense confusion of the Year One Thousand stuff the better. I think I figured it out, but Hickman isn’t making it easy, probably on purpose.
TL;DR: Another issue of this crazy ongoing saga is a nice mix of solid, enjoyable character work and wild, dense world-building.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #48
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Derek Charm
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Tavis Lanham
The end of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is coming, and it will never not be sad. Except when it’s funny and exciting!
Squirrel Girl faces off against the low level super-villains who want to get their revenge, but she quickly points out that this is the worst day of her life, so she’s pretty darn angry and pretty darn willing to kick the butts of everyone in the room! The villains get the message loud and clear and depart. Doreen and her friends return to her now-destroyed home and find Mew safe and sound. They leave the kitty with some nice neighbors while they go to Central Park to face Melissa. Iron Man even shows up to help!
What follows is basically Melissa pointing out how she’s one step ahead of every plan they might have. She slipped a mole into Stark Enterprises who messed with the code that makes up Tony’s suit, so Melissa has simply to snap her fingers and the Iron Man armor falls off Tony and comes to her. She’s now calling herself the Iron Ring. Then she reveals all of her super-villain allies. Then captures Nancy and Mary. Then reveals why she wanted Brain Drain: she has stolen the alien technology that allowed him to control his robot body with thought. She’s implanted it into the Iron Man armor so that she can control that with thought instead of through a clunky A.I. like Tony was doing. And she’s attached Brain Drain’s brain in a jar to a new death scorpion robot, which she is also controlling.
So yeah, it’s fightin’ time!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
On the one hand, this issue is a little bit plain. It mostly involves Melissa Morbek standing there and explaining every step of her plan to Squirrel Girl. But North and Charm fill this issue with so much neat stuff and fun jokes that the basic set-up is easily ignored. The issue opens with a delightful series of Doctor Doom bits, as he explains to Melissa the reasons for his agreeing to this team-up in the first place. Then Doreen talking the lower villains into leaving is just plain fun, especially since Swarm is the lead villain. More comics need to include Swarm, whose one weakness is getting his bees wet.
As always, it’s the little things that make Unbeatable Squirrel Girl so much fun. From Doreen angrily talking down those villains, to all the little ways she and Melissa verbally spar once the confrontation begins. I love how Doreen is confronted with that army of villains, and her first instinct is to start planning out a winning strategy. Squirrel Girl, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi are going to take on the likes of Doctor Doom, the Leader, Dormammu, Fin Fang Foom and more! It’s funny and it’s great. Or like Brain Drain’s calm demeanor when his friends show up to rescue him. He’s still himself, it’s just that Melissa is controlling his new war-body. I’m really going to miss this comic.
TL;DR: The big finale is set up in a lot of major ways with this funny, daunting issue.
Wonder Twins #7
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Woohoo! Wonder Twins is back for another series! Now I won’t know whether to buy the individual trades or wait for a bigger collected edition!
Suffice to say, this issue is perfect.
Ever since defeating the Scrambler and Polly Math, Zan has been basking in the glory, but Jayna feels more alone than ever. To make matters worse, the Wonder Twins have been demoted to tour guides at the Hall of Justice, which Zan jumps into with gusto! On one of the tours, the group is brought through the Control Room just as the League learns of a meteor heading for Earth. The people start to panic, especially when they see the League rush off, assuming the heroes are abandoning them. There’s a big riot downtown since the end of the world is imminent!
Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to Repulso, a reserve Leaguer whose power is to smell terrible, and he can’t turn it off. He lives in an isolated bunker, and is only brought out maybe once or twice a year. His only “friends” are the two guards in gas masks who come get him, but they hate this job. They hoist Repulso up on a crane to use his power to disperse crowds. He’s first used in this issue to disperse a hockey riot, then he’s brought back to try and disperse the panic riot — but the people are too far gone this time, and they knock down his crane and attack him!
Fortunately, the Wonder Twins arrive on the scene, getting the crowd off Repulso. Jayna has been studying alien wildlife, and she transforms into a giant ant, which doesn’t have a sense of smell. The crowd of rioters then head to the Hall of Justice to continue airing their grievances — only to find the superheroes returned from saving the day. They weren’t abandoning anyone earlier, they were simply heading out into space to stop the meteor. And it’s been stopped, so everybody can chill out.
In the end, Superman sits down with Jayna to hear her out. She feels more alone than ever, even though she’s been doing all the right things. Superman tells her that being a hero isn’t about seeking reward, and that sometimes it is a lonely life. But it’s easy to know you’re doing the right thing when validation is flowing. It’s when you’re facing adversity, when everything seems hopeless, that you can stand up and truly know you’re doing the right thing against all odds. And in that way, heroes can bond over their mutual isolation.
So Jayna transforms back into the giant ant with no sense of smell and goes to visit Repulso in his isolation chamber, finally giving him a friend to play board games with.
Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.
If a couple months is what Russell needed to recharge his batteries, I’m glad he took those months. This issue is perfection. From the writing to the art to the plot to the life lessons, so much is perfect. From the little asides and jokes, to the clever ways the creative team uses the art, it’s just so damn good! It’s subtle, but it’s oh so sweet; exactly what I love when reading fiction. Like how they mirror the two riot scenes, just for fun. And especially how everything comes together so well, like a well-plotted plan. We learn early on that the giant alien ant can’t smell, which is treated as just an animal fact in Jayna’s research. Then it pays off when she can disperse the crowd without being bothered by Repulso’s smell. Then it pays off even more when we see her in ant form at the end, being a friend to Repulso, especially since all of his scenes showed him desperate for some kind of companionship. This is such a well-constructed issue. Each page, each panel, perfectly plotted out to tell a rewarding story.
And Russell is reaching Ryan North and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl levels of hilarity with one-liners and funny dialogue.
Or how about this gem? So good!
The story is also just perfect! This isn’t just a comic about the Wonder Twins having typical comic book superhero adventures. Russell found a niche for the two of them within the existing framework of the Justice League — one that fits with the characters’ classic roots — and he’s telling stories about that niche. Of course these JL interns would be tasked with being tour guides! And of course they wouldn’t be included when the heroes rush off to top a meteor! It works so damn well!
On the deeper side of things, Russell is telling a fascinating emotional story as the siblings follow different paths in their heroic journeys, while still being side-by-side. That’s really cool. Jayna’s doubts and possible depression are great character development. And I love that Superman really is a good mentor figure! Russell could have taken the easy route and made all the adults aloof imbeciles, but he doesn’t. Superman is just as heroic and as wise-beyond-his-years as you’d hoped he would be.
Byrne’s art continues to be gorgeous. The characters are detailed with strong lines and great facial expressions, with a truly wonderful color palette. The purple of the Wonder Twins is magnificent.
I loved this comic before, I love it now; Wonder Twins is everything I want from comics.
TL;DR: Funny, witty, smart and gorgeous, Wonder Twins is the best comic around.
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 September 14, 2019, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Black Cat, Boom!, Catwoman, Deadpool, Go Go Power Rangers, Gwenpool, Gwenpool Strikes Back, House of X, King Thor, Power Rangers, Powers of X, Squirrel Girl, Thor, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Wonder Twins. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.