Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/21/19

Are you ready for some comics? I’m ready for some comics! We’ve got Batman! We’ve got another crazy House of X! We’ve got some awesome Jimmy Olsen and Valkyrie!

This is also the week that J.J. Abrams’ Spider-Man debuted! And I was thoroughly whelmed! Comic Book of the Week instead goes to the latest issue of Tony Stark – Iron Man for a truly wondrous issue. This is a damn good workhorse comic. It’s not really reinventing the wheel, but is instead just telling damn good, worthwhile, interesting stories.

Iron Man Machine Man 01

The team up we never knew we wanted

Meanwhile, it was another fine issue of Absolute Carnage. Good event so far! Double meanwhile, I’m skipping Magnificent Ms. Marvel this week. This issue is better than the ones before because it focuses a lot on Kamala’s home life (while bringing back some villains who matter), but I still think the magic is gone. I’ll keep following that comic now and then.

Comic Reviews: Batman #79, House of X #5, Jimmy Olsen #3, Spider-Man #1, Tony Stark – Iron Man #16 and Valkyrie #3.


Batman #79

Batman #79
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Inkers: Mann and Seth Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I think this was a filler issue hastily written to fix a potential story problem.

This is another issue of Bruce and Selina luxuriating on a beach somewhere, bantering flirtily back and forth. King has had an ongoing subplot/tease about whether they first met when Catwoman robbed a boat, as in their first actual in-comics meeting, or whether they first met on the street, as in Batman: Year One. The two lovebirds decide to settle the disagreement by simply starting over, saying they met on this beach and it’s all lovely. In the end, they attack a shipment of Venom run by the villain Magpie, letting the villain community know that Batman and Catwoman are back in action.

Also, it’s specifically pointed out that this issue takes place prior to Batman #75, and there’s a line where Bruce says he’s going to send Damian into Gotham City. This leads me to believe that DC didn’t like the idea that Damian was recklessly responsible for Alfred’s death, so this issue was thrown together to make it Bruce’s call for Damian to go into Gotham. But I could be wrong. I obviously don’t know for sure.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Unless it is indeed for that rushed Damian fix, this issue didn’t need to exist. This issue and the previous issue could have easily been wrapped up into one. Nothing in this issue really adds to the overall story. Honestly, it feels like stalling, as if King isn’t quite ready to just have Batman punch Bane into submission to end all of this. I hope he has something more clever up his sleeve, but we’ll see. This is still a fine issue. The writing is good, the art is phenomenal, and I really enjoy this happier Batman. I like a Batman who is fully capable of appreciating Catwoman’s beauty and sexiness, a Batman fully with more human layers, and this issue provides. It’s nice. And Catwoman remains really strong. But this issue doesn’t add much to the overall story, and it doesn’t add much to the relationship between the two characters. It’s a fine read, but it should have been bundled into the previous issue.

TL;DR: A perfectly fine issue that shouldn’t exist. This issue should have been bundled into the previous issue instead of drawing out all this beachfront banter.


House of X #5

House of X #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Hoo boy! This is now a whole thing!

So were you wondering how everybody’s alive again? Well it all ties into that weird pod birth scene at the very start of this series. It goes like this: the X-Men discovered that Goldball’s gold balls were actually eggs. So he makes a bunch of eggs, then Proteus turns them viable, then Elixir gives them life using the mutant DNA that Xavier tricked Mister Sinister into collecting, then Eva Bell causes the life inside to grow to the proper age, and Hope is there to enhance their abilities and make them operate in sync. Then once the body is resurrected, Xavier uses his Cerebro helmet to upload the mind/memories/essence/soul back into the body, thereby fully resurrecting the dead X-Men! So the away team that blew up on the space station is returned to life and welcomed back to Krakoa with a big ceremony/chant thing. It’s a bit like a cult.

(Though they should have a talk with Tony Stark, who is currently going through his own identity crisis when it comes to cloned bodies and downloaded minds.)

The next day, the United Nations Security Council votes to accept Krakoa as an independent nation, with a little help from Emma Frost nudging the Russian delegate to abstain. Xavier thanks her for this.

Then the doors of Krakoa open to allow evil mutants to join, including the likes of Exodus, Mister Sinister and especially Apocalypse. Krakoa greets Apocalypse (considering their recently revealed secret history), and Apocalypse is glad to be here. The X-Men are finally standing tall and proud as mutants, which is what he’s always wanted. So he and the other evil mutants are happy to be here. Xavier welcomes them home.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I did not see that coming! A lot of chit chat on the internet has been comparing the pod birth scene to an old Excalibur comic involving Krakoa and pod people X-Men from the 80s. I thought that might be a solid continuity link for Hickman to explore. But nope! He’s gone in an entirely different direction, and I’m pretty OK with it. There is a lot to parse about this strange new resurrection method…but honestly, I think I’m just going to roll with it. I am enjoying this status quo shakeup so much, and am looking forward to what comes next so much, that I’m going to be perfectly fine with this. If Marvel wants to come up with this crazy, in-universe explanation for why all my favorite dead X-Men are alive again, I am 99% for it.

Though Xavier could probably provide the resurrected mutants with some robes or something…

XMen Naked 01

Perhaps mutants have evolved beyond shame…

Likewise, I am 100% on board with that ending, of having all the evil mutants in the world make peace with the X-Men and join them on Krakoa. The Brotherhood of Mutants is my favorite villain team in comics because of how similar they are to the X-Men. They’re all just mutants, united by this common bond, but separated by how they go about using that bond. So the idea of one grand gesture just squashing that beef without any fanfare so that we can get new and interesting stories from this newly hatched status quo is alright with me. It’s big, it’s pretty bold, and it has real potential.

I was very bored with the past few years of X-Men comics, of the near-yearly relaunches that just mixed up the rosters and told the same exact stories over and over again. I 100% applaud Marvel for doing something big and drastic to make the X-Men exciting again, and I am loving everything I’m seeing. It’s weird, it’s unsettling, there are probably plenty of twists still to come, but right now I’m hopeful that we’ll get some really weird, awesome X-Men comics going forward.

Also, I will allow for a lot for the briefest mention that Mimic still exists.

TL;DR: The House of X story just gets weirder and crazier with a truly bizarre, status quo-altering issue. But I’m still on board and excited to see where the heck this is all going!


Jimmy Olsen #3

Jimmy Olsen #3
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

If you thought House of X was wild, wait until you read Jimmy Olsen!

This time, we jump between a lot of different chapters. And it’s clearly a purposeful gimmick, so I’m more OK with it now. We start in the past, where Jimmy’s ancestor is about ready to hang Luthor’s ancestor, but Luthais Alexander’s threats convince Joachiim Olsson to instead just run him out of town. In the present, Lex Luthor receives a time capsule from the Monarch of Metropolis statue. Inside is a small handgun, a picture of a large family and a monocle that Olsson was seen wearing in the flashback. Also in the present day, we find out that the astronaut who injected Jimmy with the turtle serum was being blackmailed by some mysterious person, who threatened the astronaut’s family. Once the matter is settled, we see the astronaut get into a car accident after his brakes have been cut.

In another chapter, the villainous Porcadillo (porcupine/armadillo) has just gotten out of prison and he attacks his defense attorney, accidentally possibly killing him (I think he was also Jimmy’s lawyer). At S.T.A.R. Labs, Jimmy and Doctor Mantel shrink down to investigate a miniature black hole. The doctor gets sucked inside while Jimmy survives and is shaken (while Clark and Lois crack jokes about it). Some time later, Jimmy and Metamorpho collect his realistic decoy corpse and set it in his apartment. No sooner is it set up than someone shoots it dead through a window. This is why everyone thinks Jimmy is dead, and why he goes on the run to Gotham City.

Later, Jimmy, in disguise, visits his own gravesite. He buries the Signal Watch in the ground so that he’s not tempted to call Superman for help with what’s happening, and he whispers this to Superman. Jimmy Olsen is dead…but Timmy Olsen, irresponsible blogger, is alive and well and might have a mustache!

Lois Lane shows up at Jimmy’s Gotham apartment after he reached out for help last issue. He’s put together all the clues and solved his own murder: It was Lex Luthor!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I am honestly at a loss for words on how to even review this issue. It’s a series of loosely connected (some more than others) adventures starring Jimmy and the people around him. I had worried in my review of the previous issue that Fraction’s choice to separate the book into mini-chapters, each with their own opening scrawl, was beginning to grate. But he does it even more this issue and I really liked it this time! Perhaps it was the fact that there were so many distinct chapters this time around, and how some of them finally contained real answers and real mysteries. The pieces of this story are starting to actually come together, making this whole thing far far more interesting. We finally know why Jimmy Olsen was “killed”, and the flashback to olden days has finally tied into the modern day, albeit in a weird way. And there are smaller connections too, like the lawyer’s assistant in the Porcadillo story showing up for a small cameo in the Metamorpho story. This whole Jimmy Olsen thing is coming together rather nicely, with some actual stakes and interesting developments!

And that Timmy Olsen joke is great!

Timmy Olsen 01

This is a weird series, but weird in all the right and best ways. And finally, three issues in, we’re finally getting something concrete to start wrapping our brains around. That’s a definite improvement, and I applaud this kind of funky creativity.

TL;DR: This strange Jimmy Olsen comic finally starts to come together with real answers and even realer mysteries.


Spider-Man #1

Spider-Man #1
Writers: J.J. Abrams and Henry Abrams
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Inking assistant: Elisabetta D’Amico
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I’m disappointed in myself that I’m not reading more Spider-Man comics. I just grew disinterested in Amazing Spider-Man, and I foolishly never read Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, which I hear is good. They recently did a Prowler story, for crying out loud! I love the Prowler!

Anyway, I’m a sucker for a marketing stunt, so let’s check out the Spider-Man comic by J.J. Abrams and his son!

The story opens with Spider-Man fighting — and losing badly — against the villainous Cadaverous, a big cyborg monster with an army of alien-like robot killers. Mary Jane rushes into the fray to pull Peter to safety, and she gets killed for her troubles. In this universe, Peter and Mary Jane are married and have a son named Ben.

Twelve years later, Ben is a rascally teenager being raised by Aunt May, because Peter is always away for work (and he lost an arm in that earlier fight). Ben is always getting into trouble at school, but he’s a good kid. He’s just a little surly, having nightmares about his mom sometimes. He meets a cute girl in detention and quickly starts to develop/notice a bunch of burgeoning spider powers. Aunt May takes him into the attic to show him his dad’s old Spider-Man costume, which I don’t think Ben knew about.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

It’s nothing special. There are probably better assessments across the internet. I’m no expert on film theory or the cinematography skills of J.J. Abrams. I don’t know his tropes or his style well enough to compare his movies to this comic. So don’t expect me to be able to break it down along those lines. I’m just a comic book and Spider-Man fan who just read a solidly mediocre Spider-Man comic that doesn’t really provide anything new or monumental. Heck, the Renew Your Vows comic about Spider-Man having a super-powered daughter came out only a few years ago, not to mention Spider-Girl from the 90s. So the idea of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson having a super-powered offspring is nothing new. And this first issue doesn’t really add anything new to the idea. It’s pretty rote, to be honest.

Peter Parker Hook 01

Why does technological genius Peter Parker have a basic hook for a hand?

There’s nothing particularly special about Ben Parker or his life. I’m actually a little bothered by how easily he develops his powers. The Abrams just rush through it. Honestly, I thought the kid already knew about his dad and his powers. But nah, we just get a couple of quick incidents and then Aunt May doesn’t even tell him. She just lets the kid loose on some old boxes and the kid finds the costume. It wasn’t all that compelling. And Peter Parker being a deadbeat, distant father isn’t all that interesting. To say nothing of Mary Jane getting ‘fridged to make all of this happen.

The villain is especially boring, at least so far. There’s some tiny hints that there’s more to him than we expect, and we’ll see where that goes. But so far he’s just some big, overly designed nobody. Between him and Kindred over in Amazing Spider-Man, nobody seems to know how to make a good Spider-Man villain anymore. He’s got one of the wildest and silliest Rogues Galleries in comics, but this is the overblown, overly complex villains you give us instead? And what kind of names are “Cadaverous” and “Kindred”?

TL;DR: This first issue is perfectly mediocre, treading ground that other comics already have several times over.


Iron Man #16

Tony Stark – Iron Man #16
Writers: Dan Slott and Jim Zub
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Man, I cannot praise this comic enough! When it’s firing on all cylinders, it’s just damn good comics!

Tony Stark and his people can’t separate Vision and Wonder Man, but the problem has enough clues that they figure out Ultron is behind all of this. Tony dons his Ultron-Buster armor and recruits Machine Man from drowning his sorrows in that robot bar, with the robot community split on whether or not to support Stark. Machine Man reveals that Jocasta went to Arno Stark and Sunset Bain to get changed into a real woman, so the crew heads there — but they’re too late, because the Ultron Pym hybrid has already destroyed the place and kidnapped Jocasta.

Ultron Pym wants to use a machine to combine the Wasp and Jocasta, so that they will be a human/machine hybrid like him. Iron Man, Machine Man, Rhodey and Bethany Cabe head out to Avengers Mansion and free Jarvis first. Bethany and Rhodey stay outside, while Tony and Aaron head inside and take on Ultron. It’s a wild fight, with Tony and Janet mocking Hank Pym in order to get him to start fighting against the Ultron programming. It’s enough of a distraction that Tony is able to free Janet and Jocasta — but he doesn’t get out of the way in time for when the combination machine goes off! Tony gets combined with his armor!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This is another great example of Tony Stark – Iron Man being the best damn comic it can! If you want to see a comic truly offering a “firing on all cylinders” storytelling, this is that comic. Everything is working, every moving piece is accomplishing something, and there’s just so much good content. This issue is packed with stuff! We’ve only just been introduced to Ultron Pym as the villain, and we’ve already seen him attempt his grand scheme and we’ve seen our heroes go up against him, building on everything Slott has been writing so far. It’s Iron Man teaming up with Machine Man, of all people, taking on Ultron! It’s Tony confronting his brother. It’s a small Gauntlet cameo, and even a word or two from Sunset Bain, tying into everything she’s done so far. It’s the depth that comes from Ultron’s plans for Jocasta and Janet.

Meanwhile, Batman and Catwoman have spent two issues on a beach having the same conversation over and over again.

Cool Iron man Armor 01

I really like this Iron Man armor

Every single part of this ongoing comic hums along nicely in this issue, keeping every storyline going. Slott finds time to touch upon Rhodey’s PTSD in ways that make sense for all characters involved, along with the wild robot uprising subplot. And the action is great! Ultron is no slouch, and he really tears into Machine Man. Tony Stark remains the main character and he’s so entertaining. He’s clever, he’s funny, he’s humble at times; he’s fantastic as our protagonist. This is damn good comics.

TL;DR: Writing, art, characters, plot, subplots; everything comes together so perfectly in this issue!


Valkyrie #3

Valkyrie #3
Writers: Jason Aaron and Al Ewing
Artists: Cafu, Ramon Perez, Cian Tormey, Roberto Poggi and Frazer Irving
Colorists: Irving and Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Looks like Heimdall is dead for reals everybody!

Jane Foster takes Heimdall into the realms beyond to find his perfect afterlife. They fight their way past the angels of Heven, then struggle through the pain from the remaining demons in Hades, before eventually reaching the Far Shore, the farthest point of all life and death. It’s some great, glorious cosmic void, and she releases Heimdall into it so that he can truly pass on.

Jane then immediately returns to New York, wondering if any of that even happened. Her flying horse reveals he can talk, and assures her that just happened. Jane is worried about where she’s going to keep a Pegasus…

Oh, and Grim Reaper is coming for her.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a really fun, really neat issue — I just wish it had gone further. Valkyrie isn’t just another superhero. She’s a job. She’s got a job to do. And this issue touches upon aspects of that job. She ferries the dead to their final resting place. And I love that she takes Heimdall on a tour of different afterlives, ending somewhere truly out there and beyond the known realms. It’s a fascinatingly cool ending, even a bit magical. The artist change made it especially cool. So for that bit, the issue is a true success. Then the talking horse with the intense accent is icing on the cake.

Valk Talking Horse 01

Good and proper horse, he is

I just wish the issue had really pushed itself to be something more. They only visit three afterlives, when there probably could have been way more. And of the three, two of them result in pretty standard superhero fighting. I realize superhero comics tend to favor action over anything else, but did we really need fights with some angels and demons? Why not take real tours of these afterlives and really delve deep into the very concept of the afterlife in the Marvel Universe? Do more than just have the Valkyrie fight a bunch of nondescript baddies! Make this an issue of exploration, of truly journeying into the mystery of it all. The brief scenes in the Far Shore are great, and I would have liked the entire trip to be as magical and neat as that one bit. But what we get was still quite enjoyable.

Also, the Grim Reaper is about as nonsensical a villain choice for Valkyrie as Bullseye was.

TL;DR: Really enjoyable issue barely scratches the surface of what this new Valkyrie comic could be about, at least in my opinion.

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!


About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on September 21, 2019, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Since Grim Reaper is named after a being with a similar job as Valkyrie, it could get interesting. Somehow.

  2. HoX still ultimately bores me. I want soap opera, Hickman’s writing a text book. And yeah, someone give the resurrected mutants some towels or something. Rude. They were covered in gunk, let them clean up a little before the big orgy!

  3. Interesting theory about Batman #79 shifting blame from Damian to Bruce. My thought however is that Damian wouldn’t even have to be going in under any circumstance. Bruce mysteriously ends up at the top of a mountain (in the Alps? in the Himalayas?) after his pointless desert trip with his father-from-another-universe. Then for some reason only to fulfill a plot line, Selina is nursing Bruce to health in Europe while Gotham falls to Bane for some number of weeks or months presumably. And Bruce’s answer is to send in his 13 old son to fight the man that broke his back and has taken over Gotham?! Batman has a whole team of proteges and allies that would have gone in at his direction (Superman, Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl, Batwing, Azrael, Wonder Woman, etc.). And none of this explains why he’s recuperating so casually in Europe when this very writer in this very run of Batman has depicted Bruce Wayne punching his fists into solid rock so that he could realign his broken back to fight against Bane.

    • Yeah, all this travel has been weird. Selina sure knows how to get around the world with an unconscious giant muscular man. But that issue where Bruce punches Tim was to establish that Bruce has lost all connection to his proteges and allies, so while we know they all still support him (probably), he doesn’t know that. But he knows Damian is loyal. So I can see him sending Damian in for some reconnaissance.

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