Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/28/19
Spider-Man is back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Marvel and SONY made a deal to co-produce one more Spidey MCU film, with at least one more cameo in another movie! How exciting. I had faith that the studios would work something out, and there’s still time to work even more out beyond this new 2021 film.
As for comics, not a big pile this week, with only Captain America, Powers of X and Power Rangers. I skipped the new Strikeforce comic, though maybe I should have checked it out to try something by Tini Howard. Comic Book of the Week goes to a stellar Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!
Meanwhile, Harleen, the first part of the new Harley Quinn origin retelling by Stjepan Šejić has come out, and I was going to pick it up to review…but then I saw it was a double-sized book, and was pretty dense. So I’ve decided to wait and probably get it via tpb down the line. I am a big Stjepan Šejić fan and highly recommend Sunstone to anyone and everyone. Best love story I have ever read!
Comic Reviews: Captain America #14, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #43 and Powers of X #5.
Captain America #14
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Niko Walter
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
A nice mix of good and bad, as per usual with Coates’ Captain America.
Steve, Echo and White Tiger break into a Watchdogs compound, hidden/built beneath a bar. They fight their way through the militia and find an A.I.M. facility deeper in. The two groups are working together to send the immigrants they kidnapped through a portal. Sin is there and she mops the floor with White Tiger and Echo, but she escapes through the portal when Steve shows up. The portal closes, but our heroes managed to save most of the immigrants. The Daughters also managed to hack into the Watchdogs’ computer and learned that the immigrants were being trafficked to Madripoor.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I love this revamp of the Watchdogs. But at the same time, it’s almost too simple, too obvious. Take the previously established badness of the Watchdogs and combine it with the incel/red pill/alt right/anti-immigrant movement of this day-and-age, and you’ve got yourself a ready-made Captain America villain. Throw in that awesome Confederate flag iconography and you’ve got some great modern day political villains. But then there’s no depth to them. There’s just as scummy and pathetic on every level. So as much as I’d love for Coates to give them a proper story, I guess they really would only work best as henchmen. And that’s fine. I hope he doesn’t cast them aside too quickly. They are much better villains than just using A.I.M. over again, and I think they really fit into the overall ideas Coates has been pushing since the start of his run.
Beyond how much I’m digging the Watchdogs, this issue was mostly just fine. Captain America and his allies infiltrate yet another secret facility, fight their way past some faceless henchmen and then nothing much happens. It’s nice that they saved a bunch of people, but the immigrants they saved were just as faceless as the henchmen. More attention is paid to Sin defeating White Tiger than in saving anybody, almost as if the saves are an afterthought. So this whole comic is still working, still good enough, but this individual issue doesn’t really amount to much.
As always, Coates’ bigger ideas and themes are really interesting, but his issue-by-issue execution never rises as high.
Honestly, I think this storyline would have been better served as a spin-off mini-series about White Tiger fighting on the border to save immigrants from extremists like these new Watchdogs. White Tiger is Puerto Rican, but she and Echo could be turned into an awesome new duo in a really politically charged comic. Maybe touch on how racists like the Watchdogs would probably lump her right alongside the Mexicans based purely on the color of her skin, even though she’s an American citizen. Maybe touch on her feelings about being a Puerto Rican immigrant vs. being a Mexican immigrant and the public perception. As it stands now, the story is kind of being wasted by having big, white, male Steve Rogers just stroll his way through.
TL;DR: All of the pieces and themes are still in place for a really good ongoing comic, but the execution of this issue alone doesn’t go hard enough.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #43
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Colorists: Walter Baiamonte and Katia Ranalli
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
The drama and the excitement are heating up!
On Earth, Dayne picks apart the Power Rangers with ease, practically toying with them. He defeats Tommy one-on-one, and explains to Lord Zedd that he didn’t kill any of them because he wants them to see their leader broken; he wants to destroy their spirit and rip the very idea of the Power Rangers out by the roots. He returns to Earth shortly thereafter and grows big, intent on destroying the Thunder Megazord.
Meanwhile, on the alien planet, the Omega Rangers take on the evil Queen and discover the slave she’s been using as a weapon. When the Rangers take her on, the weak, helpless slave takes his shot and snaps her neck from behind. The Rangers take him home to recover, but the Emissary wants to lock him up, because he might be dangerous. The Rangers are upset because they were trying to rescue the guy from bondage, but the Emissary insists and they reluctantly accept.
Later, Trini listens to a voice mail from Kimberly from right before Kim and the other Ranges go out to fight Dayne in the Thunder Megazord. While we watch Dayne tear the Megazord apart, we listen to Kimberly express her frustration how everything is falling apart and how nothing feels right since her friends left. She misses them, but she’s struggling to put all of her feelings into words.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This whole issue was great all around, expertly balancing both storylines, giving both of them really meaty problems to deal with, and then ending on that cinematic, intergalactic voicemail. I could visualize the whole thing in my head and it was great: Kim’s words as she’s breaking down, missing her friend and knowing there’s something she’s not being told, all while we watch Dayne tear apart the Thunder Megazord. This was a really well done sequence, and you can really feel the anguish in Kimberly’s voice. I love this drama. In the old show, everybody welcomed the new Rangers with open arms and nobody paid it any mind. But of course Kimberly would miss her best friends. And the new wrinkle that they went off on a secret Ranger mission instead is going to cause all manner of more drama. It’s great, and the issue conveys all of it really well.
I also like how the Omega Rangers’ mission is more complicated than they like. Seriously, this is good drama all around, written and drawn quite well by this ace creative team. I even like Dayne as a villain, and the callback use of that alien queen was a nice touch. I especially enjoyed that she remembered Trini from their first fight. That was fun.
TL;DR: The new issue expertly balances some good drama between both storylines, while also finding a really cinematic and traumatic way to bring that drama together in the end.
Powers of X #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: R.B. Silva
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Man, we’ve come so far, but it feels like we have so much further to go.
In Year One, we see Xavier commission Forge to build his fancy new Cerebro to store the souls of all mutants. There will be at least four back-ups around the world, using Shi’ar crystal tech as storage devices. Then, in Year Ten, we see Xavier and Magneto recruit Emma Frost to use the Hellfire Corporation to act as the public face of the Krakoa drugs they’re selling. And they ask her to bring Sebastian Shaw back into the fold to be the black market for the Krakoa drugs. Her payment is that she and Shaw will join the 12 person ruling council, along with a third seat of Emma’s choice.
We then see Xavier recruiting the various villains to Krakoa with a mental image. Namor turns him down because Namor is happy where he is, and he doesn’t really believe that Xavier fully believes he’s better than humans. Good. I never liked the idea of Namor as a mutant.
In Year One Thousand, the Phalanx accept the offer to absorb Earth, and they devour the emissary. The blue-skinned Librarian later asks Nimrod why this happened, and Nimrod explains that Phalanx’s “eat” the worlds they add to their collective, because how else do you “feed” a thing like the Phalanx?
We also get an explanation for an even higher form of super-life called a Titan. The idea is that surely there must be machines that are so vast and so dense with knowledge that they collapsed in on themselves, creating black holes. So the beating heart of every black hole is a super-advanced, super-powerful, super-computer — called a “Titan”. And a small group of Titans is called a Stronghold. And a large group of Titans is called a Dominion, the idea being that these black hole singularities are also wormholes, bridges connecting multiple Titans, creating whole webs.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Friend of the site xmenxpert pointed out to me last week that this whole Powers of X/House of X thing is more text book than anything else, and I 100% agree with that assessment. This issue, especially, feels like that text book claim, with Hickman using his scenes to basically explain how everything is now set up. We get Xavier and Forge chatting about how to make the new Cerebro helmet and how it will work. We get Xavier and Magneto chatting with Emma about distribution plans. It’s all very constructed, planting the building blocks of the new status quo. It’s a weird way to introduce such a new status quo…but I am totally on board! I do not care how text book this all seems because I am loving everything I’m seeing. Bring on the bold new status quo and lets get the table setting out of the way!
It helps that the text book sessions usually contain some pretty stellar character scenes. Emma Frost verbally sparring and negotiating with Xavier and Magneto is a real highlight, easily carrying the issue.
She’s peak Emma and it’s great. All of the characters feel so fun and authentic, and that’s really carrying me through these comics. Crazy new status quo stuff crossed with solid characters and gorgeous art makes for an X-Men franchise I can get behind. I really hope they can sustain this quality when we break apart into individual series.
TL;DR: More table setting interesting new stuff, more great character scenes; I can’t wait for the actual comics to start with Dawn of X!
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!