Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/26/19

What a weekend to be alive! Not only do we have some good comics this week, but I also just picked up the The Outer Worlds video game. I’m having a ton of fun with it so far! Not only that, but we’ve also finally got new episodes of BoJack Horseman to watch! I’m over the moon this weekend!

Comic book wise, Dawn of X brings us the first issue of the Marauders, which is as fun as the rest of the relaunch has been. The Amazing Mary Jane has also arrived, and it’s fine. Comic Book of the Week goes to another stellar issue of Tony Stark – Iron Man, which might not make headlines but is still one of the best comics on the stands.

Tony Stark Robot 01

With dry, cool wit like that…

Meanwhile, Absolute Carnage continues to be a fun series. I read the latest issue last week, and it’s good, though I think it’s a little too limited in scope. It seems like a pretty self-contained story. The Scream tie-in mini also came to a pretty dull ending, but I’m going to remain generally hopeful for her upcoming ongoing series. Surely it exists for a reason, right?

Comic Reviews: Amazing Mary Jane #1, King Thor #2, Marauders #1, Tony Stark – Iron Man #17 and Valkyrie #4.


Amazing Mary Jane #1

The Amazing Mary Jane #1
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: Carlos E. Gomez
Colorist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Where the heck did this comic even come from? I believe it has been spun off from Amazing Spider-Man, which I’m sadly not reading anymore.

Mary Jane has been cast as the female lead in a Mysterio biopic, but she’s got some problems with how shallow her character has been written. When she tracks down the director on set, he’s revealed as the actual Mysterio, posing as a famous director and determined to make his magnum opus with this film. Mary Jane gives him the benefit of the doubt and they get to talking about her character, and she helps him to see how poorly the role has been written and how they can do so much more! This is gonna be a great production!

Meanwhile, Peter misses MJ, and a bunch of classic villains are headed to Hollywood to disrupt filming.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a fun comic with a neat premise, though I don’t think it amounted to anything particularly special. As far as I’m concerned, Mary Jane Watson is more than capable of carrying her own comic. She’s a great character and a lot of fun to read about, and her position as a Hollywood actor gives her a unique perspective to tell stories (hopefully there’s a Wonder Man cameo at some point!). This first issue is just such an example, as Mary Jane stands up for herself in the face of adversity on set and accomplishes a lot with just her words. Mix in the weird story about Mysterio directing his own feature length biopic and you’ve got a pretty neat premise overall.

MJ MY Chat 02

The whole issue is essentially this. At least the art is very nice.

Even with that nifty premise and solid character writing, I don’t think this issue rose to any level of greatness. We don’t get a very good introduction to what’s going on, because I guess that all happened in Amazing Spider-Man. Instead, we dive headfirst into the on-set drama and are expected to keep up. Then the bulk of the issue is spent with Mary Jane and Quentin Beck talking out some obvious script changes, covering the very general ground of female roles being underwritten. Granted, these script changes might feel obvious to me in 2019, but then I’m not a woman trying to make her way in Hollywood, so perhaps these problems are still so ever-present as to require this level of attention.

One problem is that we don’t know who Mary Jane is playing. Quentin insists the female lead is vitally important to his personal story, and that only Mary Jane could play her…but who is she? Is the character based on someone from his life whom we’ve simply never seen before? Or did he give himself a super attractive love interest because of his own vanity? It’s never explained, so when MJ and Quentin discuss her role in the script, they’re forced to talk in vague and simple terms that simply amount to giving a female character better dialogue and a beefier role instead of just being full of cliches and tropes. This plotline, which is really the entire issue, would have benefited from a lot more specificity.

Also, if I may be cynical for a moment, I can’t help but worry that this comic only exists because Black Cat #1 sold so many copies with all of its sexy variant covers. There’s apparently a ton of sexy variant covers for The Amazing Mary Jane #1…

TL;DR: The solid writing and art, coupled with a unique and interesting premise, make for a good opening chapter to this offbeat comic.


King Thor #2

King Thor #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

I’m not sure why Hela is on the cover. She does not appear in the comic. Or is that Loki?

Gorr the God-Butcher revels in his return to life, crucifying both Thor and Loki as he preaches. His essence was stored in the Necrosword all this time, where he was happily at peace in the darkness. Then Loki brought him back — though Gorr assumes incorrectly that he was brought back to kill Thor because Loki can’t bring himself to do it. Thor gives it his best fight, and even Loki lends a hand eventually, and it’s revealed that Loki brought Gorr back to kill Loki, after Loki kills Thor. The battle rages through the cosmos until the Odinson brothers are drowned in the darkness.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The overall thrust of the story is pretty awesome, but the actual issue is just a ton of preaching from Gorr. He just goes on and on about the nature of gods and himself, and his plans for killing Thor and Loki, and his plans for the universe once the last gods are dead. Was he always this preachy? Doesn’t matter too much, because Gorr is awesome, and his nigh omnipotence is used well as he gives Thor and Loki a real fight. Aaron and Ribic continue to go all-out for the battle, cleaving planets and smashing hammers on pretty much every page. Ribic and his art team are especially good at using Gorr’s necro-black powers to fill the page and drown our heroes in darkness. It’s very effective. Plus, I really like the psychological foundation of Gorr’s message, about the uselessness of gods, so I’m largely OK with the preaching. It helps make this fight more than simple fisticuffs.

TL;DR: The battle rages, the speeches continue, and all things continue to be awesome in Jason Aaron’s epic Thor epilogue.


Marauders #1

Marauders #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Another week, another new issue of Dawn of X! At least this one has a nifty new status quo.

For reasons unknown, Kitty Pryde can’t use the portals to Krakoa. So she steals a boat and sails to the island, getting a taste for the open seas. This prompts Emma Frost to offer Kitty the role of Red Queen of the Hellfire Trading Company, where she’ll captain a state-of-the-art boat on behalf of Krakoa. While mutants are selling their new medicines worldwide, they also want to control the black market, which is where Captain Pryde will come in. Also, many totalitarian countries around the world — like Russian and Brazil — have refused to cooperate with Krakoa and are actively imprisoning or harming their national mutants rather than let them join the X-Men. It will also be up to Kitty to head out and rescue these mutants.

Case in point, Russia has a villain in power-dampening armor and a squad of soldiers positioned around their Krakoa portal. Kitty recruits Iceman and Storm to hop in her boat to sail there to fight off the Russian soldiers and rescue their imprisoned mutants. The original Pyro fell asleep while trying to steal Kitty’s boat and he wakes up on the way to Russia, so he’s recruited (my brother should be very pleased that original Pyro is back and starring in a comic. None of my favorite mutants have been announced to be starring in any Dawn of X comics).

Kitty and her team easily defeat the soldiers and save the mutants, with Kitty declaring on social media that the Marauders will be out and about to rescue imperiled mutants. Also, she wants to be called “Kate” now.

Meanwhile, a Chinese woman is decrying Krakoa to the masses, claiming that her husband went through a portal and disappeared. Bishop is investigating because the X-Men have no record of her husband coming to the island. The woman wants nothing to do with him.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Here we have our first Hickboot X-Men comic not written by Jonathan Hickman, and it does fine. This one has a bit more character and interaction than X-Men #1, so I definitely enjoyed that. And it really leans hard into this wild new status quo, which I also enjoy. I’m still a little worried that Dawn of X is just going to be another round of random-roster X-Men teams, but the premise of Marauders is just crazy enough that it might assuage my fears! I kind of love the idea of a random roster living on a boat and traveling the world having various adventures. It’s just crazy enough to work and I get the sense that Duggan might really make this work. A world-hopping X-Men book alone sounds fun, let alone putting everybody on a boat together. And like I said, Duggan does a fine job with everyone’s character and their interactions, at least what little there is.

Pyros Back 01

So where, oh where, is new Pyro?

If I have any complaint, it’s that this first issue is pretty Kate-heavy, especially when it comes to putting the team together. We stay with Kate the whole time, especially in the fight (which is an awesome display of her power). I can get why Iceman and Storm would be so quick to take her at her word on joining, but he tosses original recipe Pyro onto the squad rather haphazardly. If it was new Pyro, who was close to all of these characters in X-Men: Gold, it would make sense. But this is villainous Brotherhood Pyro, and having him join doesn’t even warrant a shrug. He’s just on the boat and Storm goes “You’re in” and that’s that. If you’re going to include such a wildcard in your roster, a little attention to detail would be nice. Perhaps it is yet to come, but if that’s the case, they should have held off on introducing Pyro. It’s not like he contributes much to the Kate-centric issue.

Heck, Duggan uses the Pyro + Lockheed team-up immediately instead of saving it for a bigger moment down the line.

Pyros Back 02

The greatest Pyro moment in 20 years

I had the same complaint with X-Men #1 wherein nothing was really explained about Vulcan being among the crew, or with the living arrangements. I suppose the trade-off for this clean slate new approach to the larger X-Men comics is that we’re simply not going to get the character-based transition stories.

But this is just me nitpicking. Duggan writes everyone well and the overall premise, so far, is outstanding. I look forward to where the creative team takes this crazy crew. Hopefully it involves a lot of day-in-the-life boat living.

TL;DR: Marauders is off to a good start with a very interesting premise, if they can pull it off.


Iron Man #17

Tony Stark – Iron Man #17
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Francesco Manna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

This series continues to be a very excellent Iron Man comic. And it’s building up to a big Iron Man 2020 crossover next year!

Tony Stark is now fused with his Iron Man armor. It’s excruciating, but he’s fighting back to the pain in order to keep fighting Ultron Pym. He’s aided by the Wasp and Jocasta, who uses some of Machine Man’s spare parts to get back into the fight. Meanwhile, Rhodey continues to hold off Ultron’s cyborg minions, gunning them down because he believes they are too far gone. But while the battle is going on, super scientist cat Dr. Shapiro works with Andy Bhang to come up with a cure for Ultron Pym’s machine/human splicing. Once they have the cure, Jocasta and Tony break off from the fight to rush him back to the lab.

Rhodey tells them he can hold off Ultron long enough to get Tony back into the fight, but Ultron tears through his Manticore tank. Rhodey is ready to face his fears in order to take on Ultron, and he summons the War Machine armor to battle!

Meanwhile, Arno Stark tells Sunset Bain that he’s perfected biological resurrection. Which, again, is a really weird parallel story to what’s going on in X-Men comics right now.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I’m running out of ways to heap praise on this comic. It’s just so consistently good, down to its bones. Tony Stark – Iron Man might not be making headlines like the X-Men or Batman, but it’s just such a solid comic. Tony Stark is a phenomenal and interesting leading man, Slott has surrounded him with an engaging supporting cast doing new and creative things, and the stories and villains matter. This is just quality comic book storytelling! This issue was another delight. Tony is facing the mother of all setbacks, but he still pushes forward, seeking to stop this monster of a villain. He’s got a great supporting cast backing him up, all with their own storylines. Jocasta and Machine Man have a great ongoing saga, and the talking cat storyline pays off wonderfully when he pipes up to help Andy.

Shapiro Cat 01

The new Scientist Supreme

The real MVP of the issue is Rhodey, and that cliffhanger ending was really something special. His reluctance to be War Machine has been an ongoing subplot over the course of the series, so seeing him put that aside to suit up and be awesome was a really cool comic book moment. I think Slott could have worked that subplot a bit more before reaching this moment, but it still works. And thankfully I wasn’t spoiled by any comic news sites, which can happen when the clickbait of “A Classic Avenger Returns!” is too good to pass up. Thankfully, it gets to be an awesome moment on its own. And on top of that, Rhodey gets a second subplot, where he guns down Ultron’s monsters, convinced that they are beyond help — only for the Stark team to come up with a cure. So there’s another complex conundrum for one of these characters to grapple with going forward. This whole series is so well-crafted.

TL;DR: Great characters and some exciting moments keep propelling this fun series forward.


Valkyrie #4

Valkyrie #4
Writers: Al Ewing and Jason Aaron
Artist: CAFU
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Just like Tony Stark – Iron Man, this is a comic that knows exactly what it’s doing and does a great job making it happen.

Mephisto, currently deposed from Hell, strikes a deal with the Grim Reaper. A long ago contract with Hela allows me to replace the Valkyrie with his own agents if all the Valkyrie are dead. Jane Foster may be the last Valkyrie, but she has yet to perform the duties of the Valkyrie by escorting a hero to Valhalla. So if Grim Reaper can either capture a hero’s soul or kill Jane Foster, he gets to be Mephisto’s Valkyrie.

Jane takes her friend Lisa to visit Dr. Annabelle Riggs, who is giving an archaeology lecture across town. Jane wants to talk to Annabelle about being a Valkyrie, but since they’ve never met, Anna has no idea who this strange woman arriving late to the lecture even is. Then Doctor Strange interrupts to explain that the mirror Anna is showing off is actually a magic mirror used to imprison bad guys. The stars are aligning to set them free, and Doctor Strange’s watch is a couple minutes slow, so three bad guys emerge to wreak havoc — including Kaecilius, who finally gets to make his post-movie return in the comics! Doctor Strange and Valkyrie battle the bad guys until Grim Reaper shows up and captures Strange’s astral form in the mirror!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Just like Tony Stark – Iron Man, Jane Foster – Valkyrie is a well-made, really enjoyable comic. These are professional storytellers at the top of their game, telling an entertaining comic book story and using everything available to them. We’ve got a strong lead character, a fun supporting cast and interesting twists and turns to the ongoing story. The trouble with Mephisto and Grim Reaper is weird and silly, but in a fun way that should lead to a lot of good comic book fodder. And the comic has a wonderful section of grounded, human stuff. Jane has to figure out how to keep a flying horse as a pet when she can’t even afford her own apartment anymore, and she’s got a fun best friend character to bounce ideas off of. I love that traffic problems led to them being late to Annabelle’s lecture, and how Annabelle doesn’t automatically recognize Jane Foster. They’ve never met, so there’s no reason she should. Rather than just have Jane and Annabelle team up like traditional comic book tropes, Ewing and Aaron come up with a really fun, really funny and very character specific way to bring them together. That’s good comic book storytelling.

And there’s a Doctor Strange cameo to boot! Though considering the dangers of the mirror, he probably shouldn’t have sat through the entire lecture before speaking up.

TL;DR: Valkyrie is damn good comics, built on everything that makes for good storytelling.

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 October 26, 2019, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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