Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/30/19

What a week for comics! We’ve got three Dawn of X comics this week, but none of them earn the top spot from me. Honestly, I haven’t been all that excited about Dawn of X so far. None of my favorite X-Men are involved and none of the comics are taking full advantage of the new status quo, at least how I saw it. I’m going to start dropping titles soon enough…

Comic Book of the Week was a close call between Power Rangers and Valkyrie, but I think I’ll give it to Jane Foster for some truly awesome moments this issue. Power Rangers has won it enough, let’s get some new blood here.

Valk Devil Himself 01

Someone’s got a job to do!

Meanwhile, would anybody be interested in my favorite comics of the past decade? Everybody on the internet is doing decade retrospectives, but I can barely remember what I liked last month, let alone a decade ago! But I’ve been looking back and remembering some of my favorite comics of the past 10 years and thought I might do that article. Let me know if you’d be interested in the comments!

Comic Reviews: Fallen Angels #2, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #45, New Mutants #2, Scream: Curse of Carnage #1, Valkyrie #5 and X-Force #2.


FallAngels2

Fallen Angels #2

Fallen Angels #2
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Oh to have been a fly on the wall for whatever writer or editor made a big pitch for a comic about Kwannon in Dawn of X…

Once upon a time, Psylocke was an assassin in Japan. She killed a man and his goons when he came to her to try and get out of the country. He said he was alone, but in truth, he was leaving behind a pregnant wife. Psylocke later found the wife and helped her escape the country because she felt the guy’s mind and felt how much he loved her. Psylocke’s bosses later found the woman and tortured and killed both her and the child. This still haunts Psylocke.

On Krakoa, X-23 comes to Psylocke and confesses that she hides a rage deep within her, as if this were news to anybody. What’s that? X-23 is driven by a deep, dark rage? Has dealing with that rage not been her defining character arc since her inception? Anyway, she wants Psylocke’s help in controlling that rage, and Psylocke promises to help X-23 master the rage, but says all masters are slaves. For some reason, X-23 is utterly baffled by such a simplistic proverb.

Psylocke finds Kid Cable once again not enjoying the big mutant party. He tells her about an Overclock drug operation in Brazil that’s killing people, especially the children forced to work. Psylocke tells Kid Cable that they’re hunting Apoth, not Apoth’s works. Kid Cable storms off to take care of it himself. Psylocke goes to meet with Mister Sinister to once again confirm their deal and talk vaguely about butterflies. Then Psylocke drops in on Kid Cable and X-23, who went to Brazil to pursue his lead. She promises to train them both if they help her become a better person. They head to the drug operation and are ambushed by a giant robot.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

I don’t think the X-Men have ever been more emo than this comic right here. This whole issue, even moreso than the previous issue, is all about Psylocke moping around. Awww, she’s got a dark past that she’s trying to run from. Name an X-Man who doesn’t? Awww, Kid Cable is so tough and so deep that he forces himself to stand near the mutant bonfire parties just so he has fuel for his moping. Awww, X-23 still thinks it’s some deep, dark secret that she has a rage inside of her. How adorable! It’s as if she’s never read an X-23 comic, let alone any Wolverine comic. Where’s Honey Badger when you need her?

Kid Cable Brooding 01

Gawd, mom and dad will never understand him!

I like the general idea of the comic, of a super clandestine crew pursuing their own agenda, with Sinister as their “mentor” figure. And the writing is mostly fine. But they picked the way wrong character for this comic. The writing and art are trying way too hard to make these three characters come off as so damaged and so tortured. But as I’ve just pointed out, Kwannon has been a ghost for decades, so we don’t really know or care about her. X-23 has had years of development that is apparently being ignored. And Kid Cable is brand new, and he seems perfectly fine over in the pages of X-Men hanging out with his family. Everybody in this comic is trying to hard to be dark and bitter. Heck, they even bring in Dazzler just so that Psylocke can look the personification of brightness in the face and remark at how dark she feels inside.

I’m also rather disinterested in the bad guy. So far, it’s just some evil dude out there doing evil things. There’s nothing unique or particularly interesting about this Apoth person or his latest super drug. Yet this is the chosen mission for the clandestine Krakoa team. Why aren’t they rushing off around the world to stop every single drug cartel operation if they’re so passionate about such a thing?

TL;DR: This is not an interesting team, they do not have an interesting mission, but there is a nugget or two of an interesting idea here or there.


MMPR45

Power Rangers #45

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #45
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Colorist: Walter Baiamonte, with Katia Ranalli and Igor Monti
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

And just like that, my dreams of an Omega Pink are dead…

Jason battles Lord Zedd but is severely outmatched. Thankfully, he’s got back-up, and he and the other Omega Rangers defeat the villain and put him in another space dumpster prison. The other Power Rangers show up to investigate the disturbance on the moon and are a little flummoxed that their job has been done for them. Kiya freaks out at seeing Tommy Oliver (Lord Drakkon), but the other Omegas hold her back until she calms down. Jason agrees to meet with Zordon (while keeping his helmet on), and Zordon admonishes the Omega Red for defeating Zedd too quickly. Zordon was using Zedd as a training dummy to build team cohesion for the Power Rangers, and now he fears something new and more powerful will fill the void (perhaps Goldar and the other minions, who escaped with Zedd’s broken staff and plan on continuing the attacks on the Power Rangers).

When Jason leaves, Tommy comes out to speak to him about leadership, and to thank him for helping. Tommy doesn’t know it’s Jason under the helmet, but Jason knows this is Tommy, having been given the White Light by the Blue Emissary at Jason’s insistence (as we learned in the last issue of Go Go Power Rangers). Back out in space, the Blue Emissary meets with Kiya to assure her that Tommy will not become Drakkon thanks to the goodness in the White Light…but Kiya won’t stand for it. She kills the Emissary because of how misguided she feels he is. Then she unleashes the other prisoners we’ve met so far (Garrison Vox and the slave from that one alien planet) and dubs them the “Anointed”. They will use their connection to the Morphin Grid to destroy the Power Rangers and bring true peace to the galaxy!

Meanwhile, down on Earth, the Power Rangers split up to search for Goldar and the other minions. The Stone Canyon team goes off to search, and when they’re alone, they wonder if Zordon will take away their powers once the threat is silenced.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Ryan Parrott, if you’re reading this, you have no idea how badly I want to give this comic a low grade for the sheer audacity of destroying my dreams of Garrison Vox becoming the Omega Pink Ranger. How could you, man? I trusted you! Fortunately, I also trust you as a storyteller, so I’m gonna let this fly…

This time!

Besides that, this is another stellar issue! Such a well-crafted, well-honed ongoing story with so many great subplots and twists thrown in for good measure. Jason vs. Lord Zedd is epic enough, but to have both Zedd win, and yet still get captured when Jason’s back-up arrives, is just plain awesome! Then we’ve got the Omega Rangers actually butting heads with the Power Rangers. Then we’ve got Zordon admonishing Jason without knowing it’s Jason, that was fun. I especially enjoyed the conversation between Jason and Tommy. Parrott didn’t need to be blatant about the history between the two, we all understood.

Tommy Jason Chat 01

Just two friends talking about the weight of the world

I especially enjoyed the unspoken fact that this scene ties into the scene from the latest issue of Go Go Power Rangers, where Jason only agreed to work with the Emissary if he found a way to re-power Tommy. So here is the re-powered Tommy, right in front of Jason’s eyes, expressing doubts about his leadership abilities. It’s great! Not to mention the fact that, in their future, Tommy will eventually track down Jason to come be the new Gold Ranger for a short while. This is a solid friendship I’d like to see explored more.

And that’s barely half of what we get! More Stone Canyon drama! Some tiny movement on the Bulk and Skull front. Kiya breaking bad and killing the Emissary! That was a shocker! Definitely didn’t see it coming, and I’m a little disappointed that she’s turned evil. But it all works and all makes sense in terms of setting up some new Big Bads to take down. We’ve had evil Power Rangers turn good, but it’s not often for a good Power Ranger to turn evil!

TL;DR: Epic twists, moving subplots, great action, wonderful character drama; these Power Rangers comics are the whole package!


NewMutants2

New Mutants #2

New Mutants #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Rod Reis
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

I like this comic…but I don’t really like Hickman’s humorous writing style. It feels very…try hard. But hey, at least he gets to keep writing The Adventures of Cannonball and Sunspot! When Hickman was writing Avengers, he made them Avengers!

Ryan North’s big humor comic just ended. Maybe find a place for him in Dawn of X?

Sunspot recaps the past few days of convincing everybody to go to space and then sitting on their butts in space jail, because his space lawyer sucks. They finally go before a space judge and he finds them guilty and sentences them to a lifetime of service. He then hands them over to the custody of the Shi’ar guard: Cannonball and his wife, Smasher. It’s a nice reunion and everybody heads out after Smasher punches Sunspot in the nose for both moping and getting them into this mess. On their way through space, Cannonball and Sunspot catch up, everybody else plays cards with a space deck they don’t understand, and Smasher gets a new mission from Gladiator.

Gladiator has decided to step down as leader so that Xandra, the biological daughter of Professor X and Lilandra, can finally assume the throne (war is coming). So Gladiator has tasked Smasher and her new team of recruits to go find Deathbird and bring her in to act as a tough love adviser for Xandra.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

It’s nice to see Xandra again! Considering how far back Dawn of X was planned, do you think the Mr. and Mrs. X comic was used to create her specifically for this series? That’d be really interesting to know.

This is another fun issue with some good character writing. Hickman has been working with Sam, Roberto and some of the other characters for awhile, so it’s just fun seeing him slip back into their friendly banter. He created Smasher and set up Cannonball with a wife and child, and they make a great team. I especially enjoyed the card game and it’s purely silly addition to the story.

New Mutants Card Game 01

That’s some good, quality goofy character building

I still think the cast is a little too big to get in some proper, meaningful character work. But Hickman is doing a good enough job throwing madcap space zaniness at our crew. I definitely think his humor can be forced at times, like he’s actively trying to write something funny instead of just being funny. But I don’t hold that against him. This is fine writing, some good art, and a nifty little story out in the depths of Shi’ar space.

Though I do question why yet another Dawn of X launch title involves a team leaving Krakoa. Did nobody want to write stories involving life on Krakoa? That’s the interesting stuff I want to read about! Any pre-House of X team could have gone on this Shi’ar mission. Tell some uniquely Krakoan stories!

Also, as I think has been pointed out in Dawn of X itself somewhere, was letting Cypher leave Krakoa really the best idea?

TL;DR: Fun characters, fun character moments and a generally nifty space adventure make for an overall enjoyable — if unremarkable — addition to Dawn of X.


Scream1

Scream #1

Scream: Curse of Carnage #1
Writer: Clay McLeod Chapman
Artist: Chris Mooneyham
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Scream is my favorite of the symbiotes, so I’m very excited that she’s now got an ongoing comic series! Of all the things to spin out of Absolute Carnage, whodda thunk it?

Some detectives are investigating a dead fish person on the wharf, with Andi Benton wandering by in the background. Andi, formerly Mania from back when Flash Thompson was Venom, ended up with the Scream symbiote following Absolute Carnage and she absolutely doesn’t want it. She’s now homeless and wandering from shelters to alleys to concerts. She has a nice meeting with Aunt May at the F.E.A.S.T. homeless shelter, and then Scream lures out some punks from the concert and attacks them when they try to assault Andi. Mostly Andi just monologues to herself about her crappy life, especially how her mother left the family when she was young, possibly due to mental illness. It led to some hardships from kids at school.

Meanwhile, some fish monster dude has similar powers to symbiotes and he sends some half-symbiote/half-fish monster minions into the city. They randomly come out of the sewer near Andi and Scream comes out to fight them and investigate them. Very curious and weird creatures, Scream finds. A few days later, while Andi is sitting out on some random stoop in the city, her mother randomly finds her and they have a tearful reunion.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I was going to give this comic a lower rating until the arrival of Andi’s mother at the end. It was entirely predictable, based on the childhood flashback we got earlier in the issue, but at least it offered something personal to build from going forward. Beyond that potential connection, this comic just doesn’t have much to offer. It’s a whole bunch of Andi Benton walking around monologuing to herself about her troubled life and how much she doesn’t want to deal with all this symbiote stuff. Understandable, but we’re trying to sell a comic book about a super obscure character here, Andi! You need to give the reader more to latch onto! Neither Andi Benton or Scream is enough of a character for readers to care on name recognition alone.

Other than me, of course, the guy who bought the Scream action figure as soon as it was available, the guy who was disappointed that there was no Scream merchandise outside the Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios, even though she was the symbiote they chose to put into the ride!

Scream Fights 01

Very little actual Scream action this issue

So yeah, this is a whole issue of Andi lost in her own head. When the symbiote does talk to her, it’s voice is very basic with no real personality of its own, and often it’s just mumbling. We don’t get any real conversations between them, because the symbiote is so basic and because Andi so desperately doesn’t want her. If our main character doesn’t want to be here, why should we? The writing doesn’t find anything really unique or interesting to say about symbiotes, let alone the Scream symbiote, to warrant giving her a comic. And some random, spooky fish villain definitely isn’t the selling point…unless this is a dark and gritty take on the Luke Cage villain, Mr. Fish. Then I might change my tune!

TL;DR: This comic just doesn’t have much to offer, especially with a character that’s going to be as tough to sell as Scream. 


Valkyrie5

Valkyrie #5

Valkyrie #5
Writers: Al Ewing and Jason Aaron
Artist: Cafu
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

The first chapter of Valkyrie comes to a close and it’s a fun one!

The Grim Reaper is tougher than he looks and he’s able to damage Valkyrie’s All-Weapon with the magics Mephisto has given him. He escapes with the magic mirror containing Doctor Strange’s astral form, riding a flying hell horse. A weakened Valkyrie tries to get Kaecilius to go after him, but Kaecilius isn’t about to take a stand against the devil himself! He flees through a portal and Valkyrie lets him go peacefully — much to Dr. Riggs’ dismay. Riggs gives Valkyrie a talking down about being a bad superhero, but Valkyrie tells her she’s not a superhero, she’s got a job to do, and that job currently includes taking a stand against the devil himself!

She mounts her own flying horse and takes off after Grim Reaper (while her friend gives Riggs a pep talk about how cool Valkyrie is). Valkyrie catches up with Reaper and the two do battle in the sky, near the portal. Valkyrie’s horse is amazing and hilarious. But Grim Reaper is still stronger — until Val’s friend and Riggs show up flying Black Knight’s old Atomic Steed (seized by Damage Control, where the friend works). Riggs gives Valkyrie a pep talk about thinking like a valkyrie, and Val realizes that Grim Reaper views himself as a hero (once he’s a true reaper, he can save his brother’s soul). So Val grabs him and takes him to Valhalla, where Skurge and Brunnhilde are on hand to help convince Grim Reaper its time for his eternal rest. Valkyrie grabs the mirror and gets Doctor Strange his soul back.

Then there’s a nice epilogue as Jane Foster stands proudly in her daily life and her new superhero job!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great. 

This was an excellent comic, bringing some real energy and excitement to Valkyrie. That line about having to stand up to the devil himself? Magnificent! Especially since it’s an immediate callback to Grim Reaper’s line a moment prior. That’s some damn good writing right there, and just so damn cool. Valkyrie, both the comic and the character, need that kind of energy as much as possible. They need the sort of energy and excitement where Valkyrie’s flying horse flies right up to Grim Reaper’s dark steed and just curb stomps that punk in midair! 

Valk Talking Horse 02

This is how you create a scene-stealing character

Seriously, everything Ewing and Aaron have done with the horse has built to this moment. In hot pursuit across the skies of Manhattan, they really dig into the horse being a total badass as he takes to his job. It’s great! (Later, he takes umbrage with the Atomic Steed in a funny background joke). Valkyrie is no slouch either as the hero, nor is Grim Reaper disposable as the villain. Everyone is just written so well, and developed so well, with interesting motivations and reactions. I myself might take umbrage with the idea that Grim Reaper gets to spend his eternal rest in Valhalla, but it’s a very creative and unique solution to a tough fight. One very unique to Valkyrie specifically. That’s the kind of creativity and point of character that’s going to sell a comic like this.

Though hopefully Jane Foster doesn’t make it a habit to bring super-villains to Valhalla.

TL;DR: The final issue of the first chapter of Valkyrie finds its footing and lays out why it deserves to be a comic with legs.


XForce2

X-Force #2

X-Force #2
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

So this is gonna be the dark and gritty X-Men comic. I’m fine with that having a place in Dawn of X.

Krakoa discovers Xavier’s dead body after he was shot in the head, with Magneto picking up the damaged helmet. Jean arrives and promises to get to work on the resurrection, recruiting Beast to go to one of the many cradles to get another Cerebro up and running. Considering the very existence of back-up Cerebros, it seems a little odd that they are so hard to get started with Professor X dead. He should have predicted that, too.

Meanwhile, Wolverine, Sage and Cecelia Reyes examine the assassins. They confirm that the four killers had Domino’s skin grafted onto their bodies to fool Krakoa. They also determine that these four aren’t really people. They were grown in a lab, designed to be artificial human weapons. For example, their ears aren’t made of cartilage, they’re spooled with wire for sure in climbing or garroting. Wolverine leaves Krakoa to track the killers’ route, where he runs into Kid Omega doing the same thing. They eventually make it to this secret lab and are attacked by a bunch of half-built bodies. Then Quentin finds Domino suspended in a healing tank, half the skin flayed from her body.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

As much as I think Quentin Quire is a good overall character, I can rarely actually stand him in practice. But everybody loves to write a witty asshole, especially a witty asshole trying to get under Wolverine’s skin. So here we are, with an issue heavy on Quentin Quire trying to get under Wolverine’s skin. He’s definitely getting under mine and it’s a bit of a turnoff. But otherwise, this is a fine follow-up to the previous issue, laying to rest some of the concerns and questions I had by simply explaining what actually happened. The mystery is fine, the stakes are high, the characters are treated well; this is a solid comic with a solid premise going forward. I’m still disappointed that Xavier is dead so quickly into Dawn of X, but I can make my peace with that. Hopefully this whole event, and this whole investigation, will lead somewhere really good. Perhaps it’s going to lead to the actual formation of the new X-Force, which would be fine. I would have thought the team and its purpose would have already been established, but let’s let the story play out how it does.

The art was a bit clearer this time around as well. Overall, an improvement over the first issue.

TL;DR: Things are made clearer and the story is told with fewer perplexing questions, so I think this was an improvement on the first issue of X-Force.


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!

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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 November 30, 2019, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I haven’t bought a single issue 2 of any Dawn of X title, despite buying every HoXPoX and number 1 and I don’t regret dropping every one – but I think I’ll now pick up Valkyrie in the trade.
    One vote from me for the decade in review post! 🙂

  2. Since our interests run so parallel, I’d love to know your favorites of the past decade.

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