Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/7/19

How cool was that new Black Widow trailer this past week? We’re on the verge of entering a new round of superhero movies! I can’t wait! Thankfully, plenty of good comics to read until then, including Batman, various X-Men and Lois Lane!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Green Lantern: Blackstars for an utterly hilarious takedown of DC Comics. Grant Morrison is creatively savage.

Blackstar Superman 01

This panel isn’t a good example, it’s just a good picture for above the fold.

Meanwhile, even though I gave up reviewing Magnificent Ms. Marvel, I’m still reading the comic. And I’m pleased to report that — SPOILERS — that stupid new costume of hers has turned out to be evil. Thank the stars!

Comic Reviews: Batman #84, Doctor Doom #3, Excalibur #3, Green Lantern: Blackstars #2, Lois Lane #6, Marauders #3 and X-Men #3.


Batman #84

Batman #84
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

As much as I’ve enjoyed Tom King’s Batman over these past 80+ issues, I’m definitely ready for all of this to be over. This final storyline has been all dangling anticipation.

We travel backwards through time in an ongoing flashback to see Thomas Wayne’s journey to this moment, all the way back to him reading that Russian animal fairy tale to Bruce as a child, and stating that he would declare war on anything that caused Bruce pain. We see Thomas and his wife in their alternate Flashpoint reality. We see how Thomas sort-of adopted Catwoman as his sidekick, raising her as half-partner/half-daughter, and how it was Catwoman who convinced him to abandon murder as a crime-fighting tool. We see how Thomas was ready to lay down his life to destroy the Flashpoint universe, only for his Reverse Flash to transport him into the main DC Universe as punishment, forcing Thomas to live in a world where Bruce became Batman.

Once he was in the world, Thomas spied on Bruce for awhile before eventually joining with Bane to try and put a stop to Bruce being Batman.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

We don’t really learn anything new or shocking about Thomas Wayne’s journey in this series of flashbacks. Maybe that he had Catwoman as a partner/pseudo daughter? Did we know that already? It’s not explored too much, but we see enough to understand how they decided to use Catwoman to break Bruce’s spirit. So I guess that’s something. Otherwise, the flashbacks just tell us that he’s a committed dude determined to stop Bruce from making the mistakes he himself made. That’s fine. But coming this late in the game, I would have expected some kind of twist, some kind of reveal. But nah. Just some pretty straight forward flashbacks about how we got to this point, once again delaying the final confrontation. Just let them fight already! Bring it on! Let us see this through to the end already!

I can’t believe they killed Alfred for this.

At least Fornes’ art is fantastic.

TL;DR: The issue is almost all flashback as the creative team continues to delay the finale. The flashbacks don’t reveal anything worth the delay.


Doctor Doom #3

Doctor Doom #3
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: GURU-eFX
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Oops! I was mistaken in my last review of Doctor Doom. I thought the issue ended with Doom fleeing down an alley. Instead, Doom was shot in the head. I must be getting old to make that mistake…

After getting shot in the head by Taskmaster, Doom has a vision of himself unscarred and speaking to the United Nations in 10 years time about weather control. Then he wakes up in Hell in gorgeous armor. He stalks through Hell until he finds Mephisto taunting him, offering to let Victor return to life if he can convince his first love, Valeria, that he deserves to go. Victor sacrificed Valeria to Hell to gain more power. Victor pleads with Valeria that he needs to go back to save the world, but she’s just Mephisto in disguise and they get into a big fight. Doom wins the fight, and then Lady Death arrives and determines he needs to go back because he’s going to become her greatest agent ever.

Doom wakes up in Morgana’s apartment and finds Blue Marvel standing over him. Doom blasts Blue Marvel through the wall. Kang shows up again and recalls one timeline where Doom was indeed assassinated by Taskmaster. In that timeline, all of civilization collapsed within 13 years of Doom’s death.

Meanwhile, an assassin comes for Victorious in Castle Doomstadt. She’s been left in charge of the country, and Symkarian is preparing to invade. She defeats the ninja assassin.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The street level realism of the previous two issues is replaced by some Hell-level realism, but I still like it. This is still a grounded, human take on Doctor Doom and that is something I very much enjoy. I love his confidence as he strolls into Hell wearing this glorious suit of mental armor, and how he just chokes out Mephisto for even suggesting Doom is stuck there. It’s pretty damn badass, and 100% Doctor Doom. And as much as I’d like to see more of Doom on a street level, casting him down to Hell for an issue is a pretty smart way to break up the story and give us some new scenery. It’s very well done.

Doctor Doom Hell 01

This is just plain badass

I am really enjoying this series and it’s more realistic take on Doctor Doom. I like the political intrigue with Symkaria taking place on the side. I like Doom’s rather normal interactions with the likes of Morgana le Fay and Blue Marvel. Even Salvador Larocca is turning in some quality art with this comic. It’s all working nicely to tell a very good, grounded Doctor Doom story. I especially love the idea that Kang the Conquerer’s time powers are malfunctioning and he randomly pops into Doctor Doom’s life, and that Doom has not only adapted but uses it to his advantage. This is a well-crafted comic.

TL;DR: The new issue mixes things up with a visit to Hell, and the strong writing and art keep it just as entertaining. You can really feel the expert craftsmanship that went into this story.


Excalibur #3

Excalibur #3
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Marcus To
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

I’m still very wary about how this cast was put together, but this issue was a bit more solid than previous issues.

Betsy, Gambit, Jubilee and Shogo the Dragon fly off through Otherworld and assault Morgana’s castle. She’s got Brian Braddock at her beck and call like a wild dog, and she sics him on our heroes. It’s a rough fight, but our heroes flee without saving Brian. Betsy is bummed.

Meanwhile, Rictor’s powers are out of control, causing earthquakes just by setting foot on the ground. He’s stayed away from Krakoa, but Apocalypse tracks him down because he needs help with some rocks. Apocalypse takes Rictor to the lighthouse to continue his experiments, which is where Pete Wisdom, agent of MI-13, finds them in his search for Captain Britain.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

So Apocalypse needs help with some magic rocks he’s using on the Otherworld portal. Seeking an expert on rocks, he goes to Rictor…even though Rictor’s powers are based on seismic energy. He doesn’t control rocks. He can just send seismic shockwaves into the Earth to create earthquakes. I like the character development that Rictor’s powers are out of control, and so he hasn’t gone to Krakoa for fear of damaging the island. That’s good storytelling for Rictor. And it’s nice of Apocalypse to offer him some help. But he’s not a great choice for information on rocks…and it’s a little weird that Apocalypse would think of Rictor when needing help. But hey, I’m gonna roll with it. At least Pete Wisdom showed up. He’s solidly British. I think he had a background cameo in the first issue.

Shogo Dragon 01

Will Shogo ever age? Also, is he the only human on Krakoa? That seems significant.

The adventure in Otherworld was fun, if very straightforward. Our heroes launch an attack, get in a quick scuffle with Brian Braddock to recall the stakes, and then they retreat. Howard is clearly having fun with Shogo the Dragon, as well she should. It’s a delightful turn of events, and both she and her art team wring a lot of enjoyment out of that bit of silliness. Betsy’s story is still a good foundation for the comic. She wants to rescue her brother, that sounds good, but her now being the new Captain Britain feels more of an afterthought. She doesn’t seem at all affected by the idea. It’s secondary to needing to save her brother, which, again, makes perfect sense. But it also makes the change itself a little strange for basing a comic on. But like I said, it works to drive a pretty straight forward and mildly entertaining issue.

Gambit is still too much of a grump to have brought along, though. It makes perfect sense why he’s grumpy, but it still brings down the comic.

TL;DR: The third issue of Excalibur tells a nice tale, but it’s still hampered by some weird choices overall.


GL: Blackstars #2

Green Lantern: Blackstars #2
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Xermanico
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Steve Wands

This issue contains some damn fine satire about the current state of DC Comics. I dig it!

We open with Hal Jordan visiting Earth to try and make peace between the superheroes and the Blackstars. This allows Morrison to taunt and tease various DC Comics concepts, like Wonder Woman being violent instead of peaceful, like Bendis-speak, like the change from Gotham City criminals committing crimes to being focused solely on “breaking the bat” to Heroes in Crisis to constant attacks from “hitherto unsuspected, barely-thought-out region of this new Depressoverse” that was discovered. It’s hilarious!

Mostly, though, Superman is upset that his son, Jon, wants to join the Blackstars. He forbids it, and banishes Hal and the other Earth Blackstars (the Earth GLs). Hal flies back to base and meets with his fiancee Belzebeth, who is intent on devouring the Earth. She tells him her backstory on the vampire planet. She was betrothed to an ancient vampire so old, powerful and lustful that he’d taken countless millennia to condense his entire vocabulary into five sufficient words for any situation: “My appetite knows no bounds.” Belzebeth spent countless years concocting an escape, eventually forced to wait until this vampire assumed his final form as a Sun-Eater. Then she sent him after a sun on the verge of going supernova and he blew up! His appetite knew no bounds, right?

Anyway, she led a vampire war against the Controllers, which she lost. Then Controller Mu found her and rebuilt her, feeding her planets that worshiped him in order to build her strength. Now she funds the entirety of the Blackstars with her own wealth.

Elsewhere, the newest Blackstar, Mongul, is overstepping his bounds on some random planet. He kills a citizen and then turns on his fellow Blackstars.

Hal and Belzebeth meet before Mu for their wedding, but something in wrong with Mu. He seems to be deteriorating. At the end of the ceremony, Mu falls dead. Hal is confused, but Belzebeth explains that it had to be done. Mu’s consciousness was burning through host bodies too fast. He had to be stopped before he grew senile, so she killed him. Now she and Hal can rule the galaxy! And she can eat the planet Earth! Except Hal has thought ahead. In order to save the Earth, he went back and recruited Jon Kent to the Blackstars after all, and Superman is here to wage war to get back his son!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Ha! Now that was fun! I thought the first issue of Blackstars was a hodgepodge of confusing concepts. But Morrison cuts through that mess like a hot knife through butter with this issue, presenting a very straightforward and exciting story of Hal navigating this strange new reality. All of it makes sense and all of it is pretty exciting, truth be told. That surprise ending, of Hal betraying Belzebeth by starting a war with Superman, was just awesome! It was set up perfectly at the start of the issue, then pays off just as perfectly at the end. Great stuff. As was the deep dive into Belzebeth’s past. She’s been a fun antagonist, and I enjoyed the look into her life, as well as her betrayal of Controller Mu. She’s a much better villain than Mu.

Not only is the story, the character work and the overall energy of this issue great, but I absolutely loved Morrison’s takedown of pretty much everything else going on at DC at the moment!

Batmanson 01

I love the line “We’re contagious now, too!”

Come on, that’s funny! And the stuff about the “poorly-thought-out” worlds of the Depressoverse! Or Superman’s line about needing to take a step back and focus on 21st century superhero mental illness problems! There’s even a panel where Superman and Hal talk over each other in an approximation of Bendis-speak. It’s just plain funny.

Bendis Speak Burn 01

Feel the burn

Leave it to Grant Morrison to take the piss out of the entirety of DC Comics as he writes up his own private, out-of-continuity, utterly random Green Lantern comic. That’s just plain damn fun! And it’s even funnier when you consider that this is the darker timeline, one where the evil Blackstars are in control of the galaxy. Heh.

But still, this is a very well-constructed issue that tells a very cool story, one that’s easy to follow and not filled with Morrison’s usual gobbledegook. The issue involves Hal Jordan being a clever badass and standing up for what’s good. And it also involves possibly the greatest takedown of modern DC Comics you’re ever likely to see. Somebody needs to direct Tom King and Scott Snyder, among others, to their local burn wards.

TL;DR: Morrison delivers one of his strongest issue’s yet in his Green Lantern saga. And he makes it even more fun with a great takedown of his co-workers. Things are gonna be weird at the DC Comics Christmas party this year…


Lois Lane #6

Lois Lane #6
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Simon Bowland

I enjoyed Event Leviathan, but now that it’s over, I’m a little worried that I won’t be able to get back onto the Superman train.

Lois’ father was killed during Event Leviathan, and this issue mostly deals with his largely wordless military funeral. It’s an emotional affair, with Lois being too distraught(?) (hard to read her face) that she can’t even accept the folded American flag. We see some flashbacks to Lois and her dad over the years, from her rebellious teenage years to when she became a reporter covering Superman, and how her career as a journalist often clashed with his career as a super spy. We also see a flashback to after Lois told him the truth about her husband and how he was willing to accept it for her sake.

This all builds to an emotional scene after the funeral, wherein Lois’ sister is mad that Lois made the funeral all about her by not simply accepting the folded flag. Lucy storms out, but Lois says under her breath that their father wouldn’t forgive her for taking it. And then later, with Clark, Lois is especially sad because she felt like she was finally getting through to her father and he was so close to finally trusting Superman.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

That final moment really tied the issue together and raised it to another level. It’s always weird when some Big Event moment crowds into other ongoing comics, but Rucka does just fine. He keeps the grounded feeling of this comic and Perkins draws a heck of a funeral. It’s quiet, it’s touching, and the flashbacks actually serve to elevate and enforce the ongoing character development for Lois Lane. Though I had no idea what this face was supposed to mean when she couldn’t accept the flag:

Lois Lane Funeral Face 02

The faces are often the best part of this comic

And I’m likewise not sure what she meant by her father would never forgive her for accepting the flag. I’m sure it has some significance, but it definitely went over my feeble head. I’m not always the best at catching these things. Maybe…Lois butted heads so much with the White House and the military industrial complex when her father was alive that he wouldn’t be happy if she just gave in to this military gesture? When the soldier attempts to hand it to her, he specifically says it’s on behalf of the President and the military, and Lois is currently tearing them down with her articles. Maybe that’s it.

But beyond my failing to put together some of the story, the rest was great. Just a very touching, very grounded, very real story about our main character’s rocky history with her father, and now her troubles saying goodbye at his funeral. It’s all very well done and hits hard for our protagonist. And that’s a good way to handle when a Big Event comic intrudes on your ongoing story. Though I’m sure Rucka knew this was coming when he signed on to the project.

TL;DR: A touching, emotional issue ties everything off nicely in the end.


Marauders #3

Marauders #3
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Michele Bandini
Inkers: Bandini and Elisabetta D’Amico
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

I think Marauders is my favorite Dawn of X comic so far. It’s the one that’s the most fun, and seems to be the one most interested in actually exploring the new status quo for the X-Men in new and fun ways.

Slightly in the past, Sebastian Shaw welcomes his son, Shinobi, back to life on Krakoa. Shaw intended to make Shinobi the Red King, but obviously Emma and Kate had other ideas. Sebastian takes his son on a tour of mutant highlights, getting him up to speed. Shinobi makes a quick pit-stop in Tokyo to touch base with some old crime boss of his. Then in the present day, Sebastian pivots to making his son the Black Bishop instead of the Red King, and sets him up with a ship to do their own work on the open seas. Shinobi asks about how he died, and Sebastian said it was the work of Emma Frost and Kate Pryde.

Meanwhile, Bishop turns down Kate’s offer to become the Red Bishop.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

We don’t spend any time with the regular Marauders crew, but that is perfectly fine, because Duggan does a great job setting up Sebastian Shaw and his son as strong antagonists. It’s a bit of a quick issue, and it nicely lays out what Shaw has been up to and how it factors into the larger Krakoan narrative. It’s also just a really nice story of father and son, showing off the potential that Krakoan resurrections can have on these classic characters. I’m not entirely sure how Shinobi died. Wikipedia said his father killed him. But then he was brought back for Necrosha. I don’t really know. But I’m more than happy to let Duggan build up something new, since he so expertly uses the past to set this whole thing up to begin with. This issue takes a nice tour of some Krakoan facilities we’ve only heard about before. Honestly, I want more stuff like this, stuff that actually explores the day-to-day life on Krakoan We see Shaw casually use portals to get around the world, and how that effects him personally. We see Hellfire Bay and the new homes set up there. And we mostly get a nice story of a father reconnecting with his son, as brought about by the new resurrection status quo. This is a really good issue that easily accomplishes what it sets out to do.

TL;DR: Marauders takes a slight break from the ongoing story to set up some important characters, while also giving us a great, broader look at some Krakoa nuts and bolts. It’s very much appreciated.


X-Men #3

X-Men #3
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Inkers: Yu and Gerry Alanguilan
Colorists: Sunny Gho and Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

I’ll give this issue one thing, it’s a special kind of weird.

The farm operations in the Savage Land are interrupted by Hordeculture, a squad of four old ladies in specialized combat gear who have somehow accessed the Krakoan portals and freeze all the mutants in goo. Cyclops, Emma and Sebastian Shaw go to investigate and, first, Shaw tries to negotiate and fails, then Cyclops tries to attack and fails, and finally Emma just asks them who they are. The four women are highly skilled botanists and bio-engineers who have grown sick of how corporations are ruining the planet. So they’ve been working on a long term plan to seed all plant life on Earth with their own strains. When they reach saturation, they will control all natural food sources and see to it that humanity is wiped out and plants inherit the Earth. They head back through the portal with their samples, having easily defeated the X-Men.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I got a kick out of the weird ideas at play here. I was slightly annoyed at how easily the Hordeculture walloped the X-Men. On the one hand, the X-Men were definitely underestimating these women. On the other hand, this feels like a jobber situation, where the new villains are made to seem all-powerful, including an easy win against some powerful heroes. It’s like Hickman is having so much fun writing these old biddies that he forgets that he’s only three issues into revolutionizing the entire line of X-Men comics. The bulk of this issue really is just the women sniping at each other as they bicker and banter. It’s entertaining, but is also frankly beside the point.

Hordeculture 01

How long has Hickman been sitting on these characters?

How about an issue where a team of X-Men have that level of quality banter/camaraderie? No X-Men squad across any of the Dawn of X comics has had the level of team development as the Hordeculture get in this one issue.

All that being said, I’m definitely in favor of some new villains thrown into the mix, especially if they’re interesting villains and are actually somehow tied to the new status quo. The Hordeculture definitely fit that mold, whereas Apoth over in Fallen Angels does not. They are new, their ideas are unique and they actively attack both the portal system and the new plants at the heart of the mutant nation. That’s a good use of Dawn of X, and that’s something I applaud. I also like how Hickman includes an unconventional team, sending Cyclops with Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost, and letting all three actually stand out as themselves in how they handle the situation. It almost makes up for the fact that the Hordeculture easily defeat all three with nary a bit of trouble. They physically beat up Shaw, even though his mutant power is to absorb such beatings and get stronger. But whatever.

TL;DR: It’s an entertaining issue and actually manages to use the new status quo to tell a new type of story, but the issue is also a little too distracted by itself.

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 December 7, 2019, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Rosenberg killed off Shinobi kind of randomly, during an attack involving the X-Men. He killed himself by putting his fingers into his head…not sure how. I’m very fuzzy on the details. It didn’t make sense why this is the time he would kill himself. Good ol’ Rosenberg.

    • Ooooooh, alright. The fingers into the head is definitely a thing in this issue of Marauders, and when Sebastian says Kate Pryde did it, I can see how that works. Granted, I didn’t know Shinobi’s mutant powers until I looked them up right this second on Wikipedia. It seems he can control his body density, which involves going intangible. So he definitely could have put his own hand into his own head to kill himself. And by the time Rosenberg got his hands on the X-Men, Dawn of X was already planned. So I imagine Rosenberg was just doing what he was told to set up Shinobi for his role in Marauders.

      So thanks! Now it all makes some semblance of sense!

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