Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/4/20
Happy New Year, everybody! It’s 2020, so we’ve got a whole new year of comic book fun to look forward to! The year starts off on a strong foot, with enjoyable issues of Doctor Doom, Lois Lane and the kickoff to the new Thor by Donny Cates! He does a pretty solid job starting off.
Comic Book of the Week goes to the new issue of X-Men for finally doing something worthy of the new status quo of Dawn of X! Also, Apocalypse is interesting for the first time ever.
Meanwhile, my brother got me the first Saga compendium for Christmas. It’s a pretty huge book, containing upwards of 50 issues. I’m both tempted and fearful about reading all that Saga again. Someday I’ll to give it a shot, for sure.
Comic Reviews: Doctor Doom #4, Lois Lane #7, Marauders #5, Thor #1 and X-Men #4.
Doctor Doom #4
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
This issue was solid, but had some slight stumbles in storytelling.
Doctor Doom assaults an A.I.M. facility in New York to learn about who hired the assassin. While invading and kicking butt, we see a narrated conversation between Doom and another person about the nature of God. Based on an old quote, they establish God as a being for whom no one can conceive a superior. Therefore, does Doom not see himself as God? But Doom says he can conceive a superior: that alternate/future version of himself he keeps seeing in visions. Doom fights through Taskmaster, learns that his assassination was tied to a woman named Fruzsina, who is possibly his alternate/future wife in the visions? Then he confronts M.O.D.O.K. and we find out M.O.D.O.K. was the other person in the God conversation…maybe? It’s a little confusing. He fights past M.O.D.O.K. and burns the building to the ground after downloading all the info they had on Fruzsina.
Meanwhile, Reed Richards is up on the moon working on the black hole, and he’s having trouble and may need Doom’s help. Double meanwhile, Symkarian agents track down a homeless man in NYC who is the last surviving heir of the Latverian dynasty from before Doom. They clean him up and bring both him and an army to the Latverian border, where they are opposed by Victorious. She tangles with Silver Sable before they both quietly agree to go search for Doom. It seems Symkarian forces are serious about their play for Latveria.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was another solid, enjoyable issue of Doctor Doom’s ongoing troubles. I still like the nice balance of Doom-style villainy with the grounded, street-level world. It works nicely, with this clearly being real people interacting. Nobody is cartoonish and everybody feels real. I like that in a comic. I like seeing Doctor Doom in a hoodie and jeans. It’s almost alarming, but it works for the story. And his character is cool. An arrogant badass forced to now be scrappy. A lot of everything in this comic works very well. But there were some stumbles in this issue in particular. The narrated conversation about God was pretty interesting, even if their definition of “God” didn’t work for me. I also wasn’t sure who was talking. The art, story and dialogue indicate that it was M.O.D.O.K., but the word balloons don’t, so that was jarring. And I’m not sure who Fruzsina is supposed to be at this point. Was that a name we were supposed to remember from previous issues? It doesn’t really work as cleanly as the creative team hopes.
TL;DR: The story and character work remain strong, though this issue in particular has a few stumbles in terms of the overall issue structure and narrative.
Lois Lane #7
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Over in the pages of the Superman comic, the Big Blue Boy Scout revealed his secret identity to the world! I’m not reading that comic, but I figured it was important to at least note. It doesn’t impact this awesome Lois Lane comic yet.
We open with a nun visiting a patient at the Royal Wolverhampton in the UK, which is a hospital. The patient is Jessica Midnight, a Rucka-created spy from Checkmate, who immediately suspects the nun of being a Leviathan assassin. Jessica asks for one thing first: tell Jessica who she is.
Then we cut to Chicago, where the Question interrupts and scares off a photographer on a rooftop to stop him from getting pics of Lois kissing Superman. Supes checks in on her, giving Question a bit of a moment. Then the next morning, Renee teases Lois about the supposed “affair” since Renee doesn’t know the truth. They flirt and banter a bit as they head to Lois’ hotel room, where Renee passes along the recording she made in a previous issue about someone hiring the hitman from the previous issues. There’s a new cleaning lady, but that’s no big deal. After staying up all night to listen to the recording, Lois says it’s worthless for her needs because Renee coerces the information out of the subject with fear tactics.
Across the street, the new cleaning lady turns out to be a skull-headed assassin who sets off explosives in the room!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Man, I could read a whole issue of Lois and Renee flirt-bantering as they work a case. It’s super fun! And this is a pretty fun issue exploring different parts of the ongoing story. We’ve got the introduction of Jessica Midnight into the story, which is fun. I Googled her and found out that she’s pretty much only ever existed in Rucka’s Checkmate comic, which I adored back in the day, so I’m fully on board. The encounter between Renee and the photographer, followed by Renee and Superman, was really nifty. I’m a huge fan of Rucka’s work on Renee Montoya as the Question, so seeing her in action having fun scenes is a blast. As is, like I said, the fun relationship between Renee and Lois. They work so damn well together that their scene is like spun gold. Rucka has put together a phenomenal cast for this comic.
I also really liked how Renee’s recording of her interrogation didn’t work for Lois’ needs. It really reinforces Lois’ job as a reporter. Dangling a perp upside down off the side of the building may work for the likes of Batman, but not for someone trying to write a legit and legal newspaper article. That’s a really nice touch that points to the unique purpose of this comic. I really hope we see even more of the actual journalism. And then we got a really solid cliffhanger. Obviously something was up with the new maid, but I did not see her having a crazy skull head. Not sure if she’s Director Bones or a new skull-headed character. We’ll have to wait and see!
TL;DR: Another great issue of Greg Rucka’s Lois Lane comic contains everything that makes this series so much fun, from playful banter to solid journalism.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: Matteo Lolli and Lucas Werneck
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Huh, for some reason, this issue doesn’t feel as tight as previous Marauders issues.
We open with Iceman and Christian Frost visiting the Arctic so that Iceman can use his Omega-level powers to put a Band Aide onto global warming. He and Christian flirt and chat a bit before heading home in Frost’s submarine. At a Hellfire Trading Co. meeting, Sebastian Shaw wants the Marauder to go to Madripoor instead of his son, but Kate and Emma vote otherwise, annoying Sebastian. Kate and Emma are pretty tight these days and share a hug and a moment.
Word comes in later that Shinobi’s ship is under attack and the Marauders rush out. Storm and Bishop portal to Madripoor and learn that the Hellfire Brats are paying people to kill mutants in the street. They reach Shinobi’s ship, but are attacked by guys wearing the power-dampening armor from Russian from the first issue. Storm and Bishop are hardly defenseless without their powers, and they fight back.
The Marauder is heading into port and is ambushed by the X-Cutioner and Hate Monger.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Weirdly, this issue seemed really jumbled, really all over the place. Marauders has been tighter than this issue. We jump around, we attend to a bunch of weirdly different events, and we don’t get enough attention paid to those events for them to really land. For example, Bishop teleports into Madripoor and immediately finds a kid with a gun and immediately grills him for all of the information. It just rushes by, especially since we went from one page talking about settling in some newly rescued mutants to the very next page suddenly rushing off to Madripoor. Not to mention smaller details like Storm and Bishop taking an immediate portal to Madripoor while the rest of the team sails their ship, and yet they’re able to sail from Krakoa to Madripoor in only a matter of minutes? If you’re going to write a comic about using a ship you’ve got to really commit. Why even have the ship as the focus of a comic if the limitations of said ship aren’t really going to be used?
But it was still a largely fine issue. The threats are building on previous threats, the Marauders are getting out in the world and there’s a fairly good use of the new status quo. Marauders is definitely taking full advantage of the new status quo, even if I wish it was more. Honestly, I want to see more of life on the high seas. Forge this squad into an actual sailing crew! What’s their downtime like on the Marauder? Are they really wearing their superhero costumes while working on the ship? Do they never get those things dirty? I know it’s a luxury yacht…so do they not even have to sail? Do they just program everything into the ship and it does all the work?
Seriously, give us more boat stuff!
TL;DR: A pretty disjointed issue rushes through too much story too quickly, but everything holds together well enough.
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
I have never been a big fan of the character of Thor. I read all of Jason Aaron’s run because I tried out the first issue on a whim and was enraptured the whole way through. So let’s give Donny Cates that same whim!
Thor is now king of Asgard, and he sends Mjolnir through all of the realms with a message of peace. But heavy is the crown, as Loki helpfully points out when he skulks around Thor’s new throne room. Thor then sets out to give a speech to his new subjects, but the speech is interrupted by the wounded body of Galactus falling on the crowd. Thor confronts him, but Galactus explains he’s there for help: The Star Plague, the Great Black Winter, is coming.
Thor gathers together a bunch of Galactus heralds to ask what the hell this is, and Silver Surfer arrives to explain that the Star Plague is what ends universes. It’s what ended the universe before this one, it’s the thing that Galen of Taa survived in order to become Galactus in our universe. The Surfer explains that he has five special planets he’s been hiding from Galactus, planets with the sort of nutrients that will make him even more powerful. Surfer will lead Galactus to them, while Thor and his navy rescue the inhabitants. But Galactus declines this idea. For looking into the Great Black Winter means viewing your death, and what did he see when he looked into it this time: Thor!
Galactus blasts Thor, but not to kill him. Instead, Thor rises as the new herald of Galactus!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I’m a sucker for a good Silver Surfer/Galactus story, so that definitely worked for me. And Thor as the new Herald of Galactus is definitely a strong enough hook to kick off a big new story with. It’s an old premise, but it hasn’t been done with Thor just yet, so that’s exciting. I’m sad that he has to lose the gruff Jason Aaron viking look for some flashy synth pop outfit…but it works as Thor, Herald of Thunder! Honestly, there are a couple of nitpicks I have, but they’re really minor things. The idea of giving the end of the previous universe a name feels too big in scope for this comic to handle right off the bat. It was the death of the universe. It doesn’t need a specific name or a concept. But I like the idea of Thor sending his forces out into the cosmos to convene a meeting of former Galactus heralds to figure out the question. I love me some Galactus heralds.
This is a really strong issue overall. Cates does a fine job taking the aftermath of the previous story and working it into his new story. He writes all of the characters well and sets up the new threat quite well. Part of me does think that jobbing Galactus is far too common a thing these days. Heck, I think Cates has done it before with Thanos. But the idea of Thor and Galactus teaming up to go fight the end of the universe sounds pretty cool. So consider me on board for now. And Klein is great on art. It’s detailed and well-drawn, with a low key coloring job.
TL;DR: A big new story takes some bold steps to set itself up, with writing and art on point. Definitely a good way to start Thor anew.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Inkers: Yu and Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
I think one of the problems with Dawn of X is that X-Men isn’t acting like a flaghship book. It has fallen behind the other comics, and it doesn’t really tell a cohesive narrative.
Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse accept an invitation to break bread with members of the World Economic Forum, bringing Cyclops and Gorgon along as bodyguards (we also learn that Gorgon is bodyguard for the entire Quiet Council). When the main three sit down for the meal, Xavier pings on some strike teams prepared to ambush them, so he dispatches Cyclops and Gorgon to deal with them quietly. Meanwhile, Magneto launches into a delightful speech about how mutants are going to inherit the Earth, and they will do so with the lessons humanity has taught them: do it with money, not violence. It’s a very civil dinner as they banter with world delegates and make their point (Apocalypse proclaiming that he personally caused the end of the Bronze Age was fun).
As the meal draws to a close, Xavier points out how the ambush has failed. The guy who ordered it is annoyed and angry at the arrogant mutants, but Xavier gives his own speech about how he still believes in humans, but he’s adapted and will no longer sit back and take their tantrums. Should humans try something violent again, there will be a proper response.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This is exactly the sort of events I wanted to see in Dawn of X. Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse all dressed in suits walking into a world trade summit and talking kings and succession over dinner with several ambassadors. It’s a lively and entertaining conversation, as they are pitted against intelligent people. And we get a mix of action as well, with Cyclops and Gorgon taking out some armed troopers. It all works so splendidly, both as an entertaining comic and as a line in the sand for the new Dawn of X status quo. These are the sorts of real-world consequences I would hope to see with a project this ambitious. I just wish this X-Men series was around more and operated as more of a guiding hand. While this comic does cool, world-building stuff like this, most other Dawn of X comics are content with business-as-usual superhero stories.
I also like how utterly different this issue is than what we mostly get from X-Men comics. It’s several major characters sitting down and having an issue-long dinner. All the action is on the sidelines or off-panel. Magneto gives a great speech, then Xavier gives a great speech, and Apocalypse chimes in with various hilarious bits. They work really well as a trio, even if Hickman largely ignores the elephant in the room of everybody just accepting Apocalypse’s presence as totally normal. At least Magneto looks like he’s having the sort of fun he hasn’t had in years.
I hope the delays to this series aren’t down to Yu’s art. It’s a bit sketchy this issue, and the backgrounds are occasionally lacking. Leinil Francis Yu is great and all, but his style isn’t so important to this series that the main X-Men comic in Dawn of X should suffer just to wait for him.
TL;DR: Dawn of X finally does something truly new and unique, and it’s great!
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!