Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/8/20
It’s Birds of Prey weekend! I was trapped in a snowstorm yesterday, so I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s definitely on my docket for this weekend! And I’ll have my review/thoughts at the usual place on Wednesday! Too bad I didn’t read any Birds of Prey-related comics…
But I did enjoy new issues of Marauders, Lois Lane and Batman! So at least that’s something. Comic Book of the Week goes to the stellar debut of Zeb Wells’ new Ant-Man mini-series! Hilarious and fun all in one!
Meanwhile, the big X-Men/Fantastic Four Dawn of X crossover kicked off this week and it was fine. The X-Men really come off as jerks…and then the Fantastic Four kind of comic off as jerks. It’s not a good showing for anybody. I feel like the X-Men could handle superhero diplomacy a little better if they really want to solidify their new status quo.
Comic Reviews: Ant-Man #1, Batman #88, Doctor Doom #5, Lois Lane #8, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #12 and Marauders #7.
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Dylan Burnett
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
A new Ant-Man short story by Zeb Wells? Sign me the heck up!
Ant-Man and his daughter, Stinger, are living in Florida, with Scott working as a hero for hire. When a drug bust on some A.I.M. goons barely makes the paper, and because he’s currently homeless and living in an anthill, Scott takes a job from the Florida State Beekeepers Association to investigate why they’ve lost a large portion of their hives. Ant-Man heads out to the bee farm and adjusts his helmet to let him talk to bees, and he flies one to a nearby makeshift hive underneath a tree trunk.
Inside, Ant-Man finds Swarm, who has stolen the bees to build himself stronger. Ant-Man calls on the bees to help him instead and together they wallop Swarm…only for Swarm to reveal he was only stealing the bees to make him stronger to fight three other insectoid villains: Vespa, Thread and Tusk, who appear to be just like Swarm, only with hornets, silk worms and rhino beetles instead.
If Wells is planning for this to lead to a villain made entirely out of ants, he should know that Rick and Morty beat him to it.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Two quick notes: First, the continuity jerk in me doesn’t think Ant-Man has ever actually “talked” to ants like he does in this issue, nor can he talk to all insects, like bees. So that all seems like an arbitrary power-set to suddenly give him, but it’s far from a deal breaker. Second, speaking as a reporter at a small newspaper, our photographers definitely still use real cameras, not just smartphones. They get mad at me when I try to just use my phone to take photos for print. Also, Ant-Man should totally tip off the press to get there sooner so the reporter can get awesome shots of him and his daughter at full giant size! That’s definitely a front page picture, as opposed to a posed shot. Just at tip for Scott’s hero-for-hire business.
At any rate, this issue was a hoot and a half! I wanted to get those two first points out of the way quickly because they’re just me being nitpicky. The rest of the issue is a lot of fun, with some really good, humorous artwork. Wells perfectly nails the sadsack nature of Scott Lang, even if I, personally, don’t like to see him so pathetic. But I’m lying to myself if I think this isn’t his norm. Wells fleshes out the character wonderfully as a good-natured guy trying to do his best as a superhero, who is actually really good at the job, but might have a chip on his shoulder when people take him for granted. The dialogue is a lot of fun.
The story is really neat, too! I like the idea of Scott being approached by a civilian organization like a group of beekeepers to get his help. It’s very grounded, very realistic, and that makes it more fun than if he’d randomly stumbled upon Swarm. It’s a clever story and Wells milks it for all it’s worth in terms of jokes and solid supporting characters. Then the requisite fisticuffs with Swarm are inventive, and the surprise reveal of an even bigger threat caps off the issue nicely.
The art is just perfect for this series. It’s got a bit of a loosey goosey feel to it that adds to the comedic nature of the comic. It’s still solid comic book art, but there’s a slight elasticity to it that I really enjoyed.
TL;DR: This is high-grade superhero comics, containing everything you need for a fun, light story about a fun character in his own tiny corner of the Marvel U.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
As secrets get revealed, James Tynion’s Batman story starts picking up the pace and getting more exciting!
Catwoman is digging up a grave in Gotham and gets on the phone with Riddler to discuss this deal they were a part of with the Designer back in the day. Apparently it was Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin and then Joker as a silent partner, and they supposedly killed and buried the Designer in this grave. Instead, Catwoman finds the Joker’s old, dead body in the casket. When she tries to get out, the body starts talking to her in the voice of the Designer, just like the dying person in the first issue of the story. The Designer’s goons also knock her out and start burying her, but Harley Quinn shows up to save her, promising Catwoman that this goes deeper than she thinks.
Meanwhile, Batman finds out about the prison escape and how the Penguin took the various mercs. Lucious Fox has a new gadget for Batman: a holographic projector that can be attached to any regular Wayne Enterprises-built car and transform it into a spontaneous Batmobile, at least in terms of performance and holographic look. Batman rushes off to interrupt the Penguin’s interrogation of the mercs, and then he fights the lot of them. But Deathstroke slashes the Penguin’s throat to make their getaway (taking Cheshire with them), while Batman tends to the Penguin, who reveals some secrets of the Designer.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The mystery of the Designer has been OK so far, but this issue finally reveals some pieces that make it even more tantalizing! I love the idea of Batman’s rogues getting up to some trouble on their own without his involvement, and now it’s coming back to bite them in the tuchus. It’s a neat idea and Tynion works the rogues well. The Designer’s name doesn’t exactly strike fear into my heart, but they seem to have a pretty solid scheme building. The Joker corpse was a neat touch. Is that part of this Three Jokers mystery that DC hasn’t touched in several years, and which I find personally dumb? We’ll find out! For now, the mystery deepens, the action keeps things exciting and I’m enjoying the Lucious Fox/Batman dynamic as they keep whipping out new toys and vehicles. We might be approaching a point where we’re getting too many nifty new gadgets and inventions, and that none of these will ever stick around or be mentioned again, but that doesn’t stilt the fun of having them in the moment. This whole adventure is definitely picking up steam.
TL;DR: The mysteries and excitements go up a notch as this story deepens and expands.
Doctor Doom #5
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
I’m starting to wonder how long this series will last.
Victorious and Silver Sable have arrived in New York to search for Doctor Doom, and in their absence, Symkaria has moved into Latveria and installed their puppet ruler, Fortunov, who has started making inroads with the EU and the UN. This angers Doom, but he’s busy tracking down Dr. Fruzsina Markovich, the Latverian woman who is to be his wife in his visions of the future. He finds that she’s conducting weather experiments on North Brother Island and he goes to see her. He tries to explain his visions, but Fruzsina wants nothing to do with Doom and his tyranny. Doom imprisoned her father, a journalist, when he questioned Doom’s rule. Doom lashes out that he should have killed her father.
Victorious and Silver Sable have also tracked Fruzsina, as have Blue Marvel and HERBIE. Everybody shows up and get into a big fight, with Fruzsina fleeing. Then Kang shows up from the future again and gives Doom a suit of awesome, world-conquering armor. The fight turns in Doom’s favor, and he even kills a surprise ninja, Amy Chen, from Silver Sable’s Wolf Pack, while also blowing up the HERBIE robot. In the end, Doom stands triumphant, ready to go back to Latveria and reclaim his throne by force!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue felt a little disjointed with so many characters and plot points coming together, but it still progressed the overall adventure nicely. I still love the randomness of Kang’s role in this comic. And Doom himself remains a mostly compelling protagonist. I would have liked to see him react a bit better to the other characters in the comic. He lashes out at Fruzsina, despite the story seemingly revolving around the two of them. And then he fights all the other characters equally. So I would have liked a bit more nuance, as we’ve been getting, but it’s still otherwise a good, solid comic going forward.
TL;DR: The pace and action pick up on a scattered but solid Doctor Doom.
Lois Lane #8
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Stop the presses! Renee Montoya fights with nunchucks! This instantly makes her 20% cooler.
The new skull-headed villain (possibly called Kiss of Death) strolls into the room after setting off her bomb, intent on shooting Lois Lane in the head. But Renee is able to stop her and the two get into a fight that leads back to the Kiss’ set up in the other room. Renee pulls out some nunchucks and the Kiss pulls out her own weapons and the two duel like ninja warriors! Kiss gets the upper hand, but Lois shows up and shoots her in the shoulder. The villain escapes while our heroes clean up and call the cops, with Superman showing up later to check on his wife (much to the enjoyment of half the Chicago PD).
Renee and Lois then head to the home of the previous cleaning lady to see what happened to her, then find her home raided. The woman is missing!
Meanwhile, Jessica Night slips out of the hospital and boards a plane to Chicago.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
An exciting action scene, with a lot across a double-page spread, leads off another solid story-moving issue. The new villain leaves an impression, and once again Rucka just works his magic with these characters. Lois and Renee are an awesome team, their banter perfect and their teamwork exceptional. They really lift each other up as characters in a story. And Rucka’s use of Superman is a lot of fun — though it’s slightly disappointing when Lois tells Clark to back off, because she and Renee can handle it. Granted, I’m fully confident they can handle it. But the idea of a villain going after Superman’s wife is one of those lines you don’t cross, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Superman strike out…but then, of course, this isn’t his comic. So I’m more than happy to watch Lois and Renee continue their investigation and keep the story going. I definitely want to see where this goes, and I have full confidence in Rucka to get us there.
TL;DR: Exciting action and some of the best character work around keep propelling this series forward in all the best ways.
Magnificent Ms. Marvel #12
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Minkyu Jung
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Man, do you ever just…want a comic to get a do-over so that it can tell the same story, but better? That’s this issue for me in a couple different scenes.
Bruno built a hovercar and he uses it to fly out to the middle of the Hudson River and save Kamala. He also brought a spare copy of her old uniform (even though I’m pretty sure her bangle is a family heirloom…I hope that gets explained). They rush off to save Josh from Stormranger, but Dr. Strange astral projects to tell Kamala that she’s needed back at the hospital to give her father a blood transfusion. Ms. Marvel decides it’s her duty to save Josh first, and they do, exploding Stormranger by overjuicing her system.
Kamala does eventually make it back to the hospital and gives her dad the needed blood, but Strange tells her that she was too late to prevent some cellular degeneration. He tells the family that the dad will be fine, but he’ll likely need to walk with a cane for the rest of his life. Kamala feels guilty.
We then jump to a week later with Kamala and Bruno meeting some friends for a movie. They’re kinda, sorta dating now, but Kamala doesn’t want anybody else to know. She wants it to just be between them for now.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I just don’t know sometimes. There is so much potential drama in this issue, and then the issue throws it all away. Kamala’s dad is dying in surgery! His gorram life is on the line! Can we really not wring any more drama out of Kamala and/or Bruno when she makes the active decision to go save Josh instead of saving her father? Is it really such a selfish decision to have her go save her dad instead? And why not dwell on her making that sort of decision? Why not have Bruno put his foot down and choose Kamala’s dad over Josh? He’s the one piloting the hovercar, after all. Then we find out that Kamala was too late for a full recovery, and her dad will have to walk with a cane. She feels guilty…but only gets a couple panels to express that guilt. We then cut to an entire week later to an entirely different plotline! We never see her dad waking up or in recovery. We never see Kamala feel guilty that she chose superheroics over saving her dad! That is an interesting dramatic moment and the issue avoids it almost entirely!
And just imagine how much more exciting it could have been had her parents still known she was a superhero! Let anyone else in her family carry the guilt that she chose the selfless superhero thing over helping her father! Or even let Bruno feel something! And speaking of Bruno, we’ve come so far in making Kamala and Bruno a couple, why does she need to insist that they keep it a secret from everybody else? What is so scary about just making them a couple already?
It’s not like the issue gives us anything worthwhile to replace all this potential drama. First she fought Mr. Hyde, the worst of Marvel’s D-list filler villains. Then she fought her suit, which could have been cool, except that she defeats it almost as an after thought. This wasn’t some epic battle worthy of all the build-up of that suit. They just quickly figure out a way to beat it, use that way to beat it, and then leave Josh. So we lost out on some great family drama for an impact-less fight.
Art is still great, though.
TL;DR: The new issue seems to go out of it’s way to avoid what could be some rich family drama, replacing it instead with a lackluster fight and some guest star narration.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Plates are spinning, conspiracies are building and there’s still no sign of Kate Pryde! Also, Jumbo Carnation is back for good!
Emma Frost invites Callisto to become the White Knight, an ambassador for her house in the Hellfire Trading Company. She has Jumbo Carnation design some white clothing for Callisto and the dress party is a little tense. But Callisto accepts (and is in touch with Masque, who is living on a golf course in Arizona with, I think, the rest of the Morlocks, thanks to Emma’s deep pockets). The Marauders return to Krakoa with a stop, first, at Island M to touch base with Christian (who is hot and heavy with Iceman). They find out from Callisto that Kate hasn’t shown up yet, so Bishop heads back to Madripoor to look for her while sending Pyro and the others on to Krakoa. This pleases the Hellfire Brats because they want their tiny spy to get footage on Krakoa, and they’re taking bids from the Russian ambassador for this spy access.
Bishop heads to Madripoor and begins his investigation into Kate’s disappearance. He fights through some guards, goes in disguise and gets on a Verendi ship. On Krakoa, Kate misses a Quiet Council meeting and Sebastian Shaw taunts Emma about Kate’s absence. And in Madripoor Bay, some fishermen pull Lockheed’s body out of the water.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
There are a ton of plates spinning in this series now, and while all of them are fun, the lot of them made for more of a scene-moving issue this time around. We check in with a lot of different stories, and even more added by Duggan. Personally, I would love to see how the Morlocks are reacting to Krakoa, and he touches upon that briefly here, and that’s good enough for me so far. The very idea that Masque has acquired a love of golf is just plain fun character development, even if it’s not entirely clear what’s happening. I guess the Morlocks have been moved to this above ground golf course instead of Krakoa for some reason?
But yeah, the issue is full of solid, enjoyable movements in the various stories — with the exception of what’s become of Kate Pryde. I doubt she’s really dead…I mean, it could happen, but seems really dark. Like, if that’s really a dead Lockheed on the final page, I would be shocked that Marvel and Duggan would go that far. Surely our heroes have figured out some way around this…but I guess we’ll have to keep waiting! For now, the stories we do get this issue are good. I’m loving Emma in Dawn of X, and Duggan continues to use her well. Callisto has potential to be cool. And Bishop will always be cool. I also enjoyed the little check-ins we got with Iceman, Pyro and Storm. The only characters I don’t really like are the Hellfire Brats, but that’s a personal taste thing.
If I’m being 100% honest, I’m a little disappointed that Marauders isn’t a story about this one lone pirate crew out on the open waves doing mutant pirate things. But Duggan is doing a fine job creating a larger, more interesting tapestry of Krakoan business interests. All he needs to do is pick one of my personal favorite characters to cameo and I’ll be all over this comic!
TL;DR: A larger, more complex tapestry than I ever expected is being woven in Marauders, and the creative team keeps all of those plates spinning like pros.
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!
Posted on February 8, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Ant-Man, Dawn of X, Doctor Doom, Kamala Khan, Lois Lane, Magnificent Ms. Marvel, Marauders, Ms. Marvel, Scott Lang. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.