Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/22/20
Welcome to my random page of comic book reviews! I do this every weekend, because I love comics and I love stories. This week I look into new issues of Batman, Marauders, New Mutants and more!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Wonder Twins #12, the wrap-up to my favorite comic series of the past year! This was such a wonderful series, and Mark Russell and Stephen Byrne stick the landing with class and heart.
Meanwhile, I checked out the first issue of the new Wolverine series but have decided not to do a review. It’s a triple-sized beast of a comic and it’s fine, but my review would mostly be summed up as, “Yeah, these are some fine Wolverine stories.” Nothing really blew the lid off the place in Wolverine #1, unless you count this possible reveal of a new Multiple Man costume! I feel like this should be bigger news across the comic book media landscape.
Comic Reviews: Batman #89, Legion of Super-Heroes #4, Marauders #8, New Mutants #7, Runaways #30 and Wonder Twins #12.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Carlo Pagulayan, Guillem March and Danny Miki
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
The speculator market is apparently going nuts about this new Punchline character, who technically makes her first on-page appearance in this issue. Give her a couple months and we’ll probably never hear from her again.
With Penguin dropped off at the nearest hospital, Batman goes out and takes down two of the other hired assassins, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth. He finds Mr. Teeth at Riddler’s HQ, and is surprised to find the Riddler missing and all of his death traps dismantled. Batman searches the computer and finds footage of the Designer confronting the Riddler, with the Riddler leaving Batman a code in the video feed. Batman deduces the code and unlocks the computer completely. This gives him Deathstroke’s location, and Lucius sends out the Batswarm of drones after Deathstroke.
Meanwhile, Harley Quinn helps Catwoman fight off the Designer’s goons, the two of them comparing notes on both the Designer problem and the growing Joker problem (that obviously wasn’t Joker’s actual corpse in the coffin last issue). They’re confronted by Merlyn and Cheshire, and take them down easily. They head to visit the Riddler as well and find Batman instead. Batman wants answers from Catwoman, but first she says, “I’m sorry” with tears in her eyes.
Double meanwhile, Joker’s new girlfriend/sidekick Punchline is spying on Harley and Catwoman. She checks in with Joker, who is standing in front of a board with the real names of all the Robins, and Batgirl.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Right off the bat, I just want to groan a little at this slowly evolving Joker story. I’ve never really cared for the Joker, so big, new Joker stories do not excitement. But is every Joker story now going to have to involve him going after the Robins and/or knowing everybody’s secret identity? The last big Joker story was Death of the Family, where he did exactly that. And there was a part of Tom King’s Bane storyline where Bane went after the Robins. Is it that impossible to come up with an original Joker/villain story in Batman these days? Adding a knock-off Harley Quinn called “Punchline” to the mix isn’t going to change anything.
All that being said, this was another solid issue with good character work, good action and a nicely growing mystery. I especially enjoyed Batman doing some real puzzle solving and detective work while in Riddler’s HQ. That was fun. I didn’t really need the extended origin stories for the new new rando villains Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth, but having Batman take them down is always fun. As was our first full look at the Designer, even if his design is a little too insane to become iconic.
I generally like where all of this is headed, and I really like Tynion’s handle on everybody. I especially like the small things he’s adding to the story, like all the new gadgets from Lucius Fox, and the little bit of detective work. And the art has been phenomenal. This is all a solid, enjoyable Batman story humming along. I just don’t care about the Joker.
TL;DR: It’s the small things that add up to a lot in another entertaining, ongoing Batman comic.
Legion of Super-Heroes #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ryan Sook and Mikel Janin
Inkers: Wade Von Grawbadger and Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Man, I’m chomping at the bit to find out the Legion’s big secret! Hurry up already!
So Superboy finally sits down to take the orientation, which involves watching/experiencing the recruitment of the three Legion founders: Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy. They were all three pretty special on their home planets and were recruited to join the United Planets Youth Council. Saturn Girl wrote an essay about how the United Planets was failing. Lightning Lad and his sister (mostly his sister) stood up to the Science Police to help refugees, then his sister refused the joint invitation and Lightning Lad joined without her. Cosmic Boy was a star athlete. On their way to the United Planets, they are greeted by the President, R.J. Brande, and she explains that she recruited them because she needs more than just a Youth Council to help solve the galaxy’s problems. But then their ship is attacked by pirates and the Legionnaires prepare to fight!
Superboy is pulled out of the orientation because there’s an emergency. He finds the Legionnaires arguing among themselves because they really don’t know what exactly to do now that Aquaman’s Trident has been stolen. Then the Science Police show up and put the Legion on lockdown.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Oy, how annoying that we didn’t get answers at the end of this issue! I want answers! I’m ready for answers! Bendis has been teasing these answers so much that I can’t stand it! And this issue is all about starting to give us those answers, but I want more right now! I hope it’s something good. I am really liking the off-kilter take on the Legion, the idea that they’re less formal than previous Legions. I love the idea that this is a bunch of kids who don’t really know what they’re doing, but they’re determined to do it anyway and make it legit. Now we just need to find out how that happened! I enjoyed the peeks at the three founding members we got in this issue. It helps to establish their characters more than what we’d previously seen, for Lightning Lad especially. I don’t think we learned anything particularly new or interesting about Saturn Girl or Cosmic Boy, but Lightning Lad now has a lot of interesting backstory to work with. And the ongoing conflict with the United Planets is good stuff. I’m just ready for some real revelations already!
TL;DR: Bendis has set this series up for some fascinating answers, but we don’t get them quite yet. That’s a little frustrating, but overall the issue is enjoyable.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Mysteries and alliances deepen in probably my favorite of the Dawn of X comics.
Emma and Christian Frost are taking some mutant children on a tour of the various plant facilities, but they are interrupted by a psychic call from Bishop: he’s found Kate Pryde’s body floating in the water. Emma and Iceman had out to join him and Iceman goes full Omega Mutant to frostbite the guards as they recover Bishop and Kate’s body. Emma then heads out to tell Storm personally, and Storm is obviously upset and angry. But the two soon embrace and grieve together in a touching moment.
Meanwhile, the Black welcome the Fenris Twins as their new Black Knights. And in Madripoor, a fisher girl and her dad are nursing Lockheed back to life.
Also, the Sinister gossip column reveals that obscure villain Stinger is the first mutant on Krakoa to get pregnant! She’s so obscure that I hadn’t even heard of her! But fun!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I always love it when Iceman gets to be a badass. He’s my favorite of the mainstream X-Men and Duggan has been using him really well. So that was an awesome action scene! Then we get a touching character scene between Storm and Emma Frost! The writing in this issue is really top notch. Duggan is doing a great job establishing and then using his character. If I had any gripe, I think this series could stand to do a little more bonding as a team. Mostly, everybody seems to be operating independently. I would like a little more containment of the actual Marauders team/concept. But even without that, this is a fine series with a lot of great character moments. And Duggan is keeping the villains interesting and occupied as well. I’m not sure how Sebastian Shaw thinks he’s going to get away with what he did, but it will be rewarding to see him fall.
TL;DR: Some truly stellar scenes, both action and emotional, make for another standout issue of Marauders.
New Mutants #7
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Rod Reis
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
This was a fun one!
The previous issue of this story left off with the ship getting blown up, so Sunspot recaps how they saved the Gen-Xers in space, got taken captive and tortured, got rescued by Deathbird and then took control of the bad guys’ ship. Dani then interrupts the recap to yell at Bobby for spoiling the whole issue! Bobby points out that he was recapping the previous issue, and Dani tells him that the previous issue of New Mutants was the Armor/Boom Boom storyline on Earth. Bobby is shocked to learn that there are other New Mutants stories that don’t involve him!
At any rate, all of that actually happened, and now the New Mutants have one of the bad guys prisoner and he reveals that they are walking into a trap, that some of the Imperial Guard are trying to stop Xandra from taking the throne. So the New Mutants arrive back at the palace and spring the trap and get into a big fight, which Xandra stops by being all queenly. The punishment for Oracle for staging this betrayal is to stay by Xandra’s side and teach her how to be a solider. So the day is saved and the New Mutants plant their flower, so now there’s instant teleportation between Chandilar and Krakoa, so they throw a big party. I think Wolfsbane flirts with Xandra, but it’s a really weird little scene. Hickman writes Wolfsbane as very childish and into licking things.
In the end, Bobby and Sam have a heart-to-heart about Sam staying with his wife and child on Chandilar, and perhaps Bobby staying as well, so they can go on more space adventures. Bobby tells Sam that he’s already bought the building.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I’ve never been a big Sunspot fan, but Hickman is really winning me over with his comedic take on the character. That bit about him recapping the previous issue, even though he wasn’t in the previous issue, was a really fun bit! And it moved the story along nicely! We jump right to the conclusion before this story wears out its welcome, and it’s a really fun conclusion. We got a lot of good action and some strong character moments, and that’s key to what I enjoy in comics. And all of it is written with this fun nature at the heart, and Hickman seems to really enjoy letting his hair down and having fun. I’m not entirely sure what he’s doing with Wolfsbane, though…
Regardless, I like what he’s doing with Sunspot and Cannonball, and the two of them get a really good, really touching scene at the end. So that was neat. And I like what Hickman might be building with Xandra. I liked her in the Rogue and Gambit series, and I’d love to see her have an actual, ongoing storyline as a new leader for the Shi’ar. If she wants to flirt with Wolfsbane, or just become besties, I’m good with that too! I especially like that Hickman kept this story short and sweet, overall.
TL;DR: Jonathan Hickman has a lot of fun breaking the fourth wall in this issue, and it makes for a short and sweet wrap-up to an already entertaining story.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Andres Genolet
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Speaking of stories that could have benefited from being short and sweet…
When Doc Justice’s reality TV show plans fall through, he informs the team that former member Ashley Pearson (SPF) is an eco-terrorist who destroys utility grids, and she’s going to attack tonight! While the team rush off, Gert hacks into the mainframe and discovers Doc’s sinister secret: the lives and deaths of the J-Team have all been carefully orchestrated to garner public interest/sympathy. As Matthew explains, it’s not enough to do good in LA to be a hero, you’ve also got to maintain public interest. So when a team member’s Q-rating sinks, Doc Justice will kill them off on a mission to garner sympathy and boost the team’s profile for a bit. And, obviously, he’s planned the same thing for the Runaways! Gert urges Matthew, himself a former team member, to help her!
Meanwhile, at a solar power grid, the Runaways spread out to find Ashley. Karolina finds her first and Doc orders her to strike with full blast! Though, clearly, something is not quite right…
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I don’t know what has taken so long with this story, but man is it wearing out its welcome. There’s still time for there to be a deeper problem, but right now this all seems to be surface-level evil, and that sort of evil shouldn’t take this long to uncover. If Rowell is going to wrap up all of this Doc Justice stuff within a single story, introducing him, uncovering his secret and then taking him down, it didn’t have to be this long. The writing is still super fun and the art is great, but so much of this feels like it could have been wrapped up quicker. The big secret that Doc Justice is hiding isn’t even all that shocking. Seems par for the course in terms of this type of villain plot. I’ll grant you that it feels unique to Los Angeles, and pretty new, but I don’t think we needed this many issues of Gert slowly but surely drawing out the truth. Maybe if Doc Justice and the J-Team had some actual history in the Marvel Universe, but they will probably only ever exist in this single story. I think Doc Justice could be a fun ongoing nemesis for the Runaways, if he lives through this story. But this issue, specifically, feels more and more like the story is spinning its wheels while it drip feeds the obvious problem.
TL;DR: The overall quality of this issue is up to Runaways’ usual standards, but the story has worn out its welcome as it spins its wheels with its reveals.
Wonder Twins #12
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
This is it! Wonder Twins has been, probably, my favorite comic in a long time. It’s everything I could have possibly wanted from a Wonder Twins comic, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time now. Mark Russell and Stephen Byrne delivered something truly greater than the sum of its parts, and those individual parts were already great!
After saving Filo and Polly Math and defeating Colonel ’86, the Wonder Twins are kind of bummed at how it feels like the world is falling apart. They had to break the law in order to do good. Small things, like teacher salaries and school funding, are really depressing. What’s the point of it all? Things get especially bad when Superman and the Justice League reveal that they know all about what the Wonder Twins have done. Zan and Jayna try to argue that what they did saved the world, but the League retorts that what they did broke the rules, and the ends don’t justify the means. The Wonder Twins leave in a huff.
The Twins are later confronted by Cell Phone Sylvia, who has been sent by Lex Luthor to recover her stolen cell phone. She’s joined by the Ringmaster and the Supervisor (who doubles as the warden of Luthor’s private prison/call center). The villains capture our heroes, and not even a last minute rescue attempt by Gleek is successful! But then the Supervisor reveals herself to be the Scrambler, who helps free the Wonder Twins and turn the tables! They send the bad guys to the Phantom Zone (with the promise to save them eventually).
The Twins later sit down with the Scrambler, in the body of the Ringmaster, and he tells them to be careful what boxes you let other people put you inside, because you may never get out again. The Twins then go back to the Hall of Justice to face their punishment, but Superman and the League reveal that they have not only found the Maths (the World’s Greatest Detective figured out they were hiding in the Twins’ apartment), but that they agree that the Twins were right: not every problem can be solved with violence. So the League builds a new facility to focus on solving threats with innovation and knowledge, and they put the Wonder Twins and the Maths in charge!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
In the end, the lesson of the Wonder Twins is that you should always give optimism a try in a world that feels so cynical. That it’s in people you can put your trust. I think that’s a good message to close out on, for a series full of great messages. I think that’s what I loved most about Wonder Twins: how Russell used these characters to make larger points about larger themes. That’s what great art does. That’s what great fiction does. Anybody can write a story about Spider-Man punching Doctor Doom. But Russell wrote a story about Zan of the Wonder Twins realizing that just because a first date didn’t work out doesn’t mean he’s less of a person, or that he has to cut the other person out of his life entirely. Russell wrote a story where Jayna of the Wonder Twins was just about ready to write off the planet Earth as a cynically, corrupt place, only for her personal heroes to prove her wrong and give her something to believe in again.
Of course, there were also fisticuffs. And funny uses of super-powers.
This was a great issue, though perhaps not the best of the series. Nor does it have the strongest message. But this was a great, enjoyable issue nonetheless. It presents a very solid, understandable thesis statement for Wonder Twins as a whole, how Zan and especially Jayna have come up against a seemingly endless supply of the cynical realities of the world. Russell’s use of Lex Luthor as the ultimate in, not just white collar crime, but also corrupt things that aren’t illegal at all, was brilliant. He wrote an amazing Luthor, and I loved how he wasn’t the antagonist of the series, he was just a part of the corrupt system.
The heart of the series, obviously, was the Wonder Twins themselves.
Russell did such an amazing job fleshing out these characters. Jayna as the intellectual, cynical one and Zan as the goofy, silly one, but both of them earnest and good-hearted. They worked wonderfully as a team, complimenting one another, and they work wonderfully in this issue. Especially alongside the fun side characters Russell created, like the Scrambler. That fight scene against the villains was just plain fun, with twists and a funny use of their powers.
Though hopefully the Scrambler sticks around to put everybody back in their proper bodies…otherwise Russell went and created an existential nightmare of a character.
And, of course, one cannot discount the work of artist Stephen Byrne. This was a truly standout book for the artwork. I’ve always praised the use of purple in this comic, and it lasts all through to the end. It’s such a bright, popping use of the color, as if no other superhero has ever worn this exact shade of cool, chill purple. And the art is detailed, cute and just soft enough to not make this too hard of a comic.
I loved this series from beginning to end. It’s like a dream come true. I would love to get more, but perhaps going out on top is the best way to say goodbye.
TL;DR: This perfect series has a perfect final issue as the creators stick the landing with grace and thematic dignity.
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 22, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Legion of Superheroes, Marauders, New Mutants, Runaways, Superboy, Wonder Twins. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.