Hench-Sized Comic Reviews – 3/7/20

Ugh, what a crummy week. I came down with a cold out of nowhere and just wasn’t feeling very jazzercised to read through a stack of comics. I did make it through some, like Batman, Ms. Marvel and even Marauders! But my thoughts on this week’s comics are probably muddled from the cold.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Doctor Doom #6 because it’s an issue where Doctor Doom and Kang the Conqueror, both in full regalia, go on a cross-country road trip and shoot the breeze about a lot of fun topics.

Doom Kang Dads 02

That’s comics!

Meanwhile, I finally read Spider-Man: Life Story and it was good. I wasn’t blown away, but the story had a lot of really good ideas, and it handled the main plot of Peter Parker aging really well. Solid idea, solid execution, but nothing that’s going to really stick with me in the long run.

Also, I’m only now learning I missed out on Strange Adventures #1! Ugh. I wasn’t even paying attention to when it actually came out. I’ll have to grab it for next week.

Comic Reviews: Batman #90, Doctor Doom #6, Lois Lane #9, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13 and Marauders #9.


Batman #90

Batman #90
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Claytown Cowles

And so the plot thickens!

Catwoman tells Batman all about the first encounter with the Designer. Back in the day, he invited Catwoman, Joker, Penguin and Riddler to his secret hideout and told them his origin story: he was also a master criminal up against a master detective, always having his plans thwarted. Then he locked himself in a room for a year and came up with the plan to end all plans, and that succeeded in defeating his detective and turning him into an urban legend. Now he wants to offer the same to these four, to up their games to unimaginable levels. The Designer sits down with them one by one, coming up with ultimate master plans for each of them.

But after sitting with the Joker, the Designer comes out of the room and orders his men to kill them all! Catwoman surmises that the Designer was able to see the sort of monster the Joker would become, so he turned against them all. The Joker then sneaks up behind the Designer and shoots him in the head. The four villains burn all the bodies and the HQ before heading back to Gotham. Catwoman feels like something changed in the Joker that night…

Now, in the present day, it seems the Designer has returned and has started enacting all those master plans he came up with. And what was the master plan for the thief Catwoman? To steal the wealth of Wayne Enterprises!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Right off the bat, I’m torn about the origins of the Designer. On the one hand, I don’t like the retcon that there was some silly, elaborately costumed, master villain that existed in Gotham prior to Batman’s classic Rogues. On the other hand, I rather like his story in this issue. I think this was a clever use of the Designer. I even really liked how the Joker was used in this issue! And I rarely like the Joker’s antics! But I would say this was a solid secret for Catwoman to be keeping, and a solid set up for future Batman stories. I really like the idea of this master criminal from the past offering to level up these four classic rogues back at the start of their careers. I like seeing the villains excited about this. Then I really like the idea that the Designer assessed the early career Joker and was able to really see deep into the Clown Prince of Crime and realize just what he was dealing with, and that freaked him out hard.

Designer Joker 01

A clown walks into a bar…

It’s a neat idea and uses the Joker well, along with the time period. This was, obviously, before Joker was the homicidal maniac he would become. I really like how Tynion wound all of that together. It provides a nice, solid foundation for the present day story, and now Catwoman’s secret part of it has made it even more personal for Bruce! I did not know what to expect with this whole Designer storyline, but Tynion lays most of his cards on the table in this issue, and I really like all these new details. The Designer has not yet won me over individually, but I like what we got for the classic villains, and how that will impact the story going forward. This is shaping up to be a solid Batman story.

TL;DR: Secrets are revealed and they are rather interesting and exciting!


Doctor Doom #6

Doctor Doom #6
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Guru-eFX
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

This has been a really fun series! Cantwell is winning based on fun ideas alone.

Doctor Doom and Kang, both in full armor, travel across Texas to keep a low profile. They discuss a variety of things, like their potential blood relation, how much they dislike one another and how to stop the black hole on the moon. Doom figures a mass of negative energy should do the trick. They are ambushed by Paladin and The Orb, but take them both out. Then Doom gets a delivery he called for: an Ultimate Nullifier, that I guess some agency simply had in a briefcase? Kang tries to betray him to get the Nullifier, but Doom defeats Kang. He then heads on to Mexico to get a ride back to Latveria. He calls up Reed Richards to tell him to use Blue Marvel to create the negative energy needed to stop the black hole.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue is just plain fun. I didn’t go into detail in my synopsis, but Doom and Kang travel through Texas in a box car. Like hobos. And they’re in full costume and armor. It’s great! They sit and are both really grumpy, but they try to make small talk about the sorts of things these characters would make small talk about. Is Kang the father of Reed Richards? Is Doom the great grandfather of Kang? Given what they know of alternate futures, when will they kill the other? How does one solve a problem like the blackhole on the moon? It’s just plain fun. It’s the sort of fun you normally don’t get to see. But Cantwell and Marvel have come up with this nifty, grounded take on a Doctor Doom comic, and he’s clearly having fun with it.

Doom Kang Dads 01

Neither of them can conjure better food than a rat?

This is a more low key issue, overall. As much as I enjoyed the casual conversation, I feel like it could have gone deeper. The fight against Paladin and The Orb was fun, but I would have gladly traded that in for Doom and Kang having a deeper, more introspective conversation. Or even just more of them shooting the breeze about the most popular fan theories about them. And then the issue ends with Doom using a payphone from Chihuahua, Mexico to call Reed Richards and call him an idiot for not figuring out that Blue Marvel could be used to close the blackhole.

That’s just good comics.

TL;DR: Christopher Cantwell finds new, enjoyable depths to explore in his grounded Doctor Doom comic.


Lois Lane #9

Lois Lane #9
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Simon Bowland

The end is nigh! I can’t wait to see the big climax Rucka has in store.

Lois dispatches Renee to Gotham City to turn on the Bat-Signal and get Batman to do his detective magic on Kiss of Death. He does, but he’s none too pleased with being used like that. He found out that Kiss of Death has occult origins. Lois, meanwhile, visits the Department of Homeland Security to get their help in tracking down her former cleaning lady, whose family was outed as illegal immigrants by Kiss of Death. Lois finds Alejandra in a detention center, and she and Renee get an up close look at the poor treatment of illegal immigrants these days. Lois then sends Renee back to Chicago, where she meets up with Jessica Midnight, who has been getting help from her nun friend. Lois and Renee have recruited Midnight, a former witch, to help them catch Kiss of Death.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue was good, but really felt more like just an issue to move the story along. Rucka hinted at some interesting ideas — like a lot of superheroes being undocumented immigrants — but he didn’t push through hard enough. He just touched on that idea, paid it lip service, and moved on. I think that would be an interesting idea for Lois Lane to approach. The scene of Lois and Renee visiting Alejandra in the detention center is a powerful scene, but it also felt a little out of place. Like, what did they go there for? Just to have that scene in the issue? At least at this point, they don’t do anything to help Alejandro and her family. She really does just feel like collateral in the battle against Kiss of Death. I’m hoping Rucka goes further with this storyline by the end, really wrapping all of this together into a strong statement about the current treatment of illegal immigrants. This seems like the perfect comic to explore that story.

Lois Renee Talk 05

Really makes you think

The rest of the issue is more fun character work. I liked Renee teasing Batman, using the power of the name ‘Lois Lane’ to get away with it. But that scene also felt too cute. Batman points out that Lois has many other ways to get this information, and I have to agree with him. It’s a cute scene, but Lois doesn’t need to be cute, not at this moment. Plus, consider the logistics. It may have only taken Batman an hour to get the info on Kiss of Death, but Renee had to fly out to Gotham City, turn on the Bat Signal and then eventually fly back to Lois. Then they fly to the detention center. These may be cute scenes, but they are in defiance of the very grounded nature of this comic. And as strong as these scenes are for character moments, they really do just move the story along without much flair. There’s an extended scene where Jessica Midnight gets a haircut, for example.

TL;DR: On a whole, the issue does little more than move the story along, but the individual character bits and pieces are fun.


Ms. Marvel #13

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Joey Vazquez
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Everybody welcome the new superhero Amulet! He seems cool, but that name is painfully generic. How many super beings out there use an amulet?

Kamala and her friends visit the county fair just to have a fun day out. Her dad is struggling with his new injury and insists upon a 9 p.m. curfew. And Bruno gets mad when Kamala wants to keep their burgeoning relationship a secret, so he takes off. That leaves Kamala, Zoe and Nakia to just go out and have fun, which is something Kamala says she desperately needs. But when they visit a fortune teller, a demons erupts from her dollar store crystal ball.

So Kamala suits up and starts saving people from smoke demons. She’s joined by new superhero Amulet, and together they protect the people and then destroy the crystal ball. Zoe then rushes Kamala home to make curfew. Her father then tells her that he’s had a change of heart and he shouldn’t be so strict — how does a 9:30 curfew sound?

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue perfectly encapsulates my problems with series as a whole. This issue is perfectly fine. It’s even pleasant! There’s an extended sequence where Kamala just hangs out with her friends at the fair. It’s really nice, and exactly the sort of real person-based storytelling I like. But there’s just something…not quite sticking for me. There’s just some spark of magic that I’m not feeling. It’s there. I can see it. I just can’t feel it. I like the cute joke of Kamala’s dad pushing the curfew back half an hour after Kamala races home. I like the joy Kamala feels in riding the bumper cars with her friends, and then having that moment joylessly ended by a fair employee just doing his job. It all read great, but it’s just missing that spark. As if the Ms. Marvel comic book is just going through the motions.

Amulet seems like a cool guy, at least.

Amulet Debut 01

Boss grandma!

But his introduction also feels like going through the motions. A nondescript, random threat arrives to ruin Kamala’s day at the fair, and then this new superhero jumps in to help. He and Ms. Marvel make friendly, superhero small talk as they figure out the problem and save the day. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s a bit dispassionate. Amulet’s design is really cool, at least. And the few tidbits we get about his backstory/life sound really interesting. I’m all for giving Kamala more superhero friends, especially ones confined to her own series.

I could just use more heart.

TL;DR: A new superhero is introduced in a pleasant little issue. There is a lot to like here, even if I’m not feeling it as fully as I would like.


Marauders #9

Marauders #9
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I am definitely still reading some Dawn of X comics.

Emma Frost has discovered Yellowjacket hiding inside Pyro, so she’s faking him out with telepathic projections so that he doesn’t see what’s really going on around him. The Cuckoos help out and keep up the charade while Magneto pulls the submarine out of Pyro and throws it back across the ocean. Emma Frost then takes Pyro telepathically to the Hellfire Brats meeting and warns them all against interfering with her again.

Meanwhile, the Five seem unable to resurrect Kate, which really saddens Emma. At least Lockheed seems to be on his way back home!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue felt a little off to me, largely because of how it started out. We open with Pyro living a fantasy with Jean Grey and a hot rod, but that turns out to be a mental implant from Emma? But also, apparently, Emma is using a stage with mannequins? But maybe that’s just what she’s mentally projecting into Bishop’s mind? And she’s freezing cold, for some reason? The issue seems to stumble in getting its point across in the various layers of mental projection at the start. Plus the X-Men solve the project of Yellowjacket pretty swiftly. It makes perfect sense that telepaths would pick him up right away, but it was such a clever idea that I would have hoped Duggan had more planned for it. Instead, it’s over before Yellowjacket even really accomplishes anything. And then the issue ends with apparently one of several failed attempts to resurrect Kate. I would have thought this would have been a bigger deal, but instead we come in at the middle? That’s a shame. I would have liked to have seen the Resurrection Protocols used a bit more, and this would have been a perfect opportunity.

Also, this isn’t a major gripe, but this comic is definitely missing the energy that Kate Pryde brought. Her death hasn’t been worth it — so far.

TL;DR: A couple of confusing passages had me stumbling off the top, while the back end didn’t thrill me either. Still generally good overall.

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 March 7, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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