Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/27/20

The coronavirus is getting worse here in America, but comics are still coming out! So let’s keep my mind occupied while I continue to hole up in this increasingly small apartment. Thankfully, I’ve got the likes of Batman and Thor to keep me company this week.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #50, a fun and exciting climax that lives up to all of the build-up. Lots of cool moments in this one.

I’ve never seen a Zord posed like that!

Meanwhile, life continues on as normal. I still haven’t read Money Shot by Tim Seeley, but I promise I will. Tim, if you’re reading this, I promise to read your comic. I’ve been enjoying The Last of Us Part II. It’s a great game so far. I recently finished all of My Hero Academia. That was a trip! Very good anime. And the comic book industry is going through a bit #MeToo movement, which I fully support. Believe the victims. Ditch the perpetrators.

Comic Reviews: Batman #93, Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #2, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #50 and Thor #5.

Batman #93

Batman #93
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Guillem March and Javier Fernandez
Colorists: Tomeu Morey and David Baron
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

This it, folks! Who is the Designer? What’s he been up to this whole time? What is Joker War?! Find out inside!

The Designer’s plans have reached a peak as he confronts Batman in Bruce Wayne’s office. The two of them pull out swords and duel, as Batman lists off everything he’s realized about the Designer’s original villain ideas and the current plan. This all leads to the reveal that he’s not actually fighting the Designer, not really. It’s merely the Designer’s corpse, dressed up and puppeted by the true mastermind: Joker!

In quick succession, a bunch of things happen. Punchline slashes Harley Quinn’s neck and dumps her in the sewer. Catwoman reveals that all the Wayne Foundation money is hidden overseas in those fancy rich people accounts, and when she tries to get the money switched to her account, she’s betrayed by the Underbroker, who is also working for the Joker. Punchline shoots Catwoman and Bruce Wayne’s billions go to the Joker. And Slade reveals that he’s been working with the Joker this whole time, stabbing a sword through Batman’s thigh. It’s not a fatal injury, but it should keep him out of commission while the Joker War begins!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a nice surprise reveal. I did not see it coming and I am pleased. Granted, I don’t care about the Joker, so the reveal that he’s the mastermind instead of an actual Designer doesn’t excite me all that much on a personal level…but again, great reveal, great twist and a very, very cool finale for the Designer story arc. And I can also appreciate the idea that the Joker is finally, once again, pulling off insane, multi-stage capers. He’s not just violent and psychotic. He’s got a plan and he executes it flawlessly. And Tynion finds a lot of great ways to make it all work for the characters themselves. The Joker rejected the Designer’s original ideas for very Joker reasons, and now he’s twisting them to his own level. It all works for me. It all comes together nicely and really puts Batman and his allies on the back foot. So all of this is pretty masterful. Tynion really nailed all the set up, all the build-up, and now the prestige.

TL;DR: A very well-crafted, well-executed story reaches the prestige with just the right amount of surprise, suspense and anticipation for what comes next.

Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #2

Harley Quinn and The Birds of Prey #2
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: John J. Hill

So OK, basically, just go with it. Continuity doesn’t matter. A Birds of Prey movie came out earlier this year. We’re all just going to have to roll with it. Nothing matters. Everything is everything.

The issue opens not where it left off but with all of the movie Birds of Prey gathered at a local diner having breakfast. Black Canary has joined them with no explanation. Renee Montoya wants Harley to leave town and is quite angry about it all, eventually calling in a bunch of cops to arrest Harley and drag her to the train herself. But Harley convinces them to let her use the bathroom and calls on Atlee to come save her (Atlee being a Conner/Palmiotti creation). Harley leaves behind addresses to the Joker’s various hideouts, where Montoya and the Birds stage a series of raids. The Joker escapes with his new gal pal, the former Harley Sinn, another Conner/Palmiotti creation. Sinn is able to sneak away while Joker holds off the Birds, eventually getting himself blown up by his own grenade. After some hijinks, he’s taken to Arkham.

Meanwhile, Harley and Atlee go deep underground and break into Joker’s fabled vault. They have a bit of a heart-to-heart about how all of this is a trigger for Harley, then eventually steal everything in the vault and ditch said loot in an old stable…which is apparently within walking distance of Wayne Manor, where Harley goes to get out of the rain.

Word starts to spread in Arkham that Joker’s vault has been burglarized and all of the other villains are angry because they were storing stuff in that vault as well. They decide to gang up on Joker, but he reveals that he knows Harley is behind the break-in.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This is a weird, mildly-entertaining comic that gets to boast some of the best art in the business. This is a weird mix of movie continuity, comics continuity, no continuity, and then Conner and Palmiotti using a bunch of their favorite OCs. And the Joker says “shit” a lot. It doesn’t really work as a strong whole, and the Black Label aspect doesn’t really add anything to the comic. But it’s largely fine. If you can ignore every weird bit of this or that. Like Black Canary just being there all of a sudden, despite adding nothing to the comic. Or how Huntress’ skin is now really, really light. Or how Cassandra Cain can just swing by Barbara Gordon’s place to get a spare Batgirl costume for this caper, or how Joker knows who Cassandra Cain is…does anybody remember what Cassandra Cain’s current comics continuity even is? Because she looks and acts like movie Cassandra, only she’s mute, and is also partially Batgirl, but not really. And the Birds of Prey work hand-in-hand with Renee Montoya and the police? The weird little inconsistencies just kept piling up for me, tugging me out of the story.

This was the movie wrap party

The writing is fine, and the art is obviously amazing. The overall plot also seems fine, though Harley doesn’t make any progress on her efforts to get back at the criminals who burned down her hotel and beat up Tony — unless stealing from the Joker’s vault is part of that plan. Harley is written well; I’ve always liked their Harley. I’m a little disappointed that Harley spends the entire time with a random Atlee cameo instead of with the Birds of Prey. That seems like a weird decision. This means there’s no real, meaningful interaction between any of the supposed main characters. Harley gets all her meaty dialogue with the cipher that is Atlee, while the Birds just go about their business as usual. I don’t care for how crude Conner and Palmiotti write the Joker, and I don’t like how they offer up Harley Sinn as a new punching bag or him. Also, it seems weird that this comic would feature a new female sidekick for the Joker right as DC is pushing Punchline really hard. But again, continuity doesn’t matter.

TL;DR: A generally fine comic with some gorgeous artwork is brought down by so many weird continuity inconsistencies. They just smash comic and movie continuities together to tell a story that doesn’t feel all that interesting.

Power Rangers #50

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #50
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Colorist: Walter Baiamonte with assistance from Katia Ranalli
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

They made it to 50 issues! And there’s a big surprise ending! Though it’s not as exciting as I had hoped it would be.

The Power Rangers and the Omega Rangers face off against Kiya and her forces. Aiesha, Rocky and Adam take on Dayne and use their newness as unpredictability, hitting him with attacks he can’t see coming. Tommy summons the White Tigerzord, and Jason combines that with his Red Omega Zord, creating the Red Tiger Zord to take down Garrison and his Blue Omega Zord. When they can’t handle the various small Anointed zipping around, the Ranger Slayer brings in some Solar Rangers to sever their connection to the Morphin Grid and stop them for good. Then Trini takes on Kiya and kicks her butt!

Afterwards, everything gets back to normal. Kiya and Garrison are locked up. The Omega Rangers are going to stay out in space. The various Annointed have been offered the chance to either return home or stay on Safehaven and start a new life. Dayne secretly freed Lord Zedd, who returns to his moon palace. And when the Power Rangers return to Earth, a new energy meteor crashes outside the Command Center. It’s Drakkon and he warns that, “They’re coming.”

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Let me get this out of the way first: I am annoyed that Drakkon is the big return at the end. This was hyped up for weeks/months in advance, that issue #50 would end with a big, surprise return. And it’s just Drakkon. The one breakout character that these comics have, a character who was last seen only a year or so ago in the last big storyline. It’s not surprising. It’s not exciting. There are a ton of characters in Power Rangers lore who could have shown up. But Drakkon is their moneymaker, I guess. So whatever.

(For my money, I would have liked to have seen a time-traveling Aisha. Parrott and Sina Grace have been doing a lot to really establish Aisha as someone with a strong personality; she’s someone who really stands out. And in the show, she decided to stay behind in time and give her power to Tanya. So what became of that Aisha after being stuck in the past? (Apparently, she became involved in something called Power Rangers Hyperforce, which is a tabletop RPG, and features a Cerberus Ranger, so I’m all about that…but I digress). That could have been a neat surprise and a way to grow Aisha’s character in this comic. But they just had to go with Drakkon…)

It’s on like Donkey Kong!

Thankfully, the rest of the issue before the final page surprise is quite excellent! Parrott has been building to this fight for months, and it’s too bad the momentum had to stall because of the virus. But the fight is here and it’s great! Parrott uses all of the individual characters in ways that actually matter to them, so it’s not just a regular fight. He’s got the Stone Canyon trio using their inexperience and novice scrambling to confuse and defeat Dayne. He’s got Tommy and Jason squashing their beef in the coolest way possible, by creating a brand new Zord creation to win the day! And then you’ve got Trini facing off against Kiya. I get the feeling that if I could remember more of each specific issue, and if this story wasn’t criss-crossed between two different comics, there was a lot of Trini/Kiya friendship-building. As it stands, it’s an awesome fight and an awesome win for a Ranger who isn’t Jason or Tommy.

The only real hiccup this issue is the arrival of the Solar Rangers. It’s over very quickly, and the two who show up aren’t really made very clear in the artwork.

Can you tell what’s happening here or who just showed up?

Their arrival just doesn’t work, sadly. I get that their story was indeed a part of the continuity of this specific comic book series…but I think everyone agrees that that weird jaunt into space was largely forgettable. I know I stopped reading. But hey, kudos to Parrott for at least using them a little bit in this big issue. No harm, no foul.

TL;DR: The awesome climax that has been building for months lives up to the energy and hype. Great use of the characters and the history.

Thor #5

Thor #5
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

And so we welcome back Thor! Gone these many months, let’s pick up where we left off.

After Sif and Bill share a soft moment on Asgard, we pick up with Thor and Galactus fighting against the Black Winter. It sucks them both into itself and taunts Thor about his upcoming death. The Black Winter is quite chatty as it creates illusions of all of Thor’s greatest enemies to knock him around, taunting Thor with the idea that something is broken in time and things are being altered. Thor gives the Black Winter a good, old God-Blast and frees both him and Galactus, and they demand it show itself.

The Black Winter then takes the form of a Dark Thor, which is what Galactus saw when he looked into the winter and saw his end. Then the Black Winter explains that he’s not here to swallow the universe, as Galactus claimed. Instead, he has come to collect the one who got away: Galactus, the Black Winter’s herald!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I am disappointed with all of these Black Winter reveals. But the issue itself is still strongly written, and the artwork is gorgeous. So really it’s all on me. I don’t like that the Black Winter is some kind of preening, monologuing villain. And bringing Thor into some mindscape and tossing a bunch of classic villains at him for a punch or two doesn’t really accomplish much at all. It’s just gives the comic something to do while the Black Winter preens. I haven’t read everything Donny Cates has done, but this sort of pompous, wordy villain is exactly what I expect Knull is going to be. And it reminds me of Carnage from Absolute Carnage a couple months ago. I just don’t like it as the true nature of the Black Winter. We were led to believe this was the end of the universe. And while we now know Galactus was lying, it’s a huge letdown that the Black Winter is just some new snotty cosmic entity that thinks he can boss Galactus around and loves to hear himself talk.

The end of the universe is a real Chatty Cathy

Look, Galactus is the OG. He was being amazing before many of us were born. He’ll likely continue being amazing long after we’re gone. It’s probably impossible to even count up all the times some new writer has come along to try to jobber Galactus to make their new cosmic bad guy seem impressive. What’s that? Galactus is herald to the Black Winter? Yawn. Ain’t nobody going to care about the latest in a long line of attempts to rewrite Galactus’ backstory to make your new guy more impressive. It has never worked in the past. It doesn’t work here in this issue. So yeah, I’m rather disappointed in these reveals about the Black Winter. But the overall issue still looks gorgeous, with strong, definitive, striking artwork. And Cates writes it all well, making it feel big and important. I just don’t care for this sudden swerve.

TL;DR: Big reveals abound in this issue, but they do nothing for me. The issue looks great and is well-written, so your interests may vary.


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 June 27, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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