Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/11/20

Welcome back to actual comic book reviews, everybody! I’ve actually got some reviews for you this week, so I’m pleased! We’ve got new issues of Batman, Lost on Planet Earth and even the return of Strange Academy! Wild!

Comic Book of the Week goes to the latest issue of Grant Morrison’s extremely wacky The Green Lantern! This issue is a bit easier to understand than some previous issues have been, and I like that. My brain no does crazy good.

Flury of blows!

Meanwhile, I finally finished reading the first volume of Tim Seeley’s Money Shot from Vault Comics and I really enjoyed it! Great art, fun concept and an all around good time. Highly recommended. Other than that, my next read is the big, hard cover first volume of Ms. Marvel I bought for the fun of it. The series is definitely holding up on a reread.

Also, check back here on Monday for the first look at the sequel to my own comic, Gamer Girl & Vixen! We’ve finally got some pages to show off!

Comic Reviews: Batman #94, The Green Lantern: Season 2 #5, Lois Lane #12, Lost on Planet Earth #3, and Strange Academy #2.


Batman #94

Batman #94
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Guillem March and Rafael Albuquerque
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Joker War is right around the corner! But first we have to get there.

The Joker has all of Bruce Wayne’s billions and it’s time to prepare for war! He takes Bruce’s manor and his company, he takes Lucius Fox hostage, and Batman is already bleeding and weak. Catwoman survived the gunshot from last issue, and she’s taken in by the Penguin, who’s running a safehouse for Gotham’s costumed bad guys. And Deathstroke and his mercs get outta town fast.

The Joker is going to bring war to Gotham City with billions of dollars in resources, and Batman is wounded and all alone. He’s going to have to become a better bat…

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue was almost entirely set up, and that’s fine. It was good, exciting set up. Tynion is getting to play with some things that have never been played with before. What big plan does the Joker concoct once he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman? It’s a big, bold idea, and Tynion does a great job setting up the trouble that Bruce is in. He’s lost all his money. He’s losing allies left and right (Though I’m not entirely sure why the Bat-Family is not with him? Where’s Damian?). The other Gotham villains have gone underground. Harley Quinn has been taken out of the picture. This issue does a great job of setting up and selling the stakes. I still think the art is a little too beefcake and a little too manic to sell the seriousness of what’s happening here, but it’s still great comic book art. And I really like how Tynion uses all of the characters present. I also liked the line at the end, where Bruce promises Alfred that he must “become a better bat”. That’s a pretty badass way to kick off this big, crazy event.

TL;DR: The latest issue does a great job of setting up the stakes, the dangers and the eventual Batman awesomeness to come in Joker War.


The Green Lantern #5

The Green Lantern: Season 2 #5
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Steve Wands

Finally, Grant Morrison’s crazyiness settles into a style I can understand. This issue is a throwback to Jack Kirby with a story that definitely works.

Hal Jordan is trapped in a Timepoint by the Hyper-Family, a bunch of Superman knock-offs who have rebelled from the United Planets Superwatch. Hyperman is an especially big creep as he suckers in a Lois Lane knock-off and is on the verge of killing her when Hyperwoman stops him to point out that it’s time to get on with killing Hal Jordan. Hyperwoman attacks first, using her heat vision to critically damage Hal’s ring, and he manages to fight her off. She eventually leaves to take care of business elsewhere, leaving the fight to Hyperman (whom she constantly berates) and Klypso the Hyperhound. Hal and his dying ring give it their all, holding off the bad guys. They get some help from those bird people Hal saved a couple issues ago, who have since grown into teen superheroes.

Hal’s ring manages to figure out that Hyperman’s weakness is that he needs orange sun energy to get powers, and his supersuit is specially designed to alter Earth’s yellow sun energy to suit his needs. So Hal proceeds to destroy his suit during the battle. But Hyperman wins the fight and leaves Hal for dead so that he can get back to killing his Lois Lane knock-off from earlier — only he no longer has the strength to do it, because his powers are gone. Hal steps up and knocks the guy out with a few good punches, but Hal and his ring are dying. The Flash becomes unfrozen in time, and the GL cavalry arrives, just in time to Hal Jordan at death’s door!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Accessibility has been my main problem with the past few issues of The Green Lantern. Morrison is a very, very creative guy, and sometimes I’m afraid he’s too creative. His ideas are just too wild to be contained to a single comic book. And DC has apparently cut him and artist Liam Sharp loose to do whatever they want, giving us a bunch of crazy one-shots in different art styles telling individual stories. Finally, with this new issue, all of those things come together in a good story that’s easy to follow. And for that, I’m grateful. Because I like this comic when it’s capable of being likable. And the Jack Kirby throwback art is a really fun idea. Sharp has definitely been killing it on these different art styles.

I really like Morrison’s supporting Lanterns

This issue was really fun. Maybe I’m not giving this series enough credit when the stories have been too weird to really be accessible, but whatever. Being able to understand and appreciate what’s happening in a story is still important. And this was a fun one, as Hal’s ring is damaged and both he and the ring are forced to dig deep and find the strength to defeat basically Superman — who brings his own level of added ridiculous comedy. The angry bickering among the Hyper-Family, and their overall parody/knock-off gimmick is a hoot. Klypso the Hyperhound is especially silly. Then we’ve got those bird teens who randomly show up, paying off the earlier issues in this volume. And that big, dramatic ending. It all makes for a really fun, easily accessible story, and I like that.

And yeah, I also really dig Morrison’s original GL extras. The salt guy returns, which was a hoot. And I really like Trilla-Tru.

TL;DR: The craziness continues, but in a much more reasonable and understandable way. Morrison and his team present a straight forward story that is a lot of fun to read and view.


Lois Lane #12

Lois Lane #12
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Simon Bowland

And so the Lois Lane maxi-series comes to an end. I stuck with this one instead of Jimmy Olsen for reasons I can’t explain. I kind of wish I’d done the opposite.

Now that the craziness is out of the way, Lois finishes her final story about White House corruption and that journalist the Russians killed, and finishes her book, which is about the multiverse and people fracturing between their different lives. She and Sister Clarice are going to open a group home for people suffering from this fracturing. Meanwhile, Renee and Elicia go on a crazy, shoot-em-up adventure to get the last of the research Lois needs for her article. And Lois has a big, cool march into the Daily Planet newsroom to present the story to Perry. And Lois and Clark share a moment. And Lois and Sister Clarice go on The View to talk about her book and the multiverse. And they get Lois’ former hotel housekeeper out of prison.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I just can’t give this comic the praise I wish I could because Rucka lost me several issues ago. I don’t know what this comic has ultimately been about. I thought it was going to be a hard-hitting, grounded comic about Lois Lane being an awesome journalist. Instead it transitioned into something about the multiverse? That maybe crosses over with other big stories DC is doing? And we spent several issues fighting an assassin. And I can’t remember why that assassin was targeting Lois? But I guess it all ties together with both her corruption story and the multiverse fracturing? I just don’t know how it all ties together. I don’t think this series, or this final issue, explain everything clearly. Maybe if I was able to read it all in one sitting. And we didn’t have that pandemic lockdown for several months. I just don’t know. This final issue is gorgeous, and Rucka writes everybody well, But the story lost me a while ago and does not manage to bring me back in the end.

Though if this was all an excuse to give Rucka’s take on Renee Montoya a happy, sexy ending…then it was all worth it!

TL;DR: I think this series went off the rails somewhere in the middle. And while this final issue is well-made, and has some entertaining moments, the train does not make it to the station.


Lost on Planet Earth #3

Lost on Planet Earth #3
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio
Artist: Claudia Aguirre
Letterer: IBD’s Zakk Saam

I might have to stop reading this comic, even with only maybe two issues remaining. I started reading because I didn’t have anything else to read and review during the shutdown. But now that comics are back, I don’t want to just chip away at this series over and over.

We open with a flashback to when Basil and Charlotte were 16. Charlotte was clearly interested in Basil, but Basil was so about the rules — which apparently are anti-LGBTQ — that she shut it down. We get another flashback later in the issue as we see Basil shut down Charlotte really hard the next day at school, which prompts Charlotte to go along with Basil’s fleet dreams.

In the present day, Basil is now hanging out with Enthe, who encourages her to throw a tomato during a war hero parade, which is leading to graduation. They use Basil’s security code to download video evidence of some war crimes, and then later there’s a big protest when the war hero gives a speech at graduation (Velda is in the protest). Basil uses the distraction to sneak into a nearby tent and interrupt the speech live feed to play the video of the war crimes — and she uses Ethne’s old security code to do it, so everybody thinks it was Ethne who hacked into the system (though we never see what’s on the video). Ethne gets arrested and Basil uses that distraction to talk to Charlotte in the graduation crowd. She apologizes for everything and practically begs Charlotte to come with her — and Charlotte shuts her down hard. Charlotte put in the work, was happy to go along with their original plan, and now she’s going to have a life and career while Basil throws hers way.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

Man, Basil sucks. I realize she’s the protagonist and we’re probably supposed to identify with her struggles…but nah, she sucks. Torpedoes her entire life in the span of a couple days/weeks on pretty much a whim, then panics and torpedoes the lives of the new friends she’s just made, then thinks she can make a big speech and win back the heart of an old friend she torpedoed. She’s left dazed, confused and…dun dun dun…lost on Planet Earth by the end of the issue. The entry on Comixology lists this comic as a 5-issue mini-series, but this issue feels like the act break for Act 1. Basil has really destroyed her life and now she’s all alone in a mess of her own making. Are we really past the halfway point for this series? I could see this destruction as the kick-off for a longer ongoing series. But is this really all there is?

Basil is a cruel person

I’ve been tough on this comic these first three issues because I haven’t really been connecting with it. The themes feel just out of reach. Is it an LGBTQ+ love story? Is it a coming of age tale? It definitely doesn’t feel like any sort of sci-fi tale. Everything about Basil and her life seem perfectly normal compared to our Earth. The sci-fi stuff could easily be switched to simple Earth-based stuff. Her friend that’s an alien could just be an immigrant (speaking of which, it was really surprising that Velda was all of a sudden barely a character in this story). The Fleet could just be some Earth military. So why make this sci-fi and futuristic in the first place? I don’t know. It just feels like these first three issues have mostly flailed around with a lot of different themes and story threads, with the main character joining in the flailing.

TL;DR: Three issues in and I’m still not sure what this comic is trying to say. It’s clearly trying to tell me something, but a seemingly random blend of themes, characters and plot threads doesn’t make for a solid foundation.


Strange Academy #2

Strange Academy #2
Writer: Humbero Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Man, this comic definitely suffered at the hands of the pandemic. The issue is still fine, as I imagine it was completed way before this started. But getting your big first issue out there and then not having a second issue until months later? Ouch!

This issue is all about taking a tour of what an actual day at magic school will entail…though knowing how comic books work, one assumes there will be very little day-to-day classwork in this comic. Still, we time skip around from one weird class to the next where the students do all manner of opening day magic and whatnot (there’s a class description page in the back of the comic, like they did for Wolverine and the X-Men back in the day). Iric and Doyle get in trouble in Magik’s class, so she sends them to Hell to fend for themselves for the day. And everybody’s fine. Oh, also, there are way more students in this school than just the 11 main characters, so that’s a thing.

The only real drama that develops is that Emily asks about the cost of all this magic. They were told in the first issue that all magic has a cost, yet everybody is flinging magic around willy nilly this issue. The teachers are really vague about it, which is a shame. I thought that would be a great last page cliffhanger.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue is something I was afraid was going to happen after reading the first issue: the creators are more interested in showing off than they are in telling a story. Look how wacky and fun the Strange Academy will be! Aren’t all these wild classes with all these classical magic characters just the bee’s knees?! And you better believe it’s super important that the reader get a taste of every single class.

This is a fun issue, but I have two main problems.

First is the Reverse Harry Potter problem. When it comes to defining successful fiction, my go-to anecdote is to ask a simple question about the Harry Potter book series: what was the secret of Harry Potter’s success? Homework. The students at Hogwarts had to do real homework. They may have been taking some crazy magic classes, but their homework involved reading assignments, essays and pop quizzes…just like a regular school. This combined the magical with the mundane, which is a winning formula for any type of fiction. And while I see some of that mixed in with Strange Academy, this issue was mostly about going crazy with the magic and the wackiness. And then it missed the golden opportunity to contrast all that wackiness with whatever surprise twist the “price” of this magic is going to be.

Righteous!

Second is the idea that all of this is probably pointless. I highly doubt Strange Academy is going to be a comic where these kids go to class on a regular basis. I don’t know how committed Marvel is to this series, but are they ever committed to new comics for very long? Plus it’s a comic book series. I assume this series will almost immediately evolve into some kind of traditional superhero fight or ongoing narrative. Something is going to happen to disrupt these classes. So why did we need to see all of them? Why did this issue not contain any other storylines or impending conflicts? No twists or exciting developments? Just the kids having crazy magic days. And the two who were sent to Hell got away just fine, so there aren’t even any consequences of that.

So I have a lot of little nitpicks about this issue and the comic so far, but they don’t derail what is a pretty fun series with a good group of kids. I definitely wish we had more drama at this point in the series. I’m reminded a lot of My Hero Academia, which I finished binging a couple weeks ago. That show did a great job with an ensemble classroom cast. I hope Strange Academy can do the same.

Also, why has nobody shrunk the frost giant down to a manageable size? I realize it may seem insensitive, but they apparently expect him to attend the same classes as everybody else while not being able to be in the classroom? He has to sit outside and just listen/get in uncomfortable positions just to strain to see inside? Between magic and/or Pym Particles, shrink him down so that he can attend the same classes as everybody else to the same degree as everybody else!

TL;DR: Clearly a lot of thought and an adventurous spirit went into this comic and it shows. Every page is bursting with creative energy. I’m just a little worried about some nitpicky things.

——————————–

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 July 11, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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