Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/25/20

Oops! Looks like I got my timing wrong and this weekend is Comic-Con @ Home weekend, not last weekend like I thought. Ah well. Who can tell what day it is anymore? We’ve still got new comics to enjoy, including Batman, New Mutants, and more Empyre, including a nifty tie-in with the X-Men!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Power Rangers: Ranger Slayer #1 for a truly wonderful one-shot set in the alternate Coinless dimension! Fun times all around!

We never get the zombie movies we really deserve

Meanwhile, one of my local comic book shops had to shut down due to COVID and they held a going-out-of-business sale. I swung by and picked up the first four tpbs of Peter David’s most recent X-Factor series! Score! I’d been eyeballing the big compendium for that series because it’s clearly out of print, but these half-priced tpbs should tide me over nicely! I’m also thinking of getting into Invincible…anybody have any thoughts?

Comic Reviews: Batman #95, Empyre #2, Empyre: X-Men #1, Hellions #2, New Mutants #11, and Power Rangers: Ranger Slayer #1.

Batman #95

Batman #95
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Joker War begins in earnest this issue…but it doesn’t go nearly as big as I was hoping.

We open with a flashback to Batman and Alfred on the very first Joker case, wondering aloud how this new villain is different. Then we jump back to the present, where news reports sum up that Wayne Enterprises has been taken over and Bruce has been accused of embezzling, while the Joker keeps a lid on the fact that he’s the one who took over (Harvey Bullock and the GCPD know the truth, but their hands are tied). Meanwhile, the Joker buys the old Monarch Theater and goes rooting around for some old film reels, with some kind of plan to fill the movie theaters of Gotham with dead people. He has a long chat with the old owner of the theater while he’s there.

Batman sneaks into a Wayne Enterprises building to one of his secret caves, but Punchline is waiting in ambush. She drugged Lucius into revealing all the secret caves, and she douses Batman with a special blend of Joker Toxin, Fear Gas and Venom. He starts hallucinating Alfred’s voice warning him that danger is incoming.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I gotta say, I was expecting something bigger. I thought the previous two issues were all the set-up we needed for Joker War, but apparently this first installment needs to be set-up as well. We get a meaningless flashback to the first time Batman tracked down the Joker. We get a really extended scene where the Joker chats with the elderly owner of the Monarch Theater. And then we get a fight between Batman and Punchline that has her holding her own with ease against Batman, because of course she does. I expected more. I thought the previous two issues had raised the stakes as high as they needed to go, and it was time for Batman to “become a better bat”. Instead, it’s more set-up. And I don’t want more set-up. I want this to be the biggest Batman vs. Joker battle of all time! Not Batman getting immediately trapped and defeated by the Flavor of the Month villain.

You’re too beautiful for this world

We get a glimpse, through news programs, about how Gotham City is reacting to this news…but that feels almost rote. It’s like when Bruce Wayne lost all of his money in The Dark Knight Rises, and you just knew that there’s no way money worked like that. Like, an obvious criminal can’t just walk into the stock exchange and steal the Wayne fortune and it be perfectly legal and held up. I don’t feel that way about the Joker stealing Bruce’s money…but I do kind of feel that way about how the city is reacting to the Joker stealing all of Bruce’s money. It feels like the news media should know better. I like that Bullock knows better and I hope that goes somewhere.

TL;DR: This was a disappointingly small start to Joker War.

Empyre #2

Empyre #2
Writes: Al Ewing and Dan Slott
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Oof. I probably shouldn’t have given this Big Event the time of day.

So the plant-based Cotati are the bad guys and they invade Earth. Their leader, Quoi, monologues to some captured Avengers about where they got their start, and he thinks they should still be on his side. But Thor pulls some hammer magic and they escape, so Quoi escapes as well to join the fight on Earth. The Avengers regroup and head to Earth, while Captain Marvel touches base with the Fantastic Four and the Kree/Skrull Empire. Hulkling has a magic sword that can hurt the Cotati, and he channels its power through Captain Marvel to kill all the planets in the fleet and save everybody. This hurts Carol a lot, but she’s fine, and afterwards she accepts the hammer of Ronan the Accuser.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This was a boring issue and this is turning out to be a boring event. Aside from some stellar artwork from one of Marvel’s best art teams, there’s not much to recommend about Empyre. It’s very basic, and it’s very boring. Everything is written well, and there are hints of some solid character development here. I’m enjoying Tony’s guilt, and seeing Carol inherit the role of Ronan the Accuser is a cool move. But the rest is nothing. Quoi and the Cotati are as flimsy and one-dimensional as villains get. Quoi even has a scene of monologuing! I thought The Incredibles convinced us all not to do that anymore with our villains. Then Thor’s hammer saves the day like it always does. Hulkling has a magic sword that solves everything. Captain Marvel has an extended sequence where she takes some pain in order to save the day, then is just fine afterwards. And it’s all building to a generic Avengers vs. invading army storyline…which we just had a couple months ago with War of the Realms. So two issues into Empyre, color me unimpressed.

TL;DR: Not a whole lot happens to justify the very existence of this Big Event comic. Great art and solid writing, for sure, but the plot and characters leave a lot to be desired.

Empyre: X-Men #1

Empyre: X-Men #1
Writers: Johnathan Hickman and Tini Howard
Artist: Matteo Buffagni
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

I was considering just breezing through this X-Men tie-in to Empyre, but then Multiple Man showed up in the cast of characters and he gets a legit speaking role! So, obviously, I am now fully on board.

Scarlet Witch conducts a magic ritual to try and undo all of the mutant deaths on Genosha, to make up for her “No More Mutants” thing…but all she manages to do is bring forth a bunch of mutant zombies. Then the planet invaders from Empyre land on Genosha as a staging ground, and suddenly we’ve got a big Plants vs. Zombies epic! It’s a good joke.

Meanwhile, Angel and Monet are using their business skills to make X-Corp happen, but they get pulled into service to see what’s wrong with the Genosha gateway. They’re joined by Magik and Multiple Man. Soon they’re overrun with plants and zombies…and then the return of Hordeculture, the team of old ladies who have been pilfering Krakoan plantlife.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The best tie-ins are the ones that can wring some good character development out of the forced invasion. And with Hickman and Howard teaming up, they knock this one out of the park! They assemble yet another team of randomly chosen mutants, but this team is actually fun together. And they’ve got a mission that isn’t just fighting bad guys. I would love an entire comic of Angel and Monet doing business deals on behalf of Krakoa, while struggling with anxiety and self-worth. Add in a no-nonsense Magik and a happy-to-be-along-for-the-ride Multiple Man and you’ve got a fun little squad thrown together to handle this event!

This is top notch banter

And that is just one example of how they use this tie-in to tell more than just the one story. There’s also a whole thing with Scarlet Witch trying to make amends for her past mistakes towards mutants, and how that leads to something even crazier. And then that leads to a Plants vs. Zombies joke that’s really fun! And then Hickman and Howard actually give some solid, humorous characterization to the invading plant people. The main series has just seen the leader of the plants monologue like a dime-store novel villain. But here we’ve got soldiers bickering and bantering among themselves and their zombie foes. It’s much more fun.

TL;DR: This is a quality tie-in. This is the sort of tie-in that makes the very concept of tie-ins worthwhile. We’ve got legit X-Men momentum, and fun ideas with the whole Empyre concept.

Hellions #2

Hellions #2
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Stephen Segovia
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Yeah, I’ll keep giving Hellions a try. We’ll see where this ends up. I’ve never been more interested in Scalphunter in my entire life.

Psylocke, Havok, Wild Child, Empath, Scalphunter, Nanny and Orphan-Maker have been put together as a team to tear down Mister Sinister’s clone farm in the basement of the orphanage where Havok and Cyclops grew up. When they arrive, they discover the old Marauders, who have been cloned and cloned again so many times, and now have been resurrected as zombies by Madelyne Pryor. A big fight breaks out and the bad guys win, dragging away our heroes. Psylocke manages to hide, but she’s hurt…and Wild Child creeps out of the shadows and determines she is no longer fit to be alpha of the pack, so he attacks her!

Also, Scalphunter shot Empath early in the issue because Empath was being a jackass.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Hellions still has the sheen of newness going for it, and that counts for a lot with me. I’m still interested to see where this is going, and there are enough nuggets of interesting ideas that you can color me piqued on this one. I’m mildly curious to see where Wells is going with his Havok storyline. And like I said above, I am really digging whatever the heck is up with Scalphunter. I have absolutely never cared about the character, but he is on an interesting journey as some dark anti-hero maybe. That is definitely going to keep me on board for the time being.

He had it coming

Beyond that more specific stuff, though, the overall plot isn’t anything special yet. I’ve never cared about Madelyne Pryor either, so I’m not at all jazzed to have her as the villain. But a team of zombie original Marauders could be fun, especially since we get some supplemental material that indicates they’ll be tackling head-on the fact that Sinister has been cloning the Marauders for years, and that is going to butt up against the new Resurrection Protocols on Krakoa. So there are a couple different interesting tidbits I’m nibbling on with Hellions. We’ll see how they pan out.

TL;DR: A solid action issue hints at just enough tidbits of mystery to make this more than just any other comic.

New Mutants #11

New Mutants #11
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Flaviano
Colorist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

Honestly, New Mutants and Hellions are about equal in my eyes…it’s just that New Mutants has been around longer.

The New Mutants are trapped in the nightmare dome of the new mutant they’ve come to Carnelia rescue, and they’re fading fast. Mondo absorbs some of Armor’s armor to sustain himself, and Wildside is finally able to make contact and change the nightmares to good dreams, freeing everybody. But the locals want to make an anti-mutant statement and surround them all with guns. Thankfully, Magik swoops in and teleports everyone to safety. The team recovers back on Krakoa, some more troubled than others. And a couple of them decide to go after the anti-mutant website that has been doxxing mutants.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

If you want some insight into how I grade comics and what I’m looking for, then judging Hellions against New Mutants is a good bet. I graded Hellions one point higher, even though, honestly, the comics are pretty much the same. A squadron of X-characters go on a mission. The writing and art are solid, because these are pros. And the characters are always used well — though none of my personal fan-favorite mutants are on either team (even though Armor is probably my favorite teen X-Man). The story is pretty interesting, with this weird new mutant. And I like the whole general feel of this comic. It’s just not connecting with me. And since we’re 11 issues deep, I expect a little more from New Mutants than from Hellions. I think the problem is that I’m just not that interested in the characters in New Mutants, coupled with the middle-of-the-road storytelling. It’s all a perfectly fine comic, just none of it is speaking to me personally.

TL;DR: This is bread and butter X-Men comics. A fun group of X-characters have an interesting day and that’s about it.

Ranger Slayer #1

Power Rangers: Ranger Slayer #1
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artists Dan Mora
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

Heck yeah! A whole new adventure in the world of the Coinless! And it’s awesome!

The Ranger Slayer returns to the world of the Coinless to discover that Scorpina has taken over for Lord Drakkon and continues to run his armies in his name — but they’re losing ground to what seem to be Ranger Zombie Ghosts. Kimberly hooks back up with Zack, Trini, Bulk and their forces, but they don’t trust her (except for Bulk). Kim finds out that the source of the zombies is the Command Center, so she leads an attack on the facility with the Gravezord. Zack and Trini head inside to find the ghost of Rita Repulsa, who reveals that Trini brought her back to life a while ago to aid in the war, and now Rita has enough power to strike out on her own with her zombie/ghost army.

In order to defeat Rita, Kimberly takes the Coinless and teams up with Scorpina. It isn’t too difficult because her troops don’t really like her, and they’re more interested in stopping the murderous zombie ghosts than in doing what Scorpina wants. So the Coinless, which includes Aisha, and the bad guys, which includes Adam and Skull, team up into a grand army to take the fight to Rita and her forces. Rita has a giant zombie Goldar at her command, but Finster-5 has taken the zombie of Lord Zedd and crossed it with the Dragonzord. The good guys win by working together and Rita is defeated.

Afterwards, nobody is exactly sure how to proceed since they all still hate each other, but they’re all pretty beaten up. So they decide to install Kimberly as the new Lord Drakkon, and she’ll use that position to try to change things for the better.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was, as expected, just as exciting as Power Rangers comics get! Parrott and his art team manage to cram a wonderful mix of action, drama and exciting character development into pretty much every single issue of their comics — and this one is extra special, because everything is happening in an alternate universe with alternate versions of familiar characters! It is just so very cool to see alternate reality Bulk be this badass, yet soft, freedom fighter. And Zack and Trini are cool. And Adam and Aisha are cool. And Scorpina is cool. And Rita Repulsa as the ghost leader of an army of undead Ranger soldiers is cool. And the very idea that the Power Coins were splintered and turned into foot soldiers is cool. This stuff is as cool as it gets! I imagine it’s a ton of fun coming up with stories for the Coinless.

I’m so pleased that the comics have given Bulk and Skull their due

This issue is simply great. There’s not much else to it than that. Kimberly is a compelling protagonist as a hero trying to make up for the shame of being a mind-controlled villain. She needs to prove herself with her old friends, and it’s a solid story. She kicks butt in all the right ways, with both big action scenes and more personal one-on-one fights. And the idea that she’s this lone pink warrior in a sea of copied Rangers is also cool as hell. The Rita story works perfectly for this one-shot, presenting a classic villain in a new light, and giving her the added wrinkle of being a mistake made by Trini. So there’s even more character depth. Then we’ve got the good guys and the bad guys joining forces because the rank and file bad guy soldiers are smart enough to realize that they would rather team up with the Coinless then get slaughtered by zombie ghosts. I love that kind of depth from bad guys! Then there’s the surprise ending where Kimberly takes over as the new leader, complete with Dragon Shield. That’s good character forward momentum!

TL;DR: This Ranger Slayer one-shot is the perfect encapsulation of everything great about Ryan Parrott and BOOM! Studios’ Power Rangers comics. It’s got action, it’s got heart, it’s got a great use of all these classic and familiar characters, and it can include all of that in a single issue!

The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I grab from Comixology 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 July 25, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. You, sir, are my hero. At least when it comes to the Batman review. The story is almost a beat for beat redo of the Dark Knight Rises, right down to Catwoman playing a role in the loss of Bruce’s fortune.

    Tynion has talked about how Bruce didn’t used to be super, duper rich and this move will explore how money has played a role in Gotham’s troubles.

    First Bruce was always very rich. As Chris Sims has written in the past, the Wayne fortune serves a story purpose – it explains how a man can afford the toys. The fortune is not real and it does not matter if it is $100,000,000, $1,000,000,000, $10,000,000,000 or &100,000,000,000, it is all made up. Bruce Wayne being very rich is a foundational aspect of the character. The actual dollar amount really does not matter.

    Very rarely do changes to the status quo in a comic matter. The changes usually go away. Examples include Bruce living in the Wayne Foundation penthouse, Clark working as a tv anchor and not a newspaper, Peter and MJ not being a couple, Barbara in a wheelchair, Barry Allen being dead – you get my point.

    No matter how many times they break up Bruce and Selina, they always get back together. The only change that has really stuck is the break up of Batman and Robin. The reasons have changed, but all the new Robins have basically been written as solo acts. If you have read Detective and Batman for the past 10 years, I would not blame you for not thinking Damian was a real character. In the main Batman books is a loner despite the fact that “Batman and Robin” was a thing from 1940-1969. A status quo change that has stuck.

    So I do not have high hopes for this story line. Just more of the same. Villain has huge plan, breaks bat, bat rises up, and the logical consequences of the story are ignored to restore status quo until next big event. Lather rinse repeat.

    Or I could be wrong.

    • Yeah, that is now what I assume is going to happen during Joker War. There will be trouble, it’ll get rough, and then Batman will emerge to be the same Batman as always. Tom King had nearly 100 issues to tell an epic Bane War story…and Batman came through that pretty well. Yeah, Alfred stayed dead, but Tynion has rushed right into a much shorter Joker War storyline without giving Bruce much time to grieve.

      But I would be 100% on board with Batman having to go forward without his money and with only that glorious silver suit, just to see what that version of Batman would be like for a while.

      And man…I really do miss a good, solid Batman and Robin partnership. They’re better as a team than Robin being solo all the time.

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