Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/8/20

I’ve had something of a crap week. Had a foible at work. The Fall Guys servers are failing left and right. The final episode of A Crown of Candy on Dimension 20 was merely fine. At least there’s some good comics to be had, like Far Sector, Strange Adventures and…

Empyre: X-Men #2 wins Comic Book of the Week, and not just because it features Multiple Man. I really am enjoying this helter skelter comic as it takes full advantage of everything Dawn of X has to offer.

More X-Men comics need Angel

Meanwhile, I can’t bring myself to keep reading the main Empyre series, so I’ve dropped it. Maybe I’ll read it and just not review it? I don’t know and I don’t care. In better news, I watched the first episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks and it was hilarious! That will be a fun new show to have. Umbrella Academy season two was great! Such a fun show. And I’ve started reading an honest to god book again! Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis. Fun so far!

Comic Reviews: Batman #96, Empyre: X-Men #2, Far Sector #7 and Strange Adventures #4.

Batman #96

Batman #96
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Billed as an epic confrontation between Batman and Joker, this story isn’t really living up to the hype. It’s good, but it’s not epic.

While unconscious on the new strain of Joker Venom, Bruce fantasizes about a future where he’s wearing that sleek new outfit and patrolling over a bright and beautiful Gotham. But the fantasy turns to a nightmare, and he wakes up in Harley’s apartment. She’s patched herself up and has been watching over him for three days. She gives him the rundown: Joker has bought up all the gangs in Gotham, and they’re all going nuts out there with Joker-themed vehicles and weapons. It’s anarchy on the streets, and Clownkiller is introduced killing a clown. Then Harley plays the TV commercial Joker has filled the airwaves with: announcing a special edition of the Mark of Zorro in all of Gotham’s theaters.

Batman is still a bit off because of the drugs, so he fights Harley and escapes. He’s hallucinating Alfred’s voice, and Alfred is very helpful. They go to the Monarch Theater, which is filled with corpses. Joker comes on the screen and reveals that they’re the bodies of all the people he’s ever killed, and he’s powered them up with that voodoo he’s been using to make corpses talk over the past few issues. And they all charge at Batman.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I would love a Batman comic based on that opening dream sequence. Batman in his flashy new silver costume, fighting in broad daylight, with a futuristic cast of villains and friends all around. It would be fun! Instead, this issue is just more classic Batman as he struggles against the Joker’s latest schemes. And it’s fine. Enjoyable even. This is a solid conflict. But the hype felt bigger than the actual story we’re getting. Joker turning the city to anarchy sounds big and scary…but it feels rote. Isn’t that what happens in every major Batman story these days? And we only really see it in montage, so it’s not as impactful. And obviously Harley wasn’t dead. And obviously Batman is going to succeed. And obviously Joker is going to stay out of reach until the finale.

This is a Batman we could have!

We’re still only being teased about his movie theater plans, but the idea that he dug up every single person he’s ever killed and stuffed them into the theater…that seems like a stretch. Seems like one of those ideas that sounds cool but doesn’t make practical sense.

Still, the art is great, the writing is great, and everything makes for a solid superhero story. But nothing has happened as of yet to make Joker War anything special.

TL;DR: The art is the strongest thing about Joker War so far. There isn’t too much substance to the event, just a generally entertaining Batman story.

Empyre: X-Men #2

Empyre: X-Men #2
Writers: Gerry Duggan, Ben Percy and Leah Williams
Artist: Lucas Werneck
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Man, this issue was a ton of fun! It really shows off what makes the Dawn of X era so special, in a way not a lot of Dawn of X comics have been able to do. I think this little tie–in mini-series is really just throwing caution to the wind and having fun.

Hordeculture have joined the X-Men in fighting against both the Cotati soldiers and the mutant zombies on Genosha. They have a special concoction that stupifies the men, Angel and Multiple Man, and everyone kind of works together in the big fight. It mostly serves to piss of Magik and Monet, who are just as ready to fight the old ladies as they are the various armies. Magik eventually gets so angry that she summons some demons from limbo to fight everybody, while the Cotati retreat to their ship to set off a root bomb. This traps some of our heroes inside a big seed pod that just gets bigger and bigger and can’t be easily broken into.

Black Tom Cassidy shows up to help at one point by collecting the pollen particles off Angel and forming a tiny little avatar person. It’s nuts. They try to use Krakoan plantlife, but that just makes it worse. Magik gets more and more pissed off, at one point almost banishing the Hordeculture ladies to Limbo. Eventually though, wearing her full gleaming armor, Magik the War Captain puts out a call to all of Krakoa: any and every available psychic is to report to Genosha for battle. And through the gateway march the likes of Quentin Quire, Shadow King, Lady Mastermind, Mastermind, Selene and more. It’s awesome!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

That final page reveal was one of the most exciting moments of Dawn of X so far, at least for me. It had the feel of a really awesome, cinematic moment. Magik in all her glory, stands tall and puts out the call for heroes: and out steps such an insanely cool variety of characters, from Quentin Quire to the Shadow King. That’s something we’re only seeing from Dawn of X, and it’s something I wish we saw more of. They have this entire island filled with every single mutant character to have ever existed. We need more moments where specific characters are brought into the action for their specific powers. It was badass!

This issue also excelled in finding fun things to do with the specific characters it had and their specific powers.

This panel had to be fun to write

Being just a tie-in to Empyre has given this series the excuse it needed to go crazy, and I’m loving it. The dialogue is sharp and a lot of fun, with the team’s dysfunction front and center. Hordeculture is creating yet another layer of mischief. Not much is being done with the Scarlet Witch bringing for a bunch of zombie mutants…but I’m OK with that. I’m in this for the dysfunctional and hilarious bumbling of these random X-Men, and the big, cool, badass hero moments like that final page.

TL;DR: The disposable nature of this tie-in seems to have given the various creative teams the freedom to go hog wild with characters, actions and cool moments. I’m loving it.

Far Sector #7

Far Sector #7
Writer: N.K. Jemisin
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Deron Bennett

This has been a fun little comic. We’re still several issues away from the end, and I have no idea where it’s going, but it remains fun.

Green Lantern Soujourner Mullein does battle with the reanimated giant robots from the ancient empire that ruled The City Enduring. She uses her ring to build her own giant robot construct, and it’s a cool fight. But she learns during the battle that some @At bad guys have taken control of some biological hosts to control the robots, which kills them. Councilor Averrup is dead, and it pisses Jo off enough to deliver some finishing blows — except the computer program-based bad guys flee through the network.

So Jo decides she’s going to go after them. Her ring is powered by a different type of willpower, and she uses it to turn herself into a digital being to visit the @At computer world (much to the displeasure of Jo’s cop friend). Jo teams up with her digital assistant to get a handle on the world and how it works to be a digital being, then they confront the bad guys.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’m at a loss at how exactly to respond to this issue. Not because it’s too wild or too crazy or bad or anything like that. It’s another banger of an issue in Jemisin’s Green Lantern saga. We get some big, dramatic fighting from Jo, some huge fights, some real emotion and then a really freaky journey into computer world. There’s a lot in this issue and all of it works. Part of me feels like this comic has gotten a little bit lost in the weeds as we’ve gone on. There are so many angles, so many characters, so many avenues. But the writing remains sharp, Jo remains a solid lead character and the art is as phenomenal as the first issue. I wish Jo didn’t have some weird specialty ring, because I think that takes away from how strong her character could be. So far as I can tell, her special ring hasn’t done anything a regular GL ring couldn’t be made to do. And she hasn’t done anything a regular GL couldn’t be made to do. So I’m just not getting why she needs to be some experimental GL. It doesn’t even really make sense with her assignment on this planet. But her fight, her struggles, her emotional heft, all still work wonders and keep this comic as a real winner.

TL;DR: Part of me feels like we’re a little lost in the weeds here in the middle of the series, but the writing, characters and especially the artwork remain on point.

Strange Adventures #4

Strange Adventures #4
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I get the feeling that my “review” of each individual issue is just going to be the same for Strange Adventures: King and his art team move the story forward in fascinating ways…but that might be all they do.

In flashbacks, we see that Adam Strange begged both Green Lantern and Superman to fly him back to Rann in the middle of the war after the Zeta Beam teleported him back to Earth. He was leading his new rural lizard allies into a fight when he disappeared, and he’s desperate to get back — but the heroes turn him down. It’s a week later when he finally gets back and his allies are dead. He finds his wife again to rejoin the fight and regroup with the tribesmen. And she’s acting all suspicious.

In the present day, Mr. Terrific flies to Rann to look into the war archives. They’re more than happy to give them their own documentation, but they claim nobody can see the Pykkt documents because it’s a dead language. Terrific taught himself Pykkt on the flight over, so he damn well wants to see those documents. This demand sends cops to his room in the middle of the night, but he defeats them with ease and confronts the planetary leader, Sardath, Adam’s father-in-law. Sardath is pissed at Terrific’s investigation (while seemingly fine with it earlier), and they slap each other. Terrific heads home and finds Adam’s wife at his place. He tells her to leave, and she tells him its time for him to be done.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This is a series that, in miniature, is tense and exciting. But take a step back and think about it on a macro level and there’s not much going on. There’s a mystery that needs to be solved and we’re taking a slow, luxurious path to the answer. Wonderfully tense and fascinating dialogue and writing. Gorgeous and glorious artwork. But in the overall, it’s not amounting to much. Mr. Terrific is an infallible god who knows everything and can do anything, and he effortlessly knocks road blocks out of his way with ease. Adam is desperate and scared. His wife is mysterious and arrogant. That’s how all of the past few issues have been. And I’m a little worried that that’s how the whole series will be. Strange Adventures will be a supremely atmospheric comic that builds to a big reveal…and then will the reveal be worth all of the build-up? I mean, what’s going to be revealed? That classic superhero Adam Strange is a genocidal war criminal that ate his daughter? Is Tom King making it his job to crucify classic heroes?

But after Mister Miracle nailed the landing, I have enough faith to keep going and see this through.

TL;DR: The story moves tantalizingly forward in the exact same way it has the past few issues. The big reveal/purpose of this series better be worth it.

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 August 8, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Multiple Man, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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