Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/22/20

Welcome to DC FanDome weekend! Or at least the first of them. I guess there’s a second one coming next month? We’ll see! At least we have some DC Comics this week…or at least one, Batman! We’ve also got more Power Rangers spin-offs and just a bit of Spider-Woman, maybe?

Comic Book of the Week goes to Thor #6, though I don’t really want to praise it as such. Still, it’s a big, momentous comic that looks gorgeous, so at least there’s that.

Epic

Meanwhile, I finished the novel Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis and it’s fine. I’m a huge Lindsay Ellis fan and love her work, but I don’t think her debut novel is anything special. It’s OK, with a fun, casual writing style. But nothing I can actively recommend unless you, like me, wanted to support her and needed something new to do in the pandemic.

Comic Reviews: Batman #97, Drakkon: New Dawn #1, Empyre: X-Men #4, Spider-Woman #3 and Thor #6.


Batman #97

Batman #97
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Still got a ways to go until issue #100…

So anarchy still reigns in Gotham City. The Clowns are getting a lot of chemicals to Ace Chemical, while avoiding the new vigilante, Clownkiller. Joker is pleased that Gotham’s citizens are snapping and rising up, defying the ‘rules’, but he still orders Punchline to take out Clownkiller, and to go after Harley. Meanwhile, Batman fights through all the corpses in the theater, his mind still reeling from the drug, so that he sees them all as Jokers, while still talking to “Alfred” in his mind. Joker taunts him for a while, revealing that his plan is to bring people into the theaters, reveal Batman’s secret origin and then kill them all.

Batman eventually ties a mask over his eyes to fight blind so that the drugs aren’t as effective. He wins and stumbles out of the theater, where Harley finds him. She takes him to Eden, a secret spot of Poison Ivy’s where he can detox. Harley gives him a special drink to help with that, but it’s going to have Batman tripping for a bit longer. And Batman continues to hallucinate Alfred.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was the best issue of Joker War so far. I liked what happened in the story more than previous issues, and Jimenez’s art is to die for. I think this issue just had more energy to it, even if, on a whole, I’m still not buying Joker War as anything truly momentous. It feels like it should be. At long last, Joker knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne and he’s going to use that specifically to pull off another big Joker scheme. He stole Bruce’s money and plans on using his origin story to hurt more people. That feels like it should be big. But the story itself is not, because it’s really just been Batman scrambling around while whacked out on drugs. Batman has been on the constant move, with no time to slow down and assess what has been done to him. And while that makes for some energetic comics, it doesn’t do much to build any impact to the story. So while I appreciate the momentum, there’s not much deeper to explore.

Zombies never stood a chance

Punchline remains even less than one note. She’s pathetic. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop with her and probably won’t feel anything when it does. I like Clownkiller a lot, and I like that Joker likes Clownkiller. That’s very Joker. It makes perfectly fun sense that somebody in Gotham City would snap and use their snap to actually strike back against the Joker. I hope that goes somewhere. Harley is a good foil for Batman, but she’s practically magical in this story. She shows up wherever and whenever she’s needed to give Batman whatever he needs at any given moment. She can shrug off any wound. She’s got access to whatever crazy thing she might need, like an entire secret healing garden that Poison Ivy has been hiding in Gotham for forever, apparently.

Mostly I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen Bruce Wayne “become a better Bat” to get through this. It’s just been him reeling from one fight to the next with no real foundational stakes.

TL;DR: This story is energetic, and the artwork this issue is gorgeous, but Joker War remains a pretty flimsy adventure overall.


Drakkon #1

Drakkon: New Dawn #1
Writer: Anthony Burch
Artist: Simone Ragazzoni
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

I guess we are getting that Coinless spin-off comic! Not written by Ryan Parrott though…

Ranger Slayer is now in charge in the Coinless Universe, and everybody is pretty much still at each other’s throats. An assassination attempt leads to Kimberly finding out about the Deadlock, Drakkon’s prison. She leads a strike team into the prison to free all the prisoners and stumbles upon a mysterious Ranger locked up and clad in gray metal armor. They take this Ranger back to base and learn that not only have they lost their memory, but that Drakkon locked them up and forced them to watch all of his conquests. After each one, Drakkon would ask this person how they would stop Drakkon, which was both a form of torture and a way to get some insights into what Drakkon’s enemies might be planning.

When this Ranger finds out they’ve been taken from the Deadlock, they freak out. Because their release sent a signal into space to some evil bad guy lady with the message, “It’s all yours.”

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a fun enough issue. I think the amazing nature of prior Coinless one-shot set me up for not really appreciating what a day-to-day Coinless series would be like. This issue almost immediately launches into some rather…I don’t want to say “mundane”, just some pretty ordinary stuff. Breaking into Drakkon’s previously unknown secret prison? Yeah, makes perfect sense as something Kimberly would want to do. And everybody tags along, because what else are they going to do? I hope if this story continues we get a much better look at people like Zack and Trini just living their lives instead of simply standing off to the side and trading the occasional dialogue while they go along with whatever the story requires.

Though I did really enjoy the dangerous flirtation between Scorpina and Adam. That’s just plain fun.

I ‘ship this

The new mystery Ranger is a fine storyline to pursue. Personally, I think it’s Jason. Who else would Drakkon chain up in a secret prison and then pump for information on what other Rangers might do to stop him? So that should be a good storyline to pursue. And the idea that Drakkon set up some kind of dead man’s switch to some other villain out there works for me. Clearly he knew that if his mystery Ranger was ever rescued, that would mean he was out of the picture. Hopefully this new villain provides a lot of fun adventure going forward. And I hope Kimberly’s core team can solidify a bit better, with a bit more fleshing out. For now, this is a fun issue that seems to settle into creating an ongoing comic environment.

TL;DR: If this is what an ongoing Coinless comic would look like, I think we’d be in good hands. Engaging characters and interesting story, with solid art.


Empyre: X-Men #4

Empyre: X-Men #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jorge Molina and Lucas Werneck
Inkers: Werneck and Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorists: Nolan Woodard and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

And so this silliness comes to an end, never having really been about Empyre in the first place. I’m…not sure what it was about, to be honest.

We open with a flashback wherein we see that Scarlet Witch went back to Dr. Strange shortly after raising the zombies to explain everything. They quickly set to work reversing the spell, though all they could really do was reverse the magical staff itself…which would take about 30 days…which is when the regular story is taking place. The fight is still going on and we see Beast steal some Hordeculture tech in order to figure out how they bypass Krakoan portals. Then Beast calls on a specialist: resurrected Explodey Boy. So originally, Explodey Boy was a mutant living on Genosha who was killed in the genocide. At some point, he was resurrected on Genosha, where he’s living a nice life. But then Wanda raised his original corpse as a zombie.

So living Explodey Boy goes and finds zombie Explodey Boy and they sit and chat for a good long while. Living Explodey Boy catches his zombie self up on life, on having their first kiss, on making amends with their parents, and all sorts of stuff. This encourages zombie Explodey Boy to take the hit for the team and he sacrifices himself to blow up the giant plant monster. The day is saved, but Magik is still possessed by the magic in the Scarlet Witch’s staff…except the 30 days are up and she loses all that extra power and reverts back to normal. Everybody sighs and they head home.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I’m not sure what this mini-series was ever really about. Honestly, I kind of think it was Jonathan Hickman trolling Marvel, and getting help from his friends to do it. Marvel editorial demands an X-Men crossover with their Big Summer Event comic Empyre. So Hickman and some pals put together a vague outline that really just amounts to a Plants vs. Zombies joke, and somehow they stretch it out to four issues. And it feels like Hickman let his friends write the middle two issues however they wanted, and he would figure out how to wrap all of it up in the final issue. Like, the idea that Scarlet Witch and Dr. Strange settled the zombie problem way back when it first started is funny. As is the exact, down to the second, 30-day time limit for the spell to last. That came out of nowhere and is a trollingly hilarious way to wrap up both the zombie problem and Magik going evil.

Not to mention the fact that this issue is really just an extended conversation between the two Explodey Boys.

I…don’t ‘ship this?

Forget everything from the first issue about Angel, Monet and X-Corps; they barely factor into this issue or the conclusion of the story. Forget the random addition of Multiple Man. I’m pretty sure he was only there for the jokes about zombies eating dead duplicates. Not even Hordeculture amounted to much in the end. And the less said about the Cotati the better. They definitely didn’t matter.

It’s all about zombie Explodey Boy meeting living Explodey Boy and their pleasant chat. And it was indeed a pleasant chat. And perhaps Hickman is setting up another weird angle to the Resurrection Protocols. I do believe this is the first time a resurrected mutant has interacted with a prior version of themselves. It’s definitely something to think about, if you spend any of your time wondering how the Resurrection Protocols really work. I suppose I do, at least enough to find the whole conversation interesting. Too bad the actual crossover didn’t matter.

TL;DR: Pretty much everything about Empyre and this actual crossover is thrown out the window or hand-waved away, but what we do get is pleasant enough. I think this tie-in was a massive troll from Hickman.


Spider-Woman #3

Spider-Woman #3
Writer: Karla Pacheco
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

This series has a lot of fun energy. I’m liking it a lot.

Jessica succeeded in getting the spider last issue, but now Michael wants to take it to a special facility for more work. Jess is pissed at how she’s getting strung along, but the arrival of Michael’s daughter, Rebecca, cools her jets. Then some soldiers show up and one of the lab techs betrays them, so Jess kicks his butt and they escape in a helicopter and then a private jet. Jess bonds a little with Rebecca before they’re attacked in the air and Jess uses her awesome pilot skills to out-maneuver the bad guys. But they’re out of gas, so they crash in the jungle, and then Jess has to fight off some dinosaurs. And then Michael reveals he has zappy powers as well.

Turns out, they’re at Wundagore, Michael is Jessica’s brother and their mom shows up to welcome them home!

Also, between issues, Jessica asked Roger to take Gerry and go somewhere safe, so they’re off doing that.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

That was definitely a cool final twist that I did not see coming. I don’t know much of anything about Jessica Drew’s family or origin stories, so it seems like fertile ground to cover. And this was an exciting and action-packed issue to get us there. The action never lets up from the moment it starts, except for a brief conversation on the plane, but even that felt like a worthwhile conversation. This is a very energetic comic. Jessica feels on edge at every moment, and that fuels her fighting and her personality. I think it works as something different for a protagonist. I’m still a bit lost on what exactly everyone is suffering from, and I’m obviously disappointed that Roger and Gerry are getting sidelined, but I’m fully on board for this rip-roaring adventure as it stands.

TL;DR: The action, excitement and surprise twists make for a really energetic and enjoyable issue.


Thor #6

Thor #6
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

And just like that, this opening chapter of Thor reveals that it was just a tease to another Big Event comic somewhere down the line. Huzzah.

Now that the Black Winter has revealed that Galactus was only ever his herald, Thor turns on Galactus, absorbs all of his power and kills him. Thor then turns the corpse into a bomb to wipe out the Black Winter, who swears revenge. In his last act, the Black Winter shows Thor a glimpse of his death: Thanos wielding Mjolnir, which is adorned with the Infinity Gems, and he’s leading an army of Marvel Zombies. Thor then takes Galactus’ empty helmet and installs it on the Bifrost as decoration, then isolates himself inside his throne room for months. Eventually, the Silver Surfer visits to ask about what happened, and Thor reveals that he saw darkness (this visit is the issue’s framing device).

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This is one of those comics where you have to put aside your biases and just accept what the creative team is offering. I’ve ranted about this before in these reviews, and it just isn’t worth ranting about again: these Galactus retcons are dumb and they will not stand the test of time. But that doesn’t matter. They’re here now, this is what we’re dealing with and we have to deal with them as they are. Just as we have to deal with the fact that all of this was just so Cates could tease whatever Big Event he has planned a few years from now where Thanos wields Mjolnir and the Infinity Gems.

And there’s no way Galactus stays dead. Obviously.

In all its glory

Taken on its own, for what it is, this is a cool issue. Thor figures out that Galactus was just using him, so he turns the full power of his godhood and the Power Cosmic against the Devourer, killing him. Killing Galactus is still a big deal. I don’t care for Black Winter as a villain because he’s just another smarmy Chatty Cathy of a bad guy. They feel like a dime a dozen. And I’m pretty sure Knull is going to be exactly the same when Cates writes him in King in Black at the end of the year. But I like how Thor deals with him. And I liked the conversation between Thor and Silver Surfer. They’ve always been a fun friendship.

And Klein’s artwork is as gorgeous as ever as he tackles the momentous events of this issue.

TL;DR: I am not a fan of the various Galactus retcons that Donny Cates has devised, but I cannot fault that this isn’t a big, exciting and gorgeous 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!

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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 22, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Multiple Man, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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