Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/19/20

Good news, everybody! The Harley Quinn cartoon has been renewed for a third season! How wonderful. And oh how we needed good news. Meanwhile, reviews for Batman and a brand new Iron Man relaunch.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Thor #7 because it is legitimately fun and features a whole bunch of Beta Ray Bill! If only the new Iron Man featured a Beta Ray Bill cameo…


Meanwhile, I skipped the latest issue of X-Men this week. It’s just one big madness-inducing recap of whatever weird new lore Jonathan Hickman is building for Krakoan history? I dunno. He loses me when he delves into this stuff, even more so than when Grant Morrison does it. In better news, I’m playing the Avengers video game finally…though I don’t particularly like it.

Comic Reviews: Batman #99, Iron Man #1 and Thor #7.

Batman #99

Batman #99
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Penultimate, here we go!

The Joker’s machinations are building as he heads to Ace Chemical to stage his finale showdown. Meanwhile, Batman has gathered the Bat-Family to him and set them loose to start cleaning up the city. He even provides Dick Grayson with a Nightwing costume now that Dick has his memory back. Then Batman heads to Ace to face the Joker. Harley tries to join him, but he won’t let her kill the Joker. Once inside, the Joker has two surprises: he’s wearing that silver Batman costume, and he’s brought back Alfred’s corpse like all the others.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

While the general flow of Joker War is fine, this penultimate issue reveals that there’s just not very much in the way of meat on these bones. Gotham City is in turmoil and flames, but we only ever see that from a distance. There are no Gotham citizen POV characters. So this just feels like any other time Gotham has been brought to its knees, and a long Joker monologue isn’t going to fix that. Then we have yet another scene where Batman gathers the Bat-Family on a rooftop. I honestly do not know how often we have seen this exact thing over the past few years, but surely it’s been a lot, right? It’s enough that I recognize this as a common recent trope. Just plop the likes of Tim Drake, Spoiler, Cassandra Cain, Batgirl and the rest on a rooftop for a quick scene and that’s supposed to be fun and exciting? It’s quite casual.

They never not come

I think my main problem with Joker War is that Tynion hasn’t come up with anything new or unique enough to live up to the hype. I was excited at the start of this story. This is the Joker’s first real big attack on Batman since finding out that Batman is Bruce Wayne, and he’s doing so with Bruce’s own billions. And at the start of the story, Joker pushed Bruce so far that he declared he would have to “become a better bat”. But we haven’t seen any of that whatsoever. Batman spiraled for several issues on different hallucinogenic drugs, snapped out of it and then gathered his team to take the fight to the Joker. He didn’t “become a better bat” to any degree. And again, it’s not like gathering the Bat-Family is any big deal because, like I said, they gather all the time.

One interesting story thread in Joker War is that Harley Quinn is teaming with the Batman solely so that she can kill the Joker…but, obviously, Batman’s not going to allow that. Tynion doesn’t even really explore why Batman doesn’t even consider killing the Joker this time, or letting Harley kill him. He’s just against it, like always, and Harley has to scream her frustration into the void. Batman seems perfectly content with just locking the Joker up again after this, and Tynion doesn’t explore how weird that is, given the circumstances.

Let Harley kill Joker!

I think the idea of someone other than Batman killing the Joker is a good storyline. Other people have agency, too, when it comes to the Joker.

Also, this issue suffered from a lot of major events happening in other comics, while this issue had a bunch of editor’s notes trying to point people elsewhere. Dick Grayson got his memory back in Nightwing. Catwoman, Penguin and Riddler steal Bruce’s money back in Catwoman. Etc.

TL;DR: We’re at the penultimate issue of Joker War and still this event doesn’t have much meat on its bones. Familiar tropes and rehashed arguments try to give the story meaning.

Iron Man #1

Iron Man #1
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: CAFU
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I’m very disappointed in myself that I gave up on Dan Slott’s Iron Man at the very end. I loved that series when it started out, but his big 2020 event just lost me. Perhaps I’ll go back and read it through to the end one day.

Here we are with another Iron Man #1. I’ve been enjoying Cantwell’s Doctor Doom comic, so let’s give this a try!

Tony Stark has decided to get back to his roots. He’s removed himself from the latest Stark company, sold all his shares for a sweet $65 billion, most of which he reinvests. He’s also ditched his labs and mansions for a simple brownstone in NYC. He and the Wasp also have a quick, mutual break-up. The world isn’t too happy with him still. He’s being torn apart whenever he tries to Tweet, and the talk shows aren’t going easy on him. Tony buys an old car and takes it out for a street race, but he loses. He holds a party for some tech guys and CEOs but all they want to do is beg him for his help and his money. Patsy Walker shows up and he’s glad to see an old friend, so he latches on to her to show off his new, low tech, vintage-style Iron Man armor.

Iron Man and Hellcat head out into the city for some self discovery and find the Unicorn stealing a Guttenberg Bible from the New York Public Library. They get into a fight and the Unicorn manages to get away, while the Bible is destroyed. There’s something mysterious going on, and it might involve this one guy at the party who wanted to get Tony to join a project that involved capturing lightning.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I liked this issue and its basic concept. Rather than just have Tony Stark go bigger and bigger with every new relaunch, Cantwell is going to go smaller. Tony casts off the various trappings of his life and reduces all the clutter. It’s just him, some classically-inspired armor and a cool new car. I like that approach, and I think this issue does a great job of setting everything up. Some bits are sillier than others, like Cantwell ending the Tony/Janet relationship in a single page. I never liked them as a couple, but it seems so silly that the new creative team can just cast off the previous team’s various storylines so easily. I suppose it’s nice that Cantwell bothered to address it at all. I liked Tony moving his money around, I liked him downgrading his home and trying to get into street racing. Was that a thing he used to do? And I love the new armor design.

Needed lots of glowing spots

I don’t care for sci-fi-based Iron Man armor. I don’t like nanite armor or hologram armor or whatever. I prefer the idea that the man has to actually put on the iron. I don’t care for the idea that he has nanobots living in his bones that can pour the armor over him like liquid. Give me some elbow grease!

I thought the inclusion of Hellcat was a little weird, but not terrible. Do the two of them have some kind of comic book history I don’t know about? It’s possible. I just found their team-up a little sudden. Patsy Walker, of all people, is the only fellow superhero to show up at Tony’s party? And they’re super buddy-buddy? At least it was nice to give Tony someone grounded to talk to. And I do enjoy the Unicorn as a villain, even if he’s just a crazy person. This issue had a lot going for it, and I enjoyed most of it.

Though the idea that Tony Stark handles his own Iron Man Twitter account was a little silly. It felt really pathetic, which I suppose was the point. And it was a nice reminder why I don’t really use Twitter.

TL;DR: There’s a lot to enjoy about the new Iron Man relaunch as the new creative team casts off the craziness and tries to take the Golden Avenger back to basics.

Thor #7

Thor #7
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Aaron Kuder
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Sweet Georgia Brown, it’s Beta Ray Bill without his helmet…

Mjolnir crashes outside the city of Broxton, Oklahoma, and it’s discovered by local mechanic Adam Aziz. He investigates and finds that Thor has written Tony Stark’s personal telephone number on the side of the hammer, so Adam calls and Iron Man comes to investigate the hammer.

Meanwhile, up in Asgard, Thor has a sit down with Beta Ray Bill to patch up their friendship after their fight at the start of the series. Bill is pretty aggrieved, but Thor is very apologetic. He and Bill go for a walk as Thor asks what happened to Thanos in previous Guardians of the Galaxy comics where Bill played a part. Bill assures Thor that Thanos is dead, though Thor doesn’t come fully clean about his vision from last issue. Thor eventually asks Bill to serve as his second-in-command and Asgard’s master of war. Thor takes Bill to the armory to pick out a new weapon. When Bill asks about the absent Mjolnir, Thor explains that he’s felt something broken inside Mjolnir. At first he thought he was becoming unworthy, but instead it’s something new. While Mjolnir grows heavier for Thor, it grows lighter for everybody else.

Back in Broxton, Adam picks up Mjolnir and is granted the powers of Thor.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a very enjoyable Thor comic, filled with all manner of things I really enjoy about comic books. The bulk of the issue is a tense sit down chat between Thor and longtime friend Beta Ray Bill. It’s so casual that Bill removes his helmet. We never see Bill without his helmet and it’s both weird and awesome.

Such a tiny head! Where does he keep his brain?!

I am a huge Beta Ray Bill fan. So to devote an entire issue to Thor trying to patch things up with his pal, and offering Bill a larger role going forward, is like preaching to my personal choir. That’s pure comic book crack for me. And it’s a fun scene that builds and builds.

Beyond that, the story with Mjolnir is perhaps even more fun! There’s a lot of joking around with Iron Man, which is a hoot. And then that ending, as a random nobody picks up Mjolnir and gains the power of Thor, including an awesome new costume, was just great! Seriously, this costume is a thing of beauty.

Crack the sky

There is a lot of creativity on display in this issue and I loved pretty much all of it. I loved Thor and Bill patching up their friendship. I loved toying with the very nature of Mjolnir. This is a legitimate mystery, and Thor’s approach to solving it is fun. I love that Cates is just trying something new and fun. That’s a lot of what I want from comics: creative and fun ideas involving these classic characters and concepts. And this issue really delivers.

TL;DR: Fun and legitimately creative, the new storyline kicks off with some strong character moments and some very interesting story ideas.

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 September 19, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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