Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/10/20
Welcome, everyone, to my second work vacation of the year! Since I didn’t take any time off while working from home during quarantine, I’ve got all my vacation time saved up for the final few months of the year. Not that I plan on doing anything interesting with my time. Reading a bunch of X of Swords comics, apparently.
Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #100 for a big, exciting Batman adventure. Gotta love some of those.
Meanwhile, holy cow, have you been watching Star Trek: Lower Decks? I know it’s only available on CBS All Access, and only in the U.S., but jeez louise is it good! The season finale is insane! Hopefully they make it available on another service more accessible to the public. Harley Quinn didn’t really take off until it went to HBO Max!
Comic Book Reviews: Batman #100, Far Sector #8, Thor #8, Wolverine #6, X-Force #13 and Marauders #13.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Strap in, people! Joker War finally, almost, lives up to the hype!
The battle is on! Barbara Gordon returns to the Clocktower and resumes her post as Oracle so that she can guide everybody in all the right ways. The Bat-Family takes down a bunch of Jokers, including Punchline. Meanwhile, Batman fights the Joker, who is wearing the shiny silver Batsuit and using all the gadgets at its disposal. Joker monologues a whole bunch about Gotham City being a bad place and is about to start cutting into Batman’s face when Harley shows up and shoots out his eye. Then she straps bombs to both herself and Joker, forcing Batman to save one of them. Joker assumes it will be him, but Batman leaves and rescues Harley, then visits her a week later in the hospital. They talk about a better Gotham…and how Joker escaped on his own. Also, new antagonist Ghost-Maker is coming.
In a couple back-ups, Batman warns Clownhunter to stop his antics, but he probably won’t listen. And Joker slinks off into the shadows to begin work on his next plan.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I have been pretty lukewarm towards Joker War this whole time, but this issue turned things around nicely, at least in terms of action and substance. In a big picture sense, I don’t think this story is going to make much of a difference anywhere. I don’t think it pushed any of the characters in particularly compelling directions and it didn’t deliver anything new. The Joker has a new plan, executes it pretty well, but Batman rallies his team and they defeat him like always. Honestly, I wish DC had the guts to kill the Joker. They have the guts to have Batman not save him…but they can’t bring themselves to do what the story demands. That was disappointing. But it does not take away from a really action-packed issue that delivered a lot of cool moments.
Thankfully Jimenez on art has been nothing but gorgeous. His action style fits all of the craziness of this issue perfectly. I think he did an especially good job on the Joker. I really liked how Joker and Batman came to blows in this issue, with Joker wearing a modified version of that shiny, silver Batsuit. It helped him hold his own and it was a real knockdown, drag out fistfight. That was really awesome. And I liked Harley inserting herself in the fight and giving Batman that ultimatum. It worked for all characters involved. And even though I don’t think Punchline amounted to much, I’m glad Tynion has introduced some new characters into Gotham City. I am hopeful to see where he goes from here.
Though I also hope DC leaves the Joker alone for a while. He’s done more than enough in recent years. Also, Tynion is a big Tim Drake fan, and Tim Drake recently returned to being Robin…so…maybe some classic Batman and Robin adventures going forward? Pretty please?
TL;DR: Joker War ends with its best issue yet, a gorgeously drawn issue that features real stakes and real strong character moments. This is some great Batman vs. Joker action.
Far Sector #8
Writer: N.K. Jemisin
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Deron Bennett
I think Far Sector has gotten a little lost in the woods, but it’s still an enjoyable adventure overall.
Jo Mullein and her @At sidekick bust some heads in the digital world and arrest three @At criminals, though the battle depletes her power ring. The trio are taken into custody and eventually confess to not only murdering Counselor Averrup, but also committing the murder that kicked off the comic. They were hired by some anonymous person to take control of biological bodies and force the woman to commit the murder. Jo is summoned before the Council to discuss her findings, but there’s some obvious tension. Perhaps the Council doesn’t want her there anymore? Jo accuses of them of hoping their old enemies are behind this so that they’ll have someone other than their own fractured society to blame. Jo storms out, and Councilor Pretty Boy follows. He suggests she check out the Feelsnet.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Jemisin has done a great job creating and building the world of The City Enduring, but I’d be lying if I said I still fully understood everything. We are so deep down this weird rabbit hole that I’m not sure I’m fully grasping every single facet of the story, especially when new stuff like this “Feelsnet” thing pop up this late in the game. But at least some mysteries have been solved, there was a lot of really exciting Green Lantern action, and then Jo got to put her foot down and be a stone cold badass of a person there in the end. So the writing is still strong, and the artwork is still to die for. But I’m a little disappointed that the mystery seems like it’s going to boil down to there being a lone villain behind everything. And I’m sure the reveal will be some big surprise, like one of the characters we already know is the secret villain. But perhaps that’s such a predictable twist that it won’t happen. I’m dying to find out.
TL;DR: We’re deep into the woods of this complex alien story, but strong artwork and strong character work keep this series firmly in a good place.
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Aaron Kuder
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Kind of a simple issue with not enough Beta Ray Bill…which is to say, no Beta Ray Bill.
Local Broxton, OK mechanic Adam Aziz now has the power of Thor and Iron Man is freaking out. So Thor shows up to set things right, and Iron Man is still freaking out. He wants to know what’s going on with both Thor and Mjolnir, but Thor doesn’t really want to talk. They almost come to blows, but Thor convinces Iron Man otherwise and they part on good terms. Thor then goes to get his power back from Adam, but gladly fulfills the man’s request to fly just once. Tony and Adam’s words then convince Thor that maybe he just needs to take a break for a bit.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I liked this issue for what it was, though I don’t think it really paid off the excitement and energy from the previous issue. Adam Aziz’s time as Thor was short and sweet, which was nice. Hopefully we see him again down the line as an alternate Thor of some sort. This issue was mostly just a back and forth between Thor and Iron Man as they ironed out some of the chinks in their relationship, various puns intended. It’s nice, but not all that substantive. The art is great and the promise of more exciting adventures to come is strong. This was a good, quiet little issue.
TL;DR: Thor and Iron Man work out their beef in a good, quiet little issue.
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
For some reason, I have decided to review every single chapter of X of Swords. So rather than put these reviews in alphabetical order, like normal, they’re going to be in the order they fall in the series. It’ll help keep the story straight.
Wolverine needs the Muramasa blade for the upcoming tournament, but the original was destroyed. So he sets out to find the guy who forged the sword, whose name is Muramasa. His travels take him throughout Japan until he reaches the darkness of Mount Haku, where Muramasa is imprisoned by some bad dudes. Or maybe he’s in Hell? That part is a little unclear.
Meanwhile, on Arakko, the Horsemen recruit Solem. He is a charmer who, once up on a time, killed War’s husband. She heads to his eternal prison to retrieve him, only to find that Solem has been living quite comfortably in his pit prison. He’s happy for the new thing to do, having been told he needs to acquire a Muramasa blade.
So…I guess there are only 10 swords between 20 champions? Is that how it works now? I thought each champion had their own sword?
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was a nicely moody comic, and that dark, fiery mood is what sells this issue (and the next one). Honestly, I’m a little annoyed already that X of Swords is going to spend so much time having the X-Men collect their swords. That sounds like such pointless filler. But Percy and his art team make the most of it with this pretty cool Wolverine story. I was reading Wolverine comics when the Muramasa blade first appeared, so I have a slight affinity for the sword — though, technically, this isn’t the same sword. Still, the art is moody, the writing is moody, Wolverine is moody, and it all kind of holds together and works as a story about Wolverine having to go to great lengths to get his sword. The issue is just entertaining enough to not be a waste of time, at least if you’re also determined to read all of X of Swords.
More on Solem in the next review.
TL;DR: The moody writing, art and atmosphere make this issue worthwhile.
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Because of how I put these reviews together, I write up the synopsis after reading each individual issue. I don’t just read a pile of comics and review them all at once. So, heh, this second part cleared up a lot of my confusion from the Wolverine issue.
Logan found Muramasa chained up in a temple on Mount Haku, and in that temple is a gateway to Hell. When he’s ambushed by the Hand, Wolverine is forced through the gateway and we see his metal skeleton climb out of some lava to confront the ghastly version of Muramasa. So Muramasa’s soul is in Hell and that’s what those conflicting visions of Hell were in the previous chapter. They’re both in Hell now. Wolverine gets captured and is throne in a cell with Solem. While Wolverine regenerates, Solem tells the tale of how he also wound up in Hell. Turns out, he had a key to Hell this whole time, so he just used to to go to Hell. When Wolverine gets better, he figures to just kill Solem now…but Solem, of course, has Adamantium chainmail, because of course he does.
They find Muramasa at a Hell wedding, where he presents two katanas to the bride and groom, which is convenient. Solem kills the bad guys and retrieves both blades, then offers to sell one to Wolverine for a price. What price, you ask? We don’t know. All we know is that Wolverine returns to Krakoa with his sword, having paid it.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This is a solid second part to the Wolverine issue’s first part. The moodiness remains in both writing and art, and that holds the whole thing together. This issue is a little more fun in that it gets to have action and a Hell wedding. So there’s more content in this issue, with the same solid mood, so this issue is fine. I also like how this issue goes out of its way to show us what one of the upcoming opponents will be like — though I don’t particularly like Solem. He’s that certain degree of smarmy that gets on my nerves. Everything comes easy to him, everything about him is perfect. How does he get to Hell? Why, that random dagger he has can be used as a key to just open a portal anywhere he wants. And we needed an entire flashback for that? And of course his outfit is super advanced Adamantium chainmail, because that’s necessary to explain why Wolverine doesn’t kill him now. I dunno. It’s nice to get to know one of the antagonists, but he’s pretty obnoxious.
TL;DR: This issue does a good job making Wolverine’s pursuit of a sword interesting. The mood, both in writing and artwork, does a lot to make this an enjoyable issue.
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
For some reason, I generally enjoyed the story of Wolverine collecting his sword, but I could not stand Storm collecting her sword.
It’s Storm’s turn to get a sword and she knows just the one: Skybreaker, the sword of Wakanda. So she goes to meet with the Queen Mother and Princess Shuri (T’Challa is out somewhere). Storm fills them in on the coming danger and her need for Skybreaker, but they cannot allow it. The blade is too important to Wakanda. They ask her to wait until T’Challa gets back so he can decide. Later, Shuri and Ororo sit down for dinner and talk this out. Basically, there’s a ton of political red tape behind the idea of anyone but the king removing Skybreaker from Wakandan soil, because we wouldn’t have conflict in this issue otherwise.
So, of course, Storm just breaks into the vault to steal it. And, of course, the vault his heavily protected at all times, so she gets to use both her weather powers and her thief skills. And, of course, Shuri knew she would try something (as if the thunderstorm outside the vault wouldn’t have automatically given her away). They fight and talk and Ororo wins, then she steals the sword and fights her way out — and T’Challa is waiting outside. Guess he was going to be home in time after all. He lets her take the sword, though he’s pretty salty about it.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
OK, I need to clarify this rating: this is based entirely on the story. The art is gorgeous and the writing is really good. This is an enjoyable comic. It’s the crap story I have a problem with, and the unnecessary retcons needed to instill this issue with so much unnecessary conflict. Let’s walk through this. First of all, in all of Black Panther comics, Skybreaker has obviously never been mentioned before. It has never existed in comics. Yet they treat it as if Jesus himself forged the Holy Grail and it was currently sitting in a vault in the Vatican (if I may use Christian imagery). Second of all, there is so much god damned talk about how sacred this sword is. Shuri believes, without a shadow of a doubt, that Storm taking the sword will cause riots and revolutions, that Wakandan blood will flow through the streets as brother fights brother! Jeez louise, can you lay it on any thicker?
Third, for the love of god, could they make it any more obvious that Storm is going to try to steal the sword? Fourth, the sword is so amazing and important that it’s locked down tighter than Fort Knox. Holy priest guards at every corner of every hallway? Deadly lasers? An entire facility dedicated just to it? Considering all of the times Wakanda has been destroyed recently, how many times have they rebuilt this one building just to protect this one sword? Fifth, T’Challa shows up that same night? So all Ororo had to do was wait a couple hours and he would have shown up and let her have it? So all of this conflict against Wakanda, and the Wakanda/Krakoa diplomatic troubles that will follow, were entirely unnecessary? All Ororo had to do was exactly what the Queen Mother suggested: wait for T’Challa to show up later and he’d let her have it. She had three days to acquire the sword, she could have waited one and would have gotten the sword with zero fuss.
The existence of this story is embarrassing. Again, I’m not knocking any of the creative team. They do an excellent job with what they are given. But they are given a load of horse manure. Someone somewhere decided X of Swords needed to be 22 parts long, and to pad things out, they needed to make entire stories out of a couple of X-Men gathering swords. That’s how we get this hot garbage, a bunch of forced conflict that only exists to stretch out the run time. There’s nothing clever about it. There’s nothing fun about it. This issue is just a whole lot of manufactured conflict that serves absolutely no purpose.
For the love of god, there better not be this much nonsense every time an X-Man tries to borrow a damn sword. There are still seven freakin’ swords to go!
TL;DR: Ugh. Despite being a well-made comic book, everything about the story and conflict in this issue is manufactured hot garbage serving no other purpose than just padding out the X of Swords runtime.
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!
Posted on October 10, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Far Sector, Jo Mullein, Joker, Joker War, Marauders, Storm, Thor, Wolverine, X of Swords, X-Force. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.