Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/31/20

Happy Halloween! What a nice coincidence that the holiday falls on the day I’m reviewing comics. Of course, I’m not reviewing any spooky comics, so the point is moot. But X of Swords keeps getting worse, so that’s something.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Runaways #32 because it’s so nice to have this comic back! And it’s a pretty cute issue.

All of comics!

Meanwhile, I read through The Last Ronin, the futuristic Ninja Turtles story, and it was fun. I’ve been collecting the large, hardcover volumes of the IDWI TMNT series but I haven’t started reading them yet. I think I just like collecting them. So I’m not fully up on my Turtles comic lore. But this first issue is cool…though a bit sparse, in my opinion. This might be better read in the trade.

Also, first new episode of The Mandalorian was great!

Comic Reviews: Drakkon: New Dawn #4, Legion of Super-Heroes #10, Runaways #32, Shang-Chi #2, Strange Academy #4 and X of Swords: Stasis #1.

Drakkon #4

Drakkon: New Dawn #4
Writer: Anthony Burch
Artist: Simone Ragazzoni
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

I don’t know how long this series lasts, but it’s made for a nice opening adventure, that’s for sure.

Jason has destroyed the diffuser, taken the power from the Sentries and returned as the Red Ranger — but everybody is mad at him. Trini and Zack refuse their coins and Kimberly helps Jason to see the damage he caused. Zordon didn’t make them Power Rangers to fight bad guys, he did it so they could help people, and Jason is hurting people. He sees the error of his ways.

But Eclipta is big now. So they build a new diffuser and put all four power coins into it, which causes them to overload and everybody in the city gets a big mish-mash of colored power armor. They all work together and take down Eclipta in a mega fight, saving the city, but destroying the power coins in the process. It’s OK, they feel confident as they rebuild. And then Evil Andros shows up at the end, the next minion of Dark Specter.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I liked a lot of things in this comic. Liked that Jason wasn’t the bad guy. They were able to talk him down and convince him, with their words, to get him to join their side. That was nice. It was a really strong character moment. I didn’t like that Adam remains dead. That’s bogus. But I liked how the Rangers decided to work together to empower the whole city, and the mishmash costumes were crazy fun. It was definitely a big, wild, swing for the fences type move using Power Rangers lore, and it totally worked for me. A series like this definitely has a reason and all the excuses to go big or go home.

Coming soon to a toy aisle near you

I liked how everybody worked together to defeat the bad guy. It seemed a little silly that a bunch of unpowered humans could just dogpile a cosmic villain into defeat, but I didn’t mind very much because the ending is very optimistic and also worked for me. I like the idea of these people rebuilding their society without the Power Rangers. I’m surprised we didn’t get a Blue Ranger return or cameo of some kind. I know Billy is dead, but I don’t remember what became of his power coin. I thought for sure that would be the final page cliffhanger surprise, but nope, it’s Andros as yet another villain. That works too.

TL;DR: A big, crazy, inventive issue swings for the fences and knocks it out of the park.

Legion of Super-Heroes #10

Legion of Super-Heroes #10
Writer: Brian Michal Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

I’m still enjoying this comic. I don’t think it’s really solidified itself yet as its own Legion thing, but it’s still a fun group.

Superboy and Saturn Girl go on a date on Planet Gotham and check in with the police commissioner about Mordru the Mad. They call Doctor Fate to track Mordru’s magical trail. She says they need to go to Xanthu.

Gold Lantern, Blok and Brainiac-5 head to Oa to speak with the Elders and turn over Crav the General Nah. They also ask about the coming darkness, but the Elders are hesitant to discuss it because they don’t yet know if the Legion stops the darkness or causes it (Also, it seems that Gold Lantern may be the only one in the universe).

A bunch of other Legionnaires go to New Krypton to check on Mon-El, who seemed to quit the team in a huff last issue. They meet with an old Kryptonian who turns out to be Zod, his great-grandfather, then they pay Mon-El a visit. He has three children. When they tell him Jon is still on the team, he flies off in a huff.

Ultra Boy leads a team of Legionnaires to Rimbor to assert his dominance and open discussions on how the planet can move forward. Ultra Boy is made the leader of Rimbor and he’s not happy about it.

Ayla Ranzz, sister to Lightning Boy, whose own name I can’t remember, has a chat with Brainiac-5 about diplomacy and passion, and how she doesn’t feel like she belongs in the Legion. He tells her that they need passionate people like her, like the Age of Heroes and the famous Green Lantern Corps. And he asks her advice on the Gold Lantern situation.

On Xanthu, Mordru arrives and tracks down Rogol Zaar with news that Jon Kent is in the future.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Dammit! Not Rogol Zaar! I stopped reading Bendis’ Superman comic because I couldn’t care less about this character. Now we’ve got Bendis dragging him into Legion of Super-Heroes! Does anybody know what happened to Rogol Zaar in that Superman story? Did he ever become interesting? Or was he only ever a stupid retcon? Now he can survive for a thousand years? What a dork of a character. Hopefully Bendis manages something interesting with him in Legion. I have to hope. At least the rest of the issue was fun. I liked the little check-ins with various Legion groups and characters. That was a fun way to handle such a large cast…though a lot of Legionnaires get cast to the background.

Blok remains series MVP

Perhaps I just need to accept that this series is going to be about a couple of main characters with the rest of the Legion just there for support. I can probably live with that, even though my favorite Legionnaires are ending up in the background, with just a line or two per issue. At least this issue had some fun little vignettes. The worked to move the story along and flesh out the larger, growing universe. I especially enjoyed the look into the Gold Lantern, even if I think it’s disappointing that there’s only one in the entire universe.

TL;DR: The story is moving along nicely, giving us fun looks at various Legion characters in drips and drabs.

Runaways #32

Runaways #32
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Natacha Bustos
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Welcome back, Runaways! This is the first Runaways comic since March and I’m very excited. When last we left off, the team wrapped up their harrowing adventure with Doc Justice!

In the wake of the colossal fustercluck that was the J-Team, the Runaways are feeling all manner of down about themselves and each other. So some normalcy arrives when Doombot decides to move in, and then the discussion turns to school. Molly is going back, and Gert wants to go as well. The others are shocked, but Victor reveals that he can hack into the school files and just insert her into 11th grade (though he gets an ouch when Gert doesn’t want him to come with her…or be with him anymore). Then Gib wants to go to school as well to learn about humans, and he reveals he can change his appearance to look human. So Chase takes the three of them to school and then goes to get a job at Haul Mart.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

It’s so nice to have Runaways back! This is one of my favorite comics on the stands these days, a fun, grounded take on these very fun characters. And this issue is a nice example of why. The team/family dynamic is so strong in this issue that I’m on Cloud 9. This is exactly what I love. The whole gang hanging out and bantering and butting heads as they discuss life and the real struggles they have to deal with. And those struggles involve actual, interesting plot movements. Gert going to high school? Sounds great! Gib going with her in human form? Even better!

Hooray to Doombots and fish hats

The ending of the issue felt abrupt, if only perhaps I didn’t expect it to end so quickly. I was too caught up in the story. But I would honestly prefer a comic where the Runaways struggle with school and jobs than a comic where they get wrapped up with a crooked superhero for several issues at a time. This is the stuff that I love, where Chase and Nico struggle to accept their roles as literal legal guardians over children. It’s a great dynamic for this team and I’m so happy to have it back in my life!

TL;DR: Runaways returns with a wonderfully grounded, family-focused issue.

Shang-Chi #2

Shang-Chi #2
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artists: Dike Ruan and Philip Tan
Colorist: Sebastian Cheng
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

I think this issue is a bit better than the first, but I don’t think this comic is for me. Nothing has really captured my attention, so I’d rather drop the comic than keep giving it mediocre reviews.

When Shang-Chi and his sister, Shi-Hua, were little, they broke some rules and father banished Shi-Hua. In the present day, Shang-Chi finds her against at the House of the Deadly Staff and they hug and sit down for dinner — but it’s poisoned. Shi-Hua reveals that father banished her to the House of the Deadly Hammer in Russia, where she became its champion. Shang-Chi wakes up on an operating table and has to fight off a squad of zombie warriors. He’s rescued by Brother Sabre and Sister Dagger, who set off to take him to a healer.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I don’t really have much to say about the Shang-Chi series so far. I applaud the comic for coming up with a pretty interesting retcon about Shang-Chi’s origins, but I don’t think it’s being executed all that well. I liked the twist that Shang-Chi and his sister hugged upon being reunited…but then she just turned on him, so that twist was wasted. Then he had to fight a bunch of zombie warriors? That’s been done to death. And Sabre and Dagger seem to be able to come and go as they please. This all definitely feels like a bargain store knock-off version of the Seven Cities of Heaven introduced in that excellent Iron Fist comic all those years ago. And it’s not working for me. But the writing is fine, and I liked the art a bit better this issue. So I imagine there are some people out there enjoying this comic. I’m just not one of them.

TL;DR: A perfectly fine and relatively straight forward issue solidifies, for me, at least, that this comic isn’t anything to write home about.

Strange Academy #4

Strange Academy #4
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

It feels like we’ve had more than four issues of this comic.

Some of the Strange Academy kids get into a game of Door Tag, which involves running through doors to various dimensions. Doyle drops some ancient texts in the school library and unleashes a giant monster, which Gus and Ms Stanton put back in its book. Emily gets lost in Weirdworld and is saved by Catbeast, a new flying cat familiar that can talk. He takes her to the basement of the Sanctum Sanctorum first, where she meets a mysterious and troublesome figure imprisoned behind a door. She’s almost caught by Dr. Strange, but Catbeast gets her back to the library to help with the cleanup.

Meanwhile, Calvin finds himself in the swamps of New Orleans, where the mysterious Hollow figures from the end of last issue are gathering to take down the school.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Another fine issue of Strange Academy builds on the strangeness and the academy. We’re still dealing more with frivolous fun than any real character depth or growth. Which is fine. It’s not bad. I still haven’t learned all of their names yet, so much so that I don’t feel like looking up my copy to jot down any names here in this review section. But enough of them are standing out that some semblance of an ensemble cast is forming. And some semblance of interesting story beats are forming. I still think parts of this book are a little too silly, but that’s probably part of the charm of a comic like this. The point is to get big and silly and wild and magical. And it works, to a degree. I just hope we can get a little deeper than surface level going forward.

TL;DR: Another fine issue of Strange Academy that builds on the strangeness and the academy, but still not the characters.

X of Swords: Stasis #1

X of Swords: Stasis #1
Writers: Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard
Artists: Pepe Larraz and Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

I grow more and more bored with X of Swords with each passing issue.

The kingdoms of Otherworld hold a parliament that eventually just leads to them settling in to watch the upcoming fight. Then we watch as the Horsemen go out and recruit their various warriors, all of whom get recruited with their swords in a page or two — unlike the X-Men, many of whom required entire issues to go and collect their swords. This seems unfair. All the various fighters are varying degrees of neat little dudes who are all just so painfully the same. Sure they look different and they have their own unique traits, but everyone is essentially just an identical warrior with a complex character design who hails from this weird, ugly, wasteland of a world.

So the X-Men are brought to Otherworld and shown their quarters. Saturnyne leaves them all a Tarot card about them. Apocalypse doesn’t like his and he goes to confront Saturnyne, but she just talks him down. He joins her on her next meeting, which is with the leader of the bad guys, who is obviously his wife from his new retconned history.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I don’t know if I can put into words how bored I was with this issue. As I said in my recap, it’s mostly about the bad guys recruiting their warriors and none of them are interesting. They are all as generic as they come, albeit with some clever traits stapled on to give them the barest amount of personality. And at least it only took this one issue to get them together. X of Swords has wasted issue after issue so far with the X-Men getting their swords. Why not do that part in a single issue as well? Then there’s just so much blathering from Otherworld, which is just as impenetrable as all this Arakko stuff.

That these are the character finds of 2020 makes sense

Considering this is all supposed to be just the X-Men fighting some bad guys with swords, why all of this nonsense set dressing? Especially the way they keep hammering home that characters could die for real in this fight. This is still comics. Any X-Man that dies “for real” in this fight can still be resurrected at any point in the future. It’s only been a year or so that we’ve even had this Dawn of X resurrection gimmick. Taking it off the board does not remove the bigger picture comic book resurrection problem. So no, I do not feel like the stakes are any higher. And I do not care that Apocalypse’s wife is the big bad guy. Honestly, I already assumed that was the case. Were we supposed to be surprised?

TL;DR: When are we going to get to the fireworks factory?!

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 October 31, 2020, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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