Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/21/20
Happy Thanksgiving, American friends! The holiday isn’t until Thursday, but this feels like a good time to say something nice about Thanksgiving. Be safe. Wear your mask. Social distance. Do all that good stuff.
Against my better judgement, Comic Book of the Week goes to X-Force #14, due entirely to lack of competition. None of the other comics I read this week were as fun.
Meanwhile, I skipped the newest issue of Spider-Woman. Not much happened. And I’m still enjoying Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Oh, I know! I got around to watching a Hulu show called Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and it’s very fun! Highly recommended.
Comic Reviews: Batman #103, Juggernaut #3, X-Force #14, Hellions #6 and Cable #6.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki and Guillem March
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
James Tynion may not try to melt minds like Scott Snyder or Tom King, but he tells some good, solid Batman stories.
Batman fights Ghost-Maker while Ghost-Maker monologues about how Batman has failed at his job. Ghost-Maker lists several major crimes he’s already settled just from arriving in Gotham. Harley Quinn fights Clownhunter while Harley monologues about how he’s trying to be one of the good guys and this kid is funny. Batman eventually crashes into Harley’s apartment after she’s won, and Batman has been stabbed by swords. Ghost-Maker follows him in and takes out Harley with a tranq dart. Batman then explains how each one of those crimes Ghost-Maker solved was already on Batman’s radar and how he had larger plans in place where those crimes were going to lead to bigger overall busts. Ghost-Maker is annoyed and shoots Batman with a tranq dart.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Tynion got me. He really did! When Ghost-Maker started rattling off all the major crimes he solved like a boastful idiot, I found myself mentally grinding my teeth over the lame boasting of such an arrogant character. I thought it was a quick, ugly jobber attempt. Then Tynion pulled it together in the end, with Batman revealing how he already had his hands all over those crimes, on an even bigger level. That was fun — though it does continue to paint Ghost-Maker as a bit of a chump. I’m having a hard time taking the character seriously. I like Clownkiller more, but sending him after Harley Quinn so soon feels like a waste. I feel like Clownkiller could really grow in the background more. I’ve always wanted to see some ordinary Gotham citizens actually take a hard stance against Joker and let it be an ongoing thing. Still, I like the character. And Tynion’s writing is solid. So this is an overall solid continuation of the current Batman story.
TL;DR: No real bells or whistles to be found here. Just solid, enjoyable Batman storytelling featuring a couple new characters who are still wet behind the ears.
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Ron Garney
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Oof. My new comic book darling takes a big step backwards with this issue.
Once upon a time, Cain Marko fought Spider-Man and Spidey trapped him in a block of cement. Now the owner of the construction company that owned that cement is suing Cain for losing his business in the battle. D-Cel is in the audience live streaming. The civil trial is interrupted by Quicksand, who wants D-Cel for reasons unknown. Juggernaut fights Quicksand and Damage Control realizes she’s being mind-controlled, so they all work together and put a stop to that. Juggernaut’s lawyer settles the lawsuit by letting the construction company have all the sand and rubble from the fight…which doesn’t seem like a fair settlement to me. And Damage Control tracks the mind-control radiation to Absolution Solutions, a for-profit prison system run by Arnim Zola.
In flashback, we see Cain travel to the Forge of Cyttorak in the mountains of North Korea, where a monk blacksmith has been building himself a suit of Crimson Band armor. He fights Cain for it, but the armor chooses Cain in the end.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This just wasn’t a very compelling issue of Juggernaut, which is a shame, because I loved the first two issues. This issue lacks any real character drama or development, or any exploration of the new sad sack Cain Marko. This issue is really just standard superhero stuff. The trial lasts all of a couple pages before a random villain interrupts, and then the issue is taken up by a boring fight. Juggernaut is just there to punch, with zero connection to Quicksand. Then the lawsuit goes away, even though I’m pretty sure the sand and debris is not Cain’s to give away. And why would the construction company owner settle for random materials several years after the loss of his company? He wants monetary damages!
The issue is mostly about D-Cel’s constant live stream narration, and it gets annoying after a while. She seemed to actually stand for something in the first issue. Now she just tags along after the Juggernaut and plainly narrates his life. But this doesn’t feel like a story about Juggernaut live streaming his life with his new friend. She feels totally tacked on. And then Quicksand was after her, and there’s some confusion still about whether she’s a mutant or not. So D-Cel is suddenly a very important person. Why didn’t Quicksand go after her when she was just some kid living in an abandoned warehouse? This issue feels a little too all over the place and a little too plain, whereas I really liked the focus on Juggernaut trying to rebuild his life in the first two issues.
The flashback is really fun, watching Cain push himself to strange heights in order to get his power back. I liked his conviction as he entered the forge and declared he had served Cyttorak longer than anyone, so he deserved the armor.
TL;DR: Good enough fight action, but this issue is too plain and lacks the character drama and depth that made the first two issues so good.
Writers: Benjamin Percy and Gerry Duggan
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
X of Swords! Here we go! Let’s do this! I think I’m much more mentally psyched to handle this comic now.
So this issue is largely just a montage of competitions. Some bouts get a single panel, while others a couple of pages. None of them are sword fights. Magik fights Pogg Ur-Pogg again and reveals he’s actually a small dude inside a giant alligator monster suit. Cypher somehow loses a dance competition. Storm somehow loses a fashion show. Captain Avalon has a foot race against Redroot in the Crooked Market. Magik loses a spelling bee. Wolverine loses a competition where he and White Sword have to stare into a mirror and look at the faces of everyone they’ve ever killed. And finally, Storm defeats Death in a sword fight.
The score is Arakko – 17, Krakoa – 6.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
OK, so this marks the start of me not taking X of Swords seriously. It’s time to just go with the flow and accept that the overall event sucks, but the individual issues might be fun. A lot of this issue is fun. The montage is all manner of silly, and now that I’ve accepted in my heart that this was never going to be a sword fight competition, I’m more OK with enjoying the fun — even if it makes no sense that Arakko would win both the dance contest and the fashion show. That’s garbage. I’m glad Storm actually got to use that fancy sword she went to all the trouble of acquiring, and I’m glad Death turned out to be a total chump. The art was again spectacular, so at least there’s that.
I don’t know what to expect from the rest of X of Swords and I don’t know what I even want anymore. But this issue was a fine part of it. This issue at least had some fun.
TL;DR: This issue embraces the pure silliness that X of Swords has become, and this event has beaten me down so much that I’m fine with it.
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher
Oh yeah, the Hellions have their own little subplot in X of Swords. I completely forgot.
The Hellions finally arrive in Arakko to sabotage the tournament, and immediately learn from a resident that the tournament is already underway and they are super late. The resident, Tarn the Uncaring, reads Sinister’s mind and determines that Sinister really came here to catalogue the genes of Arakko mutants. So Tarn summons his Locus Vile of bad guys and they start tearing the Hellions apart. Sinister sends out some mosquito drones to capture their DNA and he gives it to Psylocke and tells her to flee back to Krakoa while he and Wild Child hold off the villains. Eventually, Psylocke, Greycrow, a very injured Havok and Empath make it back to Krakoa — only to be ambushed by Sinister, who kills them all.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I have no real opinion on this issue. At the very least, at least Hellions gets to keep telling its own story within X of Swords. Other comics, like X-Factor, were completely taken over. But…I mean…I dunno. I just don’t care. As much as I don’t care about X of Swords, I especially don’t care about this random subplot. It works as an issue of Mr. Sinister’s larger plan. He’s evil, he’ll kill them all to get what he wants, and that’s exactly what we get in this issue. A random new Arakko bad guy shows up and proceeds to slaughter our heroes without much trouble. And then Sinister being sinister gets the final word. It is what it is and I can’t muster much energy for it.
TL;DR: At least Hellions gets to keep telling its own story, kind of.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Phil Noto
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
We’re almost at the end everybody.
After a brief Quiet Council meeting, wherein Sinister offers ill tidings, we return to the tournament, which is randomly sword fighting again. Cable faces off against Bei. She wins and Cypher stops her from killing Cable. Saturnyne shrugs and accepts this was a fight to the death of Cable’s spirit instead. Point to Arakko. Cable goes off to lick his wounds with a telepathic chat with Scott and Jean, but Saturnyne cuts off the connection.
Next up is Gorgon vs. the White Sword, the latter of whom makes Gorgon fight through his 100 soldiers first. Gorgon starts cutting them down and Saturnyne reveals that each kill is a point for Krakoa, so the bad guys tell White Sword to knock it off. White Sword calls off his army and kills the injured and exhausted Gorgon. The score is now 19 to 19.
And Apocalypse and Genesis step up to fight, because obviously this has all been building to the two of them.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
So Gorgon is the one mutant we’re losing for good? Fine by me. He always seemed like a weird choice to make a force captain on Krakoa in the first place. Was he Jonathan Hickman’s favorite obscure mutant? The rest of the issue is fine. Again, Phil Noto’s artwork is amazing, but surely he could be put to better use than Cable? The main character takes a thrashing in this issue and it’s less than exciting. Gorgon’s fight is a bit more so, if only because Saturnyne comes up with that nifty twist where everyone Gorgon kills earns him a point. And Cable is probably right in his assumption that all of this has been one big game to Saturnyne as she makes up the rules as she goes along, which weakens X of Swords as a story even more. Now the entire thing hangs on Saturnyne, who is not much of a character, as far as I’m concerned. But hey, we’re almost done. So at least that’s something.
TL;DR: Perfectly adequate continuation of X of Swords.
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!