Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/28/20
Man, oh man! What an awesome episode of The Mandalorian that was! Don’t worry, you’ll find no spoilers here! That was just an exciting episode…far more exciting than this weeks comics, which include new Doctor Doom and a relaunched Power Pack!
Comic Book of the Week goes to the finale to X of Swords. Not because its the best comic of the week, but because it is the most momentous. I’ll give it that.
Meanwhile, I’ve been watching the new Animaniacs revival and it’s fine. I’ve laughed a few times, and am generally enjoying the show. But I don’t think it’s…evolved as it should have. The show doesn’t justify its revival after more than 20 years. And maybe that’s too high a standard to hold the Animaniacs to, but maybe I just feel like being contrarian.
Comic Reviews: Doctor Doom #9, Power Pack #1, X-Men #15, Excalibur #15 and X of Swords: Destruction #1.
Doctor Doom #9
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
I skipped the last issue of Doctor Doom because it wasn’t really a normal comic. It was a montage of events, all exposited through various journal entries. I guess Cantwell wanted to get through some stuff quickly to move on with his story.
To catch everybody up: Doom conquered Symkaria and uprooted the saboteurs — the leader of whom turned out to be Victorious’ long lost mother. Doom ordered Victorious to kill her to prove her loyalty. Those are the major points.
Doctor Doom has dedicated himself to solving the Antlion black hole problem, and he’s decided to become a hero in order to rule the Earth with great humility. He has built a giant machine and heads up to the Moon to get to work, intent on later turning himself over to authorities to serve time in prison. Once the operation has begun, Reed Richards calls to wish him luck, but Doom is incapable of accepting so the two get into a petty argument. And it’s enough to get under Doom’s skin to the point that he starts second guessing his otherwise solid machine plan. Doom alters the output just enough that the fix starts spiraling out of control. There is an explosion, and Doom blames it on Richards.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue was so good and yet so disappointing as well, for all the right reasons! I love when Doom is magnanimous. And I love when the heroes of Earth have to acknowledge that. Reed Richards calls Doom with a sincere message of hope. He even says as much in a brief scene with Captain America. But Doom is gonna Doom, and the way his chat with Reed breaks down is a masterpiece. It works so utterly perfectly for both characters involved.
As is the way the conversation gets under Doom’s skin, when he only has himself and his Doombots to talk to. Cantwell thoroughly understands the character and expertly set up this scenario to have Doom’s own insecurities be his downfall. It works so perfectly, I can’t stress that enough. It’s disappointing, however, because I was so ready for Doom to succeed. I wanted him to save the day and carry on with his plan of altruism. It would have been fun! But Doom is not a hero. And he can’t get out of his own head when it comes to Reed Richards. What happened had to have happened.
TL;DR: This issue so perfectly sums up Doctor Doom’s character, and was clearly crafted with skill and intention.
Power Pack #1
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Nico Leon
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
I couldn’t care less about the Power Pack as characters, but this is Ryan North’s follow-up to his legendary Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic. Let’s see if he can tell a more straight forward superhero tale!
The Power Pack are finally all together again for the first time in a while, since both Alex and Julie were off in space with the Future Foundation. It is their parents’ anniversary and the youngest, Katie, has drawn a comic strip of their origins in order to finally reveal to their parents that they are superheroes. The others nix the idea and everybody settles down for a nice family dinner. While eating, a radio broadcast comes on that their old foe, the Bogeyman, is causing mayhem, so they sneak out and fight him…but this takes place during the big Outlawed storyline over in Champions, so the cops show up and arrest Power Pack for violating the new laws against teenage superheros.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This issue is bolstered by some great art and some solid, enjoyable writing by North. He gives all the characters their own personalities and uses them well as an ensemble. So Power Pack #1 is an enjoyable read. The characters are easily likeable and that’s a big plus when, like me, you don’t care about Power Pack. But this issue is also a bit too basic. It’s like a primer on the Power Pack more than it is the launch of a new comic. We open with a condensed recap of their origin, spend some time getting to know them, then one of their classic villains randomly shows up so they go and fight. There’s nothing in this first issue to really make this stand out as a series of note. We know North is capable of such greatness, because his Squirrel Girl comic was swinging for the fences with the very first issue. But, as I’ve said before, perhaps he’s dialing that back to just tell a more straight forward superhero comic this time. Of course, that’s undercut by this being part of the Outlawed crossover. So really, I should be judging this as more of a tie-in than a stand alone comic. And in that regard…it’s still good. North clearly enjoys writing these characters, and I think I’ll be a little disappointed that he’s sidled with being a tie-in.
TL;DR: Fun and enjoyable re-introduction to these classic characters!
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
The end is finally here for X of Swords. Let’s get through this!
While Apocalypse battles Genesis in Otherworld, Cyclops and Jean Grey go to what remains of the Quiet Council to plead their case. They want to take a strike team of X-Men through the gate to save their people (Cable got a plea for help out last chapter). There are mostly bad guys on the Quiet Council at the moment, and they vote not to go. This isn’t going to stop Cyclops or Jean Grey, though, who speechify about the X-Men saving people. It’s what they do.
Meanwhile, Apocalypse wins the fight but doesn’t want to land the killing blow. So Genesis puts on the Annihilation helmet and plans on unleashing hell.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue gets all its points for the cool scene of Cyclops at the Quiet Council. I have given up all thought concerning Apocalypse and his new retcons, and how they’ve all led to a boring swordfight. Give me a scene, instead, where Cyclops puts his foot down in the name of the X-Men as heroes, while the bureaucracy that made the likes of Sebastian Shaw and Mister Sinister members of the Quiet Council vote against him. That’s good stuff. Even if the actual events on Otherworld have rendered Cyclops’ mission kind of moot. Cable whimpering for help in the last chapter came before the score was tied, so the good guys aren’t even losing anymore. But still, I’m all for Cyclops being heroic, so that’s good enough for me.
TL;DR: Hickman gets to underline what makes the X-Men heroic before the start of whatever is going to come after X of Swords. I liked it.
Writer: Tini Howard
Artists: Mahmud Asrar and Stefano Caselli
Colorists: Sunny Gho and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
God forbid we didn’t read Excalibur in the build up to X of Swords. Apparently it was the key to everything.
Annihilation has brought forth the monsters as she faces off against Apocalypse. The X-Men stun her and retreat as they try to hold off the forces of evil. Meanwhile, the Arakkii champions are splintering, with White Sword dipping out and Bei rushing to take Cypher with her. Then Jubilee and the Priestesses of the Green show up to help fight, but the Priestesses go to guard the Citadel. Eventually, Cypher and Bei return, but our heroes are surrounded by the bad guys and their army.
Meanwhile, Saturnyne rebuilds the shattered pieces of Captain Britain…but is upset to see the pieces form Betsy? Which is weird, because that’s who was shattered. I’m not sure why she’s bothered. Anyway, I think a new Captain Britain Corps is forming.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This issue was as perfectly adequate as a lot of other X of Swords issues were, then had that added baggage of whatever the heck Excalibur has supposedly been about. Priestesses of the Green? Saturnyne being upset that putting the shattered pieces of Betsy together again makes Betsy? A new Captain Britain Corps? Ugh. No effort is made AT ALL to clue non-readers into what’s going on with all of this stuff. It means nothing to me and weighs this whole event down. Thankfully the rest is easy enough to understand, as the X-Men are backed into a corner by the bad guys and their army of vaguely evil monsters. I can understand that part, and that part carries this issue well enough to carry us into the climax.
Though, again, this marriage between Cypher and Bei is dumb as hell. It better be leading to something great down the line, because it makes no sense at present. What is even the point of it? Does nobody actually understand how to write a relationship? Do they expect us to care? I just don’t know.
TL;DR: Half of this issue carries us nicely into the climax X of Swords. The other half is more Excalibur nonsense that is impenetrable to those of us who haven’t been reading Excalibur.
X of Swords: Destruction #1
Writers: Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Here it is! The grand finale! We’re finally finished with X of Swords!
So it’s a big battle as the X-Men fight the monster armies of Armenth. Then the reformed Captain Britain Corps shows up to lend a hand. So the bad guys call more monsters. Then Cyclops and a whole army of X-Men show up to lend a hand, bringing the entire SWORD space station with them. So the bad guys summon even bigger monsters. Then Cable realizes his sword controls the SWORD space station, so they re-open that door from the earlier issue where they trapped a bunch of freaky aliens. And the freaky aliens show up and even the playing field against everybody.
Meanwhile, Apocalypse has been fighting Genesis this whole time and he finally beats her, tearing off the Annihlation helmet — which he is immediately prompted to put on. His willpower overcomes Annihlation and he surrenders the armies of Amenth to Saturnyne. So she finally comes down and uses her power to send all the various monsters away so they can settle everything like adults. She turns the helmet into a staff for Genesis, so that it’ll be easier to control. Then she demands a prisoner exchange. Apocalypse agrees to join his wife and children, and requests that the mutant island Arakko take his place on Earth (it has millions of mutant prisoners on it). And then everybody goes home.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Everything that happens in this issue should not have been relegated to this single issue, because there’s no room for anything to feel momentous. As I point out in my recap, it’s just one big escalation after another, with no chance for any of the cool hero moments to land. A new Captain Britain Corps arrives to save the day? They’re forgotten about immediately. The big X-Men army arrival that was teased in this week’s issue of X-Men? They get a couple of panels of fighting, and then are forgotten about almost immediately. And every single time, the bad guys just double their numbers with more generic monsters. The panel of the X-Men army arriving is damn cool…but it doesn’t amount to anything!
X of Swords: Destruction is as entertaining as most issues of X of Swords have been, in that the writing is good, the art is phenomenal and there’s forward momentum. I’ll talk about the event as a whole in a second. There were a lot of other cool moments in this issue. I liked how Apocalypse simply had a stronger will than Annihilation, that was great. It’s nice that he wasn’t jobbered to make the new villains look stronger. I continue to be annoyed that Saturnyne can apparently just wave her hands and anything happens, though that thankfully wiped the slate clean at the end of the story well enough. I’m disappointed that Apocalypse has left, though I suppose that was what all of this was building towards. I don’t like that Arakko and millions of new mutants are coming to Earth, because I don’t think we’ve had enough time to enjoy the new Krakoan status quo before upending it like this. But I remain confident in Jonathan Hickman’s storytelling ability, so I guess I will stick around for the ride a bit longer.
So X of Swords as a whole: I don’t care for it. I rated almost every single issue of the event with a positive score, but that is only on an issue-by-issue basis. As I said, the actual issues were pleasant enough to read. But the event as a whole is terrible. It was 22-parts long and definitely didn’t need to be. We didn’t need 10 or so issues at the start of the various X-Men gathering their swords, because the swords were literally pointless to the story. How many issues were spent training Cypher to sword fight? Only he doesn’t sword fight? And Wolverine didn’t even fight Solem despite having two issues dedicated to Wolverine getting his sword alongside Solem. A lot of this series felt like needless filler and nothing of real note or excitement ever actually happened, in my opinion.
TL;DR: X of Swords ends with a lot of pomp and circumstance, but it’s more style than substance, in my opinion. Some great art and some cool moments, but nothing that really sticks or resonates.
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!