Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/5/20
The hype is real, people! By this time next week, I will be playing Cyberpunk 2077 and hopefully immersing myself in a wonderful world of madness. Here’s hoping my base Playstation 4 can handle it! Otherwise, I guess we can talk about some comics this week, like Batman, Far Sector and, oh look, The Union!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Thor #10 for another exciting, action-packed adventure. Though it pains me to award such a title to a comic that would do this to Beta Ray Bill.
Meanwhile, this week also saw the start of King in Black and I read it…and it’s fine. I haven’t followed hardly any of Donny Cates’ ongoing Venom saga, but I try to check in on Big Events when I’m in the mood. I won’t be giving this one full reviews because I’m not that interested…though since I’m on vacation, maybe I’ll go back and read all of Cates’ Venom? Would that be something? Also, while I have your attention, I just wrapped up the Hulu show Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and that is a strong recommendation from me! That show was brilliant!
Comic Reviews: Batman #104, Far Sector #9, Strange Adventures #7, Thor #10, The Union #1 and X-Factor #5.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Ryan Benjamin, Danny Miki, Bengal and Guillem March
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Everything is continuing along nicely.
Ghost-Maker has trapped Batman, Harley and Clownhunter in a room together in Arkham — only he hasn’t tied Clowhunter down. This is a test for Batman. Clownhunter gets up and grabs a sword, ready to kill Harley Quinn, with Batman yelling for him to stop.
Meanwhile, Barbara asks Nightwing about Ghost-Maker and Dick tells the story of the one time he ever saw the guy, and the stories Batman told him. Ghost-Maker was on a journey just like Bruce Wayne to learn all the great martial arts and stuff, and the two became friends. But when Bruce told him about his quest for vengeance after the death of his parents, Ghost-Maker got mad, because he’s in it for the art. That is the beginning of their feud. Then Nightwing also adds some other continuity retcons, like the idea that Batman approached Ghost-Maker about joining Batman Incorporated when that was a thing. Also, Spoiler and Orphan (calling themselves “Batgirls”) call in with a lead on Batman’s whereabouts.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I already complained about this earlier in the week, but it bugs me that DC has started re-inserting Dick Grayson’s original Robin costume back into continuity. I get that it’s a classic suit, but it’s also embarrassing. Those short shorts and pixie boots went a long way to marginalizing the character in mainstream opinions. The New 52 suit wasn’t perfect, but it looked a heck of a lot better. The original Robin suit looks especially dumb when, in the same flashback, Ghost-Maker gets to wear his modern, high tech, badass suit. They couldn’t have given Ghost-Maker a campy flashback suit as well? Bogus!
Beyond that gripe, which I realize is on me and me alone, the rest of the issue was really good. Batman has been put in a tricky situation involving the new characters, and that’s fun. The addition of Harley Quinn is also a nice touch. So that’s all solid in my book. I’m also a big Robin fan, obviously, so I love that Dick Grayson has been clued in about Ghost-Maker from the start. I love any acknowledgement that he and Bruce were a damn good team. I’m still not completely buying the Ghost-Maker retcon, but Tynion does a fine job trying to incorporate the character into Bat-history. This was always going to be a tough sell, and he’s doing his best.
TL;DR: My personal opinions on the various Robin retcons aside, this was another solid Batman comic. Tynion is doing a fine job using and incorporating his new characters.
Far Sector #9
Writer: N.K. Jemisin
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Deron Bennett
As much as I have enjoyed Far Sector as a whole, I’m ready for this ride to come to an end.
Jo’s assistant takes her to an @At cafe where the food is holograms, but sensors allow you to taste and feel it. The partner explains that a vocal minority in favor of the Emotion Exploit was able to put together enough political clout to implement the program in the first place, even though nobody else really wanted it. She also explains that the Feelsnet is essentially the Dark Web. Jo heads off for a stakeout in a rural part of town, with her ring at only 18%. so she’s not using it at all.
She finds the mysterious facility and looks from afar, only to be found by a guard. She beats him up and steals his uniform to head inside. Jo finds a slave labor camp where the prisoners are hooked into computers in order to produce memes.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I feel like Far Sector has lost a lot of its energy. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s the slow release schedule; we’re only getting a new issue every two months. And I also think the detail in the story has been a problem. We’re this deep into the story and the City Enduring is still getting new twists and wrinkles added to its already complex structure. I feel a little lost, and some of the minor details are starting to bug me. I don’t like how Jo Mullein has some weird, unique Green Lantern ring. Obviously Jemisin wants to accomplish something in story where Jo doesn’t have use of her ring, but couldn’t she have found a way to incorporate that into existing GL ring lore?
The other thing that bugs me is the sudden focus on Earth memes. I haven’t mentioned it much in my reviews, but memes have been revealed as a type of currency in the City Enduring, and that’s fine. But Jemisin has specifically pointed out that Earth memes are hugely popular. It just feels so anachronistic. The City Enduring is supposed to be so far out into the universe, with this whole alien world that Jemisin came up with. And it’s a good created world! So why are they tapped into Earth memes? The story does include the fact that they make their own memes. And surely other planets in the entire universe make memes. Why do they have to be obsessed with Earth memes? The City Enduring has nothing to do with the planet Earth. This is just a little detail that’s bugging me and takes me out of the story.
Anyway, the story continues along nicely and Jo has found herself in a new troubling situation. Jemisin’s writing is still very strong and I look forward to see where all of this is heading, even if I’m a little lost at this point.
TL;DR: Far Sector feels a bit long in the tooth at this point, but the general storytelling is still strong. The artwork is also still as gorgeous as can be!
Strange Adventures #7
Writer Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
We’re nearing the end (I think?) and so things are getting weirder. The non-linear storytelling is definitely weirder. This is going to be a rough recap because I want to get the story beats across as best I can.
OK, so, after Adam was kidnapped by the Pykkt at the end of the last issue, he’s taken by some human-looking guy who has a rainbow-magic powered machine that seems to teleport Adam to various places. This guy is talking all sorts of zen nonsense that doesn’t make any sense at this point in the story, but it feels like this is building to something. Adam was his prisoner for a while, and was even teleported to see his wife and daughter at one point, but it was very brief. This does a number on Adam and it all ends with Adam snapping the guy’s neck, ranting about how he is “Adam Strange, the hero of two worlds.”
Alanna mentioned this kidnapping in the previous issue, when she was talking to Mister Terrific.
In the present day, Adam Strange fights off some Pykkt scouts on Earth, going so far as to just straight up killing them when they seem to want to talk. This annoys Batman. And while relaxing with his wife at one point, she prods him for information and Adam reveals that he did kill that angry, screaming guy from the first issue. Adam got confused and thought the guy might be a Pykkt spy, but he was just an ordinary human. Adam felt guilty, which is why he put Batman on the case.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I am on the record as starting I don’t like weird, trippy stuff in my fiction. It’s why I’ve really turned against Grant Morrison’s The Green Lantern comic, despite loving the first volume. And this trippy rainbow teleportation stuff definitely counts. I didn’t really understand what was happening. It was hard to wrap my head around. I think I’ve got it now…if only in the barest sense. And I had to flip through the previous issue to remind myself of some plot points, like Adam’s kidnapping towards the end of the war. Hopefully we do find out who this guy is and what the Pykkt’s master plan is…if there is one at all. I’m pretty sure this is all leading to a finale where Adam is the bad guy and the Pykkt are the good guys…but that feels too predictable. At least we finally got the revelation that Adam was indeed responsible for the murder that kicked off this storyline, so things are finally happening and being revealed! I just don’t know where it’s going to end…
Probably on something weird and trippy…
TL;DR: On the one hand, we get some solid revelations and move the story forward. On the other hand, this issue introduces so weird, trippy, mind-games stuff that served more to confuse than anything else.
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
You already know what Donald Blake does to Beta Ray Bill from the top of this article. So steel yourselves, my friends, for the actual story!
Donald Blake is crazy powerful and he fights his way through Beta Ray Bill, Volstagg, Sif and a whole host of Asgardian warriors. Then he takes Sif’s sword and teleports all of the Asgardians to a vile hell dimension. Then he cleans up and teleports himself to Earth to go see Jane Foster.
Meanwhile, Thor is still trapped in Blake’s old neighborhood, where he finds a dying Jormungand. The great Midgard Serpent explains that, when Odin’s power transferred to Thor, the magic around this neighborhood was weakened enough for him to get inside. His plan was to free Blake and explain the evil Odin has done, but Blake turned on the Serpent and absorbed his power. So Blake has both the power of Odin and Jormungand inside of him. That’s how he’s so strong.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
You do not know how relieved I am that Cates didn’t kill Beta Ray Bill. It didn’t look good there for a bit. And Cates did do a number on our boy, having Blake strip Bill of all of Odin’s enchantments, but at least he’s still alive. So whew! (Still, man, destroying Stormbreaker and stripping Bill of all of his enchantments? What do you have against the greatest comic book character of all time?) Beyond that bit of hair-raising fear, this was another solid issue as this story and danger continues to grow. I was annoyed at how easily Donald Blake tore through the Asgardian soldiers. Someday I want to see a story where these mighty warriors can actually stand their ground in a battle. It’s like the scene with Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Doesn’t matter what they do or who is among their ranks, the villain can just swat them aside like flies. How many times in comic book history have the soldiers of Asgard been killed en masse by some shiny, new bad guy?
Still, it works for this issue and this story. And Thor’s conversation with Jormungand helped fill in all the blanks. I’m grateful that Cates isn’t stretching out this mystery. We now know exactly how this happened, and it works for me! The entity that is Donald Blake was empowered with Odin magic to begin with, and now he’s added Jormungand magic as well, which readily explains why he is such a beast! So the stakes are raised, the danger is real and now it’s time for some quality superheroics!
TL;DR: This was an enjoyable issue as Cates ramps up the new threat and the new story. I’m grateful we got some solid answers as to what is going on, and that definitely helps inflate the drama and the stakes.
The Union #1
Writer: Paul Grist
Pencilers: Andrea Di Vito, with Grist
Inkers: Drew Geraci and Le Beau Wunderwood, with Grist
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
One thing I really enjoy in comic book universes is the existence of heroes in other countries. Marvel and DC both focus on the United States, with Marvel really only concerned with New York City. But obviously superheroes exist throughout the world, and here comes the Union!
Just in time for a King in Black tie-in…
So the UK has put together a new superhero team for these troubling times, comprised of members from all the UK countries. At the head is Britannia, a brand new character. And they’ve got Kelpie, The Choir and Snakes. They’re the talk of British media, as is the viewer poll to give them a team name. We check in with the team during a plant-the-flag training exercise, and we get little peaks into their powers. Mostly we focus on the new Union Jack, a working class guy running the exercise course. We also find out that general British soldiers aren’t too hype on our heroes. And there’s some ponce of a tech billionaire who is funding the whole thing.
The training exercise/TV interview is interrupted by a symbiote dragon and Britannia flies up to fight. She chops off its head, but gets stabbed through the torso by its tail. She falls to Earth and dies in Union Jack’s arms. Then symbiotes take over the various soldiers on scene and the team has a fight on their hands!
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
There isn’t anything in this debut issue that really makes the Union stand out. We get a peak inside the thought process of Union Jack, and there’s some mystery surrounding Britannia, but the other three are just set dressing in this first issue. We get more personality out of the jerkwad financier than we do the members of the Union. And then the comic kills Britannia and turns into a King in Black tie-in, so there isn’t much promise at the end of the issue that we will get a better look at the Union going forward. One thing I did like about the issue was the feeling of forced-upon celebrity. The media is clamoring to cover the Union. And I get the sense from the soldiers that they’re annoyed at how these “freaks” are being raised onto pedestals. So that will hopefully be a theme to explore with these characters. I just hope, going forward, that we actually explore these characters.
Or maybe this is just going to be a bland 5-issue mini-series where some superheroes we don’t know get killed by Knull. I dunno.
TL;DR: There are some good ideas, but mostly dull executions, in this new international superhero team comic. I fear the King in Black tie-in is going to get more focus than the new team.
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldeon
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Finally, I am free from having to read X of Swords! I can get back to enjoying Leah Williams’ X-Factor!
X-Factor prove Wind Dancer’s death in Mojoverse, so the Five resurrect her and it turns into a big reunion/makeshift prom for that era of X-Students. Then we get some nice character scenes as various people fuss over various things, like the weirdness concerning Rockslide and his Otherworld death, whatever flirtation is going on between Daken and Aurora, and Emma Frost being both happy and sad that some dead students get to come back to life. Also, Prodigy thinks he was murdered.
In the end, Northstar and Aurora reveal that they have their old twin powers back…just in time for Siryn to fall out of the sky, dead.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was a nice little issue getting us back on track of the ongoing X-Factor storylines. Mojoworld is wrapped up for now, though they’re going to work on a plan to rescue the likes of Shatterstar and Adam-X. There’s the mystery of Rockslide’s resurrection to uncover, with a few forward steps taken. We’re also told that they resurrected Gorgon and he also turned out weird…which makes no sense. If you already knew it was going to be weird, why do it?! They would really rather have these weird simulacra versions of their fellow mutants than just let them rest in peace? It’s just weird.
But hey, surely all fans of the Wind Dancer-era of X-Students must have loved this issue!
I enjoy this series and its focus on its characters. Williams is juggling everybody really well, and she knows when to kick back and have fun with her characters. I think it’s a little weird that she’ll kick off the next story by just killing another random X-Man, and hopefully that’s not going to be a reoccurring idea. The first issue of X-Factor ended on a moment where the team discovered a bunch of pre-existing mutant death mysteries. We don’t need a new X-character to drop dead at the end of every issue just to propel this comic forward.
TL;DR: A quaint little issue reasserts all the previous X-Factor storylines now that X of Swords is over. I look forward to this comic finally being able to spread its wings.
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 December 5, 2020, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Adam Strange, Beta Ray Bill, Clownhunter, Far Sector, Ghost-Maker, Jo Mullein, King in Black, Strange Adventures, The Union, Thor, X-Factor. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.