Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/2/21
Happy New Year, everybody! It’s 2021, life is better, but we’ve still got a couple of last minute comics from 2020 to read and review. There wasn’t much on my buy pile this week, so it’ll be a quick review list. But when we’ve got new issues of Power Pack and X-Men, you know we’ll be in for a good time!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Power Pack #2, as writer Ryan North finally lets his unique sense of humor shine through! Take a look at this guy!
Meanwhile, I mostly wasted yesterday with a long nap in the afternoon, so I didn’t get to everything I wanted to get to on the first day of the new year. So…I think I’ll consider today to be the first day of the New Year! Huzzah! Let’s all enjoy ourselves.
Comic Reviews: Power Pack #2 and X-Men #16.
Power Pack #2
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Nico Leon
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
There’s that Ryan North magic I missed so much in the first issue!
Following a fight with Bogeyman, Power Pack are confronted by C.R.A.D.L.E., who want to arrest them for being teenage superheroes in violation of Kamala’s Law. They can’t be heroes without an adult mentor, and Alex doesn’t count because he only turned 21 because he was out in space and relativity is a thing. The superhero Agent Aether shows up to offer his mentor services, but he’s too late. So Julie works up some legal magic on the lack of precedent concerning relative aging and the CRADLE agent lets them go — giving them 24 hours to find an adult hero mentor. Agent Aether offers, but Power Pack turn him down because they don’t know him.
The kids then spend the next day visiting various heroes, though they can’t find a mentor. For some reason, they don’t go to the Fantastic Four…but I’m not going to quibble. They settle on calling Agent Aether and he’s happy to help…though he admits there isn’t much he can teach Power Pack, who are pretty well established heroes. The one thing he can mentor them on is the importance of using their powers to provide free electrical power to society. He’s done a lot of research on the topic, and we get a couple pages to learn about how power plants work, and how each of their powers could be used like a power plant. Free electrical power could do a lot to help people in need, and they could do it part time around their heroing. The kids talk it over and they’re in! They head home for the day.
And Agent Aether heads back to his secret lab, where the reader discovers that he is actually The Wizard in disguise! And Boogeyman was a robot hologram under his control! This is all a plan to do something bad to Power Pack.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I loved this! There’s that classic Ryan North magic! I was a little disappointed in the first issue, as it served as more of a crash course in the Power Pack than anything else. And then I was worried this Outlawed storyline would drag the whole thing down. But then Agent Aether swooped onto the scene and nothing was ever the same again! North took the Outlawed concept and ran with it in a direction I never could have seen coming. And then he doubled down with an even zanier idea!
Genius! And then we get a classic North bit where he actually tries to teach the reader something. I’ll never forget that time he used Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to teach us all how to count in binary on our hands. Now he’s teaching us how power plants work, and how arc reactors impact the world, and how the key to fighting crime is basic electrical power for everyone. And man is it just a bunch of silly, educational fun! And then he ties it all so well into the Power Pack comic, characters and his own twist on the Outlawed storyline. This is the master class stuff I was expecting in the first issue, glad to see it here.
I’m almost disappointed that Agent Aether turned out to be a villain in disguise…but I’m willing to concede that this is still a superhero comic and not Ryan North’s personal mission to reinvent Power Pack as the future of power production.
TL;DR: The Ryan North magic is on full display! This is a glorious second issue with new superheroes, intense silliness and some real educating material.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Phil Noto
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
I both hate this issue and love this issue in equal measure! Hickman has all these neat ideas for the X-Men, then takes a bunch of steps back with all his crazy ideas for Arakko.
Following X of Swords, the island of Arakko arrives on Earth…but it doesn’t want to bond with Krakoa. Cypher plays matchmaker, but later informs the Quiet Council that it’s just not going to happen because Arakko and their many mutants are just too different after centuries of war. Magneto and Professor X head to Arakko to see for themselves and have a chat with Isca the Unbeaten. She says basically the same thing: peace and unity probably ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.
But those are matters for another day. The Quiet Council has two open seats and Magneto and Professor X ask Jean and Cyclops to take them: but the pair decline. They have settled on a new idea: reforming an actual X-Men team. But rather than just pick a roster at random…they’re going to hold elections. I love it.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
So what did I hate about this issue: everything with Arakko. I don’t yet understand why this is so important to Hickman’s X-Men run. None of it has clicked for me. Millions of unknown mutants who all seem to have been immortal this whole time and who now have come to Earth to disrupt everything that was built on Krakoa after only, like, a year or so of actual Dawn of X comics? Does Hickman think Isca the Unbeaten is the hot new comic book character? Does he not realize how dumb it is to constantly try to remind myself how to spell both Arakko and Okkara and understand which is which? I don’t get it and I don’t like it. And those scenes in this issue are basically one big “neener neener, X-Men, we’re so much tougher and cooler than you”. It’s painfully uninteresting.
Fortunately, the last few pages of this issue turn everything around for me.
Elect the new X-Men team? Hells yes! What a novel idea! That’s the kind of thinking I want to see in Dawn/Reign of X! Same with the Crucible a couple issues back, and Kurt building a new mutant religion! These are the ideas I wanted from the Krakoa era! Outside the box thinking, some weird reimaginings for the X-Men! We get a taste of it in this issue, with a lot of strong Quiet Council scenes. And then that ending, with Cyclops and Jean proposing this idea. So all of that made me love this issue. And, obviously, I hope we get more of this sort of writing going forward.
Definitely looking forward to the upcoming Hellfire Gala now!
TL;DR: I hate the new Arakko stuff, so that part of the issue stank. I love the crazy ideas Hickman has for the X-Men, so that part of the issue was great. Your thoughts may differ.
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!