Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/9/21

Welcome, to the world of tomorrow! More specifically, welcome to DC’s Future State! The far-flung future comics event began this week and I picked out a couple of titles I wanted to read, Next Batman, Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn! But I’ve also got a big pile of Marvel comics to read, like Iron Man and Juggernaut! This is gonna be a big pile of reviews, everybody! It’s all very exciting.

I’m gonna put all the Future State reviews on the bottom, just to group them together.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Future State: Wonder Woman #1 for a really fun and charming first issue. But the new Thor issue was so close because of a couple great cameos…

New things are afoot

Meanwhile, I just finished off The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the series ending was…not good. Jeez louise. The show had a lot of potential and promise when it started, but it seemed to flail a lot as it headed for the ending. The last season was a wild ride, to be sure, but that ending is just terrible. And I’m usually a guy who likes terrible endings!

Comic Reviews: Iron Man #5, Juggernaut #5, Thor #11, X-Factor #6, Future State: The Next Batman #1, Future State: Harley Quinn #1 and Future State: Wonder Woman #1.

Iron Man #5

Iron Man #5
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: CAFU
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Now it’s time for Iron Man to read his copy of the Marvel Encyclopedia and find a couple of characters to band together for a makeshift team! I always love that!

Tony and Patsy have recovered from Korvac’s latest attack, with Patsy resting and Tony addressing the ragtag team he’s put together: Misty Knight, Scarlet Spider, Gargoyle and Frog Man. They get to work tracking down Rhody, while Korvac uses his powers to try to reach out psychically to Hellcat…which Tony expected. He uses Hellcat to lead him to Korvac, though she’s much the worse for wear. Of course, Korvac was expecting Tony and his team, and the ragtags are led into an explosive trap. Tony angrily blasts Korvac, but his suit is on its last legs and Korvac knocks him about.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Another solid, enjoyable issue, though I’m a little disappointed that the ragtag team didn’t get too much to do. I liked this team! Frog Man is a favorite of mine, and who could have foreseen a Gargoyle appearance? Love that guy! I’m disappointed that Ben Reilly is still a thing; I didn’t like his resurrection. Kaine would have been the more fun choice. And Misty Knight is pretty much a given and leagues above these other guys. But then they didn’t do much, definitely didn’t interact with Stark or fight bad guys. They just got lured into an explosion. Sucks to be them!

Beyond that, still a strong story. Tony is facing some truly powerful enemies, with his friends and equipment falling all around him. He’s got a cool face-off with Korvac, and there’s a lot of craziness going on with Hellcat — though I am getting a little worried at how Cantwell is damaging the character. Did you really need to do this to Patsy Walker?! Her comic series was such a treat! But I suppose in the context of this Iron Man comic, it’s all coming along nicely.

TL;DR: The fun ragtag team put together for this storyline doesn’t get much use, but it’s still an otherwise solid part of this ongoing story.

Juggernaut #5

Juggernaut #5
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Ron Garney
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

The issue ends with the promise of more to come, and I hope that is indeed the case.

Juggernaut and D-Cel raid the Dungeon, a for-profit prison for supervillains who are taking bad guy DNA to alter their guards. The prison ends up being in a helicarrier in the air, and there’s no escape for D-Cel…unless she admits to being a mutant and requests asylum on Krakoa (which Cain earlier worked out with Professor X). D-Cel reveals that, when her powers manifested, it caused an accident that killed her parents, so she hasn’t been able to admit to being a mutant and taking that blame…but she finally does and the authorities let her go. And Juggernaut has a fun reunion with Black Tom Cassidy when she heads off to Krakoa.

Afterwards, Juggernaut teams up with Zola and Plasmus to rebuild Quicksand, then suggests they form a team to stop people like them from being abused. And Zola isn’t invited.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This little 5-issue mini-series was all over the place, and I mostly liked it. This issue was stronger than the previous two because it had a story to tell, finally setting the record straight on D-Cel and giving Juggernaut some solid character work in helping her. Their relationship was fun, but definitely could have used a lot more time and space to be explored. At least we got that fun Juggernaut/Black Tom reunion. That was a nice nod to continuity. The fight with the Warden and his guards was mostly a wash. This is the umpteenth super-villain prison Marvel has trotted out in their existence, and I’m sure it will never be mentioned again. And there wasn’t even really a fight. It’s theoretically set up for whatever comes next…but a team of Juggernaut, Plasmus and Quicksand isn’t all that exciting, to be honest. Nicieza didn’t do nearly as fun a job as Cantwell in terms of putting together random Marvel characters.

TL;DR: This little mini-series goes out on a strong, character-based note, though not the note I expected at the start of the series. Still, the whole thing is worth a read.

Thor #11

Thor #11
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Welp, Donny Cates just earned a ton of my gratitude for the one Thor cameo I never would have expected, but love so dang much! And then an ending that justifies this entire storyline. This issue is pure fire!

Instead of attacking Jane Foster, Donald Blake goes out to dinner with her to catch up, and he’s very coy about his evil. Elsewhere, Thor is still trapped in the other realm, and he’s visited by Ratatoskr from Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! How fun! In Dimension Blood, the Asgardians are being treated as guests by the demons, who are fans of Thor. Sif visits Bill, who feels bad for losing, but he has an idea on how to get out: Lockjaw. But Thori remembers that Lockjaw left a while ago to protect one of his warbound. Who could that be?

During dinner, Jane reveals that she was Thor for a spell, and Blake has a vision of tearing that power out of her…but he holds back and decides to leave instead. Jane was always nice to him. Jane returns to work at the morgue and discovers the body of Red Norvell. She now suspects Blake, and sees death for herself as well.

We then cut to a battered Donald Blake stalking through a swamp, shouting curses at some foe. He’s blasted with lightning as his foe stands revealed: Frog Thor, joined by Lockjaw! Frog Thor raises his mini-hammer and tells Blake to run!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Now that’s how you end a comic. Heck yeah! Cates definitely knows how to present a good cliffhanger, and how to pander to fans. I don’t mind being pandered to when it’s this much fun! Frog Thor getting to be a badass? Yes please! I mean, I doubt Frog Thor will be the one to defeat Donald Blake…but that cliffhanger surprise was worth whatever happens! To say nothing of Ratatoskr showing up, complete with her Erica Henderson design! I’m enjoying this storyline and Cates’ Thor well enough, but those two cameos were just plain joyful!

Happy happy, joy joy!

The rest of the issue is also strong. I like the character development for Beta Ray Bill, obviously. Thor doesn’t actually appear all that much, and that’s fine. Again, Cates is making great use of the supporting cast. Donald Blake gets to be more generically menacing, and Jane Foster gets some strong writing. And the artwork is as gorgeous as can be, so that’s a plus. Really, this is just another solid, enjoyable chapter in Cates’ new storyline, raised high by some truly spectacular story choices/character cameos.

TL;DR: Exquisite and fun character cameos raise this solid issue to even more enjoyable heights.

X-Factor #6

X-Factor #6
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldeon
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

X-Factor is now firmly back in business and things are grand! Let the good times roll.

Siryn has died a second time and her body has washed up on shore somewhere in the UK. X-Factor get the call and go out to investigate, while politely butting heads with the local PD. Polaris is also a little bummed that her friend, Siryn, isn’t talking to her about what’s going on. Back on Krakoa, Prodigy attends the autopsy to learn how to do them himself, and he’s curious what happens to the bodies afterwards…which eventually leads to him setting up a cadaver farm at the Boneyard so that he can study mutant decomposition and other stuff like that.

When Siryn is resurrected, the team brings her in for questioning but she’s being very difficult. She insists both deaths were accidental and she’s fine — but everybody knows she’s lying. When Siryn storms out, Polaris follows her to try and talk, and the two butt heads before Siryn uses her hypnosis powers to turn Polaris into a puppet who will work against the team’s investigation.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

If this is what we’re going to get from an average X-Factor issue, count me in! We’ve got a nice mix of investigative work, character interaction and the inclusion of the wider X-world. I love it! Heck, it seems Williams is playing around with actual Siryn/X-Factor history from the Peter David days, which is great! And she’s given her team a conflict based on Krakoa with actual known X-characters. I love that too! The character work remains strong, the writing remains fun, the artwork is solid — I especially enjoy the coloring. This issue was a nice little package of X-Factor goodness and I look forward to more like it!

TL;DR: With the introductions and crossovers out of the way, X-Factor can get into a real groove, and this issue is a very good start to that.

The Next Batman #1

Future State: The Next Batman #1
Writers: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas and Paul Jenkins
Artist: Nick Derington, Sumit Kumar and Jack Herbert
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire and Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands and Rob Leigh

We’re going to kick things off with The Next Batman! There are three stories in this issue, though I think only the first one really matters. Also to note, I did not read Death Metal, so I won’t be able to comment on anything about that. I’m just going to dive into Future State with fresh eyes!

In the Future State of Gotham City, the Magistrate is the new, evil Big Brother villain who kills people in masks on sight. Next Batman opens the issue catching a rapist in an alley, then he pulls off the guy’s mask before handing him over to police. We then check in with the Fox family, specifically Luke, whose sister was put into a coma by the masks. Their mother is now a lawyer for the Magistrate, and Luke visits his sister in the hospital — and gets into an argument with their estranged brother Tim (who wants to be called Jace). Jace storms off.

Meanwhile, two brothers are getting inducted into the Bane-Litos gang, which involves a drive by shooting and Bane masks. The crew run afoul of Magistrate, and it’s up to Next Batman to save the two boys with pure badassery. Also, a story is brewing involving an ex-cop, Whittaker, who might be planning crime jobs now.

In the second story, an armor-wearing Katana fights a Magistrate goon and is saved by Black Lighting, who is now composed of lightning. Also, Duke Thomas is still the Signal, and he works for the resistance.

In the third story, Astrid Arkham has become the Arkham Knight, and she leads a team of villains in a crusade against the Magistrate. These include Clayface, Dr. Phosphorous, Humpty Dumpy, Two-Face and more. She’s also working on their mental health.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Honestly, I could give or take the two back-up features, so I don’t really want to talk about them. They accomplish little more than adding other Future State stories to the world. I’m focused on The Next Batman, and he gets a pretty cool opening chapter. If I wasn’t planning on reading as much Future State as I could, this opening bit would definitely convince me to keep reading Next Batman all on its own. The writing is solid, the world is strong, the artwork is pretty much perfect for a Batman comic, and I like where all of this seems to be going. It’s not too radical a departure from what’s come before, but as the kick-off to a new Batman comic, it definitely works for me.

New Batman, same shit

If I had some gripes, it’s that Next Batman himself doesn’t get enough distinction to really make an impact. First of all, we don’t learn who is under the mask this issue. It’s already been spoiled by DC Comics in the media — Jace is Next Batman, even though “Jace” is a dumb name — so I don’t know why it’s not just matter-of-fact in this issue. It’s not even really played for mystery, like when Jane Foster became Thor. So I’m not sure what is being accomplished by being coy about Next Batman’s identity. Second, they should have come up with a better costume. It’s just a regular Batman costume with the mouth covered up, theoretically to hide the fact that he’s Black. So reading this issue is like reading any other Batman story, it’s just that his mouth area is covered up. That’s not very exciting.

TL;DR: Very enjoyable, very strong start to this new Batman story, even if I have a couple of quibbles. The back-up features don’t really add much beyond page space and price.

Future State: Harley Quinn #1

Future State: Harley Quinn #1
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Simone Dimeo
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: ALW’s Troy Peteri

I like Harley Quinn well enough, so let’s check this out.

Harley Quinn is captured by Magistrate and thrown into lockup, where she’s greeted by Dr. Jonathan Crane, who works for Magistrate catching bad guys (he’s no longer the Scarecrow). He wants Harley’s help, and she provides solutions to catching Professor Pyg and Firefly, even though she stays locked up the whole time. Crane next wants to use her to catch Black Mask, who is a big crime boss again.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I was disappointed in this issue only in that Harley Quinn herself didn’t do any of the action. This is a comic where Harley Quinn sits in a cell and provides ideas on how to capture Professor Pyg and Firefly, then other people go out and enact those plans. And they’re not particularly clever plans, they’re pretty straight forward. And nothing really paints this comic as “Future State”. I could easily see a regular continuity comic where Scarecrow goes straight and uses Harley Quinn as an aid in catching minor bad guys. It’s still a well done comic, I just don’t think it’s anything special.

TL;DR: The new Harley Quinn fails to wow and fails to be very Future State, but it’s still OK.

Future State: Wonder Woman #1

Future State: Wonder Woman #1
Writer and Artist: Joelle Jones
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

This is one Future State series I’m really excited about, and I’m pleased to say that things start off very well!

Yara Flor is the new Wonder Woman, and we meet her fighting a hydra in the Amazon Rainforest. She’s the daughter of the thunder god Tupã, and is the emissary between the gods and humanity (I think I read that correctly). She’s got a pegasus named Jerry to help her out. When the hydra is dead, she begins cutting off a horn, planning on take it down to the Underworld to demand Hades return her sister. Her friend Caipora (a jungle spirit) shows up and forbids her, but Yara lassos her up and Caipora promises to take her directly to the Underworld — which turns out to be like an airport. Caipora gets into a chatter with the demon at the desk about upgrading her membership, and Yara just rips off the gate in frustration.

They eventually make their way down to Charon the Ferryman, but Yara didn’t bring any money. So they straight up steal the coins from another dude in line, who gets mad and attacks. Then Yara ends up fighting a bunch of dead spirits who are just trying to move along. So Cerberus comes down in a rage.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This is Future State done right…or, at least, this is new relaunch done right! I’m surprised this has never been done before, adapting the concept of Wonder Woman to other civilizations and deities. It works so splendidly in this issue and it’s very easy to understand. Heck, Jones just dives right into her story instead of going through Yara’s origin. Has her origin been explained elsewhere? Honestly, I don’t care! This hero is Wonder Woman of the Amazon Rainforest, and it works so well! She’s an immediate person, with her own style, sense of self and supporting cast, from a pegasus to her friendship with a jungle spirit. And we start with an action scene fighting a monster, which is a blast.

Then we head into Hell! Which is an airport, and Jones has a lot of fun with the silliness of it! Also, seeing as how I’m a big Cerberus fan, I’m definitely down for him showing up in anything.

They can be friends!

I especially enjoyed the banter between Caipora and the desk clerk at the Hell airport. They chat about club membership rewards and it’s just silly fun.

Hell is other people

It was a little rude of Wonder Woman to steal the dead guy’s coins, but I liked how everybody seemed to recognize that. So she’s not a perfect angel, that’s good to see. And like I said, Jones does a great job of filling out Yara’s personality already. I’ve got a pretty solid understanding of what she’s going to be like as a character, and she’s already off on a fun adventure, with beautiful artwork. I’ve always been a fan of Jones’ artwork. And I really like how she’s kicked off this new character.

TL;DR: This is a very promising start to this whole new Wonder Woman concept, so I’m encouraged at what we’re going to see. This is a fun and charming comic!

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 January 9, 2021, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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