Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/6/21

What a week! Not only do I have a pile of comics to review, but I also have a big pile of comics to review! Between Future State at DC and my favorites at Marvel, there’s a lot to read and review! Fortunately for me, they’re all largely comics I enjoy, like Far Sector, Future State: Wonder Woman and X-Factor!

Comic Book of the Week goes to the returning Runaways, because that comic is just so precious! Any issue is a reason to celebrate!

Somebody loves them!

Meanwhile, another banger of a WandaVision episode yesterday! I’m definitely going to have to do a review list when it’s all done! Also this week, I’ve been building the Marvel Legends Stilt-Man figure! I can’t believe that’s real! I bought it using the ad money I earn from this site. I only make about $10 a month in ad revenue, and I only get paid by WordPress once I have $100 built up, so payments are few and far between. But I got $100 last month, just in time to go on eBay and start buying individual Stilt-Man pieces! He looks great!

Comic Reviews: Far Sector #10, Future State: The Next Batman #3, Future State: Wonder Woman #2, Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey #4, Runaways #33, Strange Academy #8 and X-Factor #7.

Far Sector #10

Far Sector #10
Writer: N.K. Jemisin
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Deron Bennett

This it, folks! Mysteries are solved! Questions are answered! And new danger emerges!

So Jo has uncovered a “sweatshop” where ordinary citizens are doped up on Switchoff in order to produce memes and other “emotional” artforms. She gets super angry and uses her Lantern power to strike out, but she gets arrested for damaging property. Syz explains that there’s too much red tape to just shut these places down, so Jo requests to meet with Councilor Marth. He shows up the following day, which is the same day as the new referendum to vote down the emotional exploit.

Jo explains everything to the audience: Marth owns the sweatshop, and others like it. The deaths she’s been investigating were people who escaped and were silenced lest they expose the operation. Marth explains it’s all about profit, and he arranged to have a Green Lantern come to sew a little unpredictability. Syz and her officers arrive to arrest Marth for all of this, but suddenly everything goes crazy. Turns out this is all a power grab by the @At councilor (I think) who takes control of The City Enduring’s military fleet in order to stage a coup.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

The only thing keeping this issue from being a perfect score is that I was having a little trouble following everything, if I’m being honest. There are names and characters and alien concepts thrown around that probably make sense on some level, if you’ve been following along. But Far Sector has been coming out for more than a year now, and it’s easy to get lost. Is the @At councilor the one launching this coup? Then why keep @At citizens from voting? And is she Marth’s sister? He mentions a mysterious “she” as killing Averrup, then references his sister. Were those two completely different thoughts? It legitimately gets a little confusing. Fortunately, it’s also still very exciting.

Most assuredly not

This is an issue of talking heads, mostly, but Jemisin did a fine job of keeping the talking interesting. She rotates characters in and out to keep the conversation flowing, and she’s got Jo as a solid foundation. Jo has put in the work and figured it all out, and now we finally get to know the full breadth of what’s going on. And that opening scene, where Jo just goes nuts with her Green Lantern power, was an exciting opening. And that ending was phenomenal! I suppose something this big should have been expected, but I didn’t see it coming. I’m excited for where the finale can possibly go!

TL;DR: This is the big issue where questions are answers, mysteries are revealed and we launch like a rocket into the grand finale! Definitely worth the price of admission!

Future State: The Next Batman #3

Future State: The Next Batman #3
Writer: John Ridley
Artist: Laura Braga
Colorist: Arif Prianto

The Next Batman is fine, but I feel like this story should have been a lot more overall. Also, I once again did not read the back-ups. Don’t hate me.

Next Batman has captured the two killers (whose story is complicated), but now they’re all staring down the guns of a Magistrate squad. Batman uses all of his tricks to get them to safety, and soon the three of them are on the run. They hold up in a church, where Next Batman gets their help cauterizing his bullet wound. He calls Det. Chubb and convinces her to let him bring the two in, because they deserve to stand trial, not get shot on sight. But before they head out, the guy turns on Next Batman and starts beating on him. He’s hoping they’ll earn some leniency by killing Next Batman!

Meanwhile, Lucius Fox and his wife get into an argument about their new law. And there’s another Fox sister, who doesn’t get named, but who questions Luke as to whether or not he’s Next Batman.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The Next Batman is a pretty good Batman story. He’s got a dangerous (if one-sided) foe, he’s got some people to protect, he’s slightly working with the cops, and there are twists to keep it fresh. I definitely didn’t expect the couple to turn on him like that. But I’m starting to feel like Future State is doing this comic a disservice. That DC Comics is doing this comic a disservice. This is something that needed a bigger, yet also more focused, push. Honestly…now that I’m writing it out…this definitely should have been that 5G thing that was rumored. DC should have had the guts to actually go forward with this as a new status quo for Batman. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be the future. It could have been a temporary thing, like when Jim Gordon was a mech-suit Batman for a while.

So much awkward running

Because The Next Batman doesn’t really have the time or focus to tell a truly great story. This whole thing needs more room to breathe. It needs time to flesh out supporting characters like Det. Chubbs, and the leader of the Magistrate squad. It needs time to figure out what the heck its doing with the Fox family. All of a sudden there’s another sister in the house? And despite her having conversations with multiple family members, none of them use her name to clue in the reader. Are we supposed to already have every single member of the Fox family memorized?

It doesn’t help that we’ve had no time at all to explore Jace as a person. There’s only been one non-Batman scene of him. We have no idea how or why he became Next Batman, and I have to imagine it’s an interesting story.

Also, the artwork is really good, but it’s also not working with the story. It’s a more generic superhero style, while the story feels like it should be a bit grittier, a bit darker.

TL;DR: This all makes for a perfectly fine, perfectly enjoyable Batman story, but it’s doing very little to actually explore or flesh out the idea of “Next” Batman.

Future State: Wonder Woman #2

Future State: Wonder Woman #2
Writer and Artist: Joelle Jones
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Have you heard the fun news? Yara Flor will get her own series as Wonder Girl in the coming months! Also written and drawn by Joelle Jones! That’s very exciting.

Yara Flor escaped Cerberus by using the skeletal arm of Charon the Ferryman as a bone to distract the big doggo, which again seems rude to Charon. Yara heads off on the ferry alone, her jungle spirit friend staying behind, as she continues her search for her sister in the Underworld. She eventually finds Hades, and Persephone convinces him to give Yara a chance to find her sister. Yara goes out into the Underworld and faces some dangers, eventually finding her sister by focusing on the memory of how she died: sacrificing herself to save Yara during a battle on Themyscira.

Hades is angry that Yara has succeeded and Hell starts crumbling around them. The two sisters run, but the sister gets trapped under some fallen rubble. Yara can’t pull her free and must leave her behind, much to her great reluctance. Yara is pulled from the Underworld by a bunch of other soldiers dressed like her. And she’s sad.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This two-parter has been a great introduction to Next Wonder Woman and I’m very excited for that solo series coming up. Unlike Next Batman, this series is simpler and far more straight forward in terms of who we’re dealing with and what she gets up to. Future State: Wonder Woman isn’t trying to remake the entirety of Wonder Woman’s world. This is just a short, fun, gorgeously-drawn peak into this nifty new take on the Wonder Woman concept, and it totally works. I’m definitely eager for more after this quick, two issue taste.

Cerberus is best doggo

Part of me feels like this story could have been longer, could have used more fleshing out. But Jones does a fine job of making it all work within just two issues. We know exactly what Yara Flor is like. She’s fun, she’s mischievous, she’s fearless and she’s got this interesting bit of backstory, where she lost her best friend (possibly sister?) in battle. And she’s not the least bit afraid of just marching down to the Underworld to get her back. Jones delivers a great big look at the Underworld, and I love her designs for the likes of Hades, Persephone and the other classic mythical characters.

Though I hope, going forward, we explore a bit more of Brazilian mythology. I am really warming up to the idea of a Wonder Woman who represents a different mythological pantheon than Greek.

TL;DR: Short and very sweet, this two-parter has been a wonderful little introduction to the new Wonder Woman. Joelle Jones is killing it on both writing and art, making this one of the most gorgeous comics to read.

Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey #4

Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey #4
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: John J. Hill

It’s been about a year since the Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey Movie, and we’re finally at the end of this delightful comic.

All the various good guys beat up all the various bad guys at the police station and settle that part of the story. Meanwhile, Harley and Poison Ivy are being held prisoner by the Joker and Harley Sinn. Harley just keeps talking, driving Sinn crazy, until Harley smashes her out a window. Then Joker spends way too long carving into Harley with a knife, while she tries to remain defiant. Ivy wakes up and saves the day, tossing Joker out the same window. Harley’s other friends show up, but everybody is too late and Harley dies. She goes to limbo, where God and Satan argue back and forth over who doesn’t want Harley more. When Harley gets annoyed and starts making her case for either Heaven or Hell, God and Satan decided to just send her back to Earth.

Harley wakes up from her coma four months later. She’s then passed around from friend to friend while she recovers. When she’s all better, Power Girl shows up to fly her back to New York City, where everybody has built a new Gang of Harleys HQ. Then they all throw a big cast party.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was good. It was all good. It’s harmless fun, giving Conner and Palmiotti a chance to put a big, fun epilogue at the end of their Harley Quinn run. Considering how much I loved that run, and how it’s really the only ongoing Harley Quinn comic I’ve ever read, I’m very happy for this epilogue. And as the series went on, I found it easier and easier to ignore all of the weird continuity flubs and just go with the flow. The action is fun, the jokes mostly work, the characters are strong, and Harley herself remains a force of nature. Personally, I didn’t need yet another exploration of Harley vs. Joker, but they did well with the material nonetheless. And the Birds of Prey remained the needless supporting characters they’ve always been in this short series.

Somebody take her!

Honestly, I wish this series had more balls. I wish they had the courage to just kill the Joker, or even Harley Sinn, at the end of the story. Why not? DC continuity isn’t what it used to be. Why not just let Harley kill the Joker to wrap up this story? And why not let Conner have more fun with the art. This comic was constantly joking about nudity, with a lot in this issue. Just let Amanda Conner draw a naked butt! There, I said it.

TL;DR: Conner and Palmiotti get to throw themselves a big epilogue party, with lots of gruesomeness, sexiness, funniness and heart-warmingness. It totally worked for me, as a previous fan of their Harley Quinn work.

Runaways #33

Runaways #33
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Andres Genolet
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Why is this comic only coming out once a year now?! It’s soooo good!

Everybody is adjusting to a new settled life, complete with school and sports and who is going to drop who off at which school. Chase seems to be out in the mornings, which is when he’s supposed to drive everyone. Nico picks them up in the afternoon; that was the deal! Gib is doing great on the football team. Gert is getting used to high school again, including meeting a new boy. Victor is still pining for Gert. Karolina is still under the weather from the last storyline, with Nico trying everything she can think of to help her.

To make matters worse, Wolverine and Pixie show up and grab Molly to take her to Krakoa! Nico, Chase and Doombot are prepared to fight them off, but the X-Men explain that Molly asked them to come save her.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I loved everything about this issue. Jeez louise, it’s so much fun! Rowell does such a phenomenal job telling down-to-Earth stories with these characters, while mixing in the weirdness of their lives. I love watching Nico try to be a parental figure. I love the lot of them standing around debating how they’re going to get to school, with the artwork making it especially fun. You’ve got Gib in normal clothes, towering above them all. Nico is one of the shortest, and she’s the one trying to be an adult. It’s great! And all the general life stuff is great, from Gert getting introduced to shooter drills, to everybody attending Gib’s football game, to Doombot offering to drive just Victor to school.

You know what they say about assuming

Runaways is the perfect example of some of my favorite types of comic book stories: grounded and realistic. Rowell isn’t throwing her characters into superhero fisticuffs at the drop of a hat. She takes time to explore the realistic lives of these very unique kids, and I love it! I am so here for it! Nico getting annoyed that Chase isn’t there to take the others to school? Brilliant! Victor trying way too hard to get back into Gert’s good graces while they jog around the track for gym class? Amazing! The slowly building tension of Nico using her magic with the new terms Rowell created a couple issues ago? Crazy! Wolverine and Pixie just showing up, and Pixie repeatedly calling Nico by her first name, even though they’ve never met, much to Nico’s annoyance? That’s just damn good and clever writing!

TL;DR: Runaways is coming out very rarely these days, but each issue is pure gold! This new storyline is exactly what I love about Rainbow Rowell’s comic. It’s grounded, it feels so real, yet never loses sight of the crazy nature of these characters.

Strange Academy #8

Strange Academy #8
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

I really loved the previous issue, and this one gets us back to normal, with some of that lingering good stuff.

Following his death and resurrection, Doyle is undergoing therapy with Dead Girl. He’s bothered by the multiple premonitions that point to him destroying the world. Though when he found out that Emily saved his life, he donated a piece of himself to Doctor Strange to turn into a ring to help keep the remaining dark magic inside of her at bay. Speaking of Emily, Doctor Strange pulls her out of class to give her the ring, and while she’s walking back to class, she is once again contacted by the mysterious being locked up in Strange’s basement. They have a little chat about magic and trust and Emily wanting to find answers for herself.

Meanwhile, a couple of classmates are on a field trip into space with Rocket Raccoon and Groot. The pair found a magical item some time ago but lost it to a monster den, and the class is going to retrieve it…except the monsters are still there. So everybody panics and Calvin calls back to the school to get a portal home. It’s more chaotic than I’m making it sound.

Also, for a brief moment, Toth sees that the puffs on Calvin’s coat seem to actually be eyeballs.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

First of all, love a good Dead Girl cameo. Anytime somebody from X-Statix shows up somewhere, it’s a blast — though Doop can now just be considered another member of the X-Men at this point.

Second of all, solid, enjoyable issue, though this one quickly falls back into one of the things I like least about this series: vaguely school-related magical stuff. As much as I liked grounded, realistic stuff, the classroom work in Strange Academy is usually too unfocused for me to really enjoy. It’s generally a handful of the random students doing something magical and perhaps we get a visual gag. It’s rarely tied directly to the students. Like this field trip out into space. It comes off as more of an excuse to have Rocket and Groot guest star than anything else. And the students involved seem chosen at random. It’s like Young and Ramos decided to make sure they had plenty of filler material in their comic, rather than use all their page-space for character-focused storytelling. At least we do get a lot of great character stuff from Emily, Doyle and Doctor Strange again. That’s the stuff I really enjoy, and there is a lot of it building in Strange Academy.

TL;DR: An equal blend of really good character storytelling and more generic wild magic adventure.

X-Factor #7

X-Factor #7
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldeon
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Now that the crossovers are over, Williams is definitely getting into a character groove with X-Factor. I love it!

What’s up with Siryn? That’s what X-Factor is going to find out! Daken heads out into the world to tail her, after a flirtatious scene with Aurora, and a buddy-buddy scene with Northstar. But he keeps telephoning Polaris with updates, and she’s been hoodwinked to work against the team. So nobody is there to know when Daken is ambushed by Siryn and left for dead, impaled on a log. The rest of the team spends several days interviewing people (including a quick Multiple Man cameo!), until Eye Boy is finally confident enough that Polaris is outright lying to them to expose her. Rachel scours her mind and they realize the Morrigan is controlling Siryn!

Northstar goes to save Daken, who gets to have another steamy scene with Aurora later while he’s recuperating. But later that night, something crazy has happened, because everybody is dead and only Daken, Eye Boy and Prodigy are still alive, hiding in the dark from somebody.

Also, for Young Avengers fans, Speed has an extended cameo in the issue where he hangs out with Prodigy, adds a bit more mystery to Prodigy’s resurrection and then fanboys out about Northstar.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This is the rich character work I live for! Making Daken legitimately likable? Awesome! Setting him up for a steamy romance with Aurora? Hot damn! Using all of that character work to put him in an entirely different predicament, one that builds on an entirely separate friendship with Northstar? Great! And Williams even finds time to work in character stuff from her excellent Age of X-Man storyline that really brought her to all of our X-attentions! (Now if only she could do something between Blob and Betsy…) But yeah, this issue is full of that sort of elaborate and enjoyable character work. Nearly everybody gets a chance to do something interesting, and all of it is also building on this story of Siryn and the Morrigan, which is a callback to the last great X-Factor series (as was that quick Madrox cameo!).

X-Factor is finally firing on all cylinders! It’s got great character work, makes great use of the larger Krakoa world, and has interesting storylines of its own. I’m definitely enjoying the comic.

TL;DR: The new storyline really kicks into high gear with this issue, with a lot of great character work to help carry it along. X-Factor is firing on all cylinders when it comes to storytelling and art.

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 February 6, 2021, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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