Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/20/21

Oh what a world! We are on the verge of ending Future State at DC Comics and also on the verge of starting Heroes Reborn at Marvel! Will I read anything of Heroes Reborn? Maybe! I like the look of things, but Future State really burned me. So we’ll see. At least we’ve got good normal comics, like Iron Man, Iron Fist, Power Rangers and more!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Thor #12 for another stellar, crazy issue of this weird new storyline. And for an epic Throg battle, the likes of which we just don’t get to see very often.

Blood and gore warning

Meanwhile, another stellar WandaVision! And another fun bout of Ghost of Tsushima for me! I’m doing pretty OK with entertainment these days, and that’s saying something.

Comic Reviews: Future State: The Next Batman #4, Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #2, Iron Man #6, Marauders #18, Power Rangers #4 and Thor #12.

The Next Batman #4

Future State: The Next Batman #4
Writer: John Ridley
Artist: Laura Braga
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

And so The Next Batman comes to an end with a perfectly adequate ending to a perfectly adequate story.

Next Batman fights off his attacker, the husband of the couple he’s bringing to justice. He convinces the guy to surrender and the lot of them steal a mini-van to drive three miles to City Hall. Next Batman hands them both a grenade as a last resort weapon. And then the chase is on! Next Batman does what he can to fight off pursuing Peacekeepers, but eventually the husband dives out of the vehicle and blows his grenade to stop the pursuers, sacrificing himself. The mini-van crashes at an intersection, where Next Batman’s mom just happens to be driving. She gets out to shoot him, but he sends a batarang into her shoulder to stop her. Then he hand-to-hand fights the lead Magistrate goon, easily defeating him.

Next Batman turns the wife over to Det. Chubb. The two talk for a moment before she shoots Batman in his bullet-proof chest so that she can tell her boss she “shot” Batman and did her job. Jace then goes to visit his mom in the hospital from his attack, and he gets crap from Luke.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I just don’t have much more to say about The Next Batman, other than I’m glad it’s over and we can move on to a hopefully bigger, better story involving the character. This ending works perfectly as an ending to the story we have, but that’s faint praise with a bit of damning. I like the idea of Next Batman just stealing a nearby mini-van to kick off this chase, and the action is fine, but it just doesn’t amount to much. I can see it all imagined in my head. This is an epic chase scene, with a cool fight thrown in, and Batman saves the day in the end…but, I dunno, it just doesn’t come to much life on the comic book page. Maybe on a screen it would be a cool chase and fight, but in a comic, it’s just fine. And the little family moment at the end does not make up for the near complete absence of Jace scenes throughout the story. And serves to underline how dumb the name “Jace” really is. I can’t take Next Batman seriously if he’s going around giving himself a “kewl” nickname.

TL;DR: This perfectly adequate Batman story now has a perfectly adequate ending. If I wasn’t already interested in more Next Batman, this story and this issue wouldn’t have convinced me to try it.

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #2

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #2
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: Dave Watchter
Colorist: Neeraj Menon
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

We’re only two issues in and I’m more than willing to keep giving this comic a try. I still find Iron Fist’s new crew of random sidekicks to be more weird than endearing.

Iron Fist, Luke Cage and their various sidekicks head to the Heart of Heaven so Danny can commune with the Mother of Mercy. She explains that the mysterious Eighth City is rising to crush all of the others, and Danny must unite the other Immortal Weapons and the heroes of Earth to save the day. Fooh already has a portal device to the other cities, so they get help from Dog Brother, Fat Cobra and Bride of Nine Spiders. The crew then takes the portal into the Eighth City, Bao Fu, where they start fighting the various zombie warriors. They must stop the great evil from bursting through the gate.

Meanwhile, the immortal cities start appearing around the globe, and we check in on Wakanda investigating the one near their border.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue mostly served as an info dump to get us a bit more up to speed. Makes sense. It’s the second issue, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and Hama easily balances all of that exposition with some solid character work and fight scenes. I’m disliking this Fooh character. I wasn’t around when he was introduced, but he’s more annoying than anything else. He’s like a crutch character, capable of doing anything needed in the moment, like by just having an inter-dimensional portal standing by. But hey, we get some Immortal Weapons joining the fray, and everybody gets into a fun fight, so it’s largely OK.

Remember when Bride of Nine Spiders was wasted on the Iron Fist TV show?

Honestly, nothing about this series really sticks out yet as being all that special, but the comic is working as a whole. The pacing is great, the art is really good, the characters are all solid and the dialogue is just as good. This is an enjoyable ongoing Iron Fist story, making good use of his existing lore. Nobody is remaking the wheel or rewriting the story. It’s Iron Fist and friends up against a threat that involves his individual backstory in a fun way. And that’s good enough to make a very good comic.

TL;DR: The second issue of this new Iron Fist story works just as well as the first, telling a solid story with mostly good characters.

Iron Fist #6

Iron Man #6
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: CAFU
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

This is a much more enjoyable use of Frog Man. And I got his action figure! So I’m a happy lad.

Iron Man and Hellcat pick each other up after the attack from Korvac last issue, and Patsy flags down a cab. They take Iron Man to Halcyon, who seals Tony inside his armor because his neck is broken. The armor is the only thing holding him together, and it can only come off when Tony is ready for emergency surgery. Meanwhile, Gargoyle used his magic to protect everyone from the explosion, but he’s badly wounded. Everybody regroups, and Tony is starting to turn into a bit of an asshole with how gung-ho he is about this mission. He checks in with Patsy, who is being tricked by Korvac into thinking he can give her paradise.

Meanwhile, Rhodey escapes and is pursued by the Guardian. Rhodey suits up as War Machine and joins the good guys, who easily ambush Guardian when he shows up. With the team together and with nobody quite sure this is going to work, the team heads to space!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue really gets into the meat of the fun little team Tony has put together, and I like that. I love putting together a ragtag team of Marvel randos, and this issue is more fun because of it. We also get some solid work on Tony, putting him in a dangerous situation and getting into his head at this moment. Strong character work all around. Korvac’s mission still seems a big too large in scope, but that’s fine, because the good guys are the focus here, and Cantwell does a great job on the lot of them. Even Rhodey gets to be really cool this issue, saving himself and then putting his foot down when he joins the group.

I hope CAFU enjoys drawing that big, round head

If I’m being honest and retrospective, I would suppose that this isn’t all that great of an Iron Man comic. There’s nothing particularly Iron Man-esque about this story. He’s just the hero at the forefront. The threat is as big as superhero threats get, but Tony Stark is rubbing elbows with the likes of Hellcat and Scarlet Spider. They aren’t A-list characters, as much as I like them. But that bit of character oddness is overshadowed by the still very good ongoing story. I hope Cantwell can keep that up!

And I hope he finds a way to keep using the likes of Frog Man and Gargoyle once this storyline concludes…

TL;DR: The character work is really strong and enjoyable, and that helps boost an already entertaining story. And I enjoy any comic that makes good use of Frog Man.

Marauders #18

Marauders #18
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: Stefano Caselli and Matteo Lolli
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Marauders and X-Men are the only two Dawn of X books I’m still reading from the beginning.

Krakoa is bringing their good works to Madripoor. Emma and the crew have opened a new free clinic named as a memorial to Dr. Moira MacTaggert. Callisto brings Masque into the clinic so that he can use his face-shaping powers as a benevolent plastic surgeon, fixing cleft lips and such. He’s never used his powers for good before. Iceman, Pyro and Bishop buy a bar, then the Hellfire Brats sic a new generation of Reavers on them. It’s a big fight, and it was all a set-up, as the Brats called the news media as well. Footage of the X-Men causing damage during the fight spreads, and the bad guys are able to use it as leverage in the United Nations to kick Krakoa out of Madripoor. That means the bad guys are free to wreck up the place.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This all seems like an oversimplification. So the Hellfire Brats send an army of Reavers after a couple X-Men, the fight makes the news, and someone that means Madripoor is able to make waves in the United Nations? And the United Nations specifically bars the Marauder from making port in Madripoor? I appreciate linking a larger global picture to Krakoa, but this feels quick and cheap. It feels like Duggan is rushing through some things to get what he wants, and that makes for a less fun story, especially when he warps things to fit his needs. Did Iceman, Pyro and Bishop really need to just stroll in and buy that bar? Why give Krakoa a seat at the United Nations but then say their ambassador was absent? Have we met the Krakoan ambassador to the United Nations before? Seems like a big role for a fan favorite character.

Masque is the cutting edge

Still, wonkiness aside, this was still a solid, enjoyable issue. I like the team members hanging out and being social. I like the work that Emma and Kitty are doing. And both Xavier and Magneto were at the clinic dedication ceremony, so it was a fun callback to the ongoing meta story to see them surprised by a Moira MacTaggert “Memorial”. The Reavers are not memorable villains in the least, but it’s a solid fight scene.

Also, the scene with Masque is exactly the sort of thing I want from the Krakoa-era of X-Men. Take obscure characters from throughout the franchise — and they don’t get much more obscure than Masque of the Morlocks — and do new things with them. It’s a wonderful little scene with a lot of great thought behind it. That scene, and Masque in general in this comic, raises the rating.

TL;DR: I liked some parts and disliked others, but the general thrust of the overall story is still good, and the characters are fun, so that counts for a lot.

Power Rangers #4

Power Rangers #4
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Francesco Mortarino
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

They made Matt into the new Green Ranger, so Ryan Parrott is batting a thousand for me in terms of long term surprises and character development. So how about Omega Pink? I will never stop beating that drum, Parrott!

Drakkon has led the Power Rangers to a fake version of Angel Grove that, I think, he built at the end of Shattered Grid? And then when the good guys won, they imprisoned him here? I honestly don’t remember, and this issue does nothing to get me back up to speed. Anyway, they spread out to search for the remains of the Red Emissary, which Drakkon says was torn apart by the Empyreal. There are giant spirit animals guarding the planet and they Rangers have to run and hide from them. Jason gets lost, but manages to find the destroyed pieces of the Emissary. Zack and Trini find that Drakkon spent his time imprisoned building dummies of his old troops.

The Rangers manage to escape and rebuild the Red Emissary, but there’s a part missing. They think the Empyreal took the part as a trophy, so the plan is to track the Red Emissary energy signature. They’ve got to set down for repairs first and Drakkon has an idea where they can go…but they’re not going to like it! That place is Onyx!

What’s Onyx, you ask? I asked the same thing. I quick Google search tells me it’s actually a very famous planet in Power Rangers lore. It’s a planet where bad guy monsters can hang out in peace, and has appeared in a lot of different Ranger seasons. Huh. Fancy that.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I could have really used a recap for what exactly this place was. Shattered Grid was several years and an entire pandemic ago, and if what little of my memory remains serves, that fake Angel Grove was really only at the end…right? So yeah, a recap would have gone a long way. Still, this is a fine issue with a lot of good action and character work. Everybody gets a moment or two to shine, the threats are big and cool, and the story progresses in some solid, enjoyable ways. Good work all around for the second best Power Rangers comic. I still think Parrott needs to do a lot more with the characters interacting out of costume. The best part of his work has been the character stuff, but Jason, Trini and Zack seems to only exist as Omega Rangers. And I don’t think Drakkon gels with the team as much as Parrott and BOOM! might hope. Still, it all comes together for another solid, enjoyable comic, and that’s what matters.

Now hurry up with the teases for Omega Blue and Omega Pink!

TL;DR: The story picks up a nice head of steam with this new issue, but this is still only the second best Power Rangers comic right now.

Thor #12

Thor #12
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

It’s much easier to enjoy this story if you just let go of any concerns and go with the flow. Donald Blake can fight off the entire Asgardian army without breaking a sweat, but gets defeated by Throg? Fine by me!

The fight between Throg and Donald Blake is quite epic. I can’t summarize it into words well enough to do it justice. Throg and Lockjaw are victorious in the end and need help with their interrogation. We cut to Jane Foster as she hurries through Greenwich, trying to get ahold of Thor or somebody who knows where he can be found. But then Throg crashes to the sidewalk in front of her, and Lockjaw next! She’s at the Sanctum Sanctorum, where Donald Blake has regained power and attacked Dr. Strange. Through Dr. Strange, Donald learns that the source of the Odinforce is the blood of the World Tree itself, so he heads there to chop it down, with Thor still trapped in his prison under the roots.

Jane Foster goes full Valkyrie and heads out into the cosmos for reinforcements: tracking down Odin to some galactic dive bar where he’s been slumming it.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

So Donald Blake getting defeated by Throg is fine by me. What isn’t fine is that he then, apparently, gets the better of both Throg and Doctor Strange off-panel. That’s weak, Cates. You do this epic fight scene, one truly for the awesome books, and you clearly have Throg win…but then the next time we see any of them, Blake has managed to turn the tables? With no explanation? And Throg has Doctor Strange as backup? Poor form, my good man. You can’t have your cake and eat it too! Your pet villain has had plenty of opportunity so far to be the most powerful being in the universe, he’s jobbered enough fan-favorite heroes. Forcing him to actually overcome unbeatable odds is a great way to establish him as a real character. You don’t get to just hand wave away important scenes.

The only thing that could beat him was being offscreen

But, again, I’m just going with the flow on this one. There’s a really bad dude fighting Thors and he’s on a rampage. That fight scene alone more than makes this comic something great, but the growing threat is also good. And that cliffhanger is just as fun! Odin has a really great look slumming in some cosmic bar. He hasn’t been gone long enough for this moment to have much impact, but it’s fine. Of course, watch Donald Blake beat him up easily next issue. That seems to be what’s happening here. Cates just keeps Thor out of the fight until the finale, when Thor will hammer Blake hard enough to win.

And we’re still waiting for the return of that Oklahoma mechanic…There’s no way Cates introduces a new temporary Thor only a few issues before his villain goes on a rampage against all Thors without calling back to that. We’ll see what happens.

TL;DR: Getting to see Throg cut loose in a truly epic fight scene is worth the price of admission all on its own.

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 20, 2021, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. If I ever read a Power Rangers comic, it will be because of your reviews. You’ve almost got me feeling the love….

    • If there’s any comic I would recommend from all my years plugging away at comic reviews on this blog, it would be BOOM!’s Power Rangers comics. From beginning to end, with the occasional storyline exception, they have been pretty much perfect.

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