Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/1/21
I think I have a money spending problem. I just splurged on the New Pokemon Snap and I’ll be playing it this weekend. At least I’m putting my new Nintendo Switch to good use! And there’s always new comics to buy, like the first issue of the new Robin solo series!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Beta Ray Bill #2. Not only does this series star the greatest comic book character of all time, but it seems to know exactly what to do with him and how to tell this story.
Meanwhile, I’ve finally started watching Doom Patrol and I am loving this show! I’m only a few episodes in and it’s already brilliant. I’ve only ever heard good things, and I’m glad I never gave up on this show. I’ve simply never cared that much about the Doom Patrol in the comics, but their show is phenomenal so far! Highly recommended.
Comic Reviews: Beta Ray Bill #2, Detective Comics #1035, Harley Quinn #2, and Robin #1.
Beta Ray Bill #2
Writer and Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
I remain very excited for this mini-series and I can already tell that five issues isn’t going to be enough!
Beta Ray Bill is on a mission to find Odin in order to get a new hammer, so that he can change back into his humanoid form. He’s joined by Skurge, who is taking a break from Valhalla to help Bill, and by Pip the Troll, who has his own reasons of self-discovery. They hit up Odin’s bar and get into a brawl with some bikers, which Odin interrupts. Once they settle down, Odin reveals that he no longer has the magic that can help Bill, so he sets them on a course to Muspelheim to claim the sword of Surtur! Our trio hop into Skuttlebutt and take Odin’s secret portal into that dark realm…and immediately the magics of Muspelheim create a sexy android lady body for Skuttlebutt for some reason.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The art is a real standout this issue. Johnson has this gritty, almost grimy style that is really winning me over. And he has a knack for highlighting big moments. Like that punch I shared at the top of the article. It’s just a bar brawl, but look at the energy of that punch! He’s also doing a phenomenal job with the various weird characters required from this series, especially Beta Ray Bill. That horse face has never looked so wicked. And there’s a huge double page spread of the Skuttlebutt spaceship, like one of those classic cutaways of a superhero’s base. Look at the care and effort that went into this picture. It’s a thing of beauty!
So with great artwork, we’ve got a story that’s just as good and passes us through the next obvious leg of Bill’s journey. He’s driven, and Pip is noticing, but has also decided to stick with him. Pip and Skurge are odd choices for companions, but they definitely work as needed and will give Bill more people to talk to — though if all of this is Johnson’s way of hooking up Bill and a lady android version of Skuttlebutt…then weird. But we’ll see. For now, we’ve got Beta Ray Bill in a potentially dangerous headspace with a lot of lessons to learn, on a quest for something truly great! And that’s exactly where I want to be with this comic!
TL;DR: A very strong second issue propels this mini-series forward in a lot of great ways. Both story and art are as good as comic books get.
Detective Comics #1035
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artists: Dan Mora and Clayton Henry
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
And so I continue my foray into a bunch of Batman and DC comics! I’m definitely enjoying the new focus on actual detective work.
Batman investigates the disappearance of his neighbor, Sarah Worth, who comes from old money in Gotham. He finds her body in the sewers, tied up and planted there for a purpose…but the mayor and the police are pushing hard on this one, and a bunch of officers arrive just in time to link Batman at the crime scene and take some shots at him. That’s definitely going to tie into the mayor’s new anti-vigilante push, and there’s all manner of trouble happening in the mayor’s inner circle.
At Sarah’s funeral, we meet her dad, a big burly and angry guy (from the cover). Sarah’s husband slips out early and Batman finds him later, strung out on something and wielding a gun. More mystery. Batman turns him over to the cops. The mayor orders the section of sewer where Sarah was found to be filled with concrete, destroying all the forensic evidence Batman could have fun. But when Bruce returns to his townhouse one night, a zombie Sarah suddenly walks up the street.
Meanwhile, in both the main story and a back up, Huntress is out protecting women at night.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This story is progressing nicely. We’ve got a growing mystery with multiple angles. We’ve got Batman in full detective mode, looking into clues and following leads. We’ve got some interesting new characters introduced that will prove to make things more difficult. And we’ve got the ongoing mayor storyline, which I’m fine with. I like everything going on with this series so far. I don’t think there’s anything truly special to make it rise above the cream of the crop though. The artwork is amazing, the writing is solid and the story is good stuff. This is quality Batman comics. Definitely recommended.
You know one thing that could make it better? Giving Batman a Robin again! C’mon! As we’ll see later, Damian Wayne is off doing his own thing! Let him give up the Robin mantle and let these new Batman comics develop a new, enjoyable sidekick presence!
TL;DR: Some solid detective work and a compelling enough mystery make for a quality Batman comic book.
Harley Quinn #2
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Deron Bennett
The artwork is the real star of this relaunched Harley Quinn comic so far. It might not be for everybody, but I am loving the look of this comic.
The mayor introduces Hugo Strange and his new S.A.F.E. program to help and house the clowns in Gotham City. Harley isn’t buying it, but she gets kicked out of the coffee shop where she was making her opinion known. She’s working with Kevin now to help the clowns in Gotham, but she’s annoyed that Strange gets to reform and work legit. While walking through the city, Kevin finds a burned building, and we flash back to the Joker War where he was the one to set it on fire when he was peak clown. He stayed behind to help someone inside and got arrested. Harley invites him into the shop to see what’s inside and they steal some stuff, then fight off a couple of Strange’s orderlies, who are out in the streets collecting clowns.
And not just clowns. We visit S.A.F.E. and meet a guy who got into an argument with his neighbor, and the neighbor called Strange’s hotline and reported the guy to be a clown. Strange tells him that it doesn’t matter if he’s a clown or not, S.A.F.E. is there to judge all Gotham citizens.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Uh, obvious villain is obvious? Hugo Strange wastes no time in being evil, undercutting the very idea that he’s been hired as a legit mayoral employee. I thought DC was really pushing this mayor character as someone on the up and up? Whatever the case, I’m sure he’ll make a solid antagonist for Harley’s adventure. Harley is and should be the real star of this comic, and she gets some time to shine in this issue. Though for my money, a bit too much time is spent on just Harley reacting to Hugo Strange, and then on Kevin. Simply put, Harley Quinn has had some far more interesting sidekicks than this Kevin dude. He’s a fine supporting character, but he’s not strong enough to carry an issue away from Harley just yet. Phillips writes a really good Harley Quinn, I would just like the focus to be more on her than everything else Phillips is building right now.
TL;DR: A solid, enjoyable second issue takes a little too much attention away from Harley Quinn right when I feel this comic needs to be building a better Harley foundation.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Gleb Melnikov
Letterer: ALW’s Troy Peteri
And here we go. An ongoing Robin comic. You’d think I would be thrilled, considering how much I love Robin…but I definitely do not love Damian Wayne going off to do his own thing and taking the Robin name with him. But I will try not to judge this comic based on my own wants and desires.
Damien has run off on his own, having turned away from Batman following the death of Alfred (though he’s still using the Robin moniker). Following a fight against King Snake in an underground arena, he earns his passenger to Lazarus Island and the League of Lazarus fighting tournament. He and a bunch of others line up for the opening speech from Mother Soul, but Damien interrupts because he’s just that full of himself. He wants to just start fighting, so Flatline jumps out of the crowd to take him on…and rips out his heart.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This is a strong start to this new series. We’ve got a very clear and concise storyline. Damian Wayne, in all his arrogance and confidence, has jumped into a big, fancy fighting tournament. I actually like this as a storyline for this series. And Williamson really gets us into the meat of it all, while providing some humanizing character work for Damian. Williamson also does a great job introducing a bunch of characters to compete. I’m still a little wonky on the existence of this fighting tournament to begin with. For example, Mother Soul reveals that it only occurs every 100 years. That doesn’t seem often enough to warrant this much fervor. And if I’m being honest, the collection of fighters on Lazarus Island isn’t all that impressive…yet.
For the greatest fighting tournament in the world, that comes around only every 100 years, we’ve only really seen Damien, Ravager, this Flatline person, and the mysterious Connor Hawke (who only shows up briefly this issue). There are some others, and I might not recognize them, but you’d think such an important tournament might actually warrant some important fighters in the DC Universe. But one of the rando entrants mentions how she had to fight Richard Dragon to be worthy of a spot…well, why isn’t Richard Dragon competing? And you’re gonna waste a dude like King Snake in just the opening action scene? Why not save him for the tournament?
But I digress. There’s plenty of time for Williamson to impress me with his fighting tournament. For now, we’ve got a solid foundation of Damian Wayne trying to be a big fish in this situation, and it works as the launch issue.
TL;DR: Enjoyable issue that kicks off what could be a very interesting and fun story. It’s very focused on Damian right now, in a good way.
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!