Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/8/21
I’ve noticed a worrying trend in my reviews lately. I think I’ve started just recapping interesting parts of the issue and then nitpicking the little things to death. That’s no way to read and review comics! So starting this week, I’m going to try to be more substantive in why I like or dislike an issue. I should really dig into these things, such as new issues of Green Lantern and Strange Academy, and the final issue of The Union!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #108 as it solidifies itself as my favorite of the two ongoing Batman comics. This issue really grabbed me as it explained in great detail the point of the Unsanity Collective.
Meanwhile, I read and enjoyed the first issue of Heroes Reborn, the new Big Event from Marvel. As usual, I’m not going to do a full review because I just don’t think these Big Events are worth it anymore. But I like Jason Aaron, I want to see more of Murder Hornet and this could be interesting. The first issue is all set-up, and it’s solid, enjoyable set-up. I’ll definitely be reading more as the event goes on.
Comic Reviews: Batman #108, Green Lantern #2, Marauders #20, Strange Academy #10 and The Union #5.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Hoo baby, this story really picks up in this issue and I think we’re in for something really great!
Bruce has gone undercover as “Match” in the Unsanity Collective, but they’ve seen through his disguise with their tech and they know he’s not just some dude. But Miracle Molly, their leader, vouches to give everybody a chance and she takes Match on a tour — as long as he ditches the silly mustache and voice, as long as he stops pretending. She gives him a mask to throw on to make him feel more comfortable. Molly takes Match on a tour that includes a drone glider flight over the city, a deep look into one of their living quarters and base and a view from the top of a skyscraper. She explains that they have broken free from the fears and rules of society. Everybody lives their lives how they’re told they’re “supposed to”, but the system isn’t fair or real or designed to help the average person. The Unsanity Collective is using technology (and memory wipes) to move beyond the unfair system to a new way of living.
Molly long ago deduced Match was Batman, but led him on this tour into their world anyway to try and help him understand. Batman pushes for information on the string of thefts from media moguls, and Molly reveals that they were hired by an outsider to commit the thefts in order to make the media feel fear. How hired them? Simon Saint!
Meanwhile, Saint recruits Sean Mahoney, the guard who lost some limbs when he saved people during the explosion at Arkham Asylum, to be the first augmented soldier in his Peacekeeper program. Peacekeeper-01 was a major villain the Future State comics.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I feel like Future State did not do this comic any favors. If this is the origin of Peacekeeper-01 then I’m disappointed at how spoiled it is after reading Future State. This Sean Mahoney character has been pretty compelling. And his origin here still leaves some wiggle room as to his good or evil nature. But he’s pretty much fascist evil incarnate in Future State, so I guess that’s just what we’re going to get? I feel like that robs the character of some of his potential at this point in the story, but at least everything else around him is a good read. If he’s indeed just going to be a villain, this is still a fine villain origin story. I like what is developing with Simon Saint and now Sean Mahoney, creating some new villains in the background while Batman deals with something else.
And that something else is what gives this issue its real oomph, in my opinion. I really liked Miracle Molly and everything she had to say about the Unsanity Collective. They’re not just weirdos who commit crimes. They’re a movement built out of the idea that modern society doesn’t really work to help the average person. These are not new ideas, obviously, but I really enjoyed Tynion’s way of explaining them to the audience with this issue. We’ve got Batman ostensibly undercover and just listening to his opponent. That’s neat. He’s still an imposing figure out of costume, and I like the idea of him really listening to Molly, while still keeping in mind the thefts from media moguls. It’s Batman doing something different and being in a different situation than normal.
And, as always, Jimenez and his art team are killing it with this comic! Holy cow, people, the art is just so damn beautiful! It’s highly detailed, which is what I love in my comic book art, while also being so wonderfully zany in the Unsanity designs. These are crazy-looking characters, and Jimenez makes it look easy…while also making it look incredibly difficult for anybody else to draw her in future appearances.
TL;DR: Batman lays out the point behind one of their new villains in a really fun way, while also setting up some future villains in a differently fun way.
Green Lantern #2
Writer: Geoffrey Thorne
Artists: Dexter Soy and Marco Santucci
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh
This issue is a bit of whiplash. I don’t know how I feel about it yet. We’ll see in future issues.
In the wake of the terrorist attack and the assassination of a Guardian, the Green Lantern Corps gathers on Oa for the funeral. The other Guardians also take this time to surprise everyone with the new Corps infrastructure now that they’ve been inducted into the United Planets: 1200 sectors are being handed over to the UP’s Brigade and Lanterns are being reassigned left and right, all without warning. Of note, the Earth Lanterns are going to be used to guard the five crux worlds, including Earth, Oa and Mogo. John Stewart asks for more info and the Guardians explain that every universe has seven crux worlds that are of vital importance. Krypton and Xanshi have already been lost, so the Earth GLs will watch over the remaining five.
Except for John. He’s going to lead a team of 1,000 GLs into the mysterious Dark Sectors to do some exploring and some helping. All the GLs come together to create a giant ship to transport them. Before he leaves, John has a chat with Teen Lantern to assure her things are gonna be cool, and that she’s eventually headed back to Earth.
No sooner that John does leave, though, that the Central Power Battery freakin’ explodes! Oa is devastated, Lanterns are cut off from their power throughout the universe and Simon Baz is critically injured. Only Teen Lantern is left standing and she’s soon visited by Sojourner Mullein!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I don’t yet know what to make of the ending of this issue. It flies in the face of everything I said last issue about what I like in a Green Lantern comic. Which also sucks, because everything before that explosion was more of what I liked! A massive Corps restructuring in light of the bureaucracy that now comes with being part of the United Planets? Hells yes! John Stewart leading a contingent of a thousand Green Lanterns into some unknown sectors? Sounds awesome! The first three quarters of this issue do a lot to set up what I would consider an interesting direction for this series to take. And as dry as that set up might seem, I was completely on board with everything being proposed.
And now I’m completely off board with everything that happened after the explosion and what it will mean for this series going forward. The Future State Green Lantern stories were all about Lanterns without their powers lost in various corners of the galaxy. Yeah, sorry, count me out. My interest in a Green Lantern comic definitely ends if the characters are no longer Green Lanterns. I’m sure some very entertaining stories can and will be told about a depowered John Stewart leading a depowered G’Norrt and others on some strange alien planet…we already saw that in Future State. But I don’t think it’s for me.
Granted, it could be for a lot of people. In terms of just telling the story, the explosion works splendidly as part of this issue. We’ve got all of this interesting set up and then Thorne blows it all up, both literally and metaphorically. It works as a shock and it works for this issue. I just think it also blew up my interest in this comic.
TL;DR: A really nice mix of grounded, Corps-based set up followed by some truly insane upheaval. Works really well to set up where this series is probably going.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorists: Edgar Delgado and Chris Sotomayor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
This feels like a final issue. I don’t know if Marauders will continue after the Hellfire Gala. I won’t miss it if it’s gone.
As they sail the open seas, the Marauders and their allies sit down for a nice dinner and tell their favorite stories about Storm, because I think she’s leaving the team maybe? They also hold a little wager of guessing how many knives Storm secretly carries. One of the stories involves Storm saving an enslaved mutant girl from a dockyard with just some badass words and a single knife throw. In the end, Emma and Sebastian Shaw share some words and memories on the deck as they hint to bigger things to come.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I have read every single issue of Marauders, which I can’t say for nearly any other Krakoa-era X-Men comic. And I can’t really remember a time when Storm was so important a character as to warrant an issue dedicated to everybody praising her. But you know what does work in this issue’s favor? The fact that most of the stories they tell are interesting adventures the Marauders have been on! Where were these adventures during the actual comic?! Storm essentially talks her way through a dangerous dockyard in order to save an enslaved mutant? Cool! Bishop and Pyro talking down an armed militia in the middle of a thunderstorm by implying Storm caused it? Also cool!
This issue featured the sorts of adventures I wish Marauders had actually been on throughout this series. Heck, the framing device is about everybody sitting down for a meal together while in one of their boats on the open seas! We never even saw that sort of thing during the course of the series so far! So in that regard, a lot of this issue was fun to read. But overall, there just wasn’t enough substance to make it interesting, because these things were all essentially brief flashbacks. And, again, it’s just everybody sitting around praising Storm, which I don’t think Marauders as a series has earned. Sure, Storm has been a part of this comic, but I never got the feeling that she was so important as to warrant this sort of treatment. Though, I’ll grant you, everybody does just normally love Storm.
Also, I’ll admit to not being an expert on Storm, but is she really someone who is constantly carrying a dozen knives hidden on her person?
TL;DR: Entertaining enough issue that lacks any real bite because it’s mostly flashbacks to what this series should have been all along. I’m still salty that we didn’t actually get an X-Pirates comic.
Strange Academy #10
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
I still like this series. I was worried that this issue would be a bit directionless, but thankfully it really focuses in on the most interesting characters.
The Strange Academy students go on a field trip to Asgard, but mostly we’re focused on high school romance drama. Over the welcome lunch, Shaylee is gushing about asking Toth to be her boyfriend, and he’s totally down with that. Then Doyle notices Asgardian brothers Iric and Alvi arguing off to the side, and he follows Iric as he sneaks away into the roots of the World Tree. Iric and Alvi’s mother is revealed to be the Enchantress, who is imprisoned, and Iric has come to visit with her. Doyle sees everything. But it turns out Emily followed Doyle, and Doyle quickly covers for Iric so that Emily doesn’t find out the secret about his mother.
Emily tells Doyle that a big brawl broke out between everybody and a bunch of different visiting races. They could go help out…or they could, you know, hang out just the two of them. Doyle and Emily spend a little time admiring the World Tree and each other before sharing their first real kiss. They’re interrupted by the school bus as the whole crew has been asked to leave Asgard pronto!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Look, I am a sucker for a good romance, and I feel like Doyle and Emily is a really fun, developing romance. So as the two of them get all teenagerly awkward around one another, I really dig it. They’re cute, they’re weird and they are a perfect pair of protagonists for this crazy comic. I also really enjoyed Young building on Iric through his rivalry with Doyle. A surprise mother reveal is fun, and Doyle instantly covering for Iric works as well. The relationships between the “main” characters really work for me and is developed very well in this issue. The rest of the issue is more of Ramos’ madcap artwork, and that works as well. This is a very lively looking comic. And when it focuses on a few very interesting characters, it makes for some really nice issues.
Two quick nitpicks: these teens seem to go on field trips all the freakin’ time. Weren’t they in space with Rocket and Groot just the previous issue? Also, at least for me, Toth is not turning out to be the breakout character that I think the writers want him to be.
TL;DR: When this series focuses on a few specific, interesting characters and their cute teenage stories, it’s really enjoyable.
The Union #5
Writer: Paul Grist
Artist: Andrea Di Vito
Inker: Le Beau Underwood
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
And so The Union ends as quietly as it began, having never really been given a shot to be really cool. But it could have been so cool!
Steve Darwin has taken control of the Empire Stone and declared himself Emperor of Britain, with seemingly godlike powers. Everybody gears up to fight him as he heads to 10 Downing Street, including the disembodied spirit of Britannia, who has been hiding in Union Jack this whole time. Also, Skreem turns away from Doc Croc and rejoins the Union as The Choir. Speaking of Doc Croc, even he and his bad guys try to take a stand again Darwin, but they also get thrown about.
Eventually, Britannia reveals herself to Union Jack and together they deliver a super punch that knocks out Darwin. Doc Crock picks up the Empire Stone, only to be bamboozled by Craig the Corgi…who turns out to be the Sponge, having used the last of Shifter’s absorbed powers to turn into the wee dog. The day is saved and that’s the end. For everybody. Doc Croc gets locked up. Darwin’s tech company collapses. Britannia’s ghost goes back into the ether. The superhero team project is defunct and all those new heroes we met just kind of…wander off, I guess?
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Man. The lost potential of this series is unfathomable. Granted, it’s not like anybody’s talking about The Union. It’s not like this would have lasted very long if actually an ongoing series. But it could have been good! Grist and Di Vito built the foundations of something really fun, and I would have loved to see this become something more! I have always loved the idea of international superheroes simply existing. Just because most Marvel comics focus on the heroes in New York City doesn’t mean there aren’t superheroes in the rest of the 50 states and all around the world. And Grist and company did a wonderful job creating a whole cast of heroes and villains for the United Kingdom. They created some backstory. They created some mythology. They went the whole nine yards and it was really fun!
But we can’t have nice things.
As for this issue itself, it’s a fun and fine wrap up to the series. The villain stands revealed and he’s suitable as a final boss. I liked how our heroes just kept trying their best to defeat him, no matter what. And I liked how Doc Croc even tried his hand at stopping the madman from taking over the British government. Grist made very good use of all of his characters throughout this issue, even correcting this mistake of killing Britannia in the first issue. I was obviously disappointed that the series ended with The Union not actually being a team, but again, we can’t have nice things. There was also a moment where the British public was shocked and scared to see the team in action that rang hollow. We’re reminded in this very issue that this superhero team has been an ongoing and public project for months. I’ll grant you that the public probably never saw Snakes without his shroud, but still, the public should have been used to seeing these characters in action.
Oh well. The Union was fun. It was old school superheroics with a very definitive British flavor. Grist and his team bent over backwards to create a whole world of British heroes and villains and I would have loved to have seen more. The Union was the start of something great. It’s a damn shame it won’t get to continue.
Here’s hoping these characters do get to appear somewhere else someday.
TL;DR: The action, artwork and character work all come together nicely to wrap up this series, but the loss of what could have been a really fun ongoing shrouds the whole thing. The Union is a really fun comic exploring a whole new world of superheroics.
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!