Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/19/21

Want to hear something funny? I missed my own 10-year blogging anniversary! It happened back in April and I had no idea because I don’t keep track of that sort of thing. I thought I was on year seven or something. But nope! Ten years of writing nonsense day in and day out. Thanks for reading!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Nightwing #81 for another fine issue, but featuring a moment that truly stands out as something special and heroic.

Not this moment. This just makes for a good picture

Meanwhile, Heroes Reborn is building to a fitting conclusion! I’ve really enjoyed this Big Event, for once. Makes me wish I’d been reading Jason Aaron’s Avengers all along. I like his work. I forget why I stopped. The man did almost kill Stingray…

Comic Reviews: Nightwing #81, Static: Season One #1, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1, Planet-Size X-Men #1, New Mutants #21 and X-Corp #2.


Nightwing #81

Nightwing #81
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Bruno Redondo
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Wes Abbott

This issue contains a twist that could ruin everything! But I’m willing to give Tom Taylor the benefit of the doubt. Don’t let us down, Tom.

The issue opens with Melinda Zucco being sworn in as the mayor of Bludhaven, and she’s soon whisked away to a secret meeting of the crime families so they can discuss their next moves. Then we pick up with Nightwing fighting Heartless, who allows the children to escape because he’s got some other sadistic plans. The two face off and Nightwing quickly realizes that Heartless is enhanced — by getting punched in his already still-recovery noggin. They fight until Heartless decides to play his trump card: he’s covered the pier with bombs, and Robin is leading the kids to the pier for safety from the fire. Heartless blows the bombs at the head of the pier, trapping everybody at the far end with a growing fire.

So Nightwing connects to the maritime distress frequency and calls in help from average citizens to get those kids off the pier. Bludhaven’s nautical residents respond to the mayday and send boats to help, filling everybody with some hope. Then Nightwing passes out from his concussion. When he comes to, Tim and Babs tell him to get some sleep, while revealing Melinda Zucco’s identity. Obviously, Nightwing doesn’t listen and he sneaks out to investigate Melinda’s apartment.

He’s ambushed by her bodyguard, Audre, before Melinda delivers a baseball bat to his noggin. Nightwing comes to tied to a chair with his mask off. Melinda knows who he is…and then reveals that she is the long lost daughter of John Grayson! She’s Dick’s sister!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. Nightwing’s long lost sister? I think it’s a terrible idea. Long lost siblings are a soap opera thing. And while sure, comics are a bit like soap operas, I still think it’s a silly idea. Just look at Theresa Parker over at Marvel. What has she brought to the table? And then you’ve got the weird idea that John Grayson’s daughter was raised to believe she was a Zucco? I don’t think John Grayson and Tony Zucco had anything to do with one another until Zucco randomly chose the Flying Graysons as the circus act he was going to sabotage. Is this retcon going to also contain a bit where Zucco targeted John Grayson because of Melinda? It all sounds silly to me.

That being said, Tom Taylor is killing it on this comic and I’m more than ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. We’ll see where this sister thing goes.

Hope…

Other than that reveal, this was a stellar comic! The standout moment is, of course, the boat rescue. It was done so well I got chills, which is why this issue is rated so high. Anytime a comic can get real emotion out of me, I’m going to be impressed. From Nightwing’s desperation to the page turn to the heroic actions of average citizens, this was a great moment! That Taylor named all of the boats after previous Nightwing creators was a fun idea. Taylor also finds some interesting ways to make Heartless more complex, and that will help boost him as a villain. And then Babs and Robin continued to be wonderful supporting players. Bless Taylor’s heart for referring to Tim as “Robin”. Perhaps that’s why I’m so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt…

TL;DR: One truly heroic and hopeful moment makes the issue, even as a big cliffhanger twist threatens to disrupt everything!


Static #1

Static: Season One #1
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: CrissCross
Colorist: Nikolas Draper-Ivey
Letterer: Andworld Design

I was never a big Static Shock watcher as a kid, and I never read any of the original Milestone comics. But I think DC should have pushed Static a lot more in recent years. I’m more than willing to give this relaunch a try.

The story actually started in a special Milestone Returns one-shot a couple weeks ago, where Dakota City Police fired experimental gas on a Black Lives Matter protest and killed several people, while giving several others super-powers. This event was the “Big Bang” and these are “Bang Babies”, among which is Virgil Hawkins. In that opening chapter, Virgil used his powers to beat up his bully, Francis, who has fire powers.

In this issue, we meet Virgil as he struggles to move forward with his powers and what to do about them. He’s moody and unsure of himself, and his involvement in the attack on his bully is being overshadowed by a more popular kid with powers now. His friends Frieda and Richie are worried about him, as is his family. Then Francis shows up at his house at night looking for a rematch. Virgil gives him one and whoops Francis’ butt again, but Virgil gets distracted and Francis sets fire to Virgil’s house!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I understand why DC included Static’s actual origin in that Milestone Returns one-shot, but it does this first issue a disservice. This issue is a good, solid introduction to Static and his struggles, but it would have been stronger to get his actual origin in this first issue instead of making me go back to try to find another comic I didn’t know existed. But that’s a minor gripe. This is otherwise a solid start to Static’s story. We get into Virgil’s head, meet his various family and friends and get an enjoyable fracas by the end. I especially liked the cliffhanger ending of Virgil’s house being torched. That’s some good, serious stakes.

And some good butt whooping!

But other than that shocking ending, I didn’t find anything particularly enthralling or catchy in this first issue. Virgil is understandably moody, and he doesn’t rush into becoming a superhero, but he steps up when the need is there. I’ll definitely give this series more of a chance going forward. I would just like to see some more meat on its bones. Also, the art is good, but the style felt slightly off to me. I’m a longtime fan of CrissCross from back in his Slingers days. The art isn’t exactly to my taste, but I could see it growing on me.

TL;DR: A good enough introduction to Virgil Hawkins and his world. This issue is slightly hampered by having the actual first chapter be part of another comic that came out weeks ago.


Supergirl #1

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Colorist: Matheus Lopes
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I’m all for giving Tom King a chance. But if this is just an 8-issue story about turning Supergirl into a war criminal, I’ll probably drop out before too long.

We open on a far distant alien world, where Krem of the Yellow Hills kills a man and leaves behind his sword. The victim’s young daughter, Ruthye, pulls the sword free, curious why the killer would leave such a fine blade behind. While her older brothers decide to let the matter lie due to politics, Ruthye sets out to get revenge. She eventually arrives at a bar and tries to hire Bounty, a prominent warrior, using the sword as payment. He takes the blade and smacks her, promising half-heartedly that he’ll do the job. Before he leaves, he’s stopped by a drunk blonde woman who beats him up and retrieves the sword for Ruthye.

The next morning, Ruthye is helping Supergirl recover from her hangover. Supergirl just turned 21, and she came to this planet with a red sun so that she could get drunk. She’s not going to kill Krem of the Yellow Hills for Ruthye so she returns to her ship and begins launch prep. Ruthye follows and tries to insist Supergirl help, but then the two are ambushed by Bounty and Krem. Supergirl takes several arrows to the chest before she just walks up to the two men, grabs their swords and smacks them around. Krypto takes an arrow as well, and Krem flees when Supergirl goes to help her dog. Krem manages to make it onto Supergirl’s ship just as it takes off.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a well-written, well-drawn, interesting little issue that has me very interested to see what happens next. I liked the noble nature of Ruthye’s narration. King gave her a strong tone of voice. That kept the issue flowing. And Supergirl’s role is weird but understandable, so that definitely piqued my interest. Supergirl with reduced powers getting mixed up in some alien troubles? Definitely a workable premise, and King makes it work. He does a lot of successful world and character building here, and then plops Supergirl right into the middle of it. It makes for a very readable comic and a strong way to kick off this story. I just hope this doesn’t devolve into King’s usual style. He’s apparently a very big fan of sucking all of the fun and joy out of superheroes. I’m going to read his Strange Adventures comic to the end and then hopefully never worry about it again. If he does the same thing to Supergirl, I’m out.

TL;DR: A unique alien voice in the narration/protagonist elevates this opening issue, as does the interesting situation the title character finds herself in.


Planet-Size X-Men #1

Planet-Size X-Men #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

This is the big moment we’ve been waiting for! And it’s definitely big! And a moment!

Led by Magneto, and through the work of various Omega Mutants, the X-Men terraform and colonize Mars. More specifically, they colonize Mars and teleport Arakko to the red planet, giving all those Arakko mutants their own world. The mutants then declare Planet Arakko as the capital of the solar system.

There are a lot more details here and there, various conversations and stuff, and various mutants showing off their powers, but the terraforming is the big part.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I applaud the big swing this issue takes in terms of reshaping the Marvel Universe. But it’s still just a pretty straight-forward issue as Duggan explains how each character contributes to terraforming Mars. There are a couple of brief dialogue scenes as Magneto assesses the needs of Arakko, and some other characters meet up and vaguely discuss what’s happening. Then we just go through, step by step, how the likes of Magneto, Iceman, Storm, Monarch and a couple of new Arakko mutants terraform Mars. It’s very science-focused, and that’s fine. I’m not saying this is a bad issue by any means. I’m just saying it’s not particularly engaging. Characters use their powers and terraform Mars. The art captures it all wonderfully. It’s a very gorgeous comic. It’s all just very matter-of-fact.

This is a very fun scene, but it’s also just Cyclops being really vague about what’s up

This issue also added to my fears that all of this is only temporary. I would be more interested in the X-Men terraforming Mars if I thought Krakoa really was the new forever status quo of the mutant comics. I love all of the big swings of the Krakoa-era…but how long are they really going to last? Do Jonathan Hickman’s stories not have clear endings in sight? Everybody assumes the other shoe is going to drop at some point. To say nothing of the fact that we’re only a few years off from X-Men movies coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And you best believe Marvel is going to revert their comics back to basics to align with the likely back-to-basics movies. The MCU X-Men movies are not going to be about the Krakoa-era of comics.

So huzzah, the X-Men terraformed Mars and dumped the Arakko mutants on it. So they can easily be forgotten about when the time comes. How long until this big thing becomes the next Utopia? Or Asteroid M? Or Tabula Rasa? It’s that gnawing fear of the future that prevents me from getting truly excited about this big play. Also, I had it spoiled for me in advance, so that sucked some of the fun out.

TL;DR: This is a very big swing for X-Men comics, but the cyclical nature of comics prevents me from getting all that excited about this new development.


New Mutants #21

New Mutants #21
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Alex Lins
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

I am very disappointed in myself that I dropped off New Mutants. I just didn’t like the new art style. But apparently they’ve been telling some really interesting stories about the nature and breadth of resurrection, the sort of thing I like from Krakoa!

The New Mutants head to the Hellfire Gala and it’s a blast! Warlock seems a bit edgy, and he finally opens up to Warpath about missing Cypher ever since Cypher got married. Warpath convinces him to go talk to Cypher and they seem to have a nice chat. Moonstar tries to catch up with Wolfsbane after missing the news about Rahne’s son, and Rahne is a little perturbed at having to relive the info. Magik and Karma are harassed by some human artist guest who thinks himself a lothario, so they put him in his place.

Laura couldn’t find Gabby all night, but found a letter addressed to her the next morning. Gabby has been having ongoing troubles with the Shadow King in past issues and a group of mutants who she is trying to befriend, but who are getting manipulated. That morning, those friends head out into the woods and find Gabby dead!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I know I’ve been all over the place on these Hellfire Gala reviews. But the easiest way to understand is that I like the character-focused stuff, especially if it takes place at the Gala. I don’t know much of the drama plaguing the New Mutants characters, but I know enough and I know the characters enough to enjoy this issue. And this issue features a lot of really enjoyable character drama. That’s what is elevating these issues for me, or lowering them, as the case may be. We do get some callbacks to ongoing stories that have nothing to do with the Gala, but I found how it was handled in this issue to work in a new reader’s favor. I’m not entirely sure what is up with Gabby’s death, but I’ve gone back and read some other issues because that is one I really want to understand. And the rest just works. These are long-developed characters and their drama works in this issue, while still being heavy on the gala.

TL;DR: A lot of good character drama and development focused squarely on the Hellfire Gala. That makes a good tie-in as far as I’m concerned.


X-Corp #2

X-Corp #2
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Alberto Foche
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

I remain biased towards Multiple Man when it comes to this comic, and I will admit that up front. And just like the issue of New Mutants, this issue features a lot of really good character drama while remaining firmly part of the Hellfire Gala.

In the wake of the big stunt in Brazil, the members of X-Corp head to the Hellfire Gala intent on taking several business meetings to interview candidates for the board of directors. Multiple Man is feeling a bit jealous since he was offered a position on the board, so he finds himself tagging along at various points after Angel and Monet to learn more. Trinary is also in his ear as she hangs out back at base. The crew walk the green carpet. They take meetings with Thunderbird, Sunspot and Selene. They meet with Mastermind, who wants a role for his PR/image skills. Then they go pick on the Fenris Twins, who seem to be running a competing company. Fenris takes a meeting with human pharma lady Sara St. John, and she strikes a deal with them instead of X-Corp.

Then Andrea Strucker sneaks onto the X-Corp base and nearly kills Trinary, but Monet shows up and kicks her butt. That leaves Angel to fight with Andreas Strucker, with the help of Mastermind’s illusions. In the end, Fenris is defeated and Mastermind has earned his seat on the board (he also helped hide the fact that Warren turned into Archangel for his fight).

Also, before I forget, the issue did name drop Jamie’s marriage to Layla Miller but he hushed Trinary before she could reveal anything concrete.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue strikes a wonderful balance of character development, Hellfire Gala shenanigans and business talk. The search for board members is a good way to keep this series focused on the business storyline. I’ll admit that it’s probably not fire in terms of storytelling, but I really want this series to separate itself from the flock. And having Angel and Monet taking business meetings at the Gala is a fun way to do that. Howard has plenty of fun with the cameos, both those thrown off and those that matter. I loved how Mastermind’s illusion skills came back as a surprise in Angel’s fight with Andreas. And I loved how self-conscious Multiple Man felt about Angel and Monet interviewing other board candidates before he’d given his answer.

Someone’s gotta be in charge

Then the rest of the issue mixes it up nicely with other character moments and some action. I’m not entirely sure what Fenris did, just as I wasn’t entirely sure of the business dealings in the first issue, but that’s likely on me and my dumb brain. It sounds like Fenris are trying to run their own PR firm of some kind and make deals adjacent to official Krakoan state business, and that sounds like a great antagonist for X-Corp! Bring on more of the business world! That’s what I truly want from this comic. Weird, mutant business dealings and a bunch of fun, twisty character stuff from the main cast. And this issue delivers all of that, while using the Hellfire Gala setting to full effect.

TL;DR: A stronger issue than the first as it leans into the character work and business storylines, while pushing the Hellfire Gala setting to its fullest.


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!

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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 June 19, 2021, in Comics, DC, Multiple Man, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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