Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/3/21
Welcome to the fifth week of June in terms of comic book releases! That means very little was released this week, and I read very little of that. So really, we’re got a pretty news-worthy issue of X-Factor to wrap up the Hellfire Gala and then another brilliant issue of Beta Ray Bill.
Comic Book of the Week goes to Beta Ray Bill #4, carrying this series through as a Comic Book of the Year contender. With artwork this gorgeous, why to the rest of us even exist?
Meanwhile, life continues as expected. The Loki show is still great. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still great. And by this time next week, I’ll have seen Black Widow! So huzzah!
Comic Reviews: Beta Ray Bill #4 and X-Factor #10.
Beta Ray Bill #4
Writer and Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
This series has turned out better than I could have ever hoped. I’m already planning to buy the tpb in the fall just so I can own the physical copy as well.
Skuttlebutt is trapped in the clutches of a monstrous creature that has leeched itself into the very fiber of the ship, especially the records room. Bill and the android Skuttlebutt make their way through the ship as the creature plays for them memories of their time together, from Bill’s original surgery to his fight with Thor to the battle against Surtur that destroyed his home planet. They eventually reach the creature’s weak point and kill it, freeing the ship and causing it to crash land nearby.
Bill heads outside and stands before his goal: Surtur’s sword, Twilight. Skuttlebutt tries to insist to Bill that he’s a good person on the inside and has never needed a hammer or sword to prove it, but Bill says he’s never felt that way himself. He reaches for the sword…and it smacked away by Surtur! The fire demon has been waiting a long time for a worthy adversary, and Beta Ray Bill will do!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
As a personal taste, I’m not a huge fan of stories that are basically just flashbacks into a character’s known history. I get that those flashbacks help inform who Beta Ray Bill is today and in this story, but I feel about this stuff the same way I feel about drug or dream trips. It just doesn’t have the same impact for me as actual story. Fortunately, this issue of Beta Ray Bill has some really good actual story, and it has some mind-blowingly amazing artwork. Holy crap, people. Daniel Warren Johnson is a star in the making. I’ll grant you that Beta Ray Bill’s general ugliness is well-suited to Johnson’s grungy style, but he raises everything to another level in terms of sheer scale and power. Everybody across the industry should be talking about this comic.
And the story is just as good. I’m a little worried that this series is going to end with Bill and robo-Skuttlebutt in some kind of romantic relationship, but until that happens, she’s working very well as a foil for Bill’s emotions. She’s someone who has always been there for Bill and she’s able to guide him through his darkest days as Bill pushes himself forward. And that final scene, as Bill strides out of the ship and approaches the sword, is wonderful. Skuttlebutt is there insisting that Bill is good and decent…but Bill is too lost, still. He’s too insecure, too wrapped up in his own head, and he can’t see what she sees. He needs this sword…
So, of course, it’s not going to be easy to get. What a great set-up for the final issue! There’s gonna be a fight! For the very soul of Beta Ray Bill!
TL;DR: Outstanding artwork once again lifts this already amazing comic to even greater heights! This is comic book of the year material.
Writers: Leah Williams and David Baldeon
Artists: Baldeon, David Messina and Lucas Werneck
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
This is the big one, apparently. Everybody is freaking out over it. As if we learned nothing about death in comics not mattering anymore.
This is also the final issue of X-Factor, which stinks. This was a good comic, and always seemed like a big deal, yet we’re only getting 10 issues? Why? Were sales really bad? A bunch of Dawn of X comics are still going, so why kill X-Factor? Williams and Baldeon write big, glowing goodbye letters at the end of the issue, praising how much they loved this series, which just adds to the confusion for why it was canned. Sales must have been really, really bad.
X-Factor head out to the Hellfire Gala and we wrap up a bunch of storylines/tie-in to a bunch of other scenes from other comics. It’s a bit jumbled. Heck, there’s even a spoiler for Children of the Atom! Mostly we tie up Prodigy’s storyline, where he was investigating why he was resurrected on Krakoa since he couldn’t remember dying. Turns out he put himself in harm’s way in order to catch a serial killer in LA who targeted queer, Black youth, and it got him killed. Once he figures it out, he confronts the killer and frightens him, then gets backup from the rest of his team to get the guy arrested.
Then when Prodigy, Eye-Boy and Speed return to the Gala after hours they find the dead body of the Scarlet Witch!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue felt rather jumbled, which makes sense considering it’s the final issue. It definitely feels like Williams was told to wrap things up, forcing her to wrap things up quickly and a bit awkwardly. We get some massive leaps forward for Eye Guy, a couple minor scenes for some of the characters, and then the Prodigy storyline comes to a whirlwind conclusion with a few bumps. For example, apparently Prodigy was wearing his Hellfire Gala dress out to some fun nightclubs long before Krakoa. And then he mailed himself the gown to wear to the Gala from the past? And that trigged some memories? These outfits are supposed to be some crazy Met Gala-style bonkers outfits, and yet Progidy was just wearing it around to clubs months ago? It just doesn’t track very well.
But the reveal that Prodigy was out hunting a serial killer targeting queer, Black youth tracks just fine. And he solves the murder and gets X-Factor’s help in putting the guy away. All of that works fine, even if it does feel a bit rushed and jumbled. There’s also a quickie wrap-up to Shatterstar and the Morrigan, but that quickly dovetails into the fact that Shatterstar’s actual story took place in the previous issue of Excalibur, so there’s not much for X-Factor to do but merely address it. It’s just another jumbled scene.
Finally, the death of the Scarlet Witch is pretty boring. Pretty sure it’s only done to make headlines, considering the success of the WandaVision TV show only a couple of months ago. So that deflates whatever importance Marvel is trying to give this moment. Also, it’s not like Scarlet Witch has been a big part of X-Factor, Krakoa or the Hellfire Gala. She showed up randomly at the end of the last SWORD issue and had a nice moment with Magneto. Having the story be Magneto is turning against Krakoa in order to bring his daughter back into the fold is far, far more interesting to me than Scarlet Witch is randomly dead and Magneto is the prime suspect.
My only hope for this is that Magneto killed her so that she can be resurrected and her mutant status quo returned to her. If that’s the case, I will warm up to this twist just a bit more.
TL;DR: A bit of a jumbled wrap-up to a series cancelled way too soon, and all of that is overshadowed by a big twist that doesn’t really matter or have anything to do with anything that came before.
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!