Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/14/21
It’s a sad week for comics as a couple of good comics come to an end. But I’ve got another short week, so the sting wasn’t too bad. Still, Children of the Atom is ending too soon. But at least Might Morphin is firing on all cylinders!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Runaways #38 because it’s the final issue. Rainbow Rowell’s Runaways has probably been my favorite comic at Marvel for years now. It’s such a wonderful character-focused book. But the pandemic hit it hard. I’m very sad to see it go…especially considering all the ways it ends!
Meanwhile, I loved the first episode of What If…?. It was a fun, little jaunt of adventure. The animation really took me by surprise, especially the action scenes. Holy wowzers that was some good action! I’m definitely looking forward to more of the show now. And this weekend is also the open beta for Back 4 Blood. I was a big Left 4 Dead man back in the day, and I’m having a blast getting back into that saddle.
Comic Reviews: Children of the Atom #6, Mighty Morphin #10 and Runaways #38.
Children of the Atom #6
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Paco Medina
Inkers: Medina and Walden Wong
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Shame that the best issue of the series is also the last one. I would definitely keep reading this if it was an ongoing series. Though there is one big change I would have made…
Carmen has been revealed as a mutant, with a personal invitation from Storm to attend the Hellfire Gala. Her friends are gobsmacked, especially Buddy, who takes it very harshly and gets quite rude. They argue and Carmen storms out and attends the Gala, where she’s clearly a fish out of water, but various X-Men are more than happy to show her a good time. Later, Carmen attempts to come out to her parents as a mutant. It doesn’t go well at first, but comes together nicely in the end.
The next day, Gimmick (Carmen) arrives just in time to help the Children of the Atom defeat Hordeculture. Then they go and have a big talk, where they apologize and forgive each other. Buddy and Carmen get their facts straight about liking one another and they’re going to be a couple! And they’re all going to stay a superhero team, with Carmen taking some time to visit Krakoa now and again.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
A lot happened in this issue and all of it was pretty great. This issue works as a culmination of most of the opening story arc. I thought more would happen with their friend, especially considering that friend was hooked up with a super-villain in secret, but neither one actually showed. So perhaps he only existed to establish some bad traits in our heroes. That’s fine, because those bad traits greatly impact the real story and their character relationships. And that’s where this issue really stands out. We get a lot of really enjoyable character development, both good and bad.
I’m not sold on the idea of how fawning all of the X-Men are at teh Gala…but I can accept it as part of this story. That’s just something I need to wrap my head around. Just gotta suspend my disbelief. The scene at the Hellfire Gala is fun, so it’s easy to suspend. And then all of the interactions with the teens themselves are gold. That fight scene is cool — though does Jonathan Hickman know how easily Hordeculture was jobbered in this issue? — and Gimmick’s late arrival is nicely heroic. And the team all coming together in the end and making up is very nice.
In the end, Children of the Atom was a fun little comic that told its story very well, perhaps even too well. Ayala really dove deep into these characters, more so than most writers do in ongoing comics. I wasn’t sold on this book in the beginning, but I definitely am now…just as it comes to an end. Oh well.
If I could make a change, I would have Gimmick and the other Children of the Atom rebrand. They’re all very confident in keeping their brand at the end of the issue, but Ayala includes a lot of conversation in this issue about both Carmen picking her mutant name, and Buddy and the others acknowledging that they unfairly modeled themselves after the X-Men when being X-Men wasn’t their story to tell. So it’s weird that Ayala and Marvel didn’t take the chance to rebrand these characters. Seriously, a ton of attention is drawn to the idea of Carmen choosing a mutant identity…and then barely any effort seems put into the idea that she’s just gonna keep being Gimmick and dressing like Gambit (she doesn’t even meet Gambit at the Gala). And Buddy gives a big speech about trying to emulate her heroes, which her friends agree with…and then they don’t do anything about it.
When Gimmick arrives to help her friends in the fight, that would have been a great moment to reveal a new costume and identity based around her actual mutant powers (apparently she’s a general shapeshifter and not just someone who turns into a monster form). It would have been so cool to see Carmen embrace her own identity. Likewise, a splash page ending where the Children of the Atom reveal their own unique identities would have been super cool! It would have been a step forward.
The series is ending, so it’s not like there would be any work involved in writing about their new identities. It would just take a splash page. And if the series were continuing, it would be super fun to explore how, why and what they do with their own superhero identities. Either way, it would have been a really fun win-win for these characters. But perhaps that’s just me. I might just not get it.
TL;DR: Children of the Atom comes to an end with its best issue yet. This one is full of great moments, some wonderful character stories and a solid, underlined point. It’s too bad there won’t be anymore…unless something else is coming along.
Mighty Morphin #10
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Raul Angulo, with assist from Jose Enrique Fernandez
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
This issue is all flashback, and it’s an exciting one! It’s just a shame I let myself get spoiled for these things.
Supreme Guardian Zophram is growing more frustrated with the Eltarian Council for their refusal to fully commit to the war and use the Zeo Crystal against Dark Spectre. His frustrations come to a head when a mysterious assassin attempts to steal the Crystal, and Zophram and Zordon are all that stand in his way. It’s a brutal fight, especially when the assassin strikes a potentially fatal blow against Zordon. Zophram snaps and defeats the villain, whose threats and mocks linger on Zophram’s mind.
Later, with Zordon barely recovering in the infirmary, Zophram blows up at the Council for their continued refusal to act. He takes Zartus with him to use the Crystal, not knowing that Zartus booby trapped the Crystal in a prior issue. The moment Zophram touches it, his body erupts and the skin is stripped from his body. Zartus finds him and takes him to get well…hooking him up to a system that looks exactly like Lord Zedd’s apparatus!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I love this origin for Lord Zedd. And I love its inclusion in this comic, because Parrott has been doing an amazing job fleshing out Zordon’s past and giving us some actual, legit backstory. That he can so effortlessly tie Lord Zedd into Zordon’s history is just really damn cool. It works, and it elevates everything we already know about Zedd — which isn’t much, if you think about it. The dude was a blank slate upon which Parrott and BOOM! Studios can build anything. So this issue really worked for me. It builds and builds, delivering some great character moments and some truly exciting action, before leaving us with that last page cliffhanger. It all works, and it all works very well. And having Dan Mora back on pencils for an issue is just fun. Goodness all around.
TL;DR: All of these Zordon flashbacks finally come to a head with an awesome retcon/reveal that I can’t wait to see explored further.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Andres Genolet
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
All great things must come to an end, including Marvel’s best comic. Farewell, Runaways, you will be greatly missed.
A lot is happening. The Majesdanian Light Brigade has come for Karolina, and Gert is arguing with her future self. Everybody is in freaking out mode as they deal with these issues. Future Gert explains to Gert and Molly that Chase slowly transforms into a villain, so she wants to take him to her time to give him a fresh start. They agree to help. Karolina explains to Nico that she “summoned” the Light Brigade by being so sick, and that returning to her home planet will heal her. She isn’t wanted by the authorities anymore because Xavin won her case in her stead.
Nico is bummed, but they talk it out. And when Karolina leaves, Nico gives her the Staff of One and tells her to not bring it back. Also, Future Gert’s plan works and she takes Chase.
In the very end, we see a couple of teases: Alex has all the gear of the J-Team now, and General Xavin is a total badass who is anticipating Karolina’s return.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
So, uh, what the hell Marvel and everyone involved?! This issue is just one glorious cliffhanger after another! And they’re all amazing! Karolina returning home, with the Staff of One, with the badass return of Xavin? Chase going to the future? Alex is the J-Team? Are we all just supposed to be OK with never following any of these up? Is Rainbow Rowell relaunching Runaways in the near future?! What do you want me to do? How am I supposed to get over this? The final issue of this volume of Runaways offered no closure! It’s all set up for future awesome stories! I can’t live like this!
But I guess I’m going to have to. This was another super fun issue, though it does feel really rushed in a lot of ways — especially considering the previous issue was that silent one, with very little development. It feels like Marvel came to Rowell with the cancellation and gave her a chance to wrap things up, but she had a bajillion future ideas that she wanted to play with, to say nothing of the existing ideas already in play. Chase going to the future comes out of nowhere and then just happens. Alex with the tech of the J-Team sounds super cool. And I always liked Xavin, so seeing them finally show up in Rowell’s Runaways is fun. The new Xavin design is un-freakin’-believably cool.
Even with everything rushing to conclusion, this was still an enjoyable issue. We get a lot of good character moments. Molly is especially cool (and we got a little Klara cameo!). Nico and Karolina get some solid scenes together. It all works nicely. Not the best Runaways has ever been, but nonetheless very good and enjoyable. And I like the symmetry with this series starting with Chase using time travel to save Gert, and now Gert is using time travel to save Chase. Fun little bit.
It’s just a shame we won’t get to see Rowell tell all these stories she has set up. Her Runaways has been a dream ride the entire time. Her character work, both comedic and dramatic, has been unlike anything else in superhero comics. I especially loved how she put in the work to build the Runaways back into a team, taking into account everything they’d done and everywhere they’d been since their last ongoing series.
I loved this comic so much I’ve seriously considered hunting down Rowell’s non-comics work just to get more. I hope she finds another comic soon!
TL;DR: This final issue feels a bit rushed, but the creative team finds plenty of chances for their usual strong character writing. The only problem is they pack with issue with one exciting cliffhanger after another! I want to see these teased stories so badly!
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!