Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/16/21

Welcome to DC Fandome Day! Before the end of today, we’ll have a new trailer for The Batman movie, along with who knows what else! I cannot wait to see some of the new video game trailers, maybe even get a release date for Gotham Knights. I’ll post the trailers tomorrow! Until then, how about some comics?

Comic Book of the Week goes to Superman and the Authority #4, a really fun issue that wraps up a sadly very short little comic. It’s a damn shame Grant Morrison couldn’t make this their next ongoing.

Always smash white supremacists

Meanwhile, have I recommended Squid Game yet? I gave that show a try this past week and loved it…right up until the ending. Squid Game sells itself on being this wild and gruesome show, but I did not expect such rich character drama. Highly recommended. This week also saw the season 2 finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks, which was another banger! I want a million seasons of this show.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #76, Power Rangers #12, Superman and the Authority #4 and X-Men #4.

Amazing Spider-Man #76

Amazing Spider-Man #76
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colorist: Marcio Menyz
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I am ready to see where Wells, Marvel and their other creative teams are going to take Ben Reilly.

Peter has been hospitalized due to his exposure to the U-Foes and Ben calls Mary Jane and Aunt May to come check on him while he returns to the Beyond Corporation. His handler wants him to go after the U-Foes (and he’s getting help from the Daughters of the Dragon), but Ben skips out to revisit Peter in the hospital. He asks Peter for his permission and blessing to keep being Spider-Man, and Peter grants it. So Ben goes off with confidence to take on the U-Foes.

But Peter suddenly goes into shock and slips into a coma!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I don’t think this really counts as a complaint, but this issue felt more like simply the last couple of pages to the previous issue. Like, this issue didn’t feel like it’s own full issue or story. It pretty much just wraps up everything introduced in the last issue as a way to kick off Ben Reilly’s new career as Spider-Man. It’s still written very well, and the artwork is fantastic. I like Wells’ take on Ben and Peter’s world. It’s just fun to see him interact with Mary Jane and Peter. I remain an old school Ben Reilly fan, even if I’m not thrilled about his resurrection. And this issue works really well as a temporary passing of the torch as Ben steps up as Spider-Man and Peter gets taken off the board for a little bit.

He’s so blonde

I think the U-Foes are an odd choice. So they could have killed Spider-Man at any time? The freakin’ U-Foes? Granted, Peter isn’t dead, but this is a pretty gnarly reaction to some C-list nobodies. But I digress. Wells has done a great job setting up Ben’s new world and his new career as Spider-Man. I especially liked the use of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing as people hired to help him out. I’ve always liked the subtle stuff when it comes to Spider-Man interacting with other people in the Marvel Universe. And this has an extra layer of interesting because Mighty and Colleen know this isn’t the real Spider-Man, but they’re helping anyway. I don’t know if they know Ben is Peter’s clone. But it could still be a fun character team-up going forward.

Also, even though I dropped the Iron Man comic some time ago, I still check in on it and it features a team up of Ben Reilly and Misty Knight. I wonder if that will be addressed? Doesn’t have to be, would just be a neat bit of continuity. Maybe that story will end with Misty offering Ben a job opportunity with the Beyond Corporation.

TL;DR: The writing and art do a great job of setting up the new direction of the series and I think it could all be a lot of fun — it’s just that this issue feels a bit like an afterthought of the previous issue.

Power Rangers #12

Power Rangers #12
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Francesco Mortarino
Colorist: Raul Angulo, with assistance by Jose Enrique Fernandez
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

The Eltarian War remains right around the corner and Omega Rangers is also ready. Plus…Cat Ranger!

The Empyreals have destroyed the Yellow Emissary and Zartus uses the corpse to create a new Empyreal. The Omega Rangers try to flee back to their ship, but Drakkon reveals his betrayal and tosses them Xi’s broken robot body before he flies off, stranding them on the planet just as the Empyreals destroy it. The Rangers hide in some caves and survive the blast, but now they’re stranded on a barren, volcanic and dying world. They spend several days wandering around, trying to come up with a plan for escape, while Trini uses Xi’s body to try and reach out for help. They get testy, worry about their sanity and eventually start coming clean with secrets, like Zack admitting he let the Hartunian emperor die.

Then, just when everything seems lost and there’s no hope, the new Omega Blue Ranger comes to save them!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The same thing holding back this issue is the same thing holding back Power Rangers as a whole: there just isn’t enough emotional depth to hold onto with these characters to make this series truly great. Or maybe it’s just me. But the Power Rangers on Earth have all these great connections, whether it’s too each other or to their allies or to their enemies or to their civilian supporting characters. The Omega Rangers only really have each other, with maybe Drakkon and Xi. And with Jason, Trini and Zack simply out there in the universe living insane lives, their emotions aren’t as grounded as the other series. Parrott still does a solid job writing the trio and putting them through some wild and crazy space adventures, but I’m just not feeling it as well as I wish I was. Even an issue like this, which is almost all emotion, I wasn’t as invested as one would hope.

The ones that got away

For example, big moments feel completely passed by. Drakkon reveals his betrayal and nobody really reacts. Xi is pretty much dead and nobody really reacts. Zack admits to essentially dooming the emperor to death and nobody reacts. Everybody just moves on immediately from each of these big story revelations. The interplay between the characters is nice, but it’s only skin deep. Jason, Trini and Zack are all just equal levels of friends. There’s no drama. And this is in spite of the fact that Parrott had a really awesome Jason/Trini romance subplot for a good long while back in the day. I liked that! But it’s completely removed from the Omega Rangers. How much better would this stranded story have been if Jason and Trini had a side thing going, and there was some animosity/jealousy between the trio? Heck, Jason and Trini get a scene together in this issue and their past feelings are never mentioned. It’s a wasted opportunity.

I keep ragging on what this issue lacks, but I still rated it very high because it’s still a very good comic. The twists and action are very interesting and a lot of fun. I very much enjoyed the desperation as the Rangers struggled to survive on this dying planet for a few days. And I am 100% on board for the Blue Cat Ranger, so that was a great ending. I don’t think it makes any sense whatsoever, but it’s bold, and I like bold.

TL;DR: A lot of good action and story developments in this issue as we prepare for the next big crossover. But, as always, the lack of real emotional depth holds Power Rangers back.

Superman and the Authority #4

Superman and the Authority #4
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

The big Superman news this week was that Jon Kent will come out as bisexual in an upcoming comic. I didn’t do a blog post about it because I am a lazy bastard whose blog doesn’t run on views or clicks. Suffice to say, this development is totally A-OK with me, and I’ll say more when we get to that issue. For now, let’s enjoy the ending to Grant Morrison’s oddly short-lived Superman and the Authority.

Superman defeats Ultra-Humanite with a little help from Lois Lane, stopping the villain from transplanting his brain into Superman’s body. Then it’s revealed the villain works for Brainiac, and Superman and Brainiac have a little tete-a-tete while the Authority fight off a team of super-villains sent to stop/test them. And Ultra-Humanite is still alive and with Brainiac, in just another body. The fights are fun because there’s a lot of good dialogue and character between them. Ultimately, the good guys triumph, save Lightray and then everybody reconvenes with Superman. The next plan is to take them to Warworld to liberate it, which will pick up in Action Comics. And then in an epilogue, Superman reveals to Manchester Black that he has a piece of the Source Wall in his fortress and it is displaying the message “Lightray Is”.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue was just plain fun. It’s a series of fights capped off by a bunch of confusing cliffhangers/teases for other upcoming comics. And those fights were a real hoot and a half! Morrison effortlessly creates a whole team of interesting super-villains, and pits them very entertainingly against our heroes. The brief but lovable character work and the witty banter make this a very worthwhile issue. And it feels so very classic. Our team of superheroes take on a team of super-villains in a free-for-all, like classic comic book fisticuffs. So it’s a real shame that Morrison won’t get to stick around to expand on all the fun on display in this issue. They introduces a French, lesbian villain-for-hire and I immediately want to see more of her.

If she’s still alive

The rest of the issue is just as fun. The arrival of Lois Lane is a great moment, revealing that she’s simply been in Kandor doing research on Krypton and the House of El. Superman calmly mentally sparring with Brainiac was great, as was the dichotomy between Brainiac and Ultra-Humanite as the villain team. And all of the superheroes were just cool. Manchester Black is cool (another fun bit: Morrison brought back a member of the Elite to be Black’s foe). Apollo and Midnighter are cool. Natasha Irons is damn cool. We don’t get much with Lightray and O.M.A.C. this issue, but they also seem cool! And all of them are drawn by the mouth-wateringly exquisite pencils of Mikel Janin.

The only problem I have is all the mildly confusing endings. I didn’t think Superman and the Authority was in current continuity, but this issue ends by teasing the team’s return in Action Comics. And then there’s all that stuff with Lightray and the Source Wall, even though Lightray was barely a presence in this handful of issues. So I just don’t know. This comic simply would have been better had it ended as just a mini-series instead of some vague teases for other comics elsewhere.

TL;DR: Grant Morrison captures the simple fun of comic book superheroes battling comic book super-villains in this final issue, and it’s a delight. It’s a shame they couldn’t make this an ongoing series.

X-Men #4

X-Men #4
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Javier Pina
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Sadly, the first dud of the new X-Men series is already here.

Nightmare shows up and dances through the bad dreams of Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Wolverine. But Jean detects him and kicks him out, even as he tries to kick up a fuss. Meanwhile, Ben Urich is investigating the unearthed and empty grave of Nathan Summers, and Feilong is heading to Mars, while exposing himself to some cosmic rays in the process.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Why does this issue exist? Is it setting up yet another future story down the line? I’m sorry for being unduly harsh and blunt here, but c’mon, Nightmare? Why? What does he even accomplish? He peers into the thematically relevant dreams of only three of the X-Men and then Jean Grey shoos him away. It doesn’t build on what’s come before and it doesn’t seem like it’s setting up anything yet to come. Is Duggan gonna try to make Nightmare an X-Men villain? Don’t they have enough villains, including the new ones Duggan has already invented? Why Nightmare? It’s not like the dreams he views are all that illuminating. Scott is worried about everyone’s faith in him. Jean is still haunted by the Dark Phoenix Saga. The only one I really liked was Laura. She has lost the memories of her time in the Vault, and that makes her a bit like classic Wolveirne, who famously couldn’t remember his past. I also liked the idea that Jean could simply show Laura’s Sync’s memories of their time in the Vault to get some idea what happened, but that might result in Laura falling in love with Evan and she doesn’t want to do that. Who would? That’s some good drama. But it’s just a passing thought as we instead spend page after page of Nightmare galumphing around all sound and fury signifying nothing.

TL;DR: A seemingly random use of Nightmare accomplishes not much of anything in this standalone(?) issue. Things were gangbusters for the first three issues, so I don’t know where this one came from.

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.


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 October 16, 2021, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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