Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/23/21

Here we go! Another week of good comics. Another week around this Earth. Another week of the usual stuff. Lots of comics this week, especially from DC. Batman, Black Manta, Superman; it’s a real juicy pile!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Nightwing #85 for an issue rich in character and heart, even as it ties into a bigger story.

That’s a good comic book title

Meanwhile, I have been having a pretty crap week. Just one headache on top of another on top of a literal headache. But still I soldier on. Finally got to play Back 4 Blood with a full crew of my friends. I’ve been having a lot of fun with that game. I finally got back into reading Invincible after watching the TV show. That’s going nicely. And a new bookstore opened in my town, and they are selling Gamer Girl & Vixen comics! So that’s a hoot.

Comic Reviews: Batman #115, Black Manta #2, Nightwing #85, Superman: Son of Kal-El #4, Thor #18, X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #3.

Batman #115

Batman #115
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Bengal and Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I wonder if the Unsanity Collective will stick around after this storyline is over.

Simon Saint is freaking out that Peacekeerp-X is dead, but one of his employees brings him information on Queen Ivy’s garden, which is so deeply rooted into Gotham City that she could collapse the whole place! Saint sends his Peacekeepers down to the Garden. Meanwhile, Ivy has a chat with Master Wyze of the Unsanity Collective, who reveals himself to be the former Dormouse of the Mad Hatter. Elsewhere, Batman and Miracle Molly make their way back to the Collective’s hideout to check on Wyze’s machine, the one that erases memories. They have to fight a goon to get to it first, and find out that Scarecrow has taken it.

Scarecrow plans to hook Peacekeeper-01 into the machine to download into him all of the erased/stored traumatic memories of the Unsanity Collective!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

A lot of this issue depends on all of our memories and cares about the Unsanity Collective, but it’s not a major hurdle to enjoying another action-packed Batman comic. For example, I barely remember both Master Wyze and the goon that Batman and Molly have to fight to reach Wyze’s Mind Machine. The goon, I think, sacrificed himself to let them escape a couple issues ago, now reprogrammed by Scarecrow. And Wyze…who knows? Tynion kinda rushed through introducing all these neat new characters and concepts at the start of his storyline, and now the story hinges on us remembering and caring. That’s a big ask, but like I said, it’s not a deal breaker. This is still another very good installment of Tynion’s exciting, action-packed, character-heavy Batman story. The guest art pages by Bengal were a little jarring, but they are also not a deal breaker. Good work all around by all involved.

TL;DR: This remains an exciting storyline, even if this issue leans a little too heavily into new, hastily-introduced characters being the key to everything.

Black Manta #2

Black Manta #2
Writer: Chuck Brown
Artist: Valentine de Landro
Colorist: Marissa Louise
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I’m digging this comic. I’m a fan of Marvel and DC these days giving short mini-series to random characters. And I think Black Manta could be a pretty cool protagonist.

Black Manta confronts Dr. Shin about the magic rock and how it’s still causing Manta pain. Shin has figured out that the rock is a chunk of orichalcum, an ancient Atlantean ore that is causing this pain in people with ancient Atlantean DNA. Could Manta be part Atlantean, generations back? Manta’s partner, Gallous, has an idea and they crash a high society party hosted by the Gentleman Ghost. He’s possessing the whole room, so Manta and Gallous fight through until they get Ghost in custody. Manta demands that Gentleman Ghost take him back to Atlantis in 9000 BC.

Meanwhile, the woman trapped in the Underworld gets out, with some help from Nubia and the Amazons. She’s wearing a necklace of orichalcum and it is leading her somewhere. Double meanwhile, the mysterious villain from the first issue finds himself locked up in jail for some reason. He’s also made of water. And he declares war on the surface world for its centuries of oppression.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Every time Black Manta is on page, this comic is fire. He’s cool as hell, both in looks and personality, and I think he has star potential. He’s an unrepentant villain with a good head on his shoulders and a pretty interesting operation. He’s smart, he can fight, and he’s wise and logical enough to not just be some crazy madman. That’s what I like in a villain, and Black Manta fits the bill. His story is also interesting. Some Atlantean stuff is causing him, and others around the world, to suffer pains and headaches, so he’s gonna call on some villain colleagues and travel back in time to Ancient Atlantis? Hell yeah! And c’mon, a comic where Black Manta teams up with Gentleman Ghost? How can you not love that?

The man has style

What’s holding this issue back from greatness are a couple of things. For one, nobody else is as interesting as Black Manta, and those other people take up at least half the issue. They work as mysteries that will likely play a part later in this mini-series, but the mystery woman from the Underworld and the mystery teen with water powers just aren’t very interesting on their own. It doesn’t help that the teen’s appearance in this issue has absolutely nothing to do with his appearance in the first issue. I had to go back and check to make sure it was even the same character. And the artwork is a little rough. It’s good when it’s good, but a lot of pages also feel rushed and with less detail than I would like to see. Some tighter art would really elevate this series.

TL;DR: Black Manta is cool as hell in this villain mini-series and I think he could easily lead an ongoing about his pirate adventures. The problem is that the rest of the comic — mostly the subplots and the art — doesn’t live up to his standards.

Nightwing #85

Nightwing #85
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Wes Abbott

Kudos to Tom Taylor for being one of the writers who keep calling Tim Drake “Robin”. I will forever be grateful in this weird period of Tim’s career.

Nightwing and Oracle suit up to take on Seer, a mystery woman who has taken control of the Oracle network. Babs narrates the issue, spending a lot of time reminiscing about her and Dick as teens, and about how much she’s accomplished. They head across the city to the Oracle 2 location, with Robin expected to meet them there. They have to fight off some Peacekeeper robots, and then get doused with fear toxin when they make it inside. Babs sees a vision of Dick shot in the head, and her relief at seeing him alive when they’re saved by Robin is enough that Babs and Dick share a smooch.

Seer taunts them through the computer, but Babs uses the network to pinpoint her location in the Magistrate’s airship. But Seer then reveals that she’s still watching the Clocktower. The Batgirls, Stephanie and Cassandra, are at the Clocktower and Seer blows it up!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Tom Taylor is clearly having fun, and I am loving having fun alongside him. He takes these classic, enjoyable characters and reverts them back to basics, and then just proceeds to have a lot of fun with them. Fun dialogue, fun character interactions, really meaningful uses of character histories and existing relationships. Nightwing is a real treat. Everybody feels fresh and fun, they work together and act together like the characters we know and love. Nightwing and Batgirl have their thing. Robin sneaks in to be a fun supporting character. They banter, they smooch, they talk about how best to defeat the bad guys. It’s pure superhero comics, but with that extra special heart that elevates it to another level.

What do you mean ‘finally’? They smooch all the time!

If I were to have any sort of nitpick, it’s that Seer comes out of nowhere. I don’t even remember her in the previous issue. I thought Simon Saint somehow took over the Oracle network. And I guess Seer is part of his organization? And then Seer now knows all the secrets of the Bat-Family…but she’s not going to tell Saint? I don’t know. I like the story, of the Oracle network being hijacked and Batgirl getting back into costume to help take it down, but Seer is just a little too out of left field to work as cleanly as the story would like. The beats of the issue are great though. The fighting, the fear gas scene, the big cliffhanger; everything else works great in this comic.

(Quick note from a future version of myself. I don’t read these comics in alphabetical order, so I read Nightwing and wrote this review before reading Batman, and Seer gets introduced in a back-up feature in this week’s issue of Batman. So that’s how they decided to play this for some reason. Doesn’t change the fact that Seer comes outta nowhere in this Nightwing issue.)

TL;DR: Nightwing is a very fun comic overall, and this issue is especially fun. It’s got classic Bat-Family characters just being themselves and being great together as they take on some interesting bad guys and challenges. This series is a breath of fresh air in the gritty superhero landscape.

Superman: Son of Kal-El #4

Superman: Son of Kal-El #4
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Colorists: Gabe Eltaeb and Hi-Fi
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

The comic that is taking the news media by storm gets a new issue, and it’s good stuff. In case it needs to be said, I am 110% fine with and in favor of Jon coming out as bisexual. Totally works for me.

Superman saves the Kents with his super-speed as the bad guys drop Faultline on the Kent farmhouse. He also discovers that Jay has intangibility powers. The Justice League respond because the farmhouse is protected, and Jon explains that it’s not Faultline’s fault. The League takes her away to safety, while Jon confers with Jay. They then meet with two other members of Truth, Aerie and Wink, and they all reveal they’re from Gamorra and got their powers through illegal experimentation, just like with Faultline. Superman pays a visit to Gamorran president Bendix, who does the whole charming, white collar super-villain thing.

When Superman goes to leave, Bendix enacts a plan that draws Superman to the burning guy from the first issue, who is trapped in a cell. But it’s a trap for Superman, and he’s blasted with some heat rays. Superman escapes, but his powers are overcharged, including his hearing.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Good stuff all around. I liked how the Justice League is keyed into the Kent farm, and were quick to the scene when bad stuff went down. I loved Jon realizing the house was breaking at supersonic speed, and he got his grandparents out. Learning more about Jay’s background and his super-powered allies was cool. Superman vs. Bendix felt a little too Lex Luthor-y to me, but it still worked. It’s fun to pit Superman against an evil head of state. It all worked pretty well for me. I would say that this comic doesn’t have the heart and charm of Taylor’s Nightwing, but there’s potential. We’ll see how this upcoming romance factors into the story. I’m never a fan of brand new characters who show up out of nowhere and only exist to be love interests, but we’ll see what happens. I trust Taylor completely to make this a fun and exciting comic.

TL;DR: A lot of nice character work and story set-up in this issue. I think this series is still trying to find its heart, but it is definitely well on its way.

Thor #18

Thor #18
Writer: Donny Cates
Artists: Pasqual Ferry and Bob Quinn
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

My dear readers, if you are to know anything of me, know that I love whimsy.

Mjolnir has been stolen and is hidden from Thor. First he reaches out to Loki for help, but Loki turns him down — and suggests another. So Thor goes to Throg for help, and Throg already knows what’s wrong, and he’s also already assembled a team: Lockjaw, Lockheed, Bats the ghost dog and Thor’s ravens! The new Pet Avengers is assesmbled!

Sadly, none of my recent suggested super-animals made the cut.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue really tickled my pinks! It’s just a fun, silly, whimsical tale that is almost entirely set-up. But Cates sells the hell out of how much fun this is going to be. It’s the little things. Like Thor barely fitting in Throg’s treehouse when he goes to ask for help. Like Doctor Strange greeting Throg by name when Throg knocks on his door looking for Bats. It’s the tone of the story, with a rather fun narration coursing throughout. Cates has a lot of fun with Throg narrating his team recruitment, and it easily sells this comic as a real blast of energy and verve. This comic is just plain fun.

A king in his castle

I am super excited about this story in general. Mjolnir is missing and Throg is brought on as a secret agent to search the Ten Realms to try and find it? Fantastic idea! So much fun on just a conceptual level. And this issue works all manner of magic to set it up. I very much look forward to where this story is going.

TL;DR: This issue is all set-up, but the sheer fun and whimsy are turned up to such a delightful degree that I can’t help but fall in love.

The Trial of Magneto #3

X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #3
Writer: Leah Williams
Artists: Lucas Werneck and David Messina
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Now things are even more confusing!

Wanda is alive again, but her memories are of a Wanda from the past. If she was indeed resurrected, then her last memory back-up was from a very long time ago and nobody is sure what to do. Then all of a sudden, three giant monsters show up and start attacking Krakoa. The X-Men and Avengers split up to go fight them, and none of them question why this is happening or how it might be connected with the weirdness going on with the always-chaotic Scarlet Witch.

Meanwhile, Wanda returns to the weird wheel-based chaos magic realm she’s been visiting in this series, and the mysterious caped figure reveals herself to be Old Woman Wanda!

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

Remember when Leah Williams explained online how editorial stepped in and messed with her final issue of X-Factor? Yeah, this issue feels like something similar might have happened. After two really good issues of Trial of Magneto, this one really goes off the rails on a number of levels. For one, the “young” Wanda is just weird. We don’t get any answers as to where she came from, and she’s just kind of a creepy character, but not to the benefit of the story. It just confuses things further. Especially when she ends the issue by just going off into another weird plane of existence, and Old Woman Wanda shows up. Is the reveal going to be that a future version of Wanda came back and murdered herself? Weird. To say nothing of how weird it is that our heroes solve this problem by having Jean Grey give “young” Wanda a telepathic crash course in all of the horrible traumas Wanda has endured in recent years. Was that the best way to handle the situation, X-Men?

At least Williams is able to get in more fun content between Northstar’s husband, Kyle, and Captain America.

Where’s the Captain America comes to dinner mini-series?

But the real mind-boggling part of this issue is everything in the middle. From out of absolutely nowhere or nowhen, three distinct giant monsters show up on Krakoa and everybody just goes off to fight them. What? I think that’s when the guest artist takes over, and it feels like it’s suddenly jerked into the middle of this story for no real reason. There’s no mystery about where these monsters came from. There’s no real fun in fighting them. Whoever wrote this tries to wring some kind of drama out of it by having the heroes declare their last stand, but it falls so flat. I don’t know if I can verbalize how weird this whole scene is, to suddenly drop it in the middle of this story.

I’m no longer even sure what Trial of Magneto is about. Definitely not Magneto on trial.

TL;DR: Some truly baffling story choices derail this comic to the point of it being unrecognizable.

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 23, 2021, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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