Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/30/21
Very interesting week in comics for me. Not a big week, but some issues that show very stark differences in what I like to see in a new comic vs. what I don’t like to see. I think there is a world of difference between how Marvel is presenting the new Amazing Spider-Man vs. how DC is presenting the new Wonder Girl.
Comic Book of the Week goes to Inferno #2 for a whole heck of a lot of really good character work starring all our favorite X-Men.
Meanwhile, I’m finally watching season 5 of The Expanse and it is wonderful. I love this show so much! And season 6 is right around the corner! And I’m still playing Back 4 Blood and having a blast killing zombies and leveling up. Things are good. Today I’m heading out to go see The French Dispatch in a theater about an hour away. I hope it’s worth the extra drive.
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #77, Inferno #2, S.W.O.R.D. #9 and Wonder Girl #4.
Amazing Spider-Man #77
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
What a relief to see Sara Pichelli getting to draw something that wasn’t that horrible J.J. Abrams Spider-Man comic.
After some training with the Daughters of the Dragon, Ben has chats with his boss, Maxine Danger, and his therapist, Dr. Kafka, looking to settle his mind and confirm his place as Spider-Man. He even gets a visit with his girlfriend back at their security-heavy apartment. But then he’s called into service and finds Morbius hunched over some bodies in an alley. Morbius fights back and bites Spidey on the neck!
Meanwhile, Mary Jane and Aunt May hold vigil over Peter in the hospital, with MJ unable to reach any superhero allies for help. Aunt May says she has some of her own calls to make.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Now that introductions have been made, this issue gets down to business of telling stories about Ben Reilly as Spider-Man, and it’s really good. Ben feels like his own unique person, and his world is both familiar and different. Thompson does a great job using multiple conversations to really get into Ben’s head, while keeping the issue flowing. It’s a lot of talking, but the characters and settings keep changing, as do the topics, so everything stays lively while still giving us plenty of insight into Ben’s character. And that’s what I want to see. I want to really get on board with this new era of Spider-Man comics, and this issue goes a long way to making that an enjoyable experience. Then we end with some classic shenanigans with a classic villain, which is also good in my book.
Also, as stated above, Pichelli’s artwork is to die for. She’s a great Spider-Man artist and it’s refreshing to see her on a book that is actually good and actually matters. Her characters are dynamic, her action is cool and she does a great job with pretty much everything. I really like how Ben looks, both as a civilian and as Spider-Man.
TL;DR: A new Ben Reilly-era of Amazing Spider-Man is here and this issue does a phenomenal job of helping the reader get to know and like the new main character, while filling his world with interesting tidbits of characters and subplots.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
I liked this issue much more than the first because this issue is made up almost entirely of fun character moments and interactions. Though I’m not sure what any of it has to do with Inferno being some great send-off to Hickman.
Via flashback, we see how Mystique tricked a bunch of people to get Destiny resurrected weeks ago (in a young body, no less). They spent some time getting her reacquainted with the world, though Destiny cannot yet see Moira or the future of Krakoa. We then see how Mystique made a bunch of deals with other members of the Quiet Council to ensure Destiny would be voted in — which seriously angers Professor X and Magneto. They visit Moira to figure out their next step and decide they need allies on the Council. To that end, they invite Emma Frost to join their inner circle and learn the truth. Emma is shocked, as expected. She’ll do her part to help Krakoa, but she no longer trusts Xavier and Magneto. And with that, the member filling the final open seat on the Quiet Council is…Colossus.
Meanwhile, the Orchis dorks, Nimrod and Omega Sentinel are still doing their thing, whatever it is. Mystique spies on them a bit.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This feels like a season finale. Characters are finally having conversations with real weight behind them. Moves are being made, shakes are being shook. And I find it all really fun to read. I live for strong characters and strong interactions, and this issue is dripping with good stuff. I loved every single scene of good X-drama. I loved seeing Mystique work her magic to bring back her wife, and the gentleness of welcoming Destiny back, while also facing what she’s become in the years since Destiny left. I loved seeing Professor X, Magneto and Moira fretting about what needs to be done, and the scene where they bring in Emma is really good. It’s a big move for all characters involved. And then the arrival of Colossus in the end is so weird it’s perfect. I don’t know if there’s some subtext about the choice of Colossus that I don’t understand, but he makes for a great surprise.
This is the stuff I love. It’s characters who feel real having conversations and moments that feel real, making moves that actually matter to something. We haven’t had Mystique and Destiny on page together since before Marvel could “safely” call them wives, and Hickman quickly and easily creates a strong, emotionally-satisfying bond between them. And seeing everybody making backroom deals is a lot of fun. It really works well to sink us into the characters. I don’t think I’ve ever understood Exodus to the extent that I understand him now, thanks to his brief scene with Mystique in this issue.
The art is also wonderful. Caseli does a great job with so many characters, giving each of them understandable emotions and making the big moments stand out.
TL;DR: This issue gets down into the nitty gritty of actually having characters talk to one another to make things happen, and I live for that sort of storytelling. Everyone and everything feels very dynamic.
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Jacopo Camagni
Colorist: Fernando Sifuentes of Protobunker Studios
Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher
SWORD is on its way to ending soon, I think. It’s been a fun ride.
SWORD is welcoming a Shi’ar delegation to Mars and it doesn’t go well, because a bunch of alien assassins show up and start attacking. There’s a big fight between the Imperial Guard and these aliens — the new Lethal Legion — and a bunch of people die, including some SWORD security staff (poor Forearm). Storm shows up and saves the day, having been late in arriving to the meet and greet in the first place.
All of this was orchestrated by Peter Gyrich, who reveals that James Hudson has joined him and Orchis, and reveals that Wiz-Kid is the Orchis mole inside SWORD.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I liked this issue, but it feels like the wind has gone out of SWORD’S sails just a little bit. I like the character work, as always. We get a lot of fun Abigail Brand moments, and a lot of fun bits for a lot of the supporting characters, like Old Man Cable showing up for a funny scene. The writing is strong, the characters are used well, the art is great and there’s plenty of action. This is an all-around well-made comic book with a lot going for it — though I suppose Wiz Kid fans aren’t going to be happy. I feel their pain. The only real nitpicks I have for this issue are that the Imperial Guard get more attention than the X-characters, and that this issue relies a lot on people dying to be interesting. The good guys and bad guys literally just trade one death after another in the fight. Killing members of the Imperial Guard isn’t interesting because they’re are interchangeable and replaceable. Who cares that they’ve killed the 28th incarnation of Fang? And killing X-characters isn’t interesting because of resurrection. It sucks in the moment for Forearm, but his death carries no stakes because of the entire point of the Krakoa era.
Honestly, I, personally, would have been happier had Ewing written an actual diplomatic summit between the Shi’ar and Mars instead of throwing in some random assassins and a bunch of uninteresting character deaths. Ewing is a great character writer and that would have just been more interesting for me. Maybe find a subtler way to start killing people during the summit instead of just an outright fight.
TL;DR: Great character work elevates this otherwise low stakes issue.
Wonder Girl #4
Writer: Joelle Jones
Artists: Jones and Adriana Melo
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
I find this series so frustrating. I want to like it, and there is so much to like. But Wonder Girl is also so discombobulated and weirdly told.
Yara Flor has been on Mount Olympus for some time now, training to be Hera’s champion with the help of Chiron the centaur and Eros. After catching a Pegasus as her final test, she’s invited to drink the blessed ambrosia and join Olympus for good. But first she wants to say goodbye to João back in Brazil. They go on a montage of dates before lying on a beach at night. Yara tries to ask João about the big decision she has to make, but he falls asleep. So a jungle spirit pays her a visit and gives her a vision about her origin story and her mother’s origin story. Then Artemis and Cassie show up to warn Yara against joining Hera. Yara returns to Olympus, gets her costume/armor and is about to drink the ambrosia…
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
Let’s start with the good. I like the energy of this comic. And I especially love the artwork. Everything about this comic looks absolutely gorgeous. Melo fits in perfectly with Jones, the two of them drawing some beautiful female heroes, all of whom are surrounded by luxurious worlds and characters. I like Greek myths as much as the next dork, and the centaurs, Pegasuses and Olympuses of it all look phenomenal. And the artwork does indeed create a really enjoyable energy to the whole thing. It all flows nicely and feels meaningful. I just don’t think it’s enough to carry this series because I just can’t stand nearly anything being done with the writing, characters or storytelling.
I apologize in advance for the forthcoming rant.
First of all, I don’t think this comic is doing enough to explore Yara Flor as a person or a character. She feels like a passenger in her own story. She’s constantly being pulled along to some new location, never really getting a chance to build a character foundation. She also doesn’t get very many chances to just stop and talk to people. A lot of important parts of character development in this issue are glossed over in montages, from her training on Mount Olympus to her dates with João. When she actually tries to have a meaningful conversation with him, he falls asleep. Then Yara just sits back and lets this spirit give her some back story. And when Artemis and Wonder Girl show up, she just sort of stands there defiantly while the two of them deflate the situation and just leave. I want to actually get to know Yara Flor as a person.
Second of all, I just don’t care for this training on Mount Olympus. Wonder Woman is already drowning in Greek iconography and stuff. Why isn’t Yara Flor doing more with her Brazilian heritage? That’s the new and exciting stuff I want to see. I don’t want to just montage over her training to be a hero in a traditional Greek myth setting. Why can’t we see her learning to be a hero from her tribe in the Amazon Rainforest? Why can’t that crazy crocodile witch doctor from the previous issue be the one to teach her language and mysticism? This issue also isn’t very clear on whether or not she’s still under Eros’ love spell and whether or not he’s using that to control her.
Third of all, I really despise João and their whole relationship. I find it very off-putting. I don’t like characters who are introduced as obvious love interests and have no real character beyond that. That’s João in a nutshell. And beyond that, his whole relationship with Yara is just so weird! He was the adult bus driver of her tour bus, and then he took a really awkward interest in her for seemingly no other reason than she was young and hot. It’s especially weird as we don’t know the ages of either character, especially not the one called Wonder “Girl“. The two of them hung out for a couple of days before she went off with Eros for, again, what we’re told is a very long time. So this dude knew this young, hot tourist for a couple of days, bought plane tickets for her and then she left with another guy…and yet apparently their reunion is played off so damn romantically in this issue. Like they’re just so connected. And, again, their dates are all in montage. So we don’t actually get to see the two of them develop as a couple.
Yara and João have never had a conversation on the page that wasn’t about some crazy new twist in the story. They are only a couple because it was decided that’s what would happen with the characters, not through any actual character or relationship development on the page. And it annoys the heck out of me.
And that’s a rant about everything really bugging me about Wonder Girl’s storytelling. Compare it to what Marvel is doing with Ben Reilly as the new Spider-Man. They’re giving us plenty of scenes of Ben actually talking to people in his life, fleshing out his character, his world and his place as Spider-Man. There’s a great balance between Spider-Man action and Ben Reilly being a person. That comic is also focused on Ben’s new world, showing off the new and unique aspects of a Spider-Man working for a corporation. Peter Parker and his world are still part of the comic, but they’re a subplot that supports the main narrative. And then Ben’s romantic interest, Janine, isn’t as brand new as João. She’s from ancient 90s Ben Reilly comics, brought back to give him a romantic companion, so they have pre-existing history. But at least she and Ben get to have real conversations, and her existence in the story is part of the larger plot about the Beyond Corporation.
Wonder Girl and Amazing Spider-Man are both introducing new characters to fill the classic role, but one comic is doing it much, much better. But there’s just something really magnetic about Wonder Girl. That artwork is to die for. We’ll see where it goes.
TL;DR: Wonder Girl is a weird balance of amazing, comic-defining artwork and abrupt, absurd character and storytelling choices.
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.
Posted on October 30, 2021, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged Amazing Spider-Man, Ben Reilly, Destiny, Inferno, Mystique, SWORD, Wonder Girl, Yara Flor. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.