Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/6/21
Welcome to Eternals opening weekend! By the time you read this, I will have hopefully seen the new MCU movie. I have my hopes up, despite the split response from critics. I’ll see this one for myself, and then my full review/thoughts will go up on Wednesday. It’s a pretty light week for new comics for me regardless.
Comic Book of the Week goes to Dark Knights of Steel #1 because it’s a fun comic, though not without some faults. I like a good alternate reality story and Tom Taylor is a great talent.
Meanwhile, I’ve started watching the second season of The Owl House on Disney+ and it is as delightful as the first. Highly recommend that show. The rest of my week was spent on near 12-hour work days, so not much time for anything else I’m afraid. I did see The French Dispatch and loved it, so at least I had that going for me this week.
Comic Reviews: Batman #116, Darkhawk #3 and Dark Knights of Steel #1.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Part of me thinks this story has gone on too long…but that really hasn’t been a problem. Everything is moving along nicely, and I think the next issue is finally the last one.
While Ghost-Maker fights the Magistrate goons, Queen Ivy prepares to bring the entire city down. Batman and Miracle Molly rush through the sewers and find Scarecrow, who blasts Molly with some fear visions and she writhes in pain. Batman follows Scarecrow to his lab, where he’s working on Sean Mahoney. Scarecrow monologues for a while until Sean wakes up and shoots him. Mahoney then starts monologing himself and gears up for a super big fight with Batman, all while Molly attempts to revive Scarecrow enough to get his help to turn off his fear machine.
Back in Queen Ivy’s garden, Harley Quinn shows up with Poison Ivy to try and stop her.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really know what more I can say about this comic. Every single issue of Fear State has been pretty much on par with every other issue, and all of them are very good. The action is good, the story momentum is good, the characters are solid, even the new ones. It’s just a whole bunch of Batman and his new allies racing around looking to stop the Scarecrow and his machinations. The issue did give us this panel though, one for the ages.
If I have any real complaints, it’s that Batman feels like he’s a lost in the madness. There’s so much going on, with so many layers and so many characters that I don’t know if it really feels like a Batman story anymore. And Batman just kinda looks out of place. Since he’s always standing next to the heavily-detailed and wild Miracle Molly, and since Scarecrow got a cool new redesign, the very old school Batman in this looks a little stodgy. But that’s barely a nitpick. Everything in this comic is top notch. Everything is fun and exciting and I look forward to seeing how it all comes to an end next issue.
TL;DR: Another excellent chapter of this excellent storyline, with art, story and characters doing a fine job being a very good Batman comic.
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Juanan Ramirez
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Three issues in and the new Darkhawk is losing me.
In the middle of making a video to explain to his best bud Derek how this Darkhawk thing works, Connor finds out that Derek is dead. Connor confronts local hoodlum Shawn for information, but Shawn tells him to back off — so Connor leaves the bar, changes into Darkhawk and comes back to whoop Shawn around. He gets info on Mr. Colt and Darkhawk goes to confront him, only for Colt to have a couple super-powered thugs waiting for him. Darkhawk fights them, with flashes of old Darkhawk’s fighting techniques. Eventualy Darkhawk gets defeated and thrown through the roof into the river — where he’s fished out by Miles Morales.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
OK, let me think. What can I say about Darkhawk #3? It’s largely fine. I have one very big quibble, and maybe some small quibbles. But it’s still largely fine. The writing remains strong, the main character remains an interesting lead, and there’s some nice action. So it’s still a solid comic. But as I’ve been saying, there’s nothing here that makes it a “Darkhawk” comic. And I’ll grant you, it can’t rely on the previous Darkhawk character. But there is no real reason presented so far for why Darkhawk needed a new host. Or why Connor needed to become Darkhawk to have his story told. That’s just what’s happened.
The art around Darkhawk himself is still very strong. I love this redesign. I was annoyed when Colt revealed his lineup of dumb-looking henchmen. Like, for a guy who is in charge of street gangs, it’s super weird that Mr. Colt suddenly has this gaggle of very generic, yet still very weird-looking henchmen. A giant robot with a floating brain? Some kind of giant robot scorpion Deathlok? These guys are immediately forgettable in how detailed they are. Couldn’t have cracked open a Marvel Encyclopedia to pick some classic henchmen to throw in there? And also couldn’t be bothered to make some legitimately interesting new henchmen?
I dunno, maybe that’s a weird axe to grind, but it was the major thing that stuck out to me this issue. I think the friend is dead too soon. We were still getting to know him and now Connor is out one very important supporting character. The idea that turning into Darkhawk might accelerate his MS is interesting…but then the obvious answer is stop turning into Darkhawk. There’s no drive for Connor to be Darkhawk. He just stumbled upon the amulet one day and decided to keep it for reasons that haven’t really been explained. I’ll grant you, if I found the Darkhawk amulet randomly one day, I’d keep it and use it. But if it was actively harming me…I’d probably stop.
TL;DR: All of the pieces are there for a perfectly fine comic, but nothing is really being done to make this stand out or even really matter.
Dark Knights of Steel #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Yasmine Putri
Letterer: Wes Abbot
Like I said above, I like a good alternate reality story and Tom Taylor is on fire these days, so let’s go!
So it’s medieval times and one big twist is that Jor-El and his wife took the rocketship to Earth and then gave birth to Kal once they landed. Flash forward to a bunch of years later, and the Els rule the kingdom they landed in, with their son Kal as a heroic dude, and then Bruce Wayne as a Batman-esque knight. Batman and his team of young Robin squires have found a Banshee in a nearby town, and they go to take her into custody because magic is outlawed. It’s Black Canary, and she’s only defeated with Kal’s help (he’d been told to stay behind). Afterwards, Bruce confers to Jor-El about how Bruce managed to withstand the Banshee’s scream. Jor-El reveals that he is Bruce’s father!
Then Jor-El takes an arrow to the eye, fired by Green Arrow from the nearby woods, with assistance from a Green Lantern we don’t fully see. Also, Black Lightning is a rival king, who is getting prophecies from a doped up John Constantine.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I can’t quite put my finger on it. Or maybe I can. This book really, really wants to be something cool and epic like Kingdom Come or Marvel 1602. All the pieces are there, but there’s just something…not epic enough about Dark Knights of Steel. I think it’s the tone. This comic is too light and fluffy. It’s too bright, it’s too breazy. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong. It’s an enjoyable read with a great hook. But I feel like it could be more. It could be deeper. It could be meatier. It’s entirely possible I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m just relaying how I felt reading this issue. The art is solid and the writing is solid, and a lot of the ideas are very good. It’s just the whole thing didn’t work for me as well as I’d hoped.
There aren’t enough differences, is one issue. Bruce Wayne is already a Bat-knight with no explanation or understanding why he’s specifically a bat-themed knight. He is one because he’s Batman, simple as that. Black Canary is just Black Canary. There’s all this build-up to Bruce hunting a banshee, and I thought that might be cool…but nah, it’s just Dinah. Her name is Dinah. She looks like Dinah. She speaks like Dinah. Everybody speaks normally. I didn’t like that. I guess I wanted more flowery language? Maybe make the prose feel more medieval or something? But now I’m just listing what I think this comic should have been instead of what it is.
Dark Knights of Steel is a fine Elseworlds so far. But I don’t think it embraces its medieval setting as deeply as it could. I don’t think it goes far enough to really dig in and be this truly alternate setting. It’s just a light adventure where Batman rides a horse now.
Also, why is Bruce already called “The Bastard Bat-Prince” when it’s only revealed later in the issue that he is Jor-El’s son?
TL;DR: Great setting, fine art and fine writing, but I just didn’t feel like this first issue embraces the concept as well as it could have.
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.