Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/13/21

What a bunch of comics this week! Some true favorites, like Mighty Morphin and Amazing Spider-Man, to some really great Robin comics! It’s a good time to be a Robin fan. In fact…

Comic Book of the Week goes to Robin & Batman #1 because I am a sucker for a new Robin-focused story, and this one is just plain gorgeous.

Classic

Meanwhile, I’m super excited from the Disney+ Day stuff yesterday. I was going to share some of the previews but they never showed up on YouTube, so I can’t link them. Plus my only real reaction is all of it looks awesome and I can’t wait to see all of them! Bring on She-Hulk! Bring on Ms. Marvel! Bring on Moon Knight!

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #78, Black Manta #3, Mighty Morphin #13, Robin & Batman #1, Robins #2, Static: Season One #4, Strange Academy #13 and We Have Demons #2.


Amazing Spider-Man #78

Amazing Spider-Man #78
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Sara Pichelli and Jim Towe
Colorists: Nolan Woodard and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

And so our new Spider-Man Beyond arc continues along at a nice pace.

Spider-Man fights Morbius , despite feeling weak from the vampire bite. He gets Morbius to chase him back to his highly secure apartment, where Beyond security measures blow off Morbius’ arm. Ben passes out and Beyond gets him to the infirmary — where their boss wonders aloud what the Morbius virus will do to Ben’s spider-powers. She relents eventually and the antivirus is administered.

Meanwhile, Misty and Colleen defeat and capture Morbius, though they are also paid a secret visit from Monica Rambeau, who is curious about what they’ve uncovered so far at Beyond. Double meanwhile, Black Cat visits Peter at the hospital and she and Mary Jane have a nice moment. And later, after Ben is healed, he and Janine go out on a date — and are being hunted by Kraven.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

First off, it’s a little weird that we’ve already got a guest artist filling in for Pichelli, but it’s fine. The art looks good. This is another excellent issue that keeps this new storyline going and I had a lot of fun. Ben is doing a fine job separately himself from Peter in terms of personality and general approach to being Spider-Man. I dig it. Morbius remains a non-entity, but only because he’s just a snarling beast. I’m sure Thompson has some fun plans. I love Misty and Colleen as the B-Team, especially now that they’re doing something extra with Monica. The Amazing Spider-Man teams are crafting a fun little world here, and I like what I’m reading. That bit where the Beyond boss contemplates letting Ben get infected with the Morbius virus because it might make a cool spider/vampire hybrid dude was some fun tension.

TL;DR: The new direction for The Amazing Spider-Man is fun so far, and this issue is a nice blend of Ben Reilly’s unique character, his interesting supporting cast and some classic Morbius.


Black Manta #3

Black Manta #3
Writer: Chuck Brown
Artist: Matthew Downsmith
Colorist: Marissa Louise
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Oof. I can’t remember the last time I saw a comic crater so immediately in just the span of a single issue.

So the villain is apparently named Devil Ray and he really dislikes Black Manta. He continues to work on his plan, which involves invading Atlantis and attacking some dignitaries. Meanwhile, Black Manta uses Gentleman Ghost to peer into the past at his ancestors in Atlantis, because apparently Atlantis had some African tribes in their midst and they became a splinter faction. The vision only lasts a couple of minutes, and Manta and Gallous jump in their plane and fly to Africa — and they are attacked in midair by the mysterious woman from the Underworld and her flying creature/pet. I think Manta wins, and he notices the Orichalcum necklace she’s wearing.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

So, uh, I normally hate to rag on creators…but was this drawn yesterday? After only two issues, Black Manta brings on an entirely new artist who delivers possibly the sloppiest comic book art I have seen in a long time. It’s actively bad. It tries to maintain the style of the previous artist, but characters become big, splotchy blobs and it does not look good at all. It loses all edge and danger, and it brings the whole comic down. Here’s just one example of many such panels.

DC Comics

The bad art then highlights the less than stellar story. I think this Blank Manta comic is too all over the place. Black Manta himself is not a complicated character, and he’s not a complicated character in this very comic. His visions of the past are just confusing and weird, adding an entirely new faction of break-off Atlanteans to an already complicated Atlantis history. And the vision only lasts a couple of pages. Then he’s also got to deal with his relationship with Gallous, then that mystery woman from the Underworld attacks, and then there’s this extra guy, Devil Ray, who is even what exactly? There is way too much going on in this comic, and while I was mostly fine with it the previous two issues because the art was good and the main character was cool. But now everybody is a lump, is generally unrecognizable, and nothing of much interest is happening.

TL;DR: Really embarrassing art is all it takes to crater this formerly fun comic. Bad art just shines a light on all of the myriad of story elements that just don’t work anymore.


Mighty Morphin #13

Mighty Morphin #13
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Marco Renna
Colorist: Walter Baiamonte, with assistance from Sara Antonellini and Katia Ranalli
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

The Eltarian War is upon us! Oddly enough, this issue just feels like a normal continuation of last issue. It’s still awesome, but there’s little distinction between the build-up and then now the actual war.

In a flashback, we learn about a time the recently created Lord Zedd killed a bunch of aliens.

In the present day, the Eltarian Invasion is upon us! Zordon has been destroyed, but Billy is on the run in the Command Center. He finds Alpha, and together they get to work on a back-up Zordon containment thingy that Billy built, until they are surrounded by Eltarian soldiers. Elsewhere, Rocky, Adam and Kimberly fight Sentry Force Four and barely escape to Promethea, where they hook up with Tommy and Aisha. Grace and Matt show up, with Grace telling the Rangers that she’s in charge now, because all the Eltarian forces are bearing down on Promethea. Meanwhile, it’s Zartus’ turn to have an awesome conversation with Lord Zedd on the moon.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This is big, fun, exciting comics. Parrott has spent so much time building up this war that, now that we’re here, it’s even better! The only concern is that there’s no big level up in terms of story or storytelling. It really does just feel like a continuation of the previous issues. But that’s fine by me, because I’ve been loving the previous issues. I guess I would have just liked a bigger sense of scope. This is apparently an alien invasion, maybe show how the world is reacting. Not just Bulk and Skull seeing it on TV in the Juice Bar. But I digress. This is another big, fun, exciting issue of Power Rangers drama and action. The stakes are high, the villains are dastardly and our heroes have their hands full.

Zedd knows

The action is fun, the characters are always enjoyable and I especially loved the conversation between Zartus and Zedd. We had a great Zordon/Zedd convo only last issue, so this new conversation was fun too! Lord Zedd is being used so well in this whole thing and I can’t wait to see what kind of wildcard role he’ll play in the long run. Likewise, Parrott is making such good use out of all of his characters. Billy has got his own storyline going on, the other Rangers are struggling with what they have, Matt and Grace are cool additions to the circle. This comic continues to fire on all cylinders at the start of the Eltarian War.

TL;DR: The Eltarian War storyline is off to a great start with another exciting, character-filled issue. I could have used a bit more oomph to really make this event stand out, but that’s an unnecessary nitpick to a really enjoyable comic.


Robin & Batman #1

Robin & Batman #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer: Steve Wands

I love me some Robin and I am definitely in favor of a new Dick Grayson Year One adventure.

Nothing too crazy or drastically different from what one might expect in this story. Dick is a kid training under Batman (not yet Robin), going through in-the-field training on the verge of breaking through to actual missions with Batman — but Bruce is unhappy with Dick’s work and grounds him. Bruce is very grumpy, Dick is very rebellious, and Dick designs his own Robin costume out of his old acrobat outfit and secretly follows Batman on a mission into the sewers, where they encounter Killer Croc and barely escape.

Bruce is mad at Dick for disobeying him, but then reveals he has designed an actual, fully-armored and geared up Robin costume that he was going to gift to Dick. The boy is in awe…until he realizes that if Bruce knew about the ‘Robin’ identity idea, then that means Bruce is reading his private journal. Dick storms off angrily, with Bruce dumbstruck that he’d messed up so badly.

Also, Killer Croc was in Haley’s Circus and recognizes the makeshift Robin costume from the Flying Graysons.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Please forgive my obvious bias showing. I am a huge Robin fan, and I love the idea of getting another really great Robin Year One story from some top of the line creators. We’re on the verge of a whole new Batman movie universe. I will gladly take any new comic story that shows that Robin can be done properly in a serious Batman story. And this first issue is a great start. Lemire gets into the head of early career Dick Grayson, along with Batman and Alfred. He does a phenomenal job of setting up all of the conflicts and concerns at this point in Dick Grayson’s training. Personally, I’m never much of a fan of Bruce treating Dick like a “soldier”, but that’s not entirely what’s going on here. And I can also recognize that this is the start of the story, that they need to start by butting heads so that the story can show them growing and improving.

I’m so glad he has pants and boots

I really enjoyed the scene where Bruce unveils the Robin costume he has designed. That really took me by surprise, in a really good way. I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for Batman and Robin being good partners. And after spending a lot of the issue with Bruce being really hard on Dick, to then have it come around and have Bruce do this really nice thing for him was awesome! Of course, it backfired hilariously, and there’s more trouble for the two of them to work out. So I’m very excited to see where this story will go next. Lots of room to grow, lots of things to explore, and it should be really fun.

There’s not much I can say about the art other than it’s as beautiful as can be expected. Nguyen is a master at his craft and it’s on full display here, with really strong character work, even in his unique, painted style. The characters look damn cool and really shows the awesomeness of Batman and Robin as iconic, contrasted characters.

TL;DR: Really great start to what could be a very entertaining mini-series. Robin is not too difficult a character to adapt to a dark and gritty Batman, and this series looks to be confirming his coolness.


Robins #2

Robins #2
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Baldemar Rivas
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Steve Wands

I can’t believe I missed the first issue of Robins! I am very disappointed in myself. Guess we’ll just have to jump in with issue #2!

All of the Robins — Dick, Jason, Tim, Stephanie and Damian — got together to go over their histories and decide if being Robin was a good thing or not. But some mysterious villain claiming to be the first Robin broke a bunch of classic Robin adversaries out of prison, while also hacking into the Bat-Computer mainframe. In this issue, they fill Batman in on the details and he forbids them from investigating until he can guarantee his system is safe. They obviously don’t listen. They follow their clues to an old graveyard, where the mysterious villain is keeping the classic Robin adversaries prisoner. Our heroes then have to fight a bunch of classic villain sidekicks, The Junior Supercriminals.

Meanwhile, our mysterious first Robin villain is watching Batman’s files on The Gauntlets, his term for the first mission each Robin performed before stepping into the role. These work as primers for the origins of our heroes, and they’re fun trips down memory lane.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I like it. I’m maybe not fully in love with it quite yet, but as I’ve said many times, you put a focus on Robin and I’m there for you 100%. Seeley knows how to write these characters and does a fine job bouncing everybody against one another. He’s clearly done his research on Robin history and has come up with a nifty little story to highlight all of these characters. I loved the flashbacks for the “Gauntlets” and their early missions to become Robin. I loved the characters interacting, each firmly established with their own personalities and conflicts. It really goes to show you how much work gets done with decades of collaborative writing.

Spoiler gets no respect

I like the use of The Junior Supercriminals. I didn’t even know they existed, so that’s some fun digging into the past. And I think they’ll be funny characters to throw against the Robins. Classic Batman villain sidekicks being used in the modern day, it’s funny. Likewise, Seeley used some Anarky spin-offs in the first issue. The man knows his Robin history and I’m down for it all.

The only complaints I have are fickle ones from an uptight Robin fan and should not be taken seriously by anyone. Why is Tim Drake’s cape so short? Why do they still need to call him Red Robin? Why does Damian still get to be Robin? Maybe it’s just me…

TL;DR: Fun little comic that absolutely embraces its premise.


Static #4

Static: Season One #4
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artists: Chriscross and Nikolas Draper-Ivey
Letterer: Andworld Design

Origins are largely out of the way, so now it’s time to get cool with Static!

The government comes to the Hawkins household to try and “talk” to Virgil, but his parents and an angry neighborhood turn them away. Virgil’s parents want him to stay safe and hunker down, but later that night, Virgil gears up and sneaks out — with the approval of his sister, who gives him his iconic coat. Virgil teams up with Darius, Freida and Ritchie to raid the government holding facility. But Francis is waiting for them, and he and Virgil get into an epic fight!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a very strong issue that, I felt, finally got to dig deep into Virgil being a hero. He’s got the coat, he’s got a mission, he’s got courage out the wazoo; he’s ready to be Static. If I have any complaints it’s that the art is a little too dark and moody for my tastes. The action gets a little hard to see at times. This is written like a straight forward superhero tale, and clearer art would be a benefit. But it’s definitely not a dealbreaker. The comic looks cool, and I liked the forward momentum of Virgil finally getting to be Static — he even picked up his name this issue, so that’s neat. And yeah, Virgil gets to be awesome, the threats around him grow greater, and some of his friends get in on the action. I also don’t think enough is being done to distinguish which friends are which and what they do, but that might also just be me.

TL;DR: The superhero action starts to really heat up in this issue, and I’m very excited to see Static finally get to be a full-on hero.


Strange Academy #13

Strange Academy #13
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

It has been nearly three months since the last issue. Very weird. But I suppose good art takes time, as we know from above.

It’s the weekend and the kids head into New Orleans to have a good time — all except Emily, who goes to visit the mysterious prisoner in the basement. We learn that it is the Imperator, from Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange run a couple years ago. Emily gives him a magic amulet that allows him to live in a mind palace of a happy family life.

Meanwhile, the other kids break into a graveyard in search of ghosts and find the tomb of Marie LaVeau, the Voodoo Queen. Then we learn that Marie LaVeau is Zoe’s ancestor, and we get Zoe’s origin story about misusing dark magic from a voodoo peddler named Streetlamp. She warns them all about misusing dark magic and they go clubbing instead, later joined by Emily. But then Calvin pulls Zoe aside to ask her about Streetlamp, having learned all the wrong things from her story. He just wants some kind of magic since he lost his magic coat.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I know it would be too cruel for this comic, but I was hoping Calvin would have to leave the school. He doesn’t have magic anymore, why keep him in school? At the very least, the faculty should have found him something else to do than just keep taking classes with his friends — which, I know, sounds really harsh. But it’s just going to breed the exact sort of resentment and envy that we see in this issue. Somebody should have seen this coming. But I digress.

Losing all of your magic does not excuse you from magic homework

This was a really fun issue. I love stories that really focus in on the characters, and this one worked really well. We explore Emily a bit more, and the Imperator is always a fun cameo and reveal. Her turning against Doctor Strange should be a good story arc for her. Then the rest of them just having fun in New Orleans is always a hoot, even if most of the story was taken up by yet more secret origin for Zoe. At one point do we just accept the characters at face value and focus on their future? I’m sure I’m just complaining because it’s been so long since the last issue. The flow has been a little effected.

TL;DR: Another good issue that focuses on its characters, even if there are a couple minor stumbles here and there.


We Have Demons #2

We Have Demons #2
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

Good news is I wasn’t kicked out of my Scott Snyder writing class for my less-than-stellar review of the first issue! Better news is that issue #2 is an improvement, now that the story gets going.

And so we learn the origins of Gus, the big demon that came to save Lam at the end of last issue. We learn more about Halo and Horn, the two opposing forces of the universe. And we join the Glories on a mission to retrieve what may be a Halo meteor set to crash in rural Norway. There’s a big fight on a plane, and Gus reveals some dark secrets.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Right off the bat, I don’t think this comic is for me. It’s just not grabbing me. I think the world is a little too weirdly specific, and the story is a little too rushed. Not to give too much away, but those dark secrets and big twist endings come a little too soon in the series, I think. We only know Lam’s father from flashbacks in the first issue, and a bunch of people talking about him in this issue. I don’t think we know him well enough for the big twists to land. And as for being too specific, Snyder has really narrowed in on Halo and Horn being the be-all, end-all of everything. I’d like a bit more time getting to know everybody.

In the name of gravity!

But again, that’s all just my personal takeaway on this comic. Overall, it’s well-made stuff. The writing is sharp and I like both Lam and Gus as main characters. I also like a lot of their teammates — though it feels like most of them will get slaughtered as the story goes along. But that’s neither here nor there at this point. For the most part, I feel like Snyder is rushing to establish his plot and his lore at the possible expense of the characters. It happens. And at least it looks very pretty while it’s happening.

TL;DR: The plot is rushing at us with all manner of lore and world-building, but at least a lot of the origin story is out of the way so this second issue can focus a bit more on the characters existing in the story.


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.

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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 November 13, 2021, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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