Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/11/21
By this time next week, I will have seen Spider-Man: No Way Home and none of the spoilers will haunt me anymore! The wait is getting pretty unbearable! But thankfully, we’ve got some fun comics like Power Rangers, Batman and Inferno to keep us occupied.
Comic Book of the Week goes to One-Star Squadron #1 for a fun little debut issue. Also, sometimes I just need to give Power Rangers a break from winning all the time.
Meanwhile, I finished Arcane on Netflix and it is phenomenal! Highly recommended! Possibly my show of the year. Arcane is what every video game adaptation wishes it could be. They take the characters and settings of League of Legends and actually build a really great story, juggling multiple characters, multiple arcs, multiple great moments, while still remaining true to the characters. The visuals are also out of this world.
Comic Reviews: Batman #118, Dark Knights of Steel #2, Inferno #3, Mighty Morphin #14 and One-Star Squadron #1.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
I thought about taking a break from Batman following the end of James Tynion’s run, but I’m open to trying new things. I gave Joshua Williamson’s first issue a read and I’ve decided to stick around for now.
The Fear State is over and everyone in Gotham City is partying — except for Batman, who takes a somber cruise around the city, frightening would-be burglars. He’s got Oracle in his ear, trying to get him to relax, but they soon hit on a group of hitmen about to attack the Billionaires Club. They’re throwing a “Gotham Villains” themed party and are all dressed as villains, so Batman goes in as Killer Croc and beats up the hitmen. Then he’s a bit uncomfortable when the billionaires celebrate him and a little girl wants autographs.
As dawn arrives, Barbara and Dick try to get Bruce to come hang out for breakfast, but he sees the breaking news that several international members of Batman Inc. have been arrested for murder. So Bruce takes flight to sunny Badhnisia to examine the crime scene, with the help of local detective Cayha. Batman gives her a quick update on the status of the Club of Heroes and Batman Inc. which Bruce Wayne could no longer fund. And she explains how the heroes killed new villain Abyss. The question is: what turned these heroes into killers?
Perhaps the new financier of Batman Inc. has the answer: Lex Luthor!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is good Batman comic booking. Simple as that. It’s the start of a new story, and Williamson digs up some fun classic characters to tell a potentially interesting new story. I very much enjoyed Grant Morrison’s Club of Heroes/Batman Inc. stuff from back in the day, and I think that’s all still ripe for new material. So I am completely on board for Batman going international to look into a mystery surrounding them. That’s a great premise. And the writing and art in this issue come together wonderfully. Williamson has a very strong handle on the characters, and comes up with some exciting stuff for everybody to do. I think there might be a too few many billionaires in Gotham City — that club scene is packed! — but it’s still a generally fun idea. As is the brief scene in the beginning where Batman’s mere presence is enough to spook some burglars into abandoning their heist and turning themselves in. It’s good, enjoyable stuff.
Then when we get into the actual meat of this story, it’s still good. Batman going international is already fun. Seeing him do some actual detective work, with a fun new supporting character, also worked for me, obviously. Who doesn’t love some good Batman detective work? If I have any complaints, it’s that DC doesn’t seem interested in doing anything specifically with Bruce Wayne no longer being a billionaire. The fact is mentioned twice in this issue, but there’s nothing actually done with the idea. Batman still operates exactly how he always does, and he’s free to take his supersonic jet and fly to a whole other country with zero inconvenience. If they’re going to make such a huge change to Batman’s status quo, they should do something with it, I think. But I’m also fine with Williamson ignoring it to tell his story, because I don’t think it’s a good idea overall. And then Lex Luthor showing up as a surprise antagonist in the end is just delicious icing on the cake.
TL;DR: New creative team and new story come together for an excellent issue of Batman comics.
Dark Knights of Steel #2
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Yasmine Putri
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Forgive me, but I don’t think there’s a any way for me not to compare this comic to Neil Gaiman’s 1602. That’s probably not fair. But after reading the first issue of Dark Knights of Steel, I did go out and order the 1602 tpb off Amazon and it does hold up!
King Jor-El is dead, felled by an arrow from the nearby forest. Batman and Alfred ride out and catch Green Arrow, while “the Green Man” has already arrived in the Kingdom of Storms to report the successful assassination to Constantine. King Black Lightning, meanwhile, is watching his three children practice their storm-based powers.
Meanwhile, Lois Lane arrives at Amazon Island and reports the news to Wonder Woman…and her lover, Zala Jor-El! A distraught Zala takes off almost immediately.
The court of the House of El argues about going to war, with Kal-El quite dismissive of Bruce’s opinion. Kal goes down into the dungeons to interrogate the archer, while Harley Quinn tries to council Bruce about prophecy and war (and we get a fun glimpse of a bunch of DC cameos in the dungeon, including the Flash).
Kal-El promises the archer that they’re not going to kill him, because the House of El are not killers. Meanwhile, Zala shows up at the Castle of Storms and totally kills Black Lightning’s youngest son.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Now that I know what this comic is going to be like, I’ve eased a bit more into it. I still think it suffers from the same problems I had with the first issue. I feel like the whole enterprise is only skin deep. Nothing particularly creative or interesting is happening in regards to the medieval setting. For example, Batman is still just Batman, only now he rides a horse. There isn’t an explanation for why he’s modeled himself after a bat. The idea that Bruce is the bastard son of Jor-El is new, but that twist has nothing to do with the setting and could be done in any Elseworlds story. But I digress. I don’t want to dwell on the overall problems with this comic, since I did enjoy this issue. Taylor does a fine job fleshing out the characters and the world more. I especially enjoyed the scene in the dungeon with the character cameos. That’s a fun way to set up future events, especially if the Flash comes into play later.
I like the escalating story. The ending definitely took me by welcome surprise. You’ve got Kal-El proclaiming that they’re not killers, only for his younger sister to do just that. Of course, Black Lightning brought this on himself, striking the first blow based on little more than a prophecy. So it’s all woven nicely together. Though, again, I’m not sure what it really brings to the story to have Black Lightning as the opposing king. I’m not sure what it really brings to have which characters on which side of the conflict. It seems arbitrary. But again, I don’t want to dwell on that sort of thing. The story is being told well, parts of the world are exciting and I am genuinely looking forward to more.
TL;DR: A stronger first issue moves the story along in some fun and surprising ways. I still worry that the facade is only skin-deep, but excellent storytelling, character use and art should more than make up for that.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: R.B. Silva, Stefano Caselli and Valerio Schiti
Inker: Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
We’re back to storytelling by way of plot twist exposition.
We open with flashbacks explaining how Professor X first introduced Cypher to Krakoa, and how Cypher and Warlock set about making the island inhabitable, while also building in their own secrets. For example, Warlock has been able to monitor Moira’s stuff this whole time, so Cypher knows all about her. Then Emma meets with Mystique and Destiny and tells them all of the secrets as well. Then Moira gets captured by Orchis and Professor X and Magneto go to rescue her, only they’re too late and Mystique and Destiny get to her first.
Speaking of secrets, we learn that Omega Sentinel is from the future, specifically the future that was Moira’s tenth life, a life where mutants win. And she’s punched a hole through reality to come to this timeline to stop that. And Omega, Nimrod and their army arrive at the facility to confront Professor X and Magneto.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I don’t know if I understand the story of Inferno as anything more than Jonathan Hickman just revealing all of the cards he had hidden up his sleeve this whole time. And a lot of it relies on us remembering specific scenes and bits of dialogue from House of X/Power of X, which came out maybe two or so years ago. Like, apparently that scene with Cypher already took place in one of those comics. I have no memory of it, but obviously that’s just me. Maybe other readers have been paying much better attention than I have. Still, this issue is just one exposition dump after another, as Hickman reveals more about “What’s really going on!” over and over. Cypher knows more than he’s been letting on. OK. Mystique and Destiny simply get told about their previous Moira killing, and so they set about to do something…new? Maybe? Orchis somehow knows everything about Moira and kidnaps her? Alright. And Omega Sentinel exposition dumps for page after page and I’m only mostly sure I understood any of it. Were we supposed to be taking notes about Moira’s tenth life? I dunno.
At least all of this is told with very clear art and a great handle on the characters. So it’s a fun read, it’s just also very bamboozling.
TL;DR: If you’ve ever wondered what’s really going on with Krakoa, Jonathan Hickman sorta just lays it all out for us, piece by confusing piece.
Mighty Morphin #14
Writer: Ryan Parrot
Artist: Marco Renna
Colorists: Walter Baiamonte, with assistance from Katia Ranalli
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Eltarian War! What, oh, is it good for? Great Power Rangers comics, I say!
Zartus has succeed in conquering Earth (and even grants an interview to Bulk and the Ranger Station!). The Rangers on Earth — Zack, Aiesha, Tommy and Matt — are unmorphed, on the run and butting heads. While the Rangers who fled to Safe Haven — Jason, Kimberly, Rocky, Adam and Billy — are working on the counterattack. Jason and Kimberly butt some head, while Rocky and Adam butt heads with Goldar and the other minions who also fled. The minions decide they want to help in the fight.
Meanwhile, Billy teams up with Yale and the Blue Emissary to head into Zordon’s sub conscious to try and pull him out. They’re able to insert themselves into Zordon’s memory flashbacks until they can convince him to help, with a stirring pep talk from Billy. Once Zordon is brought back, Billy equips him with a power suit!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I’ll make it simple: this is another great issue of Mighty Morphin and another great chapter of the Eltarian War so far! Parrot and the whole team at BOOM! Studios are firing on all cylinders with this comic and I couldn’t be more pleased and excited. This issue is packed with a lot of great character moments. From Jason and Kimberly butting heads, to Rocky once again deploying the meta commentary in a chat with Goldar, of all people. Even the minions get some great scenes, as they try to decide what to do with themselves now that Zedd is “dead” and Zartus is out to conquer the universe. Everybody gets a moment to really shine in this issue as everything mounts against the Power Rangers and the people of Earth, and I love every moment of it!
The Billy and Zordon story at the heart of the issue is especially good.
Their relationship has been a major part of the series for a while now, and this issue is a great pay-off. I especially enjoyed the idea/revelation that all of these Zordon flashbacks we’ve been reading for a while now have been part of his mental safety net as his consciousness survived Zartus’ attack.That’s a neat capstone to these wonderful flashbacks. This comic expertly juggles all these different characters and their own individual storylines, and all of them are dynamite.
TL;DR: Another chapter of the Eltarian War, another great Power Rangers comic. The humanity and grace of these characters and their stories are on full display in this issue, with some wonderful character moments for pretty much everyone in the expansive cast.
One-Star Squadron #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Mark Russell might be my favorite comic book writer, especially after his amazing Wonder Twins comic from a couple of years ago. So let’s check out his latest DC project!
Heroz4u is a business that provides superhero services in the gig economy, employing C and D-list heroes (and below) to give them jobs in telemarketing, online courses, Cameo-style messaging, gig-style appearances and more. The Metropolis branch of Heroz4u is run by Red Tornado, with Power Girl as his second, and guys like Minute Man, The Heckler, Flying Fox and more employed throughout. We get a good look at the business, with Minute Man complaining that he doesn’t get enough to do, Power Girl talking to the others about her business-focus drive after reading Max Lord’s book, and the Heckler being good at telemarketing.
The main thrust of the story involves a guy at a mental hospital who gets dropped off at their front door. He doesn’t have much of a memory left, but he appears to be former hero Gangbuster, who suffered a lot of head trauma in his hero work. Red Tornado, who is having a bit of an existential crisis, tries to help Gangbuster out. They head to his last known address, but the woman who answers the door says she only recently moved in and doesn’t know him — though we, the audience, can see, rather tragically, that she’s actually his wife and seems heartbroken that she’s turning him away when he’s in need.
In the end, Power Girl reaches out to Heroz4u corporate to make a play for Red Tornado’s job!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was a fun start to this series, touching on a lot of what I love to see in Russell’s work. We’ve got a great use of neat characters, some fun matter-of-fact comedy and some touching tragedy. I knew something was up with that woman at the door, and the reveal that she was Gangbuster’s wife was so tragic. But that’s the sort of tragedy I love to see! Makes for a fun story. And it makes for a very human story. Russell immediately finds the humanity in these characters, even the android Red Tornado. This is a brilliant idea for a comic and Russell and Lieber approach it just right, in my opinion. One-Star Squadron has the exact perfect sense of humor, heart and horror to really engage with this idea.
I also really enjoyed the individual character stuff. The Minute Man scene was pretty funny, and a somewhat depressed Red Tornado makes for a good protagonist. We get a nice look at his home life, and it’s nice that he’s trying to help Gangbuster. And the minor uses of these minor characters are also a hoot! From Black Condor doing Cameo to the Heckler showing up at all. Basically, it seems like Russell has just been given permission to pluck a bunch of characters out of obscurity and put them through a humorous office comedy. That is 100% my kind of comic book.
TL;DR: Funny, touching and well put-together, One-Star Squadron is off to a great start. Russell and Lieber seem to have been given cart blanche to engage in some dry office humor with a bunch of obscure comic book superheroes, which is exactly what I want from life.
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 December 11, 2021, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Boom!, Dark Knights of Steel, Inferno, Mark Russell, Mighty Morphin, One-Star Squadron, Power Girl, Power Rangers, Red Tornado, The Heckler. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.