Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/18/21

Well it happened. I saw Spider-Man: No Way Home. And it was amazing! It was spectacular! Oh man, it was better than I had any possible guess! No bloat. No wrong turns. Just pure greatness! Expect my full review on Wednesday, like usual.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Robin & Batman #2 because I am a sucker for some great Robin stories. There are a lot of such stories this week, but I prefer classic Batman and Robin stuff to all the Robins being a team.

“No, you’re going to lead it.”

Meanwhile, I started playing the Guardians of the Galaxy video game and it’s a lot of fun. Nothing groundbreaking or innovative, just a really fun, interactive story about the Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s neat. Also, I regret to report that I have finally dropped Wonder Girl. It’s just not for me.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #81, Batgirls #1, Robin & Batman #2, Robins #3 and Strange Academy #14.

Amazing Spider-Man #81

Amazing Spider-Man #81
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Carlos Gomez
Colorist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Miles Morales crossover! Huzzah!

There’s a monster called Rhizome attacking Brooklyn and Beyond sends Spider-Man out to deal with it, while warning him that he’ll need to enforce the company’s trademark on the name ‘Spider-Man’ should he run into Miles Morales. He does, obviously, and the two come to blows before eventually teaming up and defeating the monster, which turns out to be a dude with tech. Miles recognizes it from a new villain, The Assessor, and he goes after him, while Ben returns to Beyond.

He’s confronted by the boss, Maxine, who angrily reinforces the idea that Beyond has put a lot into Ben, and he needs to fulfill his obligations. And later, Maxine is made aware that Doctor Octopus is looking into them.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue didn’t really do anything for me. It’s still an enjoyable issue of Spider-Man, and it checks all the important boxes, but I don’t think the issue itself accomplishes much of anything. The villain, for one, isn’t very interesting. But the real disappointment is the “first” meeting between Miles and Ben. It starts off violently, as if following that comic book logic that they must fight first. It definitely didn’t work for me this time around. And then the two of them are too busy fighting this uninteresting villain to really bond or even talk to one another. There’s even that very interesting conflict generator — Beyond is suing Miles for the copyright, and expects Ben to enforce it — but nothing is done with it. Granted, Ben Reilly wasn’t about to be a jerk to Miles about it, but Ahmed could have had some fun with it.

Heck, Miles had a better first meeting with the new Darkhawk!

TL;DR: The first meeting between Ben Reilly and Miles Morales is rather wasted. This issue checks the various boxes for being a solid Spider-Man comic, but too little of any merit happens, despite the importance of the moment.

Batgirls #1

Batgirls #1
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Letterer: Becca Carey

I’m reading and reviewing the Robins comic, so why not the Batgirls?

The Clocktower was blown up and Bruce Wayne doesn’t have money anymore, so Barbara, Cassie and Stephanie set up shop on the top floor of a rundown apartment building in The Hill, a neighborhood of Gotham. They have a run-in with some local thugs and spy on a grumpy-looking neighbor, then Cassie and Stephanie head out to set up some beacons for Babs’ new Oracle network. They spy the local thugs roughing up some construction workers and intervene, only to see that the construction workers appear to be under some sort of weird trance. The girls gas them and flee.

Later that night/early morning, Cass and Steph spy that grumpy neighbor dumping what appears to be a body in the alley dumpster. Is he the local serial killer they heard about on the news? When they go to do a simple thing of looking in the dumpster, they’re confronted by The Saints, a new squad of high-tech armored warriors who have risen in a post-Magistrate world.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This comic definitely has style and a very strong sense of self. And this issue is a good start to everything this series looks like it’s going to offer. The three main characters each have their own unique personalities and mesh well together, and we get a nice dose of the sort of action and shenanigans they’re going to get up to. Those things are always super important. Personally, I could have used a little more interpersonal conflict, but then where is that supposed to come from? These characters have been written together for a long time now. They are on the same wave length. But I’m confident we’ll see some good character development and drama. This first issue is all about showing off their personalities and having some fun.

Cass is great when she gets to speak

The art style is awesome. It’s very stylistic, so if it turns you off, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s everywhere. I love the look and the energy. The creative team does a fine job setting up the characters, their new home base and some early mysteries. Some introductions are a little clunkier than others — like their own Banksy — but it’s nothing too egregious. The only real nitpicks I have are same throughout the Bat-Family these days. If they’re going to the trouble of taking away Bruce Wayne’s millions, they should do more with that. This issue talks about having to move into a rundown building and sleep in bunk beds, but everybody is still very cheerful and very well equipped. It would also be nice for these characters to get some sort of social life. All Bat-Family members seem to spend 24/7 in costume. Nobody goes to school anymore, nobody has friends of their own. DC is making a huge deal about Tim and Stephanie breaking up over in the Tim-focused stories, but how is Stephanie taking it? Just some things I hope this series explores in future issues.

TL;DR: Really fun, really stylish start to this new series. Not as much out-of-costume stuff as I would like to see, but the superheroics are in a league of their own.

Robin & Batman #2

Robin & Batman #2
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer: Steve Wands

This comic is really great, even if it makes some choices that rub my grumpy comic grouch senses the wrong way.

Dick Grayson gets in trouble for beating up some bullies in school, but Alfred is there to bail him out with the principal. It’s Dick’s birthday, and Alfred has gotten him a new journal. They head home for dinner, but Batman says Dick needs to suit up in his new outfit. He has a present for him: a trip to the Justice League satellite! Robin meets the Justice League, who are about to head out on a mission. So Robin is sent to hang out with the other teen sidekicks, with Hawkman on monitor duty.

Robin uses his smarts to help the other sidekicks sneak out and go on a bunch of their own missions. Then they sneak back in, with Hawkman none the wiser (or maybe Hawkman let the kids go have some fun?). Batman comes to collect him and return to the cave, with Robin bursting with excitement as he fills in Alfred on meeting the League and the future Titans. Then Batman orders Robin to “mission debrief”. Alfred is godsmacked as Robin details all of the weaknesses and strike points of the Teen Titans. Batman explains to his butler that Robin must know how to contend with demigods if he’s going to be among them, just as Bruce did. Alfred calls him a “bastard” and storms off.

Meanwhile, Killer Croc has had the Calculator track down Dick Grayson, since Croc knew his parents in the circus. Calculator couldn’t find out who adopted Dick, but he did find out Dick’s school.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

OK, let me get my stupid nitpicks out of the way first. 1.) I’m slightly annoyed that this issue is more about Robin and the Teen Titans than it is about Robin and Batman. This mini-series is only three issues long, and I was looking for a fun exploration of the Dynamic Duo. That “mission debrief” at the end made it all worth it for me, but still. And 2.) I just personally don’t like the idea of Robin being the last of the teen sidekicks. You’re telling me Green Arrow gained Speedy and Kid Flash became a thing before Dick Grayson became Robin? I mean, it can work, I guess…I just don’t particularly like it. But I’m writing this paragraph immediately after reading the issue. Perhaps it will grow on me. It would fit Lemire’s take on Batman as very serious. Bruce saw that all of the other heroes were getting “mascots” as he calls them, so he got one himself and is doing it “the right way” in terms of training a replacement.

All that nitpicking aside, this was another great issue and I’m loving this comic.

This is a good, solid, entertaining look at the early period of Batman and Robin. Both characters have some growing to do, and that’s the entire point of Batman and Robin. That’s why the Boy Wonder is there, to help bring Batman down from this dark, sinister path he’s on. Yes, he’s a huge jerk for putting Dick through this, and I can’t wait for the final issue of this series to have that rich, glorious pay-off. Lemire is doing a wonderful job with all of these characters, especially the main three. Alfred as a strong counterpoint to Batman is working as intended. That’s why Alfred is there. And Lemire is making full use of all the classic material to tell a really strong, really fun story.

And Nguyen on art is, of course, out of this world. Everybody looks phenomenal. The artwork on the faces, especially Alfred, are perfection. This really is a very wonderful comic. I only wish there were more than three issues.

TL;DR: This comic has a lot of strong things to say and a great way of saying them, with a really fun — albeit brief — look at the early partnership between the Boy Wonder and the Dark Knight.

Robins #3

Robins #3
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Baldemar Rivas
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Steve Wands

I’m reading and reviewing the Batgirls comic, so why not the Robins?

The Robins fight the Junior Supercriminals, who use hard-light hologram cloaking devices to make themselves look like their classic villain mentors. They also have access to Batman’s files on the Robins, so the villains know how the heroes will fight. The Robins figure this out and are eventually able to defeat the bad guys — though when one of them tries to juice the power too much, the cloaking devices backfire and fry their brains, putting them all in comas. And one of the bad guys opened a gas line, intending to suffocate the kidnapped Gauntlet villains in the other room.

When the Robins try to break in and save them, Tim Drake steps up and demands they let the Gauntlet villains die. Tim is even willing to fight his friends for this, but the Robins overpower him and save the Gauntlet villains. Later, Dick is filling Batman in on everything that happened, and Batman’s cavalier attitude pisses Dick off. He reveals to Bruce why the Robins were together, and that they decided that being a Robin wasn’t worth it in the end.

Meanwhile, we learn that wasn’t actually Tim Drake, but the new “First Robin” villain using her own cloaking device. She has Tim prisoner, with her evil plans ready to continue.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

It’s good and fun, making full use of the unique cast of characters in this book. Seeley is doing a fine job bouncing all of these Robins off of one another, and this issue features some truly strong moments as “Tim” steps up in a conflicting role, and then Dick has to shove all their anger onto Batman at the end. I like that kind of drama, and it made for an exciting issue. The fighting was fun, though I think it would have been more fun had the villains stayed as themselves, instead of becoming lookalikes for classic villains we see all the time — but then that hologram tech was used for a very good reveal in the end. I’m a big Tim Drake fan, and I was willing to accept that bit of angry characterization for him. I’m glad that wasn’t the real Tim saying those things, but I was willing to accept that it could have been. The mystery of his Robin Zero is only getting more mysterious, and I can’t wait to find out the answers!

TL;DR: This comic is delivering exactly what it set out to deliver and I find that sort of thing very fun.

Strange Academy #14

Strange Academy #14
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Oh Strange Academy, you just keep chugging right along, don’t you?

The Strange Academy students are learning about time travel, because why not grant that ability to a bunch of teenagers? Doyle takes a leap into the future and sees a world where he and his classmates are all grown up, have cool adult looks and are on opposite sides of a great magic war — and he’s the lead bad guy, with his girlfriend, Emily, the lead good guy. The trip to the future spooks Doyle so badly that he’s decided to drop out of school.

Meanwhile, Calvin is so upset that he’s so far behind in magic now that he meets with Gaslamp to request a wish. Gaslamp, ever the drug dealer, offers Calvin a small taste for free.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This was a very fun issue that played with a very fun idea. Consider me a sucker for awesome future adult character designs. It doesn’t happen enough in media involving kid heroes. Do you know how badly I wanted to see a glimpse of adult Steven Universe? But I digress. Young and Ramos have a TON of fun with the future character designs. I loved them all! I even liked Calvin’s design, and I don’t like Calvin as a character! The teen romance drama between Doyle and Emily is my favorite part of this comic, and this issue found a really great comic book way to add even more drama. How would you feel if you went into the future and saw yourself as your girlfriend’s arch-enemy? And saw your future girlfriend in a relationship with your rival?

Everybody looks so damn good!

That’s tough stuff, and it makes for a very fun comic. It makes for very fun ongoing character drama, which is what I like to read. And again, the visit to the future is just fun comic bookery. I’m less enamored by the Calvin storyline because it bugs me that his teachers did not immediately draw a distinction between Calvin and his classmates once he lost his magic jacket. He lost his entire reason for being at this school in the first place, and so much of the school is based on having magic powers, it’s entirely reasonable to adjust Calvin’s schedule/schoolwork once he’s lost his magic. Zelda steps up and begins to help Calvin learn magic on his own in this issue…but that should have been done immediately. Also, I just don’t care for Calvin, and him going straight to Gaslamp is a good example why.

But, obviously, this should all make for more good drama going forward. So be the loser, Calvin!

TL;DR: Some really fun comic book storytelling makes for another solid issue of Strange Academy. Who doesn’t love a glimpse into potential future character redesigns?

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 December 18, 2021, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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