Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/8/22

I’d like to start this comic review article by saying that any criticism or nitpicking I may engage in is not directed at the creators personally. Attacking creators is an abhorrent thing, and unbecoming a reasonable human being. It’s dumb as hell, and I do hope nobody reading these reviews thinks my criticisms are directed at creators. I won’t stand for it on my dumb blog. So as I nitpick the likes of Amazing Spider-Man, Superman and even Thor, none of that is a personal attack on the writers, artists, letterers or any other people involved in making the comic.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #119, but mostly for the really fun Maps Mizoguchi back-up feature. The main Batman story is good too, but this might be the official start of my “Maps as the new Robin” campaign.

The future is soon

Meanwhile, Book of Boba Fett remains fun, though I’m a little disappointed that it’s been mostly flashback so far. I watched Only Murders in the Building on Hulu and enjoyed it a lot. I even managed to guess the killer right early on! That never happens! I watched new Aggrestsuko, Letterkenny and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’m burning through TV show catch-ups at the moment and having a nice time with it.

Comic Reviews: The Amazing Spider-Man #84, Batman #119, Dark Knights of Steel #3, Inferno #4, One-Star Squadron #2, Superman: Son of Kal-El #6, Thor #20 and X-Men #6.


Amazing Spider-Man #84

The Amazing Spider-Man #84
Writer: Cody Zigler
Artist: Paco Medina
Colorist: Espen Grundetjern
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

We’re back to telling Ben Reilly stories, and I’m pleased with that. This Beyond Era might not last long, but I want to enjoy it while I can.

Spider-Man’s date night is interrupted when Doctor Octopus invades a Beyond building to steal back the technology they “stole” from him when he was Superior Spider-Man. They fight, Ben makes jokes, and Ock wins in the end. Beyond doubles down on needing that stuff back, and Doc Ock goes straight to Beyond HQ.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was good, enjoyable, bread & butter Spider-Man comics, which a lot of this series has been. Ben takes on a classic Spider-Man villain, and the dialogue and action are just fun and interesting enough to make for an enjoyable read. Spider-Man was entertaining, Doc Ock was truly villainous and personable, and the whole Beyond Corporation angle remains fresh. I’m having fun, and this issue was a lot of fun. A major thing that makes or breaks a good Spider-Man comic is the main character’s quips, and Zigler is nailing it. I especially liked his Doctor Octopus. I’m a big fan of the Superior Spider-Man era of Doc Ock, but this classically drawn, classically villainous Doc was super fun! And Medina is even better on artwork. Everything is so clear and crisp, and Doc Ock a real standout presence in the book.

TL;DR: Really fun, really enjoyable issue of this Beyond Corporation storyline, mixing classic villain goodness with some plain fun Spider-Man action.


Batman #119

Batman #119
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Jorge Molina, Adriano Di Benedetto and Mikel Janin
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Fun Batman adventuring so far. Though the back-up feature outshines the main comic, at least for me.

Lex Luthor and Batman have a tete-a-tete in the sewers as Lex reveals he pretty much owns the local police, and they show up and open fire on Batman — who disables them and escapes. But something Lex said during their face-off leads Bruce Wayne to meet with him out-of-costume. Lex explains how he came to fund Batman Inc. and suggests they work together on this Abyss case. Bruce declines by disappearing.

Batman goes to investigate the body in the police station before Luthor gets his hands on it. He calls on Det. Cayha to distract the rest of the officers. Bruce looks at the body and determines it is either been dead several months or is rapidly decomposing. Then a strange darkness envelopes the room and Batman has a fight with Abyss, who is very much alive and in full gear. Abyss taunts Batman and slashes him across the sternum. When the lights come back on and Cayha finds him, Batman is blind!

Meanwhile, there’s a back-up feature by creator Karl Kerschl in which Maps Mizoguchi from Gotham Academy dresses up like Robin to investigate the disappearance of a classmate. It’s adorable and super fun. She writes a journal like she’s a hardboiled detective, while also making Dungeons & Dragons references. And she briefly teams up with Batman.

Batman Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Robin Back-Up Rating: 9/10 – Great.

The new Batman story is largely good. I like the general flow and the overall feel, and I especially enjoy the artwork. I also love a good scene where hero and villain can sit down over dinner and actually talk, so I very much enjoyed the scene where Bruce and Lex have dinner. It’s good stuff, and Lex is a solid choice as an antagonist here. I still don’t think DC is doing enough with the idea that Bruce Wayne is now broke, but having Lex Luthor step in to fund Batman Incorporated is a great idea. (Although now that I think about it, is there a stated reason somewhere why Lucius Fox hasn’t returned Bruce’s money? Lucius has it, right?). Williamson delivers a solid Batman story as he seeks to investigate this mysterious murder. I like the darkness powers that Abyss has, even if Abyss himself is not particularly unique or interesting. He seems very “kewl”, like a badass dressed all in black and wielding sharp weapons. Happens all the time in comics. But I’m still enjoying this story enough to keep reading.

Then we get to the back-up feature and everything is wonderful!

I demand full comics of this!

I was a huge fan of Gotham Academy back in the day. Maps was an especially fun character. And DC has apparently been teasing Maps as Robin for some time now. I say go for it. I really, really want a new, modern Robin and Maps would be a fun choice! Especially after reading this short story. Kerchl knocks it out of the park with the super fun narration. Maps gives everything a serious designation, and it comes off super cute. Like “Momanddad Manor”. And then she throws on a Robin costume and gets discovered by Batman, including a ride in the Batmobile. It’s fun, it’s adventurous, the protagonist is cool and adorable; this is exactly the sort of whimsy and energy I love in comics.

TL;DR: The main Batman story is good stuff, building a new mystery, creating a new villain and putting Batman through his paces. The series seems to be in good hands. But for my money, the back-up feature starring a new Robin makes this issue more than worth the price of admission.


Dark Knights of Steel #3

Dark Knights of Steel #3
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Yasmine Putri
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Wes Abbott

Alright, I’ve settled in and wrapped my head around this whole enterprise. So I think I’m going to enjoy it more from here on out.

Black Lightning visits Amazonia to discuss an alliance against the House of El. Jefferson tells the queen and Diana how Supergirl murdered his son, and Diana refuses to believe it. She storms off when her mother promises to stand by the Kingdom of Storms. Later, on their ship, Jefferson reveals to Constantine that he succeeded in his plan to drive a wedge between Wonder Woman and her mother. But the ship is attacked by Supergirl, who kills Black Lightning.

Meanwhile, a chunk of Kryptonite crashes to Earth and Batman heads out to investigate. The Metal Men also investigate, but they are torn apart by Supergirl. When Batman finds it, he’s obviously weakened by the Kryptonite, and Alfred promises to finally tell him the whole truth about his lineage.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

My complaints about Dark Knights of Steel have not changed, but they’re much easier to swallow now that we’re three issues in and the story is moving along nicely. Taylor clearly put a lot of thought into scripting out his story, putting characters here or there, throwing in twists, and all of that work is to be appreciated. Supergirl killing Black Lightning? I definitely didn’t see that coming. Wonder Woman as a wildcard? Could be fun! The Metal Men as a squad of knights? Great idea! Too bad they’re already dead. Everything is just kinda neat and coming together nicely as an overall story.

My favorite re-invention so far

Not to beat a dead horse, but everything does still feel rather shallow. This is all just a facade and not as deeply rich and rooted as I would like fo ran Elseworlds tale. As such, the murder of Black Lightning isn’t all that shocking on a character level. It’s a neat twist for the story, but who cares that he’s dead? We barely know him. And he openly and proudly orchestrated the murder of Jor-El, so maybe he had this coming? We don’t know him to be anything more than a bad guy himself. Likewise, the Amazons are shocked that Supergirl would act this way…but, again, all we’ve known of her is that she’s an unrepentant killer. So even though characters tell us these events are shocking, this is all the reader knows at this point. Granted, it’s not like Taylor could have spent a couple mini-series building up the relationship between Supergirl and Wonder Woman, so that these new murders really were shocking. He’s got to work with the time constraints he has, and he’s doing a fine enough job with it. The story is moving along nicely, with enough twists and story beats to still be interesting overall.

TL;DR: The story is moving along nicely, with enough characters and interesting story beats to keep everything good overall. I fear that if you look too deeply, you can see the gears working behind-the-scenes, but it’s all nice enough to just enjoy on a surface level.


Inferno #4

Inferno #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Valerio Schiti and Stefano Caselli
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

And with this issue, Jonathan Hickman leaves the X-Men in the capable hands of Marvel. The first chapter of his whole deal is ended.

Professor X and Magneto face off against Nimrod and Omega, and it’s quite the slobberknocker! It’s a truly epic battle that ends with the professor and Magneto getting killed, their memories of the event lost. Elsewhere, Mystique and Destiny want to kill Moira, and they get her to admit that her goal is still to cure mutants in childhood. They zap her with that gun Forge made that turns mutants into humans, so that Moira’s powers won’t kick in when they kill her. But Cypher shows up with his whole posse and saves Moira. She’s human now, and Cypher lets her escape into the wild to forge her own path. Then he peaces out, aware that Mystique and Destiny are mad at him.

After a week, Emma resurrects Charles and Magneto. She informs the two of them that she has filled in the entire Quiet Council about all their secrets, and the Council will keep these secrets as a whole.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

So did Inferno shake the X-Men to their core and completely upend everything we thought we knew about the Krakoa era? Nope! Were there some cool battles and some enjoyable character writing? Yep! And that’s good enough for me. The fight between Xavier, Magneto and the villains was pretty damn epic. We don’t usually get to see Professor X go all-out like this. And the artwork kept pace easily. It was intense and cool and a fitting capper of Hickman’s stories with them so far. I especially enjoyed Emma Frost asserting her dominance. She’s always cool. I also really liked Cypher showing up to save Moira. Hickman’s writes him as effortlessly cool, just strolling in with a ton of bravado and then having his crew show up to back-up that bravado. It was straight up cucumber. As in “cool as a…”

Cypher has never been cooler

But in the end, I don’t think Inferno changed much. Moira is off the board, but then she was never even a minor character in the ongoing stories. No great loss. And the shift in the nature of the Quiet Council isn’t that big of a deal. Just another seed that will play out far in the future. Heck, Colossus didn’t even get to do anything after his big reveal at the end of the previous issue. I imagine most X-men comics are just going to go back to normal, and I’m very much looking forward to all the new titles coming up in a couple of months.

TL;DR: Well-written characters, exciting fights and some big moments definitely make this issue worthwhile, but I don’t think it’s some grand shift to X-Men comics that it was hyped to be.


One-Star Squadron #2

One-Star Squadron #2
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

In other Mark Russell news, I’ve decided to read his Red Sonja run. I’ve never had any interest in the character before, but I wanted more Mark Russell comics and found all these volumes on Amazon. Fun so far!

Minute Man is close to rock bottom. The VA has stopped giving him Miraclo pills, so he’s forced to buy them off a drug dealer. He begs Red Tornado for a job and gets sent to a kid’s birthday party, where he has a full minute of powers to show off — except the street pills don’t last a full minute, and he gets beaten up by some kids. He begs Red for more work and gets sent to a local comic-con, where nobody takes him seriously. After sneaking into the VIP lounge for snacks (as directed by fellow tabler mark Russell), Minute Man is banned from all future cons and he calls Red Tornado to pick him up.

Except Red is facing a coup from inside the office! Power Girl has been talking to pretty much everybody and they all want a change in leadership!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Oy boy, this issue really turns the screws on Minute Man. Sorry to any Minute Man fans out there. His downward spiral is pretty funny, and well-crafted. I love the escalation, and it’s especially sad that Russell doesn’t throw the dude any bones. It’s all misery all the time. But it’s the issue as a whole that continues to sell this whole concept. I love the B-plot where Plastic Man and Firehawk get a plum gig escorting some tech millionaire to a meeting with Lex Luthor, and then the two of them just hang out with Luthor’s own hired goons and shoot the breeze about the ease of costumed gig work. It’s a funny scene.

I have been very curious about Firehawk ever since Identity Crisis and 52

Of course, I do feel the need to point out that a “Hench” app for gig-hiring super-villains was already part of that cool Ant-Man comic from…2015?! That was six years ago?! Aww, jeez, man…what the heck. But I digress. The app definitely works for this story and Russell’s writing remains as pointed as ever, with Lieber swooping in to provide the right degree of purposefully bland artwork. Everything is so hilariously blunt and normal in this comic, every aspect is definitely selling itself very well. The whole creative team is on board with this weird, unique book and I’m quite enjoying it.

TL;DR: The superhero teardown of the year is already here; woe be to any fans of Minute Man. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this funny, creative series and its perfect, blunt tone.


Superman: Son of Kal-El #6

Superman: Son of Kal-El #6
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: John Timms
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Now that the hype has died down, lets get to some good, solid Superman comics.

Superman gets his cape back from Jay and then takes him on a pizza date to the top of the Daily Planet globe. Jay explains how Bendix came to power in Gamorra using money and charisma, then turned the country into a tyranny. He also made Jay’s mom, the previous president, disappear. Jay and others were experimented on and turned into superhumans, and Jay escaped. Now Jay uses his powers to sneak into STAR Labs to see how Fautline got out. He runs into both Robin and Lois Lane, who are also independently investigating the same thing. Everybody regroups and views the footage, which shows a U.S. Senator, the Gamorran Ambassador and a mysterious new villain taking Faultline. Also, Damian quietly gives Jon his approval with Jon’s new love interest.

Our heroes track the ambassador to a cargo ship that left port that morning and Superman flies out to stop it. He takes out the superhumans on board and discovers a cargo container full of kidnapped young people bound for Gamorra for experiments. The mysterious new bad guy tries to use his sleep powers on Jon, but Superman fights through it, grabs the ambassador and the cargo container and frees everybody.

Once he and Jay have the ambassador alone, the guy reveals that Jay’s mom is still alive!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I guess I’m just not as instantly smitten with Jay as Superman is. This is all still strong comics. But I rather feel like Jon is getting a bit lost in all of the chaos around him. I like the main storyline, of a foreign country turning people against their will into superhumans for his own evil schemes. Sounds exactly like something the new Superman can tackle. But layer upon layer of stuff keeps getting added, from this new villain to the idea of kidnapping teens directly off the streets of Metropolis to all of this stuff with Jay. Now we learn that his mother is the former president of his country, and that’s a whole angle we need to keep in mind. But I’m just rambling. Jay is an interesting character so far, and I hope Taylor gives plenty of time for Jon and Jay to build a good, enjoyable relationship. I’ve said before that I don’t really like it when characters couple up immediately, but Taylor knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s earned my trust and faith as a storyteller. The action part of the issue is as strong as ever, and it was really cool seeing Clark power through the villain’s sleep attack. That was a great choice.

TL;DR: Everything continues along nicely between the story and the characters. I fear that Superman himself is getting a little lost in the shuffle, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.


Thor #20

Thor #20
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

It’s happening again. Donny Cates sure loves his ancient, prophesized, retconny villains, don’t he?

Thor is super angry at the death of all the dwarves, and he gets into another argument with Odin about it. Then Loki teleports them to the land of the Frost Giants, and all the Frost Giants are dead as well. The three of them sit down to discuss this so called “God of Hammers” and Loki reveals a prophecy about them reshaping the universe. The meeting is interrupted when Throg and Sif show up and teleport Thor to the ruins of Braxton, OK.

Thor’s grief is interrupted by the return of Mjolnir, only the God of Hammers grabs it and beats Thor with his own hammer. Before revealing that the God of Hammers is…Mjolnir herself!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I guess Donny Cates just has a type. Knull. The Black Winter. Probably others. And now the God of Hammers. An ancient, prophesized, all-powerful deity who is cleverly retconned into existing mythos. And I’m immediately bored of it. What does this issue offer? It’s written well, sure. And the art remains phenomenal. But Thor and Odin get into yet another argument about nothing. And then we get a tease of an ancient prophecy about the villain that nobody has ever heard of before, and it’s the scariest prophecy ever. And a bunch of background extra dies, including Eitri the Dwarf, who you may remember as being played by Peter Dinklage in Avengers: Infinity War. And then the good people of Braxton are killed. All so that it can be revealed that the God of Hammers is a clever twist on Mjolnir herself. Just like Knull was a twist on the origins of the symbiotes. Just like the Black Winter was a twist on the origins of Galactus. Just ’round and ’round we go.

Can’t just have Mjolnir be a new threat, growing organically out of the storyline. Nope, she’s gotta be prophesized. Can’t just have her be dangerous on her own, she’s gotta kill an ungodly number of background characters to prove how tough she is. I’m just so tired. How much you wanna bet that Throg’s Pet Avengers are also dead?

TL;DR: This may just be me, but all of the twists and turns the story takes in this issue feel redundant and uninteresting. It feels like Donny Cates enjoys writing a certain kind of villain, and now this new storyline is moving into exactly that kind of villain.


X-Men #6

X-Men #6
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

I have been looking forward to the introduction of Captain Krakoa for months now, every since he was first announced. I love the whole idea and I love the look! Too bad his introduction is a major whiff.

We open by flashing forward one week, with Captain Krakoa rescuing a cat from a tree and then pulling off a bunch more Superman-esque saves. Then we move back to six days in the future, and Cyclops is standing before the Quiet Council, opposed to the idea of adding Captain Krakoa to the X-Men. But the vote is unanimous and Cyclops storms off. We then see Captain Krakoa arriving at the Treehouse and a bunch of people are gathered outside, mourning Cyclops’ apparent death. Captain Krakoa heads inside and reveals that he IS Cyclops, but he seems annoyed at the whole thing. Cyclops then sneaks away and tries to call Ben Urich anonymously to talk, but it seems Ben has no memory of mutant resurrection or the story he was working on. Cyclops is bummed about this as well.

Meanwhile, in a completely different storyline, Feilong arrives at Mars but lands on the moon, Phobos, instead. Sunfire shows up to escort him back to Earth, but Feilong is having none of it. Then some warrior mutant from the Arakki shows up to fight everybody, and after a scuffle, Feilong vaporizes him with an energy beam. Sunfire leaves with his tail between his legs and Feilong is allowed to colonize Phobos and turn the moon into a new Orchis station.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

When I finished this issue I was very confused. Cyclops is dead? I thought, perhaps, it had happened in Inferno, which I hadn’t read yet. Nope. Ben Urich has forgotten everything? Cyclops is annoyed at being Captain Krakoa? What? So I went online to see if anyone else shared my confusion. I learned that this issue was purposefully confusing and told out of chronological order because all of the answers are in the next issue, X-Men #7. And that issue was leaked online and some people had read it and spoiled what happens. So after reading the spoilers for the next issue, I know understand what happened. And to be fully honest, I like the story. I won’t spoil it here, but I like this as an introduction to Captain Krakoa. Part of me wanted him to be a new character, but I am perfectly fine with Cyclops in that role and the story that gets him there.

The problem is that this story all happens next issue. In this issue, I was confused and annoyed. The creative team decided to get clever and, in my opinion, it totally messed up their story. Captain Krakoa is a really fun and neat idea, and I was looking forward to the impact he would have on this comic. But said impact is now all higgledy piggledy. I don’t know what to think anymore. And I definitely don’t care all that much, based on this issue alone. This X-Men comic had a big, cool idea that I was really looking forward to, and then they tried to do something messy with it and — again, in my personal opinion — fell flat on their face.

I really love this superhero design

The other half of the issue is fine, though it definitely doesn’t make up for the shambles of the Captain Krakoa introduction. It’s nice that Sunfire is being used, but it’s not in any way that explores his character or justifies his place on this team. I’m still beating this dead horse, but why add Sunfire to your X-Men team unless you have some interesting stories to explore with the character? He gets into a fight he doesn’t want, and yet another Arakki rando shows up to hog most of the spotlight. At least Feilong is proving his worth as a villain. I like the twist that he settled on Phobos instead, though the X-Men and Arakki come off as pretty weak if they simply sit back and allow Orchis to build a station on that moon. Still, it works in Feilong’s favor, because he’s becoming more of an interesting villain at least.

And it should go without saying that the art is top tier. Other comic books should beg to have art this good.

TL;DR: The introduction to Captain Krakoa is completely fumbled in order to try and pull off some non-linear storytelling. All it does is make this issue unnecessarily confusing, when all I want to do is meet this new character and read their 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.

——————

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 January 8, 2022, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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