Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/15/22

So many comics are coming out these days! As you all know, I only review the comics I’m actually reading and usually enjoying. And for some reason, that’s led to two weeks in a row with so many comics! It’s neat! We’re talking Batgirls, Robins, Mighty Morphin, Spider-Man; so many comics!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Robin & Batman #3 for a wonderful wrap-up to this delightful little series. I don’t think it’s anything too groundbreaking, but as a big Robin fan, I love some good, solid, entertaining Robin storytelling. I’m a sucker for classic Dynamic Duo action.

Watch out for rocks!

Meanwhile, I finished the first season of Wheel of Time and I enjoyed it. I’ve never read the books or had any clue what this story was about, but the show really grew on me across the season. I’ve also started the first season of Y: The Last Man and I’m loving this show. It’s going to be so painful when the season ends and there’s no hope for a continuation. But perhaps it will convince me to reread the graphic novels.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #85, Batgirls #2, Darkhawk #5, Mighty Morphin #15, Robin & Batman #3 and Robins #4.

Amazing Spider-Man $85

Amazing Spider-Man #85
Writer: Cody Zigler
Artist: Paco Medina
Inkers: Waldon Wong, Wayne Faucher, Andrew Hennessy, Victory Olazaba, Roberto Poggi and Medina
Colorist: Espen Grundetjern
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga

The next major Amazing Spider-Man relaunch is coming in the spring and it looks pretty cool. But I’m not yet done with Beyond and Ben Reilly!

Doctor Octopus has invaded Beyond HQ in an effort to steal a data drive containing all of the company files, which were built on the foundation Doc Ock started with Parker Industries back in the day. Spider-Man shows up to stop him and they fight a bunch, eventually bursting out onto a nearby rooftop. Doc Ock stops the fight by letting Ben read the data drive, including all the details on why they chose Ben as their superhero: because they believed him to be weak and easily controllable. This shakes Ben to his core and he lets Doc Ock go free, then has a bit of an existential crisis when he goes home.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Not as sharp and as funny as the previous issue, but still enjoyable. I am loving how Zigler is writing Doctor Octopus. He’s supremely confident and capable, while also being some degree of polite and cordial. Then everybody around him keeps underestimating him, even though he’s as classic as super-villains get. It’s a fun dichotomy, where the likes of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight are dismissive of him, but then Doc Ock runs roughshod over everybody in this issue. And he looks cool as hell. Medina draws him in his classic chubby look, but he’s got a sharp suit, and the arms look cool. It’s great fun. And then the issue ends with some real character development for Ben, as Ock reveals some of the truth behind Beyond and their schemes. Since Marvel has gone to all this trouble to have Ben Reilly star as Spider-Man again, I’m glad they have some plans for what to do with him. Color me intrigued.

TL;DR: This issue makes the absolute most out of a classic Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus battle, while adding some much-needed character development for this extended Ben Reilly guest-starring role.

Batgirls #2

Batgirls #2
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Letterer: Becca Carey

We’re back for more Batgirls action!

The Batgirls are in a fight with The Saints, a team of three hardcore baddies leftover from the Magistrate. Tarsus is the bruiser, Valentine is the fighter and Assisi is the sniper. They are taking orders from who they believe is Simon Saint (who died at some point?), when really it’s the Seer using a Simon hologram. The Batgirls get away and then things are pretty chill for the rest of the issue. We get a little downtime, including piercing Cass’s ears so that she can wear Babs’ new earring-based communicators. Stephanie still thinks their shifty neighbor is the serial killer, and the local thugs seem to be working with the police to steal property and build some kind of monument down at the docks.

There’s also the Tutor, a local graffiti artist who is holding an impromptu session…that turns out to be part mind-control for purging Gotham City. And Stephanie falls sway to the mind control!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was another really fun, really energetic issue that delivers exactly what it promises to deliver. There’s a lot of great camaraderie between the three Batgirls, and a lot of enjoyable action and quality downtime to maintain the book’s overall quality. I think this comic is tackling a bit too much at once — there’s about four ongoing bad guy plots — but the writing remains strong enough to handle all of it. And, fortunately, some time is taken to stop and smell the roses, which I love. The girls are meeting neighbors and expanding out into their community, which I really like, while also establishing really strong relationships among themselves. This is a fun cast, and a very inventive creative team, so I have a lot of high hopes for this comic going forward.

Perhaps I have no room to talk, being a guy and all, but are big, dangling earrings the best option?

I do have a couple minor nitpicks with the story, though, as I often do. A lot of attention is paid to the idea that the Batgirls are persona non grata in Gotham City at the moment, having been blamed for the explosion at the Clocktower. So the question is…why are they doing any of this still? Like, what compels Barbara, Stephanie and Cassandra to push this whole new Batgirls set up in the face of so much opposition? They’ve got a very specific villain throwing this very dangerous team of Saints at them. They’re living in a rundown apartment in a bad part of town, with no more access to the Wayne billions to fund their operation. What are they doing with their lives? Is being the Batgirls so intrinsic to their very sense of being that they can’t even consider other options for their lives? Just something I’d like to see explored. But then I think a lot of the Bat-Family are just operating on momentum at this point. So little attention is paid to their real lives.

I’ve mentioned this before, but a lot of attention is being put on Tim Drake for breaking up with Stephanie and coming out as bisexual, even getting to start a new relationship. But have we seen Stephanie react to this at all? Does she get a chance to be single and ready to mingle? Did she ever graduate high school? How are any of them bringing money into this set-up? Do they have jobs we don’t get to see? Are they relying on leftover Bruce money? I dunno. Just stuff I think about that in no way impacts the quality of the comic.

TL;DR: Batgirls has a very specific style and energy that I like a lot, and really helps to elevate this comic as a whole. It’s an otherwise pretty straight forward comic, but it absolutely delivers on its stated premise and pushes itself to be something special.

Darkhawk #5

Darkhawk #5
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Juanan Ramirez
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

And so this little Darkhawk comic has come to an end. I wonder where we’ll see him next.

Connor and everybody attend Derek’s funeral, and we meet Derek’s sister, who is annoyed at how many people (including the news) are here for Connor instead of Derek. Then Connor spots Shawn in the crowd, and he’s figured out that Connor is Darkhawk. Shawn quietly threatens everybody in the room to get Connor to come outside, and Shawn reveals that he’s now also a cyborg warrior. So the two of them fight and Darkhawk brings out some big guns to stop him. Then Miles Morales shows up and webs Shawn, stopping him for good.

In the end, Connor admits to his basketball teammates that he’s got MS, and they’re fine with it. The big reveal is that when Connor’s Darkhawk suit recedes, it’s actually being held on a spaceship piloted by…the original Darkhawk!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Honestly, I would probably keep reading Darkhawk if it was an ongoing series. Higgins and his team have done a solid job introducing this character, and the artwork is pretty great. I have always loved Darkhawk’s design, and the new redesign for Connor is also damn good. So yeah, with his backstory and supporting cast established, I would be more than happy to keep reading. But instead, this mini-series is over, and I’m not quite sure what it has accomplished. We have met the new Darkhawk…only to reveal at the end that the old Darkhawk is still around. I’ll admit that I don’t know the full extent of the Fraternity of Raptors stuff, but why not make a clean break? Chris Powell never took off. Maybe this new Darkhawk could do better? I don’t know if we’ll ever know.

This redesign still looks dope

This issue is solid. The fight is cool, even if I don’t think cyborg-hoodlums made for great overall villains. There’s nothing memorable about them. Though the seeds are planted for this Shawn character to grow as an arch-nemesis. The Miles Morales cameo was fun, though it definitely feels like something that Miles will never, ever reference in his own comic. And the sudden introduction of Derek’s sister was fine but weird. Have we heard about her before? Feels weird to bring her into Connor’s life in the very last issue. Likewise, Higgins tried to make the basketball team a thing, but we haven’t seen them previously either. At least not very much. But again, Higgins has done a fine job creating a supporting cast around Connor…if only this was going to be an ongoing series.

In the end, the new Darkhawk is fine. He looks cool as hell, as he’s got a solid character foundation under him, but the lack of any announced future cripples this new character.

TL;DR: The new Darkhawk isn’t going to be heralded as the cool new character find of the year or anything along those lines. But his mini-series wraps up solidly, with enough care and interesting tidbits to not be completely worthless. I legit would be happy to see this character again.

Mighty Morphin #15

Mighty Morphin #15
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Marco Renna
Colorist: Walter Baiamonte, with assistance from Sharon Marino
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

Somewhere, I hope Ryan Parrott has a big board of different Zord combinations we’ve never seen before, and he’s made it his mission to go through them all before his time is up.

So much fighting! In flashback, we see the first time ancient Zordon encountered Lord Zedd. While in the present day, the two of them battle on the moon. Zedd blames Zordon for sabotaging the Zeo Crystal all those years ago, which turned Zophram into Zedd. But Zordon tries to explain that it was Zartus. Zedd ain’t having it, and the two continuing battling.

On Earth, it’s Zords vs. Empyreals in some epic fights, while the evil minions fight Sentry Force Four. We see the White Tiger Dragonzord combination, which is awesome. Grace sneaks up behind Zartus and destroys the crystal he was using to control the Empyreals. It changes nothing for the Emypreals and their desire to destroy the Rangers and the Earth, but Zartus flees to the moon, where he sneaks past Zedd and Zordon to grab the Zeo Crystal for himself.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Another fire issue of Power Rangers kicks the action up a couple notches. We’re all-in on the big final battle. I would be more than happy for Parrott to surprise me and throw in some more twists to this story. But it’s all fighting all the time now. All the Rangers have regrouped (though they weren’t apart for long) and pretty much everybody is lined up to punch the bad guys into submission. And it’s some exciting punching. We’ve got Zords, we’ve got banter, we’ve got bad guys getting all twisted up. It’s fun. I would say that this issue features a slight downplay of the good character drama I love, so it’s not as overwhelmingly fulfilling as previous issues, but that’s barely a gripe. This is still damn good and damn fun to read. And when they pull off something as just plain cool as the White Tiger Dragonzord, how can I not love it?

TL;DR: An action-heavy issue of The Eltarian War keeps the good stuff going in another excellent Power Rangers comic.

Robin & Batman #3

Robin & Batman #3
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer: Steve Wands

All good things must come to an end, so here is the final issue of Lemire and Nguyen’s Robin & Batman.

As the trail of Killer Croc has run cold, Dick Grayson has begun to question whether the “Robin” identity was the best choice. Perhaps he should have gone with his Nightwing idea, to be something darker and cooler, to embrace the darkness of his new role. It’s led to him to stop caring about school and spurn a potential new friend. But then Croc shows up at the school and threatens for Robin to come out. Dick faces him, and Batman shows up to help, but Croc gets the upper hand and kidnaps Batman. Dick rushes home to gear up, having correctly deduced that Croc has taken Batman to the grounds of Haley’s Circus. Alfred suggests Dick call in some back-up, but Dick insists he has to do this himself.

Cros has Batman suspended upside down in a slowly filling swimming pool, and Robin tries to unlock the chains. But Croc shows up and starts kicking his butt, eventually grabbing Robin and dunking him under the water. In his head, Dick begins to accept the darkness of drowning, but a flash vision of his parents reminds him that he is in a circus and that Robins are meant to fly! Using his grappling gun, Robin lifts himself out of the pool and takes down Croc with some sweet aerial maneuvers. Robin then frees Batman and Bruce breaks down, hugging him and assuring him he did well and that Bruce is proud.

After all of this, Dick feels a lot lighter and brighter. He makes friends with that kid from school, he decides to reach out to the Teen Titans and he’s proud to be Robin!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I loved it and I am also incredibly biased. This final issue is a really well-crafted wrap-up to the story so far, including a truly transformative moment for the Boy Wonder that sells me on the whole endeavor. He finds the strength within himself, he defeats the bad guy and Batman embraces him for who he is inside. It’s all great. I loved Lemire’s characterization of Dick Grayson and his personal revelation at the end. It was a ton of fun to read. I especially liked how the final scene was set at the circus, allowing Dick to embrace his highwire roots in order to embrace being Robin. That was a really nice touch. This whole series has been full of nice touches, raising the whole project another notch.

In the end, this little series is a solid Batman and Robin adventure, with a focus on Robin embracing his crime-fighting identity, and enough clever bits and nice touches to make it an enjoyable read.

Bat-Family breakfast table

If I had any complaints, it’s that the whole thing is a little short and a little unambitious. Robin & Batman doesn’t do anything drastic with the story or introduce anything particularly new about the early relationship between the Dynamic Duo. And then it’s only three issues long. So it’s a short little story showing off the usual dynamic between the pair, then it ends. As a Robin fan, I loved it because of the rich use of the character. But I can also admit that it’s all generally surface-deep. This isn’t some definitive new take on the character. It’s just a very well-made, gorgeously drawn short story. And that’s good enough for me in the long run.

I’m also going to hold out hope that this book exists as a reminder to the Hollywood side of DC that a serious Robin story can exist in a world of a dark and gritty Batman.

TL;DR: This nice little story ends on a strong moment of character-defining action. The creative team wraps everything up neatly and underlines why the character matters and how they are unique. That’s always a joy.

Robins #4

Robins #4
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Baldemar Rivas
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Steve Wands

Looks like this series is gonna explore all sorts of time periods and historical Robin eras.

The Robins are split up, but all of them are chasing Anarky because of those bad guys at the start of the series. They all converge in some underground train tunnels and catch him, but Spoiler shows up and lets him get away, confident that Anarky had nothing to do with the Devotees of Anarky group. Our heroes regroup and Steph reveals that the DoA people were playing some kind of enhanced reality game, modeled after the Robins…I think? It’s a little confusing. But Stephanie has the game drives, and they’ve also all realized Tim might be captured. In order to figure out more, Dick zaps himself with one of the game drives…and he wakes up back in his spy days, from that awesome Grayson comic a few years ago.

Meanwhile, Tim tries to escape his captor, but she tricks him into helping her break deeper into the Batcave. And Batman is investigating stuff on his own end, aware that a villain called The Escape Artist is involved.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

There were parts of this issue that were a little confusing, especially the Batman segments. And I don’t fully understand exactly what’s going on concerning the digital media sticks that seem to put people into some type of virtual reality? But the general thrust of the story is still solid, as are the interactions between our main characters. And that’s the selling point of the comic, so I’m still enjoying that much. Seeley has a solid handle on everybody involved, and is clearly enjoying all the Robin lore. From that look back at Grayson in the cliffhanger, to the inclusion of Anarky. Did you know that the creators of Anarky intended for him to be the third Robin before Tim Drake came along? So this series is a pleasant exploration of the world of the Robins, while still presenting this fascinating mystery about this Jenny Wren character.

Bat-Family banter

If I’m being 100% honest, though, I don’t particularly like the art on this comic. It feels a little too…I don’t even know how to describe it. Too slight? With an angular anime-vibe? I think that works. And the lettering is different as well. It’s clearly a different font from classic comic book lettering, and that’s also throwing me off. Both the art and the lettering as still well-done, and this isn’t an attack on either the artist or the letterer. I’m just saying that neither is my particular cup of tea, and that’s keeping me and this comic at arms length.

TL;DR: Some bits and pieces of this issue are a little confusing, but the main story remains an engaging and fun exploration of the Robins as a whole.

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 15, 2022, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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