Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/12/22

Happy Wedding, everybody! If you’re reading this on the day of release, my sister is getting married today and I’m out celebrating and being a good big brother. Thankfully, I had enough time before I had to leave to read and review some comics, like Batgirls, Strange Academy and more!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Superman: Son of Kal-El #9. This crossover with Nightwing has been the best thing this new Superman has done so far in this series, and I only wish that magic could remain.


Meanwhile, I broke down and bought Horizon Forbidden West, even though I won’t have time to play it until after I get back from my trip. I guess I just wanted to spend that money. I also started the TV show Reacher, which is pretty fun and simple so far. I’ll finish that when I get home as well.

Comic Reviews: Batgirls #4, Mighty Morphin #17, Superman: Son of Kal-El #9, Strange Academy #17 and Thor #23.

Batgirls #4

Batgirls #4
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Letterer: Becca Carey

Still mostly enjoying this series, though I still wish the scope of it was a bit wider in terms of exploring these characters.

Babs give Steph and Cass the day off and they meet with their local bookshop owner friend, whiles still spying on their mysterious neighbor. Then night falls and they gear up to go after the Tutor, who of course reveals that he knew they were tracking him…though he doesn’t have much of an ambush planned. For the third issue in a row, Stephanie falls victim to his mind control gas and Cass can’t just beat him up. Cass uses the power of friendship to bring Steph back and they defeat the Tutor.

Once Steph is normal again, they easily defeat Tutor and take him into custody. And then we get a really, really huge rookie mistake that sorta defies belief. Rather than turn Tutor over to the police, Babs instructs the Batgirls to take him to that guy she bumped into last issue, her ex-boyfriend, Charles Dante. He’s a therapist who helps the criminally insane. So the Batgirls drop Tutor off at the dude’s house and then just leave. Once they’re gone, it’s then revealed that, of course, Tutor has been working for Charles Dante, and that he’s really the new supervillain Spellbinder.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’m sorry, what? Rather than turn the criminal over to the cops, Babs decides to trust completely in this dude she only just bumped into the other night? A therapist with zero security in his house? Hey random civilian we only just met and not all of us trust, here’s a dangerous criminal with the distinct ability to mind control random civilians. We’re just gonna give him to you and leave, so you can do whatever with him or to him. Because that’s how any of this works. I know that’s what the creators want to happen in this story, but it makes absolutely no sense. They leave the Tutor’s mind controlled puppets for the cops, but can’t bother bringing the Tutor to the cops? There’s a throwaway line about how it’s “too hot” for the Batgirls to turn the Tutor over to the cops…but there are so many ways around that that don’t involve leaving this dangerous supervillain with someone they know as only a random civilian.

All that being said, the rest of the issue is really good and makes up for that huge lapse in judgement. I loved the scene of Steph and Cass going out for a day off.

He doesn’t seem to know how selling stuff works

I love that sort of thing in my superhero comics, where they get to be civilians for a little bit. I still wish the creators took that further. It’s nice that they get to hang out in town, and there’s at least one NPC they get to be friendly with. But what about the rest of their lives? But I digress. I don’t want to bring this up every single issue. I like the out-of-costume stuff a lot, I like the costume stuff a lot, even if this series keeps repeating itself when it comes to confrontations with the Tutor — and can I just say, a dude with a very strong graffiti artwork gimmick, “Tutor” is a bad name choice. But I love the wink wink nudge nudge narration and the humor instilled in this series. So it’s all good overall, there are just a lot of creative and now story decisions I don’t particularly like.

TL;DR: The overall feel and vibe of Batgirls remains really fun, and this issue has some nice character moments. But this issue also has a very dingus decision that makes no sense other than the creators needed to slam this square peg into a round hole for their story.

Mighty Morphin #17

Mighty Morphin #17
Writer: Mat Groom
Artist: Moises Hidalgo
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

We’re moving on to the next story in Power Ranges…with a guest writer! Ryan Parrott isn’t leaving the series, is he? Mat Groom does a fine job, though.

The Command Center is destroyed, though all of the tech in the sub-basements is fine. The Rangers brainstorm what to do next and Zordon informs them that the above ground Command Center was a standard issue Eltarian Outpost. So they decide to head out into space to just fine another such outpost and teleport it home. The Rangers ask Grace Sterling and the Green Ranger to watch over the sub-basements while they’re gone, and Rocky also has to stay because he’s needed at home. But no sooner do the other Rangers leave than Matt and Rocky are attacked by the robot forces of King Aradon!

And out in space, Alpha leads the Rangers to the ocean planet Aegus V, where the Command Center they seek is at the bottom of the sea.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Really fun, really character focused aftermath issue. I love the attention to detail in this comic. Things aren’t just going back to normal, the Rangers and Zordon actually have to deal with the aftermath of the Command Center being blown up. I love the idea that the Rangers think the Command Center was this one-of-a-kind super fortress, but Zordon says it’s just a typical, from-the-catalogue building. And the mission to travel to an alien planet to retrieve another one is very inventive and very fun. It’s something I never would have ever thought of being a thing. So that’s great.

I still like the new Green Ranger design

I especially enjoyed giving Rocky a spotlight in this issue. Parrott and BOOM! have been doing some interesting things with Rocky, and while this issue doens’t pursue his Red Ranger hang-ups, I love that one of the Rangers has to deal with family issues that prevent him from traveling into space. It makes sense and it’s a great character focus. The only nitpick I have is that when Rocky tells the other Rangers he can’t go, they immediately tell him it’s fine because they were already considering having a Ranger stay behind, so this works with their plans. I would have liked a little tension. But I digress. I think a story where Rocky and Matt stand alone against some invading aliens is fun!

Though the cover of the issue promised us some Matt/Tommy/Kimberly drama, which remains ongoing. I’m disappointed we didn’t get any of that.

Also, I Googled “King Aradon” and it turns out he’s a very obscure but definitely name-dropped character in Power Rangers lore. So neat choice for the new bad guy!

TL;DR: The new storyline kicks off with some quality attention to detail and character moments that make this whole Power Rangers enterprise something special.

Superman: Son of Kal-El #9

Superman: Son of Kal-El #9
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Bruno Redondo
Inkers: Redondo and Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Wes Abbott

I don’t know what exactly distinguishes Tom Taylor’s writing in Nightwing from his writing in Superman, but this crossover has definitely brought the energy and charm of Nightwing to Superman: Son of Kal-El.

Nightwing spends the night knocking down LexCorp crime stuff, which draws out the villains that killed Risk and the other superheroes. They are from The Rising, which is Bendix’s new villain thing. And they try to kill Nightwing, but he was bait, and Superman flies in to beat them up. It’s pretty easily done — but rather than let one of them fall into the heroes’ hands, Bendix activates the bomb inside of him, blowing him up in Superman’s arms.

Later, Dick goes to the Kent house to chat with Lois and comfort Jon. He’s got a lot of good words of encouragement for the young Superman, and he also wants Lois to become the face of The Truth to give them some credibility. Does she now work for The Daily Planet anymore? Jay shows up to reveal that Bendix has broadcast footage of the dude’s explosion, while blaming it on Superman, because obviously.

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

As has been said a thousand times on the internet, Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo are killing it on Nightwing. And now they’ve brought their magic over to Superman: Son of Kal-El for a crossover, and it’s just as magical. The writing and art just feel sharper and more charming than what we normally get on Superman: Son of Kal-El. I don’t know why it’s different, it just is. And wherever this Nightwing magic goes, great comics follow. This whole issue is one big warm hug of an adventure, as our heroes easily compliment one another and create real, lasting, emotional bonds.

Bat-Imposter Syndrome is real

And it succeeds in both action and in dialogue-heavy scenes. The fight on the rooftop is a real hoot, from Nightwing easily handling himself when thrown off a building, to Superman barely taking a scratch when the bad guys try to team up against him. And that scene is followed up by a truly wonderful scene of Dick Grayson visiting the Kent household. Dick and Lois Lane is a cool pairing that you don’t often consider. And then Dick and Jon have a truly wonderful heart-to-heart. This issue has it all.

It’s a shame the Dick Grayson part is going to have to go back to his own comic. Hopefully his magic has rubbed off on Jon Kent.

Also, does Lois Lane still work for The Daily Planet? I get that The Truth is Taylor’s little pet project here, but in what world does it make sense for famous journalist Lois Lane to ally herself with this culty pirate internet show?

TL;DR: The magic of Taylor and Redondo’s Nightwing is out in full force in this crossover issue, providing possibly the best issue of Superman: Son of Kal-El yet! It’s a shame Redondo and Dick Grayson won’t be around for the next issue.

Strange Academy #17

Strange Academy #17
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

I have no idea how I’m supposed to feel about this story. Young writes the characters and the plot a certain way, and I think I’m supposed to think they’re the good guys? But I don’t agree with anything they’re saying.

Dr. Voodoo goes to Gaslamp to warn him against messing with Strange Academy students, and Gaslamp hits him back with more talk of the prophecy that Doyle Dormammu will be a bad guy. At lunch that day, Doyle is giving Emily the cold shoulder for standing him up at the dance, while Emily fills in her classmates about what happened to Calvin and how it’s not fair. But Doyle interrupts and says it’s totally fair, since Calvin was dealing dark magic drugs to other students. Eric decides to stand up for Emily and Doyle unleashes on him, then continues to unleash on everybody, finally letting his full power loose! After laying waste to his classmates, Emily tries to talk Doyle down, but he storms off, stating that he’s finally embracing what he’s supposed to be.

After he’s gone, Emily tells the other that it’s not Doyle’s fault, that all of this is the fault of the teachers. Their authority is totally bad, y’all. And she organizes a walk out.

Meanwhile, Calvin has gone back to Gaslamp.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

OK, so let me break down how I’m feeling about all of this. I completely agree with Doyle that Calvin deserved to be expelled. As Emily explains, Calvin was just a normal kid who found a magic jacket, and that’s what qualified him for membership at Strange Academy. Then the jacket turns out to be this leftover dark magic monster that Dr. Strange once cast off. The monster goes crazy, the good guys defeat it and, therefore, Calvin loses his magic. It sucks, but it’s nobody’s fault. Emily is eager to blame Strange for allowing this dark magic monster to exist…but I don’t see it that way, at least not to the extent that Emily wants her classmates to.

And Dr. Strange’s role in the dark magic monster’s existence does not excuse Calvin’s actions. Calvin was given an option to remain in the school, to buckle down and study, just like Zelma Stanton, who is a cool character who is on the level. But Calvin is a jerk and he turned that option down, instead choosing to link up with a dark magic deal, who he’d been extensively warned about by Zoe, who is also a cool character who is on the level. And then Calvin became a drug dealer of dark magic, to his classmates. That is not cool! And nothing the teachers or Dr. Strange have done led him to make those choices. Calvin made those choices because Calvin is a jerk.

Dormammu was right

So yeah, I am completely behind Doyle and the school when they say Calvin deseved to be expelled. And I am completely not behind Emily when she stages a revolt and walkout because she doesn’t like how things are being handled. She’s always had a problem with authority.

So I’m pretty torn on how to take this comic. I like Emily as a character, but I don’t stand with her. I love Doyle as a character, but he’s being portrayed as in the wrong. And then if all the students walkout, who cares? This is the first year of Strange Academy. It’s not like it’s some storied institution. Dr. Strange and his buddies decided to try it out and see how it goes…and now it clearly doesn’t go at all. So if the students want to leave then fine. Close the doors and shrug at how this was a failed experiment. The school and the teachers don’t owe the students anything.

I love how ineffectual the frost giant remains

All that being said, this was a great issue. The sides are explained clearly, and through a really awesome fight scene, where my favorite character gets to really cut loose and be awesome. The tension is high, the stakes are real, the meat of the conflict is a lot to chew on, and the art remains phenomenal. This is a great little series, and this was a great, exciting issue.

TL;DR: Penultimate issue before the end of the first season and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Personally, I don’t agree with the direction this comic seems to be taking, but I really enjoy how seriously and how thoughtfully it is exploring this direction.

Thor #23

Thor #23
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

I think this might be the end for me and Thor. I still mostly like this comic, but I’ve never been a big Thor fan. I really just stuck around on a whim.

Following a brief flashback to Young Thor hanging out with Odin and practically how to wield Mjolnir, we return to the battle, in which Thor now has the full power of the Odin-Force. He calls for Sif’s magic Bifrost sword, and uses it to teleport Mjolnir to the dwarven forge where she was made — then he smashes her to bits. Thor passes out and wakes up four months later, having fallen into the Odin-Sleep. Everything is fine, Thor is a bit grumpy, and Angela reveals that some of her people’s blacksmiths rebuilt Mjolnir — though it’s no longer magical. At least not until Thor kneels down to pray and learns that Odin’s spirit might be inside Mjolnir now? Maybe?

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This is a strong issue, but it still feels anticlimactic. And as I’ve mentioned before, Cates really repeats himself on this series. There’s a big, bad threat that’s the most powerful and dangerous thing in the entire universe…and then Thor gets a power upgrade that allows him to win in one issue. Mjolnir is immediately on the backfoot and then gets taken care of swiftly, with all the usual pomp and weighty drama. I liked most of it. I liked the flashback with Odin at the start of the issue. I liked the overall sense of things. And I suppose I like the promise of where things go next. Odin as the magic behind Mjolnir going forward? Yeah, that’s definitely an idea worth pursuing.

TL;DR: The story ends the way it was always going to end, with Thor defeating the latest all-powerful bad guy. The writing and art remain as strong as ever, I just think the story is getting rather repetitive.

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 March 12, 2022, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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