Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/9/22

This week, I face some hard truths about me and the Krakoa Era of X-Men comics. As much as I love the whole premise, I have yet to really find an individual series that really speaks to me — at least not one that lasts more than 5 issues. X-Men Red and Marauders go under the microscope today.

Comic Book of the Week goes to One-Star Squadron #5 for the toughest hit in comics this week.

It’s true, you won

Meanwhile, I really enjoyed Outlaws on Amazon Prime. Check out that show if you get the chance. Now I’m finally getting around to watching Sweet Tooth on Netflix and hoping for the best. And this weekend I’ll be checking out Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and hoping for the best for my boy Knuckles the Echidna!

Comic Reviews: X-Men Red #1, Marauders #1, One-Star Squadron #5 and She-Hulk #3.

X-Men Red #1

X-Men Red #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher

My efforts to try out all of the new X-Men comics continue with one that threw me for a loop.

A bunch of X-Men are living on Mars/Arakko these days, getting up to various bits of trouble. Storm sits on the ruling council, and that’s full of politics. Sunspot opens a bar (the Red Lagoon), and Vulcan shows up to cause trouble. Vulcan gets beaten up by the recently resurrected John Proudstar, who is full of piss and vinegar these days. Abigail Brand and Cable show up to calm the fight and take Vulcan up to SWORD. Brand has a chat with Storm and suggests there should be an X-Men on Arakko. After giving it some thought, Storm decides to be more badass and joins up with Sunspot, Magneto and Magneto’s new powerless fisherman friend to be a new Brotherhood!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I am a sucker for the Brotherhood of Mutants, so that last page reveal of Storm’s idea won me over. Which is a good thing, because this is one of those comics that butts up against my objectivity. As a human being and comic book fan, I can tell that this issue is well-written, with strong character moments and some great art. As a very subjective comic book reader and X-Men fan, the only thing about this issue that personally interests me is that Brotherhood reveal at the end. I have gone on record plenty of times that I really, really don’t like/care about Arakko and the millions of apparently immortal mutants now living on it. So I don’t give two snoots about the political manifestations of these nobody characters. Gag me with a spoon. I also don’t care about any of the main characters in this comic: Storm, Magneto, Sunspot, Vulcan, Cable, Thunderbird, etc. They’re just not on my list of favorite mutants I want to read about. And that’s on me. That’s a me problem, not an X-Men Red problem.

I have to accept that there’s never going to be an X-Men comic starring Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Mimic, Toad, Blob, Marrow, Iceman, Cecilia Reyes and Maggott. I’d call it X-Men Puce.

Strong Guy could have punched Vulcan

Personal whining aside, this is definitely a strong issue, and I like where the story is headed. The idea that Storm is going to team up with Magneto to create a Brotherhood of Mutants to safeguard Arakko is cool, as is the idea that Abigail Brand is going to cobble together her own corrupt X-Men to purportedly do the same thing, and that the two groups will face off. That sounds like a fun plot. And Al Ewing is obviously a master of character writing, so everybody is really strong this issue. Vulcan seems to have taken a step back as a person, but the resurrected Thunderbird is in a great place, and Magneto has some really well-done scenes being humbled by a fisherman. So I definitely enjoyed a lot of the really strong character moments. And then that last page hit was the perfect hook to keep me coming back for more, despite my personal misgivings about this comic in particular.

TL;DR: Very well-written comic with a lot of great character moments, capped off by a very interesting last page hook. This comic has a lot of potential, even if it’s hanging on one of the weaker parts of the Krakoa Era, in my opinion.

Marauders #1

Marauders #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Eleonora Carlini
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher

The reviews for X-Men Red and Marauders are out of alphabetical order because I read Red first, and both comics suffer from the same personal bias.

Kate Pryde has put together a new crew of Marauders, with a mission to rescue mutants in danger (the issue opens with a quickie rescue of Fever Pitch). But first, there’s a 2 billion-year-old box of Mysterium with a map written in Kate’s handwriting, which leads her to a hidden part of Krakoa where Cassandra Nova is under house arrest. In her last appearance, Nova had compassion forced upon her by Jean Grey, so she’s not as evil anymore, and Kate invites her to join the Marauder store help with the mystery.

This mystery apparently involves the first generation of mutants from thousands of years ago, who are apparently being held by the Shi’ar. So the Marauders head out into space to confront their alien allies, but are stopped and themselves confronted by Erik the Red! It seems The Red are a whole secret security force that have something to do with this mutant mystery.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Allow me to start by saying that this is a fine comic that does everything right. It’s written well, the art is stylish and fun, the characters are well used and the adventure sounds big and cool. I like the idea of taking Erik the Red and establishing some whole new mythology behind “the Red” part of his name. This is a fine, well done first issue to this new relaunch. The problem is mine and mine alone, and it’s that I don’t care about any of this. Just like with X-Men Red, I don’t care about any of the individual characters on the team, I hate when the X-Men go into space to deal with the Shi’ar, and I really, really don’t like this idea that there are a bunch of thousands-of-years-old mutants around. So I just don’t think Marauders is going to be for me. And that’s just my personal taste/choice. If you’re interested in all this stuff, then this first issue is a nice kick-off and could be a lot of fun. It’s just not going to be for me.

What would be for me is a comic about Fever Pitch.

It will run for 100 issues!

Allow me to go on a brief rant. So the issue opens with the Marauders saving Fever Pitch from a power outburst in a small town. If you don’t know, Fever Pitch is a mutant whose powers turned him into a flaming skeleton. He’s a full-body Ghost Rider. And he’s always used in really minor cameos where he’s either causing trouble or needs to be stopped or something like this, a quick rescue. And the Marauders do it because it’s what they do. And Fever Pitch gets a little line, as you can see above, where he didn’t think anybody cared. I want a comic about what happens next to Fever Pitch. He might be an always-on-fire skeleton, but he’s still a person with hopes, dreams, fears, favorite foods, and a right to exist. And he’s now going to Krakoa. What happens to him next? How does this perpetually angry monster of a mutant live day-to-day? How does this also-ran react to the paradise of Krakoa? That’s the kind of weird, obscure mutant storytelling that appeals to me in the Krakoa Era.

Also, another quick little rant: Marauders is very far removed from the Pirate X-Men series this comic originally started as. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But what now separates Marauders from any other X-Men comic in history? A team of randomly assembled superhero mutants are off on an adventure that aligns with any other type of X-Men adventure. There’s no longer anything unique or special about this premise. You could have called this series Uncanny X-Men and it could still be the same comic.

TL;DR: This is a strong start to a new Marauders relaunch, bringing together a fun new team and putting them on a big, intergalactic adventure.

One-Star Squadron #5

One-Star Squadron #5
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Welp, the other shoe has dropped.

The Heroz4U building has been burned to the ground and the police are investigating. Everyone suspects Power Girl, but she is insistent it’s not her, and Red Tornado believes her. The next suspect is Gangbuster because of his issues, but the police tell Red there’s a problem with that theory…

While standing around the rubble, Red Tornado is greeted by Minute Man, who admits that he started the fire. That last job he went on turned out to be a shell company for Lex Luthor, who is revealed as the buyer of Heroz4U. Lex wanted to pressure Minute Man into becoming his new manager so that Lex could use all the Heroz4U files for his own benefit. A desperate Minute Man agreed, but he felt so guilty that he just burned down the building.

Except that he didn’t know that Gangbuster was hiding inside…

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

One-Star Squadron just took a very dark turn and I am here for it. I didn’t know where this series was going, but this manslaughter twist was not even on my radar. It’s so damn dark, but definitely fits with the journey this series was on. I am very excited to see how Russell and Lieber stick the landing. Where is all of this heading? What’s going to happen when all is said and done? I can only hope it hits as hard as some of these recent issues have. This issue, in particular, does a great job of building the tension and driving home the sorrow and despair of these characters. Russell has done a great job turning the wheels and moving the pieces around just so to reach this point.

The darkness within

When that dagger to the heart finally hits — when we find out that Gangbuster was in the building — it’s horrendous. Russell set it up perfectly that Gangbuster might have been the arsonist, based on the previous issue. And I should have known something suspicious was up with that Minute Man job. But Lex Luthor being the secret buyer, wanting to get info on heroes? Great reveal! And Red Tornado is working well as the sad sack narrator leading us through this darkness. That poor robot man.

TL;DR: The knife finally strikes and twists in the penultimate issue of One-Star Squadron, taking us down a road I definitely did not expect, but am more excited for the final issue than ever before.

She-Hulk #3

She-Hulk #3
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Rogê Antônio
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

As I mentioned in my last review, I fully supporting Rainbow Rowell using whatever characters she wants. But, uh, this issue takes it a little too far…

After popping into the office for a couple of funny superhero lawyer bits, Jen returns to her apartment and continues her conversation with Jack of Hearts, where they talk about his origins, his costume and other basic Jack facts. Then Jen calls her bff Patsy Walker to ask her about Jack, but she doesn’t have too much to contribute. Basically, Jack’s powers are messed up.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

So basically, this is the second issue in a row that’s basically just about setting up Jack of Hearts. Again, I’m all for Rainbow Rowell using whatever characters she wants to use. But if explaining and setting up that character takes two entire issues at the start of your series, maybe you should have picked someone else? After a too brief taste of Jen actually being a lawyer, the entire rest of the issue is taken up with a Jack of Hearts Wikipedia entry. What’s his origin story? How did he die? Why did he make the costume choices he made? And, the real point, to what extent are his powers messed up? Not even the phone call with Patsy adds much to the issue, because Patsy doesn’t have any real insight into Jack of Hearts. The dialogue between the characters is fun, and the art is still really strong, but did we really need two full issues to set up Jack of Hearts? Especially when that set up is: “He’s back under mysterious circumstances, and his powers are messed up”. I just summed up the past two issues in a single sentence.

TL;DR: Everything with She-Hulk in this She-Hulk comic seems really fun. But we’re three issues in and this comic has been 80% explaining Jack of Hearts. I don’t even think a new Jack of Hearts comic would feature this much explanation about Jack of Hearts.

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 April 9, 2022, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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