Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/2/22

Welcome, everyone, to another week of comic book reviews from this random blog you’ve maybe stumbled upon. Or maybe you’ve been reading for a while? My only hope is that somebody is reading so that people know my thoughts on the likes of She-Hulk and The X-Cellent.

Comic Book of the Week goes to The Variants #1 for a nice start to a new Jessica Jones comic, but comic superstars Gail Simone and Phil Noto.

Superhero life

Meanwhile, I just finished Dickinson and very much enjoyed that show. I’m still working my way through AppleTV+ shows. Maybe For All Mankind next? Video game wise, I beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and had a blast with it. Now I need something new to play…

Comic Reviews: She-Hulk #4, The Variants #1, The X-Cellent #4 and X-Men Red #4.

She-Hulk #4

She-Hulk #4
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Luca Maresca
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I just can’t win with this series. I’m not about to give up, but man oh man, who could have guessed that Rainbow Rowell was so into having Jack of Hearts talk a lot?

We open with She-Hulk and Titania knocking each out around in their new fight club, with Volcana hanging out nearby and cheering on her friend. The Thing had an appointment with Jen and he shows up in the middle of the fight, then gets a quick explanation. It’s fun. Then Jen and the Thing get lunch as she helps him sort out his ticket. He reveals he sent a bunch of other super-people clients to her office, and she tells this cameo circus that they’ll need to be discreet from now on. Nice moment with Reed Richards, too.

Then it’s back to Jack of Hearts. Jen powers down and joins him in the city as they talk about his disappearance/reappearance some more. He’s also writing a poem about all the stuff he’s experiencing. Jack remembers one thing about his rebirth, and it leads them to a plaque he saw in Brooklyn, but he doesn’t recognize anything else. They continue to have yet another conversation about Jack, his powers and this mystery without actually solving anything. Then some big person shows up, having found Jack, but we don’t get to see who it is.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

One-half of this comic is amazing and exactly what I want to read. The other half is the third issue in a row that’s just Jen and Jack of Hearts talking about him and accomplishing nothing. It’s maddening! Let’s start with the parts that I love. That first bit, with Titania and the Thing, then the office full of superheroes, is exactly what I want to read in this comic and it worked flawlessly! Rowell is taking classic villains and allies and finding fun ways to use them. Why have yet another She-Hulk vs. Titania fight when the two people could be treated like people? I love seeing She-Hulk and the Thing at an outdoor cafe so that she can help him with a parking ticket. I live for that sort of grounded, human-first storytelling in superhero comics. Then Jen gets a really nice scene with Reed Richards in her office (plus all those other superheroes). But Jen and Reed have a nice, real conversation.

I live for this kind of superheroing

But then the rest of the issue is just more of the same from the past couple of issues and it’s crazy how repetitive this comic has been in only four issues. I realize that Jack of Hearts is a complex character, but he’s not this complex! The dialogue between them is wonderful. I love some good, down-to-Earth dialogue. But the only new clue we get in this whole comic is that he woke up in Brooklyn. That adds nothing to an already uninteresting mystery. And yeah, if Rowell is setting these two up for a romance, it definitely helps that they’re spending all this time together. But the romance loses some of its charm when it’s so clearly the objective. And the mystery of Jack of Hearts means nothing so far. There aren’t any clues dropped so far. No cleverness at play. No twists or turns. No real advancement. Someone shows up at the very end to reveal something…but the final page cliffhanger doesn’t even show the person! Why not? Isn’t that what a cliffhanger is supposed to accomplish? Why keep them a secret?!

TL;DR: So much about this comic is done right and done perfectly. But this is the third issue in a row that continues to cover the exact same ground with little to no actual story, plot or character advancement.

The Variants #1

The Variants #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Phil Noto
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Gail Simone and Phil Noto teaming up for a Jessica Jones mystery story? Sign me up!

Jessica Jones has been having migraines and blackouts. Daredevil swings by and catches her when she passes out, then asks her to attend a court hearing the following morning for a woman charged with burning her house down with her family inside. Jessica gets to talk to the woman, and she reveals that she was also once a mental prisoner of the Purple Man, and that the fire was a mental land mine he planted to go off 10 years after he first took her prisoner. And Jessica’s own 10-year anniversary from the Purple Man is tomorrow!

Jessica rushes home and finds someone in her baby’s room, so she attacks! But that someone is Jessica herself. There are two of her! They keep fighting, until they’re broken up by a Captain America variant of Jessica Jones.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This is a good, solid start to a Jessica Jones comic. It’s not entirely clear yet what the Purple Man story has to do with a bunch of Jessica Jones variants, but I have no doubt that will all be explained and explored in time. The issue is mostly a mood piece with Jessica Jones, and Simone nails her inner monologue and character dynamics. So this issue definitely succeeds as a Jessica Jones comic, and then is blasted into the stratosphere with Phil Noto on art. I mean, this is all-star team here, and the comic is worth it for them alone. I love when superheroes look real, and Noto nails it. And Simone perfectly captures Jessica Jones. So we’ve got a really good, really strong Jessica Jones comic, with an A-list creative team, and a generally interesting mystery so far. Can’t ask for much more!

TL;DR: An all-star creative team does a very good job of introducing us to Jessica Jones and her new mystery.

X-Cellent #4

X-Cellent #4
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot

This series is losing me fast. I just don’t know what this is all about.

An army of angry Zeitgeist fans is attacking Girl Joe’s apartment, but Katie Sawyer is off fooling around with Mike, so X-Statix can’t teleport to help them. Fortunately, Fluff teleports in and saves Girl Joe, prompting Girl Joe to do a whole show about how awesome he is and how X-Statix suck. Meanwhile, Mr. Sensitive catches Katie and Mike making out and tells them to stop, that teammates can’t be in a relationship. He’s still very wishy washy, and he has Dead Girl bring U-Go Girl back to life for a couple of minutes for a pep talk. Edie tells Guy to cut Katie some slack, so he does.

Back with the X-Cellent, Mirror Girl hooks up with Fluff because he helped her stand up to Zeitgeist. But then she goes right back to Zeitgeist and reluctantly spills all of Fluff’s plans. So Zeitgeist has Billy teleport Fluff to the Amazon Rainforest to lose him, but Billy teleports Fluff miles above the Amazon Rainforest! He’s falling to his death!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

What is this coming about? What is going on? To some degree, it seems to be about the interpersonal relationships between these characters, but they seem weird. I like the character drama within the X-Cellent. Fluff is a really neat character, and the drama of Mirror Girl being stuck in this abusive relationship is definitely a solid storyline. But there’s so much else going on in this comic that the Mirror Girl stuff doesn’t get the full attention it deserves. But that stuff really works. Zeitgeist is clearly a maniac villain, so he’s a strong focal point, and the drama on that team works for me.

Fluff is the mutant character find of 2022

So maybe it’s the X-Statix stuff that’s got me worried? Guy Smith is still a stuttering coward. Where’d that come from? That’s not the Guy Smith of old. And Katie is now hooking up with Mike? Has that been a thing? It feels like Milligan is writing classic character drama stuff, but through the lens of vapid melodrama…which now that I write that out, is exactly the X-Statix brand. So am I the one who is out of touch here? Have I lost the ball on what X-Statix — and X-Cellent — is even about? It’s possible. I definitely feel lost. There are so many weird little subplots and through lines going on in this issue and none of it amounts to much for me.

All that being said, the art is still fire. The Allreds have never lost a touch and everything looks and feels phenomenal!

TL;DR: Things get a little too weird and a little too random for my tastes, but there’s still a core of good storytelling and fascinating characters at least.

X-Men Red #4

X-Men Red #4
Writer: Al Ewing
Artists: Juann Cabal, Andres Genolet and Michael Sta. Maria
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher

This one’s a little too talk-heavy for me, though I do enjoy talky issues from time to time.

Everybody’s talking big things. Magneto sits in the Great Ring and bandies words with the various Arakki, especially Isca the Unbeaten. I apparently missed it last issue that Sunspot used Isca’s powers to help Magneto cheat. I thought Sunspot was just being a smartass. Anyway, in a show of unity, Magneto destroys the last back-ups made of himself and Storm, and promises there won’t be anymore. If they die, they’ll stay dead, and Magneto does not fear a life that ends.

Elsewhere, the galactic leaders hold a meeting to share the information that Empress Xandra of the Shi’ar was assassinated (In Marauders, I think). The various leaders debate the merits of Xandra being resurrected on Krakoa, and Storm reveals it is already underway, no matter what they decide. There was no way her dad, Professor X, was gonna let her stay dead. Nova is in attendance and he and Storm have a little chat.

On Krakoa, Sunspot is resurrected and he spends time with Wrongslide, the warped version of Rockslide that came about some time ago. Wrongslide is happy to be his own person, but is unhappy at the looks he gets from people who loved Rockslide. So Sunspot invites him to come to Arakko.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

X-Men Red is on the edge for me. I’m enjoying the overall story and a lot of the individual character writing. But none of the characters are in my pool of favorite X-Men, that I actively want to read about. And there’s a lot of Arakko political stuff, which I absolutely don’t care about. So what I am supposed to do? This issue is a lot of people talking, mostly about Arakko politics. No big, cool action moments to really capture the hearts and minds of the reader. No big revelations. It’s all well-written and well-drawn, but I don’t feel like anything really captured me. Magneto and Storm destroying their Cerebro back-ups so that they’ll be permanently dead means nothing to me. Death doesn’t stick for characters like those, even if they don’t use Krakoan resurrection. And Sunspot inviting Wrongslide to join the series? I guess. Is anybody really interested in that character after Marvel sacrificed Rockslide to get him? I guess I enjoyed Storm putting her foot down to that makeshift galactic counsel. And I do love it when Richard Rider is shown the respect he deserves.

Want to shock the world with an unexpected romance? Storm and Nova! Now that would get me more psyched to read X-Men Red. But I definitely don’t care about all these randos chattering on this knock-off version of the Quiet Council.

TL;DR: A bunch of characters stand around and talk about Arakko stuff. Until someone shows me why Arakko is a good, longterm addition to X-Men comics or the Marvel Universe, it’s never going to matter to me.

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 July 2, 2022, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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