Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/9/22

For reasons I will never understand, this week featured a deluge of comics for me! I don’t read everything; I pretty much read and review what I want. And a ton of the ongoing series I read came out this week, like Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Morphin, Saga and more!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #125 for a truly excellent start to Chip Zdarsky’s much anticipated Batman run! Though I do have a bone to pick with him…

Best new Batsuit

Meanwhile, I saw Thor: Love and Thunder and really enjoyed it! Not as good as Ragnarok, but I had a good enough time. Beyond that, I’ve been watching Mythic Quest on AppleTV+ and it’s as good as everybody says! That’s fun. And I splurged on the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition during the Steam Summer Sale, so I’ve been enjoying a return to that franchise. I never played Mass Effect 3, so it’ll be fun when I finally get there.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #5, Batman #125, Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #2, Legion of X #3, Mighty Morphin #21, Poison Ivy #2, Saga #60, Strange Academy #18 and The X-Cellent #5.


Amazing Spider-Man #5

Amazing Spider-Man #5
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Marcio Menyz
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

The first story arc for this new Spider-Man run is in the bag and I am not impressed.

After Tombstone used Spider-Man to take down the Rose’s gang operation, Spider-Man does some simple reconnaissance to learn where Tombstone is moving his product, then sends Digger (Rose’s general) to bust up the joint. Spidey pays Tombstone a visit at his mansion to play real coy about it too. The issue ends with Peter going over to see Aunt May for dinner. Also, Felicia had a small cameo.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

All of the pieces of Spider-Man are done nicely in this series so far, but the plot and story leave a lot to be desired. Wells writes a very good Spider-Man. I especially enjoyed how he showed up at Tombstone’s home and playfully taunted him while his plan was enacted. And I enjoy Romita’s art on Spider-Man, always. So writing and art are great! But I think this overall story just fell really flat. Tombstone left Spider-Man alive, so Spider-Man just dusts himself off and sets about ruining everything Tombstone built. Did Tombstone really not expect some kind of blowback from Spider-Man? All this careful planning and trickery, and Tombstone just expected it to be done? Then on top of that, the whole gang war thing feels very flimsy because there’s no foundation. The criminal empire stuff in comics is never on solid footing because it changes on any writer’s whim, especially who’s involved. So there are no real stakes.

Then on top of all of that, nothing was done in these five issues with this big bad thing Spidey supposedly did that kicked off the series. And we’ve only been teased with Mary Jane moving on. And Black Cat’s quick cameo doesn’t amount to much. So all of the pieces in play didn’t really impact the story at all.

TL;DR: This opening storyline ends with a bit of a whimper, storywise. The writing and art are really fun and enjoyable, but they were put into service with a very basic, uninspired plot.


Batman #125

Batman #125
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

We’ve been excitedly waiting for Chip Zdarsky on Batman and it’s finally here! And you bet your butt it doesn’t disappoint! Though there is one big problem…

Batman is feeling pretty adrift these days. He still doesn’t have his fortune, and some of the Bat-Family are worried that he’s not spending enough time as Bruce Wayne. Tim Drake, Robin, pays him a visit to discuss just that. But Bruce reveals he’s been invited to a fancy party. The Penguin has started a grassroots campaign to kill the rich people of Gotham, and Batman figures the party will be a great place to ambush him. Bruce goes in as a civilian, while Robin goes in to stop the gas attack that Bruce predicted. Bruce then dons a Batman mask over his suit and confronts the Penguin…only to learn it’s Clayface! In the commotion, Batman convinces Clayface to help people and give up the Penguin, while Tim gets shot by a goon! Batman rushes Tim to the hospital, having to remove the Robin costume ahead of time, remembering back to when he had to do that when Jason died.

Soon after, Batman visits Penguin in the hospital. He’s dying from mercury poisoning, and he’s planned one last trick: make it look like Batman kills him in his hospital bed. So Batman is on the run, Robin is in the hospital and then some robot called “Failsafe” comes online in the old, abandoned Batcave.

Also, there’s a back-up feature, also written by Zdarsky, in which Catwoman is hired to track down the Penguin’s heirs for the will reading. It’s good too.

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

Oh man, this was good! This just felt like a Batman comic, you know? There’s a real sense of strength and character in this debut issue, and I couldn’t be more pleased. There are a lot of moving pieces in this issue, and they all come together wonderfully to make a deep and layered story. To start with, Zdarsky nails Batman’s inner monologue. So we’re off to a strong start there. Then he adds the new twist of making Bruce feels off-kilter. He’s not in the right headspace, he’s off his game. And that’s a fun character wrinkle to play with. Then we take this Bruce/Batman and drop him into a fun new story! The issue opens with a short but sweet Batman adventure, as he takes out an assassin. It’s great and then kicks off the story with the Penguin, which is all about taking a classic villain and giving them a fun new storyline. Works perfectly.

Then the magic touch: bring in Robin and use him as Robin is meant to be used. Tim Drake is the perfect choice for this. Damian has a ton of baggage that needs to be dealt with. But Tim is just the Robin who is the perfect companion/foil for Batman. He’s down-to-Earth and can do his job, and that adds a bit of extra flavor and fun to any Batman comic. Great choice by Zdarsky to bring that “Dynamic Duo” dynamic back to Batman comics. It’s classic for a reason.

I’ve missed this

The big climactic set piece is also really fun! Bruce Wayne gets to be Bruce Wayne for a bit, with Robin doing the secret superhero stuff. And Zdarsky plays it really smooth by having Bruce expect Penguin to be predictible, only to have the wool pulled out from under him with a classic Clayface reveal. Worked nicely for me, as did Bruce pressganging Clayface into helping people when the explosives went off. Nice little character touch that adds some extra flavor to the issue. And that all builds to the reveal that the Penguin is dying! So that first new storyline for the Penguin was a swerve, and he’s actually got this whole other plot going on! Fun! Shame to see him die, but if it helps Zdarsky’s story, I’m all in.

The Penguin looks phenomenal in this comic

Not sure what to make of Failsafe yet, so we’ll see where that all goes. But the art is perfect, the shots of Bruce Wayne wearing his dress shirt and a Batman mask are a fun touch. I loved how every single character was used throughout the issue. It all just feels like a very layered, very fun, very well-built Batman comic. I love that sort of thing.

So what’s my one big problem with this issue? Tim got shot! Come on! All this effort put into bringing the Dynamic Duo back to Batman comics, and Zdarsky shoots and hospitalizes Robin in the first issue for no good reason! Did we really need that? Tim Drake is finally getting a solid foundation under his feet again, finally getting used again, and he gets shot in his big return as the Boy Wonder? Pish tosh!

TL;DR: This is an incredibly strong and incredibly fun issue, kicking off the highly anticipated run by Chip Zdarsky. This comic is Batman to its very soul, while adding some fun, new layers to make it stand out. And bringing back the Dynamic Duo feel is *chef’s kiss*.


Captain American #2

Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #2
Writers: Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Speaking of comics that feel like full-blooded celebrations of their hero, check out the new Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty comic!

With help from his old radio buddies and new social life friends, Steve learns a bit more about the makers of his shield and the great game that’s being played by the new bad guys. It all leads him to a new green energy power plant in Germany, and he arrives just in time to find the bad guys ransacking the place. Cap fights them all, learning that they’re wearing a mix and match of gear from other bad guy groups, and are recruiting former SHIELD agents. Steve then sees that their mothership has his shield symbol on its bottom, and the various mystery players launch a big robo-man to fight Steve.

Meanwhile, Bucky knows more about these mystery players than he’s let on to Cap. Bucky heads to an underground casino in Madripoor to get info from an undercover Peggy Carter.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

The same strong sense of character that permeated the new Batman issue is also on full display in this new Steve Rogers Captain America series, and it’s a lot of fun! The creative team has a very good handle on Steve as a character, and we get a lot of great scenes of him interacting with normal people. I love this sort of thing, where the superhero gets to be a person and make friends and live a life outside of the costume. And then the issue rocks us with some great in-costume action, and the issue becomes even more well-rounded. This series, two issues in, is the whole package so far.

Cap vs. modern technology

The villains are also interesting enough to keep me invested so far. I complained up top about the vagueness of Tombstone’s criminal empire in Amazing Spider-Man, but that’s because his criminal empire feels like it’s supposed to be based on the real landscape of New York City. That’s why it feels flimsy. While the villains here are their own thing. Their mystery exists without calling into question the structural foundation. It’ll be a bit of a retcon to say they’ve been around for such and such an amount of time, but I can live with that kind of retcon. They’re mysterious and so far they’re pretty creative and interesting, so they definitely work as villains for my needs.

Also, the art is incredible. I’m never very good at talking about comic book art, I just know what I like. And I love the art in this comic. Very detailed, very good with the action and the set pieces, very good with the people. This is top caliber comic book art!

TL;DR: This is a rich and creative comic, full of strong character moments and some high quality art and action. Everything one could want from a Captain America comic can be felt in this issue.


Legion of X #3

Legion of X #3
Writer: Sy Spurrier
Artist: Jan Bazaldua
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Legion of X is not as good as Way of X, sad to say.

Nightcrawler and Weaponless Zsen head out into the Astral Plane, or some new levels of it, with Blindfold as their guide, to look into the Arakko god of mischief. Everything gets freaky deaky as they explore dreams, desires and fears in a dreamscape. Back on Krakoa, Juggernaut is feeling shook after his encounter with the Skinjumper, and Legion gives him some good advice. Then Juggernaut helps out Pixie when she faces some freaky deaky stuff of her own, while chasing the Skinjumper. They all realize that the Skinjumper is now worshiping the god of mischief, allowing it to get a foothold on Krakoa. Also, the god of mischief has turned Banshee into a flame-headed acolyte.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I’ve gone on record in saying that I don’t care for freaky deaky dream sequences. I dunno why, they’re just not my thing. And that’s pretty much all this issue does. Our characters are traveling through layers of the Astral Plane so severe that we get two separate maps of all the different layers to try to help us understand. My mind just glazed over as I tried to focus on the interactions of the individual characters, and that, at least, remains fun. I’m really digging the connection between Nightcrawler and Weaponless Zsen. I don’t normally like it when a relationship is so telegraphed, but this one really works for me. I think it’s because both characters are treating this pretty casually, and I find that fun.

Hawt

Say what I will about Legion of X, but at least there’s finally one Arakko character I actually like and want to read more about.

I also really enjoyed the chat that Juggernaut had with Legion, and how they referenced the fact that Legion is technically his nephew or step-nephew. That was fun! So for the most part, I’m enjoying a lot of the character use and character interactions in this series. But I’m not a big fan of how off the beaten path we are, how deep we are in strange layers of the Astral Plane. I’m not even entirely sure if we’re on the Astral Plane, so that might be my bad. But I’m just so lost in that regard.

TL;DR: Strong character writing buoys this series in a sea of really freaky deaky Astral Plane stuff.


Mighty Morphin #21

Mighty Morphin #21
Writer: Mat Groom
Artist: Moises Hidalgo
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

Is Mat Groom taking over full time once Parrott bows out following the 100th issue? I don’t know, but he’s putting in good work!

In the wake of everything that’s happened, Kimberly goes on a bit of a buddy tour, checking in with her various friends. She goes shopping and gets lunch from Trini, who fills her in on everything she’s been up to — including telling Kim about Shattered Grid and all those future Power Rangers they met! With the knowledge that they’re only some Power Rangers and not the Power Rangers, Kimberly is even more over a barrel about the whole thing. So she asks Billy to see if he can whip up some power upgrades.

Kimberly and Tommy head into the pocket training dimension to try out the new shiny armory upgrade Billy has made, but it uses up too much grid energy and the two of them get cut off. Soon the pocket dimension is turning volatile, and a bunch of bad guys emerge from the ether.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was an excellent issue that slowed down and explored Kimberly at a time when she’s really got some great character stuff going on. We know that her exit is inevitable, and I love that this comic can take the events from a single episode of the original show and actually flesh them out into a real story. The idea that Kimberly is grappling with the impermanence of being a Power Ranger is fascinating to me. I love that idea that Shattered Grid is giving her such doubts, that she now knows there are and will be many more Power Rangers. That is a line of thought that none of the shows explore, as far as I know.

In space, no one can hear you vogue

So this issue was a lot of great character exploration, coupled with some enjoyable, down-to-Earth hanging out. I love that stuff! Kim and Trini going shopping and using that to reflect on who they are as people and how far they’ve come was really enjoyable. And then the whole issue leads into some action and a cool Ranger power-up, so it’s not just wall-to-wall talking heads. This issue was a really great mix of character development and then cool action. That’s exactly what I want from this series.

Hopefully we get a really great Kim/Matt scene out of all of this. It has always felt like those two are destined for some great understanding, and with Parrott on the way out, I hope he gets the chance to make some magic happen. I will be endlessly curious about Matt, and surely Parrott’s and BOOM!’s plans for the character didn’t end with him becoming the Green Ranger.

TL;DR: This is a wonderful issue of meaningful character development and introspection, which is often what I love most about BOOM!’s Power Rangers comics! We all know that Kimberly leaves the Power Rangers, and I look forward to the comic giving that moment the depth it deserves.


Poison Ivy #2

Poison Ivy #2
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Marcio Takara
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

This remains a great new character-focused series.

Ivy has stopped by a diner to get some food, going on a little spiel about how she’s not a vegetarian because the aggressive farming that is done to fulfill vegetarian eating is really harmful to the local ecosystems. She gets to chatting with a friendly lady poet who plops down in her booth, and who is unaware that Ivy is slowly pollinating all the people in the diner with her death spores. The cops show up to arrest the poet (who also does wire fraud), and Ivy decides to help out by killing the cops and letting her escape. Ivy then hits the road herself, her mind getting a little woozy as she thinks about Harley Quinn.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Strong character work is a running theme in this week’s great comics, and the second issue of Poison Ivy is just as rich as everything else we’ve seen. Not as much superhero action, but just getting into Ivy’s head and mindset is a lot of fun this issue. Wilson has created a very weird, very fascinating and very character-specific story here, and I’m really digging it. Ivy is off on a weird, fungal suicide mission, but there’s still time to stop and have a grounded, human visit at a cafe. I like that. The human element is front and center with Ivy’s mission, and it’s just a fun little scene as this super-villain makes a new friend and then grotesquely kills some cops to help her out. It’s dark and yet beautiful, with some truly stellar artwork from Takara. This series has a unique feel to it that fits Poison Ivy perfectly.

TL;DR: The character focus of this series is really top notch, creating both a great take on Poison Ivy and a really weird, really perfect escapade for her.


Saga #60

Saga #60
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letters: Fonografiks

A bit of sad news, it seems Saga is going on another break. They’ll be back in January. I suppose I’ll be here when they come back.

The issue opens with Special Agent Gale visiting Klara in prison, to pump her for info about Hazel. He also informs Klara about Marko’s death and then very nearly kills her, but he’s stopped by a sympathetic prison guard. Then we jump back to Alana, Hazel and their crew, about a month after last issue, where Squire told Hazel he loved her (and the kids haven’t spoken since). Alana and Hazel are back to selling formula on the street corner now that they have a legit license, and they make enough that Alana takes everybody out to the galactic equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese for the night. Hazal and Squire play an arcade game together and hash out that Hazel doesn’t share Squire’s feelings.

When they head home for the evening, they find their rocketship tree on fire. All of Hazel’s memories of her dad on that tree come flooding back and she finally breaks down about his death.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

There’s that wonderful emotional trauma we know and love from Saga! Granted, I have long since said that characters only exist in a Brian K. Vaughn comic so that he can tragically kill them later, but I never expected it would be the spaceship tree! I knew its days would come to an end at some point, but this one definitely took me by surprise. And then adding Hazel’s grief on top of that was like that good, old stab to the gut that Saga excels at. The rest of the issue is just as strong. We get to check in with Klara and see her grief as well. We know from previous Hazel narration from way back and Klara will reunited with her granddaughter at some point, so that’s good. And then the chat between Hazel and Squire is nice, especially with it being held at a silly, spacey Chuck E. Cheese. So be it. All in all, this is a very strong, emotionally powerful issue to end on before a big break.

TL;DR: Saga is going away for a while again, and this issue delivers the sort of emotional gut punch one expects from this classic comic.


Strange Academy #18

Strange Academy #18
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

We haven’t had an issue of Strange Academy since March! I knew the series was going on hiatus, but I didn’t know they were gonna give us this random issue ahead of the hiatus.

At the very least, it seems I was right about everything!

Emily organized a student walk-out, and now they’re all hiding in the Sanctum Sanctorum. But the students want to know Emily’s plan, and they want to make demands, but Emily has no idea what to do next and she’s a little on edge. She has a bit of an angry blow-up, and Doyle senses it (he stayed at the school). Doyle pays another visit to the fortune teller to once again glimpse his future, and he has a big revelation: that ring of his body he gave to Emily to keep the dark forces at bay has instead been bonding Emily to the dark forces! She’s gone evil!

Meanwhile, some of the C-tier background students have ratted them out to the faculty, so Doctor Voodoo and Zelma Stanton take some Mindless Ones to go collect the students. But Emily has gone full evil at this point, and she uses her magic to fight back and take control. Then she decides the students are going to retreat to their new home: the Dark Dimension!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Oh man! I never expected to be right about this, but here we are! I was 100% not on Emily’s side in the last issue, but I thought the writing wanted me to be. Then here we learn that Emily’s actions are being driven by the bad guys! She’s going full evil! That’s a fun twist! So I’m definitely more on board with this story than even before. Thankfully, the writing and art remain a lot of fun. The twist is handled well, the characters are really strong, especially the innocent students who just think they need to support their friend Emily, unaware of what’s really going on. So it all comes together nicely.

The kids aren’t alright

The only real drawback this issue has is how isolated it is. The story picks up immediately after the last issue, but it’s been several months since then, and the momentum has worn off. Then the issue ends on a huge cliffhanger, without any pay-off. And we’re told we have to wait another couple of months to keep the story going. Apparently it’s going to restart with a new #1? Were sales down, so they’re doing that new #1 gimmick? I guess whatever it takes to allow me to see the end of this awesome story.

TL;DR: Despite being several months too late, this issue still has a lot of strength behind it, and the story takes a really interesting twist. Too bad it ends on a major cliffhanger, with a lot left hanging, just ahead of another hiatus.


The X-Cellent #5

The X-Cellent #5
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Michael “Doc” Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot

There’s an ad at the end of this issue stating that X-Cellent will return later this year. Was this the end of a 5-issue mini-series? Because that’s nuts, man!

Fluff died after falling from a great height, and his death is being investigated by celebrity blogger and teleporter Toodle Pip. She goes to Mirror Girl to get the scoop on Zeitgeist, but Mirror Girl is as conflicted as ever. Zeitgeist reveals his plan to the rest of the team: once he reaches 500 million followers (or acolytes), he’ll use the Book of Vishanti to turn himself into a living god. To earn some more followers, they head to a prison to break out some popular anti-heroes. X-Statix go to intercept, with Katie and Mike already arguing about their relationship.

After the successful prison break, X-Cellent return home and Zeitgeist discovers Toodle Pip. He takes her prisoner, kills Billy, the bad teleporter, and adds Toodle Pip to his team. Her smooth teleportation powers allow X-Cellent to teleport straight to the X-Statix HQ, where they bust up the joint while X-Statix are off signing autographs at a merch store.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I just don’t know what to say about this issue. I’m sorry. I have no review. This comic was good. I liked it, for the most part. It’s still written well, the characters are interesting and the art remains as god tier as ever. But man, what is this comic even about? Suddenly we have a brand new character as the star of the show? Toodle Pip seems fun, and I like her dynamic with the X-Cellent, but she comes out of nowhere. And it doesn’t help that I still don’t really know what this whole thing is about. Thankfully, Zeitgeist’s plan is finally explained. So at least we have a villain plan. But this is an X-Statix comic. There’s no way it’s just about superheroes fighting super-villain.

The Wall remains my favorite character

There is so much going on, swirling around, but none of it is really landing solidly for me. Definitely not the place to introduce a random new character to claim the focus all of a sudden. This series is just too wild. And that, I’m pretty sure, is entirely the point.

TL;DR: The writing, characters and especially the art are as strong and interesting as ever, but the plot and themes are so wildly all over the place that I just don’t know what to make of this issue or this series.


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.

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

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