Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/30/22
Pretty light week for comics for me, just a couple of Marvel comics to get me through the week. Fortunately, they’re all really banging, like The Variants and a new Ant-Man mini-series.
Comic book of the Week goes to Amazing Spider-Man #900 for a truly special and enjoyable anniversary issue. I hope this is a sign of what we can expect from these creators going forward.
Meanwhile, the Harley Quinn cartoon is back and I love it! The first few episodes of season 3 are out and they’re just as good as the first two seasons. Can’t wait for more! And I just finished Severance on AppleTV+ last night, and it lives up to all the hype I’ve been hearing. Crazy show! Also, DC League of Super-Pets is boring as hell and nobody should bother with it, unless you need to entertain young children.
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #900, Ant-Man #1 and The Variants #2.
Amazing Spider-Man #900
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Ed McGuinness
Inkers: Mark Morales, Ed McGuinness, Wade Von Grawbadger and Cliff Rathburn
Colorists: Marcio Menyz, Dijjo Lima and Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
I guess this explains why those first five issues of the new Amazing Spider-Man weren’t a big deal: they were biding time to reach this milestone 900th issue! And if this is the style we can expect from Wells going forward, this comic should be a blast!
A birthday party for Peter Parker is interrupted by Doctor Octopus’s arms, which have kidnapped J. Jonah Jameson. Spidey saves Jonah and makes peace with the arms, which eventually take him to the new villain’s base, where Spidey is beaten up by a Super Adaptoid with all of the powers (and classic dialogue callbacks) of the Sinister Six. This is all a plot by the new villain, Living Brain 2.0, who kidnaps Peter’s friends from the party in his quest to learn “Who is Spider-Man?” But he doesn’t want something as simple as Spidey’s secret identity, he wants to know and understand the true meaning of Spider-Man.
This all eventually leads to a big fight where Spider-Man has to team up with the original members of the Sinister Six to defeat the Sinister Adaptoid. It’s pretty fun. And ultimately, their buffoonery and arguing causes the Adaptoid to glitch out. Afterwards, the Sinister Six want to destroy the Living Brain 2.0, but Spider-Man stands in their way. Risking his life to save the vulnerable Living Brain reveals the true meaning of Spider-Man to the villain, and he sends all of the Six packing before thanking Spidey and wishing him a happy birthday.
Afterwards, all these heroics earn Spidey a smooch from the Black Cat!
There are also a couple of super fun back-up stories that add to the overall experience.
Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.
This is one of those issues where it’s clear the creators just sat down and crafted a fun, stand alone story starring our favorite superheroes. And I love that sort of comic! Wells did his research on some early Spider-Man stories involving the Living Brain and the Sinister Six and put together this fun, clever, character-focused modern issue. A Super Adaptoid with the powers of the Sinister Six? That definitely tracks. All those villains teaming up with Spider-Man to fight the monster, and none of them getting along or playing good guy? Super fun! Additional character moments for fun supporting characters like Aunt May, Flash Thompson, J. Jonah Jameson and even Anna Maria Marconi?! I love Anna Maria Marconi, and she’s hilarious in this issue!
And the rest is fun too. Living Brain 2.0 is a fun, one-off villain built out of some classic Spider-Man lore. And the story provides a good opportunity to underline what makes Spider-Man who he is, which is always fun. Spider-Man is a hero who will stand up against bad guys, even when he’s beaten and broken. I love having that sort of thing highlighted, and this story does a great job with it. And it does a great job with characterization. Wells zeroes in on the personalities and mannerisms of each member of the Sinister Six and does a phenomenal job giving everyone a unique feel as they butt heads and get in each other’s way. It’s super fun! I especially enjoy the moments where Sandman isn’t quite sure if he even hates Spider-Man at the moment, considering some recent developments. It’s funny stuff.
For the record, I am totally on board with a Spidey/Black Cat romance. I’ve always enjoyed them together. And also for the record, every single person Peter Parker has apparently ever known gets together to throw him a surprise birthday party, even when the ongoing storyline is that a lot of people are mad at him? I’m lucky if anybody thinks to wish me a Happy Birthday off Facebook…
TL;DR: This super-sized anniversary issue is a real Spider-Man treat, as a bunch of creative teams come together for some really great Spidey stories. The main story by Wells and McGuinness is pure, perfect Spider-Man, with tons of callbacks, great guest stars and an overall fun adventure. Quality issue all around.
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Tom Reilly
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
It’s Ant-Man’s 60th anniversary, so we get this fun little 4-issue mini-series celebrating all his different eras. First up is original Ant-Man, Hank Pym.
Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are out on a movie date when Hank is kidnapped by the Ant-Agonists, a team-up of some of his most fiendish villains: The Protector, Trago, the Time Master and the Window Washer. But Ant-Man was able to send his ants to warn Jan, and soon the Wasp shows up to distract the foes. Ant-Man breaks free and beats the bad guys! Then he’s time-napped by the Ant-Man of the Future for an important mission!
Also, Scott Lang and Eric O’Grady make fun little cameos in this story.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This issue perfectly captures the look and feel of a classic, Silver Age comic book, right on down to the caption boxes and the tone of voice. It’s a fun frolic through old timey comics. And it really works as a stand alone comic in its own right. A bunch of classic Hank Pym adversaries are brought together to get their revenge, and Hank uses all of his powers, smarts and allies to whip their butts and save the day. It’s clever and fun, putting everybody to really good use. The way Hank escapes and turns the tide is especially clever, using the characters and the situation perfectly instead of just pulling an escape out of thin air. And then the overall mystery of the Ant-Man from the Future makes for a strong spinal cord for the overall mystery. I look forward to seeing Ant-Men from different eras team up.
TL;DR: This throwback issue is the perfect idea for an anniversary celebration. The look, feel and tone are all pure Silver Age and it’s a fun visit.
The Variants #2
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Phil Noto
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Making Jessica Jones mysteries an ongoing thing is perfectly OK in my book.
The issue opens with a really fun flashback to a diner meeting between Jessica Jones and Tigra, where they discuss the safety of Hell’s Kitchen. In the present, Jessica is confronted by two variants of herself, including one who appears to be a version of Captain America. When her daughter comes into the room, both Jess and Luke either knock out or scare off the variants. Jess then reveals everything to Luke, and learns that the woman from the previous issue, Maria, has killed herself. Jess tells Luke to take Dani and hide, while she calls She-Hulk for back-up in case she snaps from Purple Man mind bombs. Then they discover a new variant, dressed as Jewel, in Jessica’s apartment.
And the Jessica on the cover making out with Daredevil? One of her variants.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I love stories where superheroes get to act like real people, and Jessica Jones stories have always been a great place for that. I loved the opening scene, where Jess and Tigra just hang out in a diner shooting the breeze. They talk casually about life as a tiger person and other superhero stuff, like an invite to join A-Force from back in the day. It’s super fun and exactly what I love! And then it continues on with the rest of the story, as Jessica interacts with the likes of Luke Cage, Daredevil and then She-Hulk. It’s fun stuff, and works really well to make this sort of comic feel special.
Then we’ve got the actual mysteries going on, and they are more than enough to propel the narrative. I’m a little bothered by the idea that nobody stops to just talk with the Jessica Jones variants showing up. Like, they all know they live in the Marvel Universe. Seeing a bunch of variants of yourself show up shouldn’t be so weird that you don’t stop to talk to them. But such is the story, and it works, because it’s an interesting mystery. And then the comic also has the Purple Man mystery going on, that Jessica might become victim to a mind bomb. It’s a little disappointing that the Purple Man needs to be the villain in every Jessica Jones story, but such is comics. I can live with it, especially when it’s this compelling. So let’s see how all of this plays out!
Also, needless to say, Phil Noto’s artwork is absolutely perfect for this series. Great creative team working at the top of their games!
TL;DR: This series is everything great about modern superhero comics. Strong writing and art craft a compelling story about real people as superheroes, and I can only hope there are more such Jessica Jones Mysteries in the future.
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.