Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/3/22
Happy Birthday to me! Not yet, of course. It won’t be until Tuesday — and I’ve got a big announcement to make! — but this is the comics review column ahead of my birthday, so why not say something? Life is fun that way. And comics were fun this week! Including the launch of a new Thunderbolts and another great issue of The Variants.
Comic Book of the Week goes to Ant-Man #2 for how much fun this anniversary series has been, really reaching back into the past and capturing the era-specific magic of guys like Eric O’Grady in his heyday.
Meanwhile, I’m deep into Total War: Warhammer 3 these days, loving the new factions and the giant map. Glad to finally be playing Immortal Empires! I’ve also gotten around to watching Paper Girls on Amazon Prime and it is a real letdown. It feels like an early 2000s Nickelodeon take on the material.
Comic Reviews: Ant-Man #2, Thunderbolts #1 and The Variants #3.
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Tom Reilly
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
I loved the Irredeemable Ant-Man when it first came out, and just like last issue, this is another fun treat of a throwback.
Shortly after stealing the prototype Ant-Man suit, Eric O’Grady runs out of Pym Particles and decides his best option is to dig up Scott Lang’s grave and hope he was buried with some. But O’Grady is interrupted, once by the future Ant-Man (Eric wants Lost TV spoilers from the future), and then by this era’s Hank Pym, who is really a Skrull in disguise. The Skrull is worried that O’Grady has figured out his cover, so they do battle. Then O’Grady learns that his suit can synthesize its own Pym Particles, and the Skrull realizes the guy’s an idiot. Then a time travel portal sucks O’Grady into the future battle, where he knocks out Hank Pym, confusing him with the one he was just fighting.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Two issues in and this anniversary celebration has been a phenomenal idea! Ewing and his art team are doing gangbusters work to recreate the look, feel and tone of the era-appropriate Ant-Men. This issue is a blast from start to finish, cheerfully exploring the debauchery of Eric O’Grady’s Ant-Man and the whole era, making a point of the fact that Hank Pym was being impersonated by a Skrull for Secret Invasion. The issue is a hoot! O’Grady was a fun, asshole doofus of a character, and Ewing is clearly having fun exploring that aspect. And Skrull Pym makes for an excellent foe for some classic comic fisticuffs, so the issue just has a lot going for it. The humor is especially on point.
The artwork also deserves a lot of credit for recapturing the style of the time. Really, this comic is the whole package of recreating the classic Irredeemable Ant-Man style. Kudos all around! The overarching story of the future Ant-Man is also fun. It’s a great gag that Eric O’Grady, cognizant of not changing the future in significant ways, uses the guy’s time to ask for spoilers from the TV show Lost. That’s funny stuff.
For the record, I was very happy with the ending of Lost.
TL;DR: Another perfectly recreated historical celebration of the history of Ant-Men, bringing all of us back, flawlessly, to the world of the Irredeemable Eric O’Grady.
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Sean Izaakse
Colorist: Java Tartaglia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
There have been so many Thunderbolts teams over the years. What’s one more?
New York City Mayor Luke Cage and his staff are putting together a new team of Thunderbolts, because superheroes are outlawed in New York City unless they’re government sanctioned. He taps Hawkeye to lead the team, and has a random assortment of heroes that were gathered together by focus groups and algorithms: America Chavez, Power Man, Persuasion and new character Gutsen Glory, who does guns and is mysterious. Their first mission is to capture the old Thunderbolts team of villains that worked for Wilson Fisk when he was mayor. It’s a big brawl, that ends with Spectrum showing up and taking out Electro.
The day is saved, the Thunderbolts are a team and everybody’s got their own little drama going on. So all in a day’s work for a first issue.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is good, quality, bread and butter superhero comics. Zub does everything by the book and it makes for a very good starting issue. We’ve got the good guys, we’ve got the bad guys, and in a really strong choice, he has the new team cleaning up the mess that was the last team. I thought that was a strong story choice, and gives this issue more than enough of a big bang beginning. It also keeps this debut issue into a done-in-one story. Everything is packaged up nicely, combining hero and team introductions with some well-known and easily understood villains. No complicated new bad guys to introduce. No ongoing story to crowd things out. The choice to be self-contained works exceptionally well.
Zub also does a great job setting up the characters. Everyone has their own, unique personality and some event that kicks off their own personal storyline. He’s also setting up characters interacting, which will hopefully blossom overtime. All the bases are covered, all the thought and care is there. He’s also got that fun angle of Luke Cage and his mayoral team as a unique oversight. I’m loving the whole set up that Zub and his creative team have built here and I look forward to more issues. The art is also exceptionally good, with clear, energetic and pretty traditional comic book artwork.
TL;DR: This is a very strong start to the new series. Everything comes together nicely in a well-written, well-drawn issue that sets up all the characters, pits them against some meaningful villains and establishing the new team with panache.
The Variants #3
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Phil Noto
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
This story continues to build and be pretty darn exciting. Lots of mysteries to still uncover, and lots of great characters put into use.
Jessica and She-Hulk make peace with the new Jewel variant and start to put the pieces together. Jess has been getting headaches whenever a variant arrives, and that means one is missing. They gather all the variants together at the coffee shop to fill them in on the Purple Man problems and to figure out what’s going on — and Jess receives a secret message not to trust any of these variants, no matter how nice they seem.
Meanwhile, Luke Cage is in hiding with their daughter, and he’s attacked by another variant! Luke beats him up, but not before the variant mentions that he’s being forced to do this and their daughter isn’t safe.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This series is just plain great. Simone and Noto are comic superstars for a reason, and here they are crafting a fun, complex and creative Jessica Jones mystery. You just know it’s going to be quality, and it absolutely is. There’s a lot of diversity in the variants, and the arrival of an innocent, trauma-less Jewel is a nice touch. She’s a fun foil for our regular, hard-edged Jess. The scene where they all get together as a crew to work this out is a fun scene, as is the reveal that Jess shouldn’t trust them. That’s a solid third issue stakes raiser. And the arrival of a male variant is handled very well, because we don’t expect it until Luke Cage reveals it. That was a fun final action scene. Everything works in this series and it’s a delight to read.
TL;DR: Another stellar issue of The Variants raises the stakes and finds some really fun and clever ways to push its premise. Top talent creators doing top talent work.
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.