Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/7/23

First week of comics of the year and we’ve got a banger of a start! I really enjoyed all the comics I read this week from the Big Two, so I hope this means we’ve got a good year ahead of us. New issues of Batman and Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty always makes for a good week. Remember when they fought in Marvel vs. DC in the 90s?!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Scarlet Witch #1 for a really fun, really solid first issue to her new solo series. It’s always nice when a new series puts their best foot forward.

Scarlet Witch can do whatever she wants

Meanwhile, I finally got my Playstation 5! Is that a big accomplishment anymore? I found one for retail price and used some Christmas money to take the plunge on the console. I won’t be playing anything yet, though, because I’m still working my way through Pokemon Violet. I’m not sure why that game is taking me so long…Anyway, I also splurged on the collected edition of Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, which has been a real treat to revisit.

Comic Reviews: Batman #131, Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #8, Fantastic Four #3 and Scarlet Witch #1.


Batman #131

Batman #131
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Mike Hawthorne
Inker: Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Thank the universe we have Chip Zdarsky’s Batman comic to give me the Tim Drake Robin story I actually want.

Bruce Wayne wakes up in an alley and quickly deduces that Failsafe didn’t kill him, merely teleported him to another dimension. He starts to get his bearings and figure out this new Gotham City, then is drawn into a scuffle in a nearby apartment building. In this reality, Harvey Dent is some Venomed Terminator known as Judge Dent, who goes around delivering his judgement on random people. Bruce fights him for a bit before a kid named Julia helps him escape and bring him to safety. While patching himself up, Bruce realizes that Failsafe has delivered him to a universe without a Batman, where Gotham City needs to be saved.

Also in this universe is a masked dude named Red Mask, who says he’s been waiting for Bruce to show up, and tasks this universe’s Selina Kyle to make Bruce a top priority.

In a back-up story, Tim Drake is simultaneously trying to fight crime in Gotham now that criminals believe Batman is dead, while also trying to figure out what could have happened to Bruce, assuming Failsafe didn’t kill him. He’s got Jon Kent and Nightwing to help out.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Look, the Tim Drake: Robin comic is fine. It’s doing a fine job at what it wants to be. Unfortunately for me, what it wants to be and what I want from a Tim Drake story are two different things. This back-up feature is what I want. In my opinion, Tim Drake works best when he’s working with Batman. That’s the point of his Robin. Dick, Jason, Stephanie and Damian are all very unique personalities with a lot going on. But Tim’s best trait is being the best partner to Batman; or at least that’s my favorite trait. So getting a Tim Drake story where he’s working as Batman’s partner (even without a Batman) is my kind of Tim Drake Robin story. So I’m quite pleased with how Zdarsky has used Tim, and now this Tim back-up feature. I’m pleased as punch.

But that’s only the back-up feature. What about the main story?

No, let’s stay focused on Robin!

This is an interesting new wrinkle to this Failsafe storyline and I’m up for seeing how it plays out. Sending a hero into an alternate reality is a comic book classic, and I suppose it makes sense for Failsafe’s ultimate endgame for Bruce Wayne. I love a good alternate reality story, and we’ll see how this goes. This first issue does a solid job of staying in Bruce Wayne’s head as he assesses the situation. And we’ve already got a good, solid peek at how things are different, and yet the same. So yeah, the main story in this issue works just fine as a launching point for Bruce Wayne in an alternate reality. I look forward to him rebuilding Batman from the ground up and doing what he can to make this new place better. He’s already got a new Robin, so that works well for me and my interests!

And then, of course, that Tim Drake back-up feature is excellent.

TL;DR: The next chapter of Chip Zdarsky’s Batman kicks off with a nice issue of set-up and character exploration. And he continues to do great things with Robin, so I’m happy with that.


Captain America #8

Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #8
Writers: Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

This story keeps rolling along nicely and I am still on board.

Captain America has woken up in the middle of Kansas with no memory of the last five days. He finds a local store and gets up to speed on how AIM has taken over lower Manhattan, complete with a bubble shield. He calls in help from Aaron Fischer of the Captains Network and rounds up his team in an abandoned rail yard. They’ve all got similar memory gaps, so Cap calls in a favor from Emma Frost to figure out what they lost. She dives into their minds and finds out they were attacked by MODOC, a new MODOK designed for mental stuff. With that all sorted out, Cap names his squad the Invaders so that they can invade Manhattan.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed that Emma’s guest appearance was so short. Captain America and Emma Frost are two characters who never get to interact, and Marvel found a really special spark between them at the Hellfire Gala. Lanzing and Kelly take that spark and turn it into a freakin’ bonfire this issue, and it’s delightful! Cap is so nervous about contacting Emma, especially with his girlfriend right there. It’s adorable! And a really fun new look at Steve Rogers, who isn’t always some Boy Scout. Then Emma shows up and is written wonderfully. The whole sequence is a neat crossover and I hugely support having such fun in a comic like this one.

Poor, nervous Captain America

And Emma is only the biggest and best guest appearance. We also get Aaron Fischer, the Captain of the Railways. I didn’t read that recent Captain America comic where they introduced the Captains Network, but I skimmed it and know the gist. And the idea that Cap has some allies out there to quickly call in a pinch is fun! I’m all in. That he then uses these allies to prepare for an invasion of Manhattan to stop AIM is just great. I love where this story is going and absolutely love how all these characters are handled and juggled. This is a creative team in full command of their story and cast, knowing exactly what they’re doing and delivering good work issue after issue.

I just wish Emma hung around a bit more. She’s fun!

TL;DR: A couple guest appearances make this issue especially fun, building on a very solid foundation of escalation in the ongoing story.


Fantastic Four #3

Fantastic Four #3
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Iban Coello
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Ryan North has been having fun setting up the personalities and quirks of his Fantastic Four, and Johnny Storm is the last one on his list!

With the Fantastic Four broken up, Johnny Storm is living a new life as Jonathan Fairweather, an employee at ShopLand. The owner of ShopLand, a dirtbag named Merrill, is treating his employees like crap, so Johnny tries to confront him as the Human Torch. Merrill turns out to be a goon who made a single appearance way back in the early 1980s and he wants revenge against the Torch — which he gets by beating Torch in a fight, since he knows Johnny won’t burn a person. Johnny gets back at Merrill by organizing the other employees to get evidence of his illegal activities while Johnny provides a distraction. Justice is achieved! And then Sue calls Johnny to get the band back together to investigate something weird going on with the Thing.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This is another solid, done-in-one story focused on a specific member of the Fantastic Four. I don’t think it’s as creative or as fun as the ones about the other members, but it’s still an enjoyable Johnny Storm story. North definitely has some fun getting into Johnny’s character and personality, making him very distinct from the other members of the team. And Coello and his art team do a phenomenal job drawing the Human Torch ignited. That was the highlight of the issue for me. He’s all flame and power and cool oranges. And then he’s put to good use taking down this corrupt business owner. It’s a fun little contained story with a lot of opportunities to show off Johny as a character, both his humor, his jovial nature and his heroism in the face of anything.

TL;DR: This issue is a really nice Johnny Storm package, establishing his character ahead of the creative team really digging into their story plans.


Scarlet Witch #1

Scarlet Witch #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Inking Assist: Elisabetta D’Amico
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

I’m not much of a Scarlet Witch fan, but I’m always open to trying out a new #1 issue from the major comic book companies.

Wanda Maximoff has opened a curios shop in Upstate New York, where she sells magical trinkets with the help of Darcy Lewis, making her comic book debut. In this shop she has created The Last Door, a magical doorway that people who need help can use to walk through into her shop. And so comes Jarnette Chase, from Italy, whose hometown has been taken over by obscure Marvel villain The Corruptor. So the Scarlet Witch heads to town and defeats him, freeing everybody and saving the day — with the help of a magic-proof stone that Jarnette just happens to own.

Wanda then heads home to close up shop with Darcy — then stepping through the Last Door is Viv Vision, who needs help with some violent dreams. Also, Quicksilver was there for a fun guest appearance. And we find out that Wanda met Darcy when she came through the Last Door, but Darcy won’t tell Wanda what she needs help with.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’m pleased to say my curiosity with this first issue paid off, because it’s a delightful done-in-one story that introduces all the important characters well, pits them into an entertaining adventure and sets up enough for an ongoing series. This first issue does everything right. Orlando does a fine job laying out the new status quo, including The Last Door and what it does. His Wanda is a very solid character, with all her madness in her past, with her now trying to make up for it. And I really like this status quo. Wanda living a quiet life in her own little shop, with a magic door that brings adventures to her so that she can help people. Throw in Darcy as a sidekick, and Quicksilver as an occasional guest, and I really like this set up a lot. I especially like the mystery tease at the end that Darcy came through the door but has not yet told Wanda her problem. That’s some good mystery set-up!

This could be a real cozy comic

The adventure in this issue isn’t anything too wild or special. I will always enjoy the use of some obscure characters, and we get two in this issue with the Corruptor and Doctor Hydro in an opening action scene. That’s a hoot. Orlando does a phenomenal job writing the confrontation between Wanda and Corruptor, really digging into both characters as they face off. And Orlando did great with the supporting characters, like Jarnette and her wife. Seriously, the writing in this issue is that of a true professional and master of his craft, setting everyone up and treating everyone as important. This comic is a pleasure to read.

And Pichelli knocks it out of the park with the gorgeous artwork! This is the Pichelli I’ve been waiting to see come back. She was amazing when she helped introduce Mile Morales all those years ago, but I feel like Marvel kept putting her on bummer projects, like that J.J. Abrams Spider-Man nonsense. But here her artwork is smooth, detailed, personable and crisp as all get out. I look forward to seeing her work on this series.

TL;DR: This first issue does everything right and it does everything well to set up a new status quo for Wanda and show us a comic worth reading. Consider me on board to check this series out going forward.


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 January 7, 2023, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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