Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/25/23
It’s another week of jam-packed comic books! A lot of good ones! A lot of new announcements! It’s always fun having something to read. I need to get back into reading my big stack of tpbs. Sometimes I think I just like buying shiny things on Amazon. Anyway, this week features such fun comics as Amazing Spider-Man, Nightwing and Saga!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Superman #1 for a perfect relaunch first issue. This is one god damned gorgeous comic book, people.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, though I can see why critics didn’t enjoy it. Hopefully it doesn’t go down as Marvel’s first flop. All that really matters is that I had fun. And I hope to have fun at Cocaine Bear this weekend. Should be a blast!
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #20, Nightwing #101, Saga #62, Strange Academy: Finals #4, and Superman #1.
Amazing Spider-Man #20
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Terry Dodson
Inker: Rachel Dodson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
If you’re going to have a fill-in creative team for two issues, this is the way to do it.
Spider-Man, Black Cat, White Rabbit and Kareem are on the run from a bunch of tech start-up punks wearing stolen super-villain gear, who are out to avenge the murder of their boss, Mychal. It’s a ton of fun as Kelly focuses on Cat and Rabbit banter, alongside Spidey and Kareem banter. Then even some Spidey/Rabbit/Cat flirting/banter. A wonderfully dialogue-focused issue. Eventually, the bad guys are defeated, and Spidey reveals that Mychal is alive and is simply invisible in his Mysterio costume. Our heroes turn the idiots over to the police, Kareem decides to get some respect from White Rabbit, and Peter and Felicia have a moment where he finally lays out his current feelings for Mary Jane.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I had so much fun with this issue and this two-part story. Kelly is a longtime Spider-Man writer, so he knows these characters. He came up with a fun little story and used it to its full effect. Tech bros (and girls) using their wealth to have speciality vacations where they use super-villain gear just to have fun? That sounds exactly like a thing that would exist. So I loved that creativity. But honestly, this issue scores so high because it’s just so much fun to read! I love snappy, witty dialogue, and we get that in bushels this issue. It’s like Kelly is just letting out years’ worth of Spider-Man quips he hadn’t been able to write in a while. Team him up with Black Cat and White Rabbit and we’ve got a trifecta of fun characters bantering playfully with each other.
A lot of Spider-Man fans are upset that he’s not married to Mary Jane anymore, but I have given up any annoyance or anger I had at One More Day. I understand why Marvel keeps doing this to Peter and I’m fine with it, as long as we get fun comics. And Peter being in a fun and flirty relationship with Felicia, where he’s free to be a little reactive to White Rabbit, is great fun to read. I had a blast with this issue. The art was still a step down from what I know the Dodsons are normally capable of, but that’s probably what one gets with fill-in art. Maybe they didn’t have time to give it their A-game. It was fine.
TL;DR: I had a ton of fun with this issue, and it feels like the creative team did too. If Marvel is going to keep Peter and Mary Jane apart, it’ll be easier to accept if a lot of stories have this much freedom and flirty banter.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Travis Moore
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Same Nightwing time, same Nightwing channel.
Nightwing and the Titans are protecting Olivia Desmond from Neron, who wants her soul. The villain enlists the aid of the Grinning Man, some evil being who takes the form of others, and is currently living life as the King of Vlatava. Once plans are in motion, the authorities find evidence of a body buried beneath the rubble of Titans Academy, which was destroyed in Dark Crisis. The Titans help investigate and find the body of the King, which is weeks old. During the autopsy, the pathologist knocks out Nightwing and assumes his form, then proceeds to join the other Titans into returning to the magically-protected place they’re keeping Olivia.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
A new Nightwing storyline kicks off — with ties set up in a previous issue — and I’m on board, obviously. This comic is too good to ignore, and the new storyline seems fun. The Grinning Man creates a very memorable first impression. He seems dangerous and funny, and he’s here to cause some chaos. That totally works in this story. And I generally like the idea of Nightwing and the Teen Titans protecting the daughter of Blockbuster from Neron. It’s as good a story idea as anyway, and puts our heroes in a fun light. They’re good with kids. Though if I have any nitpicks, it’s that this issue is a little heavy on referencing other stories and events. It’s also a little silly that after Titans Academy was destroyed in Dark Crisis that Nightwing and the Titans would just rebuild in another city before the Academy was fully cleaned up. If they’re gonna be targets of super-villains, perhaps they should be a bit more careful?
TL;DR: Nice, solid and enjoyable start to a new story, with high stakes, a dangerous new villain and some good looks for our heroes.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Fiona Staples
Saga continues to be an enjoyable read, and at times, pretty predictable.
In flashback, we see how Alana and Petrichor buried Marko’s body, and how Alana immediately decided against going on a quest for revenge — though that’s what Petrichor set out to do. In the present day, Alana turns down the witch’s offer to resurrect Marko, and later explains to her kids that it was likely all bullshit anyway. Then they head to dinner and Alana reads them that novel by D. Oswald Heist that set everything in motion anyway, and Hazel and Squire get upset at the use of the R-word…though something more is going on with Squire.
Elsewhere, The Will wants to propose to Gwen and has a nice heart-to-heart with Sophie. And Special Agent Gale tracks down Ginny to get info on Upsher, but she fights back and he’s forced to kill her and her family.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Brian K. Vaughn likes to kill characters. I’m pretty sure new characters are only introduced in Saga so that he can kill them. I barely remember Ginny, and no effort is made to remind us who she is, and then she’s dead. Because she can be killed. Why not? She wasn’t doing anything else. It’s just a bummer. Everybody who exists in this comic is probably going to meet a gruesome death. It’s just the nature of the beast. Thankfully, the beast is also very entertaining to read. I love the adventures of Hazel and her weird family. I love having something brewing for Squire. I love Sophie’s maturity. This remains a well-constructed, well-drawn, engaging story. Simple as that. But now we’ve got another random supporting character killed for the heck of it, and that sort of thing bums me out. Especially since it doesn’t really add anything to the story.
Sometimes I wish Saga would just get on with it already…
TL;DR: Another fine issue of Saga comes and goes. It’s a bit of a bummer at times, but is otherwise as engaging as ever.
Strange Academy: Finals #4
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
This comic really feels like it’s building to a big finale. I’m very much looking forward to it.
While the students of Strange Academy help New Orleans with an oncoming hurricane, Iric realizes that Emily has gone too far and he wants out. Dessy fights him for his betrayal. Iric accidentally kills her and returns home, where all is forgiven. But Emily is now more powerful than ever, and is allied with Dormammu and his army!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is just another solid, enjoyable issue in this excellent series. The ongoing story moves along nicely, with Emily, Iric and Dessy coming face-to-face with Dormammu. And then the comic also features just some fun academy stuff, as we get a class with Magik in Limbo, and we have the students help out with an upcoming hurricane. That’s definitely a Louisiana thing to worry about. And, of course, there’s the emotional payoff when Iric sees the error of his ways and is forgiven by his old friends, because they’re the good guys. These characters are all very well defined at this point, and each issue is an excellent comic. Now we just wait to see how it all plays out in the grand finale. I’m excited.
TL;DR: Another excellent issue moves the story along nicely, while mixing in good character moments.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Ariana Maher
I said I would give all these new Superman comics their fair shake, and that was a damn good decision! This issue is fire!
Things are back to normal in the world of Superman. He’s got his secret identity back, he’s fighting bad guys like Livewire, Lois Lane is the new editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet and Lex Luthor is in prison. S’all good…except for whatever Lex is actually up to. For one thing, he’s constantly whispering in Clark’s ear as he tries to fight bad guys or go about his day. Clark trained himself years ago to focus his hearing on specific people in case of emergencies, Lex being one of them. Lex now knows this, so he’s constantly chiming in to give Superman advice in fighting bad guys. For you see, Lex Luthor fears some great evil is on the horizon, and he wants to work with Superman to stop it — though obviously Superman isn’t buying it.
With Lex in prison, he set up contracts to turn Lexcorp into Supercorp, with Mercy Graves running things. All of Luthor’s scientific and engineering infrastructure is now dedicated to helping Superman. And if Superman tries to turn away from it, Lex will cancel all the contracts, putting a ton of people out of work. Superman doesn’t want to accept any of this, and flies out to see Lex — only to be interrupted by an attack from Parasite. Superman battles this upgraded villain while Lex taunts him that Supes is not just fighting his classic villains anymore, he’s fighting Lex’s villains.
Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.
I gotta say, this is a perfect comic book. Forgive any hyperbole, because this issue was a total blast to read. Everything worked to perfection. From the writing to the characters to the status quo set-ups to the villains to especially the career-defining artwork from Jamal Campbell, this issue has it all and is a perfect relaunch for the Man of Steel. It’s a wonderful blend of clever, engaging writing, a good place for all the characters and picture perfect artwork, from pencils to colors to beyond. Let’s just go through it.
We open with an attack from Livewire. Classic. But she’s attacking the CEO of the broadcasting company that took her podcast off the air. It’s a fun modern twist to a classic super-villain trouble! And it leads to Superman having to step in as a wedding officiant, which is pitch perfect Supermanning, as far as I’m concerned. How fun! I also love everything to do with the status quo set up. Clark Kent is a secret identity again, and he’s hard at work at the Daily Planet, meeting deadlines and being a good reporter. He’s got Jimmy Olsen, and he’s got Lois Lane in the fun new position of E-i-C. Sounds good to me!
The best is Lex Luthor. He’s back in prison, which is always a good place for him. But I love the idea that Lex is weaponizing the fact that Superman has trained his super-hearing to pinpoint specific people. Not for the usual evil, but in this new situation where Lex wants to help Superman face an upcoming threat. That is a fun and interesting place to have Lex, and it works so well in the issue, by having Lex try to give Superman play-by-play instructions to fight bad guys. He’s a neat factor in the issue. And I especially love the idea that Lex has turned over his company to help Superman. It’s like season 5 of the TV show Angel, where the bad guys surrendered and let the good guys take over their operation to try to use their resources for good. It leads to some interesting conundrums because the good guys could do a lot of good with those resources…but is it moral? And are the bad guys doing this on purpose for some nefarious scheme? I love the mystery of what Lex is up to, and the tease that the new villains are Lex’s villains. Fun idea.
But the real star of the show is the artwork. Holy cow, people. I knew Jamal Campbell was good. His work on Far Sector elevated that series every single page. But this issue is another level. Every single page, every single panel, is so full of life, character, energy and color. Campbell has full control of the page, giving us some great angles, some great vistas, some great little character moments. I love the look of all the classic characters. I love the vibrancy of the colors. This is a true professional given enough time to make a really gorgeous comic. And it’s made all the more special by being Superman. Who doesn’t love to see such a well-crafted Superman #1?
TL;DR: Joshua Williamson and especially Jamal Campbell deliver a knockout first issue of their new Superman series. Everything from story to characters to especially the artwork is a true masterclass in simple, enjoyable superhero storytelling.
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.
Posted on February 25, 2023, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman and tagged Amazing Spider-Man, Image, Image Comics, Nightwing, Saga, Strange Academy, Strange Academy: Finals. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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