Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/1/23

Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone! I love this holiday and all the internet hijinks that ensure. I would have done something with my blog, but I’m out of town this weekend, so I didn’t have time. That’s also why my review list is so short this week. Just a pair of comics.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Strange Academy: Finals #5 for a truly wonderful cliffhanger.

This isn’t the cliffhanger

Meanwhile, I’ve finally started playing Gotham Knights and I can immediately see what everybody disliked about this game. The fighting just isn’t fun. It’s a chore. But there was no way I was going to pass up Robin: The Video Game, so I’m going to see this one through to the end. I also finished off the second season of Carnival Row and I was quite pleased with both the season and the ending. I really liked Carnival Row, and it’s a shame the show didn’t take off.

Comic Reviews: Invincible Iron Man #4 and Strange Academy: Finals #5.

Invincible Iron Man #4

Invincible Iron Man #4
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Juan Frigeri
Colorist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

I’m starting to wane a bit on this Invincible Iron Man comic. It’s not doing much for me. It’s still a strong comic, and very well written. It’s just not keeping my interest.

Fei Long calls out Iron Man after purchasing his company, and they face off in front of the New York Stock Exchange. They trade barbs and blows, but mostly it’s Iron Man overpowering the newbie. He tells Fei Long to surrender and confess to authorities, but a defeated Fei Long is just pleased he has a worthy opponent. Tony heads to space to clear his head, then pays a visit to Emma Frost for back-up.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

As I mentioned in my review of last issue, I don’t think Fei Long is a good villain for this comic. I realize he’s Duggan’s character, created over in X-Men, but it definitely feels exactly like Tony calls it in this issue — he didn’t take off as an X-Men villain, so Duggan just shifted him over here. Thankfully, the issue is at least enjoyable in how easily Tony Stark defeats Fei Long here. How Fei Long comes off as an upstart nobody, whereas Tony Stark has been here a hundred times before and always come out on top. I liked that attitude throughout the issue, giving this face-off some real context. Duggan doesn’t do anything cheap to make Iron Man lose this first face-off, like what you would expect. Tony asserts his dominance and wins…with more danger left to come down the line. I dug it.

I love a casual Blob and Toad reference

But as strong as the writing is, the story just isn’t doing much for me. An upstart, rookie villain manages to get his hands on one of the random Stark corporations out there. I know where this is leading, to an interesting crossover with the X-Men in a few months, but none of that is really teased all that much or all that well in this issue. So it’s just a confrontation with an awesome Tony Stark and a boring Fei Long, and so far, he’s just not that interesting of a villain.

TL;DR: The writing and character work remain strong, but the big villain reveals leaves a lot to be wanting.

Strange Academy: Finals #5

Strange Academy: Finals #5
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

This whole series has been a fun little comic and it’ll be a shame when it comes to an end and the characters are all killed off in a few years in Strange Arena.

It’s the first commencement ceremony for Strange Academy, and everybody’s parents have shown up — including Doyle’s human mom! Turns out, Doyle isn’t the son of Dormammu. He was a regular human baby who got sick, and nobody could cure him, so his mom sought help from Dormammu. The villain healed Doyle, but also turned him into Lil’ Dormammu. Speaking of which, Dormammu, Emily and their army invade the campus and everybody faces off. The adults take Dormammu away so that the kids can fulfill the prophecy and fight this one out.

Until Zelma shows up with Emily’s very angry mom (and her dad, and her dog).

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

OK, that ending was perfect. That ending took this issue from very good to great. It’s such a simple, reasonable ending, yet it’s handled so well and comes off so perfectly. Ha! These are all still teenagers, going to school, so obviously the answer is to get Emily’s mom to come and chew her out. Perfection! If this is the end of Strange Academy, this is how I want it to end, with Emily getting grounded by her mom. That’s the sort of strong character stuff this series has been great at, so I’m excited to see how this ends up.

The Lovers’ Quarrels are the best part of this comic

The rest of the issue is pretty simple, but still fun. The bad guys come for the good guys, and it’s a big brawl, with all the students dropping one-liners and tag lines. The staff dip away so that the students can get the full focus. It’s a little disappointing that most of Emily’s students aren’t main characters, but that’s far from a dealbreaker. It just means there’s only really two characters on the bad guy’s team we care about — though, to be perfectly honest, I forgot that Dessy and Zoe were a couple, so their face-off didn’t mean as much to me as it should have. Their relationship, whatever it was, was purely background. Still, it’s all a big, fun fight scene with a really killer cliffhanger ending. I’m good.

Also, one quick point of contention. When Dormammu attacks the school, one of the other parents specifically points out that there are supposed to be safety wards in place to keep bad guys at bay, that only students and their parents are allowed through the wards. Dormammu counters by saying that, “technically,” he is a parent, so he can get through the wards. But this happens immediately after we learned Doyle’s actual origin story, and he’s not the offspring of Dormammu. So there’s no “technically” about it, Dormammu is not a parent and shouldn’t have been able to get through the wards. Not too big of a deal, just a weird hiccup in the script.

TL;DR: A stellar cliffhanger tops off a fun issue of magical and character-focused fisticuffs.

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.



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 April 1, 2023, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Dormammu is “technically” Doyle’s father – that is the deal that the mom made with Dormammu to keep him from dying – that’s what his mom meant when she said she was willing to do anything to keep Doyle alive – she made a deal

    • She made a deal where they just consider Dormammu to be Doyle’s dad? I took her saying she’s willing to do anything to keep him alive to mean that she was willing to even go to this dark lord for help. But in my mind, nothing about letting Dormammu use his magic on Doyle or infect him with the mini-Dormammu curse makes him Doyle’s father.

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