Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/15/23

Comics come and comics go, and this week they came. Got a bunch on my list to read, and a bunch on my list to review. And now you can scroll down and read them all! We’ve got the kick off the Captain America: Cold War, we’ve got some Fantastic Four, and another issue of the X-Men!

Comic Book of the Week goes to the new Guardians of the Galaxy #1 because, at the very least, the Guardians as cowboys is fun.

I bet it smells bad on the inside

Meanwhile, I’m still grinding my way through Gotham Knights. I can definitely play that game for long binges and enjoy myself, but so much of the gameplay is frustrating. I think I’m mostly in it to find the perfect transmog Robin costume, even though Batgirl is probably the best character to play. Also, I don’t care what the haters are saying, I’m enjoying the third seasons of both The Mandalorian and Ted Lasso.

Comic Reviews: Captain America: Cold War Alpha, Fantastic Four #6, Guardians of the Galaxy #1, and X-Men #21.

Cold War Alpha

Captain America: Cold War Alpha
Writers: Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Tochi Onyebuchi
Artist: Carlos Magno
Colorist: GURU-eFX
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

The big crossover is here! And I didn’t do the necessary homework by reading all 11 or so issues of Captain America: Symbol of Truth.

Bucky breaks the White Wolf out of prison and Peggy Carter kidnaps Ian right out from underneath Steve’s nose, albeit with a big explosion to help. So Steve teams up with Sam to get to the bottom of all of this. They track the Outer Circle to Alaska, where they’re training some new soldiers. Our heroes get wrapped up in the fight, which comes to an end when a couple of monsters step out of a portal. It seems Bucky and the White Wolf have become the rulers of Dimension Z.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was fine. I didn’t feel like I was missing any crucial information from Symbol of Truth. I was able to catch on fairly quickly. Obviously stuff from that series is now part of this crossover, just like with Sentinel of Liberty, which I have been reading. I’d say it all comes together nicely to present a big, scary threat for our heroes to face. White Wolf makes for a compelling villain — much more so than the members of the Outer Circle, who don’t even make an appearance in this issue. So bringing together White Wolf and Bucky as the bad guys should make for a nice crossover.

“Captain.” “Captain.”

Personally, my interest wanes when we tap into weird stuff like Dimension X. I didn’t read that previous Captain America storyline, so I don’t know much about this place. I guess it’s just a monster dimension created by Arnim Zola? And Ian was created by Arnim Zola? I’m not much of a continuity nut anymore, so I’m not desperate for new writers to use the work of old writers. I liked the grounded, political stuff about Captain America. Not really the interdimensional monster army stuff. But hey, we’ll see. I like the two Caps working together, I like the little team they’re putting together, and the villains are fairly compelling. So I have faith in everyone involved to have a great crossover.

TL;DR: Good, solid start to this crossover. It goes a little wild for my tastes, but that’s just me. The characters work well together, and the villains are fun, so I have hope.

Fantastic Four #6

Fantastic Four #6
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Ivan Fiorelli
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

There is such a strange dichotomy going on with Ryan North’s Fantastic Four. I both love it and don’t.

The Fantastic Four discover a nearby lake that has been infected with mirror bacteria, introduced last issue. They clean it up, but realize that the bacteria has likely spread to other nearby lakes, and is therefore moving too fast for just the five of them to clean up. So they science it out and decide that Sue is going to fly into space in order to make the sun’s rays invisible for large portion of the United States for three days to kill the bacteria — and plunge several states into total darkness for three days. Johnny goes to keep Sue company, while Reed, Ben and Alicia try to deal with an angry populace and some super-villains who try to take advantage of the darkness.

The team succeeds and the bacteria is gone, but when Sue and Johnny return to Earth, Maria Hill and her soldiers show up for a little chat. Sue and Johnny decide to book it out of there instead.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The dichotomy is very strong in this issue. On the one hand, North keeps coming up with these really crazy, science-based problems to throw at our heroes, and he spends a lot of time having the characters stand around and explain what exactly we’re dealing with. It gets a little monotonous. But once that is all out of the way, North gets to the actual fun of the comic, and it is pretty darn fun! The Storm siblings hanging out in an enclosed Fantasticar for three days, with Johnny pulling out all the stops to keep his sister entertained and engaged? And Sue appreciating it all the more? Such a wonderful and fun scene! Couple that with all the shenanigans back on Earth as Reed, Ben and Alicia deal with angry Kansas residents. It all makes for a really fun issue all around.

Sue is game for fighting the sun

Fantastic Four is a special book, and North is really nailing that special feeling. This isn’t a book about costumed superheroes fighting crime. This is a book about a weird, super-powered family that keep getting into weird, science-based shenanigans. They think and they punch and they pull off the impossible on the fly. North is really knocking it out of the park with this concept, making for a really enjoyable series. The artwork, likewise, easily kept up with all the weirdness and the different scenes. Space, Kansas, an infected lake out in the wilderness; and a whole bunch of emotional, memorable characters. I dig it all.

TL;DR: Equal parts great and frustrating as the creative team continues to combine wonderful character writing with nigh impenetrable science.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1

Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Writers: Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing
Artist: Kev Walker
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

I’m not a big Guardians comic book fan. I’ve tried various reboots and relaunches over the years. This one is cowboy-flavored, and by the writers I really enjoy on Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. So sure!

The Guardians of the Galaxy are cowpoke now, and Star-Lord rides into a classic western town on the planet Galilee IV, ‘cept everybody’s aliens. Gamora and Matis are already here, and Nebula shows up soon after. They are trying to evacuate the town and have to fight their way through some classic western gangsters first. They load everybody into a pair of shipping containers and take them to their ship parked nearby, with a little help from Drax along the way. Then a giant, flaming Groot head arrives on the planet — “Grootfall,” they call it — and we see what they’re running from. They make it to the ship and manage to escape with one of the containers. The other one is lost. The people on board? They are Groot.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Alright, so, this book won Comic Book of the Week because it was just plain fun. The Guardians, especially Star-Lord, cosplay as cowboys and save a town. If you’re gonna relaunch the Guardians again, that’s a pretty good starting premise. Then they double down on cool ideas with Grootfall. Something is up with Groot, and it’s big and it’s scary, and that’s a really good hook for a comic. It’s the best hook of all the #1 issues I read this week and in recent memory. Not every first issue needs a hook, but they do help. So this was an overall fun issue where some enjoyable characters get dressed up and put on an exciting show for our amusement.

The 5-point sheriff star is universal

But it also wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. Nothing mind blowing. Nothing to really change the face of everything as we know it. Just the Guardians being themselves, back to some degree of basics. Lots of mysteries are set up that I’m sure will be explored. Various characters knock heads together. There are a couple stumbles, in my opinion. They try so hard to set up the cowboy gimmick and it doesn’t really fit. The second half of this issue is a huge rush to get everybody off planet. But the first half of the issue involves Peter riding an animal into town, just to get that classic cowboy opening. Then we find out that the entire team is already in town, yet they’re not evacuating people? What I’m saying is, the desire to dress up everybody as cowboys doesn’t exactly jive with the rushed evacuation.

Maybe if they didn’t spend so much time cosplaying they could have saved both containers of people?

TL;DR: The first issue of this new relaunch is fun, at least, with great writing and art. But the desire to make everybody cowboys this time isn’t that strong of a gimmick.

X-Men #21

X-Men #21
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

This is a solid wrap-up to this storyline, which was largely all over the place.

Jean dispatches with Nightmare and the various squads of X-Men regroup to deal with the Brood problem. All of the refugees the X-Men saved from that planet were infected, and the X-Men were forced to jettison them into space, so emotions are high. Cyclops wants to destroy all Brood, while Jean and Broo want to save those they can. Cyke takes his team to join the storyline over in the Captain Marvel comic, while Jean and Broo take what Brood they can to Knowhere, which Forge and Monet brought back from beyond the black hole in this issue.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’ll admit, I don’t have too deep a history with the Brood, but I’ve never particularly liked them or cared about them. Still, Cyclops is pretty extreme with his sudden decision to just wipe out the entire race. Jean questions him on this suggested “genocide” and all Cyclops does it be pretty blunt back. So it’s a weird character choice for a story that doesn’t have much to do with anything larger just yet. Broo is no longer a major character in the X-Men. He’s long since forgotten. So it all feels a bit weird overall. Nightmare is dispatched immediately, and the Forge/Monet storyline just happens to perfectly lineup with wanting to put the Brood somewhere. The character writing remains really strong, so I enjoy that part of the comic. And the artwork fits perfectly. So it’s an overall good, solid issue that kills some time before Fall of X.

TL;DR: A bunch of different storylines wrap up in a perfectly fine issue, with some strong — if questionable — character moments.

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 15, 2023, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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