Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/6/23

I’ve got to get through one more week or work before I’m on vacation for a while ‘nother week. I cannot wait! Just gotta pass the time, do what needs to be done and hopefully come out the other side free and clear. Having comics helps, like the first issue of a new Shazam! relaunch and another enjoyable Scarlet Witch comic.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #900 because I’m not made of stone and can enjoy some crossover hijinks as much as the next fan.

This is an acceptable crossover

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing the DLC to Horizon: Forbidden West and the biggest problems is trying to remember what everything does. There are so many unique weapons and abilities in this game, and I haven’t played it in a year. But the real big news, of course, is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3! I saw it, I loved it and I’ll have a full review and my thoughts in the usual place on Wednesday.

Comic Reviews: Batman #900, Scarlet Witch #5 and Shazam! #1.

Batman #900

Batman #900
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Mike Hawthorne, Jorge Jimenez and Mikel Janin
Inkers: Adriano Di Benedetto, Jimenez and Janin
Colorist: Tomeu Morey and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

I didn’t even know this was going to be an anniversary issue! Good times.

Halliday has completed his multiverse machine, hoping to link his mind with the Joker’s at the moment of his creation, in order to become the Joker. But something goes wrong and it doesn’t work, the Joker is just too much for him. Batman arrives and Halliday dives into the multiverse, surging with multiversal energy. Batman says his goodbyes to Alfred, Jewel and Catwoman and is kicked into the multiverse after the villain, being dragged along as Halliday jumps to different universes. His presence in these universes either creates a Joker if there wasn’t one before, brings Joker back from the dead or turns the existing Joker even more crazy. Batman is one step behind him, and crosses over with pretty much every multimedia Batman you can think of.

Batman eventually catches up with Halliday in some ruined, floating city at the end of existence and beats him up. Batman has a device to get home, but he realizes he needs to use it to send Halliday back to his home dimension, because Batman can’t just leave him to die. So that means Batman is stuck at the end of time and space…which is when Robin shows up, having completed his mission to rescue Batman.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Allow me to address the elephant in the room first. I probably would have been a lot more on board with this issue if I wasn’t already sick and tired of how the Flash movie is relying entirely on Michael Keaton’s Batman to entice viewers, and how all these nerds on the internet are lapping it up like good little Memberberries. So having Michael Keaton’s Batman show up and say, “I’m Batman,” just like in the Flash trailer, I was less than thrilled. Then the rest of the issue carried on with a bunch more cameos, relying on the same recognition as the trailer. This isn’t Zdarsky’s fault. It’s a fun trip through the Multiverse. And I like a good cameo as much as the next person. But the Flash movie has sucked all of the fun out of this issue for me.

I heard you the first time

Alright, with the elephant dealt with, this was a really fun issue that makes good use of it’s wild ride. I don’t think the story that proceeded this roller coaster was enough of a set up, but I got lost in the moment while it was happening, and that was good enough for a single issue. It just doesn’t make sense if you try to think about it. This guy in this random world is able to invent a gas-based machine that can link him to multiverse versions of himself? And then it all just kind of overloads, and he’s sent randomly jumping to worlds with this power. It’s a lot. And we didn’t spend nearly enough time with Halliday to really get to know him well enough for all of it to really work emotionally.

But I’m not made of stone. Comic book Batman, dressed in a spare costume from Dark Knight Returns Batman, getting a loaner utility belt from Adam West’s Batman in order to use the shark repellent to stop a Joker shark at the end of all time and space is just plain cool.

This is what you call ‘set up’

So that much works. I’m willing to let fans enjoy fan stuff. And the artwork is phenomenal, with the likes of Jimenez and Janin having a blast drawing the different Batmen. And while I would have liked the ending with Robin to be a bit longer, it still fulfills my anticipation of where the Robin back-up stories have been leading.

Ultimately, the issue really works as it sends Bruce Wayne on a wild adventure where he gets to meet alternate versions of himself. None of them really impact him much, and he kinda just goes with the flow, but the scenes are fun and the cameos are a hoot. I don’t think the story and the villain support this wild ride, but that’s probably just me. It’s still fun to read.

TL;DR: The nostalgia bait of The Flash movie trailers is turned into a synergistic comic book issue, which doubles and triples down on the fan service. It doesn’t necessarily work as an overall cohesive story or character journey, but it’s still just plain fun.

Scarlet Witch #5

Scarlet Witch #5
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

I am always up for another excellent issue of Scarlet Witch.

Scythia returns for Round 2, this time clad in Mysterium armor, which makes her immune to magic. Wanda still tries, and it comes down to a bloody fistfight, which is awesome. Scythia eventually strikes a killing blow, but Wanda has enough time and magic to link them, so that her death will mean Scythia’s death. They call a truce and Scythia calls off the blood debt against Darcy, with Wanda suggesting she change some of the traditions of the Bacchae. The day is saved, Wanda and Darcy are still pals and Wanda repairs the damage to the town.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Magneto is alive.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As a back-to-back pair of fights, this issue and its predecessor make for a nice way to wrap up this opening storyline. And this issue is one heck of a fight! The scene where Wanda accepts that she can’t use magic, and puts up her dukes, is as badass and as cool as comic book superheroes get. Wanda goes toe-to-toe with a dangerous foe and we get a classic comic book fisticuff. Dauterman is a spectacular artist, and I’m surprised he doesn’t have interiors for an ongoing series anywhere. He’s so damn good! And this issue, this fight, is no different. It’s a gorgeous issue, full of rich characters and real spectacle.

It was a slobberknocker!

And all that spectacle is rooted in strong character work. Wanda remains Wanda throughout, relying on her personality, her skills, and her smarts to turn the tables on her foe and end the battle in a draw, where they actually talk things out. It works perfectly, and ties off this little story nicely. I like this take on Darcy Lewis, and she works as a supporting character to Wanda. Always good to have a sidekick, to have someone to talk with. She definitely needs to meet Zelma Stanton sometime, as the two seem to be identical.

TL;DR: The first storyline wraps up with a truly awesome superhero brawl, that is both emotionally satisfying, and works wonderfully for the characters involved. This first storyline has laid a very strong foundation for the new adventures of the Scarlet Witch.

Shazam! #1

Shazam! #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Troy Peteri

I’ve never been a Shazam reader, but I’m going to try a bunch of these new Dawn of DC #1 issues just for kicks and giggles. It helps that Waid and Mora are a wonderful team.

Billy Batson is living a pretty good life as the Captain. He saves intergalactic dinosaurs, hangs out in his own personal clubhouse, the Rock of Eternity, and he’s got his foster brothers and sisters — though magic has been weird lately, and they’ve mostly lost their powers. He still goes to school, and he runs a Captain fan-site as a side hustle. But there are some mysterious, godlike beings lurking in the shadows. And when he goes to save people after an earthquake in Southern California, they strike. Billy is being interviewed on live TV and suddenly he turns into a raging, angry asshole, shouting at the innocent victims he’s just rescued that they are filthy and should be grateful he bothered with them.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Unlike the Green Arrow #1, which had a lot of weird stuff going on, Shazam! #1 is a much cleaner slate and I appreciate that. I was easily able to understand what was going on, with general Shazam knowledge and stuff from the movies. This issue does a great job setting up a new series. It opens with a really fun superhero scene, shifts to some set-up and explanations, and introduces the characters and their deals. It all reads great and looks great. And I really like the ending. It serves as an excellent hook to bring readers back. Something drastic happens to Billy, and it needs to be figured out and solved.

This is a damn fun cold open

This issue accomplishes everything a first issue needs to accomplish. I feel like I know the main character and what he’s about. I know the supporting characters, and some of what they’re about. We’ve got a villain tease and a big, dramatic cliffhanger ending. And it all looks gorgeous. Dan Mora is a rising superstar, and this issue is a reminder of why. Everything is so crisp and clear, with great detail and a lot of fun emotions on the characters. The colors are bright. The writing is friendly. This is a relaunch done right.

TL;DR: This issue is the whole deal and a really enjoyable start to the new series. Art, writing, story and characters all come together nicely.

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 May 6, 2023, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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