Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/19/13
This is a great week for loving comic books. So many good and diverse books were released, from the horrific evil in Batman to the giddy happiness of Captain Marvel. Not to mention the return of Stilt-Man. That alone makes this a week to be remembered. This is one of the best and busiest weeks in comics I’ve seen in awhile. Mark Waid has two knockout successes with Indestructible Hulk and Daredevil. Batman’s Death of the Family story continues to rumble along, both for good and for ill, and DC tries to shove Threshold down our throats. It’s just as bad as I thought it might be. Ugh. But at least books like All-New X-Men remain top notch.
The winner of Comic Book of the Week is going to be Batman and Robin #16, giving us one of the best Death of the Family chapters yet. Though that’s not to say Daredevil #22 doesn’t give us one of the greatest lines ever spoken by man.
Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #6, Batman #16, Batman and Robin #16, Captain Marvel #9, Daredevil #22, Indestructible Hulk #3, New Avengers #2, Savage Wolverine #1 and Threshold #1.
All-New X-Men #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Young Cyclops is now officially as cool as current Cyclops. It’s issues like this one that remind me that A.) Bendis will be awesome on the X-Men, B.) he has a plan for the original five, and C.) that I wish he was writing the X-Men normally instead of mixing it up with the time traveling originals. It’s clear that Bendis has a lot in store for these characters, and he’s investing a lot of emotion and importance into them. But wouldn’t it be great if he spent all this time and energy on the current X-Men and told an awesome story about them?
This issue focuses entirely on young Jean Grey, Angel and Cyclops as they adjust to the new world. Jean is having vivid nightmares due to her new telepathy, and is having trouble keeping out everyone’s thoughts. Kitty Pryde and Storm stop by to help her out. Angel is upset because he didn’t want to stay, yet no one is really helping him cope. But then he meets the present-day Angel and the two hit it off. Young Cyclops is getting stares and glares wherever he goes because nobody is comfortable having him around, even though he hasn’t done anything. So he steals Wolverine’s motorcycle and heads into town, with Wolverine in hot pursuit. The two have a little dust-up about how Wolverine thinks Cyclops should behave, which includes getting back to the school and staying put. So Cyclops gives him one of those awesome, page-filling optic blasts and takes off again.
Also it looks like Mystique is going to take an interest in these young X-Men.
Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.
First, let me say that the art of David Marquez is phenomenal. My God. And I thought Stuart Immonen was good. But Marquez is such a good artist that they should name a Ninja Turtle after him. I’ve been admiring his work on Ultimate Spider-Man, but now I realize he was only really allowed to draw Spider-Man and a few civilians. Now Marquez gets to draw all of the colorful and unique X-Men, and they all look fantastic! If Marquez and Immonen are going to switch on and off on his book, All-New X-Men is going to be the best drawn comic on the stands. And Bendis’ story holds up just as well. You really feel for these different characters and what they’re going through, especially Angel and Cyclops. It’s great to see that Bendis isn’t going to just write off the young Warren Worthington as being unimportant. I hope Bendis has a lot of ideas for him. And young Cyclops is incredible in this issue! Just like regular Cyclops, he’s found himself in a difficult situation, and he’s not just going to roll over and let Wolverine decide for him what he should do. When young Cyclops hits Wolverine with the optic blast, I wanted to stand up and cheer!
Writer: Scotty Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Unless Snyder is saving a really big whammy for the final part of ‘Death of the Family’ (and it’s a possibility), I’ve decided this story is kind of a dud. I’ve mentioned before how I don’t particularly care for the Joker. I’ve just never liked him. His presence alone does not make a comic book good. But when Joker is done right (like in The Dark Knight Rises), then he can be truly spectacular. And it looked like Snyder was going to do him right after a fantastic first issue. But then along came this penultimate issue. You know how people complain that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is just a big story about people walking forward? Yeah…
So Batman has arrived at Arkham Asylum, which Joker has filled with a bunch of traps (sort of). Call me cynical, but Snyder doesn’t do anything clever or creative with the Joker in this issue. Or in this entire story, for that matter. Joker has dressed up a bunch of guards in Batman and Joker costumes and makes them dance; Batman saves them. He dresses up all the inmates in the guard riot gear; Batman defeats them. Mr. Freeze, Clayface and Scarecrow all attack; Batman defeats them each with one punch. Then he arrives in the Throne Room that Joker built, since Joker has been using this whole “Batman=King, Joker=Court Jester” motif. But even this Throne Room is a little dull.
He’s got Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face there, but all they do is stand around and compliment Joker on how well he has beaten Batman. There are a few random people dressed up like the Justice League, and they get killed. Batman says he’s not going to play Joker’s little game, so Joker reveals that he’s defeated all of the Robins and Batgirl in the tie-in issues, so Batman will have to play along. Joker orders Batman to sit on the Throne, which is an electric chair, and Batman gets zapped. There is a back-up feature, but considering it picks up exactly where the issue left off, there’s no point to it being a back-up feature. Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face all sort of bicker with the Joker until the Joker takes them out either with bars, tranquilizers or just psyching them out, like he does with Two-Face. Then he reveals that he’s taking Batman to a big banquet, and has something mysterious and gruesome hidden under a serving dish.
Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.
Nothing happens in this issue. Snyder’s Joker is all mood and atmosphere, but nothing substantial. The stuff with the guards, inmates and villains is uninspired. Batman slips through them all with nary a second thought. And this King/Jester motif doesn’t work either. Joker gives roles to all the villains – like how Two-Face is the judge and Clayface is the theater troupe – but none of that means anything. A big deal was made about inviting Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face to the party, but they don’t do anything! They just stand around!
And none of the changes that Snyder has physically done to the Joker have amounted to anything. Why have him dress up like a handy man? Carpentry hasn’t played a part in this story at all. Why cut off his face and have him belt and staple it back on? Just because it looks freaky? Why make a big deal out of Joker taking over Arkham when all he’s really done is made the electric chair look like a throne? He could have done a lot more to play up the castle theme, but he didn’t. There’s a gruesome tapestry made of bodies at one point, but it’s really just paraded out to say, “Look how twisted the Joker is!” and then it’s gone.
The best Joker stories need to have a purpose. The Joker may be an unpredictable wildcard, but he always has a point or a motivation. In The Killing Joke, he wanted to prove that one bad day could turn anyone insane, like himself. In The Dark Knight, he wanted to prove that the people of Gotham were selfish assholes, and that even someone as noble as Harvey Dent could be brought down to his level. And everything Joker did in those two stories worked towards his overall goals. I don’t see that happening in Death of the Family. Ostensibly, Joker’s trying to show Batman how much better he would be without sidekicks, but nothing in this issue accomplishes that goal, other than the whole holding the sidekicks hostage thing. But each of the sidekicks was defeated in the tie-in issues, leaving nothing for the main story to do about them.
Snyder is writing a great Joker. He’s truly twisted and his dialogue is phenomenal. The opening chapter of Death of the Family was terrifying. But since then, I just don’t see anything happening of note. It all looks like empty hype. So here’s hoping Snyder has a great conclusion in store for us. As for what’s on the serving dish? My guess is that it’s Alfred’s severed head. What else could it be?
Batman and Robin #16
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Pat Gleason
Peter J. Tomasi is writing a better Joker story than Scott Snyder. Everything I just criticized about Batman #16, Tomasi gets absolutely right in Batman and Robin #16. The Joker is far more twisted, his villainy actually seems to have a point and what happens in this issue actually matters to the main character. This is a big moment for Damian, and the story around this moment is phenomenal. It’s action-packed, disgustingly creepy and the stakes are incredibly high. Snyder is getting schooled on his own story.
Robin faces off against a mind-controlled Batman, with the Joker sitting on the sidelines offering chilling commentary. The fight is brutal, as Damian fights his father, while trying not to hurt him too badly, and hoping beyond hope that Batman can snap out of the Joker’s programming. There are times when Damian gets the better of the Joker, but the villain still keeps up with him. In the end, Damian realizes he can’t win, and makes the heart-breaking decision to let Batman kill him. Because he’s rather die at his father’s hand than have to kill Batman to survive. But that’s not how Joker wanted this to play out. So the Clown Prince activates a bomb he had planted on Batman, killing him and knocking out Robin. Joker reveals that it was just some karate instructor in the Batman costume, then he drags off Damian to the big banquet.
Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.
This issue is fantastic. Whereas Snyder’s Joker story was basically just Batman easily triumphing over the Joker’s obstacles and then getting tripped up by the necessary plot, Tomasi’s story actually has real emotional weight behind it. This is a big moment for Damian. The Joker has him backed into a corner: either kill his father or be killed by his father. Damian doesn’t know it’s a trick, and watching Damian struggle to free himself from the trap, only to eventually surrender to it, is a very good story. Couple that with Joker’s wickedly villainous commentary and you’ve got a good Joker story. He’s testing Robin, putting him in the type of situation that Joker excels at. And Gleason’s art is wicked. I think he draws the best new Joker of all the tie-ins. This is the Joker done right, both in creative villainy and downright menace.
Captain Marvel #9
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Captain Marvel is firing on all cylinders now that the initial time-traveling storyline is done and gone. Surprising what a little creative freedom can do for a series. No longer constricted by her own storytelling choices, DeConnick is writing a wonderful tale of Captain Marvel. She’s a fun character and DeConnick has a lot of fun with her. This is a perfect example of a strong female creator writing a strong female character and absolutely making it work.
A phone call from Tony Stark starts off Carol Danvers’ very busy day. He’s got a job for her as a pilot, and he’s taken it upon himself to hack into her daily planner to to schedule her for a meeting later. So Carol goes about her day as best she can. She tries to take her cat to the vet, only to get interrupted when two T-Rexes start fighting downtown. She defeats them with the help of Spider-Woman. She also has a few fun encounters with a nice homeless lady, an eager graduate student and a taxi driver who gets to (sort of) become a deputy Avenger. Carol makes the meeting for the pilot gig, and it’s the handsome photographer from the past few issues. She rescues him from some armed bad guys just in time for everybody to gather at the doctor’s office for Carol’s appointment. Turns out she has a lesion in her brain and the doctor says she can’t fly.
Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.
Here is another comic with spectacular art. Andrade’s style is unlike anything else you’re probably going to see on the stands. It’s very wild and loose, with characters who flow like artistic water. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it works wonderfully for the issue at hand. Carol and the other characters in this issue look dazzling, not to mention beautiful. This series has had some great art. And the story itself is fantastic as well. I like ‘day in the life’ tales for superheroes, it’s a neat way to really grow their character. DeConnick has a lot of fun introducing and using all the various colorful people in Carol’s life, from Tony Stark to the guy who sells her coffee in the morning. Fantastic little tale all around.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
I don’t read Daredevil regularly, which is probably a shame. It’s supposed to be a fantastic series, with Mark Waid even winning rewards for his work. But I’ve just never been particularly interested in Daredevil as a character. So I missed Frank Miller’s legendary run. I missed Brian Michael Bendis’ legendary run. I did read Ed Brubaker’s short run, when Matt Murdock was in prison, and that was fantastic. But otherwise, there has been very little Daredevil in my life. Though I did glance through a recent story Waid wrote about the Spot, one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. I was finally pulled into Daredevil this week; not because it features the new Superior Spider-Man, but because it features the triumphant return of Stilt-Man. I love me some Stilt-Man.
Daredevil is ambushed by the new Superior Spider-Man on the streets of New York. The assistant district attorney that’s been bugging Matt Murdock asked Spider-Man to bring him in. The two duke it out, with Daredevil a bit confused at Spider-Man’s strange new demeanor, but unable to tell that Peter Parker is no longer Spider-Man. The fight is broken up when they suddenly notice Stilt-Man attacking a helicopter. Kinda comes out of nowhere. And Waid doesn’t bother to explain if this is original Stilt-Man Wilbur Day back from the dead or a new guy entirely. He’s definitely not Lady Stilt-Man, that’s for sure. The two heroes team up to take down the villain, who shows off a few new upgrades. He’s used Doctor Octopus’ tentacle technology to give himself extendo-arms. Good times. They defeat Stilt-Man with ease, patch up the confusion with the ADA, and later Matt Murdock makes up with his buddy and partner Foggy Nelson…though Foggy might have cancer!
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
It’s easy to see why Waid’s Daredevil is so well beloved. This is a fun comic with great art and a fantastic handle on Matt Murdock’s character. Daredevil is usually a dark and troubled hero, but Waid is actually having fun with him. Bright, colorful fun! The stories are still very serious, but Samnee’s art helps to keep everything from getting too murky. Plus it’s a comic where Spider-Man and Daredevil team-up to take on Stilt-Man. That’s just Good Comics 101, people.
Indestructible Hulk #3
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
I am definitely enjoying Indestructible Hulk. Waid is clearly building something special here, combining done-in-one Hulk adventures while simultaneously growing the ongoing story of Bruce Banner’s new scientific pursuits. This issue we’re introduced to the various scientists who will join his lab and will probably make up the supporting characters for the ongoing series. So Waid is definitely building a damn good Hulk series here. Nothing as amazing as the Hulk’s appearance in last years The Avengers movie, but perhaps he’ll get there eventually. This comic is quality Hulk.
Bruce Banner is putting together his science team, and he has Maria Hill interview the four candidates he wants. There are two guys and two girls, and they all seem very nice, and are eager to work with Bruce Banner. Meanwhile, Bruce has been sent on a mission to take down an AIM base. The villains try to kidnap an old scientist, but SHIELD puts one over on them by switching Bruce in for the scientist, so the AIM agents accidentally smuggle Bruce Banner into their own base. Not good. Bruce Hulks out and starts laying waste to the AIM base. AIM was trying to kidnap that scientist to restart the Quintronic Man, an old sci-fi story from years ago where 5 pilots are used to control one robot. Hulk takes out the Quintronic Man in spectacular fashion and the mission is a success. In the end, while Bruce is recovering, Maria Hill reveals that she’s also adding a little floating robot to his team to monitor him. Hulk punches the robot.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!
This issue is just fun. The reveal that AIM accidentally smuggled Bruce Banner into their lab, who immediately starts to Hulk out, was awesome. And then when Hulk overcomes the odds to tear through the Quintronic Man, it’s just plain cool. And that’s exactly what this series is: a cool, uncomplicated Hulk. Bruce Banner and the Hulk have been given a back to basics makeover, with a few twists, and I am very happy for that. Leave all the Red Hulks and Sons of Hulk in the past, thank you very much. Just give me a badass Bruce Banner and an awesome Hulk and I am happy.
New Avengers #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
The second issue of New Avengers is a big improvement over the first, much to the benefit of the series. Hickman finally takes the time to explain all the crazy crap he threw at us in the first issue. I’m pretty sure I understand all of it. And he definitely succeeds in making the problem feel epic. You really get a sense that the Illuminati are truly powerful people, and that only they can tackle the enormous, reality-destroying danger. At the same time, he treats the characters as real people, each with their own unique personalities and styles. So it’s a character driven book about doing epic things to save the world. Sounds awesome to me. Though I have no idea why this comic is called ‘New Avengers’. None of this really has anything to do with the Avengers as a team, let alone any reason to call them the ‘New’ Avengers. Oh well.
Black Panther has gathered the Illuminati to deal with the Black Swan, the woman he captured from the last issue who comes from another dimension and blew up a planet Earth in her dimension – I think. Reed Richards talks to the woman, then explains to the others what he has learned: something in the cosmos has caused the multiverse to fall out of alignment, and now parallel universes are starting to crash into each other, leading to their destruction. The Illuminati needs to figure out how to stop their universe from crashing into its neighbor.
The issue is spent sitting around a table figuring out the plan. And while a talking heads issue isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, believe me, it’s really badass when Tony Stark says something like, “So we’re agreed, we form the Infinity Gauntlet”. That’s just awesome. With Captain America’s insistence that they figure out a moral way to save the day, the Illuminati begin gathering all of their Infinity Gems and developing some kind of early warning system for when their universe is about to crash. But Reed and Black Panther meet in private to face a hard fact: there might not be a good and moral way to solve this. Which means they’ve got to figure out how to destroy the neighboring universe before it crashes into their own.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
The first issue of this series was a mess. I had no idea what had happened to Black Panther or what the Black Swan was doing. It was just too confusing. Fortunately, Hickman quickly corrected that mistake by explaining (almost) everything in this issue. I’m still not entirely sure what happened to Black Panther, but at least now I know what the threat is that these heroes will have to overcome. And it sounds like one hell of a threat. Parallel universes crashing into one another? The Marvel superheroes deciding to form the Infinity Gauntlet? Black Panther ready to kill Namor? This is awesome! If Hickman can maintain this level just cool, then this series will easily surpass his adjectiveless Avengers series.
Though I must point out, nobody seems to care all that much about Namor’s recent attack on Wakanda as a member of the PhoeniX-Men. Cyclops, Emma and Magik are now pariahs, with their old friends ready and eager to just straight up kill them, but nobody (except Black Panther) gives two craps about what Namor did. I guess killing Charles Xavier is just much, much worse than killing dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent Wakandan citizens. They couldn’t even be bothered to move this meeting to somewhere other than Wakanda. Bad form, Illuminati.
Savage Wolverine #1
Writer and Artist: Frank Cho
I haven’t read an ongoing Wolverine solo series in years, but the art of Frank Cho is a powerful draw. I don’t think I have any experience with Cho as the writer, but his art is beautiful. I’m kind of surprised that Marvel don’t have him working on some high profile book. But maybe when you’re Frank Cho, you get the clout to make your own Wolverine comic. There’s a second Wolverine series coming in a few weeks, I think, but they won’t have Frank Cho on art. So how does this book hold up? It’s…not that great. Cho’s art is beautiful, as should be expected, but the story is less than stellar.
Shanna the She-Devil is helping a SHIELD team map out part of the Savage Land. But a mysterious mountain structure causes their ship to crash. Several months later, Wolverine wakes up in the same jungle, seemingly unsure of how he got there. He fights off some natives and finds the crashed ship, with only Shanna surviving from the original crew. She explains that the mysterious mountain structure is giving off some kind of dampening field, preventing her from radioing for help. Wolverine and Shanna fight off some pterodactyls until one of them flies Wolverine up very high and then lets him drop.
Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.
A few years ago, Cho drew a Shanna the She-Devil series, but I don’t think it went anywhere. This new series comes off like a Shanna sequel with Wolverine thrown in to make sure it sells. Cho draws the hell out of Shanna because women who are 90 percent naked is one of his trademarks. He also draws an awesome Savage Land. So the art is top notch. It’s the story that drags. Wolverine, in full costume, randomly wakes up in the Savage Land? So what? It doesn’t even sound like he was sent to rescue the lost SHIELD ship. Cho kills all the minor SHIELD characters, so they don’t get a chance to be interesting. It looks like this comic is just going to be Wolverine and a nearly naked woman in the jungle fighting dinosaurs. Because…why not? Beyond that, Cho’s inner monologue for Wolverine is overdone. Like I said, the man is an amazing artist, and he should have a lot more faith in himself to tell the story with just his art. Several times throughout the comic, he has the characters either say or narrate something that is entirely obvious from the art, adding unnecessary dialogue to a perfectly rendered scene.
Writer: Keith Giffen
Artists: Tom Raney and Scott Kolins
Well that was a disaster. I should have seen this coming. Considering how horribly I panned the prologue in Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, I should have known that the actual Threshold series was going to be just as bad. I knew it, but I bought this damn issue anyway. I have the buyer’s remorse. Ugh. Jediah Caul is terrible. Why did I buy this issue? What was I thinking? Oh I know, I wanted to give the Larfleeze back-up feature a try. And yep, Giffen totally screwed up Larfleeze as well! I’m starting to think DC editorial and I just have very different ideas of how to treat Larfleeze. This…this is not it.
Jediah Caul is a rogue Green Lantern who has gotten himself caught up in The Hunted, a reality TV show in the Tenebrian Dominion. All contestants in The Hunted are, quite literally, being hunted by anyone and everyone who wants to collect the bounty. Why he’s on The Hunted isn’t really explained, but then there wasn’t much explanation in the prologue either. The bad guys just grab you and declare you as being hunted. Simple as that. So Caul runs through the alien streets, gets some help from a hot alien cutie and eventually manages to escape his pursuers. That’s it. Meanwhile, two other remarkably attractive humanoid aliens, a man and a woman, are also being hunted. They’re hiding out in some vacant apartment and discussing whether or not to team up. Oh, and some bounty hunters have found them.
In the back-up, Larfleeze is even more psychotic than ever, a Looney Tunes character who is all bluster and no depth. He’s kidnapped some alien dude to write a Book of Larfleeze, like the Book of Oa. Larfleeze manages to ramble out a basic origin story, which only amounts to him being a thief who always coveted things, in a hearing-voices-in-his-head kind of way, and then he one day just found the Orange Lantern. Ta da. Anyway, the dude he kidnapped appears to be part of some kind of scam. Larfleeze hears a news report about another Orange Lantern causing trouble, so he goes to investigate. It was fake report meant to draw Larfleeze out of his home. When he returns, he finds out that all of his stuff has been stolen – including his Orange Lantern.
Comic Rating: 2/5: Bad.
Why should anybody care at all about this comic? What’s the damn point? Giffen was supposed to be writing an epic cosmic adventure, like he did with Annihilation for Marvel all those years ago. And Annihilation was amazing. This is garbage. A vague, cliched space rogue is being hunted as part of a crappy reality TV show in outer space. How is that interesting? Caul is a former Green Lantern who now has his ring imbedded in his chest for some reason, so he doesn’t use it. We barely get any information on the guy, and the only characterization comes from his conversations with the manic pixie dreamgirl alien cutie he meets. The two banter like old friends, even though they just met. And the banter is filled with near-incomprehensible alien slang, which just comes off as gibberish. There’s no hook. None of these characters comes off as anything more than cliched space characters, and there’s nothing interesting about their predicament.
I complained about this in the Annual, but I want to say again that any story involving aliens and other planets loses some of its cool when you treat it as just multi-colored Earth. Most of the aliens are just humans with different colored skin or hair, and there are even some people who look just like humans. Everyone acts and talks just like human beings from Earth. One slug-like alien even has to say “if I may borrow a Terran phrase” in order to get his point across. Who knew Earth was the cultural bedrock of distant alien planets?
As for the Larfleeze story, I guess I just don’t get the character. Over time, he’s morphed into a total buffoon. He’s the only Orange Lantern in the universe, he’s got incredible power and he’s off-kilter. He could be the greatest wildcard character in DC’s cosmic stable. Hero? Villain? Anti-Hero? Larfleeze could be any of them at the top of a hat. Instead, he’s just a silly, annoying jerkass without a single likable attribute. This story is all about Larfleeze getting mocked for acting like a raving lunatic with no self-awareness. Sorry, but I think Larfleeze could be much cooler than that.
At least both stories have good art.
The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I pick up from my local shop 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 January 19, 2013, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged All-New X-Men, Batman and Robin, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Indestructible Hulk, New Avengers, Savage Wolverine, Threshold. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.