Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/22/12

What the hell, Marvel!? Some of us still have Christmas shopping to do, yet you hit us the week before Christmas with a massive pile of new comics to buy? Jeez louise! Bad enough this is also my heavy DC Comics week too! So let’s just say I bought a ton of comics this week, all so Marvel can be all fancy and only release Amazing Spider-Man #700 next week. Their big marketing scheme is hell on my wallet. At least most of the comics that came out this week were pretty good.

Everything under the sun seemed to come out this week, giving us a wide range of different titles. We’ve got major releases for the Avengers, X-Men and the Fantastic Four, not to mention both X-Force titles. If you’re more into Batman and the Death of the Family story, there are both the Nightwing and Red Hood tie-ins, one of which was good and the other quite bad. So very busy week. And though there were a lot of great titles, I think FF #2 pulls away with Comic Book of the Week. I really think that title is going to live up to its awesome potential.

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #4, Avengers #2, Batwoman #15, Cable and X-Force #2, Captain Marvel #8, FF #2, Green Lantern #15, Green Lantern: New Guardians #15, Hawkeye #6, Indestructible Hulk #2, Nightwing #15, Red Hood and the Outlaws #15, Thor: God of Thunder #3, Thunderbolts #2, Uncanny X-Force #35, Wolverine and the X-Men #22, Wonder Woman #15.


All-New X-Men #4

All-New X-Men #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

The Cyclops Meter still remains in the positive with this issue, though it’s definitely wavering a bit. Bendis still isn’t writing him as an out and out villain, but this issue continues to pile on the amount of other people who consider him an unrepentant monster. And it wasn’t even his fault this time! The first meet up between Cyclops and the younger X-Men (their whole reason for coming to the present) is quite entertaining, and about as chaotic as one might expect in an X-Men comic. Though I continue to be far more interested in the present day X-Men than in what sort of drama Bendis brings to the younger teens. He seems to be sewing doubt in the romance of young Scott and Jean. And I swear, if he has young Jean Grey hook up with Wolverine then I may lose my lunch.

As Cyclops faces off against the teenage X-Men, his mind races to figure out what the heck is going on and who might be behind this trick. The only conclusion he can reach is that this is real, and that’s really his dead wife Jean Grey standing in front of him. Jean, meanwhile, is having trouble with her newly emerging psychic powers, and she uses her telekinesis to throw Cyclops and Magneto away. But that removes Cyke’s visor, and his newly out-of-control powers go out of control. The teenage X-Men try to control the damage before Magik teleports Cyclops and Magneto away. Back at base, Cyclops confers with Emma Frost and they both decide that Beast is behind this because he wants to punish Cyclops. The young X-Men take a moment to confer among themselves about what to do next (some want to go home, some want to stay), and they decide to go back to the X-Mansion to help fix modern-day Beast, who is going into cardiac arrest.

Oh yeah, and those two new mutants, Christopher and Eva, are bonding as they hang out at Cyclops’ Weapon X base.

Comic rating: 4/5: Good!

The true impact of the teen X-Men is finally felt in this issue, with some great reactions by Cyclops, Emma and especially Magneto. I also like how quickly Scott figures out what’s really happening. Bendis is writing a pretty good Cyclops. Not as good as AvX: Consequences, but still pretty darn good. His character growth is definitely fun to read. Bendis’ Magneto is a bit iffy though. One character that definitely suffers from Bendis’ typical banter-speak is Magneto. That is not a character who should banter too much. But otherwise, I think Bendis is doing a great job with the ramifications of the time travel. Not all the characters are on board with it, and I like how it’s played off more as a fever-addled fantasy that Beast had, as opposed to being his greatest idea ever. Bendis is getting some great mileage out of all his characters and stories.


Avengers #2

Avengers #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jerome Opena

Nope, still not sold on this new series, at least not yet. I like what Hickman is going for, I like the sense of scale he’s bringing to the series. But so far, this is just Cap and Iron Man putting together a new team of Avengers to take on some new super-villain. Most of the Avengers are classic Avengers, so nothing new there, and the villain isn’t particularly menacing or interesting. Ex Nihilo may have a unique look, but I don’t think he’s going to be up for consideration in Avengers 2 anytime soon.

Up on Mars, Ex Nihilo explains his origin to Iron Man and Thor. He’s the product of some of the earliest beings in the universe, designed to cull weak life so that evolution can make something better. And he has come to Earth to cull the human race so something new can grow. Ex Nihilo then launches a few more of his bio-bombs at Earth. In a flashback, we see Cap and Iron Man recruit Wolverine, Spider-Man (appears to be Peter Parker), Falcon, Cannonball, Sunspot, Shang-Chi, Spider-Woman, Captain Marvel and Manifold, one of the characters from Hickman’s Secret Warriors a few years ago. Now in the present, Cap has called on all of them (plus a few more) to teleport to Mars to save the other Avengers (Manifold can teleport).

Comic rating: 3/5: Alright.

The issue is mostly just a whole lot of talking. Ex Nihilo talks a lot, getting his origin out of the way without much fanfare. Hickman seems to introduce some new wrinkle to Marvel’s cosmic history, which comes off more as presumptuous than actually interesting. So Ex Nihilo was birthed by the earliest civilization in the universe? Good for him. Ex Nihilo has no depth beyond his polite desire to evolve the human race. The recruitment scenes are entertaining, but short. And most of the characters were already Avengers before Marvel Now! So I don’t see why Cap would have to re-recruit the likes of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel or others. When did they stop being Avengers? Seeing new characters like Cannonball, Sunspot and Manifold was more entertaining. Hickman seems to have a lot of big ideas for this series, but the actually implementation of those ideas is utterly generic.


Batwoman #15

Batwoman #15
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Trevor McCarthy

Damn you, Batwoman, what the hell is this crap? We’re on the verge of an epic Batwoman and Wonder Woman beatdown, but instead you waste a whole issue telling us what Maggie Sawyer has been up to for the past hour? The only reason for this that I can fathom is that perhaps J.H. Williams III needed more time to draw the next issue, so they brought in McCarthy to stall. And if that’s the case, and Batwoman #16 is absolutely brilliant, then maybe I’ll feel a bit better about this issue. But for right now, this was a huge disappointment.

Last issue left off with Batwoman and Wonder Woman descending on Gotham City to save it from the forces of Medusa. This issue begins and ends in the exact same place! It’s a flashback to see what GCPD Detective Maggie Sawyer has been up to for the past hour or so prior to their arrival. Turns out Maggie is still racked with guilt over the missing kids, and she reminds us of this over and over again with thick, noire-esque narration. Maggie finds the parents of the lost children in a church, arming themselves to help take down Medusa. Maggie successfully convinces them to put down their weapons, only to find out that one of their husbands has already rushed off to save the day. Maggie finds him and saves him from some goons and from the Lady in the Water, then is amazed that the guy could forgive the Lady. Maggie regroups with Bullock, then she looks up to see Batwoman and Wonder Woman arriving.

Comic rating: 2/5: Bad.

Oh disappointment, they name is Batwoman. This is normally one of the most amazing comics on the stands. The art is the best in the business, and the stories usually hold up to that high standard. But this issue fails on all accounts. The art is by someone new, and while serviceable, is no replacement for Williams. The story is rubbish. Maggie Sawyer has been beating her head over these missing children since issue #1, and it’s getting old, so her heavy-handed narration didn’t help. Nor did the minor threat of a missing husband, who was found and saved with little problem. So nothing of note happened in this issue, nothing really happened to Maggie, and all it did was delay the eventual arrival of what could potentially be this series’ best issue yet. Bad form, Batwoman.


Cable and X-Force #2

Cable and X-Force #2
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Salvador Larroca

I gave Cable and X-Force two issues to get its act together and get me interested in the story. It has failed. So I’m probably done with this comic. I wanted to like it, I really did. I think the premise is neat and I like the color scheme, but Hopeless utterly fails to provide any sort of hook or plot or anything at all to interest me. This is just yet another random team of X-Men doing random X-Men things. If you’re a fan of Cable, Hope or Domino, I bet you’re enjoying the book. But I’m not, so bye bye Cable and X-Force.

Once again we start with a flash forward. After Cable and his team escape the Uncanny Avengers, Colossus gets mad and attacks Cable, but Cable calms him down. And that’s it for the flash forward. Back a few days prior, Domino and Hope head to Miami Beach to stop the techno-organic Phalanx thingy, using a special bomb built by Forge. Sure enough, they save the day, and the news media seems to instantly recognize Hope and put her on TV for saving the day. Meanwhile, Cable gets some complicated brain surgery and Dr. Nemesis makes note of something weird in Cable’s brain. Despite that weird thing, Cable still wakes up, gathers his gear and explains to Domino that something evil is coming, and he thinks he can stop it. Then he randomly finds Colossus hanging out in an art museum in Chicago. Colossus is having problems with his powers, just like Cyclops and Emma from All-New X-Men, and Cable recruits him to the team.

Comic rating: 3/5: Alright.

First of all, these opening teasers are accomplishing absolutely nothing. We’re told that X-Force is caught in a room with a bunch of dead people, and that has pissed Colossus off. But nothing we learn in the rest of the comic is in any way pointing towards why X-Force might be in a room full of dead people. There is no reason for these flash forwards to exist. Why not just tell the story in a normal, linear fashion? I realize Hopeless plans to tell this story over the course of the series, but he’s taking his sweet time doing so. Cable and X-Force is in no way guaranteed to succeed as a comic. It’s one of dozens of X-books on the stand, and for it to stand out, it needs to have something worthwhile happening. Instead, it’s as generic and boring as an X-story could get. A bunch of mutants team up together to fight bad guys. Yawn. I will say that Hopeless is doing a fine job with the characters, but that just means the only reason to buy this book is for the characters. The plot, the story and the potential are all squandered.


Captain Marvel #8

Captain Marvel #8
Writers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Christopher Sebela
Artist: Dexter Soy

Hot damn, am I glad that Captain Marvel ditched that time traveling story! This two-parter has been a real blast, with fun characters, a lot of great humor and a really cool battle against a giant, metal robot. This is fun comics, plain and simple. This is everything I hoped to be reading when this series was announced. I guess DeConnick just had to get that opening story out of the way first. And I hope it was DeConnick who wrote these past two stellar issues. Not to speak ill of Sebela, but if it turns out he was responsible for all the good vibes then I will be very disappointed. And Soy’s artwork is fantastic. He seems to pull back from his earlier painted style, and I definitely like the new look.

Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau team up to take down the giant metal robot, which is put together from the scraps of all the planes and boats lost off the coast of New Orleans. Their banter is top notch as they try different attacks, none of which put the monster down for long, since it can repair itself. Their photographer friend manages to make a few calls and discovers, fairly easily, that this robot is leftover from a fight between the Avengers and a robot-themed super-villain a few years ago. The pieces of a robot army have spent years rebuilding themselves on the ocean floor, and now they’ve finally put themselves back together. Using this information, the heroines decide that a wide laser blast should disperse the robot. To do that, Monica turns her body into electricity, which Captain Marvel then absorbs, super-charging her powers and hitting the robot monster full blast!

After it’s defeated, Carol and Monica tell the people of New Orleans that they’ll use the leftover pieces to help repair the shoreline. And Monica teases Carol about her potential interest in the hunky photographer.

Comic rating: 5/5: Great.

What’s not to love about this comic? We have two awesome superheroines kicking ass, cracking wise and fighting a giant robot. Carol makes for a strong protagonist, and Monica Rambeau is perfect as the spunky sidekick. I said it in my last review, but I think Captain Marvel is the perfect place to explore the social lives of superheroes. These characters don’t just fight evil together. They’re each others’ best friends. They hang out and get coffee together. They talk about life and relationships together. That’s what I want to see, and that’s what I think Captain Marvel can deliver. They did a fine job of it with this issue, that’s for sure.


FF #2

FF#2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred

Now this is how to do a new team book. The characters are all unique and exciting, with their own personal stories, the adventure is fun and colorful and there’s actually an overall plot to keep me coming back. Fraction definitely steps up and nails the second issue, and I couldn’t be happier. Scott Lang is proving to be a lot of fun. Miss Thing has a rather neat role to play on the team. And the overall threat/mystery definitely looks cool. This is a winning book. And enough cannot be said about the contribution of the Allreds, delivering a unique style that no other comic book can match.

The temporary Fantastic Four is in place for when the normal FF go off on their vacation. But unfortunately (and predictably), Reed’s forecast that they would only be gone for four minutes does not come true. The four minutes come and go and there’s no sign of the FF. This makes Scott Lang a little panicky. But everybody comes together to try and get on with Future Foundation business – only for Mole Man to attack. The new team proceeds to kick his ass, though they’re a little sloppy. Darla Deering (who may be some kind of famous pop star, it’s not quite clear) gets her Miss Thing armor, but after the Mole Man fight, she’s a little freaked out and decides to go home. In the end, just when things seem to be settling down, everyone is surprised to see an older, crazier Human Torch come out of the time portal. He tells them that the Fantastic Four are dead.

Comic rating: 5/5: Great.

This series is turning out to definitely be as much fun as I was hoping when it was first announced. The characters are especially a highlight. Scott Lang is a splendid blend of nervousness and heroism, a perfect lead character. She-Hulk and Medusa are still coming into their own, and the kids are the Future Foundation are cool too, even if they’re mostly just window dressing for now. There’s an adorable scene of Leech and Artie crawling all over Darla. Miss Thing was the biggest unknown of this series, but she seems to have a good story behind her. That she’s treating all of this as just another celebrity thing, then gets freaked out by the actual superheroics, is perfectly fitting. I look forward to her rising to the challenge. And enough cannot be said of the art. The Allreds are perfect. There’s so much color and character, this comic is definitely a treat.


Green Lantern #15

Green Lantern #15
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke

The Third Army storyline doesn’t have nearly the same sort of excitement or emergency as previous Geoff Johns-penned Green Lantern sagas, but that’s OK, as long as the comics remain this good. Simon Baz continues his quest to become the best new character introduced in the New 52 with a very grounded tale. He barely even uses the ring at all this issue. The side plots of the Third Army and Hal Jordan seem to be dragging their feet, but Simon Baz is more than enough to carry this book. A surprise cameo at the end of the issue definitely promises a lot more excitement to come.

Simon arrives at the home of the man whose van he stole, the one filled with explosives. Simon powers down his new ring before going inside, and then explains the situation. But the man pulls a gun on Simon and reveals that he had planted the bomb and planned to blow up a passing train, until Simon messed everything up by stealing the van. The guy tries to shoot Simon, but his ring sparks to life with just enough juice left to protect him. Then it promptly runs out of energy, and Simon is left on his own – until the FBI agent shows up in time to pull a gun on the shooter. But Simon doesn’t get too much time to plead his innocence before the Third Army shows up an attacks. They take the shooter while Simon and the FBI agent flee, using the shooter’s leftover explosives to blow up the Third Army. Simon and the FBI agent are saved from by explosion by Green Lantern B’dg (talking squirrel), who says he was sent to Earth to find Hal Jordon before the Guardians realize that the Green Lanterns know they’ve gone mad.

Too bad for him that Hal Jordon and Sinestro are in the land of the dead.

Comic rating: 4/5: Good!

I may be reading too much into B’dg’s statement at the end, but it sounds to me like some of the Green Lantern Corps already know about the Guardians turning evil, and they’re mounting some type of defense. I’m not reading the comic Green Lantern Corps, so I don’t know if that’s the case (I know the Guardians took out Salaak), but I’m picturing Kilowog forming a ragtag band of Lanterns into some kind of resistance movement. And that sounds far more interesting than everybody just fighting these soulless zombies of the Third Army. A Green Lantern strike force battling the corrupt Guardians, with Simon Baz as the wild card, sounds like an awesome story to me!

As for this issue in particular, it was a little disappointing to see Simon suddenly run out of Lantern power, but I guess it was necessary for Johns to tell his grounded story of terrorism and Simon’s quest to clear his name. That part of the story was definitely entertaining, though Mahnke doesn’t draw scenes of several people standing around a kitchen as well as he draws an earlier scene where a Third Army swarm attacks an alien GL. To each their own strengths, I suppose.


New Guardians #15

Green Lantern: New Guardians #15
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Aaron Kuder

This issue is much improved over the last one, probably due to a better artist and a big role for Orange Lantern Larfleeze, one of my favorite characters from the GL universe. Larfleeze is one of those really fun characters, but he’s also a case of getting too much of a good thing. I see him as the ultimate wild card, able to be hero, villain and anti-hero all in the same story. So using him too much would dilute his impact. It’s also a shame that Larfleeze has lost his unique position of being the only single-person Lantern Corps now that Arkillo is the only Yellow Lantern in the universe. That had made Larfleeze unique.

Kyle, Carol and Arkillo arrive at the planet Okara so that Kyle can learn how to use the Orange Light of Avarice from Larfleeze. Of course, that’s easier said than done, until Carol uses her Star Sapphire powers to peer into Larfleeze’s heart and learn some of his touching origins. Larfleeze is searching for his lost family, the one thing he thinks he cannot have. Perhaps they’ll even tell him his real name. This has touched Larfleeze enough that he starts sparring with Kyle, who calls upon all of the emotional powers he’s learned so far to fight back. Kyle finally gets his hands on the Orange Lantern just when the Third Army breaks in, and he taps into the Orange Light to help the others fight back. But the Third Army is too much, and Kyle, Carol, Arkillo and Larfleeze teleport away while the rogue Guardian Sayd sacrifices her life to keep the Third Army at bay.

Comic rating: 4/5: Good.

Larfleeze is very entertaining in this issue, with some truly wicked art. Kuder has his own unique twist on Larfleeze’s bizarre appearance, and it definitely works. Kuder also has a lot of fun showcasing the Orange Light and all the evil Orange ghost constructs. Kuder definitely has a lot of fun with the different Lantern powers. The story itself still feels a little rushed. Kyle is learning these different Lantern powers at warp speed, and everybody is pretty calm with the idea that Kyle can just turn the powers off and on at will now. But at least Kyle, Carol and Arkillo make for a fun team, and no doubt adding Larfleeze to the mix will be a hoot. Sayd’s noble sacrifice was pretty cool, as was the epilogue where the other Guardians (including her lover, Ganthet) watch her die at the hands of their Third Army. That should lead to some promising stories still to come.


Hawkeye #6

Hawkeye #6
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja

Behold the magic of David Aja! I lamented the last two issues for not having Aja on art, and that pays off with this fantastic issue. I don’t know if anyone but Aja could handle the complex script that Fraction turns in, and I’ll explain what I mean in a moment. But Aja is very good at drawing many small panels to get a story across, with brilliant scene compositions and story momentum. Not to mention the playful way he draws people and faces, filling them with character and personality. If you’ve never read a Fraction/Aja comic, then do yourself a favor and start picking up Hawkeye.

This story is an odd one, in the sense that it’s told over the course of six days, but Fraction jumps back and forth between the different days, seemingly at random. And I’m not sure if the story will be continued next issue. I’ll try to sum it up as best I can. Basically, Hawkeye is unpacking all of his stuff in his new apartment, and struggling a bit to get the electronics plugged in properly. He’s the landlord of the whole building now, so he deals with a few tenant issues (some that he caused), while also dealing with those track-suited Russian gangsters again. They kidnap Hawkeye and threaten to kill everyone in the building if he doesn’t leave town, so Hawkeye starts packing, sending his bow to Kate Bishop. But only when Kate confronts him on being an idiot does Hawkeye get the nerve to stand up to those goons…I think. There’s no final confrontation, so that’s why I think this story might be continued next issue.

Comic rating: 5/5: Great.

While not the best issue of Hawkeye so far, this one is definite greatness. Despite the shift in days, the story was easy to follow and highly entertaining. Fraction and Aja are doing a wonderful job with Hawkeye, dealing with him as a normal human being instead of a costumed Avenger (though they’re not skimping too much on the costumes and archery). Clint Barton’s attempts to run an apartment complex are a lot of fun, featuring a whole slew of interesting tenants. The guy who keeps confusing ‘Hawkeye’ with ‘Hawkguy’ is a prime example. Tony Stark makes a very fun cameo appearance (because that’s what he’s doing this week), and Fraction writes an out-of-character Wolverine and Spider-Man. Still, almost everyone else shines in this issue, including co-star Kate Bishop, who gives Clint a really good talking to. It’s definitely great to have Aja back.


Hulk #2

Indestructible Hulk #2
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Yu

Tony Stark is really getting around Marvel NOW! Despite the fact that his own series sucks, Tony is popping up in a lot of different comics this week. And yet despite all of these appearances, I have yet to see an explanation for why he’s switched to black armor instead of his normal red. What’s up with that? Does anybody know? Still, Tony is played to good effect here in the second issue of Indestructible Hulk. Rather than just a glorified cameo, Waid uses Tony to illustrate and highlight Bruce Banner’s new attitude and status quo. Though I don’t think Waid likes Stark very much, since this issue is mostly about how much more awesome Bruce is than Tony. Frankly, I would have to agree.

Following last issue’s set up, Bruce Banner is now working his super science for SHIELD, while letting them use Hulk as a weapon whenever they need him. Tony Stark is having a hard time believing this, so he stops by the base to pay Banner a visit. It’s a nice scene, playing off the bromance from The Avengers movie. Tony is shocked that the new Bruce Banner actually laughs and has a decent haircut, while being simultaneously amazed at Bruce’s new inventions. The two then head off to a desolate mountain to test one of the devices, but Bruce secretly picked the location so that he could let off some steam directed at Iron Man. He hulks out, they fight, and Hulk saves Iron Man from an avalanche. In the end, Bruce embarrasses Tony even more with his smarts as they relax by a fire. Then SHIELD calls because they need the Hulk!

Comic rating: 4/5: Good!

Another solid issue by Waid and Yu. I like the new status quo for the Hulk, and Waid was smart in using a character like Tony Stark to quickly and easily establish that this is a changed Bruce Banner with a lease on life. None of the new SHIELD agents would be able to remark on Bruce’s changed attitude and appearance the way an established character could. The idea that Bruce is now taking care of his appearance and is comfortable enough to laugh at jokes is a neat idea, and I look forward to further exploration. But the Tony Stark cameo also feels a little weird. By the time Tony is reassuring himself in the bathroom mirror that he’s at least richer than Bruce Banner, Waid has beaten it into the ground how awesome he thinks Bruce is compared to Tony (the reigning King of Awesome in the Marvel Universe). But while this issue is very good, it has yet to push forward into anything truly special. With the way Waid is progressing, however, true greatness won’t take long to arrive.


Nightwing #15

Nightwing #15
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Eddy Barrows

Between Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws, here are two very good examples of how a crossover can really mess with a tie-in book’s flow. Were you enjoying the story of how Dick Grayson was trying to remake Amusement Mile and put Haley’s Circus back on the map? Well too bad! Because the Joker’s here and that’s all getting sacrificed in the name of the Joker being evil. Seriously. Almost everything Higgins has been working on in the entire Nightwing run so far is apparently going to be put to the torch just to amp up the Joker’s menace. And before any of it really got started. I mean, what was the point of all this Haley’s Circus and Amusement Mile stuff if it’s going to be destroyed by an outside force that had no bearing whatsoever on any previous issue? The Joker comes out of nowhere to destroy this comic’s ongoing storyline. And it starts off as gruesomely as possible.

The Joker kills Jimmy, the Haley’s Circus clown. That’s a real shame. Jimmy was really cool. Though to be fair, his death at the hand’s of the Joker was kind of foreshadowed in earlier Jimmy appearances. Dick Grayson is understandably upset, especially after Joker hangs the body off the front entrance of the circus, where everybody can see. So Dick closes down the circus and orders everyone out of town, for their own safety. Then after a brief romantic interlude with Sofia Branch (during which Dick chickens out after a kiss), his investigation into Jimmy’s death takes him to an abandoned warehouse. But the Joker is there to ambush him with a drug-addled, mind-controlled Raya, whom Joker kidnapped from prison last issue. Nightwing fights Raya (who has been dosed with Joker gas, and is fighting with swords) until her body can’t take it anymore, and she dies. But Joker left a note on her corpse that he’s going to bring the hurt to Haley’s Circus!

Comic rating: 4/5: Good!

Despite my annoyance, it’s still a very good story. The stakes are incredible for Dick Grayson, and the Joker is truly evil. Though the conflict between the two doesn’t get nearly personal enough, with the Joker sticking mostly to the shadows, but Dick Grayson is definitely in a world of hurt. And it’s good to see Barrows back on art. But again, I’m just annoyed at what Joker has done to this title. Jimmy and Raya were both new and interesting characters in Dick Grayson’s post-reboot life, as was Haley’s Circus. But here comes the Joker to wipe away all of the good that Higgins has built.  But Jimmy and Raya weren’t around long enough for the audience to really connected with them. And now they’re gone. And for no good reason. So what happens when the Joker story is over and Higgins no longer has his story?


Red Hood #15

Red Hood and the Outlaws #15
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Timothy Green II

Whereas Joker’s arrival in Nightwing definitely disrupted that comic’s ongoing story, his appearance in Red Hood and the Outlaws does the opposite, and gives this comic a story. Red Hood doesn’t have the kind of ongoing narrative that Nightwing does, instead having its heroes bounce around from adventure to adventure, so this just makes for another adventure. However, it’s not a very good one. Lobdell doesn’t nearly possess the same skill at writing the creepy new Joker as other writers, so while there are a few nice moments in this issue, it doesn’t hold up to the quality of other Death in the Family comics. Which means I’m definitely not looking forward to his Teen Titans contribution.

The cops have caught Jason in Isabel’s apartment, but he fights them off with ease (wearing only a towel). Jason escapes in one of the police cars, confident that Det. Bullock will get Isabel the treatment she needs. But it turns out that Joker is hiding in the back of the police car, and he gases and kidnaps Jason. The Red Hood later wakes up in some mystery room, where the Joker taunts him from the shadows with little tidbits of his life. If you remember the zero issue, it was revealed (and retconned) that Joker orchestrated much of Jason Todd’s life in order to manufacture a Robin. Jason doesn’t believe him, but Joker has a lot of souvenirs from Jason’s life. Jason’s attempts to escape are fruitless because the Joker has the place booby trapped. Red Hood falls down into another level of the dungeon, where he finds Red Robin already tied up.

Meanwhile, Arsenal and Starfire find out that something is wrong and they head to Gotham City, where they find the rest of the Teen Titans.

Comic rating: 2/5: Bad.

While I definitely support the retcon that Joker manufactured Jason Todd into Robin, Lobdell doesn’t give that reveal the oomph that he should. Instead, it’s just Red Hood tied up in an undisclosed, booby-trapped dungeon, where Joker can and will do anything he needs to do to keep Jason at bay. Whether it’s cleverly placed gas or a trap door in the floor, Joker has access to anything the story requires. So it’s just Lobdell’s weak attempt to pepper the comic with some hard knocks while Joker achingly tries to tease Jason with the truth about his origins. And Lobdell doesn’t come up with anything clever for the reveals. He simply has the Joker tell Jason the truth through little teases and half-comments, which Jason doesn’t believe anyway. So it’s a waste opportunity. As are Arsenal and Starfire, who flirt a bit before finally getting around to joining the rest of the comic. It’s also disappointing that the regular artist for Red Hood and the Outlaws has jumped ship to a Superman comic, leaving us with a sub-par replacement.


Thor #3

Thor: God of Thunder #3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic

Jason Aaron does it again! Thor: God of Thunder continues its epic streak, delivering the third great issue in a row. Aaron is doing a phenomenal job of juggling his multi-era story, bouncing from one Thor to another with ease and never losing the momentum. I’ve said it before, but it bears mentioning again, Aaron is exceptional in his depictions of Thor at different ages. Young Thor is quite different from Current Thor, yet you can still tell they’re the same character. I definitely haven’t been this interested in Thor in years.

And once again, Iron Man makes a cameo appearance.

In the present day, Thor visits the library of Omnipotence City, the ancient clubhouse of all the gods. He’s astonished to learn how many have gone missing over the centuries, and uses the library’s resources to track them all down – only to find corpses left by Gorr the Godbutcher. In the past, Thor recovers from his last battle with Gorr and tracks him down to a cave nearby, intent on a renewed confrontation. In the present day, Thor gets Iron Man’s help to find that cave again, but inside Thor only finds a strange alien, who is hiding from Gorr in the one place Gorr wouldn’t look. Both eras imply that Young Thor’s encounter with Gorr in that cave is going to reverberate through the ages!

Comic rating: 5/5: Great.

The action slows down a bit, but the book doesn’t suffer in the least. Aaron hits us on Page 1 with something as cool as Omnipotence City, then launches into a fun montage of different gods of different worlds – all dead, of course. I found it a little silly that every single god in the Hall of the Lost was killed by Gorr (as opposed to just being lost for other reasons), but then this whole organized pantheons thing is still a big pill to swallow. As long as the story itself remains entertaining, I don’t mind. Young Thor’s interactions with the ancient peoples is quite enjoyable, and Gorr, thankfully, remains hidden in shadow, as he should. His major appearance last issue robbed him of some of his mystique, so I’m happy to say that Aaron keeps him menacingly in dark this issue. I can’t wait to see what happens in that cave.


Thunderbolts #2

Thunderbolts #2
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Steve Dillon

Much like Cable and X-Force, I was willing to give Thunderbolts a second try. And much like Cable and X-Force, I’m pretty sure this is it for me. It’s just that this issue likewise lacks anything compelling to keep me coming back. Way doesn’t even try to explain why any of these characters would work together, let alone work for the Red Hulk. He puts more effort into explaining why everybody wears red and black than why anybody is doing anything in this issue. Way just groups these characters together, throws them at a vaguely military problem and that’s that.

An atomic bomb went off on a small island nation in Southeast Asian, but nobody seems to know – except Red Hulk. So he puts his team together to attack the bad guys. I’m a little unclear who the bad guys are, exactly.  A dictator, I think, and his personal army. Venom and Punisher save a bunch of people from some soldiers, for some reason. Deadpool and Elektra sneak in via the water, only to get ambushed and caught. Deadpool also has some weird happy vision, where the soldiers are all in happy colors and telling Deadpool they love him. I think this was a gimmick of Way’s Deadpool that no other Deadpool writers followed. Red Hulk also reveals that he’s got the Leader unconscious and strapped to a machine to use for gathering intel.

Comic rating: 2/5: Bad.

If you can get past the fact that Way doesn’t bother to give anyone any motivation in this series, it’s still a poorly put together comic. He jumps around to different parts of the story for no good reason, and it isn’t even very clear how any of the parts fit together. We go from Venom and Punisher ambushing some soldiers, to Deadpool and Elektra’s water infiltration, to Venom and Punisher hanging out with Red Hulk as he tells them about the Leader. There’s no clear indication what any of these various missions are accomplishing or in what order they’re taking place. The only bright spot in this comic is a brief narration by Ross describing his team. They have no nationality, no ties to any other superhero groups. They are just a lone fighting force, striking their foes like lightning strikes the Earth. And that’s a cool premise for a superhero team. But Way doesn’t even try to make any part of this coherent. And Dillon’s art isn’t doing the book any favors.


X-Force #35

Uncanny X-Force #35
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Phil Noto

And that’s the end of Uncanny X-Force (for now). Remender’s usually awesome Uncanny X-Force comes to an end, giving us a touching epilogue, at least if you’re a big fan of Psylocke and Fantomex. I never was, so this issue is isn’t as strong as it could be. I never liked Fantomex, simple as that. I’m a much bigger Archangel fan, and since Fantomex was the ‘other guy’ in Warren’s relationship with Betsy, I definitely never got behind the Psylocke/Fantomex pairing. Not Remender’s fault. If he loves Fantomex, that’s his business. Fortunately, this issue features a few other fun developments as it bows out quietly.

Wolverine has buried his son Daken in Japan, promising himself that had he known Daken was alive, he would have saved the kid a long time ago. But considering Daken was a retcon, it’s hardly Wolverine’s fault. Deadpool pays a visit to Evan at the Jean Grey School, and they talk about how Deadpool thinks Evan is a swell kid and isn’t destined to become Apocalypse. Deadpool leaves him some Playboy magazines before he sneaks back out. Psylocke makes peace with her brother Captain Britain, and then Psylocke, Wolverine and Deadpool return to their base to finish cloning Fantomex. I’m not entirely sure how they did it, but they did. Only now each of Fantomex’s three brains has its own body. There’s Dark Fantomex, Nice Fantomex and Lady Fantomex. In the very end, Nice Fantomex and Lady Fantomex take Psylocke home to meet his computer mother, with Psylocke and Fantomex sharing a kiss.

Comic rating: 3/5: Alright.

I suppose it’s not really fault of Rick Remender’s, but this series definitely goes out with a whimper instead of a bang. It’s a fine epilogue, I suppose, and ties up various issues nicely. But I think I’ve just stopped caring. So much else is happening at Marvel these days, and I don’t particularly have any personal interest in any of these characters. It’s nice that he got to wrap up the series how he wanted, but all of these endings are just leading to new beginnings. Pyslocke and Lady Fantomex are jumping straight into a new Uncanny X-Force soon enough. So this was a nice send-off to Rick Remender’s stories, but I can’t garner any particular interest or care, and that’s on me. Though at least he killed off Daken. Let’s hope Marvel never feels the need to resurrect him ever again.


Wolverine and the X-Men #22

Wolverine and the X-Men #22
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw

The second issue of this evil circus storyline is a bit better than the first, especially since all the boring introductions are out of the way. It’s all chaotic action and character growth, the latter of which is my favorite part of comics. Granted, all of the character growth happens to characters I don’t particularly care for, but it’s still enjoyable to read. The evil circus seems to be just window dressing at this point, and I can’t say I blame Aaron. Bradshaw is a very bright and colorful artist, and if you were going to have a comic where Idie bonds with one of the Hellfire Kids, why not a bright, colorful and very evil circus?

All hell has broken loose at Frankenstein’s Murder Circus, with the X-students trying to save all the innocent people, while at the same time fighting off evil zombie clowns, evil clowns and the mind-controlled circus X-Men. In the midst of the trouble, Trevor the Eye Guy tries to find his course and save the X-Men, only to get beaten up for his troubles. Evan takes on Iceman and Storm, the latter of whom finally breaks free of the mental hold of the witch Calcabrina. But the real story is that Idie comes to the rescue of Max, the Hellfire Kid who is descended from Frankenstein (though she doesn’t know who he is). They banter nicely as they help each other try and shut down the circus. Could one of the Hellfire Kids actually be an interesting character with redeeming characteristics? We’ll find out next issue!

Comic rating: 4/5: Good.

Last issue wasted too much time introducing the various X-Men in their new circus statuses. And considering how little of that matters in this issue, Aaron definitely wasted too much time before. Here the X-Men are just the X-Men under mind control, their various circus identities completely unremarked upon. So really they’re just comedic chaos as Aaron bounces around the few stories he actually cares about. And each of those stories is pretty good. Eye Guy gets a bit of character development in this issue, though he’s still rather pathetically pitiful. Idie and Max get the most work, and I must say it was very entertaining, even though I hate Idie and the Hellfire Kids. Still, there’s a chance that Aaron might actually make something out of this one.


Wonder Woman #15

Wonder Woman #15
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

Yep, it’s official, Brian Azzarello has got me interested in the New Gods. The refined costume, lack of too much baggage and placement in an already stellar book actually have me very interested to see what Orion gets up to in the New 52. Before this, I kind of actively disliked the New Gods. They were too big, too gaudy and a little too silly for my tastes. Had there been a New Gods series in the New 52, I would have passed over it without a second thought. But Azzarello is doing a great job with introducing Orion in the pages of Wonder Woman, and this issue finally brings him into direct conflict with Diana.

But first, Orion visits some fat, smelly hobo in New York City who wears a bandana over his eyes. He has some kind of power that Orion needs, but they’re old friends, so Orion goes easy on the crazy hobo and gives him a ride on his flying scooter. Elsewhere, Wonder Woman is suiting up in preparation for a meeting with Lennox’s brother Milan, though Lennox is trying to talk her out of it. Milan can be a bit troublesome, it seems. Wonder Woman is also dealing with Hera and Zora, who are getting along like squabbling sisters. It’s quite funny, actually. Wonder Woman goes with Lennox to meet Milan in the sewers, leaving Zora in charge of Hera. The two women get along a little better by bonding over their desire to get out of the apartment and see the city.

In the sewers, Lennox meets with Milan while Wonder Woman hangs back. Turns out that Milan is the fat, smelly hobo that hung out with Orion, and sure enough, the New God is still down there and doesn’t much like Lennox’s attitude towards Milan. The two men exchange some heated words before Wonder Woman shows up and challenges Orion to fight!

Comic rating: 4/5: Good!

While this story is starting to drag its feet, the chemistry between all of the characters is quite fun. Hera and Zora are marvelous together, as is Wonder Woman’s reaction to having to babysit them. Wonder Woman and Lennox continue to have a real warm friendship, so much so that I’m disappointed that they’re siblings. The gruff, street-wise Lennox would make for a great love interest for Wonder Woman. As would Orion, for that matter. I’m actually disappointed that DC is pushing this Superman/Wonder Woman pairing because I don’t think it really fits at all in Wonder Woman’s solo series. And this new version of Orion (who is probably quite similar to the old Orion) is just so cool. I’m definitely looking forward to this fight. But having Wonder Woman hook up with Superman over in Justice League robs this comic of any romantic plot, which is a sad shame, since I think Azzarello could have a lot of fun with one.


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!

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 December 22, 2012, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. ANXM was very good. Bendis started to lose me with the last issue, but he got me back here. Great issue.

    Avengers was much improved. It still needs more characterization, but it’s on its way to being a good book.

    Cable & X-Force was pretty good, I thought. Good character work, and the story seemed interesting to me. The shadowy figure looked like Stryfe, which is a little disappointing – I’ve always felt him to be overused.

    Captain Marvel was awesome, as always. Monica stole the show.

    FF is great. Fraction and Allred both excel at fun comics with hidden depths, and that’s what they’re bringing. This is going to be a great series.

    Hawkeye’s a fun series. This issue got confusing at times, though. I think the choice to jump around in time was a mistake. It was supposed to make it really fun, but it just made it confusing and a little frustrating.

    Indestructilbe Hulk is very good, but it still bothers me that Waid regressed the Hulk into near-mindlessness for no apparent in-story reason. The Hulk hasn’t been stupid for a long, long time. Waid’s Daredevil has been awesome because he took a “back-to-basics” approach, returning the character to the Scarlet Swashbuckler he started as. But that was a deliberate choice on the part of the character, and it’s something that continues to be brought up in-story. He’s taken a similar “back-to-basics” approach with the Hulk, but without it being a character choice, and without an explanation of why it happened. It doesn’t feel organic. It feels like a cheap way to make the character more familiar to fans of the Avengers movie. And that’s really, really lame. It’d be like bringing Gwen Stacy back to life as a way of appealing to fans of the Amazing Spider-Man movie.

    Thor is great. Just a great book. I wish Aaron could deliver this sort of character work on WatXM.

    Thunderbolts was lame. Way’s just not a good writer.

    UXF was meh. I stopped caring about this book very quickly after the Dark Angel Saga ended. This finale felt a bit maudlin at times. Also, I never really bought the attraction between Psylocke and Fantomex. I just didn’t feel any real chemistry between them.

    WatXM was the mediocre disappointment it’s been since the beginning, with shallow characterization, too much use of one of the most obnoxious concepts I’ve seen in a comic (the Hellfire Brats need to simply die – awful, stupid characters), and too much focus on being silly rather than clever. I’m also annoyed at the very concept of this arc. The Frankenstein Monster got over his revenge kick a long time ago, when he met Veronica von Frankenstein and decided to live with her for a little while. And he’s certainly never shown a willingness to hurt innocent people needlessly, even when he was obsessed with vengeance. So this arc that shows him willing to let a witch suck the souls out of people is totally out of character.

    • I’m definitely with you on Uncanny X-Force. Dark Angel Saga was good, and then it was all downhill from there. Especially that story in the other dimension with the Captain Britain Corps. And ugh, I just couldn’t stand Fantomex and Psylocke, but it’s clearly what Remender wanted, and he’s the writer, so he gets what he wants.

  2. Had to graze through a few of your reviews today, as I still haven’t pulled together the scratch to pick them all up, but I did just want to drop one quick note on ya brotha. Have you seen the shirts on WeLovefine.com?? Scored the Hawkeye (Hawkguy, like in M*A*S*H right? LOL) and the join Shield now shirt today, pretty stinkin cool. Highly recommend if you haven’t seen em. Also, Hawkeye (shockingly for me) is quickly becoming one of my fave reads of all. Fraction is just telling a great story with an imperfect hero and it is really working for me. And although the art is different from your high level main stream guys, it is definately growing in me and i’m starting to dig it. Did you see in the comment section the kid that ordered purple Chucks to match Hawkeye’s? That cracked me up. Good on him, but I don’t think I could pull off purple chucks… and I’ve got a wife and two kids and don’t give a dang about what anyone thinks but me. Ah yes, and in a sad note tonight (bow your heads in remembrance) my PS3 decided to pull the ol’ “Registration of the trophy information could not be completed. The game will quit”. Sunofa. On the day I finally grab Dishonered and C.O.D. Black Ops 2 she goes and does me like this? Allright all you like minded individuals out there, i’m going to pick up the last few Marvel books I missed and then come back and check out the rest of your reviews for kicks. Merry Christmas ya’ll.
    -Danny in Texas

    • I have not seen awesome Hawkeye shirts on WeLoveFine.com, but then I didn’t know to be looking. Thanks for the tip! And if you love Hawkeye, Fraction and Aja wrote a similar and similarly amazing Iron Fist series a few years ago that’s definitely worth checking out in trade paperback form. They only did like two trades worth of issues together, and both are amazing (with some fill-in art).

      Sorry to hear about your PS3. My X-Box finally did the Red Rings of Death for the first time a few months ago. But thankfully I have a local video game store that does X-Box repairs, so I got it done for cheap and didn’t have to ship it away to the manufacturer.

      • Man, Iron Fist was my fave. Wishing he still had a series, Danny Rand is a cool character and like you said, it was an amazing run, got them all. And, I had a Christmas miracle. The PS3 came back to life and I’ve been killing zombies in COD ever since. Joy to the world! Ha.

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