Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/26/13

What a week, what a week, what a week. Good thing there’s always comics to keep us entertained and excited. And another busy week brings us several different Avengers and X-Men comics – including the second X-Force title – as well as the penultimate chapters of the Third Army story in Green Lantern. Is it living up to all the previous Green Lantern sagas? No…not yet. But it’s still fun! As is the new Young Avengers series, and the latest issue of FF, but then we always knew that series was going to be fun.

Seriously, people, there are a ton of new comics this week. But the coveted Comic Book of the Week has to go to Wolverine and the X-Men #24. It’s cute, it’s fun and it reminds me why I loved this series so much in the beginning.

Iceman knows how to show a girl a good time

Comic Reviews: Avengers #3, Batwoman #16, FF #3, Green Lantern #16, Green Lantern: New Guardians #16, Justice League #16, Nightwing #16, Red Hood and the Outlaws #16, Uncanny Avengers #3, Uncanny X-Force #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #24, Wonder Woman #16, Young Avengers #1.

Avengers #3

Avengers #3
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jerome Opena

I gotta say, Jonathan Hickman, you are not living up to the hype. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe this series is going over my head. The first story wraps up in this issue and the ending is just flat out dull. The Internet was on fire with how much it loved Hickman’s Fantastic Four, of which I only read some. So I was very excited to get in on the ground floor of his Avengers series. But this is what we get? This is as boring, formulaic and downright poorly written as any superhero story I can remember. Worse than that, it’s pretentious. At least the art is fantastic.

Up on the planet Mars, Ex Nihilo and his friends still have most of the Avengers trapped. They all watch as a new humanoid figure emerges from one of his big life pods, and Nihilo is excited that this new being is learning so quickly. But the celebration is cut short when Captain America shows up with a few dozen other superheroes, including Hyperion. And then everybody fights. It’s just a big fight. Hickman’s random assortment of Avengers vs. Ex Nihilo’s various monsters. Falcon manages to convince the bird monsters to go away while Hyperion fights the mind-controlled Hulk.

And then Captain Universe just steps up and saves the day. I have a big problem with this. This is not a character. This is nobody we know. Oh sure, we’re all familiar with Captain Universe in general, but the host is somebody brand new who doesn’t even seem to understand how she got there. Yet somehow Captain America was able to recruit her into this Avengers mission. Captain Universe basically just tells Ex Nihilo to stop, and he does, because he respects Captain Universe. When the robot refuses to stop, Captain Universe blows it up. No fuss, no muss. Ex Nihilo then agrees to stay on Mars and do all his terraforming there. Then he asks Captain America why he thinks Captain Universe chooses to stay on Earth, and Cap replies, “Because it’s an Avengers World.”

No, thank you.

Comic Rating: 2/5: Bad.

Hickman clearly thinks he’s writing the greatest Avengers epic of all time. The book has that feel. But in execution, it’s so utterly generic. Cap and Tony put together yet another Avengers team, made up of mostly classic members with a few random new ones thrown in. That’s not some special new Avengers initiative, that’s every Avengers lineup ever. The bad guy is a joke. Sure he killed a lot of people, but that was all off-panel and never really mattered. Ex Nihilo doesn’t get into any fights, and he’s the one who randomly decided to send Cap back to Earth, giving him a chance to call in reinforcements. The fight itself is bogus. Ex Nihilo and his two pals took down the strongest Avengers in a matter of pages in issue #1. Now they have an entire army of monsters on their side, and yet Cap’s random assortment of reinforcements take them down just as easily. There are no stakes in this fight.

Especially when Captain Universe is used as an almost literal Dues ex Machina. We all know the Captain Universe concept, but Hickman gives us no introduction whatsoever to this new host, or how she’s able to just either convince Ex Nihilo to stop what he’s doing or blow up the robot. The fight literally lasts long enough for Hickman to write the host trying to understand what’s happening. And the moment she does, everything gets quickly settled. Poof. And then Cap’s line. “It’s an Avenging World”? What a stupid one-liner.

Batwoman #16

Batwoman #16
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III

So close to greatness. This was a fantastic comic book and everything I could want from Batwoman’s climactic battle with Medusa and her forces. But there was one big thing that kept this issue from reaching true greatness: the narration. I hate having to take points off this comic, because the writing was amazing and the art was worthy of the Louvre. But Williams and Blackman’s decision to write this comic by jumping from one narrator to the next robbed us of the visceral thrill I wanted to see in this final fight. So this is purely a personal thing. I was looking forward to an epic knockdown, drag out fight as Batwoman and Wonder Woman are pushed to their limits in this battle. Instead, it came off like a montage in a documentary, with all the various characters getting a moment to narrate their thoughts for a few panels. It was very well written, but took away from the immediacy of the battle.

Medusa and her army have launched a full assault on Gotham City, with our heroes standing in her way. Wonder Woman takes on the Hydra by herself, lopping off its heads as she tries to keep the creature under control. Almost everyone gets narration, including Agent Chase and Medusa herself, talking about their various motivations for being here. Director Bones shows up at one point, but he gets knocked out by the ugly brute with the hook for a hand. Flamebird returns with a new (awesome) costume to lay into the hook guy, while her narration tells us that she’s scared to death. The werewolf guy returns to aid Batwoman, but I think he gets turned to stone by Medusa.

Batwoman is the real star of the show, with her narration taking us through the mindset of a determined warrior. She fights her way through henchmen and monsters, aided here and there by various others. Batwoman convinces the Lady of the Water to turn against Medusa to help save some of the children. But in the end, it looks like Batwoman might be too late. Medusa has awakened Ceto, the mother of all monsters!

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

By all accounts, this is the best drawn book of the year. It’s amazing. I completely understand why Williams took a break with last issue so that he could pencil these beautiful splash pages. If you’ve never read Batwoman, you won’t understand. It’s simply amazing. Colorful, detailed, dark, other-worldly, with characters who clearly stand out. Williams draws amazing versions of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Medusa. It’s a stunningly drawn book. But I just don’t love the montage of narrations as much as I would have loved a more real-time story. I realize the scope of the battle is huge, but I think they could have done a lot better focusing more on the moments themselves than what was happening in the characters’ heads. It slowed everything down at a time when I wanted the story to speed up and kick ass. Thankfully, we have one more issue to go in this story! And I’m more excited than ever!

FF #3

FF #3
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred

It’s nice to know that even with all the big stories and ideas that Fraction has planned for the Fantastic Four and the FF, he’s also planning to tell some really fun character-based tales. Most of this issue is taken up by a scene between Scott Lang and Darla Deering that definitely pushes the two of them into star status in this series, and I’m glad for it. Fraction has definitely won me over on accepting Darla, and his Scott Lang is a fantastic protagonist. Charming and a little dorky, Scott is both determined and hesitant in his new leadership role. Watching his character arc, and possibly his blooming romance with Darla, is going to be the highlight of Fraction’s FF.

John Storm is the only survivor from the Fantastic Four’s 4-minute vacation. He’s older now, with a robotic arm and leg. He explains to the new Future Foundation that Dr. Doom, Kang the Conqueror and Annihilus joined forces and merged together to create Doom the Annihlating Conqueror, who then proceeded to kill Reed, Sue and Ben. John has been fighting him for years and has only now escaped back to the real world – but he knows Doom is on his tail and will arrive shortly. The FF have to prepare. Scott heads out to recruit Darla, who appears to be a Lady Gaga-esque pop singer. He had a big thing planned with flowers and a nice card, but its interrupted by a surprise shaving cream bomb from the Yancy Street Gang, who want to stick it to Darla. Scott and Darla chase the thugs out of her hotel (with Darla wearing only a towel), but they lose the last one in the middle of Time Square at New Year’s Eve. Scott and Darla look like they’re about to kiss before he tells her his plan: they’re going to wipe Doctor Doom from the face of the Earth.

Also, Medusa and She-Hulk bring in Wyatt Wingfoot to confirm that John Storm is the real deal. And we learn in secret that the Moloid kids  paid the Mole Man to attack last issue as a way to bring the new Fantastic Four together.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

Once again, FF is a very fun issue, with a delightful, character-based story from Fraction and some amazing art by the Allreds. Their style is unlike any other in the world of comics, and it is absolutely perfect for this book. You get to the point of wondering how any other artists could possibly draw and color this series. Scott and Darla are a very entertaining pair, and Fraction handled their budding romance well, really helping the reader get behind them only three issues into the series. Scott is a wounded man trying to recover, and Darla is a young woman who has suddenly had her whole life called into question by a bit of superheroics. They seem perfect for each other, and adorable on top of that. I look forward to reading about them. But hopefully Fraction takes some time to explore the other characters. Medusa and She-Hulk haven’t really had anything to do over the past three issues, and I’m hoping Fraction reveals why he chose them to appear in this comic.

Green Lantern #16

Green Lantern #16
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke

I don’t usually pay much attention to the art in comic books, simply because I don’t know that much about art. If it’s good, then I’m happy. If it’s bad, then I’m not. But there are few things more disappointing than seeing the art take a nose dive about halfway through a comic. Based on the credits, there are three different inkers, but Mahnke does all the pencils. So the blame is in there somewhere. Still, poor art aside, Johns is doing a fantastic job with the introduction of Simon Baz. There’s some talk about him having to give the Power Ring back to Hal Jordan in the end, but I really hope that does not come to pass. Simon is a breath of fresh air, and I am really looking forward to reading about him in the future.

B’dg, the latest talking squirrel Green Lantern, has come to Earth in search of Hal Jordan, only to find Simon instead. B’dg is quick on the uptake and starts schooling Simon in how to recharge and use his ring. Not everybody can be trained by Kilowog, I suppose. But B’dg is very cool in the mentor role, and he helps Simon unlock messages left by Hal and Sinestro in the ring. Both of the messages give a quick rundown about how the Guardians are bad guys now, and how Hal and Sinestro were sucked into Black Hand’s death dimension. Before they head off to launch a rescue, Simon takes a personal moment to try and use the Green Lantern ring to revive his brother-in-law, who has been in a coma since he and Simon crashed while street racing. B’dg insists that the Power Ring cannot be used to heal the sick…but somehow Simon makes it work and Nazir wakes up. B’dg is impressed, while Simon and his sister are happy to be reunited with Nazir. But the reunion must wait as Simon and B’dg take off to rescue Guy Gardner.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

I’ve been saying it all along, but Simon Baz’s introduction is spectacular so far. He’s a very cool, very layered character. Johns has been fantastic on Green Lantern since he started all those years ago, and it’s reassuring to see that he can really bring his A-game when introducing a new Green Lantern all his own. I really, really hope Simon Baz sticks around for the long haul. The story was good, but not great. Like I said, the art dragged it down, whether it was just underdrawn in the opening pages or downright sloppy in the latter pages. And while it was a very inspiring scene in the hospital room, it didn’t really pack the emotional wallop that Johns wanted. We don’t know Nazir and we barely know Simon and his sister, so seeing the man brought out of a coma isn’t all that powerful. The stuff with B’dg teaching Simon about his Power Ring, however, is fantastic.

New Guardians #16

Green Lantern: New Guardians #16
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Aaron Kuder

Well what do you know, New Guardians actually put out a decent comic. And they managed to pull off their Kyle becomes the White Lantern story with some actual skill and emotional triumph. I really liked this issue. It’s got strong characterization and a great use of the various other Lantern Corps, giving us a nice cliffhanger leading into the Third Army conclusion next week. It’s a little disappointing that it doesn’t tie into Green Lantern or Green Lantern Corps, but I suppose that’s not too big of a deal. All the various players will come together in a big day-saving ending. I can live with that.

Kyle Raynor is on the planet of the Star Sapphires, and they’re trying to help him unlock the power of Love, the last power he needs to become the White Lantern. Even though that’s not exactly how the White Lantern works, I don’t think. Regardless, Kyle is failing because he’s always kept love at arm’s length, but it’s too late now, because Ganthet has arrived to kill Kyle. Our hero faces off against the evil Guardian using all of the powers he’s mastered so far, but without love, he is defeated – so it’s a good thing he’s on a planet full of love. The Star Sapphires come to his aid, betraying their fake deal with the Guardians. The fight just gets bigger and bigger, with Ganthet calling in the Third Army while Carol, Saint Walker and Arkillo return to lend a hand.

In the end, it’s Kyle’s love for father-figure Ganthet that allows him to unlock the Violet Light, and he transforms into the White Lantern! Kyle easily eradicates the Third Army, and Ganthet flees. So Kyle declares that he and his allies will fly to Oa to stop the evil Guardians!

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good. 

I really liked this issue. It’s exciting, action-packed and has a real heroic surge to it at the end. Kyle truly becomes the Chosen One, masters all of the powers and now he plans to kick some bad guy butt. There have been times where I was a little skeptical that all of this was heading down the right path. Kyle was learning all of the different powers in the span of hours, and that just didn’t seem like how the Emotional Spectrum should work. But now that we’re here, I like his turn as the superheroic White Lantern. And I love that the Star Sapphires are on his side. Nobody said they had to be evil. I’m really looking forward to the grande Third Army finale, even if the Third Army itself has never really amounted to much of a threat.

Justice League #16

Justice League #16
Writer Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis

We’re only a few issues in, but already I’m happy to say that Throne of Atlantis is the best Justice League story so far in the DCnU. The characters are compelling, their conflicts are fun to read and the villain is truly impressive. This has the same scale as the Darkseid story in the beginning, but back then, Johns was just writing generic templates of the superheroes. Now they are real characters with real relationships, and their punches are even more powerful, both physically and emotionally. Its truly devastating to see Aquaman turn against his friends, but Johns really nails it how Aquaman is torn between doing what is right and doing what everyone else thinks is right. He’s trapped between a rock and a hard place, and he’s doing everything he can to keep the two from crashing together. This is an exciting comic.

King Orm is ready to invade Boston with his Atlantean army, intent on sinking the coastal town in retaliation for the missiles that were accidentally fired at Atlantis. But Aquaman stands in his way, trying desperately to convince Orm to turn back. Surprisingly, Orm doesn’t outright dismiss Arthur’s pleas. He actually seems willing to discuss this with his half-brother. But the rest of the Justice League just don’t care. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman all see a super-villain, one who has to be beaten up and thrown in jail. Aquaman tries to impress upon them that Orm is a king and that’s not how the rules work, especially not down in Atlantis, but they still come to blows. Then when the Justice League try to attack Orm directly, he throws them off and declares that Aquaman’s efforts have failed. He’s going to unleash his full army on Boston, and it is one damn impressive army.

If J.H. Williams III is the best artist when it comes to painted, expressive and beautiful art, then Reis is the best when it comes to straight-up superhero action and detail. The image of the Atlantean army rising out of the ocean is truly mesmerizing.

In the end, Orm grabs the Justice League heroes, including Aquaman, and sends them down to Davey Jones’ Locker to get out of his way. Meanwhile, Cyborg rescues Dr. Shin to get his help to stop Atlantis. Oh, and we get fun callouts to the Metal Men and Red Tornado in the DCnU. For once, I was actually kind of excited to see Red Tornado…but we don’t see him just yet. Though we do watch Cyborg call in all the potential recruits that the JL was considering. He needs backup and there’s no time to give them a proper vetting. Among the recruits are Green Arrow, Black Canary, Element Woman and a new character named Goldrush.

Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.

This story is everything I could possibly want from a Justice League comic book. It’s got action on an epic scale, a truly complex villain, and the conflicts between the heroes are just as grand as with those the heroes are fighting. Every good team book is built on good characters. And while the members of the Justice League aren’t as strong as they could be, they are far stronger now than they were when the series began. And Aquman is head and shoulders above the others, a truly compelling protagonist. It helps that Johns is writing both this series and the Aquaman series. Watching him struggle to keep Orm at bay while simultaneously trying to get the Justice League to see reason makes for a damn good comic. And Johns isn’t taking the easy road with the other characters either. Orm is only doing what he must as king. His attack is in retaliation, after all. And the Justice League are doing what they must as heroes. They have to protect Boston, even if their teammate insists they give Orm the benefit of the doubt. They don’t have the time or patience for that.

Cyborg is the only one to get the short straw here, but then I’ve always felt he was an awkward addition to the Justice League. He’s kind of just there to be Johns’ Swiss Army Knife. When Johns needs something done he’ll just come up with a new gizmo for Cyborg to wield. Still, at least he’s got a good B-plot. And the teasers for Red Tornado and the Metal Men were a lot of fun. Hopefully they’re not just going to be repeats of their past continuity selves, and Johns has some truly unique ideas for their rebooted versions. The final page cliffhanger of Cyborg reaching out to the potential JL recruits would have more of an impact if we didn’t already know that the new series, Justice League of America, is going to come along soon and make all of this moot. And that some of these characters appeared in the teasers for the start of Justice League. Oh well. Still a great, action-packed comic.

Nightwing #16

Nightwing #16
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Eddy Barrows

Anyone who has been reading my reviews right along knows how little I care for the Joker, and knows how ludicrous I think it is that Joker was able to set up so many different simultaneous traps for all the Robins. Joker is literally in half a dozen different places at once if you think about it. And it’s just getting to be too much for me. There’s nothing clever about this Joker. He’s just doing super evil things for the sake of it, and it’s starting to wear thin. I also mentioned this in my last Nightwing review, but it’s a sad shame that Higgins is blowing up everything he’s built for Dick Grayson so far. I really liked the idea of Dick rebuilding Haly’s Circus in Amusement Mile. It was a new and fun status quo, filled with new and interesting characters. But nope. The Joker’s gotta be evil for one single storyline. Goodbye everything this series has been building so far.

And literally, that’s the comic. Nightwing races to Amusement Mile to find that the Joker has been able to turn it into a gruesome death trap. Somehow the Joker found the time to not only dig up all of the bodies of former Haly’s Circus performers, but position them like dummies under the main tent. How did he do that? When did he do that!? Regardless, Joker basically just keeps twisting the knife into Nightwing without actually coming out and saying that he knows Nightwing is Dick Grayson. But then, how would Joker know to target Haly’s Circus if he didn’t know that Dick Grayson was Nightwing? Anyway, Joker blows up Amusement Mile, turns all of the Haly’s Circus people into Joker zombies and then defeats Nightwing, taking him to the same banquet he’s been taking all of the sidekicks so we can set up for the big Death of the Family conclusion.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

This is a well-written, very well drawn issue. Picking up from where the last issue left off, it’s a riveting story as Nightwing is defeated. It just lacks any special emotional oomph because we simply haven’t had the time to settle into this new Haly’s Circus status quo yet. And I’m not sure Nightwing will get to save the day in the end. Nightwing has taken the most personal hit of all the Robins, but I’m fairly certain Batman is going to be the one to stop the Joker. So there won’t be a dramatic recovery for Dick. It’s just Nightwing getting stomped by the over-powered Joker. But it’s definitely a well put together stomping. It’s just a shame that Higgins is giving up so much of what he’s built all for this one stupid Joker story that’s going to be over in another month.

Red Hood #16

Red Hood and the Outlaws #16
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Timothy Green II

Lobdell’s contributions to Death of the Family have been the worst so far, and that trend continues with this issue. It’s basically just the Teen Titans and the Outlaws teaming up to defeat an army of Joker zombies. Someone at some point mentions that they’re probably just being distracted, and if that’s the case, that definitely doesn’t make for a good tie-in. But I guess this issue is good enough as a general superhero struggle, narrated by Arsenal. This may or may not matter to either team in the future.

As the two teams battle the zombies, Arsenal reveals that he was able to get a blood sample from one of them, and their ship has not only analyzed the ingredients but has found a warehouse nearby that stores all the makings for a cure. Yeah, right. Arsenal and Bunker hold the line while Kid Flash, Starfire, Wonder Girl and Solstice head to the warehouse. The Joker expected them to find the cure, so it’s booby trapped, but Kid Flash’s speed still gets the antidote. Seems the Joker only really wanted to keep the two teams busy while he messed with Red Robin and Red Hood. Kid Flash then gives the antidote to each of the zombies and everyone is fine!

Also Lobdell randomly takes the time to cut away to both Hugo Strange and Deathstroke, indicating that both will probably show up later on. Lobdell has this very bad habit of introducing a villain out of nowhere and doing nothing with them.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

The story is pretty ‘meh’ for a tie in to Death of the Family, but it’s really just boring filler. Definitely doesn’t add anything to the overall story, but it doesn’t detract either.  It’s just a straight forward tale of the two teams working together to save the day, while bantering among themselves. The art is pretty bad, but not terrible. The banter is Lobdell’s usual bad dialogue, and the characterization is minimal. He teases a bit more of Arsenal’s origin, but doesn’t give us enough, in my opinion. I’m actually eager to find out what happened between Arsenal and Green Arrow…but now is apparently not the time.

Uncanny Avengers #3

Uncanny Avengers #3
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

I think this title has utterly failed as the flagship book of Marvel NOW! All that big talk of combining the Avengers and the X-Men into one team has been completely dispelled by the fact that the Avengers and the X-Men still have separate books, which are shipping more often and are simply much better than this one. It’s a definite continuity mess. Why does this team exist alongside the team dynamic of the regular Avengers title? I’m no stickler for precise continuity, but it robs Uncanny Avengers of all the power it was supposed to have. What else robs this title of that power? Poor writing.

The Red Skull, using the power of Professor X’s brain, launches his attack on New York City. He used Avalanche to get people’s blood boiling about mutants, and now he uses Xavier’s telepathy to push the people of New York into a frenzied, mutant-killing mob. Everyday citizens are turned into killers as they find and slaughter all of the new mutants in the area. The Uncanny Avengers show up to try and quell the riots, while at the same time fighting Red Skull’s S-Men. There are some wins, there are some losses. Scarlet Witch and Rogue break out of the Skull’s control, while Thor falls under it, smashing Wolverine in the process. It looks like the Red Skull might actually win!

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

The biggest problem I have with this issue is that too much is happening too fast. This is especially troublesome for the S-Men. I’ve hated them since we first saw them, and Remender is doing very little to make them into anything more than generic, pointless things to punch. It’s only in the middle of the big riot/superhero fight that he finally gives them names and apparently complex origins. But who cares? They’re nobodies and they will only ever be nobodies. He should have taken some time to really flesh them out before this big, climactic fight. The characterization of the heroes works a little bit better. But considering how slowly this book ships, the idea that we’re already at Red Skull’s big plan just seems too weak. Like, this is it? And Cassaday’s art is not worth the delays. Sure he’s good, but he is definitely being outdrawn by other comics that are coming out a lot more often.

While this title is entertaining enough to keep reading, it has definitely fallen from whatever lofty graces it was launched.

Uncanny X-Force #1

Uncanny X-Force #1
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Ron Garney

This book is already off to a much better start than the other X-Force title, Cable and X-Force. The story is more direct and far less confusing, and the characters are deeper and more fun. I think I might actually like this series. Plus Puck is a million times cooler than anyone in the other series, though both suffer from random character syndrome. It’s like they just threw darts at the wall to pick which characters would appear on each team.

Betsy Braddock hasn’t been fitting in well at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, at least not since X-Force disbanded six months ago. So Wolverine suggests she head to Los Angeles to clear her head, and check in on a designer drug that’s been causing waves in the club scene. Storm goes with her, and together they meet Wolverine’s LA contact, Puck. Not a bad way to start building a team. And already the characters are for more interesting and have more reason to be together than Cable and X-Force. Turns out the drug, called Tao, is being dealt by the villainous Spiral, with whom Betsy has some tragic shared history (i.e. torture). Betsy attacks Spiral while Storm and Puck scope out the stash of drugs, discovering that it’s some girl chained up in a vault, who seems to be able to mentally control everyone taking the drug – and she tells all the ravers to kill Psylocke!

Meanwhile, Bishop returns to the present day from the far future. He’s an unrepentant villain now, if you haven’t been following along. And remember when Fantomex split into three versions of himself at the end of the last volume? Well now two of those versions, the good guy and the good girl, are committing heists and making out with each other in Paris.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

It is remarkably surprising how similar the two X-Force titles are. Both are about a random assortment of X-characters joining together for a certain mission. There are no greater gimmicks or themes being expressed. And there’s no real reason why either team needs to be called ‘X-Force’. It’s an odd sort of strategy for Marvel. Just throw random characters together on a team and have them do superhero stuff. But at least this one is a good read so far. The characters have strong, unique personalities, their interactions are fun and the story is clear. Cable and X-Force has that weird flashback/flashforward thing that confuses the story. This one is told mostly in a linear fashion, and it works much better. So it looks like, at least at this early stage, Uncanny X-Force is the clear winner of the two.

Wolverine & the X-Men #24

Wolverine and the X-Men #24
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: David Lopez

Goodbye Frankenstein Circus, hello Wolverine and the X-Men! Jason Aaron has finally cast off that overly silly, utterly pointless story and taken us back to the beginnings of this series, when the characters felt real and their interactions were the highlight of the series. I loved Wolverine and the X-Men at the beginning. It was a breath of delirious fresh air as Aaron brought everything back to a school setting and threw a bunch of controlled wackiness in our faces, held together with strong characterization and new ideas. Kitty Pryde hooking up with Iceman? Sure! Toad as the janitor? Sounds like fun! The core appeal of the X-Men has always been the relationships between the characters, often to soap opera-esque levels, and Aaron does a fantastic job getting back to form.

It’s date night at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, and romance is in the air for several of our characters. First up are Iceman and Kitty Pryde, who go on their first real date at a nice, normal restaurant in Manhattan. But they quickly realize they don’t have much to talk about, and they’ve been casual friends for so long that the prospect of being a couple seems kind of weird. Then the two remember that they are Iceman and Shadowcat! Why waste the night on a boring dinner in a boring restaurant? So they travel around the world saving people from tornadoes and bringing ice to the Sahara. At the end of the night, back at the school, Kitty suggests that maybe they should just let it drop with one perfect date, but Iceman responds with a kiss.

Elsewhere, Quentin Quire tries to score with young, teenage Jean Grey. Beast blows off a date with his girlfriend Abigail Brand in order to focus on helping Broo. Some of the other teachers go out on the town. Toad gets drunk with the Bamfs. Kade Kilgore bonds with Sabretooth. Idie visits Broo in the infirmary, only for him to wake up and revert to his violent Brood nature. And Storm flirts with Wolverine in the Danger Room, leading to him cutting her hair back into a mohawk before they share a passionate kiss.

Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.

This issue is a great example of why I love this series, or at least why I loved it back when it first started. Aaron has a wonderful grasp on all of these characters and is telling just a fun, light-hearted take on the classic X-Men. Everything had gotten so serious on Utopia, and the Jean Grey School is just so lively and fun. I personally love superhero comics that focus on the characters first. These are real people, not just muscle-bound idiots punching each other. So the idea of a date night is right up my alley, especially as Aaron brings some new ideas and relationships into play. I love the idea of Iceman and Kitty Pryde trying to fumble their way into a relationship. Because why not? It’s new and it’s fun. There’s no reason Kitty needs to stay shackled to Colossus forever. New relationships are exactly what the X-Men need these days.

Although I don’t know why Aaron didn’t do anything with his Toad/Husk romance. That’s another romance that’s really growing on me.

Wonder Woman #16

Wonder Woman #16
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

Welp, Azzarello’s got a story to tell, so we should expect the occasional slow progression issue. He’s got to take us from Point A to Point B, characters have to chat and bump into each other, and the plot has to move forward. So I can’t blame Azzarello for an issue like this one. It’s just all together disappointing. Now I have to wait a whole month to read the next issue, and this one was so low key I’ll probably forget everything that happened. A real shame, that would be.

Wonder Woman and Orion were going to fight in the sewers, but they were stopped by Milan, who is able to spew a flood of flies out of his mouth. So everyone talks instead, and they figure out that they’re all trying to find the same baby. So they agree to team up, and Milan reveals that he can see through the eyes of all the bugs out in the world, and he uses that ability to find the child…and the child is so magical that he can see Milan through the fly. That spooks the poor guy. Elsewhere, the barbarian god from beneath the ice fights off from ice monsters. Are we supposed to know who that is yet? Is it Hercules? One of the Titans?

Meanwhile, Zola and Hera head to a bar, where they’re found by Ares and Strife.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

The issue was fine. It was very well-crafted, with the usual great writing and art one can expect from Wonder Woman. The characters remain interesting and the Wonder Woman/Orion face-off/team up is a definite highlight. But like I said, this issue is just a chance to move the story along slowly. Wonder Woman is slightly closer to finding the baby. And Zola and Hera are slightly closer to getting into trouble. So pretty ho hum all around as a standalone issue.

Young Avengers #1

Young Avengers #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie

I only got into the original Young Avengers later in the series, and I thought it was alright. Odd premise, but fun characters, good story and good writing. I haven’t since kept up to date on them, or on Kid Loki. But being into comic book reviews, I wanted to give the new Marvel NOW! relaunch a shot. Does it live up to the original series or stand on its own? No…at least not yet. This new series takes off running and expects the reader to know all the characters and understand what they’re going through. That’s a big set back for a #1 issue. Hopefully Gillen can get his act together as the series progresses.

The first issue kind of just throws all the characters at us right away. Kate Bishop has apparently randomly hooked up with Marvel Boy, and they’re in outer space in his spaceship. They chat for a bit before Skrulls attack, then they boogie out of there. Down on Earth, Hulkling has been going out in secret to be a superhero, which upsets his boyfriend/roommate Wiccan because they agreed to try to live normal lives. But Hulkling points out that his mom was killed, and all he has left in life is Wiccan. They make up…and Wiccan decides to use his magic to reach into another reality to find a different version of Hulkling’s mom to bring into this reality. Weirdly romantic gesture. It does not go well and the new mom attacks Wiccan’s parents.

Meanwhile, Kid Loki is eating dinner when he senses Wiccan using magic. He teleports to the roof to try and stop it, but Miss America Chavez suddenly shows up to interrupt. They fight, Hulkling tries to intervene, but then both Kid Loki and Miss America Chavez leave.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

This is all a little too much too fast for my liking. I barley know half of these characters. Unless you specifically read Journey Into Mystery for the past year (which I didn’t), you won’t know why Loki is a kid. And Miss America Chavez was only introduced in some obscure, unpopular mini-series that went nowhere. So I don’t see how anybody should have any idea who she is or why she would try and stop Kid Loki. I also don’t know why Hulkling and Wiccan have promised to not be superheroes. And why would Kate Bishop hook up with Marvel Boy all of a sudden? No effort is taken to introduce any of these character for new readers, and I’m pretty much a new reader. This series may be wonderfully drawn, but Gillen is already throwing these random characters at me and putting them into wild adventures without helping me to understand who they are or why I should care.

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 January 27, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Avengers had a very sudden and anti-climatic ending, no question. Hickman really, really needs to start bringing character focus going forward. The reason his Fantastic Four/FF run was so beloved was because, much as it was full of big, bold, epic concepts, he kept solid character work at the heart of it all. His Avengers, so far, is missing that. So that’s something he needs to fix immediately.

    FF was great, obviously. Fraction and Allred work well together, and they’re a perfect team for this book. Really good character work mixed with a whole lot of fun.

    Uncanny Avengers was pretty good, I thought. I’m still disappointed that the frigging Nazi has a more diverse team than the group of heroes promoting tolerance. THREE blond-haired, blue-eyed Ubermensch feels like too much, especially since the closest they have to a person of colour is the half-Jew, half-Gypsy woman (who almost wiped out the mutant race). And yeah, this series simply will not be worth reading if they can’t stick to their update schedule. These constant delays are just unacceptable, especially in what’s meant as a flagship title. All-New X-Men started later, and already has twice as many issues out, while still having better writing and art.

    UXF was great. Storm and Psylocke both felt like they were taken back to their Claremontian roots. Strong, snarky, and badass. Psylocke loves a good fight, Storm is more subtle. And Puck is awesome. I love him.

    WatXM is good when it’s character-focused like this, even if I still don’t like the relationship between Kitty and Bobby. (Also, when have they ever been close friends? They’ve barely interacted.) I hated this series from the start specifically because I found the characterization, right from the first issue, to be shallow, with more focus on being wacky and silly than on making deep, compelling characters. (Also, a lot of the humour felt too self-aware, like it was winking at the audience, rather than treating it the way slapstick should be handled – completely serious.) This issue had solid characterization, and some pretty good humour. This is what the series should have been from the start, instead of the stupid, shallow nonsense that it actually was. If Aaron keeps up this type of issue, without going back to the “OMG so wacky LOL!!!1one” stupidity that’s been so common in this series, I might be able to start recommending this as something worth reading.

    3/5 for Young Avengers? Infidel! Heathen! YA is awesome. This is already one of my favourite books. The writing, characterization and art are all great. Kate Bishop’s dead-on, Noh-Varr’s more interesting than he has been since he was first introduced, Billy and Teddy are a wonderful couple, Kid Loki is delightful, and Miss America is cool. I adored Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery – it was one of the most incredibly brilliant comics I have ever read – so I was always going to love his writing here. But I was also impressed by McKelvie’s art. That two-page spread of the Skrull attack is jaw-droppingly awesome. That’s seriously one of the coolest spreads I’ve ever read. And then he does something similar again near the end. This is just set up as an amazing series, and everyone should read it.

    • I am more than willing to give Young Avengers another chance. I’ll probably pick up two or three more issues to see if I like it. I’m not saying the characters themselves aren’t cool or were not written well, I just had a problem with how haphazard the issue seemed. I’m also pretty sure I missed a prologue somewhere in some Point One anthology comic. So we’ll see.

      But I’m really starting to notice a trend with all these new comics. No matter the team, it seems like writers just throw a random assortment of team members together and send them on a pretty generic mission, without any larger theme or goal. Uncanny X-Force, Cable and X-Force, Avengers, New Avengers, Young Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, and on and on.

      • I like your observation about all the new teams are just random super heroes thrown together. It is a nice place for Marvel to be. A chance to leverage their greatest accomplishment: 5000 different super heroes. Like some teams have set rosters. When someone says Justice League or Fantastic Four, there is a set of specific heroes that comes to mind. But teams like X-Force, Thunderbolts, or Back-up FF are good nearly blank slates. So my hope is that they eventually run out of characters I don’t care about and make a team of Prodigy, Darkhawk, Cloak, Dagger, Molly Hayes, and somehow Pyro. They’ll be the Extreme X-Force…..possibly the Uncanny Thunderbolts.

        Also, this is the world I expected Post-Civil War. The 50 State Initiative would have been brilliant for this kind of world-building and Marvel only scratched the surface. Why are Venom and Elektra on a team together? Because Iowa needs a super hero team and Tony Stark/Norman Osborn/Steve Rogers/Maria Hill/Nick Fury says so. Then it becomes a matter of having bad things happen in places other than NYC. And this honestly should not be a problem since only having bad things happen in NYC makes no sense.

        I firmly believe that every superhero is somebody’s favorite. So put as many different super heroes in as many different teams as possible and you’re bound to catch some fans. Cast a wide net, etcetera, etcetera, fishing metaphor!

      • You have just inadvertently guessed this week’s List of Six! Sort of!

  2. thanks for the updates. Not reading anything right now so it is appreciated.

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