Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/2/13

Robin Week comes to a close with my official review of Batman Incorporated #8. It’s actually a very good comic, so it’s great to see Damian go out at the height of his awesomeness and popularity; kind of like Seinfeld or Calvin & Hobbes. I would even be tempted to give Damian’s demise the Comic Book of the Week, but that award has to go to Hawkeye #8. Writer Matt Fraction had an amazing week, delivering the one-two romantic punch of Hawkeye and FF, two amazing comics that reinforce why I love the medium in the first place. If you’re not reading either book then you’re definitely missing out.

Who would have thought that coming out of the big The Avengers movie last summer, the two characters with the best comics would be Hawkeye and Thor? Speaking of which, why doesn’t the Black Widow have her own comic series? That seems like it would be a no-brainer, especially for Marvel NOW! Oh well, this is why Marvel is not paying me the big bucks.

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #17, Batman Incorporated #8, FF #4, Hawkeye #8, Talon #5, Uncanny Avengers #4, Uncanny X-Force #2, Uncanny X-Men #2 and Young Avengers #2.

Aquaman #17

Aquaman #17
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier

I really enjoyed the Throne of Atlantis crossover. I think it accomplished exactly what a good crossover needs to accomplish. It used the Justice League to great effect, presented a truly epic conflict, and put the focus on one specific character, Aquaman. This epilogue sees Aquaman, kind of, languishing in his new status quo. He’s the King of Atlantis now, but we never actually see him on the throne. He’s kind of just going around doing semi-heroic, water-based things. Still, mostly entertaining.

Among his kingly duties, Aquaman disrupts a bunch of whalers, though in the process, he pisses off a group of radical eco-terrorists and one of his own men, the grizzled Murk, who liked things better under King Orm’s rule. Aquaman meets with Amanda Waller, who tells him that Atlantean weaponry is showing up on the black market, and he needs to do something about that because nobody likes Atlantis. Aquaman is clearly kind of sad these days, but he does his duty. He also swears to all the creatures of the sea that he will never let them down…but the Ice King is stirring in Antarctica.

And meanwhile, Mera gets arrested by the local cops, who still have a score to settle from their last encounter.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

This is a solid issue that gives us a glimpse into Aquaman’s new status quo as King of Atlantis. I kind of wish we’d seen a bit more, like perhaps him actually visiting Atlantis, but it seems he’s more of a hands-on king. Plus Johns does a nice job of introducing us to new characters who will no doubt play a larger role as the series goes on. It’s disappointing to not see Aquaman and Mera together, since her reasons for not joining him haven’t exactly been explained (unless it was in previous issues several months ago), but it’s clear Johns plans to keep her in the book. Hopefully those two crazy kids get back together soon. Though would someone please tell me if Mera has always had her chest and cleavage exposed like that or if it’s just a recent change.

Batman Inc #8

Batman Incorporated #8
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham

I am a man who is always willing to admit when he’s wrong. I can still remember a few issues ago whining about how I didn’t think Batman Incorporated was going anywhere, how Grant Morrisons’ big epic saga felt like it was dragging on, and how he’d been usurped as the primary Batman writer these days. Looks like I was dead wrong. (Pun intended.) Batman Incorporated takes center stage this issue with the death of Damian Wayne. And as I mentioned earlier this week, Damian has never been cooler than in this issue, his finest hour.

Leviathan has risen and threatens to take over all of Gotham City, with Talia’s forces planning to blow some kind of bomb at Wayne Tower. Batman is trapped on the roof, and spends the issue breaking out while Talia taunts him from afar. That leaves the Robins to try and save the day. First Red Robin gives it a shot, but he’s subdued by the Leviathan forces inside Wayne Tower. Damian comes to his rescue, but he too is overwhelmed. Nightwing saves Damian, and the two team up once again and to defeat Leviathan’s soldiers. But they are no match for Talia’s giant, hulking henchman, who is himself an adult clone of Damian. The young Boy Wonder takes on the brute, expecting his mother to back down at some point – but she doesn’t. The henchman kills Damian with a sword and Batman is too late to save him. But at least in his sacrifice, Damian was able to delay the bomb going off.

Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.

Fantastic issue and great final battle for Damian. I’ve talked a lot about Damian this week, so I won’t say much here, but he is really cool in this issue, and I especially liked the team up once again of Dick and Damian. That was easily my favorite scene of the week. The rest of the issue is good too. Red Robin gets a moment to shine, which always makes me happy. And Morrison and Burnham expertly controlled the drama and rising tension of the issue, bringing it to a tragic ending. Knowing Damian’s fate beforehand actually heightens the tension as you read through Damian’s final moments of heroism. Plus, if we didn’t know he was dead for real, then those of us who are jaded by comic books would expect him to recover from that fatal wound at the end. Solid issue all around, and I’m definitely excited to see where Morrison goes next.

FF #4

FF #4
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred

Finally, Fraction focuses on one of his other characters in this issue, as She-Hulk goes out on a date with Wyatt Wingfoot. And while I can’t speak for the history between the two, which is a large focus of the issue, it’s definitely a lovely date. Especially when Fraction uses the kids from the Future Foundation to great comedic effect, making for another wonderful and very fun issue of FF. I can’t help but wonder if his Fantastic Four series is just as good.

She-Hulk goes out on a date with old friend and former flame Wyatt Wingfoot, but this makes the mole kids jealous since they all have crushes on ‘The Jen’. So the mole kids get help from Bentley, the young clone of the villainous Wizard, in order to ruin She-Hulk’s date. Unfortunately for them, everything Bentley tries to do actually backfires, causing Jen and Wyatt to have an even better and more romantic time. In the end, She-Hulk and Wyatt share a smooch, and Bentley complains to a mysterious, shadowy friend that he doesn’t think he’s going to be a very good super-villain. This mysterious friend is revealed to be Medusa! Or at least, someone who looks like Medusa, since something is definitely not right with her speech patterns.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

This comic is an absolute blast. I was wondering how Fraction would handle all of the FF kids, and this issue shows he has some great ideas to keep them in play. The mole kids were beyond adorable, and now I really want to go back and read Jonathan Hickman’s FF to learn more about both them and Bentley. The rest of the issue was fun too, though the date between She-Hulk and Wyatt made far too many references on their past relationship, of which I know nothing. Apparently they both considered each other the ‘one that got away’, and steeping a relationship in that much unknown continuity detracts from the date at hand. But oh well. It was still adorable.

Hawkeye #8

Hawkeye #8
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja

Somehow, Matt Fraction has positioned himself at Marvel Comics as the fun writer. Between FF and Hawkeye, this guy must be having a total blast writing comics. No big crazy crossovers. No demands on continuity. Fraction is just writing his characters straight up having fun, going on adventures and being completely awesome. And with David Aja at his side, Hawkeye #8 is once again a triumph.

The mysterious redhead Cherry (or is it Penny?) bursts back into Hawkeye’s life after she shoots her Russian husband and goes on the run from the track-suit wearing mobsters. Hawkeye agrees to help her – even if it puts him in an odd predicament with his girlfriend, Spider-Woman – and together Hawkeye and Penny break into the mobster’s base to steal a special safe. Penny makes it out with the safe, but Hawkeye gets arrested. He gets released on bail and returns to the girl, but she walks out on him because he lost the combination to the safe. This was cleverly done with a series of old-timey romance comic book covers sprinkled throughout the issue like act breaks.

In the end, Kingpin holds a mobster meeting to discuss killing Hawkeye. The leader of the Russian mobsters (bro-sters?) volunteers.

Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.

Hawkeye is back in fine form! After an issue dedicated to Hurricane Sandy, and a few other fill-in artists, Fraction and Aja are back to deliver an issue that proves Hawkeye has lost none of its spark. This is a magical, wonderful comic. This is everything solo hero comic books should strive to be. Action, adventure, complications, an awesomely human hero; it’s no surprise that DC is trying to emulate this book with their own Green Arrow. All comics should try to emulate this book. Though it was a little weird trying to squeeze Spider Woman into this comic. I wasn’t entirely sure if Fraction was going to acknowledge Hawkeye’s other continuity obligations. She’d be an interesting addition to the cast, though no one could outshine Kate Bishop as Hawkeye’s sidekick. She only gets a brief cameo in this issue, but it’s a great little scene.

Talon #5

Talon #5
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March

It is very hard in today’s comic book market to create a successful new superhero, especially in the Big Two superhero companies. That’s why you’ll see a million different Batman and X-Men comics, but comics like The Ravagers, The Order or Static Shock quickly get cancelled, no matter how good they are. They just can’t support the numbers. Not enough comic book fans are willing to spend their money on unproven characters. It’s an oddly cannibalistic system. And it’s why DC’s new Vibe and Katana series are both actually called Justice League of America’s Vibe and Justice League of America’s Katana. It’s why Marvel’s successful Thunderbolts series was switched to Dark Avengers. The name brand is what’s important. And this makes me very worried for a series like Talon, because it’s just so cool that I don’t want to see it given the ax before its time.

Following the events of last issue, Calvin Rose has spent the past two weeks in recovery underground, enjoying the sweet life with Casey and her daughter Sarah. But everybody knows that the time has come to get back out into the field, and this time Talon is going to take down the Court of Owls’ security network, which was designed by Casey’s father. It’s housed in some crystal-looking secret island out in Gotham Bay, which Casey describes as unbreachable…but they still find a way in. Unfortunately for Talon, it’s a trap!

Meanwhile, the Butcher is still hunting for Talon, and kills a random family to sate his bloodlust. Also, Batman is starting to notice Talon’s activities.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

Talon is a good comic. It’s not filled to the brim with crossovers. It’s not touting the most popular superheroes. And it’s not trying to cash in on a different brand name. This isn’t Batman Presents: Talon. This is Talon, and it is trying very hard to stand on its own two feet. I give it props for that, and I hope it works out. This issue was fun, and it shows how Talon can work as a good, solid superhero adventure. The impenetrable fortress in Gotham harbor was a little much, but it’s still a good enough obstacle for our hero to face. And the Court of Owls remain a solid villain. I’m also warming up to Talon’s supporting cast, though I still think they were introduced too quickly. This is the kind of superhero comic that I want to see succeed. A lot could be done with Talon in the long run, but at this point I’m just hoping he makes it that far.

Uncanny Avengers #4

Uncanny Avengers #4
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

I think the problem with Uncanny Avengers is that Marvel has over-saturated their own market. Remember when this was billed as the flagship title coming out of Avengers vs. X-Men, how this was going to be the new status quo at Marvel? Yeah, apparently not so much, because Marvel just went right on publishing regular X-Men and Avengers comics anyway. This is only issue #4 of Uncanny Avengers, and in that time we’ve had seven issues of Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men and six issues of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers, and both of those comics are either better or simply much stronger than Uncanny Avengers. We’ve even got two issues of Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men, which is actually doing something with Cyclops’ new status quo. This comic isn’t really doing anything with Captain America. Uncanny Avengers is quickly being buried by its unimportance.

The Red Skull’s attack on New York City continues as he and a mind-controlled Thor take on the Avengers. Red Skull focuses on Captain America, using his new mental powers to flood Cap’s brain with Nazi iconography. Skull monologues about the worthlessness of the mutant race and how he is going to lead humanity to victory. Cap eventually defeats Skull with a little help from Rogue and Havok, but Red Skull still manages to escape. Meanwhile, Havok and Scarlet Witch repel Thor until Skull leaves and the thunder god’s mind clears. In the end, everyone picks up the pieces and Havok gives a big speech to all the innocent civilians about how they can be the change that the world needs.

There’s also an epilogue set 3-months later where the world seems to have gone to hell and Red Skull has become Onslaught. Seriously.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

I loved Onslaught as a kid, so if that’s where this story is going, I say bring it on! But the rest of the comic just doesn’t excitement me nearly as much as that final page. I think Remender is just trying too hard. Everybody’s giving big speeches in this issue trying to hammer home the whole mutant vs. human racial conflict, one that he has done a somewhat lackluster job of creating, and one that barely exists across the rest of the Marvel Universe. Maybe if there weren’t tons of other comics with this exact same superhero premise then this comic might actually stand for something. Instead, it comes off as preachy. It’s clear Remender thinks he’s writing a flagship title. This attack by the Red Skull would actually be a big deal, if all of the other X-Men and Avengers comics weren’t tackling their own giant threats.

And most of the characters are starting to feel pointless as well. Captain America and Thor are both appearing in Hickman’s Avengers, where the core concept behind that team lineup and this team (which Cap calls the ‘Unity Squad’) are in direct opposition. In Avengers, Cap and Iron Man have put together their own ultimate lineup of Avengers, one that will grow and shrink depending on the threat at hand. But apparently, completely on the side, Cap has decided to let Havok have his own little team, just for the fun of it, I guess. Then you’ve got Wolverine starring in his own series, Wolverine and the X-Men, where he’s put to greater use. So really, Uncanny Avengers is just about Havok, Rogue and the Scarlet Witch. Are they strong enough characters to support a series like this?

Uncanny Avengers was a strong concept coming out of Avengers vs. X-Men, I was very excited for it, but it’s being swallowed up by the much better comics around it. And if artist John Cassaday really is the reason for the delays, then he was definitely not worth it. He’s a fine artist, but this is far from his best work. He simply can’t compare to the quality and far more timely artists on All-New X-Men, Avengers, New Avengers and more. The publishing delays have desperately hurt this series. John Cassaday is a liability that needs to be cut.

And I just wanted to gag at the Daily Bugle headline Remender tosses in at the end of the book. When everyone is sitting around licking their wounds, Thor shows Wolverine the front page to try and make him feel better. The headline reads: “Xavier Dead. But Dream Lives On” with a picture of the new team standing amidst all the debris. So after a Nazi super-villain attacks downtown New York, mind controls hundreds of innocent people and causes the murder of dozens more, the Daily freakin’ Bugle’s headline is some namby-pamby tribute to Charles Xavier? One that just happens to underline the supposed premise of this series? Gag me with a spoon.

Uncanny X-Force #2

Uncanny X-Force #2
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Ron Garney

The second issue of this revamped series is a solid, entertaining superhero adventure. However, Uncanny X-Force has yet to distinguish itself as anything new or unique, but I guess if all you want is a standard X-Men story, this would be perfect. Simply put, there is no reason for this comic to exist. Marvel does not need to be publishing two X-Force titles, especially with a market already flooded with X-Men books. The only real purpose this comic serves is giving Psylocke something to do. Storm is already appearing in Wolverine and the X-Men, and everyone else in the comic (Puck, Spiral, Fantomex and Bishop) do not have fan bases large enough to suppose their own comics. So really, this series might as well be called ‘Psylocke and the X-Men’.

Spiral has gotten her hands on one of the new mutants in the world, and this young girl can somehow control people’s minds…I think. Storm, Psylocke and Puck chase Spiral and the girl for awhile in Los Angeles, getting into a few scuffles along the way. They finally confront the six-armed villain in some kind of warehouse, only for Bishop to suddenly blast through the wall. The X-Men are surprised to see their old friend, but Bishop has turned into some kind of roaring, feral psycho who has come for the girl, and has experienced some kind of power fluctuation.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

The writing and art are both solid. The story is straight forward and mildly entertaining. And the characters are generally fun. But there is nothing that really stands out about this series. There’s no hook, no gimmick, no theme or motivation that distinguishes it from every other X-comic on the stands. Unless, of course, you really like Psylocke. This is Psylocke’s comic, but perhaps Marvel didn’t want to just call it ‘Psylocke’ for sales reasons. Obviously the comic ‘Uncanny X-Force’ is going to sell much better than just ‘Psylocke’. So honestly, I’m thinking of dropping the title. I think I gave Cable and X-Force three issues, and that comic was outright bad. This one is just bland. I like Puck as much as the next comic book geek, but Puck alone is not reason enough to keep buying this standard, well-built X-Men comic.

Uncanny X-Men #2

Uncanny X-Men #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

Two issues in and I’m definitely still excited about Cyclops and his band of rogue X-Men. There’s a fresh, exciting feeling to this comic, that it is legitimately special when surrounded by so many other X-titles. These characters aren’t part of the establishment. They’re rebels. They’re complex and fascinating characters taking the X-Men idea back to its very roots. And Bendis’ characterization and dialogue keeps this issue exciting even when it’s just characters standing around and talking. There is definite appeal in watching Cyclops try to make a new school and a new X-Men team from scratch. And the last page cliffhanger promises a level of excitement I hadn’t expected to see so early in the series.

Cyclops has finished building his new Xavier School, and this issue is spent getting to know some of the characters, especially the new X-Men. A lot of time is spent with Emma Frost, who is upset over losing her telepathy, but is still not sure she can really hate Cyclops for that. Emma and Scott have a nice conversation about the tenuous nature of their relationship these days. They’re no longer a couple, but they don’t hate each other. And for the sake of the new students, they’re both more than happy to keep spending time together. The new students are starting to get along, but some of them are worried about the families and lives they left behind. So the X-Men teleport to Australia to check in on Tempus’ parents – but Magneto has betrayed them, and Captain America and the Avengers show up to attack!

Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.

I loved this issue. I especially loved getting to know the new X-Men better. Part of me feels that Bendis is rushing through these new mutants, that they’re all just props for his story. So I’m grateful to see him actually take the time to flesh them out. I would be very happy to see them stay on as real X-Men for a good long while. They all seem really cool. And I definitely like these new X-Men more than I like the new mutants Jason Aaron is introducing over in Wolverine and the X-Men. I’m also excited just watching Cyclops’ new team grow. This series is the X-Men at their most basic. It’s a team of mutants hated and feared by the world gathering up new mutants to train and teach them to be heroes. Plus it has the added drama of Cyclops’ unfortunate status quo, and strong character work with Scott, Emma and Magik. This comic definitely has a reason to exist.

And I’m definitely excited to see the Cyclops/Captain America rematch!

Young Avengers #2

Young Avengers #2
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton

I definitely liked this issue better than the previous one, but I think my lack of interest in the characters is going to cause me to drop it from my pull list. I read comics primarily for my favorite characters, and I just don’t really care about any of these people. Simple as that. Still, for who they are, it’s an entertaining comic with a lot of neat art and a solid story. And if you love these characters, I have no doubt you will love Young Avengers. I just don’t think it’s for me.

The evil mom that Wiccan brought from another dimension has wasted no time in seemingly taking over everything! Even when Wiccan and Hulkling go to the Uncanny Avengers for help, they’re already under the evil mom’s spell! So she grabs the two boys and throws them in a cell made from an empty, white comic book panel. It’s a really neat trick, and the art is very clever. Kid Loki shows up to rescue them, since he can traverse evil mom’s magic, and together the three of them decide to go to Asgardia in Oklahoma to seek help from Loki’s people. I had no idea Asgardia was a thing. Must have happened in the Journey Into Mystery comic. Before the kids arrive, however, they’re stopped by Laufey, Loki’s frost giant father, who Wiccan points out is supposed to be dead.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

Honestly, this is just a personal taste thing, like I said before. I don’t have any vested interest in any of these characters or the Young Avengers as a team, so I’m just not going to enjoy the series as much as I would otherwise. But it’s a solid comic with good writing and great art, and I have no doubt that a lot of people are going to love it. Sadly, I’m not one of them. But really, it’s a good comic, and I was probably harder on the first issue than I should have been. Now, if one of my favorite characters randomly shows up down the line, I’ll probably give it another look. But for now, I think I’ll be saying goodbye.

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 March 2, 2013, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I would guess Black Widow didn’t get a series because she’s never been able to sell very well. They’ve tried – she’s had several series since 1999, including an attempted ongoing when Iron Man 2 came out. They may have decided not to bother giving her another just now.

    FF was great. Fraction and Allred – a combination you can’t go wrong with. The date was so great.

    Hawkeye’s great. A fun series. I don’t think it’s quite for me, but it’s definitely a good book.

    UA is a book that I just can’t bring myself to care about. It’s improving, certainly. It’s well-written and looks good. But much as I wanted this to be a great book, it’s just . . . not. It’s not bad, by any means. It’s just not anything special. It’s the least enjoyable Uncanny title. I will say, however, that the Red Skull trolling his own lackey was hilarious. The Skull is seriously owning this title.

    UXF was a lot of fun. Psylocke and Puck are awesome. We’ll see if it gets a real purpose for being, but for now, a fun book where Psylocke, Puck and Storm get to be awesome sounds goo. This actually reminds me a lot of ’80s Claremont X-Men, particularly the Outback Era. Of all the X-titles right now – and there are a lot – this one feels the most Claremontian, but updated for today.

    UXM was great. Emma and Scott had wonderful chemistry. And Emma herself still has a bit of the sarcastic edge we know and love. And Magik’s awesome. The new mutants are a lot of fun, and are definitely far, far more interesting, with deeper characters, than the ones Aaron made for WatXM. Which isn’t hard, considering how shallow Aaron’s writing on that title is. Anyway, I also appreciate that the thought of returning to villainy never even crosses Emma’s mind. It shows that Bendis understands how solidly she’s in the heroic camp now.

    YA is one of my favourite titles. Kid Loki is one of the greatest characters ever created. The page with them walking around on the panels was handled brilliantly – it wasn’t quite breaking the fourth wall, but it was close. It takes a good writer to make that sort of thing work, and Gillen’s one of the best. Wiccan and Hulkling are a charming couple, and Kid Loki is amazing. This book is so, so good.

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