Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/23/13

Another third week is upon us and once again I find myself reviewing more than a dozen comics! I wish I knew how it worked out that all my favorite comics seem to come out on the same week. It’s like some kind of conspiracy against me and my poor wallet. At least they’re all mostly good comics. Seriously, not a stinker in the bunch…but maybe that’s just because I tend to stop buying comics that I don’t like. I’ve whittled away all the bad comics and am left with a great lineup of quality stories. I can live with that.

Comic Book of the Week was hard to choose because none of these issues rose to real greatness. They’re all just generally good and entertaining. It came down to a battle between the viciousness of Doc Ock in Superior Spider-Man vs. the adorable cheerfulness of Captain Marvel, and I’m happy to say Carol pulled through another win! Captain Marvel is just a fantastic series.

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #9, Avengers #8, Batwoman #18, Captain Marvel #11, Green Lantern: New Guardians #18, Indestructible Hulk #5, Justice League #18, Justice League of America #2, New Avengers #4, Nightwing #18, Nova #2, Red Hood and the Outlaws #18, Superior Spider-Man #6 and Wonder Woman #18.

All-New X-Men #9

All-New X-Men #9
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

I may be the only person in the world who cares about this, but Lady Mastermind is back! Hooray! She is one of those characters who appeared in a few stories I liked, so she became a quick favorite of mine. She was even, technically, a member of the X-Men for a short while, and I thought that was pretty cool. So I am very excited to see her return to join Mystique’s new Brotherhood of Mutants in this issue. Bendis seems to have a lot of fun with her one little scene, and this just gives me one more reason to look forward to new issues of All-New X-Men.

Professor Kitty Pryde gets to work training the young X-Men by pitting them in a Danger Room session against a fleet of Sentinels in Times Square. But the teens are unfocused and are more than a little in over their heads. It’s an entertaining scene as the strengths and weaknesses of each character play out, especially Kitty’s anger towards Jean, who last issue revealed that she’s more than willing to abuse her new telepathy if it gets her what she wants.  A quick reading of young Cyclops’ mind reveals that he met with Mystique, which causes Kitty to worry, but Cyclops is too put off by Jean violating his privacy to give Kitty a straight answer…and they no longer have time, because old Cyclops and his Uncanny X-Men appear outside the front door.

Meanwhile, young Angel has a chat with old Beast about the so-called ‘mutant genocide’ that he told them was going to happen, because it doesn’t look to Warren like mutants are dying en masse. Beast explains that old Cyclops’ revolution against humanity will lead to war, and mutants are so outmatched that the humans will eventually start killing mutants. So Beast wants the young X-Men to snap old Cyclops out of his foolhardy crusade. And elsewhere, Mystique and Sabretooth break Lady Mastermind out of prison. Mystique tells Lady Mastermind that she no longer cares about the fate of mutants now that Xavier and his dream are dead. Instead, Mystique wants to put the Brotherhood together to make lots of money!

Comic Book Rating: 4/5: Good.

First let me say that Bendis is doing a very interesting juggling act when it comes to old Cyclops. In his own title, Uncanny X-Men, which is also written by Bendis, Cyclops comes off as cool, calm and with a mostly strong head on his shoulders. In this series, everyone makes a very good argument that Cyclops is now a lunatic, and that final page reveal of Cyclops’ arrival, drawn by Immomen, makes the guy look downright super-villainish! This speaks volumes about Bendis’ skills as a writer, and Immonen’s skill as an artist.

The rest of the issue is good too. I’m glad somebody finally explained Cyclops’ revolution, though nothing in Uncanny X-Men leads me to believe that Cyclops is going to wage war against humanity. But at least it’s nice of Beast to explain his actions. The young X-Men continue to be entertaining, even if the story is slow-paced, but I don’t really have a problem with that. This comic ships multiple times each month, so even though the overall story is creeping along, the series comes out frequently enough to make up for the slow pace. And I especially like what Bendis is doing with the Brotherhood. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of Lady Mastermind, and the scene between her and Mystique was just plain fun. I hope Bendis has some fun plans for these characters…but why was Lady Mastermind allowed to wear her sexy, revealing costume when locked up in a prison cell? I guess super-villain prisons just don’t believe in uniform jumpsuits.

Avengers #8

Avengers #8
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Dustin Weaver

The excitement of last issue is dulled a bit in this one as Hickman tries to sort out the Starbrand mess he’s written. I’m still excited to see where he’s going with this (mostly), but the need to try and explain everything to both the new character and the reader weighs down my overall enjoyment of the issue. There’s a lot for everyone to try and understand when it comes to Starbrand, and I think I’ve got most of it. Hickman is painting on a very large canvass, and he’s very selective about what he’s going to show the reader at any given time. That may make for great stories in the long run, but issue-by-issue I can’t say I’m a fan.

The Avengers arrive at what used to be a college campus to find the new Starbrand, Kevin Conner. He’s scared, naked, confused and troubled by the fact that he’s responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 people. The Avengers try to get him to calm down, but when the Hulk just gets angry and charges the boy, Kevin learns that he has some pretty immense power, and he’s not afraid to use it. Kevin starts to fight back as the Avengers try to contain him, but it’s Nightmask who calms everyone down and teleports Kevin away from the carnage to explain what the heck is going on. I can’t say I followed everything Nightmask had to say, but he explains that there probably won’t be any other New Universe characters showing up, and somehow it’s all tied back to Ex Nihilo on Mars. Also, Starbrand gets a costume.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

The fight scene is pretty cool. Thor and Starbrand exchange some powerful blows, and the Hulk has a great moment where he’s first blasted out into space, then Captain Marvel launches him in a Fastball Special back into Starbrand. Weaver’s art is fantastic during the fight, as is the sense that the Avengers are trying to contain a scared but proud young man who is tasting real power for the first time in his life. Starbrand’s characterization comes across well. Then the issue cuts to an extended info-dump by Nightmask, and it’s just not very clear what he’s talking about. He tries to explain what caused the White Event and how it’s all tied into the Builders, eventually taking Starbrand back to Ex Nihilo for reasons I don’t fully understand. I just don’t get what Hickman is trying to say with Nightmask and Ex Nihilo, but the rest of the issue is still entertaining.

Batwoman #18

Batwoman #18
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Trevor McCarthy

One story ends and another begins as Batwoman moves on from the battle against Medusa. Unfortunately, the writers don’t really do a lot with all of the big happenings they had last issue. If you were looking to see a follow-up to Kate’s marriage proposal, don’t expect to get it here. Maggie Sawyer barely appears, and not with Batwoman at all. Whatever big talk the two women had about marriage and secret identities apparently happened off-panel. Lame. I would have loved to have seen that conversation. Instead, everybody’s already moving on.

Batwoman and Hawkfire team up to take down Mr. Freeze. They work well together, though their teamwork is still a little sloppy. Both heroines also have someone in their ear giving them tips on the fight. Batwoman is still working with Chase from the DEO, despite what happened last issue. And Hawkfire is still working with Kate’s father. The pair defeat Mr. Freeze, but are confronted by Batman, who wants to secure Freeze’s weaponry – but so does Chase. That’s why she sent Batwoman after Mr. Freeze in the first place. The DEO wants Freeze’s ice-gun. Batwoman compromises by smashing the weapon. Elsewhere, Maggie Sawyer rents a new apartment, Kate’s father’s wife finds out about Bette, and Chase meets with a mysterious new character who will be expected to put Batwoman in her place.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

I really wanted to see some kind of follow-up to Kate’s marriage proposal. It was a huge moment for this series, as was Maggie finding out that her girlfriend is Batwoman! Why didn’t we get that scene? Seems to me that would be a huge moment for both characters and the series. Instead we get a random fight with Mr. Freeze and a scene of Maggie trying to pick out a new apartment. I’m also a little annoyed that Batwoman is still working for the DEO. I thought she quit last issue, and I was glad for it. I don’t like that Batwoman is beholden to an organization like the DEO, or to characters like Chase, who is generally unpleasant. It’s just an annoying complication, especially since it’s not like the DEO has any standing in the DC Universe these days. There are dozens upon dozens of spooky organizations with acronym names. The DEO is nobody special. At least it was fun to see Batwoman and Hawkfire teaming up.

Captain Marvel #11

Captain Marvel #11
Writers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Christopher Sebela
Artist: Filipe Andrade

The guy at my local comic book shop seemed convinced that this comic had already been cancelled, but I haven’t heard anything official from Marvel. If that’s indeed the case, I will be a very sad panda. Captain Marvel consistently ranks as one of the best comics every month, bringing both humor and warmth to its superhero story. And the art by Filipe Andrade has only served to make the comic even better. There are few comics out there with this much humanity and character behind them, and it would be a sad shame to lose this series. Personally, I blame that lousy opening story arc.

Captain Marvel has been hospitalized after she passed out and crashed into the street last issue. The doctor explains that every time she flies, she makes the lesion in her brain worse, and then her friend Tracy lays down the law that she won’t be flying anymore. Fortunately, she’s got Wendy and guest star Dakota North to hook her up with her own flying motorcycle! They put her logo on it and everything! Dakota North also helps her track down Deathbird, who isn’t the classic Deathbird, but is instead some kind of impostor that they start calling ‘Newbird’. However, they only find Newbird’s henchmen, and Captain Marvel fights them across the rooftops.

Carol later goes back home, only to get an eviction notice from her bitter landlord who thinks she’s dangerous. Carol also finds out that Newbird showed up and dropped off a Deathbird costume for young Kit to play with. That crosses a line for Carol, and she takes her flying motorcycle out to take down Newbird!

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

Once again, DeConnick and Sebela deliver a delightful comic about Carol’s struggles with both her personal and professional lives. This is exactly what I want from superhero comics. I love it when writers treat their characters as people first and superheroes second. It’s a much more personal, grounded approach to storytelling, and I think it’s far more effective than just stories about heroes endlessly punching villains. I love Carol interacting with her landlord, doting on  young Kit and hanging out with friends like Dakota North. I’m rather enjoying all the guest stars that show up in this series just to hang out with Carol, the way real friends hang out with each other. I like when my comics have a real sense of camaraderie between the characters.

GL: New Guardians #18

Green Lantern: New Guardians #18
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Hendry Prasetyo, Jim Calafiore, and Javier Pulido

So far, Wrath of the First Lantern fails to impress. I get what the creative teams are going for with these character pieces, but I just don’t think they’ve so far said very much about the actual characters. And considering how many Lantern books there are and how many characters, it’s starting to get a little long in the tooth. I’m pretty sure that every single Lantern has managed to break out of the First Lantern’s spell, so really this is just showing us how weak the guy really is, and the strength of the characters that we already like. Hopefully this will all be over next month and we can move on to the real meat of the story.

The First Lantern attacks Carol Ferris, Saint Walker and Larfleeze, feeding them alternate versions of what their lives might have been, but each result is the same: the Lanterns eventually break free. The First Lantern gives Carol the life she always wanted, where she and Hal never got rings and instead she became a pilot – at the cost of her company and her father’s life. But then Love for her fellow man during an attack snaps her back into being Star Sapphire. The First Lantern gives Saint Walker a life where he’s a Green Lantern and was able to save his family, but then the Third Army attacks his world. Saint Walker refuses to give in to despair and saves his family by channeling the power of Hope, snapping him out of the spell. The First Lantern gives Larfleeze a life where his family is alive, actually, he’s given Larfleeze several possible realities, but each and every time Larfleeze’s Greed overpowers the illusion and he snaps back to himself.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

It was nice to see the focus spread to several different members of the New Guardians, though considering how haphazard that ‘team’ has been over the past 18 issues, I don’t think they can really be called anything. They’ve switched members, fought against each other and haven’t really gelled into a cohesive unit at all. This isn’t a team, it’s just a random assortment of the various multi-colored Lanterns. Yet they’re still called the ‘New Guardians’ as if that were their team name. Oh well. These were all nice little snippets of story, giving us good little glimpses into the lives of these characters, but I just kept thinking that the First Lantern was shooting himself in the foot. If he wanted these characters to be stuck in these fantasies, why did he push them to the breaking point? He says that he wants to feed on their despair, but he also says that emotions like joy would be good enough to sustain him. So why have Carol’s fantasy attacked by an invading army? Why force Saint Walker to see his family swallowed up by the Third Army? If the First Lantern had settled for an emotion other than despair it’s possible his prisoners would have stayed in their prisons.

Speaking of which, why don’t we have Joy Lanterns or Despair Lanterns? I think those are two emotions that could be added to the spectrum.

Hulk #5

Indestructible Hulk #5
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Yu

Indestructible Hulk keeps humming along at a nice, quality pace. I think Waid has a lot of freedom to tell the story he wants to tell, and it’s entertaining so far, though I’m worried this issue might be a little too much like filler. Nothing is done to progress Banner’s ongoing story, unless the characters he meets in this issue plan on showing up again at a later date, and I would not mind that one bit. Otherwise, it’s just Banner and Hulk action at the bottom of the sea.

Hulk is being dragged to the bottom of the ocean by Attuma’s force, but he’s rescued by the Lemurian Rebel Army, including a hot, blue-skinned babe who has become a big fan of the Hulk. The Army fills him in on Attuma’s plans, including the fact that he is using the Lemurian alchemists to make a special burning liquid weapon, which Attuma uses to destroy the Chinese super sub. Then Hulk leads the Lemurian Rebel Army against Attuma’s forces. Hulk kicks butt, escapes the maw of a giant monster and earns a kiss from the blue-skinned babe, though she’s less than thrilled when Hulk turns back into puny Banner.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

I would definitely be in favor of the blue-skinned babe and her Lemurian friends showing up again sometime soon. Banner could use a love interest, and she seems like a neat choice. It’s also a little cute when Banner swims away at the end of the issue rather surprised that the Hulk made some friends. Or maybe these characters only existed for this issue, which sounds like something Waid might do. We’re five issues into this series and each one seems very similar in that he throws a random villain at the Hulk, the villain gloats about victory, but Hulk overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to win in the end. Lather, rinse repeat. I hope we get to some real meaty, character-building stuff soon.

Justice League #18

Justice League #18
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jesus Saiz

It’s recruitment time at the Justice League, with the team ready and eager to expand their ranks. There’s a big problem with this issue, and it has to do with the New 52 as a whole. I’ve discussed it before, but it bears repeating: the New 52 is both too new and too similar to the old continuity for this to really matter on any deeper level. Who cares that the League is adding new members? I understand that Geoff Johns thinks it’s important, and it’s supposed to be important in the world of the comics…but I just don’t feel it. I can’t feel it. We never got to experience the five whole years where the Justice League cast didn’t change. But I was there for a million different roster changes in the old continuity So this just…I dunno. It’s fun, but not nearly as important as it’s supposed to be.

The Justice League invites a bunch of superheroes up to the Watchtower for possible recruitment in the League: Black Lightning, Blue Devil, Black Canary, Zatanna, Nightwing, Firestorm, Vixen, Element Woman, Goldrush and Platinum from the Metal Men (or, at least, the New 52 version of the Metal Men). A few of them have excuses why they can’t join, and Nightwing is a prick, but then Platinum goes crazy because she’s still a work in progress by Will Magus. The Justice League and their potential recruits battle Platinum, and Magus asks them to keep her robot-brain safe. Firestorm and Element Woman take her out, while the new female Atom makes a surprise appearance to save the robo-brain. So it looks like those three are the new members of the League…even though that was spoiled all the way back in the pre-New 52 promotional material.

Also, on, like, the last page and a half, Johns suddenly tells us that someone pirated the League’s files on all the world’s superheroes.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

I give this issue a hard time, but it was still fun. It was cool to see all the superheroes hanging out and chatting with one another, though we didn’t get as much of it as I would have liked, especially with Nightwing. I think this is the first time Nightwing has appeared in anything besides Bat-family comics, but he only gets a panel or two, and one of them is spent telling off Batman for even having the gall to invite him, because those two are still having a spat after Death of the Family. I don’t know why people think it makes for better comics when Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne aren’t talking to one another. They work so much better as a team.

Anyway, I’m happy with the new recruits, and I’m interested to see what becomes of this new Atom, but the whole concept of this issue just utterly fails because of the New 52 in general. It doesn’t work the way Johns wants it to, and that’s a real shame.

JLA #2

Justice League of America #2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch

I dunno, you guys, I just don’t know if I can put up with this series. It suffers from the same problem that I just ranted about in my review of Justice League #18. This series is just too closely connected to whatever mental image Geoff Johns has about the DCU in the New 52. The characters are almost exactly like their pre-reboot selves, but they react to each other and their situation as their post-reboot selves. It’s such a weird balance. It just feels so awkward and it isn’t at all what I want to read.

Based on what little Green Arrow has about the Secret Society of Super-Villains, Amanda Waller wants to send the new Justice League of America into battle…except they haven’t even had their first meeting yet. Steve Trevor would like some time to train them and get them working as a team, but Waller orders him to send the team in untested, because to hell with logic. There’s a brief scene where everybody gathers around a table for five minutes to exchange small snippets of dialogue before they head off to their big announcement press conference. Then they head out into the field to take on the Secret Society. Things, predictably, start to go wrong before evil versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman show up.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

I would have been interested in the full story of a real team of superheroes coming together under Geoff Johns’ pen. The Justice League’s origin was pretty terrible, then it skipped forward five years. Here was his chance to do it again and do it right. Bring these unique characters together, introduce us to them as individuals and their dynamic on a team; really build them up and tell a good story. Instead, he wastes his time with even more pointless scenes of Steve Trevor bickering with Amanda Waller. And surely I can’t be the only one who thinks a skinny Amanda Waller isn’t nearly as imposing as the old Waller. Anyway, Johns just throws all of the characters together and immediately rushes them off to their first vague mission. It’s too much, too soon and too poorly put together.

New Avengers #4

New Avengers #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting

I think it’s safe to say that New Avengers is better than Avengers. There is a bigger, deeper focus on the characters, and the overall story is easier to understand. Whereas Hickman’s Avengers is all over the place, his New Avengers is very focused on this one problem, and it makes for compelling comics. Though if I have one complaint it’s that the threat of two universes colliding into one another seems very downplayed in New Avengers. The characters give it the gravitas it deserves, and it sounds like a huge deal, but we’re only at issue #4 and we’ve already seen two of them. And the second one took place directly over Manhattan, with a second Earth entirely visible to everybody in the city. But everybody is very calm about the whole thing, and it clearly has no impact on any other series across the rest of Marvel NOW!

Inter-comic continuity no longer exists across the Avengers line of comics.

The Illuminati have already moved on from their betrayal of Captain America at the end of last issue and the destruction of the Infinity Gems, like it’s no big deal. Now they’re trying to figure out other ways to destroy another universe for when the next collision occurs. Reed Richards and Tony Stark both have a few ideas. Tony wants to weaponize the sun. Doctor Strange is also looking into some dark magic that might help. Then the second collision in as many issues happens right over Manhattan and the Illuminati just sort of stand around on Liberty Island casually chatting about what they should do since they haven’t got any solid ideas yet. They eventually decide to just fly over to the other Earth to try and find their Infinity Gems, because I guess they think it will be that easy. When they arrive, they discover that Galactus is in the process of eating this other Earth in order to stop the collision. His herald, Terrax, shows up to chat with the Avengers about what he knows about the collisions, and he tells them to go back to their Earth and let Galactus take care of the problem on this end. But instead, the Avengers decide to fight Terrax in order to, I think, save the people of this Earth from being devoured by Galactus, even though Galactus was going to solve the whole collision problem for them.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

I guess I’m just expecting the end of the known universe to be a little more…exciting? Maybe? Hickman is playing in a huge sandbox here, employing some of the biggest, wildest concepts allowed in the Marvel Universe. But it feels so very low key. Universes are colliding into one another, entire Earths are suddenly appearing in the sky where everyone can see, and it’s apparently happening all the time! So why is the world’s superhero response just a bunch of eggheads standing around chatting calmly with one another? Don’t get me wrong, it totally fits with their characters, and it’s really cool to see how these guys sort out the problem together. But I would just expect a lot more from the denizens of the Marvel Universe. It’s just a weird stretch of credibility.

But if you can ignore that, the rest of the comic is really cool and steeped in Marvel lore. Tony Stark is using Shi’ar workers to build a Diosphere (which he wants to call a Star Sphere). Terrax the Enlightened recognizes the Eye of Agamotto around Doctor Strange’s neck. Galactus is fully aware of the collision problem. This is cool comic book stuff.

Nightwing #18

Nightwing #18
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

Poor Nightwing. For the past several months, Nightwing has been stuck dealing with events that happened outside of his actual series. And it goes back even farther than that. First there was the Court of Owls, then Death of the Family and now the death of Damian Wayne. I would like to think that Kyle Higgins has been directly involved in the discussions about these storylines, but we know they weren’t his stories. He’s stuck coming up with how Nightwing responds to these events and how it effects the stories that Higgins wants to tell. It’s clear Higgins has some great ideas. I thought everything with Haley’s Circus was a lot of fun. And he introduces a few new ideas with this issue. But we’re stuck with a depressed Dick Grayson struggling to cope with Damian’s death.

Damian is dead and Dick is in a rut. He’s not shaving, he’s not returning phone calls and he appears to be just moping in his apartment. Understandable, I suppose. Dick goes out for coffee with Sofia Branch and she tells him a story of her own life as an orphan, and how she learned it’s OK to lean on others for support, but Dick doesn’t necessarily believe her. Then Batman shows up and tell Dick that the Dealer has possession of Dick’s father’s trapeze costume, and he’s going to auction it off to the highest bidder. Nightwing still doesn’t trust Bruce, but he raids the auction anyway. Nightwing mostly gets his butt whooped by the Dealer, who sets the place on fire. Nightwing then decides to save a few of the bidders who are trapped rather than save his father’s costume, and he learns a little lesson in depending on other people.

In the end, he’s in a much better mood, but then Sofia Branch has some bad news: her father, Tony Zucco, is alive!

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

Now that’s a cool twist! Tony Zucco is the man who killed Dick Grayson’s parents way back in the day, and he was supposed to be dead. We’ve been told as much. So it’s definitely a cool twist that Zucco only ever faked his death, and now he’s back as a crime boss in Chicago. Nightwing is going to be moving to Chicago soon, so I think this’ll be a fun new direction for the series. Hopefully Higgins can keep out of big Bat-family crossovers for awhile and actually get to tell his own story with Dick Grayson. Not that I haven’t enjoyed the various tie-ins to other events, but it’s dragging the book down. We’re only at issue #18, not even two full years of Nightwing, and this will be the third or fourth status quo change for the character. That’s just too many. Nightwing needs to be able to settle down and have a life for once. Let’s hope this is that opportunity, at long last.

Nova #2

Nova #2
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Aritst: Ed McGuinness

After two issues, I’m not yet entirely sold on this series, but I’m definitely going to keep trying it out for now. It’s entertaining, the art is fantastic and I like Nova as a character. I liked Ritchie Ryder more, but we have to move on and accept Sam Alexander…for now. Loeb’s doing a pretty good job building the young man up into a lead character, and I hope the series really takes off soon…did you see what I did there? Aw yeah.

Sam Alexander is face-to-face with Gamora and Rocket Raccoon, but the furry little guy gets upset when Sam calls him a ‘talking racoon’. Why? ‘Raccoon’ is in his name…Anyway, Sam runs from his hospital room and the two of them take off after explaining absolutely nothing about why they came to see him. At least they leave Sam his dad’s Nova helmet, which Sam puts on and gets a vague recorded message from his dad about trusting the Gamora and Rocket Raccoon. Sam also gets his own Nova armor, which he spends the rest of the night and the next day experimenting with, especially learning to fly. Eventually he loses control and human rockets his way up to the moon, where he bumps into the Watcher, of all people.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

I still think this has the potential to be a great series, but Nova takes a few missteps in its second issue. Too much time is spent with Sam just sort of talking to the Nova helmet and trying to figure out his new powers all on his lonesome. We don’t really learn anything new about him as a character or the plot in these scenes. I guess it works as something of an introduction to Nova, but I didn’t need one of those. And I think a lot of this could have been figured out in the company of Rocket Raccoon and Gamora, or at least some kind of fight. And speaking of which, why did the two of them take off so quickly without explaining anything? Gamora says Sam is their “last, best hope”, yet they ditch him almost immediately. Why is that? Anyway, this series has a lot of potential, but it needs to really pick up the pace a little. And I think it’s a little too early for Sam to have anything to do with the freakin’ Watcher.

Red Hood #18

Red Hood and the Outlaws #18
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Tyler Kirkham

If you were looking for Jason Todd to deal with the death of Damian Wayne, you came to the wrong place. He’s got his own stuff to deal with. Looks like Lobdell made off easier than Higgins, who dedicated his whole issue of Nightwing to putting Dick in a depressed stupor. Lobdell’s story doesn’t feel the bump at all, unless you count last issue when Jason and Roy bonded slightly with Damian. Maybe that was their big goodbye. This issue, instead, is a journey of personal discovery as Jason uses a coma dream to sort out his various problems.

Jason is in an induced coma at Wayne Manor recovering from the surprise acid attack the Joker hit him with last issue. Bruce Wayne is sitting at bedside and refuses to leave, despite what Alfred tells him. In the coma, Jason confronts his fears about the pain he’s causing his friends, as well as his similarities to the Joker. He also faces down the fact that while his friends and family love him, Jason remains cold and distant. He finally awakens with possibly a better understanding of himself, and he and Bruce share a hug.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

This was a nice issue. Personally, I didn’t necessarily connect with Jason in any meaningful way, but it was still a nice issue. Lobdell writes a good exploration of Jason’s thoughts and character, which is always a great idea to help build up your comic. I’ve always been a little weirded out by this All-Caste nonsense that Lobdell invented, but he mostly makes it work. Really, I think your enjoyment of this issue will depend entirely on how much you like Jason Todd and look forward to his character growth. I’m lukewarm on Jason so I was lukewarm on the issue. Nice art, though.

Spider-Man #6

Superior Spider-Man #6
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos

Finally, Slott is really getting into what a Doc Ock-driven Spider-Man would be like. Turns out he did kill Massacre last issue, and may have even killed Massacre’s financier. It’s hard to tell, since there’s no real follow-up in this issue. But people are definitely starting to notice the new violent Spidey, and I look forward to where Slott is going to take this story. Also, we get a brief cameo by Phil Urich, which is always a treat. I think Slott is setting him up for something big down the line. I can’t wait.

Screwball and Jester are up to their old tricks of pranking people to get web hits, which they will then trace with spyware to get people’s bank information. This time they target Mayor J. Jonah Jameson and embarrass him during a press conference. Jameson asks Spider-Man to investigate and Octo-Spidey puts his octo-bots on the task of finding the two villains. While he waits, Otto meets with that cute tutor, Anna Maria Marconi, who tries to make peace between Otto and their professor. But Otto has to call it off when he gets a hit on Screwball and Jester. He tracks them down, but they embarrass him in the fight. Otto doesn’t like being made fun of, and he brutally beats the two pranksters into a bloody heap.

Meanwhile, the Avengers have started to notice Octo-Spidey’s erratic behavior. And when they watch Screwball’s live-streaming web feed on the beating, they decide that they need to confront Spider-Man.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

The only thing I don’t like is that Otto’s new violent Spider-Man might ruin his chances with the cute Miss Marconi! That storyline is too adorable to pass up. And, thankfully, ghost Peter wasn’t in this issue too much. That was a relief. I want to see Peter come back eventually, but first I wouldn’t mind seeing Slott really push the envelope with Octo-Spidey. He’s off to a great start with this issue. I think Screwball is the only Brand New Day villain that I actually like. I wonder when she hooked up with Jester. But if Jester is as bad off as he appears on that last page, it’s probably moot anyway. Slott just needed somebody to kill, and he didn’t want to waste Screwball. Understandable.

Vibe #2

Vibe #2
Writers: Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg
Artists: Pete Woods and Andres Guinaldo

Here we are at only the second issue of Vibe and already there’s a huge art change. What’s up with that? Couldn’t keep the full art team around for more than a single issue? Not that I’m complaining too much, it’s just that the art is now rather cartoony, and it takes away from the general serious feeling behind the book. Vibe is not a comedy. But the art isn’t so bad, and neither is the story. It’s just a solid, if uninspiring, tale of a new superhero who thinks he’s in way over his head. It’s entertaining. But want to know what’s really messed up about the art? Cisco and his brother are now definitely white. They were darker-skinned in the first issue, definitely Hispanic, but they went through a real whitewashing in this issue. That’s…kind of messed up, sadly.

Cisco has told his brother about his new superhero identity, and the pair spend the issue talking about how neither one thinks Cisco is ready for the big leagues. They want to know why the government wants a kid like Cisco to be on the Justice League of America. Fair question. Especially after Vibe uses his powers to stop a 12-year-old shoplifter from stealing a candy bar. Not exactly A-list material. But then an ARGUS agent shows up to get Vibe’s help taking down an Apokolips alien who has crossed over into their world. Vibe confronts the alien, but he doesn’t seem dangerous at all. Vibe almost reasons with him…before the agent shows up and blows the beast away. The alien had a note it was trying to pass to Vibe, and the agent says the note as a declaration of war.

In reality, the note was a message to Darkseid’s daughter, who turns out to be Gypsy…which doesn’t make any sense. First of all, I guess we’re not told that the letter is from Darkseid, but when Amanda Waller gives it to Gypsy, they say it’s from Gypsy’s father wanting her to come home. Last issue ended with a big reveal that Waller has Darkseid’s daughter prisoner, so I assume this is the same daughter. However, last issue showed us the giant prison door where Darkseid’s daughter was being held, and it showed us Gypsy being held in a different, smaller cell. So is she Darkseid’s daughter or not?

In the end, Vibe is introduced as part of the JLA in a big press conference on the Capitol steps. And Waller tells the ARGUS agent that she wants to send Vibe up against Kid Flash.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

This series has potential. I like the idea that Vibe knows he’s in way over his head, and I liked the camaraderie between him and his brother. And I get the sense that this series might evolve into Vibe and his brother against the evil government, which would be cool. Vibe seems like a nice kid, and I like the potential in the story of a new hero finding his way while simultaneously serving as the government’s pet superhero. But there’s nothing overly special about Vibe or the series so far. It’s standard comic book fare. And, like I said, a big art change in only the second issue, especially such a drastic change to the character’s skin color, does not bode well for the life of this series.

Wonder Woman #18

Wonder Woman #18
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Cliff Chiang, Gordon Sudzuka, Tony Akins and Dan Green

It’s taken 18 issues, but we’ve finally reached a big milestone with this series. Is it the end of the Zola’s baby storyline? Probably not. But it’s a big moment nonetheless, and Wonder Woman definitely earned it. Azzarello has been working diligently for the past year and a half to tell an epic Wonder Woman story, and he pulls off this victory with style, class and real character. I’m definitely looking forward to see where he goes next.

Wonder Woman battles Hermes to rescue Zola’s baby. It’s a brutal battle, and Wonder Woman is saved by Orion’s surprise appearance. Turns out that slap on the ass from last issue was just a chance for him to get her DNA sample, which he can use to track her anywhere. The pair then use speed and awesomeness to defeat Hermes. Meanwhile, Ares visits Demeter and takes the baby for himself. Wonder Woman feels betrayed…until she finds out that Ares took the baby back to Zola, like they’d planned. So everything worked out and everybody is one big happy family in the end!

Also, that big, hulking guy that was dug out of the Earth a few issues ago battles Posdeidon and gets eaten. Nothing very interesting has been happening with him, so I haven’t felt the need to really mention him.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

Orion continues to be a standout character in this series. He and Wonder Women have a lot of great scenes, especially that ending, which is adorable. It’s a wonderfully happy ending as the bad guys are defeated, War comes through in a pinch and Zola gets her baby back! The last page is just delightful, with Wonder Woman’s big family of supporting characters all gathered around the baby. It’s been a long journey getting to this point, and it’s nice. I doubt the story of this baby is really over, but I’m excited to see where things go from here. And I hope Orion sticks around. I actually, for once in my life, am interested in a New God.

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 23, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. “For once in your life”? You’re not a fan of the glory that is THE NEW GODS!?! I’m loving this WONDER WOMAN series so much, and that’s not something I say frequently!
    As for your comments regarding NEW AVENGERS and Marvel continuity…things just don’t work the way they once worked, I’m afraid! But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I too loved when continuity was a little tighter across the board, but I think the way things work now is much more accessible to new readers, and helps the trades live on as readable stories for a long time, which is beneficial to the company and to readers.

    • You’re absolutely right about Avengers continuity. It’s not a deal breaker for me, not by a long shot, but I just think with Hickman writing both comics, he’d actually have them react to one another, like what Bendis is doing with the X-Men. But again, I’ll get over it.

      And I’m afraid I’ve just never cared for the New Gods. I wasn’t around reading comics when they first debuted, and I’ve only ever seen them as kind of…silly, to be honest.

  2. ANXM was great. Bendis is doing a great job with the characters. Jean and Scott in particular. And Kitty gets to be cool, too.

    Avengers is a pretty good book. But I wish Hickman would do a better job balancing the epic ideas with good characterization. Right now, he’s alternating between the two elements.

    Captain Marvel is one of my favourite books. I love it. The writing’s solid, and I love the art. Kit is adorable.

    Hulk is good, but I want to see his supporting cast used more.

    New Avengers is a great book, but just too cynical for my tastes. Not my thing.

    Nova’s good. I’m interested in seeing where it goes.

    Spider-Man is great. Very dark and messed up. But I love Anna.

  3. You should start reviewing “Avenging Spider-man”, since the change to “Superior” the stories are getting better, Chris Yost is a great writer and he shows a different side to Octo-Spidey with Otto trying to be not only a better spider-man but also a better person like he promised, Ghost Peter isn’t there so Otto and what he thinks and does is shown more in depth and is interesting to see his relationship and reactions to the other marvel characters.
    Also Marvel is totally not paying me to write this, at all.

  4. I agree that the new CAPTAIN MARVEL comic is pretty refreshing, with it’s ‘day in the life of’ take on Spidey’s future girlfriend. If you read the letters page at the end of the issue, they talk about the cancellation rumours that have been floating around concerning the book. It may just be P.R. BS, but they give the impression there is no truth to it. Hopefully that comic sticks around for a long time. Long enough for Peter Parker to get his body back and guest star again anyways.

    Still not a huge fan of the art work. Although i don’t outright hate it or anything.

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