Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/6/13

This week we explore the dichotomy of Brian Michael Bendis. He is one of the most popular comic book writers of our time, and has helped shaped the modern Marvel Universe in ways we can’t grasp now. He is a living legend in the comic book world. But sometimes he can be a really bad writer. I think I know now why Age of Ultron wasn’t given the hype or push of Civil War or Avengers vs. X-Men. It’s a terrible Big Event comic. If Age of Ultron really does rewrite any part of the Marvel Universe beyond just adding a Spawn character to the comics, I will be very disappointed. This may be Bendis’ worst Big Event comic.

But at the same time, Bendis has turned the X-Men franchise into one of the best comics being published today! His work on All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men is some of the best he’s ever written. Almost all of the characters involved are more dynamic than they’ve been in years, and the story itself is one for the history books. It just keeps getting better and better! All-New X-Men #10 easily wins Comic Book of the Week, and I eagerly await the next chapter next week.

Ptui!

Maybe Bendis just drinks a different kind of coffee on the days he’s writing X-Men vs. the days he’s writing Ultron.

Comic Reviews: Age of Ultron #4, All-New X-Men #10, Green Arrow #19, Green Lantern #19, Indestructible Hulk #6 and Superior Spider-Man #7.


Age of Ultron #4

Age of Ultron #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Bryan Hitch

Yep, this story is a dud. If this is supposed to be Brian Michael Bendis’ swan song for his time on the Avengers, I can’t believe that this is all he managed to come up with. And I can’t believe that the man who has lit the X-Men franchise on fire is the same man writing this meandering, snoozefest of a Big Event comic. Age of Ultron is devoid of excitement, energy, meaning, and real characters. It’s like Bendis came up with the idea for a world completely taken over by Ultron, then couldn’t think of a story to tell with that world.

Luke Cage confronts Vision, and we immediately learn that Vision is not the big bad, as the cliffhanger last issue implied. Instead, Vision tells Cage that Ultron is hiding out in the future, and he’s using Vision as a conduit to control the drones in the present day. She-Hulk picks that moment to wake up and throw Cage to safety while she holds off the Ultron drones, only to get gruesomely shot in the head for her troubles. The Ultrons still chase after Cage and blast him with an atomic explosion.

Elsewhere, the Invisible Woman and Storm use their powers to fly the Avengers out of New York City and down to the Savage Land. They find Ka-Zar, who brings them to what remains of his village. Turns out Cage survived the blast and managed to fly down to the Savage Land to meet them. Cage passes on the information about Ultron before dying. Then Red Hulk shows up – after having killed Taskmaster – and he has a plan for going after Ultron. Elsewhere, Moon Knight and Black Widow read through Nick Fury’s end of the world scenario files and determine that he has some kind of plan in place in the Savage Land.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

Bendis loves the Savage Land. I’ll admit, it’s a cool premise, but he wasted enough time in that tropical dino-land during Secret Invasion. We don’t want to relive that story. Beyond that, we’re four issues into this event and nothing has happened. We found out Ultron is in the future and the Avengers travel from New York to the Savage Land. It took four issues to get this far. And who cares that Ultron is in the future? Sounds kind of stupid to me. The story would have been much cooler if Vision was the actual bad guy. At least that would create some real drama. None of the characters particularly matter. They might as well be any random assortment of characters. None of them have done anything noteworthy or really important for who they are. The Avengers are all just kind of standing around, first in New York and now in the Savage Land. She-Hulk, Taskmaster and Luke Cage died for pointless reasons, just like Black Panther last issue. And who cares about Moon Knight and Black Widow? They might as well be Prodigy and Diamondback for  all they’ve accomplished.

For some reason, whenever it comes to Big Events, Bendis always comes up with a cool plot, but then fails in the execution. The idea of a rag tag band of heroes joining forces in a world conquered by Ultron sounds cool, but he has done absolutely nothing with the story or the characters beyond that general premise. This is a huge disappointment.


All-New X-Men #10

All-New X-Men #10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

It’s like Brian Michael Bendis is two different people. On the one hand, he’s writing a dull, laborious bore of a comic with Age of Ultron. On the other hand, he’s turned the X-Men franchise into one of the most dynamic mainstream comics on the stands, with a story that digs into the very heart of the franchise! This is the most exciting the X-Men have been in years. If colorful superheroes punching colorful super-villains is what makes you happy, by all means, enjoy yourself. I love a more cerebral story, when the characters butt heads and nobody comes away clean. Cyclops shows up at the Jean Grey School in this issue, and the majority of the issue is just everyone standing around on the lawn debating about who’s right and who’s wrong, and I love it. This confrontation is just a brilliant evolution of the X-Men, and I can’t wait to see where Bendis goes from here.

Cyclops and his Uncanny X-Men have arrived at the Jean Grey School to tell everyone about their new Xavier School, which is looking for students. They want to teach their students how to fight to defend themselves from the growing mutant hatred around the world. Wolverine, his X-Men and the young X-Men confront Cyclops on the lawn, and it’s a great back-and-forth between the three groups. Wolverine and his people think Cyclops is a villain and should stand trial for the murder of Charles Xavier. Cyclops tells them that he didn’t intentionally kill Xavier, it was all the fault of the Phoenix, which was forced on him in the first place. Young Cyclops gets angry at Beast for not telling him about the Phoenix, but Beast insists he didn’t need to, that it doesn’t matter how it happened, only that Cyclops is evil now. Really, it’s a great argument and I can’t do it justice here. Nobody is completely innocent and pure, nobody is the villain that everyone thinks they are. It’s electrifying.

Cyclops makes the offer to the gathered students. They’re welcome to come with him to his school, or they’re welcome to stay. It’s up to them. He leaves for a few hours so that everyone can think it over. In that time, we see that Mystique and her new Brotherhood are robbing armored cars, and Maria Hill informs the Jean Grey School of this fact.

When Cyclops returns, the argument continues, with young Cyclops really worked up over not being told the complete truth by Beast. Cyclops makes his offer again, and the first recruits to the Xavier School are the Stepford Cuckoos. Then someone else volunteers to go with Cyclops, but we don’t get to see who it is. Young Cyclops and Wolverine are pretty shocked that they would volunteer though.

Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.

Who is the mysterious volunteer? Definitely either young Angel or young Beast. Young Angel has been the most vocal dissident to the young X-Men being in the present, so it would make sense for him to jump ship. However, young Beast would be even more shocking. He hasn’t done much since helping to save the other Beast, so maybe he’s been quietly seething and hating everything he sees in his future self.

I love that Bendis is smart enough to not make things black and white. It would be so easy to make Cyclops a villain and the X-Men into heroes, but that’s not what’s happened at all. Everyone is bathed in shades of gray. Yes, Cyclops has become more militant, but he’s still out there saving mutants from a humanity that still hates and fears them. And he’s absolutely right in that he didn’t intentionally, in clear conscience, kill Charles Xavier. The Phoenix warped and destroyed his mind, pushing him to do it, and he never asked for the Phoenix in the first place. But then again, maybe Beast is right in that Cyclops should have tried harder to control the Phoenix instead of embracing the power and wantonly trying to remake the world. Cyclops thought he was making the world a better place, but as Beast points out, he was doing so based on his own opinion of what a better place would be. However, Beast is in the wrong because he’s the one who wantonly messed with the space time continuum to bring the young X-Men to the present. And he purposefully misled them, telling them only bits and pieces of the whole story so that they’d fall in line and do what he wants.

The real dynamic here is that Marvel is trying to recreate the old battle of ideologies between Xavier and Magneto, but they’re not just rehashing the same fight. Cyclops doesn’t want to conquer and lord over humanity, he wants to protect mutants from humanity. What Marvel and Bendis have done instead is create a new battle of ideologies over two separate paths of Charles Xavier’s philosophy. On the one side, you’ve got the Jean Grey School, which focuses on the education part of Xavier’s dream. On the other side, you’ve got Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men, who focus on the superhero side of Xavier’s dream. Have you ever wondered why Professor X created the X-Men? If his dream was to create a school to teach mutants how to control their powers, where did he get the idea to also dress them up in costumes to have them fight bad guys? There are two sides to Xavier’s dream, and Marvel has split them down the middle and pushed the X-Men to either side, and I’m loving it!


Green Arrow #19

Green Arrow #19
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

To the surprise of everyone, I’m still reading the new Green Arrow. What can I say, Lemire and Sorrentino are telling a fun story. They had to sacrifice almost everything in the first 16 issues to get to this story, but so what? DC clearly doesn’t care about their franchises in the long term. I don’t read Batwing, but apparently they’re completely changing the character after only 19 issues. What’s up with that? Anyway, Green Arrow’s story continues at a quality pace, proving that somehow, inexplicably, both of the Marvel and DC archer comics are above average these days.

Green Arrow faces off against Komodo in a battle of the bows, but Oliver is outmatched at almost every turn. He loses his bow, he gets shot with half a dozen arrows, and Komodo spends the entire time mocking him. Not a good showing for Ollie. Then Komodo reveals that he killed Oliver’s father, that it wasn’t a helicopter crash after all! Komodo is about to kill Ollie when a SWAT helicopter creates a minor distraction. Ollie grabs Komodo’s bow and gets the upper hand in the fight – until Komodo’s daughter shows up and proves she’s just as good an archer as her father. Ollie gets shot again, but makes his escape, then is rescued by his new pal Fyff while Komodo and his daughter take care of the SWAT guys.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

This is just a really entertaining comic. Lemire is doing a great job building up Komodo as a villain, and it’s always fun to see our heroes pushed to the end of their rope. It’ll mean Green Arrow’s payback will be all the more exciting. And there’s a definite sense that Lemire is building up to something great. He’s weaving a lot of mythology into Ollie’s island, and it feels like he knows exactly where he’s going. I bet he has some really great ideas in store for us. I love street-level heroes, when their humanity is stronger than their superheroism, and Lemire and Sorrentino have that down pat. Like I’ve said before, this is like a serious take on Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. Though I don’t know how serious it can be when Ollie survives so many damned arrows. Seriously, the guy gets shot half a dozen times in the span of, like, five minutes!


Green Lantern #19

Green Lantern #19
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artisst: Adrian Syaf and Szymon Kudranski

This is the ninth issue of Wrath of the First Lantern, and I’m definitely done with these stupid character pieces. None have really delved too deep into the individuals in any meaningful way, as far as I’m concerned. They’ve felt like filler. Fortunately, I didn’t read them all. And double fortunately, this is the best one, as Geoff Johns has always been a master of Sinestro. One has to wonder if his true goal in resurrecting Hal Jordan all those years ago was to actually make Sinestro the star all along.

Sinestro abandons Simon Baz and the Temple Guardians to return to Korugar, where he plans to mount his defense against the First Lantern and the Guardians. He teams up again with police officer Arsona, his love interest. It’s not often that a villain gets a love interest, eh? He starts to fill her in on his plan before the First Lantern suddenly shows up and attacks! He tries to use his typical tricks on Sinestro, like showing him alternate lives, but Sinestro is able to break free quickly and fight back! The First Lantern responds by revealing he didn’t come to face Sinestro, he came to suck the emotions out of Korugar! All of the ups and downs Sinestro has put them through over the years have turned them into very emotional people, and their emotions are the last bit the First Lantern needs to regain his full power.

The First Lantern then immediately blows up Korugar. Wow. That’s pretty epic.

Elsewhere, in the Land of the Dead, Hal Jordan sees all of the dead Korugarians arrive. He knows that something is wrong, and notices that Sinestro is not with them. That’s the push Hal needs to throw himself off the cliff, hoping he’ll resurrect as the new wielder of the Black Ring. Meanwhile, Sinestro floats among the chunks of planet. He’s in one piece, but he’s been pushed over the edge. And he’s not alone among the dead planet. Sinestro finds an old Yellow Lantern, and declares that this is going to end on his terms!

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

Sinestro has always been the strongest character in Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run, and it seems to me like Johns is ready to deliver his swan song in the First Lantern finale. The destruction of Korugar is huge! I’m excited that Johns is willing to make such a big move, and I’m definitely excited at the prospect of Sinestro taking up the yellow ring again, and giving the First Lantern what for! Adding Hal as a Black Lantern wild card is an equally brilliant idea. I just wish the First Lantern was a better villain. Like I said, most of his story so far has been filler, with him sitting back and psychologically torturing our heroes (and anti-heroes). He himself isn’t too big of a deal. Still, should be pretty cool to watch Sinestro and Hal kick his ass.


Hulk #6

Indestructible Hulk #6
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Walter Simonson

This is a pretty standard issue of Hulk, with one big exception: legendary writer/artist Walter Simonson has jumped in to draw the story, which just so happens to include a guest appearance by Thor. Simonson worked on Thor back in the day in a run that’s heralded as the best Thor comic ever. So he’s a neat choice for guest artist. I was too young to read Simonson’s run when it came out, and I’ve never gone back to read it (for the most part), so Simonson is more legend than man to me. And I’m still not sure what to think of his art. It’s nice and detailed, but awkwardly retro…or maybe awesomely retro.

Bruce Banner finally gets to work on an experiment with his lab assistants, whom he tells us all have something special about them. The first project is unlocking the magic of the Uru metal that Thor gave to SHIELD, and Bruce uses it to open a giant magic portal to Jotunheim, the land of the frost giants. He takes three of his assistants through the portal, all of them suiting up in armor. They’re searching for the mystical element Eiderdurm, and find a nice frozen waterfall of it – but then Thor finds them. However, it appears they’ve also gone back in time somehow, because Thor is in his old costume and doesn’t recognize Bruce Banner. A couple frost giants show up and there’s a big fight. Thor gets knocked away in the battle, and Bruce turns into Hulk. And then…brace yourselves…Hulk picks up Mjolnir! Hulk is worthy!

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

So, wow, what an ending. Hulk is worthy of picking up Mjolnir? I don’t even know how to respond to that yet. On first glance, I don’t think Hulk should be worthy of picking up Mjolnir, especially not now. He hasn’t done anything very special to make him worthy, so what the heck? But maybe Waid is going somewhere with it…

Indestructible Hulk is a quaint little book. Nearly every issue is a standalone story, or maybe they last two issues. So the stories are quick, the Hulk action is quick, and overall it’s a fun read. There’s a larger story brewing just beneath the surface, but it’s taking forever to get anywhere. So we’re just going to have to be happy with some general Hulk stories, and they’re fun enough. This issue is pretty cool. Bruce’s lab is almost ludicrously huge, but I like the idea of traveling to Jotunheim to get a mystical, non-Earth metal for Bruce’s experiments. I like the idea of Bruce using the wild science fiction of the Marvel Universe to make science fact. His team are still mostly just nobodies, but Waid is slowly working on that.

Thor’s appearance is not to my liking. I’ve simply never cared about Thor, especially not classic Thor. He’s really just around because of Walt Simonson. And by all means, I have no problem celebrating Walt Simonson. But like I said, I can’t decide if the art is a bad addition to the series, or a good one. I’m sure most people will love it.


Spider-Man #7

Superior Spider-Man #7
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos

Marvel is promising a big July for the Superior Spider-Man series, as well as a new change that’s going to make fans “even angrier” in issue #9. I can’t stand PR like that. Why do you want to make your fans angry? But regardless, I think it’s mostly hype. Maybe they’ll do away with Ghost Peter for awhile. Personally, based on some of the solicitations, I think Doc Ock is just going to up his game. Instead of just being a lone vigilante, I think he’s going to start recruiting a whole squad of people to watch and patrol the city. It sounds like Doc Ock to me to broaden Peter’s scope.

In this issue, Slott brings the vigilante Cardiac back into play. Cardiac has taken over Mister Negative’s old rescue center and has turned it into a secret super medical center. People who can’t afford hospital care or need specialty treatment can go to Cardiac’s clinic to get the very best care. But one girl needs a special machine for a risky brain operation, so Cardiac breaks into the police Boneyard to steal it. Octo-Spidey responds and fights off Cardiac, thinking him just another crook. Then when he sees that Cardiac is trying to steal one of Otto Octavius’ old inventions, he gets mad and starts to fight harder – but Ghost Peter somehow manages to get even more control over his body, and keeps Otto from killing Cardiac. Ghost Peter is even able to shout loud enough that Otto can hear him.

Later, the Avengers confront Spider-Man due to his recent erratic behavior. But Doc Ock doesn’t play along with them at all, leading to the Avengers to assume he’s not really Spider-Man, and they attack!

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

This was a fun issue, but it didn’t do much for the ongoing story. Not as much as the past few issues, at least. There were some big moments for Ghost Peter, sure, but the rest of the issue didn’t amount to anything. Cardiac is a relic of a bygone era, and randomly bringing him into play doesn’t amount to very much at all. Although I’m sure Cardiac fans are super thrilled. It’s always a treat to see your favorite C and D-list characters show up somewhere. The Avengers scene was cool, but the issue ended before it got really good. So mostly this issue was one big, extended fight scene with Cardiac that only really mattered for Ghost Peter, while setting up a fight scene with the Avengers for next issue. Otto doesn’t do anything spectacular in this issue. There’s no cute tutor or any other supporting characters. So it’s a solid, fun issue that movies the story along, but nothing special in and of itself.


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 April 6, 2013, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on ArtDealer's Blog and commented:
    Comic Books

  2. Now it seems that in the rest of the GL family issues this month we’re going to see some more development on the fight against the First Lantern instead of watching the First Lantern act like an ass. So I’d say this event will probably be satisfactory after all.

  3. Great review on All New X-men #10. I never thought about it before, but you made a good point in Marvel’s approach to splitting Xavier’s dream between the 2 groups. I’ve always thought of it as Wolverine taking the Xavier route while Cyclops took a milder and more sensible approach to Magneto’s old ideology.

    For the mystery person who volunteered to go, I think it’s Original Five Jean.

  4. AU was pretty good. Less character-driven, but plenty of plot advancement. I’m hoping it gets back to more character stuff soon.

    ANXM was great. I love how Adult Scott’s view is treated as valid. Also, that last page was some excellent trolling.

    Indestructible Hulk was OK. I’m not keen on Simonson’s art. And that last page was kinda stupid.

    Superior Spider-Man was good. A lot of fun.

  5. It’s weird, because I LOVE Simonson’s THOR, but I didn’t really have the joyous nostalgic reaction a lot of fans had to INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK. I mean, I can’t believe the whole storyline was Hulk travels to a dimension where he can meet classic Thor! That seems hilariously fan-ficy to me, and I was surprised so many sites like iFanboy and CA went nuts for it. But it was still a solid issue, just a little too much of a throwback, I thought.
    Boy is AoU slow so far! Imagine if this hadn’t quadruple shipped!
    ANXM was a bit of a drag this issue, for me. It felt like wheel-spinning. But, I have really been enjoying the series!

  6. Look at Green Arrow # 19, page 3: Oliver admits he probably couldn’t have made the impossible shot that Komodo threw at him. A normal superhero would never say he/she is inferior in comparison to his/her villain: Oliver, on the contrary, admits it, because Lemire loves to deconstruct the superhero mythology.
    Second deconstructing detail: at the end of the issue, Fyff asks Oliver what happened, and he replies “Got beat up by a little girl.” A superhero is supposed to be invincible and to defeat even the most powerful villains, so Oliver admitting that a child defeated him is something delightfully nonconformist and unusual.
    Third deconstructing detail: A superhero never escapes flat out, and never gives up. Oliver, on the contrary, decided to wave goodbye to Komodo when he realized he had been encircled. And he ended up in a dump! Can you imagine any other superhero in a situation like that? AWESOME!!!

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