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

We’ve got some good and we’ve got some bad this week, sometimes down to the very franchise. I’ve already ranted a lot about my disappointment with Batman and Red Robin, so at least the regular Batman book is good enough. On the Marvel side of things, the Avengers have a mediocre to strong output, whether it’s Age of Ultron, Avengers or Uncanny Avengers. You might even be surprised to learn that some kind of plot finally develops in Age of Ultron! I didn’t see that coming!

But speaking of Avengers, the star this week is Thor, as his series, Thor: God of Thunder, easily hammer-smashes the competition to win Comic Book of the Week! I was disappointed last issue with the weak origin for Gorr. But when Jason Aaron focuses on his various Thors, the comic is gold! It’s also the funniest comic you’ll read all week. Perhaps even the sexiest.

Sounds like my kind of woman!

Comic Reviews: Age of Ultron #5, Avengers #9, Batman #19, Batman and Red Robin #19, Hawkeye #9, Thor: God of Thunder #7, Uncanny Avengers #6, Uncanny X-Men #4.

Age of Ultron #5

Age of Ultron #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Bryan Hitch

Fancy that. When something actually happens in Age of Ultron, it makes for a pretty good issue. The series isn’t completely saved by this one issue, but it’s a change in the right direction.It apparently took Bendis four whole issues to establish that Ultron has turned the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and that the heroes randomly needed to get down to the Savage Land. He couldn’t take care of all of that in a single issue? The art of Bryan Hitch has been nice, but it’s been wasted on giving us a whole lot of nothing. The characters and events of the series pick up considerably with this issue, but this is still not an event that I’m enjoying all that much.

We open to a flashback from several months ago, when Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Hank Pym inspected the Vision, who recently returned to the Avengers towards the end of Bendis’ run. The android shut down somehow, so they look him over to figure out what’s wrong, while marveling at the expertise it took for Ultron to build him. They eventually decide that it wouldn’t be worth it to simply go back in time and stop Ultron from being created. In the present, Tony Stark laughs at the idea that Ultron was playing the long game against them by having Vision as a member of the Avengers. All this time, they let Vision be one of them, and now it’s come back to bite them in the ass.

The Avengers find Nick Fury’s secret base in the Savage Land, and it turns out that Fury beat them there. Fury reveals that he has a ton of random superhero gadgets, including an old Iron Man armor and web-shooters for Spider-Man. He also has Doctor Doom’s time machine, and he puts a team together to go into the future to attack Ultron. Once they’re gone, Wolverine decides he’s going to use the time machine to go back in time and just kill Hank Pym.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

I find it a little laughable that Nick Fury just happens to have a secret base in the Savage Land that’s filled with spares of everybody’s superhero stuff. He has some web-shooters on hand? And a full Iron Man armor? He even randomly has Doctor Doom’s time machine stored down there, just for the hell of it? But whatever the case, at least we finally get some story out of the characters. The chat between Tony, Reed and Hank in the beginning about the slippery slope of time travel is a nice conversation, and dovetails even better with the issue’s ending. I also really liked the quiet genius of turning Vision’s membership with the Avengers into some kind of long-in-the-works trap by Ultron. Cool use of continuity. The rest of the issue is pretty good too, with some actual character moments and the development of some kind of strategy to take down Ultron. I even like that the idea to go back in time to kill Hank Pym isn’t the main story, but is instead some evil thing that Wolverine thinks he has to do against everyone else’s wishes. I hope we see both time-traveling escapades in future issues.

Avengers #9

Avengers #9
Writer Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Dustin Weaver and Mike Deodato

I am not entirely sure that I have any idea what’s happening in this series. Whatever grand ideas Hickman had about repurposing the New Universe have been swallowed up by his larger, mind-boggling idea about Ex Nihilo, shapers, gardeners, life seeds, sentient planets and whatever the heck else he’s cooking up. This isn’t so much an Avengers comic as it is Jonathan Hickman’s crazy ideas notebook!

Nightmask and Starbrand visit Ex Nihilo on Mars, and he reveals that all of the various godseeds that he launched at Earth have their own function that, when combined, will turn the Earth into a sentient being. The two new heroes head to a beach in Croatia to see this taking place as several eggs hatch into brain worms, then start coming together to form a giant planet brain. Nightmask tries to speak with it, only to get sucked in, and Starbrand accidentally destroys the Earth’s brain when he tries to save Nightmask. The Avengers were on hand to witness this, and they’re done putting up with the two of them, leading to a big fight. The Avengers win and quarantine Nightmask and Starbrand in the Diosphere that Tony Stark is building in New Avengers.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

What can I say? A lot of this is just either flying over my head or just not giving me any reason to care. Hickman clearly has some big, crazy idea in mind for the story he’s telling. It’s epic in scope, involving whole dimensions and the makers of the universe, but he’s losing me. He’s hanging all of his ideas on Ex Nihilo, who I don’t think has ever been all that interesting. The Avengers and their big Avengers World idea are secondary to Hickman’s insane plot, and as well put-together as that plot may be, it’s not all that entertaining. By all means, Hickman is clearly a great writer with some great ideas, but he has yet to really create a personal connection between the reader and the characters. The few times he’s come close, with the issues focusing on Smasher or Captain Universe, have lacked any sort of follow-up. He gives us a character origin then immediately just shuffles the character into the background of scenes because, in the end, they’re just not important to his big, overall wild idea.

Batman #19

Batman #19
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

Scott Snyder has definitely had a solid run on Batman, in my opinion. The stories range from good to great, and I think everything he created with the Court of Owls should stand the test of time as one of the really awesome, original modern-day Batman stories. The man knows his characters, and he’s got a solid voice on Batman himself. Artist Greg Capullo is the perfect accomplice. This is a great Batman creative team, and I’m actually looking forward to his upcoming Batman: Zero Year idea. Unfortunately, Snyder kind of drops the ball a little with the filler material on the way to Zero Year.

The issue opens with Bruce Wayne robbing a bank in broad daylight, taking a hostage and then shooting Commissioner Gordon. We flash back six days to Batman standing alone in the Batcave, thinking about a recent case with Damian. Alfred snaps him out of it with news of the suicide of a local architect, the one Bruce hired to help design the buildings in his new business project. Batman digs deeper into the guy, then finds out he’s not dead…then finds out Clayface is impersonating him. Only now Clayface’s powers have improved and he’s able to copy people down to a DNA level after just a touch. Clayface impersonates Lucius Fox to get close to Bruce, then grabs Bruce to steal his DNA.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

So, Clayface, huh? I guess that’s alright. I don’t know about you, but after Court of Owls, Death of the Family and Damian’s death, it feels kind of weird that Scott Snyder is just doing some standard Clayface story. And it’s not even the Clayface everybody knows from the cartoon, it’s a guy named Basil Karlo. According to Wikipedia, Basil was the very first Clayface, and even though there have been nearly a dozen (Matt Hagen being the one from the cartoon), Basil is still around. He recently appeared in some issues of Detective Comics, apparently. The weird thing is that Basil Karlo never initially had super mud powers, he only gained them later. The history of the eight Clayfaces is just weird, but he’s as good a villain as any, I suppose. This is just kind of a standard story so far.

Batman and Robin #19

Batman and Red Robin #19
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Pat Gleason

I growled at length earlier this week about the falsehoods of this issue, but here is my actual review. Let me just say that this was another cruel tease on DC’s part. Tim Drake was Robin for nearly 20 years. He was the Robin who carried his own solo title for more than 100 issues. For many readers today, myself included, Tim Drake is Robin! So the idea that DC would explore the relationship between Bruce and Tim in the New 52, especially in the wake of Damian’s death, was very appealing. Would they talk about Tim coming back into the fold to be Robin again? Would Tim help Bruce get over his grief like he did after Jason died? Considering Tim’s rebooted origin, would we finally get some hint of what it was like when these two characters worked together? NNNNNNNOPE!!

In an insane effort to resurrect Damian, Batman kidnaps Frankenstein and takes him to Castle Frankenstein high up in the Arctic Circle. He dissects the still breathing/talking monster in an effort to figure out how the dead was brought back to life. Frankenstein does his best to talk Batman out of this insane plan, but Batman isn’t listening. Meanwhile, Alfred calls up Tim Drake to check on Batman. Red Robin is still pissy about what went down with the Joker, but he goes anyway. First he tries to just tell Batman to stop, but when that doesn’t work, Tim uses his jet’s weapons to blow up the lab equipment. Batman gives Tim a dirty look and then leaves.

Meanwhile, Carrie Kelley is introduced as a college student who speaks her mind and loves video games. It seems Damian was secretly taking lessons from her for…something. We don’t know what yet, but she went to see him and left a bill for $1,000 for several weeks of lessons. Bruce tracks her down because he wants to know who she is, and why Damian kept her a secret, but he can’t bring himself to tell Carrie that Damian is dead. Instead, he gives her a check for $10,000.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

Speaking purely as a Tim Drake fan, this issue sucked. When the New 52 first came around, I thought Tim passed through the reboot unscathed. But with every new attempt to flesh him out, all I can see is DC trying to just ignore him and shuffle him off to the corner. He was important enough to keep around (unlike Stephanie Brown), but nobody knew what to do with him. So this issue was a big letdown for me. On the other hand, it was a pretty good issue for Batman. Granted, he’s kind of insane in this issue, but it’s an interesting sort of insane. At one point, Batman snaps at Red Robin that Superman ‘died’ once, and so did Batman, yet they’re both alive now. So why can’t he figure out how to make that work for Damian? That actually sounds like a pretty solid idea for Batman to pursue. Maybe he thinks he can unlock the secret of Damian’s death that could lead to a resurrection. Jason Todd is alive again, after all. So clearly it’s possible. Unfortunately, the issue doesn’t really do much with this idea. It’s only mentioned that one time, with the rest of the issue spent with crazy Batman trying to figure out how to make a Frankenstein work. But even that is somewhat entertaining.

The Carrie Kelley segments of the book are pretty cool. She’s a solid, entertaining character so far, and I look forward to her ongoing story. I think it’s kind of silly that Tomasi is keeping it a secret what she was teaching Damian, but whatever. It’s his story, let him have his secrets. I also think it was awesome that Bruce gave her a check for $10,000 instead of the $1,000 bill. That’s classic Bruce. Also, if I haven’t mentioned this yet, I don’t think Carrie is going to be the new Robin. I think she’s a red herring.

Hawkeye #9

Hawkeye #9
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja

Another month, another good, solid issue of Hawkeye. Anytime Fraction and Aja are on board together is a good thing. Unfortunately, this issue takes the focus away from Hawkeye himself and instead gives us a few barely connected adventures with the various ladies in his life. Some are entertaining, and Kate Bishop is the best of all of them, but this issue isn’t as strong as most of the others from this creative team.

The ladies in Hawkeye’s life respond to the events of last issue, where the mysterious redhead Penny showed up to get his help committing a crime. First, the Black Widow tracks Penny down before she can leave the city. Penny warns the Widow about the Russian goons. Second, Mockingbird brings the last divorce paperwork for Clint to sign, and helps him with a van of Russian goons parked outside his building. Third, his girlfriend Spider-Woman shows up and gives him a good smack since he clearly cheated on her with Penny. I think she effectively breaks up with him. Fourth, Kate Bishop beats up some Russians and tries to warn Clint about the angry Spider-Woman, but she didn’t reach him in time.

Clint later opens his heart to his pal Grills on the roof. Seems Clint might really care about Spider-Woman. Grills convinces him to write her a love letter…then some villain shows up and murders Grills! What the heck!?

Comic Rating; 4/5: Good.

Why the hell would you murder Grills? He wasn’t hurting anybody, and he was an actually entertaining supporting character. Killing him in cold blood like that just sort of saps some fun out of the book, and this is a book that lives on fun. Oh well. Perhaps Fraction has some kind of story in mind. The rest of this issue feels almost perfunctory in terms of what it does with the women in Hawkeye’s life. I got the feeling that Fraction had little interest in Hawkeye’s overall continuity within the rest of the Marvel Universe. I think Fraction was happy to just write his stories about Clint, Kate and the apartment building. But here he juggles Black Widow, Clint’s ex-wife, and his current girlfriend…who promptly breaks up with him. The Hawkeye/Spider-Woman thing was something Brian Michael Bendis came up with towards the end of his Avengers run. I never read any of those comics, so I don’t know what they were like as a couple, but it always just sounded kind of arbitrary to me. And now that Bendis is off the Avengers, it looks like Fraction is just going to dump the whole idea so that he can write the stories he wants. Because seriously, Clint sleeping with Penny when he was dating Spider-Woman is not cool, bro.

Also, is it fair to say yet that bringing Mockingbird back to life in Secret Invasion was utterly pointless?

Thor #7

Thor: God of Thunder #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic

Thor is back, baby! After what I thought was a disappointing pause to learn Gorr’s origins, Aaron is back with the ongoing Thor storyline, kicking things into high gear as we begin the next chapter! And it’s a doozy! All three of the Thors from the different time periods are coming together, and that apparently leads to some of the best dialogue in the series so far! Thor and Old Thor make for one of the best buddy teams in recent memory, though the older one is a little obsessed with beards. Still, this is an awesome, hilarious and truly epic comic book.

In the future, Thor and Old Thor get ready to take on Gorr. Old Thor is energized seeing his young self, and he suits up in some of his ancient Asgardian armor. Thor enjoys some of Asgard’s secret wine cellar before battle, and a good time is had by all. Then the two take off in Asgard’s finest ship to confront Gorr. Meanwhile, Young Thor is plucked out of time and brought to the future, where Gorr puts him to work in his slave pits building his giant project: the Godbomb. Also, in the present day, we learn that the little alien god Shadrak is actually the God of Bombs! My recap sadly cannot truly capture the pacing and power of some of these reveals.

Comic Rating: 5/5: Great.

Kudos to Shadrak that he actually amounted to something, rather than being the weird sidekicky sort of alien I thought he was. The reveal at the end that he is a God of Bombs, and had something to do with helping Gorr build the Godbomb, was pretty awesome. This whole issue was pretty awesome. Old Thor gets a lot of characterization, and it’s coupled nicely with Thor’s hesitation about being in the future and meeting a future version of himself. And there are a lot of hilarious lines in this comic. The one where Thor wonders if this is one of those “alternate futures the X-Men are always talking about” is just plain killer. Thor: God of Thunder remains the best relaunch to come out of Marvel NOW! Aaron is nailing it on character, scope, humor and all around badassery.

Uncanny Avengers #6

Uncanny Avengers #6
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Daniel Acuna

I am not entirely sure that I have any idea what happened in this comic. This issue is told almost entirely in flashback and has nothing whatsoever to do with the previous issue, where the Uncanny Avengers were introduced to the world via press conference. Instead, this is about Thor battling Apocalypse sometime in the past, and Apocalypse hanging out with Kang the Conqueror. Some of these ideas are cool, like the idea that the immortals Thor and Apocalypse had meetings in the past. But I’m just not sure I understand how everything played out in this issue or how it impacts the rest of the story moving forward. At least it was relatively entertaining for what it was.

The story is about a time in the past when Kang the Conqueror convinced Apocalypse to attack Thor and the ancestor of Wolverine in the year 1013. Thor escapes the first battle, then tries to rally all of Asgard behind him to take on Apocalypse – but his father forbids him from fighting because it will mess up the future. Loki convinces Thor to go through with it and gives him a special enchantment for his ax – but Loki is Kang in disguise. Stay with me. Apocalypse sends his horsemen to kill Folkbern Logan, a guard in London.  Thor arrives in time to save him, slaying the horsemen with his newly magic ax. Thor then attacks Apocalypse in his pyramid ship, gravely injuring him with his ax. This pisses off Odin and has possibly changed the future somewhere. Speaking of the future, in the present day, Kang goes to some tomb in Brazil where that ax is embedded in the skull of Baron Mordo (what??) and he takes the powerful ax for himself.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

Yeah, so a lot of this was just kind of weird to me. I mean, I followed it all relatively OK, but in general, Remender went to a lot of weird places. I get that he has some kind of big idea in store for the Apocalypse Twins, but then he brings Kang into the mix, with time-travel, random new Horsemen, Folkbern Logan, a dead Baron Mordo, and all manner of other mumbo jumbo. This issue was a complete departure from the last issue, which was disappointing. I really liked the last issue, with its focus on the team and their internal struggles. This was some big time traveling bruhaha that just serves to complicate whatever story he’s trying to tell. It’s entertaining enough, but overly complicated.

Uncanny X-Men #4

Uncanny X-Men #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

I think I’m starting to like Bendis’ new mutants almost as much as I like the drama with Cyclops. I definitely like them more than Jason Aaron’s new recruits over in Wolverine and the X-Men. Oh how I hope these characters stick around for the long term. Remember when brand new X-Men were a big deal? When it was actually an event? Or when such characters actually had staying power? These new characters feel utterly disposable. It’s like they’re just here to serve Bendis’ plot, a couple of quick super-powers and codenames to round out the squad. But we shall see. If nothing else, I hope Fabio is around for a long time.

This issue ties directly into All-New X-Men #10, when Cyclops and his people showed up at the Jean Grey School to do a little recruiting. Almost the exact same scene plays out here, only from a different perspective. We find out that while Cyclops was speaking with Wolverine and his people, the Stepford Cuckoos and Emma Frost were having a mental showdown that ends with her convincing them to join the new Xavier School. Back at the school, Tempus, Triage, Benjamin and Fabio hang out, banter playfully and pick their rooms – then accidentally activate the Danger Room, which Cyclops has to rescue them from. In the end, Cyclops reveals that it was Young Angel who decided to abandon the others and join Cyclops’ team.

Oh, also, Magik is having some problems with Hell that are probably going to come back and bite everybody in the ass.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

Not a whole lot happened on the Cyclops front in this issue. It’s really just a repeat of the last issue of All-New X-Men, albeit with a cutaway to get into the minds of the Stepford Cuckoos. I’m not surprised by the reveal that Young Angel was the one to join Cyclops. I was kind of hoping it would be Young Beast, that would have been a real brain-burner. But like I said, the real treat this issue was getting to know Bendis’ new X-Men. He hints at having a lot of ideas for the group, and they are definitely an interesting and unique bunch. He even starts hinting at a few possible romances, which are always fun. I hope, going forward, we get a lot more focus on both these new kids and how they interact with the traditional X-Men. I’d love to see some real bonding between the two factions. I think Bendis could build something really special here.

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 13, 2013, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Anybody remember X-Men second coming where the bad guy (bastion) was controling all the robots from the future. Anybody? I love when new ideas come along like they do in Age of Ultron.

    • I remember Second Coming, but I don’t think that’s the only example of somebody controlling an army of robots. And I think Bastion was hanging out in the present day. That’s where/when he killed Nightcrawler.

  2. AU was pretty good, I thought. A little more character-focused.

    Avengers is starting to frustrate me. It’s too impersonal. Hickman can do personal stories. He proved that with his years on Fantastic Four. He’s even doing it on New Avengers. So why can’t he do it here?

    Hawkeye was great, naturally. While Hawkeye and Spider-Woman hooking up was rather arbitrary, they did end up having a pretty good chemistry. I liked them as a couple. As for bringing Mockingbird back: It’s only pointless if writers don’t use her well. Spencer is using her in Secret Avengers – which is turning out to be a really good series – so it’s not pointless. Though I really, REALLY hope Spencer doesn’t dwell on her relationship with Clint. She’s too awesome a character to be “Hawkeye’s ex.” I really want Spencer to show how awesome she is on her own terms. Basically, I want Mockingbird to get the same chance Black Widow did, to stop being defined by who she slept with.

    Thor was great.

    UA was really good. Best issue yet. Kang’s machinations are very enjoyable.

    UXM was great. The Cuckoos got more characterization here than they have in years, and Emma got some good stuff, too. And the new mutants are coming along nicely.

    • Oh okay, I was wondering if Mockingbird was being used anywhere meaningful. I dropped Secret Avengers after they killed Eric O’Grady.

      • I can’t say Remender’s run did much for me. But three issues in, Nick Spencer’s run has been solid. He’s doing very interesting things with AIM. Seriously, that book is worth reading for the AIM plot alone. But Spencer’s doing good job with all the characters so far. He even had Mockingbird totally troll Hawkeye in the last issue. It was hilarious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: