Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/20/13
I think I have a problem. There’s something definitely wrong with me. I’ve loved superhero comics all my life, but these days I tend to glaze over at long, drawn out fight scenes, and instead love the quirky, humanizing stories. My favorite comics these days are titles like Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, where the focus is almost entirely on the characters first, superheroics second. The witty banter, the human emotion, the simple, everyday experiences, this is what I love. You can keep your spandex-clad superhero punching out the latest Nazi clone. I’ll take a scene where Wonder Woman and her friends sit around trying to think up a name for the new baby.
That easily wins Wonder Woman the title of Comic Book of the Week for me. The scene is just so adorable, and uses all of her extending supporting cast to really establish who these people are, why they’re together and what that will mean going forward. There will be action, there will always be action, but what I’ve come to love most about comics is when that action is offset by moments of real character. I hope I’m not alone. And I hope they’re always as good as this.
And I hope Orion is OK. Seriously, he’s my favorite character in Wonder Woman so far.
Comic Reviews: Age of Ultron #6, Batwoman #19, Captain Marvel #12, Green Lantern: New Guardians #19, Justice League #19, Nightwing #19, Red Hood and the Outlaws #19, Superior Spider-Man #8 and Wonder Woman #19.
Age of Ultron #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco
The flurry of activity continues for Age of Ultron now that Bendis has finally introduced us to the plot. But wow, the first four issues of nothing has definitely come back to bite this story in the ass. This has been a barren wasteland of characters and plots, and everything we saw over the course of the first four issues has nothing to do with the big moments of his issue. It’s so weird. Remember when it seemed like Spider-Man and Hawkeye were going to be important characters? Or Black Widow and Moon Knight? Or that the Vision showing up was a big deal? Yep, none of those have anything to do with this issue’s big turning point.
In the future, Fury’s band of heroes travels to New York to strike at Ultron, only to discover that the entire eastern seaboard is one giant, golden, computer city. They’re immediately attacked by Ultron drones. In the past, Wolverine and the Invisible Woman have gone back to kill Hank Pym. They ambush Pym at his lab at the exact same time he thinks up the idea for Ultron. Sue tries to keep Wolverine from going through with the murder, but in the end, she gives in and Wolverine makes the kill.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
Where has the Invisible Woman been? For that matter, what about Wolverine? These two characters were little more than background extras for the first 4-5 issues of Age of Ultron, and now all of a sudden the entire series hinges on their actions and emotions. That is bad storytelling. I expect much more from Bendis. Wolverine and the Invisible Woman is an odd pairing to begin with, but it’s one that’s full of potential. So why the hell didn’t he focus all of Age of Ultron on the two of them? From issue #1, Bendis should have focused on how Wolverine and the Invisible Woman were responding to this crisis, leading up to this issue where the two of them come together to make this earth-shattering decision. Instead, Bendis waited until now to just dump a bunch of talk about Sue and her family into this issue, so that her decision in the end to let Wolverine kill Pym would hold some kind of emotional weight. Sorry, but stories don’t work that way. I may have been reading about Wolverine and Sue for decades, but I don’t know anything about them in the context of Age of Ultron, so I just don’t feel the emotional impact I’m supposed to feel by their actions.
Overall, though, this is still an entertaining issue. The bold move of actually having Wolverine kill Pym is a strong moment, even if it’s somewhat dampened by our knowledge of how the Marvel Multiverse works, and the fact that it’s far from permanent. But if we ignore that, it’s pretty cool. I just wish Bendis had bothered to spend a little time building up to this issue instead of wasting so much of our time. And it’s a shame that Bryan Hitch couldn’t stick around for the rest of the story. The two new artists, one for the future and one for the past, are nowhere near Hitch’s skill level.
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Trevor McCarthy
It’s transition time in the pages of Batwoman, so all of the various characters are being moved around the board while setting up the next big story. And it seems that ‘family’ is going to be the next big theme, and family has always played a part in this series, so it works. Unfortunately, there are some weird choices in this comic, and one really awkward statement that mire an otherwise alright issue. Apparently, we’re being told that Director Bones of the DEO might be Batwoman’s brother? What? Where did that come from? The character has been around for decades. He’s a walking, talking, cigar-smoking skeleton man. What benefit would there be in making him Batwoman’s long lost brother? Especially since I’d kindly like for the DEO to find their way out of this series.I would rather read stories about Batwoman being an awesome vigilante instead of being the puppet to an ill-defined government agency.
There’s a lot of jumping around in this issue, so I’ll try to keep everything clear. We open on a chat between Agent Chase and her sister, who was the mysterious figure stepping out of the beach at the end of last issue. She’s a surfer. They talk about their father, who used to be a superhero, and how Chase is starting to feel bad about the stuff the DEO wants her to do. Elsewhere, Maggie is having nightmares, and she doesn’t think Kate can help her cope. Kate’s dad is still arguing with his wife, and he thinks he has a son. Batwoman and Hawkfire take down some bad guys, but then Hawkfire refuses to keep working with Batwoman as long as she’s taking orders from the DEO. But Kate can’t quit while they continue to threaten her father. However, Bones has a new assignment for her: uncovering the secret identity of Batman! Kate refuses, until Bones reveals he has her sister in custody.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
I hated the scene between Agent Chase and her sister. I believe Chase is a pet character that Williams created years ago and he just keeps bringing her back in whatever project he’s working on. I’ve never liked her in this series. She’s an asshole with few, if any, redeeming qualities, who is made even worse when she imposes her ridiculous will and rules on our hero. Then Chase goes and reveals two stupid points that clearly don’t have anything to do with the New 52 continuity, and that kind of thing gets under my skin for some reason. First, Chase and her sister hint towards having a father who used to be a costumed superhero. He’s not someone we know, nor is his team, and Chase acts like he was just some idiot playing dress-up. Was that the case? Was he really just an idiot in a costume? Or was he a legitimate superhero, and Chase is just bitter about superheroes in general? For that matter, how does his superhero team fit into the New 52 continuity? It doesn’t.
Second, Chase tells her sister that she’s getting sick of cleaning up after the masks and the capes. And I’m sorry, but whatever authority the DEO had in the old continuity no longer exists. There are a whole bunch of secret government agencies dealing with superheroes now, especially ARGUS, which is the main one used in the Justice League comics. I’m fairly certain the DEO has only shown up in the pages of Batwoman, which makes them the bottom rung of the government agencies dealing with superheroes ladder. Which makes Chase’s comment just sound ridiculous. The DEO is in no way cleaning up after the masks and the capes, nor are they doing it enough or on any sort of scale for her to get sick of it. She comes off as even more of a pompous douchebag who thinks she’s so much cooler and more important than she really is, doing a job that frankly only exists in her mind. I just want the DEO gone from this comic. They’re the worst part, and they’re holding Batwoman back from some real action and adventure.
The rest of the issue is good. I mentioned before how the Bones/brother thing is more weird than intriguing, so the argument Kate’s father has with his wife is just as weird. I enjoyed the scene where Batwoman teamed up with Hawkfire, only for the latter to dump her because of her DEO ties. And I like, in general, the idea that the DEO wants to use Batwoman to find out Batman’s identity. I like that Batman is just too damn good for the DEO to catch. I was disappointed in the brief scene between Kate and Maggie. There has been absolutely no follow-up to Kate’s marriage proposal and identity reveal two issues ago. Shouldn’t that be a big deal in their lives?
And lastly, the art is just OK. Obviously no one is going to match up to Williams’ artistic brilliance, but this fill in is mostly just doing an adequate job. It’s clear, it’s detailed, and the superhero scenes look good. Though I’m only just now noticing that Hawkfire’s mask really only covers the top half of her face. She doesn’t have any sort of cowl or anything covering the back of her head and neck. It’s like her big, bulky orange mask is held on by string, like a Halloween mask. What’s up with that?
Captain Marvel #12
Writers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Chris Sebela
Artist: Filipe Andrade
No signs of cancellation yet for Captain Marvel, so I’m still happy. Though I fear DeConnick and Sebela are barking up the wrong tree when they dredge up some classic villains from the Captain Marvel mythos. First Deathbird, and then a new one rears his ugly head in this issue, and I just don’t think anybody’s going to care…other than longtime Captain Marvel fans. I’m not one to judge those fans (I love Multiple Man, after all), but as a new reader who loves this comic, I would rather see new and exciting adventures instead of tales that cling to the past.
In two competing storylines, Captain Marvel continues her battle with the new Deathbird, while her doctor brings in a specialist to try and figure out what’s wrong with Carol’s brain. The fight goes pretty well, with Carol having to rely on her flying motorcycle to keep up with Deathbird. She does alright, though in the end, she uses a little flight to win, and that triggers a big brain spasm. Deathbird eventually teleports away, revealing that her master – Yon-Rogg – now has life. Meanwhile, the doctors don’t think it looks good for Carol.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
The adorability of this issue dropped compared to previous issues, so my usually high score dropped as well. It’s not intentional, I promise. This issue was just a big fight scene, crossed with a couple of stoic doctors talking doctor stuff. Some of the heart was missing, but then the comic can’t have scenes with Kit in every issue, right? So it’s no knock against Captain Marvel, it’s just there lacked any real spark to jump my rating up into the higher echelons. It was still an exciting fight, Carol is still an awesome character and the art remains fantastic. There’s a drawing of Carol popping a handful of pills at the end of the book that is just funny/fantastic, and it’s followed immediately by a look of pure dread that tops it. Keep Andrade on this book forever!
Green Lantern: New Guardians #19
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andres Guinaldo
Ha. Look no further than this issue to understand that Wrath of the First Lantern is Geoff Johns’ story, and everybody else is just tagging along. The big climax is going to come in Green Lantern #20, and Johns set it up perfectly in Green Lantern #19. But unfortunately, this issue had to come out in between, so Bedard had to find something to do to stall for time, and stall he does. This issue picks up from the end of Green Lantern #19, but then ends in pretty much the exact same place. Bedard simply fills the space in between with some minor character interaction. Oh well.
Kyle and Carol visit the remains of Korugar, only to find an angry Sinestro, who accuses Kyle of allying with the First Lantern. How else could Kyle became the White Lantern, Sinestro surmises. The two battle it out until B’dg and Simon Baz show up to break them up, with Simon being introduced to Carol and Kyle, to little regard. Kyle then tries to use the Power of Life to bring back the people of Korugar, but he fails. Then Sinestro tries, but the White Ring rejects him and goes to Simon, who also tries and fails. So Korugar stays dead, the White Ring goes back to Kyle, and Sinestro once again grabs his Yellow Power Battery and flies off.
Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.
So yeah, not much happens at all. It’s Kyle’s first big attempt to use the power of the White Lantern for good…but he fails. Kyle and Carol meet Simon, but that doesn’t amount to much at all. And the fact that Sinestro goes right back to where he was at the end of Green Lantern #19 means this issue was nothing but filler. It actually kind of dampens the cool factor of the last page of Green Lantern #19 to know that Sinestro didn’t immediately embrace the yellow lantern, but instead spent a couple minutes whining at Kyle Raynor. I have a feeling that few, if any, of the characters from New Guardians are going to have an impact on the First Lantern finale.
Justice League #19
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
A new Justice League storyline kicks off in this issue, and I enjoyed it. The overall problems with this series and its lack of real overall cohesion will never go away. It’s just a problem this League suffers in the new continuity. We will never get the feeling that these versions of these familiar characters have been together for five years. It’s a very weird feeling. There’s a conversation between Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in this issue that reads kind of like their familiar friendship, but then we have to remind herself that it’s not exactly the same. It’s hard to explain what I’m talking about, but I know some of you no doubt used to read the pre-reboot comics. In this new continuity, I think DC could have done more to really try something new with their three main characters. Why just go back to being the same three friends they were previously? They have told us that Superman and Wonder Woman are a couple now, but we haven’t really seen them together romantically all that much.
A man dressed all in black breaks into the Batcave, knocking out Alfred, and stealing a piece of kryptonite that Batman keeps secret for if he ever needs to take down Superman. This story was done before in Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel, but I guess that story is no longer in continuity, since nobody on the Justice League knows about the kryptonite, it seems. Batman, Cyborg and Aquaman investigate the break in, which, of course, has no obvious clues. How convenient. Meanwhile, Superman and Wonder Woman sneak into the Middle Eastern country of Khandaq to rescue some hostages from a group of militants, an act that sparks a lot of criticism about the Justice League (which is mostly viewed as American) getting involved in foreign affairs. Batman shows up to have a serious talk with the two of them, and tells them that he knows about their relationship.
Meanwhile, the new Atom and Firestorm show up at the Watchtower for their initiation, but no one else is there. The two bond and go wandering about before Despero suddenly shows up, wielding a kryptonite ring!
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
This is a fun, entertaining comic that does a good job of setting the new storyline…mostly. There’s some secret ninja sneaking into the Batcave, with the narratively helpful ability to leave no clues whatsoever. And I’ve always liked the idea that Batman has secret plans to use against the Justice League. I have some faith in Johns to put a new spin on that classic story. I also liked Superman and Wonder Woman sneaking into Khandaq. But as I’ve ranted about before, there seems to be two different Justice Leagues going on. One exists in Geoff Johns’ mind, where he knows how all of these characters impact one another, and he knows how the presence of the Justice League is felt in this new continuity. Then there’s the one we see, where we have very little understanding of either of those things. And considering how similar these characters are to their pre-reboot versions, it just feels weird to try and make sense of everybody’s new position in the world. Still, it was an entertaining read, and I really liked what Johns did with Atom and Firestorm. They seem pretty cool so far, Atom especially.
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Brett Booth
What a difference a new status quo makes. For months now, Nightwing has been tied into the rest of the Bat-family, including the last issue, which saw Dick Grayson as a depressing shut-in. I suppose some of that was necessary. But now he’s cut free from Gotham City and setting up shop in Chicago (for some reason), and I applaud the attempt at a new direction. The comic definitely feels livelier and more exciting. Though moving heroes to a new city has become a cliche at this point. Scarlet Spider randomly plops down in Houston. A big deal is made out of Venom moving to Philadelphia. Now Nightwing in Chicago!
So yeah, Nightwing has moved to Chicago, which just so happens to have a new law banning all masked superheroes. How convenient. Do they just mean ‘no masks’ or ‘no superheroes’? Can Superman and Wonder Woman come to Chicago and fight crime? Anyway, Nightwing is tracking down leads on Tony Zucco, so he busts into a bar to speak with a local information broker. He has to fight through some insane, split personality woman first before he gets a few words with the broker – only to be interrupted by a police helicopter that opens fire on him. Nightwing uses his skills to evade the police, bring down the chopper and save the police inside. Elsewhere, we meet the mayor of Chicago, who is very anti-superhero, and we learn that his driver is none other than Tony Zucco! We also see that word has already spread about Nightwing seeking information on Zucco.
Oh, and the Prankster is some kind of hacker villain who is sticking his nose in a lot of peoples’ business.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
I so far like the new set up for Dick Grayson, and I really like Brett Booth’s art. I thought he was great on Teen Titans, but I was worried his style would be too frantic for Nightwing. Turns out, that’s not the case at all. I could stand to see some darker inks maybe, but otherwise, Booth draws a great Nightwing. The character is youthful and energetic, and Booth does great work with exciting panel layouts. I think Booth will be a great fit on Nightwing. The rest of the story seems pretty simple. New characters, new villains, new city, new friends; it’s almost a complete break from the Gotham City stuff. I’m disappointed that Dick is still bitter towards Batman, but hopefully that will fade over time. I will never understand why DC writers think it makes for better comics when Batman and Nightwing aren’t speaking to one another.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Julius Gopez
Don’t look now, but we’ve got a new creative team! Scott Lobdell is off the book! It’s just too bad they didn’t take him off Teen Titans. James Tynion jumps over from Talon, and so far he’s off to an odd start. One thing that’s very apparent is that I think Tynion put the kibosh on plans for Jason’s face to get scarred. Remember when the Joker left a booby trap in his helmet that burned Jason’s face? Well, this issue was supposed to have a different of gatefold cover, as you can see here. What happened to that cover? And why is Jason’s face perfectly handsome in this issue? I bet Tynion didn’t want to have to write a scarred, ugly Jason.
Jason has fled back to the All-Caste for some mysterious reason, and Arsenal and Starfire follow, trying to find him. This leads to the two of them wandering aimlessly in the mountains for awhile since normal people can’t just find the entrance. This is odd, because the story is about how Roy is freezing to death in the snowy mountains, but then how did they even get to the Himalayas without a plane? Or some kind of craft? Did Starfire carry Roy the whole way? Then why doesn’t she carry him now? Anyway, Essence is following them, and she invades Roy’s dreams to get him to turn back…but all she does is strengthen his resolve, and somehow show him the secret to getting into All-Caste HQ. Once inside, Roy and Kori find Jason, but he’s voluntarily had all of his memories erased!
Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.
What? Really? Is this going to be permanent? DC has been doing a lot of soft reboots for their comics recently, from Stormwatch to Green Arrow. Is this their attempt with Red Hood and the Outlaws? Is Jason going to forget everything about his past and start off as some kind of blank slate? Sounds like an incredibly silly idea. I hope they reverse it before too long. Other than that weird choice, and the weird discrpencies with how Roy and Kori fail to travel through the Himalayas, this is an otherwise OK issue. I’m still not sold on Roy in the New 52. I think it’s the long hair and the stupid baseball cap. I know they’re vital to his new incarnation, but they just make him generally unlikable. Starfire is pretty cool, but she gets dragged down by Roy. There’s also the question of what’s keeping this trio together. Why do Roy and Starfire chase Jason to the ends of the Earth? Roy has a moment where he says it’s because Kori and Jason are his best friends, and he hasn’t felt so accepted in a long time, but still, you can’t give the guy a little space? Because of Lobdell, and because of the various tie-ins this series had to be involved in, these three characters just aren’t as defined as they should be this far along.
Superior Spider-Man #8
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Big happenings are afoot in this issue of Superior Spider-Man! Slott has promised big changes with issue #9, and if this issue is any indication, he might be right. Will they be good changes? It’s too early to say. If what I think is going to happen actually does happen, I’ll be a little disappointed, but not as much as I would have been months ago at the start of this series. I guess we’ll just have to wait another month to see what happens.
The Avengers soundly defeat Spider-Man and hook him up to their equipment to run a series of tests, and they can confirm, without a doubt, that he is not a skrull. Good job, team. There’s no indication that he’s not the Spider-Man they know, so they put him on probation, and Black Widow has a heart-to-heart chat with him about having “red on his ledger”. Ugh. When Slott pulled out that line from The Avengers movie, I felt the bile rise in my throat. Is that her catchphrase now? Anyway, Otto noticed something in the tests that the Avengers missed, some sort of abnormality in the brain diagnostics. This doesn’t look good for Ghost Peter!
Otto heads back to his lab to try and scan his brain, but first he needs that machine that Cardiac stole in the previous issue. So Otto tracks him down and fights Cardiac to get it back, only to smash through the wall into Cardiac’s secret awesome hospital. Otto then learns that the machine is being used to treat a young girl whose brain problems were caused by Ott’s sinister scheme in last year’s Ends of the Earth storyline. Racked with guilt, Otto volunteers to not only unlock the machine’s highest functions, but he’ll do the girl’s surgery himself – and he does an amazing job! Otto and Cardiac patch things up, and Otto becomes the little girl’s new hero. And his helpfulness has earned him some time with the machine, which he takes back to his lab to give himself a Parker-dectomy! Because Otto reveals he can now hear and communicate with Ghost Peter!
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.
This was definitely a cool issue, and it looks like bad news for Ghost Peter. If I had to guess – and my guesses are usually wrong – then I think Slott is going to get rid of Ghost Peter in the next issue. He’s going to destroy all hope that Peter Parker will ever come back. First of all, I think that’s pretty stupid, since Peter Parker is going to come back one of these days. It’s going to happen, no matter how much Slott tries to convince us it’s not. Second of all, why even introduce Ghost Peter if he was planning to get rid of him in nine issues? It’s not like Ghost Peter has really done all that much in the series so far. But it’s Slott’s story, so he gets to do what he wants. Either way, like I said, Peter will eventually return as Spider-Man. Until then, I’m more than happy to sit back and see what Slott does with Otto. The rest of the issue was cool too – other than that one Black Widow line. Otto stepping up and saving that girl was pretty fantastic.
Wonder Woman #19
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Goran Sudzuka and Tony Akins
Last issue marked the end of one chapter, so now we begin anew, and it’s a fun issue. Wonder Woman is in a pretty cool place with a pretty awesome supporting cast, and Azzarello has a lot of fun with them over the course of the issue as they flirt, butt heads and figure out what to do with Zola’s baby. There are a lot of great scenes in this issue between the characters. At the same time, Azzarello is doing a great job lining up the next stories and the series’ villains. He’s got a lot of characters in play, and an epic Greek family drama to work with, and Azzarello is pulling it off with style and skill.
At the end of last issue, Wonder Woman and her friends finally rescued Zola’s baby, creating something of a dysfunctional family. For some reason, the family goes for a walk while trying to pick a name for a child. Everyone gets a cute little scene, from formerly antagonistic Hera immediately falling for the child, to War and Lennox sharing a drink, to Orion pondering a cool name like ‘Zeke’, to Wonder Woman suggesting her ex-boyfriend’s name. I think they settle on Zeke. When the group returns home, Lennox says it’s time for him to take off, having served his function. Meanwhile Orion’s boorish flirtations have become too much for Wonder Woman to stand. Diana kisses Orion, but that was only a feint to get close enough to grab his balls and threaten to tear them off if he doesn’t shut up. Orion doesn’t shut up, so Wonder Woman punches him out. This causes Orion’s face to turn all craggy and red, and he angrily storms out of the apartment.
Elsewhere, Apollo, Dio and Moon plot to kidnap the child; and the First Born makes a deal with Poseidon, agreeing that he will not attack Hell or the Seas in his quest for the Throne of Olympus.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!
I love adorable comics. I love characters who act like real people, and the scenes of Wonder Woman’s family picking out a name for the baby are just great. I especially loved Hera’s transformation into a likable character. Of course, this makes it even worse when Lenox and Orion decide to leave the group, since they were two of my favorite characters. It’s especially unfortunate that Orion left how he did, in humiliated anger, because I thought he would make a fantastic supporting character to Wonder Woman. Oh well. Hopefully he’ll come back, and he won’t be a villain. I also really enjoyed the First Born, for once. Probably because I’m a big fan of Greek Myths, and it was just cool seeing Poseidon and Hades doing something again. As for Apollo and his crew, they don’t seem very threatening just yet. Hopefully Azzarello can build them up into better villains.
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!
Posted on April 20, 2013, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged Age of Ultron, Batwoman, Captain Marvel, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Justice League, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Superior Spider-Man, Wonder Woman. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.