Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/11/13

Another week, another good load of comics. Everything is mostly good this week, except for, well…I’m not digging Justice League of America. Maybe some of you are, maybe there are people who really enjoy that comic, but for me, it’s a total dud. And that’s just disappointing overall. I think it’s a surefire sign that, in the end, DC’s New 52 reboot is going to crash and burn. This JLA was given a big push, and it’s written by Golden Boy Geoff Johns, but I just think it sucks. I think DC is floundering these days. They come up with strange comics like The Movement or The Green Team as if they think those will actually sell. Then they cancel those titles in six issues because they couldn’t match up to the popularity of Batman.

Pretty soon, all DC Comics are just going to be extensions of the Batman, Superman and Green Lantern franchises.

Fortunately, Marvel is still kicking butt with their Marvel NOW! campaign. It’s proof that you don’t need to reboot your entire universe to make things feel fresh and exciting. In fact, much to my surprise, Comic Book of the Week is going to Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers this week! I’ve generally disliked that comic, but Hickman hits it out of the park this week – possibly because he finally focuses on a little team interaction and character development.

I’m going to say that now every time I go gambling

Plus watching Sunsport and Cannonball make pals with some disenfranchised A.I.M. henchmen is just awesome.

Comic Reviews: Avengers #11, Batman #20, Batman and Robin #20, Justice League of America #3, Thor: God of Thunder #8, Uncanny Avengers #8.

Avengers #11

Avengers #11
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Mike Deodato

Whoa. Hit the brakes, folks. Eleven issues into the series and Hickman finally takes a moment for some team bonding, and it’s great! Unfortunately, Avengers #11 is once again a single issue story that has nearly nothing to do with anything else that has come before. A handful of Avengers play civilian as they try to infiltrate a criminal casino in Hong Kong. It’s a great use of the characters, a fun story, with a lot of great moments, but it couldn’t be more disconnected from the rest of Hickman’s Avengers. There’s some hint of a connection between this issue and the AIM story from a few issues ago, though it’s tepid at best. But I’m not going to worry. It’s a fun issue of Hickman’s Avengers, for once.

Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Sunspot, Cannonball and Spider-Woman head to Hong Kong to investigate some type of AIM weapons sale, which just so happens to be taking place at a casino. So everyone dresses up in their best tuxes and dresses to try and go undercover to either flirt, drink or gamble their way into AIM hearts and minds to get a little inside info. Carol plays cards with the chief AIM scientist, but he uses X-ray specs to win, and royally piss her off. Natasha and Jessica flirt with some bad guys, but Natasha can’t take it for long and just shoots them dead. Sam and Bobby have the best time, meeting a couple of like-minded AIM grunts who’d love to spend a night out drinking with new friends – unfortunately, they don’t know much of anything. So it looks like none of the Avengers got the info they were after – except for Shang-Chi, who spent the issues beating up some new ninja company named Chimera.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

This is the kind of Avengers comic I was hoping to read! It’s a very fun use of the characters, it treats the Avengers (and their enemies), as people first and superheroes second. It’s funny, it’s charming, and it’s very, very well drawn. Plus, it’s just plain cool to see the Avengers don civilian wear to infiltrate a super-villain casino. That’s just an awesome plot. Sam and Bobby have the best time paling around with some AIM soldiers, even if the two of them are being written like douchey ‘bros’. I can forgive the out-of-character Cannonball when his scenes are this much fun. The Shang-Chi stuff was fine, but his vague, first-person narration clouded the point of the scene. I guess there’s some new villain corporation named Chimera that we have to be watching out for? Whatever, the much more enjoyable stuff was the legitimate team building, finally.

Batman #20

Batman #20
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

Clayface is a very weird villain in the comics. We all remember Clayface from Batman: The Animated Series; he was the star of some of the best episodes. But Clayface in the comics isn’t nearly as well defined as in the cartoon. There have been half a dozen different Clayfaces in the comics, each with their own weird origins and powers, and some didn’t even have powers. Or maybe they got powers later. Like I said, it’s complicated. The problem with this two-part story by Snyder and Capullo is that it treats Clayface as if we, the reader, know everything there is to know about Basil Karlo and Clayface. It proposes to establish a new status quo for Clayface, but doesn’t bother really explaining his old status quo. And considering the reboot, who knows what Clayface has been like in this continuity.

Clayface beats up Bruce Wayne after absorbing his DNA, then drops him in a trash compactor with Lucius Fox, whom he left alive for some reason. Lucius digs around the trash until he finds a Batman suit of armor that looks suspiciously like Batman Beyond, and the two escape. When Clayface goes on his Bruce Wayne rampage from last issue, he’s stopped by Batman, wearing a special Clayface-fighting suit. Batman traps Clayface in a panic chamber that is sequenced to Basil Karlo’s DNA, the only DNA the Clayface no longer has. The new twist to Clayface is that he’s now capable of turning into anyone down to a cellular level, once he’s absorbed their DNA. But doing this has so completely polluted his own body that Basil Karlo DNA no longer even exists. It’s a neat idea, but like I said, I don’t think we know anything about Basil Karlo in the New 52 continuity to really care all that much.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

This two-parter was mostly ho-hum. I’ve always liked Clayface, but Snyder has a weird way of handling him, and I just didn’t connect to the villain whatsoever. Maybe now that he’s established, his next appearance will be more engaging. The rest of the issue is fine, I suppose. Bruce Wayne and Batman both get some cool moments, though there’s a really elaborate moment where Clayface absorbs Batman’s DNA to expose his identity that falls kind of flat. He shows everyone that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but then Batman already thought of that, and reveals he and Wayne worked out a fix to trick Clayface involving some kind of Wayne DNA mask. That feels like the sort of twist that belongs in the Silver Age. It’s hard to tell if Clayface really does know Batman’s identity now or if he also bought into Batman’s explanation. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. This was a standard little Batman story, and I guess that’s all I should have expected.

Batman and Robin #20

Batman and Red Hood #20
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Patrick Gleason and Cliff Richards

What the hell, man? Tim Drake got the shaft in his team-up issue, but now Red Hood gets a really deep, satisfying exploration of the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd? I am very disappointed. Tim was saddled with a story where Batman went insane and started dissecting Frankenstein. Jason gets a really meaningful team up with Batman, ending with a confrontation that explores their past together and really touches upon their current relationship. It’s a very good issue, but just makes me more annoyed at how little Red Robin got to do in the last issue. Maybe if DC hadn’t completely rewritten Tim Drake’s origin then he and Batman would have had more to talk about.

Bruce asks Jason to help him investigate a group of African sniper militants, and the pair go to town like old times. Batman is still feeling pretty messed up after the death of Damian, and he takes it out on the militants. He’s even willing to overlook the fact that Red Hood is using a gun. When the two of them finish, Bruce takes Jason to the spot in Ethiopia where Jason was killed in an effort to get Jason to recall some secret from his resurrection that might help bring Damian back to life. The two get into a big argument, because Jason doesn’t want to have to relive the worst day of his life, but Bruce thinks he should be willing to do it for Bruce and Damian’s sake. Then the two get into an awesome fist fight that ends with Jason walking away.

Meanwhile, Carrie Kelly comes to the mansion inquiring about Damian, but Bruce blows her off, telling her that Damian is studying overseas. Oh also, Damian was taking acting lessons from Carrie, apparently. Alfred asks if she’ll come and take care of Titus a few days a week.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

Why couldn’t we have gotten this kind of story when Red Robin guest-starred? This was a great issue, especially for any Red Hood fans. Batman and Red Hood team up, they share some really touching moments together, then we get a dramatic, climactic fight in the very spot where Jason was killed all those years ago. Batman is still filled with rage over Damian’s death, but now that rage is used to tell a great story between Bruce and Jason, instead of a story between Bruce and Frankenstein that Tim Drake just happens to appear in. Like I said, I’m very disappointed, but enjoyed the issue. The Carrie Kelley stuff remains relatively entertaining, though I think it’s silly that she threw Bruce’s money back in his face, or that Bruce can’t just tell her that Damian is dead. Is Bruce Wayne really pretending to the world that his son is still alive?

JLA #3

Justice League of America #3
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch

This comic sucks. I gave JLA three issues and I don’t know if I can stand anymore. The art is hideous, the storytelling is largely incomprehensible, and the characters are all unlikable, every single one of them. There is nothing redeemable about this comic whatsoever. It’s confusing, it’s filled with unearned self-importance and it does nothing to enhance the DCnU as a whole. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think Johns has simply failed to translate the big, universe-wide ideas that are in his head onto the actual comic book pages.

The JLA’s attempt to attack the Secret Society is thwarted by robot versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, created by Professor Ivo – who is believed to have committed suicide, apparently. When did that supposedly happen? The heroes defeat the robots and return home, then try a different route that involves sneaking Catwoman into the Society undercover. They stage a fake museum burglary, only to be interrupted by Green Arrow, who thinks it’s real. The JLA have to take down Green Arrow so that he doesn’t ruin their operation, then he asks to join the team. Later on, the JLA try again with Catwoman by having her sneak into and then back out of Arkham Asylum. Sure enough, that catches the Society’s eye, and they kidnap her.

Comic Rating: 2/5: Bad.

Everything about this issue is bad. The art, especially, is just plain ugly. All of the detail and power that usually goes into Finch’s work is gone, replaced by hideous blobs. The colorist and inker are to blame too. Everyone looks inky and awkward. There’s no personality to any of the characters or the scenes. They feel like promotional drawings grouped together to tell a story. This series lacks heart. The plot is equally pathetic. A fight with robots? Please. As if at any point we were really supposed to believe those were the real Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Then the whole staged burglary is bogus, with everyone acting completely obvious. Catwoman even comments throughout the entire job that the Society would be idiots to not see how she’s trying to get caught.

And what was up with Green Arrow? Since when is he not a member of the JLA? He’s been in every issue so far, has been seen working closely with Steve Trevor, and appeared at the start of this issue at JLA headquarters. So when he shows up going after Catwoman, mocking her for taking on the entire JLA, I simply believed he was part of the staged burglary – but nope! Apparently, with absolutely no indication anywhere in the art or plot, Green Arrow took it upon himself to leave JLA headquarters (where he was recuperating), go out into the city as a superhero, and then try to legitimately take down Catwoman. The scene made no sense.

The characters may be the worst part about the book. Three issues in and Johns has barely scratched the surface of who these people are and why they’re a team. They’re all just action figures standing around his playset, with the story really only happening in his head. Catwoman seems to be one of the stars, but she’s just so poorly written and drawn that I couldn’t stand looking at her. Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller are both terrible people, the latter of whom angrily snaps at Stargirl for no reason. Also, Stargirl is not going to be an actual member of the team, and instead is just going to be their pretty PR face. So much for any legitimacy Stargirl built up in the first two issues. Vibe, Katana, Hawkman and Martian Manhunter all maybe get one scene, one panel or one closeup, and that’s about it.

This does not read like a Geoff Johns comic. Where’s his usual wit and creativity? Where as his entertaining characters? Where is the fun character interaction? Honestly, I’ve stopped caring. Justice League of America is quickly becoming just another example of DC’s botched reboot.

Thor #8

Thor: God of Thunder #8
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic

Jason Aaron’s Thor comic is as strong as ever. I hope he can keep up this momentum and style long after this Gorr storyline is over. Aaron is weaving a fascinating tale full of fun characters, larger-than-life concepts and exciting action and humor. This is a comic that really gets into the personality and power of the main character. And somehow Aaron even manages to keep the time travel aspects from getting too complicated, and he’s able to infuse each of the Thors with his own personality and level of maturity. That’s a feat in and of itself. Though I’m starting to get annoyed at how obsessed everyone seems to be with beards. Now it’s not just Old Thor making the beard jokes.

Young Thor doesn’t like working in Gorr’s slave pits, but the other gods around him don’t like it when he tries to fight back because it’s just going to make things worse. Every time one of the gods acts out, Gorr crucifies someone else as punishment. Thor meets three goddesses (who are secretly his future grandchildren), who clue him into life in the slave pits, then hold a secret meeting to discuss rebelling against Gorr before the Godbomb is complete in a few days. Young Thor volunteers to carry out their planned suicide mission, but no one is quite sure about him, so he just goes behind their backs to do it anyway. Young Thor grabs their unstable matter bomb and fights his way through Gorr’s minions, calling down the lightning to aid him, even everyone told him it would be impossible. He plants the bomb and the explosion launches Thor away from the planet – where he is then immediately caught by the other two Thors, who are still on their way to face Gorr. They get Young Thor up to speed, give him some armor and weapons, and then it’s time to “let the hammers talk.”

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

This was one of Young Thor’s best issues. He seems to be the most unlike the other two Thors, and it was a lot of fun to see him struggle with the shackles of slavery. His interactions with his granddaughters were a lot of fun, and Aaron succeeded in creating three new interesting characters, who will hopefully stick around as supporting players in this story. Young Thor’s heroic charge at the Godbomb was just as cool, with Aaron using the narration and our expectations to create a truly bombastic moment of triumph. And then, of course, once all three Thors get together, it’s a comedic treat. The three of them are hilarious together, with their egos colliding, only to transform into truly fearsome warriors for a powerful final page cliffhanger. This fight is going to be epic.

Uncanny Avengers #8

Uncanny Avengers #8
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Daniel Acuna

There are two sides to Uncanny Avengers. I’m enjoying one, and mostly just trying to hang on and keep up with the other. On the one hand, Remender is doing a great job (finally) in defining his characters and bouncing them off one another. Sunfire gets a lot of time to shine in this issue, really giving us a taste of his personality. And whoever would have expected to see Sunfire and Thor hanging out, amiright? The rest of the characters are equally strong, and I’m glad to see Remender focusing a lot on character dynamics. The other side of the series is a lot harder to take. Remender has built up this massive time travel/Apocalypse/Celestial plot, and it’s just a bit difficult to really wrap my head around at times. One really needs to have encyclopedic knowledge of Apocalypse and all of the various recent additions to his mythos to fully appreciate this story.

As Thor tries to save Rio de Jeneiro from the falling space debris, he’s joined by Sunfire, who easily saves the city with his atomic power. Sunfire is a bit of a dick, and he’s more than happy to bask in the loving adoration of the people of Brazil. The two Avengers then fly out to the Celestial ship in space, but it’s a trap and they’re teleported away. The rest of the Avengers (minus Captain America), fly to the Arctic to check out the Akkaba Metropolis, a city dedicated to Apocalypse, where thousands of de-powered mutants have gathered in worship. But the Apocalypse Twins are already there, and after unsuccessfully trying to convince Sunfire to join them, they blow up the whole place, incinerating all those de-powered mutants.

Meanwhile, Captain America’s escape pod lands in Somalia, and he fights his way to safety in the basement of an old church – where he finds a message left just for him by someone who supposedly knew he’d be there at that exact time.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

The scenes of the Avengers interacting are a lot of fun. Sunfire and Thor make a great team, while the rest of the Avengers have a strong scene aboard one of the Quinjets flying to the Arctic. So the character development is definitely strong. The problem is that everything else is just so weird! Celestials, Apocalypse, heirs, Kang, time travel, twins, an entire city in the Arctic dedicated to Apocalypse; it’s almost too much to handle. I read all of Remender’s Uncanny X-Force series, but still this is hard to wrap my brain around. Especially since the motivation of the Apocalypse Twins is dodgy at best. They were raised by Kang, but apparently they hate him now? They’re villains, but apparently they’re also fighting against the Red Skull? And since when has there been an Apocalypse City up in the Arctic filled with thousands of de-powered mutants who worship him!? Why was nobody doing anything about that? And why would so many of the de-powered mutants turn to an empty cult in the Arctic?

Hopefully Remender can get his big, crazy ideas down to the same level of his top notch character interaction. Then this book will really sing.

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 May 11, 2013, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Avengers was definitely a fun book this week. Carol and Natasha both got some nice bits of characterization. Sam and Roberto were fun. And Shang-Chi was cool. I wish the series were more like this as a whole. As for Shang-Chi’s narration, it’s just what he does. If you track down some of the old Master of Kung Fu series, you’ll see that vague first-person narration is sorta his thing.

    Thor was cool. Really good.

    UA was good, though I still think it’s too early for this sort of big, epic storyline. I think Remender should’ve started with a year or so of more politically-oriented stuff, and then moved to this.

    • I figured Shang-Chi’s narration was all in character. The problem was that Shang-Chi’s part of the story held all the exposition. The rest of the issue was great. I’d love for more issues like it.

  2. Tim Drake’s issue of Batman & Robin is pretty indicative of how DC has dealt with him post New 52. It’s a fucking mess. I mean he was never really Robin so he has no real history anymore.

  3. Oh and I agree on Avengers. It really didn’t do much with its cast of characters (read: EVERYONE). Marvel is doing their best stuff when they take their heroes out of their costumes and show that they have character and not just powers. Plus the A.I.M. goons were hilarious.

    Batman feels like it’s been stalling until Year Zero since no story has really done anything to really impact the Bat Family. I mean everyone was ready to leave Bruce because of what happened in Death of the Family and now that Damian has died in Inc. everyone is coming back to help him. Whaaaaat.

    • This two-part Clayface story was definitely a stall until Year Zero, but that’s OK. Sometimes you just have to stall. And I hate the idea of everyone in the Bat-family turning away from Batman. It’s not what I want to read. So I’m quite happy to see everyone come back to help him. I hope the Batman and Nightwing issue isn’t just a big Dick Grayson temper tantrum.

      • I would hope Tomasi knows better. Even Snyder did a good job of writing Dick-Bats (and in a way Bruce feels so much softer since coming back) and I feel like their dynamic should have changed by now. Dick did a fine job while Bruce was gone and really should be seen as more of an equal now.

        I mean remember the last guy that got left in charge of Gotham while Bruce was away? Azrael kind of lost his shit.

      • I loved Snyders Dick/Bruce interactions throughout his series. But the point of Death of the Family was to kill the Bat-family. Everybody, especially Dick, is just so pissy now. It’s frustrating.

      • Agreed. The Death was a metaphor even though it felt like Snyder was building to something bigger. That’s what makes me think they’re just biding their time until Inc. is over and Snyder gets to take the reigns with Year Zero.

        What bothers me most is the little teamups in Batman & Robin is almost trying to undo the tension built by Death. With Bruce losing Damian it’s as though the family is already trying to come back and help him. With Inc. getting caught in between the pre and post New 52 it seems as though DC didn’t know how to handle their main book and it’s showing.

      • I think DC has lost the ability and the know how to handle any of their books anymore. I think they’re just flailing in the wind now trying to figure out what might work and sell.

  4. What is Zero Year anyways, may I ask?

    • Snyder is going to spend a whole year retelling the first few months of Batman’s career, stories like how he settled on that costume design and how he built the BatCave and acquired the Batmobile. I think it has potential…but it’s a whole year or so, so I dunno.

  5. THOR has really been great. I was never really a fan, but I decided to try the Marvel NOW version, and I got hooked. I agree with you on how great the granddaughters are. The Marvel AR on them is pretty interesting to watch.

    • What do they do in the AR? I don’t have a smart phone so I’m not at all hooked up to those. And I’m just like you. I never cared for Thor in he least, but decided to give this a try and it’s just fantastic.

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