Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/18/13

It’s taken me long enough, but I think I’m finally going to start using the .5 in my ratings system. My current 5/5 rating is needlessly complex, what with the words and exclamation marks that probably only make sense in my head. I want to clear things up a little and give myself a little more leeway in terms of classifying comics. Because there are a lot of comics this week that were better than ‘alright’ but I wouldn’t say they were particularly ‘good’. And the basic gist of my review scheme is just me thinking about how I would describe a comic’s quality to someone in one word.

1 – Terrible
1.5 – Very Bad
2 – Bad
2.5 – Pretty Bad
3 – Alright
3.5 – Pretty Good
4 – Good
4.5 – Very Good
5 – Great!

I hope this makes a little more sense. If it doesn’t, please let me know. I haven’t heard any complaints about my ratings system yet, but I want you guys and gals to let me know if I’m not making any sense or could do something better. You’re my readers and the best ones available for giving me feedback. So please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.

That being said, it’s a pretty good week for comics. There are one or two gems in my pile, and a few that were mostly so-so. A lot of this week’s comics were just moving the story along, getting us through to the next chapter, and that’s fine. But it’s not overly compelling. But then there are also issues like Wolverine and the X-Men #29, which has the most fun I think anyone has ever had designing a possible alternate future for the X-Men. Jason Aaron must have holed up in his office all day just thinking up wacky character references and one-off gags to make, and they’re all a heck of a lot of fun. Wolverine and The X-Men easily wins Comic Book of the Week.

I know some of my readers at Wolverine and the X-Men haters, but for me, this issue really brought back some of the heart and energy that I enjoyed at the start of the series.

Comic Reviews: Age of Ultron #8, Batwoman #20, FF #7, Nightwing #20, Red Hood and the Outlaws #20, Wolverine and the X-Men #29, and Wonder Woman #20.

Age of Ultron #8

Age of Ultron #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Brandon Peterson

I just don’t like this comic. If you’re loving it, then by all means, enjoy yourself a big heaping dose of Age of Ultron. But for me, it’s garbage. It’s a waste of pretty much everything. There’s no point to it, and Marvel seems less than interested that they’re even putting it out. It’s a weak alternate reality story featuring weak alternate versions of our favorite characters (including freaking Star-Lord, because if you forgot, Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be a movie, you guys). That’s all this story has going for it, and it’s just weak. There’s no great rumination on Ultron or Hank Pym. There’s no deep character exploration about Wolverine or Sue Storm. There’s nothing. It’s just straight forward, uninteresting alternate reality nothingness. I can’t wait for the end.

In the new reality, Robo-zombie Tony Stark interrogates Wolverine after downloading his and Sue’s memories of the old version of Earth. Then he meets with Xavier and Emma Frost to debate the potential reality of what they’re facing. At the very least, now they know who really killed Hank Pym all those years ago. Outside, the Defenders are all pissy because they want to take a crack at Sue and Wolverine, especially the Thing. So after taking out Emma Frost, they charge inside to fight their way through all of Iron Man’s soldiers.  But then all of a sudden, Morgana le Fay, the big bad of this universe, attacks and everybody goes to war.

Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.

Age of Ultron has turned into a boring alternate reality story. We’re not even in the ‘Age of Ultron’ anymore. Ultron doesn’t have anything to do with the current story  – not that he had anything to do with the earlier issues. I’m kind of glad Marvel has so underplayed Age of Ultron, because this is a very weak, disappointing Big Event. And you can tell by the art. To start the story, they had Bryan Hitch, one of the best artists in comics. But halfway through, it’s almost like Hitch knew to desert a sinking ship. Brandon Peterson’s art is mediocre at best, as if everyone just stopped caring about the quality of Age of Ultron and willingly let Hitch leave. It’s even worse that all of the action and interesting bits of story happen in this second half. Hitch would have drawn the hell out of this alternate reality. But instead, his immense talents were wasted on just page after page of citywide destruction.

Nothing presented in this alternate reality is all that compelling, and when it’s attacked at the end by Morgana le Fey, who really cares? How could any of us possibly care that two helicarriers crash as the last page cliffhanger? This isn’t the real Marvel Universe, nothing here is permanent, none of these characters matter in the slightest, so how can Bendis think that anything he does to these characters or this world has any emotional impact? The two characters we should care about, Wolverine and the Invisible Woman, remain mostly secondary to everything else that’s happening.

I was ready to declare this several issues ago, but Age of Ultron is a total failure. And I have no idea how Bendis is going to take everything we’ve seen so far and somehow use it to introduce Angela into the Marvel Universe. It boggles the mind.

Batwoman #20

Batwoman #20
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Trevor McCarthy

This was the best issue of Batwoman since the Medusa arc, and for that, I’m excited. Really excited. For once, the DEO prove themselves a strong element of the book, pushing Batwoman into a new story that I think is going to be very cool. I still don’t like the DEO in the book, but they definitely work as a catalyst for a bigger, better story. Plus there’s one scene in this issue that’s just adorable.

Chase recounts the story of her investigation into Batwoman’s identity and how she had a run-in with the Religion of Crime that ended with all of her people dead; everyone but her. That’s where she found the Sarcophagus that was holding Kate’s sister Beth, and now the DEO have her. Kate tries to fight her way through the DEO punks, but then they just agree to give her a moment alone with her sister, face-to-face, and it’s actually a very heartfelt, very well-drawn scene. Afterwards, Kate agrees to go after Batman for the DEO if it means they’ll release her sister and drop everything they have on her family.

Speaking of family, Kate returns home to find her family and Maggie all sitting together. Everybody knows that Kate is Batwoman and everybody knows that she’s working with the DEO. Kate confirms that Beth is indeed alive, and with some reluctance and anger, she agrees to let her family help her take on Batman.

Comic Rating: 4.5/5: Very Good.

You come at the king, you best not miss. The idea of Batwoman and her ragtag crew mounting some kind of assault on Batman just fills me with giddy glee. Because he’s Batman. He’s not going to be defeated. They’re not going to get the better of him. But the idea of Batwoman and company trying and failing is still exciting. Granted, they may succeed. This is Batwoman’s comic, after all. But the idea of Batwoman vs. Batman is a good one, and has the potential to be a very, very exciting story for this series. I can’t wait. The rest of this issue was pretty good too – except for Chase’s story. I still hate Chase. And she violates the first rule of superhero comics by simply figuring out that Kate Kane is Batwoman based on the visual evidence. You’re not supposed to just figure out that the young, rich, muscular and athletic Bruce Wayne is really Batman. You can’t do the same for Kate Kane. So Chase and Bones still suck. But the scene where Kate is reunited with her sister Beth is positively adorable, and the art really sells it, so it’s good to know that Batwoman can have good art even when it’s not drawn by Williams. I also liked the coming together of Kate’s friends and family. It’s good to see her dispute with her father being put to rest.

FF #7

FF #7
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred

I don’t know what it was, you guys, but this issue just didn’t connect with me for some reason. Maybe because it’s mostly an action issue, with a lot of somewhat confusing scenes, but I just didn’t think the new FF was as strong as previous issues. Still, the comic remains a delight, with strong characters, amazing artwork and just an overall sense of fantastic.

The Wizard and his evil family attack the FF after teleporting them to the Negative Zone. Knowing that they’re coming, Scott Lang kneels down and gives the kids of the Future Foundation an inspirational pep talk to get them ready for battle. Then it’s a big, hectic, kinetic fight as the Future Foundation takes on the Wizard and his posse. They free Medusa from his control, Bently-23 teleports Blastaar away (after the villain almost beats up Miss Thing), and they crush the Wizard’s big helmet. Then they hand the Wizard over to the Inhumans for punishment. In the end, everybody returns home, and Scott and Darla share a teensy, tiny little cute moment.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good.

So yeah, I dunno. The issue is mostly one big chaotic fight scene, and sad to say, some of Allred’s art gets a little confusing. I wasn’t entirely sure what Bently-23 was doing, even after he’d done it to Blastaar. But there were a lot of strong moments. I liked the opening speech that Scott Lang gave to the FF kids, really coming into his own as their mentor and protector. I loved the very idea that the kids were ready to fight alongside him. I liked that Medusa can even control her eyelashes and the short hairs all over her body, which becomes troublesome for someone as small as Ant-Man. I liked Darla’s scenes, and I liked the cute way that she and Scott ended the issue by brushing their hands against one another. This series remains fantastic and adorable, even if this issue didn’t connect with me as strong as most others. Maybe I was just having an off day when I read it.

Nightwing #20

Nightwing #20
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Brett Booth

Oof. This is an awkward issue. It’s entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but Higgins’ writing apparently gets really stiff when he’s force-feeding us exposition. I fully support the idea of Nightwing having his own status quo separate from Batman, and I suppose it’s OK to set him up in Chicago, but damn, Higgins just dumps a whole lot of new characters, new relationships and the explanations behind all of them into this issue. It’s awkward and almost painful to see him setting up the potential love interest and the new best friend. He might as well have just posted big, word-filled biographies next to the panels laying out each specific character trait and how that will impact Dick Grayson in future issues. If only Higgins’ writing was as acrobatic as Booth’s artwork.

Nightwing returns home after his first unsuccessful night in Chicago – only to get attacked in his bed by a cute blonde woman with a baseball bat, who mistakes him for a burglar. Turns out the room he rented isn’t exactly empty yet…for some reason. I guess I don’t know much about subletting, but somehow the woman whose room he rented is still there? And really Dick, I know you’re mad at Bruce, but considering your secret identity is on the line, you couldn’t have borrowed some money and rented your own apartment? Anyway, this is what I meant about awkward exposition. All of the scenes between Dick, this cute blonde and his new roommate are painfully obvious. The girl is feisty, and is clearly going to fall in love with him, and the guy hates masks for no particular reason, so there’s going to be trouble there. Ho-hum.

Elsewhere, Nightwing meets with Johnny Spade, the information broker, and beats him in a hand of cards. Johnny spills the beans that the Prankster might know how to find Tony Zucco, so Dick pays the Prankster a visit. Meanwhile, the mayor (who is hiding Zucco as his driver) learns from the police chief that the Prankster has turned from annoying hacker to full on torture vigilante. He cut off a city councilman’s arm, but the councilman was big into kiddie porn. Now he’s kidnapped a crooked electricity salesman and has him set to fry, but Nightwing interrupts. Unfortunately, Prankster gets the better of Nightwing and traps him in a cell. The only way for Nightwing to escape is to take off his mask and reveal his secret identity to the cameras.

Comic Rating: 3.5/5: Pretty Good.

I mentioned it in the synopsis, but a lot of the character building in this issue felt awkward and forced. Dick’s new roommate just comes out and states that he hates capes, and someone else just states that the guy has been working for his newspaper for four years and they still don’t respect him. Then everything about the cute new blonde girl is just stated, and she’s that typical sort of feisty adorable that makes for a good romantic interest. So maybe these are just growing pains. Higgins has to create a whole new cast of supporting characters for Dick to interact with. The problem is that this happens all the time to Nightwing. I don’t think he’s had a solid life/job/group of friends since his Bludhaven days. And this group isn’t coming together as organically as the Haley’s Circus storyline at the start of his series. But I’m more than willing to give Higgins a chance, and maybe once the awkward introductions are out of the way, he’ll have to a lot to say and do with these new characters.

The new Prankster isn’t all that interesting yet, mostly just your typical villain with a flair for the dramatic. Though I liked the moment where he was able to hack the heads-up display in Nightwing’s mask. That seemed rather innovative. The costume is a bit silly though.

Red Hood #20

Red Hood and the Outlaws #20
Writer: James Tynion
Artist: Julius Gopez

I’ve figured out why I haven’t really clicked with the DCnU version of Arsenal: it’s the stupid hat. He’s hatless for most of this issue, and even with that mullet, he looks and seems entirely presentable, like he could be a real character, someone I could root for. But then he gets the hat back towards the end, and he just immediately becomes worthless again. That hat is just hideous. It clashes with everything else in his costume and in the series. Please get rid of it for good, thank you.

With Jason’s memory erased, Roy and Kori try to argue with the little bald mystical kid to get it back. The All Caste kid takes Roy and Kori on a trip through Jason’s dark memories, as well as some dark memories of their own. He reveals that Roy and Jason once met back when Jason was still Robin, and that was the night before Jason was killed, but Roy never knew. He also reveals that Kori has been lying all this time about her inability to really connect with people. She actually connects deeper and feels harder than humans, and at once point she and Nightwing got into a fight. Eventually, the mystical kid just banishes all three of them from his temple without restoring Jason’s memories. Now the Outlaws are lost and directionless.

Though we do find out that there’s a big price on their heads (for some reason). When have they done anything that would piss someone off enough to put a big price on their head? Either way, Green Arrow finds out about it and decides he needs to save his former sidekick.

Comic Rating: 3.5/5: Pretty Good.

I’m still not sold on Tynion’s take on the series, but that’s probably due to the fact that everything is still so closely tied to Scott Lobdell’s rather crazy All Caste ideas. Plus the fact that Tynion has wiped the mind of the most compelling character in the trio. Why is it so hard to just tell cool, badass stories of the Outlaws traveling the world and having gritty, action-packed adventures? That’s what I want to read, but I don’t know if the book will ever straighten out. We’ve got to deal with Jason’s blank memory for however many more issues. I guess I’ll stick with the series, I’ve done so all this time. But Red Hood and the Outlaws needs the kind of status quo update that Nightwing recently went through.

Wolverine and the X-Men #29

Wolverine and the X-Men #29
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ramon Perez

Class is in session, and Jason Aaron is the professor of Making Alternate Futures Fun 101. Flashing forward to view a possible future is an X-Men staple, and Aaron shows us how to have a blast with the concept. This issue is a treasure trove of neat references and Easter Eggs to chuckle and marvel at, while still telling a strong, personal story for an aged Wolverine. I’m legitimately excited about the big stories coming next because Aaron writes a a very good and very, very entertaining prologue. Once again, Wolverine and the X-Men has heart.

In the present day, the students of the Jean Grey School plant a time capsule while Wolverine gives a big speech. Then, 25 years in the future, an older, grayer Wolverine uncovers the time capsule after having forgotten about it. The Jean Grey School is still around and it’s bigger than ever, with hundreds of students and multiple campuses. Wolverine digs through the time capsule and realizes that it was buried before all of the bad times started. So he decides to send a message to the past to his former self to warn him. Wolverine breaks into the secure time travel devices to send back a key to a locked safe that Dog was holding onto. Present Day Wolverine spent the whole issue trying to open the safe, and when he gets that key from his future self, he opens the safe to find that Dog kept a pair of little toy boats that two people used to play with as kids…because…I’m not sure why.

Meanwhile, both Dog and Idie are recruited into the Hellfire Academy.

Comic Rating: 4.5/5: Very Good.

I hate Idie so much. She’s just terrible. I’ve hated her since her very first issue, and her defection to the Hellfire Academy makes her a traitor too. It’s a good thing I hate the Hellfire Kids, because now they and Idie can just be terrible together. Fortunately, Idie’s black mark is the only bad thing about this issue, which is filled to the brim with wickedly fun future shenanigans. Whether it’s Professor Sasquatch, Rose Logan, Captain China, Warren Worthington IV, the snow-ball throwing son of Kitty and Iceman or the badass, ninja Eye-Man, Aaron is clearly having a blast with the comic, and I agree, I loved it. Even the present day stuff is fun as the X-Men try to track down Dog. It was a little annoying the lengths to which Aaron went to explain why a simple locked box couldn’t be opened until he wanted it to be, but I’m over that. Simply put, this is just a fun, wacky view of an alternate reality that sets us up for the next big storyline. Bendis could learn some lessons from this issue.

Wonder Woman #20

Wonder Woman #20
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Goran Sudzuka and Cliff Chiang

If you ever want to know what kinds of chances DC takes with their comics, just look at Wonder Woman. For 20 issues, Wonder Woman has just been one big, ongoing story, and that just seems odd to me for one of the Big Three characters at DC. Superman and Batman have all had multiple stories (and multiple comics), which are easily bound in collected editions. But Wonder Woman really only makes sense if you’ve been reading since issue#1. That’s a lot of pressure to be on the audience, and on Wonder Woman as a title, but as always, Azzarello continues to write one heck of a comic – though this issue is more of a transitional one, if I’m being particular.

Apollo has a meeting with Poseidon, who has come to warn him about the First Born. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman fights off Moon (Artemis, I think?). Lennox, Zola and Hera flee with baby Zeke while Wonder Woman has an epic battle in the streets of London. Wonder Woman wins, and Ares takes Moon back to Apollo while Wonder Woman goes after her friends. They are definitely going to need her help, because not only have they been found by the First Born, but we learn that his female companion is  Lennox’s sister, and that Lennox was the one who tore out her throat.

Comic Rating: 3.5/5: Pretty Good.

This was a fine issue of Wonder Woman’s story. Nothing particularly special or deep about the issue. It’s just a fight while a bunch of the other characters talk to one another, moving pieces around the board as Azzarello continues his epic story. Issues like this one probably read a lot better in the connected edition, when you don’t have to wait a whole month for the next chapter. But I’m not all that worried. The fight was fun, and it’s good to see Wonder Woman actually being Wonder Woman, I suppose. The rest of the gods remain mostly fascinating to read, and their constant political shifting is a definite highlight of this series. So yeah, keep reading Wonder Woman, it’s still good.

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 18, 2013, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. AU was fun. I really like this alternate reality. I always love Morgana, so seeing her was cool. Could’ve used some more characterization for Sue, though.

    FF was great. It’s just such a good book all around.

    WatXM has the same problem it’s always had: There’s basically no characterization. Wolverine gets a small amount. Future Eye-Boy gets a bit. Idie gets a tiny bit. But for the most part, it’s simply more of Aaron simply not bothering to make anyone more than a caricature at best. And the crowd shot reminded me of how many great characters are going totally unused because Aaron’s decided that none of them are interesting, and don’t deserve to be anything more than wallpaper at best. Blah. Blah I say! Jason Aaron should just take himself off this title.

    • I admit, you do make a good point that there isn’t much characterization or character growth in Wolverine and the X-Men. But I just don’t think it’s that kind of comic. It’s a comedy, and when it comes to comedy, like on TV, I’m pretty sure one of the key aspects is that the status quo remains at the end.

      • You can do comedy while also doing in-depth characterization. Just look at the first arc of Kathryn Immonen’s Journey Into Mystery: it was flat-out hilarious at times, but it also had a lot of insight into Sif, who she is and what she cares about. Or Jason Aaron’s own run on Hulk – again, often hilarious, often utterly absurd, but also often focused on character. His Hulk run also did the comedy better than WatXM does. With WatXM, it feels like he’s constantly pointing at the crazy stuff and saying, “Wow, look how crazy this is! Isn’t this hilarious? it’s just so crazy!” With Hulk – and with Thor, actually – something utterly ridiculous could be thrown in, and the book would just take it in stride. Cyborg Russian Space Bears? Why wouldn’t there be Cyborg Russian Space Bears on a Russian Space Station? It’d be crazy NOT to have Cyborg Russian Space Bears. The last issue of Thor had the line, “You were struck in the face with a shark.” It’s a gloriously absurd line. But it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to draw attention to it. He’s letting the joke speak for itself. With WatXM, I always get the feeling that he’s trying to push the jokes on us, telling us that they’re funny and we’re supposed to laugh. If comic books could have laugh tracks, WatXM would have a laugh track.

      • I have to say I agree with absolutely everything you said there about WatXM, about Aaron pushing the jokes on us and pointing at how wacky/crazy everything is, but I’m still loving it – usually.

  2. Are you reading Fantastic Four as well? Because I think (I might be wrong here) what Bentley did was basically what Reed and co. were stopping. It came full circle by returning Blastaar to where he stood trial. I’d need to re-read the run to this point but it seems right in my head!

    Also Batwoman is so so good. I’m glad she and her history survived the jump. No need for a stupid New 52 reboot.

    • I am not reading Fantastic Four as well, but that’s pretty neat that the two series are linked like that.

      • Yeah Blastaar being anywhere near the FF is due directly to the actions of Reed. Fantastic Four is OK. I like the idea better than I like the execution. It’s just too slow.

        And did you wind up reading Avenger’s Assemble? It’s going to be the first little side series that will make me buy outside of a book I’m reading. I’m absolutely loving Captain Marvel and I just got done reading issue 12 so I’m extra excited to see where it goes.

      • Erm I meant Enemy Within.

      • I didn’t read Enemy Within. I wasn’t sure what it was, and I usually avoid generic mini-series, but apparently it’s just more Captain Marvel written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, so maybe I should check it out.

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