Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/1/13

Are there any comic book readers who get legitimately excited when a main character is suddenly killed? After all of the deaths and resurrections in comics over the past few years, is there anybody who doesn’t just roll their eyes when a writer suddenly decides to kill a major character? A big one bites the dust at the end of Justice League of America #4 this week, and I can’t help but throw up my hands in exasperation. Even if it turns out next issue that it was all just a ruse, I still think it’s a weak storytelling crutch that comic book writers need to lay off for awhile. That Geoff Johns is responsible makes it even worse. I spoke of you so highly this week, Geoff! C’mon!

At any rate, I’ve pretty much given up on Justice League of America anyway, so a stunt like this might just be the final nail in its coffin for me. Thankfully, Marvel Comics is at the top of their game, with fun issues of New Avengers, Indestructible Hulk and the brand new X-Men. I’ve been looking forward to this series since it was first announced, both because of the all-girl experiment and for Olivier Copiel’s art. Neither one disappoints in the Comic Book of the Week.

Doop loves babies, but the feeling is clearly not mutual

Comic Reviews: Indestructible Hulk #8, Justice League of America #4, New Avengers #6, Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #30 and X-Men #1.

Hulk #8

Indestructible Hulk #8
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Walter Simonson

Pretty Good’ is probably how I feel about this series as a whole. I’d heard such amazing things about Waid’s Daredevil, and I was eager to get into a comic about the Hulk after The Avengers movie last year, but Indestructible Hulk hasn’t really taken off in any way I’d like. It’s a fine series, solidly written and drawn, with some great ideas for Bruce Banner…but the series is just mediocre. Nothing particularly amazing has happened so far, there haven’t been any wonderful moments to capture the reader. It’s just a confident, pretty cool Bruce Banner talking about science while the Hulk punches bigger and badder things. The comic doesn’t seem to capitalize all that much on the movie’s portrayal of Hulk, nor does it seem to have much ambition on its own. And Waid has yet to find a way to make any of this personal to Bruce, possibly because Bruce Banner hasn’t had a personal life or personal stakes for a very long time. Waid should work on that.

Hulk and his Science Team remain stranded on Jotenheim in the distant past, still eager to harvest the Eiderdurm. Though first, Bruce has a chat with Patty about her terminal brain condition, as well as the science behind Thor’s magic hammer, if there is any science behind it. The other guy, Veteri, comes up with a pretty crazy plan to use Thor’s hammer to help them harvest the magical element from a waterfall, so that’s what they do – at least until the Frost Giants reveal their ruse and attack. Then it’s up to Hulk, Thor and the forces of SHIELD from beyond the portal to keep the Frost Giants at bay. They do, of course, and in the process, Patty has glimpsed such things as gods and magic. Maybe that will give her hope that she can be cured.

Comic Rating: 3.5/5 – Pretty Good.

This was a fine, if unremarkable comic. The crossover with Thor was fun enough, and Simonson’s art had a classy, Silver Age feel, but this was all just some story about the Hulk and a context-free Thor battling random Frost Giants. It’s Thor from the past, rather than current day Thor, so none of what happened matters at all to Thor or Hulk. It has no bearing on their relationship. What good is that? And Frost Giants are just big henchmen. I’m sure Waid thought it would just be cool to have Hulk punch a bunch of Frost Giants. And while indeed cool, it had little impact beyond the visceral, and I want more from my comics than just Hulk punching stuff. Waid took a few big steps towards fleshing out his Science Team, but Simonson’s art was a much better fit for the action than it was for the quiet, personal scenes between Bruce and Patty.

JLA #4

Justice League of America #4
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Brett Booth

So you saw my big rant at the start of this article, and this is the issue where the aforementioned death takes place. Like I said up top, I can only really muster a disappointed grunt and an eye-roll at the stunt. It’s not dramatic, it’s not exciting, and it doesn’t make me want to buy the next issue. It makes me want to drop the series all together and just read Internet spoilers of what happens. This team is too underdeveloped for this sort of death to have any effect whatsoever. It’s bad storytelling from one of DC’s best writers. It’s shameful.

With Catwoman already inside the Secret Society’s headquarters, the rest of the JLA launch a rescue to save her. They bicker and banter as they take their custom-built plane – The Invisible Jet – to the secret HQ in Minnesota. The team sneaks all the way up to and inside the Society’s big manor house, only to be ambushed and defeated by the Shaggy Man. Meanwhile, Catwoman sneaks around inside, discovering all manner of secrets, before  the pale-faced leader shoots her in the head. Catwoman is dead.

Oh, also, we get the origin of Doctor Light. Seems he is an ARGUS scientist who the Society suddenly blasts with some kind of…light, I guess.

Comic Rating: 3/5 – Alright.

What a difference an artist makes. One of my biggest complaints with issue #3 was that the art was sketchy, dark and just generally ugly. It hurt the series on a fundamental level. And while I wouldn’t have picked Booth to take over JLA, his art was actually fantastic for the series. The characters and their actions were very clear and drawn with real personality. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the plot. This team just isn’t coming together for me. Johns hasn’t spent any time whatsoever on team bonding. He just gathered together a group of available characters and has thrown them into mission after pointless mission. Character building and interaction are fundamental for a team comic. The reader needs to care about the characters and understand their relationship to one another. Any team comic can feature a bunch of superheroes grouping up to punch bad guys, but the successful team books make the reader care about the team as a whole, and care why all of them are together. JLA fails on every level in that regard. And it’s not the only DC team book to do so.

Did DC learn nothing from Gail Simone’s Secret Six?

And like I’ve been saying, Catwoman’s death means nothing to me. Maybe she’s really dead, and DC really is just trying to shock everybody. Or maybe there’s some kind of way out next issue. I don’t honestly care. It’s bad storytelling, it’s a worthless stunt and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.

New Avengers #6

New Avengers #6
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting

Apparently, everything Hickman has been building between Avengers and New Avengers is going to lead to Marvel’s next Big Event, Infinity, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. For one thing, the two comics have nothing to do with one another (at least as far as we’ve seen on the page). And for another thing, I don’t want to see this excellent New Avengers story disturbed in any way. New Avengers is clearly the better of the two comics, and once again Hickman delivers a fantastic issue that moves his big, cosmic threat forward on the backs of strong characterization. These are some of the biggest, most important characters of the Marvel Universe struggling with their moral and personal concerns at what may be the true end of the world. And Namor. Namor is still around for some reason.

The Incursion over Latveria is in full effect, and the Illuminati take both the Black Swan and a big, planet-destroying bomb with them to stop it. When they arrive, however, something is different: the sky is blue instead of red. Black Swan informs them that when an Incursion is blue, it means the Mapmakers have visited the planet. The Mapmakers are a of race of interdimensional people who use Incursions to harvest resources. They arrive at an Earth, strip it of useful parts, then leave it a dead husk. They also make sure to leave a beacon on the colliding planet to find it again in the future. While Dr. Doom fights off some Mapmakers on Earth, the Illuminati plant their bomb and blow up the dead Earth, saving the day again at the cost of a little bit of their souls. But later, Doom – who still has no idea what’s going on – discovers the beacon.

Comic Rating: 4/5 – Good.

I don’t know why the team is keeping Namor around. They were nice enough to include him in the original Illuminati back in the day, and maybe then he was a big deal, but now all he’s contributing are a few snarky insults. Need we forget that Namor is the one who destroyed Wakanda? He’s not a big brain, he no longer has one of the Infinity Gems, and he has nothing more to add to the Illuminati’s quest to save the world. But I’m probably just bitter at the short stick Cyclops got after the whole PhoeniX-Men thing. At least next issue seems to have Black Panther finally taking the fight to Namor. That should be good.

Beyond that, the issue is once again very good. I love the scope of the story. It’s clear in almost every panel that the Illuminati, the smartest, possibly greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe, are truly in over their heads. I love the inner conflict present on all of their faces as they struggle to compromise their morality in the name of saving the planet. And I loved Reed Richards’ general annoyance at Dr. Doom getting involved in this whole mess. Here Reed is, just trying to save the world the best he can, and now forces outside his control stick his life’s biggest annoyance in his way. Sadly, Doom doesn’t actually interact with the Illuminati, but it’s clear by the end that he’s going to get involved. I can’t wait.

Red Hood Annual #1

Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Al Barrionuevo

Even after all of these issues, I just don’t feel connected to the Red Hood or his Outlaws. Their stories have been too disjointed and their characterizations too weird. Add in Jason’s recent memory wipe, and these characters may as well be strangers. I don’t understand their connection, nor do I root for it. I definitely don’t feel the love between Roy and Kori, nor do I care about Jason trying to find himself. I would have hoped a new writer might change things, but Tynion seems to be doing nothing of the sort. Everything is as crazy and weird as ever.

Following their adventure in the mountains, the Outlaws retreat to their island headquarters to recuperate. Jason still doesn’t remember himself, and Roy is upset at Kori for lying about her memories. Green Arrow chooses this time to pay them a visit to try and help his former sidekick and warn him of the price on his head – but the bad guys were counting on that, and they followed Ollie. The assassin Cheshire arrives and does teasing battle with the lot of them, seemingly in pursuit of Jason. But the good guys chase her off, Roy makes a little peace with Ollie, and Jason sneaks away from the island to find himself.

Comic Rating: 3.5/5 – Pretty Good.

We finally get the back story between Green Arrow and Arsenal in this issue, and I actually liked it. As we’ve seen in the pages of Green Arrow, Ollie likes to have people at headquarters providing him intel and designing weapons. Roy was the first, but he didn’t work out because Roy kept wanting to get his own costume and join Green Arrow in the field. The two had a falling out, and Roy has been on his own ever since. It works nicely as the DCnU origin for Green Arrow’s sidekick. And I also found Cheshire generally amusing, except for her fawning over Roy, because like I said, I just don’t care about the Outlaws, so I just didn’t buy her thinking Roy was cute. He hasn’t earned that kind of flirtation from someone as clearly cool as Cheshire.

I was just thinking the other day of how much potential this team had. Jason Todd is the renegade Robin, Roy Harper is the failed sidekick and Starfire is just plain awesome. They could have made such a sweet team of international vigilantes. Their bonds could have been some of the strongest in the entire New 52. Instead we had all that All Caste nonsense, two trips to that damn bald kid, an adventure in outer space, that whole thing with the Joker; this comic just can’t sit still, and it’s hurting the overall series. My No. 1 rule in all of fiction is to Keep It Simple, Stupid. A series like this should be incredibly simple, but alas, it is not. And for that I grow bored.

Wolverine and the X-Men #30

Wolverine and the X-Men #30
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Pasqual Ferry, Pepe Larraz and Salva Espin

I hate the Hellfire Kids. I’ve hated them from the moment they first appeared, and I hate them still. They’re are the personification of Jason Aaron’s worst writing techniques. They are not characters, they are awkward one-liners who overreach their station. They’re the sort of characters who, in this issue, randomly say they own half of New York City or can launch a million nukes from their cell phone in weak, unrealistic attempts to make them seem like a legitimate big deal. And while I realize there is some comedy involved, this isn’t the wackiness of Deadpool; this series takes them seriously, and we are expected to as well. Well sorry, but I find them to be obnoxious little buffoons who only matter because Jason Aaron thinks they’re the best characters ever and Jason Aaron is writing this comic.

The Hellfire Kids are making their big move in the opening of their Hellfire Academy. They’ve already got Glob Herman and Idie to join them, leaving the X-Men scrambling to figure out what’s happening and why their students are leaving. They’re also worried about a traitor within the Jean Grey School. Quentin Quire is also investigating, and he discoveres that Idie is only joining the Hellfire Academy to get revenge on whoever shot Broo. The X-Men discover Quentin’s tampering and start wildly accusing him of being the traitor, because Aaron loves to have everybody simply hate on Quentin. But Quentin doesn’t have time for their crap, and he teams up with the real traitor – Toad – to join the Hellfire Academy and save Idie.

Meanwhile, Beast takes Broo into space to enlist the help of the alien Dr. Xanto Starblood in getting Broo back to normal, but that ends with Starblood being recruited into the Hellfire Academy.

Comic Rating: 4/5 – Good.

A lot happened in this issue, and most of it good. Like I said, I hate the Hellfire Kids, but I kind of like everyone else associated with their school The very idea of an evil school is both silly and cool. Everybody loves the bad guys teaming up to take on the good guys, but what could the Hellfire Kids hope to gain by starting their own evil school? Are they really just doing it to show up Wolverine for whatever perceived slight they have against Wolverine? I’ve never been particularly convinced of their motivation. But still, all the bad guys teaming up is pretty neat.

I’m liking this Starblood guy, and he might prove to be cool. I also like the idea that Idie isn’t just a bonehead, but is instead on an undercover mission of revenge. So she’s redeemed a tiny bit in my eyes. At least Storm voices the complaint I’ve had about Idie since the beginning, that none of the X-Men or teachers ever took the time to deprogram her ‘mutants are evil’ conditioning. That should have been step one with the poor girl. Instead, the X-Men let her wander around for months spreading her hate speak. I’m also in favor of Quentin going in double under cover to save/help Idie, and I’m cool with Toad betraying the X-Men to join the Hellfire Academy. I enjoyed Toad’s pseudo membership with the X-Men while it lasted, but it was probably never going to stick. Hopefully it won’t turn out too badly for him in the end.

X-Men #1

X-Men #1
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Olivier Copiel

I am the last schlub who should try and talk gender politics. I probably don’t understand it, and I am nowhere near academically minded enough to discuss it. But I can at least say that I applaud any attempt to raise more female protagonists in comics. Accusations of sexism and misogyny have always been levied against comics, and rightly so. Between cheesecake art and women in refrigerators, comics just don’t have a great track record of using female characters. (Shooting Catwoman in the head, anyone?) So I fully applaud Marvel making an X-Men team of only women, and treating it within the comic like it’s no big deal. As you’ll see from reading, this isn’t the X-Women Squad, these are just the team members on hand when the crisis comes up. Nobody bats an eye at the all-women thing, and that’s how it should be.

Jubilee is in an odd bit of trouble. She saved a baby from the wreckage of a meteor shower and she heads home to the X-Men for help. But she fears she’s being followed, so the X-Men launch a rescue operation on the train, saving both Jubilee and baby…though it seems the baby has some sort of electrical power, and it causes the train to crash. Back at the school, the man following Jubilee reveals himself to be John Sublime, the sentient bacteria from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run. Sublime surrenders to the X-Men because his bacterial sister, who he banished into space billions of years ago, has returned to Earth seeking revenge. And surprise twist, the sister is controlling the baby, whom the X-Men have already brought into the school! The sister, who can control machines, then transfers herself from the baby to the dormant body of Karima Shapander, the Omega Sentinel!

Comic Rating: 4/5 – Good.

Great use of Omega Sentinel! If she’s not going to be put to use as an X-Man, might as well use her as a villain. She may not make sense to new readers, but as a fan, I’m quite pleased. I also think it’s cool to use a female villain against the all-female X-Men team. Along with John Sublime being the Dude in Distress. It makes sense, and this is just a solid X-Men comic. The writing is great, the characters are a nice choice, and I love that nobody within the comic is making a big deal about the lineup. Like I said, this isn’t a specific squad, these girls are just the X-Men on hand when Sublime shows up. Seems perfectly legit. Plus, great use of Sublime, taking a former villain and expanding his origin to tell a new story. Solid work all around.

And, of course, the art by Olivier Copiel is simply fantastic. Copiel is one of my favorite comic book artists. His style is both detailed and personable, with individual, personality-filled looks for each of the characters. His Jubilee, especially, is very expressive. The action scenes were a little confusing, and I have no idea exactly how Rogue saved the day during the train crash, but the art on the characters was top notch. I hope Copiel can stick around for a good long while.

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 June 1, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hulk was good. It was fun seeing Hulk and Thor smash stuff, and Banner teaching that one doctor how to hope was really nice.

    NA was good. Still not for me.

    WatXM was better than usual, but considering how little I think of it usually, that’s not saying much. Those Hellfire Brats really need to die. I would be happy if this entire next arc is just issue after issue of Idie killing the Brats. And when it’s all over, they’re never ever heard from again. They never come back, they never even get mentioned. They need to be killed and swept away as a terrible idea that never even should’ve been attempted. Sadly, Aaron seems to actually like the Brats, despite them seriously just being one of the worst concepts ever to see print.

    X-Men was awesome. I loved it. Solid art, solid writing, solid characterization (Kitty’s OMG aside), an interesting premise. Just great. And yeah, I’m always glad to see Karima pop up again. She’s a great character. I’d be very happy if this story leads to her regaining control of herself. Maybe even joining the team? Probably not. The team’s awesome enough as it is. Though Karima is another Claremazon, debuting in the Claremont-penned X-Men Unlimited #27 in 2000.

    • I’m pretty sure Aaron created the Brats, that’s why he likes them so much and insists on using them waaaaaaay too much. I’m sure they’ll be around for as long as he’s writing the title, always too clever and arrogant to ever truly be defeated. But I highly doubt any subsequent writers will pick up their case. Maybe in the second season of Avengers Arena. *fingers crossed*

  2. New Avengers was aaaaawesome this week. Hickman is bringing Doom into the fold. Namor fits the Iluminati partially due to history and partially because like AoA Beast he’s a no nonsense, straight shooter. The other Avengers are fairly hesitant to do what’s necessary (“I’m remembering who I used to be.”). Super excited to see where this goes. Avengers and New Avengers are finally starting to get going.

    My big takeaways from X-Men:
    1) redial on a payphone FOR EASY STALKING
    2) love the Psylocke and Jubilee redesigns
    3) why is the default “new Storm” look a mohawk? ALWAYS AND ONLY

    Pretty good start. Glad their bringing back some Morrison craziness.

    • I suppose the others might keep Namor around because he can easily make the decisions they can’t, but it looks to me like they’re making those decisions, and he’s just mocking them for it. I’m sure they could will themselves to decide even without him around.

      I didn’t realize it until you pointed it out, but are there really still pay phones in airports? And do payphones really have a redial button?

      I’m digging Storm’s look. I guess she had a mohawk back in the 80s during a particularly memorable badass few years for her. And now all the X-Men readers from the 80s are writing the comics, so they’re excited to bring it back and make her badass again.

      • I think most of the payphones in airports are those big old card accepting, internet using variety. But convetional payphones don’t have redial buttons. That made me laugh really hard. I can suspend my disbelief over a lot of things (see: mutants, superheroes) but come onnnnn.

        Namor is a character I really don’t care for either. I just like that he’s a foil in the Illuminati especially since Dr. Strange is taking a complete back seat and Beast isn’t getting any attention either…

        I knew Storm’s mohawk was a throwback to the 80s. It’s the design everyone loves (but plenty never read the run!) but compared to the overhauls two (three if you count Rogue’s new jacket) just giving her a slightly altered costume and a ‘hawk again seems lazy. Ah well.

  3. Doctor Donna

    Other than X Factor (which is sadly ending) and Hawkeye, which comic books are generally solid right now? As in you get that satisfaction after reading the issue? P.S Trying to get back to buying comics again.

    • I’m glad you asked, Doctor Donner (great name, by the way. Donna was the best companion!). I recently did a List of Six on this very topic, which you can view here: https://henchman4hire.com/2013/04/24/my-6-favorite-dc-and-marvel-comics-these-days/

      In a nutshell, I’d say check out Captain Marvel, FF and Thor from Marvel, and perhaps Batman and Aquaman over at DC. Also, Ultimate Spider-Man is good these days if you’re willing to accept that Peter Parker is gone and Miles Morales is the new Spider-Man. The most recent issue was a time jump that might make for a good jumping on point. But the entire series with Miles has been great.

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