Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/22/13

Age of Ultron is the worst Big Event Comic that Brian Michael Bendis has ever written. The man is a writing god when it comes to small comics – like Ultimate Spider-Man or his current X-Men series – but he just can’t handle Big Events. He can come up with some really neat ideas, but for some reason he just can’t execute them. I don’t know what it is. How did the man who created Miles Morales write Age of Ultron? Whatever. It’s over. Age of Ultron is done and it’s just as bad as the rest of the series. But now we all have Angela to look forward to…so…yay? I guess. Ugh.

Thankfully, the rest of the comics this week are all winners. From Avengers and New Avengers carrying through with some grand ideas to comics like Batwoman and Superior Spider-Man continuing their general greatness. Quality reads through and through. As for Comic Book of the Week, that distinction has to go to Wonder Woman #21, for Brian Azzarello for really amping up the action and excitement, and actually getting me to like a New God.

I never thought I’d live to see the day.

Comic Reviews: Age of Ultron #10, Avengers #14, Batman and Batgirl #21, Batwoman #21, Green Lantern: New Guardians #21, New Avengers #7, Superior Spider-Man #12, and Wonder Woman #21.

Age of Ultron #10

Age of Ultron #10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: A lot

Welp. That’s that then. Age of Ultron ends exactly how I should have expected it to: by not mattering whatsoever. It’s hard to believe this story was long in the planning, because it’s just such a bald-faced waste of everybody’s time and energy. Does it have important repercussions for the rest of the Marvel Universe? Sure, but those are really only tacked on in the epilogue. Bendis finishes his story, wraps it up neatly, then suddenly says, “Oh by the way, something else happens that doesn’t really have anything to do with the story I just told, but it’s important for some upcoming Marvel comics. So go buy those next.” It’s kind of like DC’s Flashpoint. Age of Ultron told it’s own, contained story, then at the end it was twisted into the catalyst for some changes in the Marvel Universe.

Age of Ultron was a bad story. It did not need to be 10 issues long. If all Marvel wanted to do was shake things up, there should have been dozens of other options, instead of this overly long, ultimately expensive waste of time.

Now that the timeline has been put back together by Wolverine and Sue Storm, we cut to the Age of Ultron prologue that Marvel handed out on Free Comic Book Day last year. The issue has never been referenced in Age of Ultron itself, so if you never read that special prologue, then you’re kind of out of luck. It basically involved Ultron’s return to Earth, and at the time, he caught the Avengers off guard and he managed to escape, eventually leading to him taking over the world. This time, however, Hank Pym is aware of what will happen, so he’s developed a backdoor virus to shut Ultron down before he can escape. It works, and the day is saved.

Then, all of a sudden, once everybody is settled back where they belong, all of time and space break open. It seems Wolverine’s various jaunts through the timesteam were the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, and now alternate realities are blending together. The issue ends by teasing several upcoming series. In one, Hank Pym decides he knows how to make a better AI. In another, regular Galactus goes after the Ultimate Universe. And in the normal universe, Angela has randomly been shunted over from Spawn comics. This is how they explain her arrival. Nothing more.

Comic Rating: 2.5/5 – Pretty Bad.

Event Rating: 1/5 – Terrible.

So yeah, the big twist ending is that now space and time are broken, and the superheroes are going to have to deal with that in stories going forward. But the actual story of Age of Ultron didn’t have anything to do with the breaking of time and space. It didn’t even work as set up. Maybe once it was mentioned that this could happen, but this could happen in any time travel story, and Marvel has been doing a lot of them lately. There’s nothing specific about Age of Ultron that would lead to this conclusion. Age of Ultron was its own complete story, and then Marvel decided to tack on an epilogue to advertise upcoming stories and comics. Marvel’s been doing that with a lot of their Big Event comics, which makes sense from a marketing standpoint. So I’m not going to stress too much about the obvious marketing ploys. It’s the Age of Ultron story itself that I’m annoyed with.

Age of Ultron fails on every conceivable story level. As a whole, it’s a terrible comic. I may have liked individual issues here and there, but for the most part, it’s just terrible. Nothing anyone does in the comic matters or has any emotional connection with the reader. The first four issues were nothing but pictures of destruction and ruination, with a few superheroes spattered throughout. But none of those superheroes ever mattered. The first few issues had a big focus on Captain America, Iron Man, Red Hulk, Moon Knight, Black Widow, Spider-Man and then some random couple in a city in Texas – but none of them mattered to the story! None of them did anything! All of that stuff in the beginning of the series about Cap not having a plan, or Red Hulk being some kind of leader, or super-villains selling heroes to Ultron, amounted to absolutely nothing. Squat. Zero. Zilch.

And it only got worse from there. After four issues of nothing, the first real twist was that Vision was controlling the Ultron drones…but that also doesn’t matter in the long run! Vision wasn’t the surprise villain, he was just a hapless prisoner, and he never showed up again. Then once time travel got introduced into the story, all of the heroes we had been following suddenly disappeared. They went on a mission into the future to fight Ultron, but that fight never came to be. That storyline just disappeared. Instead we switched to following Wolverine and the Invisible Woman, two characters who had only ever appeared in the background up to that point, and suddenly they were the stars of the comic. And while the pairing is interesting, very little was ever done between the two of them. It was just Wolverine and the Invisible Woman standing next to each other.

Then, of course, they spent several issues on some boring alternate future world, dealing with boring alternate versions of Tony Stark and Morgana Le Fay, of all people (and Star-Lord! Don’t forget Star-Lord!). That world clearly went nowhere and wasn’t even all that interesting. The only part of Age of Ultron with any enjoyment came in the past two issues, with Hank Pym getting to be the hero through some time travel shenanigans. And this issue wasn’t overly terrible. I read the Free Comic Book Day issue, so I knew what was happening in this issue, and I thought it was a nice wrap-up to tie the end in with the prologue – but it was utterly stupid not to make that prologue an actual part of Age of Ultron. What if people never got a chance to read the Free Comic Book Day promotion? They wouldn’t get the full experience.

Age of Ultron was bad. It was a bad comic. It was bad storytelling. It was bad everything. And as for Angela at the very end? Ridiculous. Maybe somewhere there are Angela fans who are really excited to see her appear in the Marvel Universe for some reason, but I’m not one of them. Her sudden appearance doesn’t have anything to do with anything. She just shows up. I have no idea why Marvel is so excited to get their hands on her. And her appearance at the end of this comic does nothing to stoke my interest in her. Maybe she should have played a larger role in Age of Ultron. Maybe if she’d been the star of the series she would now matter. Instead, she’s just a weird transfer from Spawn comics, completely void of all context since Marvel probably can’t have her mention Spawn at all. I have no idea what they hope to accomplish with Angela, or even really what they hoped to accomplish with Age of Ultron. It’s all just bogus.

Avengers #14

Avengers #14
Writers: Johnathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Artist: Stefano Caselli

I think Avengers is starting to come together. Probably not as cleanly as Hickman expects, or I would have liked, but reading this new issue, I really felt like the stakes were bigger and more dangerous than they’ve ever been before. Maybe it’s due to Hickman’s writing, or maybe it really is due to all the puzzle pieces he’s been putting together over the course of this series, but I really, legitimately felt like I was reading an Avengers story about a threat so big that the fate of the world was at stake. I immediately thought about all the other Big Event comics where the entire world is threatened, and I realized that none of them have the same feeling of impending doom as Avengers #14. If nothing else, that is an accomplishment.

All of the various alien crash sites around the world have started to reach their full purpose, and something somewhere has started sending a signal to them every six minutes. That’s got Bruce Banner trying desperately to find the signal’s origin while the rest of the Avengers scramble to deal with the damage, since the signal cuts out all electricity across the globe, and that means a lot of airplanes suddenly losing power. Then they find out that something really big is happening in the crash site in Australia, so all of the Avengers teleport there and start fighting a bunch of giant builder men for some reason. Then on AIM Island, the scientists have figured out a way to wake up whatever it is they’re holding on to…

Comic Rating: 4/5 – Good.

Hickman’s ideas are still as crazy as ever. The giant builder men are weird and come out of nowhere, but they merely represent the dangers of these crash sites, so they definitely work in representing the otherworldly nature of the crash sites. Hickman has successfully built up the scale of this threat, and the idea that there is something huge about to happen – and that the Avengers might not be prepared to stop it – fills every page. It was also cool to see all of the Avengers coming together to battle this threat. I’m still not totally on board with everything Hickman has done in this series, but there’s a definite sense of growing dread and of all his plans coming together, and that makes for an exciting read.

Batman and Batgirl #21

Batman and Batgirl #21
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Cliff Richards

I’m not reading Batgirl, though I probably should be. Gail Simone is brilliant, after all. I mention this because Tomasi goes out of his way with this issue to tap into everything happening in Batgirl right now, and it’s a little jarring. Reading this issue felt like reading an issue of Batgirl instead of Batman and Robin, so I didn’t necessarily follow the narrative. I vaguely know about what Barbara is going through in her comic, and that was enough to float me through this issue, but there was still definitely a disconnect.

Batman is still mourning for the loss of Damian, and Batgirl is all stressed out over causing the death of her evil brother in the pages of Batgirl. The two heroes happen to bump into each other taking out a criminal operation on the docks, but Batman won’t even stick around to talk to her. So Barbara tracks him down again and watches Batman ruthlessly take out a hostage situation. She confronts him at the Batcave trying to snap him out of his destructive behavior, even going so far as to offer to become a new Robin, as if that’s his problem. But Batman just yells at her to get out.

Comic Rating: 3/5 – Alright.

I hope this doesn’t sound too morbid or cynical of me, but I’m done mourning for Damian. I’m ready to move on to new stories and comics. But unfortunately, Batman remains in a glass case of emotion. And it’s starting to drag on. I’m ready for him to actually begin getting over his grief, and Batgirl doesn’t really do anything to help him with that. Much like the Tim Drake issue, nothing really meaningful happens between Batman and Batgirl in this issue. They have scenes together and actually share dialogue, but none of it really touches on their relationship in any meaningful way. Batman is too closed off to let her in, and it makes for a disappointing comic. Maybe I’m just expecting too much from these crossover issues.

Also, Batman’s ruthless grief is exactly what happened in the wake of Jason Todd’s death, and it’s exactly what led to Tim Drake becoming Robin. So once again I’d like to re-state my disappointment in the Tim Drake issue. You’d think Tim would be able to recognize the same problem over again and be there to help Batman. But apparently not.

Batwoman #21

Batwoman #21
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Francesco Francavilla

Oh Batwoman, how you love to mix things up. You did it at least once before, with Maggie Sawyer, and I didn’t like it. Now you’re trying the same trick with Killer Croc, and I like it a little more. I’d much rather continue the story of Batwoman as she and her friends go up against Batman, but I suppose I’ll grant you a one-off issue about Croc. It’s your comic, after all, and it’s important in a narrative to build up subplots and supporting characters.

This issue is an interlude from the usual Batwoman ongoing story, letting us know what Killer Croc has been up to since Medusa was defeated. It seems he fell in with the beast men, who are struggling to stay together after Abbot was killed. Croc hooks up with one of the lizardwomen, and they convince him to go and avenge Abbot by killing Batwoman, thereby becoming their new leader. So Croc goes off and gets into a fight with Batwoman, Maggie Sawyer and Hawkfire, but barely escapes with his life. He then returns to the beastmen and takes over as leader anyway.

Comic Rating: 3.5/5 – Pretty Good.

Despite not having much to do with Batwoman, this was still a good, solid issue. I’ve always had a soft spot for Killer Croc ever since his Batman: The Animated Series days, so it was cool to get an issue about him, with Croc narrating in his own special way. The writers definitely get into the head of this odd villain, and his story works. Likewise, the art is perfectly suited for the character. So a good job all around by the creative team. I like that Croc is actually a level-headed kind of guy instead of the usual crazy maniac you get in Gotham City. He may not be smart or clever, but he knows enough to make good decisions for himself. So yeah, this was a nice comic telling a short Killer Croc story, but I’m still much more interested in Batwoman’s current adventures, thank you.

New Guardians #21

Green Lantern: New Guardians #21
Writer: Justin Jordan
Arist: Brad Waller

Here’s another new start for a Green Lantern comic, and another mediocre offering. I’ve always been slightly partial to Kyle Rayner when it comes to the human GLs, and I’ve been mostly enjoying New Guardians so far, though it wasn’t what I expected it to be. I’m mostly just reading it to see what happens. This new start promises a new status quo for the book, one that…maybe interests me. I don’t really know what to think yet. Kyle’s story hasn’t been particularly enthralling, and this new direction isn’t very interesting so far. But maybe I’ll stick with it long enough to give it a chance.

In the wake of the death of the old Guardians, there’s a new group of little blue aliens who have to find their place in the universe. But rather than simply take over the Green Lantern Corps, they’d instead like to reacquaint themselves with the galaxy, so that they’ll actually understand what they’re dealing with. They ask Kyle Rayner to be their guide, he of the White Lantern, and Kyle eventually accepts, with some reluctance. The first thing the New Guardians want to see is something called the Anomaly, a giant, floating space blob on the edge of the universe, which was also around eons ago, back before they started guarding the First Lantern. So I guess it’s just been out in space all this time. The New Guardians hypothesize that the Anomaly contains a fragment of the old universe, the one that existed before the Big Bang.

There’s a guy guarding the Anomaly, and he wants the New Guardians to get back. They don’t listen, and Kyle has to fight the guy to keep them safe. But all this fighting alerts the Anomaly to the presence of the White Lantern, and it starts to hatch – and out comcs Relic, the new GL villain!

Comic Rating: 3.5/5 – Pretty Good.

On the one hand, I thought the idea of the Anomaly was pretty cool, and I like the general idea of the New Guardians exploring the grim and gritty universe around them, with Kyle as their guide. On the other hand, the Anomaly just turned out to be Relic, which is disappointing. We don’t really know anything about Relic at this point, only that he’s going to be the Big Bad that crosses over with all the GL books over the next couple of months. That’s fine, but I was really hoping the Anomaly was something new and interesting. I had hoped that New Guardians would actually be able to tell a story all on its won about crazy space stuff. Instead, this issue is pretty much just a prologue to yet another big GL franchise crossover. I’m kind of sick of those.

Still, the issue is fine. Kyle is entertaining enough, and the premise has potential. I really liked the scene of Kyle and Carol Ferris hanging out as friends. I think Carol could be used for a lot more than just Hal Jordan’s girlfriend, and she proves it right here. I also like the art. I think it works great. So New Guardians may be off to a good start…if it doesn’t get too bogged down in this Relic crossover.

New Avengers #7

New Avengers #7
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Mike Deodato

Avengers may have the big, epic adventure, but New Avengers has the deeply personal, intimate character story, and I much prefer the latter. Hickman is doing a fantastic job getting into the heads of his characters and using them in situations that really flesh out who they are and what they stand for. These are some of the biggest, most important characters in the Marvel Universe, and Hickman is using them all to great effect. Though this issue does suffer from continuity-itis. If, like me, you didn’t know that Black Panther is no longer King of Wakanda, prepare to be disappointed.

It has been nearly a month since the last incursion, and all of the Illuminati are a little uneasy. They’ve also started dealing with other issues in their lives. A few of them visit with the Black Swan, but more importantly, a war is brewing between Wakanda and Atlantis. Early skirmishes have already been fought, blood has been spilled. Namor tries to make peace with T’Challa, but he is no longer king. His sister is in charge, and her advises urge her towards war!

Meanwhile, Doctor Doom invites Reed Richards to dinner so he can ask (demand) about what the hell happened in Latveria a month ago. But Reed refuses to divulge anything and simply leaves, providing no answers for a very angry Doom.

Comic Rating: 4.5/5 – Very Good.

I had no idea that Black Panther was not the King of Wakanda. I know that each issue so far has listed him as ‘King of the Dead’ on the recap page, but I had no idea what that meant. Apparently it’s from Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four? Maybe? Hickman has done nothing to explain it in the pages of New Avengers. So when the issue really dug into the drama between Black Panther and Namor, I was at first confused, and then later disappointed, that Panther’s sister is in charge, and that the war between the two nations will fall on her shoulders. That really robbed the comic of some of its power. I wanted to see Panther and Namor go toe-to-toe, I wanted the drama to exist between them, not between Namor and some proxy character who has never appeared in this series before.

At least the scene with Doctor Doom was beyond amazing. Seriously, adding Doom to this series was a stroke of genius, and I can’t wait for his subplot to play out.

Spider-Man #12

Superior Spider-Man #12
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Another issue of Superior Spider-Man, another solid tale in the life of the new Otto Octavius, courtesy of Dan Slott. This issue continues the Spider Slayer storyline, and suffers only slightly from middle-chapter-itis. There are few big twists, no real changes, just the continuation of an already entertaining story. No more, no less.

The battle against the Spider Slayer continues as Spider-Man goes up against the new and improved Scorpion, Boomerang and Vulture. Elsewhere in the prison, Spider-Man sets up a safe force field around all the civilians, except for J. Jonah Jameson, who takes a set of guard armor and goes on the hunt for Smythe himself. Spider Slayer tells the other villains to split up, with Vulture going after the civilians and Scorpion going after Jameson. Smythe then tells Spider-Man that he has to choose: save the civilians or save Jonah. But Spider-Man surprises Smythe with his own choice: ignore the innocent people and just go kill Smythe.

Comic Rating: 4/5 – Good.

Definitely an entertaining issue. Otto’s mindset is as strong as ever, and I’m still enjoying his more ruthless take on being Spider-Man. I like the use of Scorpion, Boomerang and Vulture, as well as J. Jonah Jameson’s heroic turn. Spider Slayer himself remains uninteresting, but that might just be me. I’ve never cared for him. But yeah, no complaints about this comic. It’s a good story, there are a lot of great subplots going on, and I’m excited to see how it ends. Will Spider-Man kill Smythe now that he has Mayor Jameson’s blessing? I’m eager to find out.

Wonder Woman #21

Wonder Woman #21
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Orion might be my favorite character in the New 52. There’s no Robin anymore. Tim Drake is being wasted in Teen Titans. And everyone else just pales in comparison to the coolness that is the new Orion. I’ve read that he used to be very different before the reboot, that he was more stoic, but who cares? This new Orion is a badass, with an awesome, updated costume and a can-do attitude. And he fits perfectly in the Wonder Woman story Azzarello is building. So yeah, I’m very disappointed that Wonder Woman is dating Superman, because Orion is on fire.

Wonder Woman finally comes face-to-face with the First Born, and it’s a battle for the ages! They trade blows in the streets of London, with Lennox lending a fist, but the First Born is pretty tough and is able to handle both of them. Even Orion returns to help out, but still they’re outmatched. Meanwhile, baby Zeke reveals some kind of secret god-power, and he uses it (off-panel) to take out the First Born’s lady sidekick. Orion then gathers everyone up and uses a Boom Tube to make their escape, but the First Born grabs onto the Boom Tube and starts crawling through after them, something that no one should be able to do. Lennox sacrifices himself to take out the First Born while everyone else lands safely on New Genesis.

Comic Rating: 4.5/5 – Very Good!

This was a very exciting issue of Wonder Woman. Her arrival on the scene to fight the First Born is badass. Her and Lennox teaming up to take him on is badass. Orion coming out of nowhere to make the save is badass. The banter between Orion and Wonder “Legs” Woman is badass. The escape through the Boom Tube is badass. I have always championed Azzarello’s Wonder Woman comic, and this is as good as any issue he’s put out so far, with promises of even more new and exciting things to come. With all of its focus on the Greek Gods, I think this is a great place to introduce the New Gods to the DC Reboot (Darkseid and Apokolips aside). And, like I said, I’m totally digging Orion in this series. Trust me, that’s a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

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 22, 2013, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. AU was . . . an ending, I guess? I thought it was pretty OK. Not great, not terrible. I liked the way it threw back to Avengers #12.1 from a couple years, even using the original art. And time breaking seems like it could be interesting.

    Avengers was OK. It’s more impersonal stuff, where it’s hard to legitimately care what happens, because Hickman isn’t giving the readers a real emotional stake in any of it. Stuff happens, characters do things, and that’s about it.

    NA continues to just not be for me.

    Superior Spider-Man was very good. It was a fun fight issue.

    • I’ve long suspected, or maybe I read it somewhere, that Marvel had some big plans for the time breaking. A ton of their comics are playing around with time travel these days. It’s the entire basis of All-New X-Men, and comics like Fantastic Four and Thor: God of Thunder are playing around with it just for kicks and giggles. So I hope this is going to be a new big problem…or maybe it will just be a few random mini-series, or just the excuse to get Angela into Guardians of the Galaxy. We shall see.

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