Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/29/13

This is a week for new comics! I’ve been trying to add some new titles to my weekly review feature, because it’ll get pretty boring if I just review the same comics month after month, and this week definitely delivered on new possibilities.This week also featured pretty much every X-Men comic imaginable – and most of them good. But we’ve also got the first issues of Larfleeze and Batman/Superman, as well as the new creative team on Red Lanterns. Will the new writer finally deliver the Red Lantern series I’ve been waiting for? Time will tell. I also decided to try out Journey Into Mystery, but sadly, the series has already been cancelled, so it won’t benefit from the Henchman Bump.

This week’s definite winner is writer Matt Fraction, who once again delivers two of the best comics in the world: FF and Hawkeye. I’m going to award Comic Book of the Week to Hawkeye #11 for its ability to think outside the box, and tell a story from the perspective of Hawkeye’s dog. It’s a fun issue. Though the moment of the week – possibly the moment of the year – goes to Miss Thing in FF. In the issue, the team have come up with a new, more efficient way for Miss Thing to get into her armor.

Best pop culture reference of all freakin’ time! Matt Fraction has to have been sitting on that line since he first envisioned Miss Thing. Heck, I’m going to declare right now that Miss Thing probably only exists because Fraction wanted to find a way to include that classic line from the insane cartoon Fred and Barney Meet the Thing. The man is a genius.

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #13, Batman/Superman #1, FF #8, Hawkeye #11, Journey Into Mystery #653, Larfleeze #1, Red Lanterns #21,  X-Men #2.

All-New X-Men #13

All-New X-Men #13
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

Do you remember a couple months ago when Havok gave a speech in the pages of Uncanny Avengers saying how he thought ‘Mutant’ was a bad word? And remember how the Internet got royally pissed at writer Rick Remender because it sounded like he was preaching for minorities to assimilate rather than be proud of their uniqueness? Well Marvel certainly remembers. All-New X-Men #13 is the second issue in as many weeks where Marvel has some characters listen to and react to Havok’s speech. And their reaction is to reject Havok’s ideas. I think Marvel saw the Internet’s reaction and immediately went into damage control, but it’s taken all this time for the effects to finally be felt.

Wolverine, Kitty Pryde and the Young X-Men are en route to Mystique’s secret base after investigating the robbery at Stark Resilient. They listen to Havok’s speech on the radio, and the Young X-Men are confused about its meaning. Kitty Pryde explains that she doesn’t side with Havok on this issue. Kitty is proud to be a mutant, just like she’s proud to be Jewish. Meanwhile, Mystique meets with Madame Hydra and her big plan is revealed: she wants to use all of the money she’s been stealing to simply buy control of Madripoor from Madame Hydra. Mystique wants to retire into her own little criminal empire. But the X-Men show up and interrupt the deal, leading to a big fight – which leads to Lady Mastermind using an illusion of her father to spook Jean Grey and bring out the Phoenix!

Comic Rating: 4.5/5 – Very Good.

Kitty Pryde gave a nice little speech. Racial politics are way beyond my pay grade, but I remember when everyone got so upset over Havok’s speech (and then Remender Tweeting how they should all ‘drink hobo piss’ for getting mad at him, before eventually relenting and giving a real apology). It’s a smart move on Marvel’s part to present some different opinions on the subject, but it’s just way too late. They should have had characters react to Havok’s speech back when it was still relevant several months ago. Still, Kitty gave a nice speech, and X-Men comics should never lose lose sight of the racial metaphor of mutantdom. Beyond that, the rest of the issue was very good. The dialogue remains sharp and funny, with Bendis using Young Iceman as a comedy gold mine. Mystique’s plan is neat, and Bendis is doing a great job getting into her head and presenting her as sick and tired of the same old hero vs. villain cliches. Bendis has a wonderful hold on all of the characters involved in this series, from Wolverine to Lady Mastermind. They are all delightful. All-New X-Men remains a very good comic, and I am glad for that.

Batman/Superman #1

Batman/Superman #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Jae Lee

I don’t fault DC in the slightest for falling back to titles they know will sell. Batman/Superman existed before the reboot, and World’s Finest is a series going back decades (though clearly it doesn’t have a name brand as recognizable as Batman/Superman). So resurrecting the series in the New 52 is a great idea. Unfortunately, the execution isn’t up to snuff. The series is billed as the first ever meeting between the two characters, even though their first ever meeting actually took place in Justice League #1. Or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what the first few issues of Justice League were about. I guess the retcons are already starting on the reboot material, all in the name of marketing and sales. So this issue is supposed to be the first meeting of Batman and Superman in the New 52, and I think it falls flat.

The first meeting between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne takes place at a park in Gotham City. Clark is investigating the murders of three Wayne Enterprises employees, and just happens to find Bruce at the park dressed as a bum. Bruce is under cover, but Clark doesn’t know that, so Bruce pretends he’s just slumming it. They share a little moment discussing whether or not Clark should or shouldn’t have gotten involved when some bullies were picking on a little kid in the park. On the one hand, Clark stopped the bullies, but on the other hand, they’ll likely just come back the next day even meaner than before.

Batman travels to Metropolis to investigate the murders. He discovers that Catwoman is behind the killings, but she is possessed by some kind of evil ghost spirit. She and Batman fight until Superman shows up, and he immediately mistakes the sinister-looking Batman for the killer. Batman and Superman fight until the ghost releases Catwoman and then fractures time and space. Superman is sent sprawling back through time to Smallville, where he encounters a future version of Batman, as well as a living, breathing Clark Kent.

Comic Rating: 3/5 – Alright.

I just wasn’t very impressed with this comic. The art, for starters, just wasn’t right for this series. Jae Lee is a fantastic artist, but his work is very moody and very stylized. It works wonders for certain comics, but I don’t think a big, bombastic, buddy comedy like Batman/Superman is the right place for Jae Lee. There’s nothing really moody or macabre about this series, so it’s just weird to read a meeting between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne that looks like it belongs in Tim Burton’s nightmares. Not only that, but Lee doesn’t draw backgrounds at all. It’s just his characters and a few foreground objects set against blank panels, adding to the spooky atmosphere that clashes with the story and plot.

Speaking of the story and plot, I’m just not impressed. This is supposed to be the first ever meeting of Batman and Superman in the new continuity, but it’s just so dull and flat. So the two bump into each other on a park bench? Big whoop. And the first time they meet in costume, it’s in some random, crowded apartment in the middle of a fight. Not only that, but apparently their first adventure together is going to be some insane time travel jaunt that involves future versions of themselves. Seriously? That’s the continuity precedent that DC wants to set? This is the first ever meeting between Batman and Superman in your new continuity, and instead of as tory that has any kind of gravitas, it’s a spooky, mind-bending, complex trip through time.  I’m sure a lot of people will be happy with this issue, and Pak and Lee are very talented, but I don’t think this series will be for me. This is not a Batman or Superman I want to read about.

FF #8

FF #8
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists Mike and Laura Allred

This was the funniest comic book I have read in a very long time. Wow, just wow. I laughed out loud several awesome times. The jokes, the nostalgic references, the silly character moments; it’s amazing. And the rest of the story is just fun too. I don’t know what Fantastic Four is up to, but FF is absolutely brilliant. There’s maybe a little wonkiness in this issue, and some moments that were a bit hard to understand, but beyond that, it’s all gold.

Medusa must answer for what happened with the Wizard, and first she throws herself on the mercy of the Inhumans – who are actually filled with mercy, honestly. The Inumans totally give Medusa a pass, but that just annoys She-Hulk, who thinks Medusa is still a danger to the kids of the Future Foundation. So later that night, She-Hulk and Medusa have it out, with an argument that erupts into a full-on brawl on Attilan. Scott Lang breaks them up long enough to let them know that Alex Power has returned, and everyone goes home to greet him. Unfortunately, Alex has a dark secret: his meeting with Dr. Doom did not go well at all. Doom has kidnapped Alex’s parents, and he’s turned the boy into his mole. Doom is also meeting with Immortus and Annihilus, on the verge of making John Storm’s future a reality.

Meanwhile, none of the FF kids trust Bentley anymore. They set up a bunch of booby traps around the building for Bentley and Medusa’s son, putting the two of them through an obstacle course to determine if they’re bad guys or good guys. It’s as adorable as it sounds.

Comic Rating: 4.5/5 – Very Good.

The various problems with Medusa were slightly odd to try and understand. I wasn’t sure what was happened with the Inhumans, or why they were all suddenly being painted as a bunch of ‘yes-men’. Then the fight between She-Hulk and Medusa seemed to come out of nowhere. She-Hulk hasn’t gotten a lot of screentime in this series so far, so I just didn’t buy her suddenly being so angry that she was willing to attack Medusa. But everything else in this issue was great. The kids were adorable, and had some truly hilarious scenes. Scott Lang was cool. Dr. Doom was evil. And Darla’s ‘Thing Rings’ line was possibly the greatest comic book moment of the year. Geeks like me love nostalgia.

Hawkeye #11

Hawkeye #11
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja

It’s the Pizza Dog issue! I’d heard about this issue, and it completely lives up to the hype and excitement. It’s an issue of Hawkeye told from the perspective of his mangy pet dog, Lucky. Somehow he earned the nickname ‘Pizza Dog’ and I must have missed how. Regardless, I love it when comic books are willing to go outside their comfort zone and do something that really breaks the mold. And David Aja is the perfect artist to make this issue a reality. This one has to be seen to be believed. It’s a treat…a dog treat!

Lucky the dog investigates Grills’ murder the only way a dog can, by doing a lot of sniffing around. The issue is almost completely without dialogue, instead told through the amazing art of David Aja. The issue is also told, kind of, like an old film noir detective story. Lucky is visited by a sultry dame (in this case, the cute dog from down the hall), who puts him onto a murder case. Lucky investigates and determines that the Russian gangsters are behind the crime. He visits with Clint and Kate while they’re arguing, and he’s able to pick out a few words. Lucky has a face off with the Russians at one point, but they recognize him, and he slinks away, fearing their wrath. The cute dog comes back and the two bed down, then Lucky wakes up just in time to see that the Russians and the killer have returned to the scene of the crime. He fights them off in a vicious attack that sends him falling off the roof!

But don’t worry, he’s fine. So are the bad guys, who get a little help from one of Hawkeye’s tenants. In the end, during another fight, Kate walks out on Hawkeye. Lucky then decides to leave Clint and go with Kate to California.

Comic Rating: 4.5/5 – Very Good.

This is probably one of the most imaginative comics you’ll read all year. Lucky doesn’t suddenly become a talking dog or anything like that. He’s just an old mutt sniffing around and stumbling into trouble. He can’t talk to Hawkeye or really help defeat the bad guys, but he can still feel sadness, fear, anger and lust. The story is very entertaining, though I’ll admit to probably missing some of the subtext. But that’s just me. The best part of the issue, of course, is the art. Aja outdoes himself. Lucky is full of personality, and Aja just draws very good animals. You can really feel Lucky padding along through the apartment building. And the little icons they use to denote what Lucky can smell are delightful. Do yourself a favor and check this issue out, at least to see what it’s like.

Journey Into Mystery #653

Journey Into Mystery #653
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: Valerio Schiti

Want to know a surefire way to get me to buy your comic? Put Beta Ray Bill in it. I love Beta Ray Bill. He’s just so cool. I read this issue of Journey Into Mystery solely because it guest stars Beta Ray Bill. I haven’t been reading Journey Into Mystery because I’ve simply never been a big fan of the Thor mythos, my love of Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder aside. I also don’t have any particular interest in Sif as a protagonist, though I completely support the idea of giving Sif her own book. By all means, she’s as deserving as anyone. But sadly, not a lot of people bought the comic, and Sif’s adventures have already been cancelled. This Beta Ray Bill cameo has come far too late. He should have been a guest star since the beginning.

Sif is hanging out on a deep space Avengers monitoring station, watching over the Earth Mother while she recovers. But at the end of last issue, Beta Ray Bill showed up, his spaceship crashing into the monitoring station. Seems he was being pursued by some evil monstrous spaceship, which has also crashed. Bill helps Sif up out of the wreckage, and the two exchange some awkward reunion dialogue – they used to date. The pair split up and search for Bill’s girlfriend, the only other member of his species in the universe. Sif finds her, but it’s too late. The woman passes and Sif tries to comfort Bill, but he’s quite pig-headed, which frustrates Sif to no end. Bill goes off to try and get his spaceship Scuttlebutt working again. And Sif discovers that the Earth Mother has been kdinapped by the evil monstrous spaceship.

Comic Rating: 4/5 – Good.

I can see why people have spoken highly of Journey Into Mystery. Kathryn Immonen is a great writer, and her Sif is a very colorful, very entertaining character. I think the problem is that Sif just isn’t a marquee name. She’s a small supporting character from Thor. That’s all Sif really has going for her. I’m glad Marvel and Immonen tried, but comic books are a tough market for minor characters. This issue was definitely fun, though. Sif is a good lead, and Beta Ray Bill made for a great guest star. He always does. I love the past relationship between Sif and Bill. Thor cast her aside, and Sif found comfort in Bill. It works perfectly. And Immonen has a lot of fun toying with the two of them. You can really feel the awkwardness in the air, as well as the obvious fact that they probably still have feelings for one another. Immonen should have been using Bill from the beginning, and turned Sif and Bill into a romance for the ages. I know I would have brought Journey Into Mystery if that had been the story.

Larfleeze #1

Larfleeze #1
Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis
Artist: Scott Kolins

I went into this comic with an open mind. I’m as much of a Larfleeze fan as the next guy, so the idea of giving him his own series is a good one. The problem is that Giffen and Dematteis only see Larfleeze as a one-note joke character. That’s how he was in the back-up shorts they wrote during Threshold (which has been cancelled). And Larfleeze #1 picks up right where those backups left off. Larfleeze is the same annoying, conceited, slobbering asshole, without a single redeeming quality. And they write him so pigeonholed into that personality that there are no signs that character growth is even an option. I tried to keep an open mind about this first issue…but I don’t think it worked. This Larfleeze just doesn’t interest me.

Apparently in the previous Larfleeze backup features, his Orange Power Battery was destroyed, leaving Larfleeze and his butler with only a single dwindling Orange Power Ring. As such, Larfleeze is depressed, and takes them both to the very edge of the universe so that they can be crushed to atoms. The butler tries to convince Larfleeze that he’s too awesome to die, but that just prompts Larfleeze to tell his life story, some of which may be made up. We learn about Larfleeze’s birth to a cruddy farming family on his home planet, then his servitude to some alien overlords, as well as the fact that he was forced to mate and has several children (maybe). Larfleeze eventually escaped his masters, freed all the slaves and then joined a band of pirates. This led him to Okarra, where he found the Orange Power Battery, and the rest is history. In the present, the butler discovers that Larfleeze has become a biological Power Battery, able to charge his ring just by existing. And then a giant cosmic hunter steps through the edge of the universe and gets into a fight with Larfleeze over some treasure.

Comic Rating: 2.5/5 – Pretty Bad.

Comedy is subjective. Some people find Deadpool hilarious, but I just can’t stand him anymore. And to me, the jokes in this comic just aren’t funny. Larfleeze isn’t funny. He has one personality and it’s constantly pushed to 11. He’s an arrogant, dickish psychopath, and his butler is an annoying, whimpering yes-man. Are we supposed to root for these characters? Are we supposed to like them despite their faults? I want to like Larfleeze. I really do. I think he has a lot of potential as the only Orange Lantern in the universe. But if he’s going to be the annoying comedy relief in his own series, why even bother with the character? Unless you find his specific personality funny, you’re not going to be able to stand the character. I sure don’t.

It doesn’t help that the Larfleeze backup stories aren’t recapped, so I have no idea how the Orange Power Battery was destroyed. That sounds like a major development, one I’m not particularly interested in reading about. His origin story was fine, and an acceptable way to spend the first issue, but what’s the point when Larfleeze readily admits that up to half of it is made up? Did he just spend the first issue of the series lying to us? Then why should we care? Actually, that’s a good question for this series as a whole.

Red Lanterns #21

Red Lanterns #21
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alessandro Vitti

My hopes are high for Soule taking over Red Lanterns. I was very excited for this comic at the start of the New 52, but Peter Milligan’s ideas for the Red Lanterns completely killed my interest. He turned them into preaching, sniveling losers who were more interested in long soliloquies on their home planet than in being the most badass, ass-kicking aliens in the entire galaxy. The theme of Milligan’s Red Lanterns wasn’t rage, it was impotence. So like most of the new GL franchise comics, I’m willing to give Soule a chance – and so far, like most of the new GL comics, I’m only mildly entertained.

Atrocitus wants to rebuild the Red Lantern Corps back to its previous power, so he sends 10 new rings out into the cosmos to find new recruits. He says it’s time to focus their efforts on their true enemies: the Green Lanterns. To do this, he tries to get everybody to kill Rankorr so that they can drink his blood and gain the power of full constructs, but Rankorr successfully fights them off and they temporarily bury the hatchet. Meanwhile, Hal Jordan asks Guy Gardner to go undercover into the Red Lanterns so that the GLs will have a spy. Guy is reluctant to go, because becoming a Red Lantern can be very fatal. Guy eventually decides to go through with it and offers to join, but Atrocitus doesn’t believe Guy’s motives. The two fight, and Guy lets his anger build, eventually defeating Atrocitus and stripping the leader of his ring. Guy takes it for himself.

Comic Rating: 3.5/5 – Pretty Good.

I’m cool with the idea of Guy joining the Red Lanterns. It makes perfect sense. DC spreads its human Lanterns across all the books, and therefore each one has a foundation to build upon. (Though I wish DC had given Simon Baz a book). Guy makes sense as a Red Lantern, and it could be an interesting story as he joins their ranks – but why depower Atrocitus? He never reached his full potential under Milligan, so why get rid of him now? Not only that, but is Guy going to become the leader of the Red Lanterns now? If he was sent to merely spy on them, why take over? Is Guy plotting some kind of coup against Hal Jordan? What the heck is Guy going to do as leader of the Red Lanterns? Odd story choice aside, I’m still willing to give Soule a chance to see if he can build the Red Lantern book I wanted all along.

On another note, I hope Rankorr sticks around. Milligan treated the character like garbage, even though Milligan created him. But Rankorr has so much potential. Out of all the new colored Lantern Corps that Geoff Johns created, Rankorr is the only human to join any of their ranks. Aside from Carol Ferris, who was a Star Sapphire for years, Rankorr is the only new human character to join one of the new Lantern Corps. He has so much potential! So it’s disheartening to see the Red Lanterns gang up and try to kill him in Soule’s first issue. I really, really hope Soule comes up with something fun and interesting for Rankorr.

X-Men #2

X-Men #2
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Olivier Copiel

I felt something very cool while reading the second issue of Brian Wood’s X-Men series: excitement. Between all of the action and character moments, I got a real sense of tension and energy in the story. A lot of comics are exciting, don’t get me wrong, but there was just something special about this issue that really spoke to me. Here were the X-Men, unburdened by any complications or problems, just coming together to be X-Men and save the day. It was kind of exhilarating. I’m not sure how to explain it further, but this is a really solid, well-put-together X-Men comic. No gimmicks, no tricks, just awesome X-Men action.

Arkea has taken over the body of Karima the Omega Sentinel, and she uses her android body to start downloading information from the X-Men’s computer databanks. Beast, Rogue and Kitty Pryde try to take her on, but Arkea is very powerful, and she’s kind of holding the body of their friend hostage, so nobody is fully willing to commit to ‘killing’ Karima. This hesitation gives Arkea the chance to escape. Afterwards, the X-Men lick their wounds and start mounting their pursuit, with Sublime reluctantly joining them to help out. Storm wants to bench Jubilee, but she insists that she be allowed to come along and bring the baby (because why not throw a baby into a dangerous situation?). Meanwhile, the students who are cleaning up the destruction discover that Arkea left a bomb, and it only has 3 seconds until detonation!

Comic Rating: 4/5 – Good.

This is a good comic, but if Wood kills a bunch of students with that bomb, I might just drop the book on principle. Those poor students have been through too much, and this book is too good to fall into the trap of turning them into canon fodder. This was an exciting comic, and I’m looking forward to what Wood brings to the franchise, but if it’s just going to be dead students for no good reason, then he can forget about me as a reader. Killing the students of the X-Men school has become a tired cliche. It doesn’t raise the tension. It doesn’t make his villain seem cooler or more evil. It just makes Brian Wood seem desperate and uncreative.

That being said, the rest of the comic is great. The action is fantastic, and each of the characters is very well-written. I like how they care about Karima even as they fight the villain possessing her. And the art is just phenomenal. Olivier Copiel is one of my all-time favorite comic book artists, and to have him on a regular book like this, an X-Men book no less, is a dream come true. I hope he sticks around for a good, long while. Those are my rules: no killing students and keep Copiel around forever. Then X-Men will be a huge success.

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 29, 2013, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. ANXM was great. I loved Kitty’s response. It was powerful, and it felt true to the character. Also: “Pepproni.”

    FF was a lot of fun, as usual.

    Hawkeye was great. It sorta had to be. It was from a dog’s point of view. You can’t beat that.

    JiM was great. Sif and Bill played off each other really well. I’m so disappointed that this is ending, because it’s been wonderful since it started. Which was 7 issues ago. This is only the second arc.

    X-Men was awesome. Some really good character work being done with Jubilee. I’m really enjoying it.

    • I think a Sif and Bill book could be successful! Or maybe just relaunch it as Beta Ray Bill’s comic, with Sif in a supporting role.

      • I doubt it. Bill has arguably even less name recognition than Sif. She at least was in the Thor movie. Plus, as a female character, she’s going to attract people (like me!) who want female solo titles to succeed. Bill will attract people who read Thor comics from the ’80s, most of whom would also probably be willing to check out a Sif series.

      • Whaaaaaaaat? Beta Ray Bill has less name recognition than Sif? That’s crazy talk!

  2. I’m dropping all my Bendis books personally. UCSM and both X-Men titles. I’m really enjoying the pronounless X-Men most and Bendis’s writing is just getting to me. He’s taking some really good characters and making them tremendously boring.

    Loved FF and Hawkeye this week but I love them every month. She-Hulk is one of my favorite Marvel characters so I love seeing her get some attention. Plus Pizza Dog detective noir in muted, dog vision colors is AWESOME.

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