Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/6/13

Alright, guys and gals, this is the last time I change up my rating system. I know I changed it just a few months ago, but now that I’ve been trying it out for awhile, I realize just how confusing it might be. I started out with a scale of just 0-5. Then I added decimals, because that seemed like the thing to do, and I wanted my reviews to be a little more nuanced. Now I’ve decided that the decimals just add a lot of unnecessary clutter. But rather than do away with them, I’ve decided to take my 0-5 system and upgrade it to a 0-10 instead. I think, in the long run, this will just be easier.

Let’s do a quick run down:

0 – Abomination; 1 – Terrible; 2 – Very Bad; 3 – Bad; 4 – Pretty Bad; 5 – Alright; 6 – Pretty Good; 7 – Good; 8 – Very Good; 9 – Great; 10 – Fantastic!

Now that the housekeeping is out of the way, on with the reviews!

Short week, this week, with only a handful of comics coming out on my buy pile. Avengers continues their big storyline, Batman Incorporated draws ever close to the finish, and the new writer on Green Lantern settles into his new role of storyteller. All quality comics, and I enjoyed each and every one. But the real standout this week is The Superior Foes of Spider-Man! I’ve been eagerly anticipating this comic since it was announced, and it did not disappoint (though the name could stand to be a little less complex). Superior Foes is about a handful of Spider-Man’s B and C-list foes banding together into a new Sinister Six (which would have been a fine title). The comic takes the down-to-Earth, personal appeal of a book like Hawkeye and adds a dash of villainy. The characters here aren’t out to rule the world. They’re just out to make a living, and costumed crime is the path they’ve chosen. This is exactly my kind of book, and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man easily wins Comic Book of the Week.

It’s the little stuff that matters. Like Shocker and Speed Demon arguing over the keys.

Comic Reviews: Avengers #15, Batman Incorporated #12, Green Lantern #22, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1.

Avengers #15

Avengers #15
Writers: Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Artist: Sefano Caselli

Welp, this storyline is still going along. Avengers is definitely one of those comics where you can’t just pick up any issue and catch up. Maybe back at the start, or in some of the single story issues. But right now, Hickman is in the middle of his big story-building insanity, and I’m still not quite sure I understand it all. Hickman has got so many villains, so many subplots, and so much confusion going on that I’m barely hanging on. But at least it’s entertaining. At long last, I can tell it’s all going somewhere, and a lot of it is the Avengers being heroic. So that alone is good enough.

The Avengers continue the fight against the giant bugs and the giant builder golems in Perth, Australia, and Spider-Man is now wearing his new costume, even though it hasn’t debuted yet in the actual Superior Spider-Man comic. Oops! It looks awesome, at least. The Avengers win the day, but they’re a little too late, and a signal of some kind has been sent to beings who are several galaxies away. After the battle, a giant robotic golem comes after the Avengers, and a Skrull ship manages to sneak through SWORD’s defense to arrive on Earth. Meanwhile, the giant space egg on AIM Island opens, and it kills everybody in the room, at least those who don’t run for their lives. And Captain Universe takes Manifold to some other planet where something big and bad is going to happen.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I was really hard on this series at the start. The issues didn’t seem to have much to do with each other, and I just didn’t like the style of Hickman’s storytelling. I like him as a writer. There have been issues and moments where greatness has shone through. But on a whole, I still just don’t like his style. Maybe all of this is just over my head, and other people are firmly on board, I don’t know. But I can appreciate the enormous peril he has placed in this adventure, and his skill in writing the individual Avengers. I am legitimately excited to see where this all goes, and I’m confident Hickman can pull it off. This issue was just another piece of the puzzle, moving us forward and teasing everything that comes next.

Batman Inc. #12

Batman Incorporated #12
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham

I skipped over Batman Incorporated #11 because it had absolutely nothing to do with Grant Morrison’s overall story. For some reason, he postponed the big climax of his Leviathan tale for a short, one-issue story about the Batman of Japan. Now, we all know Grant Morrison works in mysterious ways, and maybe that story will mean something in the long run. But I just want to get to the end of Leviathan already. This thing has been dragging on for years now, and that was not the time to go off on some insane tangent. Fortunately, Batman Incorporated #12 is back on track, and it does not disappoint.

Batman launches himself at Talia and the Heretic, amped up on Man-Bat juice and wearing a giant mech suit. He goes straight for Heretic, grabbing him and flying him away to another rooftop, so they can fight in peace. The battle is epic, with the two of them eventually crashing Heretic’s jetpack into the top of a school bus. Nightwing and Knight  show up to lend a hand (after meeting the head of Spyral), and they learn that Heretic has a young Damian’s face. He manages to escape and return to Talia, but she kills him anyway for his failure. Talia then goes to the Batcave for a final confrontation with Batman.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

As the final battle between Batman and Heretic, this issue definitely delivered. The fight was brutal, and Batman truly pushed himself over the line to do battle with the monster. I love the giant suit he wore, I loved him juicing up a swarm of bats with Man-Bat antidote in order to stop Talia’s ninjas. I love the sheer brutality of the battle. I especially loved when Nightwing and Knight joined the fray, but that’s me. The issue was good and exciting, but this storyline has been going on for so long that it just doesn’t have any steam left. When the issue ended with Talia and Batman about to face off, I thought, ‘of course it’s still going’. For this story to still be effective, it should have come out quicker, and the rest of the Batman universe shouldn’t have moved on so quickly. Still, once read all together in tpb format, I bet it’ll be a great read.

Green Lantern #22

Green Lantern #22
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Billy Tan

I’m not about to drop Green Lantern just because Geoff Johns is gone. He may have been the guy to get me reading, but I absolutely love the concept, so I’m going to let Venditti show me what he can do. So far…he’s off to an acceptable start. Nothing too fancy, just a solid understanding of the characters and concepts. He hasn’t rocked the boat so much as kept it on a steady course. I like the idea of Hal Jordan trying to lead the Corps, and I’m interested to see where Venditti takes it. But there is a lot of sloppiness in his first two issues.

In the midst of Larfleeze’s attack on Oa, Hal Jordan has to contend with a handful of new Green Lantern recruits, giving them a crash course in how to use their rings while beset on all sides by orange monsters. Saint Walker and a random, nameless Star Sapphire show up to lend a hand, and it’s a tough fight. But then, all of a sudden, everybody’s rings stop working, including Larfleeze. Everyone stands around puzzled for about a minute before the rings start working again and the battle resumes. Larfleeze kills the Star Sapphire, and Hal comes up with a great idea to trick Larfleeze into leaving by launching all of Oa’s seized spacecraft and telling him there’s treasure on board. Meanwhile, the dead Star Sapphire’s ring finds a lovely prisoner in the Sciencells, one who had seduced a GL warden into letting her out. She accepts the ring, kills the warden, hitches a ride on one of those spacecraft and makes her getaway.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

It’s a solid story. The Green Lanterns fight off Larfleeze, with a few cameos to help out, and a bit of the procedural stuff. Hal Jordan is written well, as was Larfleeze. I kind of prefer how Larfleeze acted in this issue than I did in his actual series. Though Larfleeze doesn’t really do much. He shows up, provides an opening threat, and then leaves with little impact. Venditti probably could have found a less important villain if that’s all he needed. Venditti did fine with Saint Walker and, really, I think he’s got a solid handle on the Green Lanterns as a whole. He’s just a little sloppy in his storytelling, and some of his plotting could use some tightening up. For example, why is there a random Star Sapphire flying around with Saint Walker? She doesn’t get a name, she looks like a human and she doesn’t really do anything. Yes, Venditti needed her ring to go to the new villain, but he couldn’t think of a smoother way to do that?

Speaking of that new villain, I feel some more time could have been spent building her up into a proper character. We only met her last issue, and already she’s breaking out of prison and killing a Green Lantern. And finally, I know Venditti is trying to make a point about the new Lanterns being rookies, but he created some very scrawny, wimpy looking Lantern recruits. They’re supposed to be some of the bravest people in their sectors, yet they come off as utter weaklings, not a hero among them. Ah well. Venditti’s storytelling needs some polish and some tightening, but he’s doing a fine job for now.

Superior Foes #1

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber

I am a huge Shocker fan. Have been for years. I love the idea that he is not some insane, megalomaniacal villain fighting to take over the world. He’s just a crook who made some fancy tools and a costume to try and steal some cash. That puts him up against Spider-Man, but Shocker has no real grudge against Spidey, he’s just an average guy trying to earn his living. So believe me when I say I was absolutely thrilled when I heard about this series. In fact, I’ve wanted to write this comic myself, and I put Shocker on my own Secret Six in a List I wrote years ago. The idea has so much potential. Take a bunch of working-class, street-level villains and tell the story of what they’re like in their everyday lives. It’s the very definition of ‘people first, superheroes second’, which is my driving desire in comic books.

Boomerang is running his own Secret Six, consisting of himself, Beetle, Overdrive, Speed Demon and Shocker, and he’s aware that only makes five. The problem is that Boomerang is currently behind bars after his last run in with Spider-Man, and he needs someone to feed his pet bird. So he asks Shocker and Speed Demon to go to the pet store to pick up the birdseed, and when the two arrive in costume, Speed Demon gets into an argument with the little girl over what to name her new puppy. He gets angry and decides to rob the place, including the girl’s puppy. They carry the seed up to Speed Demon’s apartment, only to find out that mob boss Hammerhead is already inside, and that the seed actually contains stolen diamonds that Boomerang was paying to Hammerhead – but Hammerhead thinks he’s being shorted, so he beats up Shocker, sending him to the hospital.

Boomerang fills in his pals that he’s working a job, and that was Hammerhead’s cut. If they want in on the job, they’ve got to pay Boomerang’s bail, so they get Overdrive and Beetle to rob a comic book shop to spring Boomerang. Only it turns out there is no job and that wasn’t really Hammerhead, it was Chameleon, the shape-shifter. Chameleon is also in lockup with Boomerang (though somehow he snuck out to play Hammerhead), and Boomerang owes him some money…I think. Either way, Boomerang has put together this new Secret Six to work for Chameleon, only his friends don’t know it yet. They bail him out and then go out for drinks.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I loved this comic. It’s everything I hoped it would be…mostly. I mean, it’s not perfect. It’s not the full story I wanted, or the camaraderie between the team members, but we’re getting there. This is only the first issue and there will hopefully be a long way to go, with a lot of time spent with these characters. I’m excited by what I saw in this issue. The characters are fantastic, and Boomerang, especially, is a great protagonist. He’s not evil. He’s not insane. He’s just a guy who wants to live successfully, and crime is his job. Speed Demon and Shocker get the bulk of the scenes with Boomerang, and their jovial friendship with each other is exactly what I want to see from this comic. I’m a little saddened by Shocker being turned into a “coward”, but that’s just a personal thing. Hopefully we’ll see more of Overdrive and the new Beetle as time goes on. Maybe everyone will get their own starring issue.

The art is very good too. Lieber did some fill-in work on Hawkeye, so we know he’s got the chops to draw this realistic, human style of superheroics. The characters look and behave like real people, even when in costume. And it’s funny too, in all the right ways. You can see that picture I posted up at the top of this article. Shocker and Speed Demon have a wonderful back-and-forth about carrying a giant bag of birdseed up the stairs to Boomerang’s apartment, and there’s a great bit about how Shocker expects the guy with super speed to make everything easier. It’s perfect.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man is off to a great start. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

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 July 6, 2013, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Avengers was OK. Some cool action, but still no real personal connection to it all.

    Superior Foes was great. Just a hilarious book. Who would actually steal a puppy?

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