Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/27/13

We check back in with a few different comics this week that I’ve skipped over in the past, namely Uncanny Avengers and Wolverine and the X-Men. The latter impressed me, if only for its superb use of Toad, while the former was kind of disappointing. The Marvel Universe is an odd place these days, and I just don’t think Uncanny Avengers really has a place in it. Maybe a few years ago it would have been something special, but these days, it’s lost in the shuffle.

Fortunately, Marvel is also publishing the excellent Superior Spider-Man comic, and I’ve finally given in to fan demand and read Avenging Spider-Man, now renamed Superior Spider-Man Team-Up. I liked it a lot, but this week it pals in comparison to the outright awesomeness of the Comic Book of the Week, Superior Spider-Man #14! Otto Octavius finally embraces his new Spider-Man persona, and it is glorious to behold!

How have we gone this long without Spider-Man henchmen?

Comic Reviews: Justice League Dark #22, Larfleeze #2, Superior Spider-Man #14, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1, Uncanny Avengers #10 and Wolverine and the X-Men #33.

Justice League Dark #22

Justice League Dark #22
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mikel Janin

Trinity War would have been great if it had taken place in the pre-reboot continuity. It has a legitimately interesting premise: Superman has killed someone, but clearly he’s not in control of himself. There are several leads, but the various superheroes are split over who may be the culprit, so they bicker, split up and go their separate ways to track down who they think is to blame. And on one hand, Trinity War is fine in the DCnU. But on the other hand, all of these characters and their relationships to one another are too new for any of it to really matter. A lot of the characters in this story are meeting each other for the very first time in this continuity. Or they’ve only known each other for a couple of days, weeks, months, or what have you. So when they split up over ideology and go their separate ways, who really cares?

There is no reason in this continuity for Zatanna to be loyal to Batman, so it’s no big deal that she sides against him. Wonder Woman and Superman have been dating for maybe a few months, and it’s barely gotten any page time, yet she fights for him with unrelenting fury. The JLA have only been together, in continuity, for a matter of days, maybe weeks, so who really cares if they splinter and break apart? And what reason does Firestorm have to do anything?

That’s the problem with the New 52 in a nutshell: DC wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They rebooted their universe and restarted all of their characters (to an extent), but they didn’t want to put in the time to build them back up again. They wanted to be able to rely on the characters’ reputations and previous relationships to still tell stories, even though a lot of these characters and their relationships to one another are fundamentally different. So while I’m liking Trinity War so far, there’s a definite disconnect between what DC wants to be able to do and what they can actually get away with. These rebooted characters are still too new, too untested and too unfamiliar with one another for any of the bickering, splintering or shifts in allegiance to matter.

The three Justice Leagues are splintering over how best to figure out what happened to Superman. There’s some punching, but mostly yelling, and lots of loyalties are tested and broken. Wonder Woman wants to go after Pandora, and several heroes follow her. Batman and the Phantom Stranger are leading another faction, and they want to speak to the dead Dr. Light to figure out the proper course to follow. Constantine and Shazam go off on their own. And Superman, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter and a few others tell Amanda Waller to go stuff it, and they head out to find Dr. Psycho, who they think is responsible for mind-controlling Superman. Elsewhere, the leader of the Secret Society reveals that he has Madame Xanadu held captive, and he has a mole in one of the Justice Leagues.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

To hell with Amanda Waller! I hate her so much these days, and this issue just proves how utterly stupid and pathetic she is. So she put together her own Justice League? Big flippin’ deal! They all turn their backs on her almost immediately. And good. I’m glad. She’s so utterly worthless. Why would anybody follow her or give her any authority whatsoever? I hope this is the beginning of her end in the New 52. She should have stayed fat.

Ahem, OK, now that the rant is over, do you at least see what I mean? The JLA has been together for all of 6 issues, I think, and none of those 6 issues were spent building up the teamwork or camaraderie of the group, so why would any of them listen to Waller when the chips came down? But at the same time, why would anybody do anything for any real deeply held motivation? The DCnU just doesn’t have enough history for the stakes to be raised this high, and that robs something important from the story. Right now, it’s just familiar looking characters bouncing around in service of the plot. No one is particularly more interesting than the others, and no one is all that bad. Everyone is just kind of there, doing whatever the story requires them to do. And while entertaining, it lacks any sort of heart.

Larfleeze #2

Larfleeze #2
Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Scott Kolins

Several pages into Larfleeze #2, Giffen and DeMatteis hit the nail on the head for why I don’t like this comic. The new villain, Laord of the Hunt, tells Larfleeze, “You are a single-minded creature, aren’t you. And extremely tiresome.” Maybe that’s why the two writers take Larfleeze out of the comic entirely, in only its second issue.  Seriously, this issue is all about the butler, Stargrave, and the various conversations he has with himself and the Laord’s underlings. Larfleeze is barely in the issue, and he doesn’t really have much to do anyway.

This is just bad. The attempts at humor are bad. There’s no wit, no cleverness. It’s all flat. I can see where Giffen and DeMatteis are trying to be funny, but they’re just throwing out weirdness masquerading as humor. It doesn’t work. And clearly, by their own admission with this issue, Larfleeze himself doesn’t work either.

At the end of the last issue, the Laord of the Hunt, this giant, cosmic energy-being, passed from a different universe into ours, and Larfleeze immediately attacked him in order to steal his stuff. The two fight in the background while Stargrave gets into a pleasant conversation with the Laord’s hound, who is actually quite eloquent, and one of his lackeys. And that’s pretty much the entire issue. Stargrave chats with them, then he promises to serve the Laord once the big guy defeats Larfleeze, then he chats with the hound and lackey some more. Then he talks to himself, and somehow, inexplicably, comes to the conclusion that he actually likes Larfleeze and should break him out of the Laord’s cell. He’s interrupted, however, by the Wanderer, one of the Laord’s siblings, who might be working against him. I think.

Comic Rating: 3/5 – Bad.

Oh man, if you love the sniveling, stiff-upper-lip attitude of Pulsar Stargrave, you’re going to love this comic! Because he’s the star. Forget Larfleeze. That guy is “single-minded” and “extremely tiresome”, and the Laord isn’t wrong.  Especially the way Giffen and DeMatteis are writing him. Larfleeze is just a mindless brute who has zero depth or anything interesting about him. He’s just a cartoon who glows orange and demands that everything belongs to him. That’s it. That’s all Larfleeze is. So in order to make an entire series about him, Giffen and DeMatteis have instead decided to create a bunch of random supporting characters and let them carry the issue. This entire issue is just Stargrave and his new pals standing around talking about their lots in life.

I can see how Giffen and DeMatteis might think that’s funny. The idea of all the henchmen and lackeys just chillaxing and talking among themselves while their masters have the traditional superhero fight is kind of funny. But nothing really comes of their chats. Stargrave is hardly an interesting character, so he can’t carry a story. His sudden desire to free Larfleeze comes out of nowhere, considering he’s always whining about being stuck as Larfleeze’s butler. The eloquent hound is mildly entertaining, but that’s about it. If this was a workplace comedy series about henchmen, Giffen and DeMatteis might have something. But it’s not. It’s a silly, stupid book that’s trying desperately to bank on a character’s popularity, even though the writers clearly don’t know what to do with him.

Superior Spider-Man #14

Superior Spider-Man #14
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos

Bring on the Spiderlings! This may be the best issue of Superior Spider-Man yet! Finally, Otto Octavius has cast off the aura of the previous Spider-Man, and he’s finally embraced his role as the ‘superior’ Spider-Man! And it’s great! This is Otto putting all of his skill, intelligence and style into being the best Spider-Man possible. This is what a super-villain does when he tries to be a hero, relying on all his villain know-how. This is Spider-Man with giant doomsday weapons, with henchmen, with a take-no-prisoners attitude, and I love it!

Spider-Man declares war on the Kingpin and Shadowland! And I do mean war. Otto has built a fleet of giant spider-robots, saving the biggest one for himself, and he’s hired an army of spider-henchmen, and they just storm Kingpin’s lair in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. Kingpin has the Hand backing him up, but Otto doesn’t care. He sends his men in to kill, and they succeed in wiping Shadowland off the map! Kingpin and Hobgoblin make their escape, though they break off ties in the process. And Shadowland has finally fallen, thanks to Spider-Man!  The people in the neighborhood are grateful and thank Spidey for what he’s done. However, unbeknownst to all of them, the Green Goblin continues to build up his secret army in the sewers, and he quickly gobbles up Kingpin’s crumbling empire too.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was just a ton of fun, and I love that Slott has completely embraced his Otto Octavius idea. Last issue ended with Spider-Man setting up his new initiative, and Slott wisely chose to skip over all of that set up and instead jump feet first into the new Spider-Man regime. New costume! New henchmen! New giant spider robots! It’s great! I love seeing a no-holds-barred Spider-Man, and I love seeing him interact with both J. Jonah Jameson and the grateful crowd. This is Otto finally free of Peter Parker, and it’s better than I ever expected for this series. Throw in the continued adventures of Phil Urich, and you’ve got one heck of a happy Spider-Man fan here. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for Superior Spider-Man!

Though if Slott kills Phil, I’m going to be a very sad panda.

Spider-Man Team-Up #1

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Paolo Rivera

I’ve been promising to read this comic for some time now, because I know a lot of you are fans. Well I decided that this relaunch would be the perfect opportunity to pick up this title, and it happily coincides with one of my favorite issues of Superior Spider-Man, so hooray for that. I’m also a big fan of the new costume that Otto has designed for himself, and it’s drawn wonderfully by Rivera, so all of that is a big plus. And what did I think of Superior Spider-Man Team-Up?

Spider-Man has started randomly attacking fellow superheroes, including Daredevil, Gravity and Cloak and Dagger. So Captain America rallies the Avengers to confront him and put a stop to it. Unfortunately, what Spider-Man was actually doing was chasing his old villain Carrion, who was jumping bodies from superhero to superhero. And when the Avengers show up, Carrion jumps into Hyperion! So the Avengers hold off Hyperion while Spider-Man finishes the special anti-Carrion weapon he was building, and he saves the day. Spidey then scoffs at the Avengers for getting in his way before swinging off.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I thought it was good. A little lightweight, perhaps, but nonetheless an entertaining little piece of comic bookery. I like the idea behind this title. Superior Spider-Man is a pretty fantastic comic, and it’s got this great status quo, but Dan Slott and Marvel can only produce so many issues, and deal with so many things. So why not just add another title where Otto Spidey can do other things? It’s more Superior Spider-Man for our buck! I liked this comic. I liked the idea of the Avengers investigating Spider-Man’s odd new behavior, and it was a neat enough twist that Spidey had a real reason for roughing up those superheroes. Carrion is hardly the most interesting villain, neither is his boss, the Jackal. But this was a well-written, well-drawn comic that fleshes out the rest of Otto Spidey’s world. I’m down for that.

Uncanny Avengers #10

Uncanny Avengers #10
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Daniel Acuna

Marvel has an odd continuity problem. In the name of selling as many books as possible, most of their popular characters are appearing in multiple comics at once. That always used to be the case with Wolverine, but now everybody is doing it. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, Rogue, they’re all everywhere, and few of the comics have anything to do with one another. The Uncanny Avengers are very different from the Avengers who are very different from the New Avengers, even though they’re all dealing with a different end-of-the-world scenario, and even when some of the characters overlap.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with this. Marvel is putting out a ton of great comics these days, and I don’t mind if they don’t all line up exactly. But apparently Marvel minds. Or at least Rick Remender does. Because there is a really awkward attempt this issue to insert the plot of Captain America solo series into Remender’s Apocalypse Twins storyline. It doesn’t work at all. Remender just shouldn’t have bothered.

Beyond that, I think he’s lost me with this whole storyline. I’ve been reading all along, but this story has just gotten too big. It’s the end of the world, and everybody’s bragging how it’s a bigger problem than any of them have faced before, but it’s an awful mess of new Apocalypse-based characters, Celestials, Kang and who knows what else. It’s not working for me. Maybe it is for some people, and more power to them. But I’m lost, and I’ve definitely stopped caring.

The return of Daken and the Sentry doesn’t improve anything. I know they’re dead, and therefore fit their purpose, but does Remender not understand that they are two of the most hated characters of all time?

Following the end of the last issue, the Unity Squad has broken up. At only 10 issues in, this was a dumb idea, but whatever. It’s his story. Wolverine, Rogue, Thor and Sunspot track down Ozymandias, Apocalypse’s old crony, and grill him for information. Havok and Scarlet Witch check out an Akkaba temple in Guatemala. Havok says that the Unity Squad has to succeed, because mutants, as a species, have nowhere else to go. Which, again, is not true. Apparently Havok isn’t reading the dozen or so X-Men books out there, because it’s pretty clear that mutants are getting along just fine these days. I don’t think any of the X-Men teams really give much thought to the Unity Squad. But again, whatever. Havok and Wanda bond before they’re attacked by Undead Banshee, who kidnaps the Scarlet Witch.

Back at Avengers Mansion, the pacifist Wonder Man (so why even have him on the team?) is ambushed by Undead Grim Reaper. On at least two occasions this issue, Wonder Man’s pacifism is questioned by his teammates, who could use his hand. I’m all for Wonder Man finding pacifism, but why then join an Avengers squad if all he’s going to be doing is repeatedly telling his teammates that he’s not going to help them in a fight?

In the Himalayas, Captain America and Wasp bond while investigating another Akkaba temple. It’s been a long time since they’ve worked together, especially because Janet was trapped in the microverse and feared dead for several months. And it’s here that Remender loses me. You see, in the Captain America solo series, Cap was transported by Arnim Zola to another dimension, where he spent 10 or so years raising a baby in some evil wasteland. He eventually returned to Earth, with no time having passed at all in the real world. I was perfectly fine ignoring that series, and it didn’t need to impact any of the Avengers books. But Remender can’t leave well enough lone. He has Cap mention that, at some point in the middle of this big Uncanny Avengers storyline, Cap went away and spent 10 years in Arnim Zola Land. That’s why he lost his temper with Wolverine in the last issue.

I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t work. It’s nice that Remender wants to acknowledge the other Captain America stories, but it just doesn’t work in this comic. The idea that Cap just spent 10 years (to him) off doing something else entirely adds nothing to the current story, but it takes away so much. There was no indication that Cap spent 10 years in a hell dimension in the middle of last issue. We’re being told about it after the fact, like an aside. But clearly, that kind of thing would affect Cap greatly. He’s no longer the same Cap that started this story all because Remender wanted to drop this tidbit in for no good reason. It’s just an awkward diversion that shouldn’t have been done. Just tell the Uncanny Avengers story and don’t worry about linking up to the other comics. This one story is complicated enough.

So anyway, to wrap this up, Wolverine’s team is in Socora, and they find a secret door that leads to some kind of shrunken universe. Thor gets attacked by Undead Sentry, who flies him off to some strange alien planet that has nothing to do with anything. And then Wolverine gets eaten by a sandworm – yep – who deposits him in some throne room, where he meets Undead Daken.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I’m sure my rambling was enough already, but I’ll try and summarize it. I want to like Uncanny Avengers, but as I’ve said many times before, there are so many other and better Avengers and X-Men books on the stands. I even like Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers more than Uncanny Avengers. Rick Remender has lost control of his story. Apocalypse Twins, Akkaba temples, shrunken universes, magic axes, I just don’t know what’s happening or why it’s happening or where it’s going That may be more on me than anything else, but this is my review. Uncanny Avengers is losing itself to both its own overbloated storyline and to the other, better comics in the market. There is nothing to distinguish this title apart from anything else. It’s a big mess of random characters following Rick Remender’s bread trail, and I don’t really care where it’s leading anymore.

Wolverine and the X-Men #33

Wolverine and the X-Men #33
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw

I may be biased because of my love of Toad, but I really liked this issue. You all know I hate the Hellfire Kids, and I believe this Hellfire Academy is kind of ridiculous, but if we consider all of those previous stories as set-up, then I’m going to love the X-Men (and Toad!) tearing this place down. For all his faults, Jason Aaron has written a great Quentin Quire, in my opinion, and all of his work really comes to a head with this issue. This is a fun comic.

The battle of the Hellfire Academy has begun! Toad and Kid Omega are breaking out, and must fight their way through the new Hellions, Sauron and Husk. Kade Kilgore is very much aware of their escape attempt, and he brings Idie, his most promising student into his office to watch the two heroes be killed. He asks Idie to be his Black Queen, and even gives her one of those skimpy costumes. But Kade lets slip that he’s the one who shot Broo, which is exactly what Idie wanted to hear. She immediately turns on Kade and attacks! Idie is just about to kill him, but she overhears Toad’s pleas to Husk that he still loves her, and that convinces Idie to spare Kade’s life and go join Toad and Quentin in their escape. Meanwhile, the X-Men use Krakoa to find the Hellfire Academy’s secret location, so the cavalry is on the way!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

So yeah, Aaron spent all that time setting up the Hellfire Kids and the Hellfire Academy, and now he’s ready to tear it all down. I like the sound of that. He’s got the X-Men en route riding a giant, walking Krakoa, and that just looked cool. But they’re secondary to the real stories taking place at the school. Seeing Toad kicking ass was a dream come true for this series. I hope Aaron doesn’t kill him. Quentin and Idie had equally fun moments, though I still hate Idie with a passion. And what’s the deal with outright stating she’s only a 14-year-old girl, and then dressing her up in the traditionally skanky Black Queen outfit? Not cool, dudes. Still, the awesome Toad action more than makes up for that scene, as well as the general crumminess of everything Hellfire.

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 27, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Superior Spider-Man was great. I love how terrible Otto is at being a hero.

    Superior Spider-Man Team-Up was pretty good. A fun story.

    UA was meh. I look at Remender as the best writer of 1996. Unfortunately, this is 2013. He’s such a ’90s writer, and it bores me. Too dark-n-gritty. Remender is simply a middling writer who gets far more praise than he deserves because he got lucky with one storyline.

    WatXM was awful. Just a complete load of crap. This is an awful series, and I do not understand how people are enjoying it.

    • Pure Toad love, I assure you.

      • Toad kicking ass was nice, I guess. On the other hand, he was kicking the ass of a still-wildly-out-of-character Sauron. He probably shouldn’t have done so well against Sauron. And the fact that Sauron is nothing like Sauron has ever been written in the entire history of the character brings the scene down for me, as well.

      • Wolverine and the X-Men is a series where you’ve got to let go of expectations. Continuity may be fudged, B and C-list characters may be changed. It’s just a fun exploration of the weirdness and awesomeness of the X-Men universe.

  2. Quick who had which powers when Superior Spider-Man fought Cloak and Dagger?! Also I love that twice you are worried that they’re going to kill your favorite characters. I think comics have been preparing me for Game of Thrones all my life.

  3. So, Otto/Spider-man has not only a Green Goblin w/cronies lurking behind the scenes, but he also has Jackal and his cronies to contend with too. Those are two of Parker’s biggest villains from his rogue’s gallery, either one could even have been considered an arch-nemesis in times past. Looks like Otto has his work cut out for him. Good thing he has an army and giant robots now. Only complaint i have so far is that i thought it was a little over the top for Jameson to just hand over The Raft to Spidey for a base. With property values, not to mention high tech stuff in that place, it has to come with a hefty price tag. Plus it’s friggin HUGE, Spidey doesn’t need something so big. Not even for a small army of 60-70 henchmen.

    • You’ve probably got a point there, and that’s probably why Slott glossed over the actual politics of Jameson giving Spider-Man the Raft. Jameson said he was going to shut it down anyway, so maybe…that made it easier? I dunno. If handing over the Raft produces stories this good, I’m more than willing to overlook a few absurdities.

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