Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/10/13

Brace yourselves, Phil Urich fans, because the proverbial poop has hit the fan. I can’t be the only Phil fan on the Internet, right? Surely some of you must have read the glorious mid-90s Green Goblin series? Right? Please? Either way, I read it, and this is my blog, so strap in for the start of what will no doubt be a bumpy, two-issue ride. Will Dan Slott kill off one of my favorite characters of all time? Or will Phil Urich somehow do something incredibly amazing that reaffirms my love of all things comic books?

We’ll have to wait and see. This week’s Superior Spider-Man is only Part 1.

And I think that Part 1 deserves Comic Book of the Week, even though it’s up against some stiff competition. The second issue of Superior Foes of Spider-Man is just as good, if not better, than the first, and also features a surprise appearance of one of my other all-time favorite comic book characters. Likewise, we get solid stories from All-New X-Men and Green Lantern. I also decided to try out J. Michael Straciznski’s new series Sidekick, from Image. It’s an alright start, and I’m going to try to keep it in rotation to see where it goes. Even if it represents one of the things I hate most about comic books.

But nothing else this week holds a candle to Boomerang’s imaginary fight with his annoying lawyer.

Lawyers, amiright?

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #15, Avengers #17, Green Lantern #23, Sidekick #1, Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2, and Superior Spider-Man #15.

All-New X-Men #15

All-New X-Men #15
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Lafuente

I’m torn when it comes to Battle of the Atom. On the one hand, I don’t want it to come. I like where all the X-Men books are at right now, and I don’t want yet another Big Event to disrupt the status quo. The X-Men haven’t gone a whole year without a disruption for a very long time now. And Bendis is killing it with his X-Men books. But on the other hand, I want to see the characters Bendis has set up do something amazing. All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men are great, but I kind of want something big and momentous to happen. They kind of feel like they’re just spinning their wheels. I want something to come from Cyclops’ new position, and I want something to come from the Young X-Men being in the present day – and that something, I guess, will be Battle of the Atom.

This issue is about the Young X-Men hanging out around the Jean Grey School without any big dangers or conflicts to keep them occupied. Jean Grey has a few awkward run-ins with Rachel Grey, her sort-of daughter. Young Scott and Young Bobby take Logan’s jeep and head into town, where they meet some nice, cute girls who love the fact that they’re mutants. And Bobby loves the attention. The two of them managedto stop a speeding car and get the girls’ phone numbers before Logan shows up to take them home. Elsewhere, Jean and Old Beast work on her telepathy, and Jean reads Hank’s mind that he was once in love with her when they were younger (Really? Was everybody in that damn school in love with Jean Grey? Probably because she was the only woman around). This prompts Jean to confront Young Hank about his feelings, and she tells him that she doesn’t love Scott. Hank and Jean share a passionate kiss!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I really liked this issue because it dealt with the real lives of both the Young X-Men and the rest of the X-Men. They were personable, funny and well drawn. I can’t remember where I’ve seen Lafuente’s art before, but his character work is fantastic. They’re a little more cartoonish than previous artists on this book, but cartoonish actually kind of worked for this issue. It’s just the teens hanging out and dealing with their situation in very grounded ways. Granted, it’s a little too surprising that Beast was in love with Jean. Has that been documented anywhere before? Or did Bendis just decide out of the blue with this issue that Hank always loved Jean when they were young. So that makes Scott, Hank, Warren and Professor X with crushes on Jean back in the early days. Oy vey.

I also like the twist of the Jean/Hank relationship because it’s something new, and it’s obviously going to cause some drama. Especially since Jean seems to be purposefully rejecting any sort of relationship with Scott, so her kissing Hank may have been driven by more than just mutual attraction. That should make for a fun monkey wrench down the line.

But like I said, I’m looking forward to Battle of the Atom shaking things up. The Young X-Men are still pretty much exactly where they were when they first arrived. They’re still adjusting to being in the future and making jokes about all the weird minor differences, like inflation. Something of significance needs to happen to justify why they’re still around, since clearly they’re not very concerned with confronting Old Cyclops anymore.

Avengers #17

Avengers #17
Writers: Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Artists: Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy and Marco Checchetto

I don’t really care about Infinity at all. I know it’s coming, I know it’s going to be about Thanos, and the Avengers are going into space, but I just don’t feel any excitement for the series. Hickman’s writing has been hit or miss for me. Will Infinity have the grand ideas and great character work of New Avengers? Or will it make little sense and be all over the place like Avengers? Time will tell, and I’ll gladly read Infinity, but I can’t say as how I’m all that excited about the series.

With the Avengers defeated, A.I.M. moves in and kidnaps that giant metal golem guy for their own sinister plans. They gather some intel off the Avengers’ bodies before Manifold returns and chases them off. He tells Captain America about the alien planet he saw with Captain Universe, and the decision is made to expand the team to face the upcoming threat. So Cap and the gang recruit Ex Nihilo, Abyss, Starbrand and Nightmask.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue was pretty much just Hickman rushing to get all the final pieces in place before Infinity, and in doing so, he pretty much reveals why he created Ex Nihilo, Starbrand and the others in the first place. I’m guessing he’s had Infinity planned for awhile, and everything he’s written in Avengers so far has been to prepare the team for Infinity. How will Thanos tie into this book’s ongoing plot? I have no idea. But clearly the long introductions for Ex Nihilo, Starbrand and perhaps even Smasher and Captain Universe were all about setting them up to join the Avengers and take on whatever threat comes from Infinity. To that end, there’s not much to this issue. Manifold has a pretty badass scene, which helps to boost his character a little bit more. He’s still pretty much a C-list nobody, but at least he had a cool scene. Then it was just the Avengers asking Ex Nihilo and Starbrand to join the team. Not much more than that.

Green Lantern #23

Green Lantern #23
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Billy Tan

Venditti continues to prove that he (kind of) has the chops to follow Geoff Johns on Green Lantern. But I’m not entirely sold, at least not yet. Venditti shows promise, and he’s got some neat ideas, but he apparently doesn’t want to follow through with them. Or he can’t. He’s set up a few neat ideas, like Hal and Kilowog rebuilding the Lantern Corps, but he doesn’t bother to really do anything with them. He’s either too interested in the new Star Sapphire bad guy he created, or he’s tied up with this Relic story that DC has planned for the entire franchise. Neither of those things interests me nearly as much as Hal’s new administrative duties.

Is it too much to ask to get a comic all about Green Lantern bureaucracy?

Hal is bothered by the inexperience of the new Lantern recruits, especially by the fact that one of them was killed in the middle of battle before anyone could even learn his name. The death hits Hal hard, so he decides to put his frustration towards tracking down escaped prisoner Nol-Anj. He insists on going alone, despite Kilowog telling him he needs back-up and needs to focus on leading the Corps. No more hotshot Top Gun stuff! But Hal goes anyway and faces off against Nol-Anj, who is now a Star Sapphire. The two battle on Nol-Anj’s distant, barren planet, until she uses her power to show Hal that Carol Ferris is off fighting Relic alongside Kyle and the Blue Lanterns. Hal decides to rush off and help, and the issue ends with him going off to join the battle with Relic.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’m rather annoyed with the issue’s ending. Am I the only one who wants Hal to stay on Oa and rebuild the Green Lantern Corps? I want to see him and Kilowog team-up to become the new GL administration. Instead, Hal storms off like some hot-headed asshole who insists only he can do anything. Forget that! I want to read about the rebuilding of the Green Lantern Corps. Why can’t we have that? I want to see Hal dealing with his new leadership position. I want to see him training the new recruits. I want to see Lanterns working together to rebuild Oa. I want to see Kilowog settle into his new advisory position. Instead, Hal is a big fat jerk, and the issue spends more time on Venditti’s pet Star Sapphire villain. Then it ends by cutting to yet another franchise crossover, even though the Relic plot has nothing to do with the Venditti’s Green Lantern series so far. I am not looking forward to Relic at all.

Also, do the Star Sapphires not have any authority over their individual members? Do they not care that an evil, murderous witch has joined their ranks?

Sidekick #1

Sidekick #1
Writer: J. Michael Staczynski
Arist: Tom Mandrake

I’m a big fan of J. Michael Straczynski, and a huge fan of sidekicks. So when I heard about this book, I decided it would be great to add to my weekly reviews. I’m always looking for good opportunities to reach beyond Marvel and DC. But then I read more about the comic, and apparently it’s going to just take a big poop on sidekicks as a whole. And that’s kind of depressing. But I’m not a quitter, so I read it, I thought it was alright and I’ll keep reading to see how it turns out. Straczynski has never let me down before! Well…except for the times he totally abandoned his Thor and Supreme Powers series…

Red Cowl and Flyboy are the heroes of Sol City – until Red Cowl is gruesomely assassinated in the middle of a parade in his honor. Once he’s gone, Flyboy – who has the power to fly – finds out that nobody really liked him in the first place. They pretty much just put up with him because of the Red Cowl. Flyboy’s life keeps getting worse. He stages a jewelry heist to try and get in good with the cops, but they see right through it. He goes to Comic-Con to beg to be another hero’s sidekick. He gets a blowjob from a hooker. He stalks his ex-girlfriend. Life is pretty crummy for the guy, and he vents his anger on an abandoned building – only to be watched from a mysterious woman in the shadows.

Also, in the end, it’s revealed that Red Cowl is alive and living a secret, rich life. According to his lawyer, Red Cowl was broke when he died, and left Flyboy nothing. So joke’s on him!

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Sidekick #1 was fine, I think. Nothing overly impressive, nothing to really catch the reader’s attention. Flyboy is a pretty sad sack, and based on the note Straczynski writes at the end of the issue, he’s only going to get sadder. So I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep reading. I’m not overly interested in seeing Straczynski create a sidekick character just to mock him and make his life hell. Straczynski even said he hated sidekicks growing up. So I guess if you also hate sidekicks, you might enjoy this series more. For me, it was an alright start. He sets up the main character and fleshes out his world a little, even throws in that surprise twist at the end. But Flyboy himself could use more characterization. Why does he try and make it as a solo superhero instead of finding a new job? What’s in it for him? Also, I hope there’s eventually more plot than just making life worse for Flyboy, because that would be a silly premise.

I also didn’t particularly care for Tom Mandrake’s art. The name is familiar, and I’m sure he’s a legend in the business, but his work in this issue was kind of sloppy. It was clear enough, but it looked rushed, sloppy and sometimes indistinguishable. When it was revealed at the end that Red Cowl was alive, I had no clue that was Red Cowl in the picture. Mandrake didn’t really do much to differentiate faces. So subpar art, mediocre story, and based on sidekick-hate, one of the things I hate most about comic fandom – Sidekick isn’t off to a good start, but I’m willing to see what happens next.

Also, sidekicks rule!

Superior Foes #2

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber

We’re back, baby! Superior Foes of Spider-Man has not been cancelled yet, so we get to enjoy some more super-villainy goodness. This is the exact perfect series concept for me, and so far, Nick Spencer is executing it perfectly. I’ve wanted Marvel to do a series like this for years. This is, literally, like a wish come true for me. And so far, I am not disappointed! In fact, issue #2 gets even better!

The Sinister Six spend a lot of quality time together discussing team dynamics, membership and whether or not the bathroom should be unisex. They also knock over a fancy restaurant to make ends meet. Good team-building stuff. Meanwhile, Boomerang has to meet with his shyster lawyer about getting out of his criminal charges, and he has to deal with Chameleon, who wants to use the Six to steal the fabled head of Silvio Silvermane. But Shocker happens to see Boomerang talking with Chameleon, so Shocker knows that Boomerang’s schemes aren’t on the level. Shocker keeps this information to himself for now, while Boomerang convinces everyone to join him in getting Silvermane’s head. But Boomerang’s personal troubles aren’t over. He and his lawyer meet with the parole board, who have brought on a special costumed individual to be Boomerang’s new parole officer: Abner Jenkins, Mach VII!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Gah! Abe Jenkins! He’s in this comic! Awesome! Fanboy squee!

Ahem, excuse me. I’m just very excited by that last page reveal. Abe Jenkins is one of my favorite comic book characters, and to see him show up in this title is delightful! The second issue of Superior Foes of Spider-Man is just as good, if not better, than the first. Spencer has tapped into exactly what I wanted from this series. It’s the life and times of a band of street level costumed hoodlums, and their lives are highly entertaining. They banter, they bicker, they struggle to deal with being costumed criminals. It’s just such a fun premise, and it’s very similar to Hawkeye, which is one of the best comics period.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man is just wonderful. Though it’s not yet perfect. Some of the characters, like Beetle and Overdrive, haven’t gotten much attention. Nothing really emotionally investing has happened to anybody yet. And the art is a little sloppier than the first issue. But otherwise, there’s a lot to love. The humor is sharp, the art is mostly good, and the characters are unique to a book like this. Hopefully we’ll see things in Superior Foes that we can’t see anywhere else. And that’s exactly what a new comic book should provide.

Superior Spider-Man #15

Superior Spider-Man #15
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos

The day I have waited for and feared for more than 15 years has arrived: Phil Urich has been outed as a goblin. This is huge. Some of you may not know, but back in the mid-90s, Phil Urich was created to be a good guy version of the Green Goblin. He was your typical slacker 90s guy, and he put on the Goblin costume and rode the Goblin glider because it was a ton of fun. Phil’s Green Goblin, by Tom DeFalco (who I met once!), was the series that really cemented me into loving comics. And while I was disappointed that Phil eventually turned evil, I kept reading to see what Dan Slott would do with him.

Apparently Slott is going to turn Phil’s secret life upside down! All this time, none of Phil’s friends or loved ones knew that he lived a secret costumed life. Now that the truth is revealed…I don’t know how to feel! I’m excited that Phil is going to get a big story, but I’m scared that Slott might kill him off. At the very least, Phil’s life is changed forever, and now I’ll never get to write that Phil Urich redemption story I’ve always dreamed about.

Following the ‘death’ of the Kingpin, Phil Urich is no longer making the big bucks, so he can’t afford the Tinkerer’s repairs on his equipment or the fee that Roderick Kingsley charges to let him continue being the Hobgoblin. So Phil goes on a crime spree, robbing bank after bank, all out of Spider-Man’s reach. It seems that the Hobgoblin is unintentionally protected from the Spider-Bots because of the Green Goblin’s hacking skills, so Green Goblin decides to shut off the hack and expose Hobby to the Webhead. Spider-Man attacks and Phil barely escapes with his life, and has to ditch his costume in the process. He rushes to the Daily Bugle to try and beg for more money to cover his payments, but Spidey follows him using nano-technology, and then hacks all of the television screens in the city to reveal that the Hobgoblin is Phil Urich!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Oh Phil! I hope you don’t die! I hope Slott has some kind of awesome idea in place to keep using the character. This day was bound to happen eventually. Once Slott turned Phil into the new Hobgoblin, we knew it would all come crashing down eventually. Now his Uncle Ben knows, and that should be huge. Not to mention the impact this will have on the Daily Bugle, which has been publishing all of Phil’s Hobgoblin footage. I have no idea how Phil is going to get through this, but I have to hope Slott has a plan. I have to hope that next issue won’t just be Spider-Man hunting down and killing one of my all-time favorite comic book characters.

But we’ll see. I may not like Phil as a villain, but I have to admit that Slott uses him well. You can really feel his desperation as all of the pressures of his criminal activity close in around him. He needs money, like all of us, and his desperate begging at the Daily Bugle is kind of heart-breaking. Though I’m also a little worried that Phil has become too much of an asshole. His secret life has been exposed, and I feel that he’s probably just going to flip all of his loved ones off and continue to be an angry jackass. But again, we’ll see what Slott does. I’m on the edge of my seat here. I think Phil as the new Hobgoblin was a great new take on the legacy villain, and I would have loved for him to stick around.

But we’ll see. And I am both nervous and excited about that.

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 August 10, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. ANXM was really good. The only real problem was Teen Hank. He was drawn badly. It ruined that entire scene for me. Other than that, it’s a really good story, with a lot of fun. As for Hank and Jean, he was certainly attracted to her. But he basically stepped aside, since it was obvious Scott and Warren were both really into her. In fact, I believe there may have been a ’90s story that dealt with the feelings he’d previously had for her. I could be misremembering, confusing it with something else, but I think there’s a precedent.

    Avengers was OK. I guess. More of the same. Lots of Big Things going on, with the characters being largely beside the point.

    Superior Foes was great. Hilarious and sincere. My favourite gag was Speed Demon returning for his doggie bag.

    Superior Spider-Man was really good. A lot of very interesting things going on.

    • Thanks for that clarification on Beast. I was really curious. Now I’m really kind of annoyed. So four out of the five men in that school were all in love with Jean Grey at the same time. Wow. Seems really…jeez. Anyway, I agree, Beast was drawn kind of weird. He was also really fat in that scene. But such was Lafuente’s art style, I suppose.

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