Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/17/13
This was a big week for comics. Positively huge! And I’m not just talking about my pull list, which was equally as massive. I mean we’ve got the first issue of Infinity, Marvel’s next Big Event comic. We all know that Age of Ultron stank like rotting socks. So might Jonathan Hickman save the day with a big space and Thanos-themed event? Maybe! But what about the Superior Spider-Man side of things? There’s a two-part Superior Team-Up/Scarlet Spider crossover that’s a real treat. That’s big news.
Not only that, but we’ve got the end of the first big storyline in Thor: God of Thunder, as well as the start of a new storyline in Fearless Defenders. Yep, I decided to pick up Fearless Defenders again! And all of these are just the comics I decided to review this week. There were a ton of good issues I had to leave off due to time and space.
There were a lot of good comics this week, though mostly average to good, I’m afraid. I still think I’m suffering from some kind of comic book burnout. Nothing has really captured my attention in a long while. Everything just seems generally good. Oh well. Maybe it’s just something I ate.
Comic Book of the Week goes to Infinity #1. It wasn’t the best comic I read this week, but it pulls off a successful first issue for a Big Event. Of course, that’s what I said about the first part of Trinity War, and we all know how that’s turning out…
Comic Reviews: Astro City #3, Fearless Defenders #8, Infinity #1, Justice League of American #7, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2, Scarlet Spider #20, Thor: God of Thunder #11 and Wolverine and the X-Men #34.
Astro City #3
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
I recently came out and said Astro City was one of my Top 6 favorite comic book series of all time. Andthe first three issues of this relaunched volume continue to prove why. I would recommend this series to anybody. It’s entertaining, it’s personal, and it is just such a fun, unique look into a world of superheroes. Where else but Astro City could you find a two-part story about an ordinary woman who just happens to work as a dispatcher for the world’s greatest superheroes?
Last issue, Marella Cowper got a job working for the Honor Guard’s own personal 911 Center. But she failed to interpret the concerns of a scared little girl in South America, and her inaction led to the Skrullcrushers besieging the town. Many people were killed or injured, and Marella’s guilt drives her to volunteer to help the wounded in South America, while dodging both her family and her new bosses. Marella also searches for the little girl, and finds her being held prisoner by the Skullcrushers. Marella is discovered and taken into the villains’ base, but as soon as her Honor Guard ID card is brought inside, it provides a means for the superheroes to get inside as well and save the day.
In the end, the Honor Guard tell Marella that everybody makes mistakes, and she had no way of knowing that the little girl’s phone call would lead to such destruction. And in going above and beyond to fix her mistake, Marella is exactly the kind of person the Honor Guard want working for them. She gets to keep her job.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was a great wrap-up to Marella’s story. Her fear and guilt are easy to believe, as is her sudden desire to start volunteering to help out in any way she can. Marella is in over her head, and we’ve all been there at some point. She just happens to have access to teleporters. The mystery of why her bosses don’t simply shut off her access when she stops showing up to work is compelling, and the answer is very fitting and reasonable. The Honor Guard don’t just fire their employees, especially not since they can track her teleporter usage and can see that she’s helping – and more. I really liked the ending. It’s very human, and even a little inspiring. Plus the big rescue at the end was just plain cool.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t grade the comic any higher, it’s because I didn’t find anything overly special or gripping about the issue. It’s just a very well-made comic telling a fascinating and fun story, but I didn’t really connect with it any deeper than surface level. Astro City #3 is by no means a bad comic. Far from it. I’m just hoping to see a little more emotional investment is all. I’m picky like that.
Fearless Defenders #8
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Will Sliney
I wanted to give Fearless Defenders another shot at winning my favor. I stopped reading after only a few issues because I just didn’t think the comic was anything special. I applaud the decision to have a female-led comic, but I’m not Mr. Moneybags, I can’t buy every comic under the sun just because it has a good premise. The series was generic and mediocre. But I keep hearing good things, so I got caught up and read Fearless Defenders #8…and I still think the comic is generic and mediocre.
In the previous few issues, Valkyrie went mad and became a Doom Maiden, then killed Annabelle Riggs. Rather than let her stay dead, Valkyrie found Annabelle in Valhalla, and with the help of Clea, brought her back to life – sort of. Now Annabelle and Valkyrie are sharing a body, swapping between the two depending on the situation. It’s a neat use of Annabelle, and hopefully will lead to some drama, considering her crush on Val.
So anyway, Misty Knight and Annabelle have recruited Elsa Bloodstone, monster hunter, to track down some kind of monster in Chinatown. This is a new story, so I don’t think there’s any foundation about this. The group banter among themselves while tracking the evidence into the sewer, where they uncover a secret organization trying to breed a new kind of Brood. The heroes are joined by No-Name the Brood Queen, an obscure character from Planet Hulk who is still, technically, female. The heroes win the day and the villains flee.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
There is nothing special or interesting about Fearless Defenders, I’m sorry to say. It’s well-written and very well-drawn, but there isn’t anything else I feel I can latch onto in order to keep reading. The characters are fine, but none of them are among my personal favorites. The all-female cast is a good move, but not much is done with it. I’ve never cared for the Brood and there’s nothing overly interesting about this issue’s adventure. This is just a generic superhero adventure starring a few C and D-list superheroes who just happen to be ladies. If I was a Misty Knight or Valkyrie fan, I’m sure I’d be loving it. But I’m just not connecting with Fearless Defenders, and considering how broke I am these days, that is not good for the series.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jim Cheung
Welp, this is it! Marvel’s next Big Event comic is upon us, and after the crumminess of Age of Ultron, i’m hoping for something really good. Based on this first issue…I think we might get it! Now, I have not always been Jonathan Hickman’s biggest fan. I’ve only read the start of his Fantastic Four, but I am reading Avengers and New Avengers, both of which have theoretically been building towards Infinity. I’m loving New Avengers. Hickman’s character work on the illuminati is fantastic, and he’s built up a credible danger for the team to face. I’m luke warm on his Avengers. On the one hand, it’s a very solidly made book, and when he focuses on the characters, it can be great. But mostly Hickman seems to focus on these big, insane, ideas of his. Like he’s created a race called the Builders, who are the creators of the universe. And he’s given these Builders an entire hierarchy of classes and history and motivation. He’s put a lot of thought into these Builders – but they’re just so incredibly alien that there’s no connecting with them. They’re just this vaguely sinister thing that Hickman is really obsessed with.
So Infinity is not off to a great start whenever it focuses on the Builders. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to this first issue than the threat of Jonathan Hickman’s wild ideas.
Though the Builders, of course, are a pretty big deal. They’re out there in the universe destroying worlds, including the home of the Spaceknights – though no sign of Rom. Alas. Their work has got the galaxy all up in a panic, and everyone from the Skrulls to the Shi’ar is either fleeing or mounting a defense. The Avengers and SWORD figure out that the Builders are heading right for Earth, and if they arrive, there’s no chance of success. So the Avengers suit up and blast off into space to join the rest of the universe in fighting back. And that’s Hickman’s Avengers. No sign of the Uncanny Avengers.
Meanwhile, in the shadows, Thanos is searching for something, and he sends one of his wraith-like assassins to Earth to try and find it. The creature tracks down a sleeping Black Bolt, digs into his memories and recovers…something. Whatever it is that Thanos wants, Black Bolt has it. But Black Bolt wakes up and the creature barely escapes. It returns to Thanos and shares what it’s learned. Thanos assembles his Black Order of villains and they prepare to invade Earth – because, if you remember, the Avengers are now off-world.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I liked this issue, and I think this story has potential. But overall, it’s off to a slow start. As I explained, Hickman has clearly put a lot of thought into these Builders. He’s completely invested in their story – but I’m not. After all these decades of the Marvel Universe, we’re just expected to accept that these things built the universe? And that they’ve excited behind the scenes all this time and done nothing? I just don’t buy it. I can play along for the sake of the story, but the weight of the Builders just doesn’t hit me as much as Hickman would like. At the very least, I can accept them as a vague alien threat, so they work in that regard. Some big, bad alien menace is threatening to destroy the universe, and the various alien races are banding together to stop it. That works for me, and is compelling enough to keep me reading.
I especially liked the twist that Thanos is going to take advantage of the Avengers leaving Earth to attack. So there are two threats, and Hickman weaves them together nicely. Unfortunately, I once again have to suspend disbelief when it comes to Thanos. I have no idea what he’s been up to lately, but I know he has an extensive history in the Marvel Universe. So it’s a little weird that he’s just, all of a sudden, deciding to attack Earth again. It feel like he’s just doing it for the sake of the story, and for the fact that he’s a big deal in the Marvel Movieverse right now. The use of Thanos in Infinity feels like it owes a lot to his cameo at the end of The Avengers movie.
Speaking of The Avengers movie, remember how Thanos had a majordomo in that film? That one alien guy who was always talking to Loki? Well apparently he’s made the transition to the comics, and he does almost all of the talking for Thanos. There is one long segment this issue where the guy goes to some random alien planet and taunts the alien king. The scene doesn’t seem to serve any purpose, and is just page after page of aliens we’ve never met before and don’t care about. That was pretty bogus. As was the reveal of the Black Order. They’re just another collection of random alien bad guys. They’re no more threatening than any previous team of villains, but they’re Thanos’ Black Order, so I guess we’re supposed to be scared.
There are two major factors towards liking or disliking this comic. On the one hand, Hickman has filled infinity #1 with a lot of alien gobbledegook about the Builders, alien planets and Thanos’ majordomo, and none of that means anything to me. It’s all just vague evil stuff. Ho hum. On the other hand, he does a great job with the Avengers themselves. Their personalities shine through, in the few scenes they have, and I’m genuinely excited to see this team take on this threat. So it’s a balancing act that, so far, is working. I care about the Avengers, but I don’t care about Hickman’s alien menaces. I hope he can keep the balance positive.
And the art is amazing. Jim Cheung is one of the greats these days, and the issue looks every bit as fantastic as it should. We’re going to be spoiled for art on Infinity, I can tell.
Justice League of America #7
Writers: Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire
Artist: Doug Mahnke
But whereas I’m liking the start of Infinity, I’ve stopped liking where Trinity War is going. I read a critique of the story last weekend that plainly laid out the #1 problem with this story: these characters just don’t matter. Trinity War is a big event that plays almost completely on the relationships between all of the superheroes, but none of these superheroes have been around long enough for those relationships to matter. Yes, technically, they’ve been around for decades, but these New 52 incarnations aren’t even two-years-old yet. And some of their relationships to one another are barely two months old. There’s a scene in this week’s issue where the Atom reveals that she was the mole on the Justice League…but she’s only been on the team for maybe 3 issues now. And in context, she’s only been on the Justice League for maybe a week. So why should we or anybody care that she’s a traitor?
The whole series feels like that. Atom reveals that the JLA was created to replace the Justice League, but it’s only issue #7 of JLA, and almost half of those issues were part of this crossover. So why should that reveal be surprising or troubling to anybody? Heck, it isn’t, based on their reactions to the news in this issue.
Trinity War only works if you’re willing to suspend disbelief enough to think all of this matters to these characters. The writers are clearly convinced that it matters, but I just don’t see how the readers could be so convinced.
Anyway, so the various superhero teams are split up into even smaller, mixed squadrons, each one doing their own thing – and some of it happening in separate tie-in issues. For example, Batman’s squad’s attempt to commune with the spirit of Doctor Light took place entirely in an issue of Phantom Stranger, and for those of us not reading the tie-ins, we’re simply told in this issue that the attempt failed, and now the Phantom Stranger is dead. Alright. Meanwhile, Superman’s squad confronts Doctor Psycho, and Martian Manhunter reads his mind to learn that Psycho did not control Superman, but was set up by the Secret Society to make it look like he did. This is also the first time Superman has heard of the Secret Society, which seems like it should be a bigger deal.
It’s here that Atom comes clean with her being a traitor, and the true purpose of the JLA. Element Woman is sad that Atom betrayed them, but they’ve only known each other for a few days, so the emotional sadness is very, very, very weak. DC simply has no patience anymore. They didn’t waste any time in revealing that Atom was a traitor, and now they haven’t wasted any time in having her come clean. Any potential drama in her betrayal is lost before it even begins. That’s a big shame, because I’ve liked both Element Woman and Atom, and I would have liked to see the two of them bond. But clearly DC has other things on their mind.
Once they know the true purpose of the JLA, Superman’s squad goes to confront Amanda Waller, and arrive just in time for the Secret Society to blow up Doctor Light’s corpse.
Then to finish the issue, Pandora finds Lex Luthor for some reason, and she seems to think that handing him the Box will solve everything? Maybe? I’m not sure. So then Wonder Woman and her squad show up and Wonder Woman grabs the Box, which possesses her. Why do we care about Pandora’s Box again? What does it have to do with anything?
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
Trinity War is all over the place right now, and it’s hard to care about any of it. There are simply too many superheroes running around in the various squads, and it just doesn’t matter who they are or what they’re doing. Who cares that the Martian Manhunter is working alongside Superman? The two barely know each other in the New 52. Who cares that Wonder Woman has Hawkman on her squad? It’s not like he does anything or has any connection to her whatsoever. And that’s pretty much Trinity War in a nutshell. It’s a bunch of recognizable characters running around after various macguffins, and who no longer have anything to do with one another thanks to the reboot. They all may as well be strangers to one another, and the makeup of the squads doesn’t matter at all to the characters, the story or the universe as a whole.
Trinity War is just too big too soon. Rather than letting any of their stories play out with any sort of narrative skill – like the true purpose of the JLA, or Atom’s betrayal – DC is just forcing it all down our throats. Geoff Johns and his fellow writers are clearly invested in these characters, but they’ve given the readers very little to cling to over the past two years. I was enjoying this story in the beginning, since it was a little better controlled. But now it’s just a mess of superheroes rushing to and fro, with tie-in issues tackling some of the important subplots that might have actually been entertaining.
I guess it makes a little sense that this is all going to end with some kind of superhero implosion that leaves all the villains running the world in Forever Evil.
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2
Writer: Christopher Yost
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Being the fan of the Scarlet Spider that I am, I’ve decided to pick up another issue of Superior Spider-Man Team-Up to read both parts of the crossover with Kaine. It’s the first time Kaine has encountered Spider-Man since Spider-Island two summers ago, and, of course, a lot has changed for the webhead. Whether it’s change for the better remains to be seen, but I am loving Superior Spider-Man these days, so I’m all for this crossover. And it does not disappoint.
After his recent trip to New York to kill Wolverine, Kaine decides to pay a visit to Peter Parker, since they haven’t seen each other in awhile. But as we all know, Peter Parker is long gone, and Otto Octavius is Spider-Man these days. And it just so happens that back in the 90s, Kaine killed Doc Ock. It was a big thing, and Ock holds a grudge. He quickly attacks Kaine and the two duke it out across the city – until they are ambushed by the Jackal’s mutant spider creatures. Everyone battles everyone else until the Jackal and his posse show up and subdue our heroes.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I really like Yost’s take on Otto Octavius. And I know some of you in the comments will remind me that you’ve been recommending this series since the very beginning. There’s a freedom in this comic that I don’t think Dan Slott has in the regular Superior Spider-Man title. Slott is bound by everything he has going on. He’s got a roadmap in place for this Superior story, and he has to stick with it. But Yost has the freedom to really explore Otto’s Spider-Man, and I really liked that freedom in this issue. The clash between Otto and Kaine is very well done, even if Kaine remains oblivious to what’s happened, and their heroic and villainous turns are very well-handled. The Jackal isn’t very compelling as a villain, but he and his plans are just a means to an end, and I can live with that.
Scarlet Spider #20
Writer: Christopher Yost and Erik Burnham
Artists: In-Hyuk Lee and Paco Medina
So I kind of owe everybody an apology. I never got around to writing a review of Scarlet Spider #19, which is usually one of my big reviews. It was the end of the Wolverine story, wrapping up their fight against the Assassin’s Guild, but it was just so mediocre and forgettable, and I think that was the week I went to Boston. Or near enough. The issue was fine and entertaining. I just didn’t get around to the full review because of a lack of time and energy. So please accept my deepest apology. I still love the series, and I still plan to follow it.
I decided to review #20 as part of my Hench-Sized reviews because this is actually the second part of a crossover with Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, which I reviewed only a few inches ago. So rather than make things more confusing with my posted reviews, I just did them both here in the weekly write-up to keep the story flowing.
Captured by the Jackal, Kaine and Spider-Man are prisoners in his lab, where the Jackal tells them that he’s taken a few blood samples from Peter in order to make a new batch of clones. He taunts the two of them for awhile before Kaine angrily busts out of his shackles and takes on the Jackal’s mutant spider monster army. Kaine busts Spidey free and they sort of team up to defeat the monsters, destroy the Jackal’s samples and burn down his lab. Though Otto is none too happy about working with Kaine, and he’s not shy about calling Kaine a monster and an abomination. The two escape while the Jackal’s lab burns.
Back in Houston, Otto’s words still sting, especially since Kaine thinks they came from Peter Parker. He’s even more depressed than ever. Then Kaine looks in a mirror and sees that the cellular degeneration scars, which he thought had been cured, are back. He’s dying all over again. Oh, and also, Jackal survived the destruction of his lab (of course he did), and he’s able to recover some of Kaine’s DNA samples from the debris. Jackal decides to use it to make Spidercide 2.0.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The art in this issue was a huge departure from the first part of the story, and I don’t know why. Medina shows up at the end to draw the epilogue, and his art would have been a fine continuation of what Checchetto had to offer in the first part. I’m not sure why they didn’t go with it, but it was jarring, at least for the moment. I think this was a successful wrap-up to the two-part story. Kaine gets a lot of great moments to shine, and the battle with the Jackal is used as a backdrop to build the two main characters, which is the best way to do a crossover. Kaine has got a whole host of new internal drama to deal with, while Otto can go on hating the man who killed him. I’m excited to see what happens to Kaine in future issues. The poor guy just can’t catch a break.
The Jackal’s survival in the end was a little annoying. He walked away unscathed from Spider-Island a few years ago. What’s up with him just walking away without a scratch on him? Someone needs to be a little more final when it comes to dealing with the Jackal. His smugness at surviving anything is getting on my nerves.
Thor: God of Thunder #11
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
The finale to Gorr the Godbutcher is upon us, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little luke warm on this series at this point. I think maybe the story has dragged on for a little too long. A lot has happened over the past year, and reading month-by-month, with so many other comics coming out, has dulled the big, bombastic finale just a little bit. But this is my problem, not yours. And objectively, I think Jason Aaron delivers a truly fantastic and fitting finale.
The Godbomb has gone off, and the waves of its destruction course through the very fabric of time and space, killing every god that ever lived or would live – or at least it would, if Thor wasn’t there to stop it. Grabbing a Mjolnir in each hand, Thor slams them together and starts drawing the power of the Godbomb into himself. All of the Gods that ever lived sense this, and they all start praying to Thor to do the impossible. When the dust settles, the gods are alive, and Thor has absorbed the essence of the Godbomb – which is named All-Black the Necrosword. He uses the power to put the pathetic, defeated Gorr out of his misery. Then everybody returns home to their own times, with Old Thor turning Future Asgard into a city of refugee gods who survived Gorr’s mines.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Despite my waning interest, this is still a very good issue, and a great finale. Thor slams two Mjolnirs together and goes total badass all over Gorr’s butt! The villain is reduced to a pathetic loser when his grand scheme fails, and he’s quickly dispatched. Though part of me felt bad for him. Gods in this series haven’t exactly been portrayed as all that great. But then the gods have always had a weird sort of definition in Jason Aaron’s book. Still, Gorr was an effective villain, for the most part, and his defeat was resoundingly exciting. I also liked how Aaron ended things with Old Thor and his crumbling kingdom of Asgard. The banter between the three Thors was as good as it’s always been. Aaron is a fantastic fit for Thor, and I hope his next big storyline is just as good as this one.
Wolverine and the X-Men #34
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw
Could this be the end of the Hellfire Brats? I sure hope so. We’re only one issue away from the big finale of the Hellfire Academy story, and I hope it means we never have to hear from Kade Kilgore again. At least Jason Aaron is letting them go out in big, bombastic style! The gloves are off for this issue, my friends, with pretty much everything thrown into the fray!
The X-Men assault the Hellfire Academy in a massive, monstrous war! This thing is huge! The Hellfire Brats have their own army of volcanic Krakoas, while the X-Men have a giant Iceman-created Voltron to cleave his way through their rocky hides. The scope of the battle is insane. Meanwhile, inside the school, most of the teachers have fled while Quentin and Idie take on the new Hellions. Toad is busy struggling with Husk, while Quentin and Idie contend with Snot, Glob Herman and the others. The fighting inside is almost as intense as the fighting outside. Most of the focus this issue is on the Hellfire Brats. Kade is a mess, and is unwilling to admit defeat, while his fellow Brats have already grown bored with both him and the whole endeavor. But Kade insists that everyone is right where he wants them. He’s confident that he’s won! Except that everybody else has their guns pointed at his back.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
That escalated quickly. Last issue was a personal battle between only a handful of people in a hallway, and then only a few pages into this issue, we’ve got a gigantic monster battle on the front lawn! At least it was incredibly badass to see Iceman create a giant Voltron-esque frozen robot. That was just awesome, and must be seen to be believed.
I liked the big, gigantic battle, even if it was against a bunch of generic evil monsters. The Hellfire Brats remain as horrible as ever, even when Kilgore becomes a whiny fool who can’t accept that he’s lost, and the others turn against him. There is no redemption for any of them. The new Hellions, however, could be cool, if Jason Aaron ever uses them for something more than just cannon fodder. The girl who can control bugs, Infestation, would be great if she could be rehabbed and brought over to the Jean Grey School. Or maybe these are all just one-off characters who will never be seen again. Aaron hasn’t been all that great at creating new mutants, after all.
On a personal note, I just want to see what becomes of Toad! Man oh man! His situation doesn’t change at all through the entire issue. He remains only seconds from death at the hands of Husk. Several characters even reference him directly, and point him out, but nobody raises a finger to help him. I hope he lives!
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!
Posted on August 17, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged Astro City, Fearless Defenders, Infinity, Justice League of America, Kaine, Scarlet Spider, Superior Spider-Man, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, Thor, Thor: God of Thunder, Trinity War, Wolverine and the X-Men. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.