Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/31/13
Such a good week! My pull list was absolutely overflowing this week, but I find I don’t mind at all when the comics are this good. This is the sort of week that reminds me why I love comics so much, when the stories are just so good, so entertaining and so fulfilling. Not to say there aren’t a few stinkers in the bunch, but even those stinkers had a few good bits – I even liked this week’s issue of Larfleeze, for once.
The real standouts this week are Aquaman, Thor: God of Thunder, FF and Uncanny X-Men, which are some of my usual favorites. Brian Michael Bendis has yet to let me down writing Cyclops, and Jason Aaron is a master of Asgard. The news that Matt Fraction is leaving FF makes this week’s issue bittersweet, but at least Geoff Johns is sticking with Aquaman for the foreseeable future. Winner of Comic Book of the Week is Thor: God of Thunder for an absolutely stunning Day in the LIfe type of story.
At the same time, this week’s Journey Into Mystery was almost as good, and it’s the final issue of the series. Sad thing there, because I could read Kathryn Immonen writing about Sif and Beta Ray Bill for the rest of my life. The Thor corner of the Marvel Universe was on fire this week.
Less impressive were the final issue of Trinity War and the New Avengers tie-in to Infinity. Both disappointing, but both mildly entertaining, with a few good scenes each. So at least there’s that.
Moment of the week, however, goes to Adolf the Impossible Boy in the pages of FF.
I love comic books.
Comic Reviews: Aquaman #23, FF #11, Journey Into Mystery #655, Justice League #23, Larfleeze #3, New Avengers #9, Thor: God of Thunder #12, Uncanny X-Men #11, Uncanny Avengers #10, and Wolverine and the X-Men #35.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier
It’s been a long time since I reviewed Aquaman, and the reason for that is because Aquaman has just been so damn good, there hasn’t been much else to say! Geoff Johns continues to do for Aquaman what he did for Green Lantern, and I hope his impact is felt elsewhere. Aquaman is one of the best books at DC right now and everyone should be reading. It’s action-packed, it stars several amazing characters and the drama is just through the roof.
To catch everyone up to speed: when Aquaman assumed the mantle of King of Atlantis, it somehow awakened an ancient Ice King, who claims he was the first, true King of Atlantis, and Aquaman’s family usurped his thrown. Now he’s leading an assault on the city, backed by the undersea kingdom of Xebel, which is where Mera is from, and is the source of the Bermuda Triangle legends. Meanwhile, a villain called the Scavenger has found Atlantis, and he’s launching his own attack.
Aquaman #23 picks up with Aquaman and Mera fleeing Xebel. They tried to go there for aid, but the Xebels all sided with the Ice King. The royal couple make their escape – and share a sweet kiss – before joining the battle for Atlantis against the Scavenger. A really awesome prison warden Atlantean gets killed sacrificing himself to save Aquaman. When the battle looks hopeless, Aquaman summons his giant, undersea monster friend Topo to stop the Scavenger’s fleet and save Atlantis. But, of course, that’s exactly when the Ice King and his Xebel forces arrive and join the attack. The pressure becomes too much for Aquaman, and he passes out…
…only to wake up six months later!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Aquaman is awesome. Both the series and the character. From story to story, Johns has been telling this amazing, operatic journey of a hero fighting against all odds to defend his loved ones, and now, his kingdom. Johns has built such an amazing world under the sea. The idea that there’s a second undersea kingdom, Xebel, and that it’s responsible for the Bermuda Triangle, is just plain neat. And he’s created a whole host of fascinating Atlantean characters. I didn’t even mention the squad of villains trying to break Ocean Master out of prison. Aquaman is big, cinematic comics; just check out this scene of Topo coming to Atlantis’ rescue. It’s a double-page spread.
That scene is huge! And the build up is fantastic! Johns re-introduced the world to Topo a few issues ago, and it was a perfect tease to this scene, when Johns smashed the giant kraken down on top of the bad guys.
And the cliffhanger is wonderfully wicked! Time jumps are always a little messy, but I’m actually fascinated to see what happens next. So much in Aquaman’s life was out of control in that final battle, and I’m eager to watch him try and pick up the pieces and put his life back together. What has become of Atlantis!?
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred
I am going to miss Matt Fraction on this comic. He is one of my favorite writers these days, and it’s a damn shame that he’s jumping the Fantastic Four ship to focus on this whole Inhumanity thing that Marvel is pushing for the next year. I’m sure that book will be fine, but I am going to miss him on FF. He’s barely gotten started with whatever big ideas he had in mind for the series, especially if this issue is any indication.
The FF try to use Caesar’s time travel machine to go after the Fantastic Four, but when they turn it on, they are instead sucked into the lair of the Impossible Man. They try to fight against him, and Impossible Man is more than game, but he actually brought them here to help with his son. Adolf the Impossible Boy is actually very possible, and all he wants to do is sit in his library reading books. The FF try to talk to him, but accidentally set him off, and it seems that Adolf is more insane than his dad let on. The library starts warping around them, but using her mother’s intuition, Medusa is able to convince Adolf that they are there to help. He calms down and agrees to join the Future Foundation.
Meanwhile, Maximus the Mad meets Julia Caesar, which is just a fun sentence to write.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
As you can tell from the picture I posted in the opening, this issue was full of awesome moments. The Impossible Man was made for awesome moments, and this was a fun, quirky showdown between Mr. Man (as Darla calls him) and the new team. Medusa got a moment to shine, which is always nice. The real stars of the issue, though, were probably Mike and Laura Allred. They drew the hell out of Impossible World and all the shape-shifting wackiness that entails. Fortunately for all of us, I do believe they are staying on the title beyond Fraction.
Journey Into Mystery #655
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: Valerio Schiti
If Journey Into Mystery had any hope to succeed, they should have put Beta Ray Bill in from the beginning. I would buy the hell out of a comic about Bill and Sif, written by Immonen and drawn by Schiti. This issue is a dream. It’s a lovely comic, even if it focuses on some second or third-string characters having a weird adventure off in space. The obscurity of those characters and that weirdness is probably what kept people away, I know it did me. But man, Sif and Bill would have been great together.
Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, has been possessed by an evil, sentient spaceship thingy, and it’s intent on ‘fixing’ the universe. Sif and Bill team up to defeat it, while butting heads every step of the way – but in a tense, still-in-love-with-each-other kind of way. It’s adorable. Sif eventually comes up with a plan that succeeds in stopping the monster from destroying the Earth, while saving not only Gaia, but also Skuttlebutt and Bill’s girlfriend. The day is saved and everybody is fine.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The character work and banter in this issue is second to none. I am extremely disappointed that Bill’s girlfriend survives at the end, because Immonen writes the hell out of a Bill/Sif relationship. Seriously, her work is golden. The two are both strong-willed characters, each with their own plans and strategies on how to save the day, and the ways they butt heads and get in each other’s way, but also work together flawlessly, is a sight to behold. That’s why I think Immonen and Marvel would have had a hit on their hands if Bill and Sif’s relationship had been the focus from the beginning. The battle to stop the Gaia monster was kind of a stretch, and a little confusing, but the character work is the true draw.
The character work and the artwork. I’ve never heard of Schiti before, but this story has been career-making. Schiti could stand among the greats when it comes to expressions and facial work, especially for a character as complex as Beta Ray Bill. I want to see more!
Justice League #23
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Yep, Trinity War was only ever a prologue. And what’s worse, Geoff Johns gave away the ending a few weeks ago online. So there’s really no point to even read this issue. Nothing much happens other than kicking off Forever Evil, and bringing a few familiar new villains into the New 52 universe. That’s pretty much it. But if you enjoyed the past few Trinity War issues of random superheroes fighting each other, then you’ll definitely love the conclusion. I would have graded this issue lower, but there are a few surprises it actually manages to pull off well.
So everybody is still fighting over Pandora’s Box, and it goes about as well as you’d expect: a bunch of punching and whatnot. In the background, the leader of the Secret Society, the Outsider, details his plan. Apparently he jumped to this universe on the day Darkseid attacked Earth, and he’s been working behind-the-scenes to bring his true masters to this dimension. Towards the end of the fight, after Wonder Woman subdues Superman, the Atom reveals that she is actually a triple agent! She’s been working with the Outsider all this time, and she’s the one who stabbed a microscopic sliver of kryptonite into Superman’s brain, causing him to kill Doctor Light. She also reveals that the traitor in the Justice League is Cyborg’s armor, which reveals itself to be its own sentient entity known as Grid. That was actually rather surprising.
Then the Outsider reveals that Pandora’s Box is actually a portal device, and it opens one up to Earth Three. The Crime Syndicate of America come through for the first time in this continuity. Seems the Outsider is the Earth Three version of Alfred Pennyworth, and the Atom is the Earth Three version of regular Atom. So yeah, it was all a big, complicated prologue to bring the Crime Syndicate to Earth for Forever Evil.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
The only really good parts of this issue were the reveal that the Atom was a triple-agent, the reveal that Cyborg’s armor had a life of its own, and the introduction of the Crime Syndicate. Though as I’ve said in previous reviews, I wish we had gotten to know Atom even a little bit better before this betrayal was thrown at us. Who cares if she betrays the team if we don’t care about her or her place on the team? I didn’t see the surprise about Cyborg coming, so at least that was interesting. And it’s a shame we knew about the Crime Syndicate so far in advance. Why make them the big climax if you’re just going to spoil it weeks ahead of time?
The Crime Syndicate’s arrival is…fine, I suppose. They’re classic villains, so their arrival in the New 52 universe has potential. One of the reasons to even do a reboot is for stories like this, where you can tell a new version of a character’s first appearance. It might be fun to see the Justice League deal with this group, as well as deal with the knowledge of different dimensions…unless they already know that? I know Earth 2 has definitely been part of the New 52 for awhile now, but does the Justice League know about it? I bet’cha DC is building up to a new Crisis on Infinite Earths kind of story.
As for the finale to Trinity War, the issue is pretty much a dud, just like the whole event. Rather than having anything to do with the characters or the teams, Trinity War was just a big jumble of superheroes intermingling and punching each other. And the punching resulted from the influence of Pandora’s Box, so the punches were not personally or dramatically motivated. And Pandora turned out to be a dud as well, the whole Trinity of Sin did. Pandora, Question and the Phantom Stranger had so little to do with Trinity War that it’s not even funny. Was this really the reason for putting so much emphasis on these guys? They barely appeared in this climax. What a waste of good everything.
Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Scott Kolins
Against my better judgement, I actually kind of liked this issue. I have been pretty harsh on Larfleeze so far, and that’s entirely because this just isn’t my kind of humor. I’m sure it’s somebody’s kind of humor, but I just not mine. Giffen and DeMatteis seem very pleased with themselves and their creations, and most of the humor comes from Stargrave making snarky asides to Giffen and DeMatteis’ own dialogue. And while Stargrave is off making his comments, Larfleeze himself is just one big, broad buffoon. But for some reason, this issue was slightly appealing. And Larfleeze wasn’t a complete buffoon, for once.
So the Wanderer introduces herself and reveals the origin of both her and the Laord of the Hunt. She also explains that she is the true owner of Stargrave, because she bought him off his previous master before Larfleeze interfered and stole him. She plans to castrate Stargrave now that she has him back (in order to free him of any male urges around her), which prompts him to wake up Larfleeze to help save his junk. Larfleeze fights off the Laord and sends him rocketing out into space. Then he almost goes to battle against the Wanderer, but she uses her power to return life to his Orange Lantern constructs. She takes Stargrave as her butler and leaves, while Larfleeze is left to deal with some pissed off, resurrected Lanterns.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
For once, Larfleeze wasn’t a total fool. Once the Hunter was defeated, he actually had a moment of clarity when he told the Wanderer he wasn’t going to fight her, he was going to leave that up to his constructs while he went looting. It was just a little characterization, but considering how little Larfleeze gets in his own series, it was enough to make me enjoy the issue a tiny bit more. But like I said earlier, this humor just isn’t for me. I don’t find this version of Larfleeze funny at all, and Stargrave is more of an annoyance than anything else, especially since he gets far more attention than Larfleeze.
New Avengers #9
Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Artist: Mike Deodato
Yep, the villains of Infinity are just terrible. They are some of the most boring villains I have ever seen. And I’m not talking about the Builders. Instead, this issue is all about Thanos’ Black Order, which is basically just a bunch of evil aliens with some variation of the word ‘black’ in their name. Yeah, they are boring as hell, and as generic as villains come. This has been a problem with Hickman’s Infinity all along, and this issue is no different. On the other hand, Hickman’s still doing a pretty good job writing the actual New Avengers themselves. So there’s that.
One of the Infinity Gems remains in tact, so Thanos sends his Black Order to Earth to interrogate the members of the Illuminati. None of the Black Order are particularly unique or interesting, frankly. They’re all just evil aliens, and pretty much all of them are too big and tough for the heroes to defeat – with the exception of Black Panther. He and his Wakandan forces kick butt, sending their Black Order member running. Meanwhile, the X-Men suffer a massive beatdown and Dr. Strange gets taken. When the Black Order reach Atlantis, they find a broken Namor kneeling among the bodies and rubble of his city (as a result of the war with Wakanda). Namor switches sides and tells them that the last remaining Infinity Gem is in Wakanda (possibly a lie), and Thanos should send his entire army at them.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
The best parts of this issue were when Hickman focused on the characters. Black Panther’s defense of Wakanda was legitimately fun and exciting, as was the battle with the X-Men. But Hickman uses that old fiction trope of having his new villains take down a bunch of established heroes just to make them look more powerful. But it doesn’t work on me. It’s such an obvious trope, and the villains aren’t particularly interesting. It’s actually kind of silly that they would all name themselves after the word ‘black’ somehow. So it’s just a bunch of paper-thin new villains on the block defeating the heroes in Round 1, which will most assuredly lead to the heroes winning in the end and nobody ever hearing from the Black Order ever again.
Thor: God of Thunder #12
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nic Klein
Simply amazing. This is a downtime issue between major stories, and it’s basically a ‘day in the life of Thor’ sort of story. These are typical in comic books, and as always, i tend to love them. Thor: God of Thunder #12 is no different. I love this issue. It’s absolutely perfect. And not just because it tells a fun story, but because Jason Aaron actually makes me care about Thor. This issue is an amazing character piece, showcasing Thor as a complex and fascinating person, who has used his immortality to truly explore the wonders of Earth (or Midgard, as he calls it). This is possibly the best issue of the new Thor series so far, and that’s saying a lot.
The issue starts in Iceland in 893, where young Thor basks in the cheerfulness of vikings and a comely blacksmith’s daughter. She asks him why a god would spend so much time on Earth, and Thor replies that, with all of humanity’s dirt, war, alcohol and fornicating, how could he possibly stay away? The rest of the issue follows Thor of the present day as he travels around the world enjoying himself. He stops at his favorite Manhattan pub. He brings a magical fruit to be the last meal of a friend on death row. He visits with an old Tibetan monk friend. He visits a ton of other people. And he accepts the Internet invitation of SHIELD cadet Rosalind Solomon to be her date to the Cadet’s Ball. Then Thor has a long talk with Jane Foster, who has cancer, and it’s a wonderful moment between two old friends. She tells him to not worry about her illness, and to instead go out and enjoy life. So Thor travels to Antarctica to see Agent Solomon again, and he helps her investigate an environmental catastrophe.
Meanwhile, in the future, Old Thor repairs the Bifrost Bridge and returns to his beloved Midgard…which we see is actually a burnt, dead husk of a planet. But he knew this already, and he goes back anyway, because he still loves Midgard.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great!
I loved this comic. What more is there to say? I’ve never cared about Thor as a character, but Aaron makes him impressively likable in this issue. Thor is human, he is wordly, he is smart and traveled. He cares about even the little people, while being able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the greats. His conversation with Jane Foster is a true standout, from his effortlessly cute flirting to his very human pain at being unable to help her. Likewise, Thor flirting with Agent Solomon is delightful, and Aaron does some great work mirroring their conversations. At one point, Thor tells Jane that it hurts to feel so powerless in the face of her cancer when a god like him can move mountains. Then at the end, Solomon needs his help on her mission, and asks if he can move a few mountains (icebergs) for her. Thor tells Solomon that it would be his pleasure.
Aaron also put Young Thor and Old Thor to good use. The prologue serves as a perfect introduction to the rest of the book, and the epilogue is a bitter goodbye.
Uncanny X-Men #11
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frazer Irving and Kris Anka
Uncanny X-Men is my favorite X-Men squad right now. Every member of the team is a lot of fun to read, and I love seeing the new mutants grow and learn about their powers. Beyond them, Bendis is doing an amazing job with Emma Frost, Magneto and especially Cyclops. He has not let me down once when it comes to Cyclops in the post-AvX world, and I can’t wait to see him dive into Battle of the Atom.
A fancy, futuristic, self-repairing Sentinel attacks the pro-mutant protest that the X-Men visited, so Cyclops and the team gear up and fight back. Each of the X-Men gets a chance to shine, including Goldballs and Hijack. Seriously, when Fabio steps up, I was floored! Best new X-Man ever! Christopher helps with the wounded while Cyclops goes all out, but he’s hampered by his broken powers. Finally, Magneto shows up to deliver a fatal blow, but then the Sentinel teleports back to its master, who we don’t get a very good look at.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good!
This issue was a fantastic showcase of everything Uncanny X-Men has to offer. Cyclops’ narration was perfect, showing us a hero fighting against increasingly tough odds while still being the same person inside. I love what Marvel has done with Cyclops in the past few years, I can’t say that enough. Even with all the crap that’s come his way, he’s still dedicated to being a superhero and spearheading the mutant race. Magneto, Emma and Magik are all spectacular, but this issue definitely belongs to the new recruits. Gold Balls for the win!
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! Hijack gets a great scene where he hurls a bus at the Sentinel, and Christopher going to work as a healer is just great. On top of these awesome moments, Cyclops delivers some fantastic exposition about each of them, assessing their growth as heroes. Cyclops never stops being a leader or a hero.
Uncanny Avengers #10
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Daniel Acuna
I really don’t care about this comic anymore. And for the same reasons I’m always stating: so much else is going on at Marvel comics that Uncanny Avengers is lost in the shuffle. Heck, I’m even enjoying Infinity more than Uncanny Avengers. At long last, I finally kind of understand what the Apocalypse Twins are working towards, but it doesn’t make the issue any better.
The Apocalypse Twins reveal their plan to Scarlet Witch: they want to use her magic, with a power boost from Wonder Woman, to teleport all of the mutants on Earth to a new, safer planet. They’re calling it the Mutant Rapture, and it’ll give mutants a place to live free, and it will free up the humans from having to deal with mutants. By the end of the issue, Wanda agrees to go through with it, because this is the Twins’ way of saving everyone from the upcoming horrors of the Red Onslaught – though she may just be tricking the Twins. Elsewhere, Wolverine is defeated by Daken, Rogue and Sunfire spend a little time bonding, and Sentry defeats Thor.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I dunno what else to say about this comic. Maybe if there weren’t a dozen other X-Men and Avengers comics telling much better stories, this one would matter. Instead, it’s just not entertaining at all. Remender has some strange, complicated villainy worked out for the Apocalypse Twins, who aren’t very good villains, and he’s just dragging the heroes through it. There’s one good scene in this issue, where Rogue and Sunfire bond as teammates, but that’s it. Nobody ever wanted to see Daken or the Sentry again, and the Twins’ spend too much of the issue blandly describing their master plan to Scarlet Witch. The climax purports to be something important, with giant images of the Twins standing over Manhattan describing their plan, with cuts to all the various X-teams and Avengers squads out there, but it rings false. Uncanny Avengers just doesn’t really fit into the Marvel Universe as it is now.
Wolverine and the X-Men #35
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw
Welp, if you’ve ever wondered how much Jason Aaron plans out in advance on this comic, here is your answer. So much happens in this issue that stretches all the way back to the first issue that it just boggles the mind! Heck, just so much happening in this issue boggles the mind enough! This is a jam-packed X-Men fun ride from start to finish, and I couldn’t be happier with this comic.
So much happens! I’m just going to run it down in quick succession: Toad tears off enough of Husk’s flesh so that Paige Guthrie’s mind is able to take control, but she barely remembers anything since she went nuts. Idie and Quentin make out. The Hellfire Brats’ attempt to kill Kade backfires, since his company made their weapons. Philistine imprisons everyone in a big, glowing bubble before the X-Men can save them, then it’s revealed that the blonde brat, Wilhelmina, was behind everything the entire time (I think). At least Philistine was working for her, and they escape through the Siege Perilous. Kade Kilgore turns into a pathetic, whiny loser (yes!) and gets smacked down by Quentin, but Dog saves him and they make their escape, also through the Perilous. The other two Hellfire Brats get recruited to the Jean Grey School. That one big alien guy tries to make his escape with Broo, but when Broo bites a stowaway Bamf, he is returned to normal and he takes out the alien.
Because, you see, the Bamfs apparently belong to Nightcrawler, who has been controlling them from Heaven. Then Nightcrawler (at least we assume it’s Nightcrawler, since he’s wearing a big cloak) says that it’s time he returned.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Well that was a hoot and a half! I mean, jeez louise, just look at all that stuff! Toad being a hero, the dissolution of the Hellfire Brats, the defeat of Kade Kilgore (finally!), the romance of Quentin and Idie (who is less terrible now that she’s Quentin’s girlfriend), the rescue of Broo and the return of Nightcrawler! It’s kind of a shame that his return was already announced, but seeing him at the end in a white robe is a ton of fun. And I never would have guessed that the Bamfs were legitimately connected to him after all. Nice touch there. This issue had everything. It was big, the action was intense, and the characters are a lot of fun. This comic has always been fun, as far as I’m concerned, and Aaron just combined that with off-the-wall action. Seems the two work very well together. And I’m pleased to see Toad pull through, just sayin’.
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 31, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Aquaman, Beta Ray Bill, FF, Infinity, Journey Into Mystery, Justice League, Larfleeze, New Avengers, Sif, Thor, Thor: God of Thunder, Trinity War, Uncanny Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.