Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/7/13

Welcome to Villains Month! It’s the two-year anniversary of DC’s New 52 reboot, and like every September so far, they have launched a wacky publicity stunt! Unfortunately for DC, I only bought two of the dozen or so villain books. And I wasn’t all that impressed with either one. Fortunately, I liked the first issue of Forever Evil a bit more, so at least DC has that.

Not to be outdone, Marvel Comics isn’t taking Villains Month lying down. They are neck deep in the big Infinity event (yawn), and this week also saw the launch of Battle of the Atom (yay), the new Brian Michael Bendis-penned X-Men crossover. So this week was clearly a huge week in comics – and not just because it’s my 30th birthday too.

Comic Book of the Week goes to both Battle of the Atom #1 and All-New X-Men #16. Marvel and Bendis kicked off Battle of the Atom in style, and I think it’s easily going to be the best Big Event Crossover of the season!

Comic Reviews: Battle of the Atom #1, All-New X-Men #16, Bizarro #1, Deadshot #1, Forever Evil #1, Infinity #2, and Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3.

Battle of the Atom #1

Battle of the Atom #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger

This. This is what I want from a Big Event crossover. This is how to do it right and make it matter. And oddly enough, I’m saying this about a Brian MIchael Bendis event. Of all the Big Events Marvel has published in the past 10 years, I would rank Bendis’ as some of the worst. I absolutely hated Age of Ultron this summer. But Bendis hits the first two parts of Battle of the Atom out of the park! Everything he has been building (and I have been loving ) in the X-Men since the start of the year comes crashing together in a so far fantastic crossover!

A new evil mutant appears in Phoenix, Arizona, wreaking havoc with her demonic dinosaurs. Kitty Pryde and the Young X-Men gear up to take her out, but the fight is interrupted by a fleet of Sentinels intent on destroying all mutants. Kitty and her team are saved by Cyclops and his Uncanny X-Men, and the scene is great. Rather than instantly getting mad at each other, Cyclops and Kitty banter like old friends. There’s a little snippiness, but the two teams work together flawlessly and take out the Sentinels – except for one.

A decapitated Sentinel head powers back on and blasts Young Cyclops. He lies dying on the ground, causing Regular Cyclops to blink out of existence. Chris, the healer from the Uncanny team, steps up and uses his powers to bring Young Cyclops back to life, which also brings back regular Cyclops. Everyone retreats, and the rest of the faculty at the Jean Grey School are not happy to find out what happened. They decide that the Young X-Men have been here long enough, and this was a stark reminder of the trouble they might cause to history. The Young X-Men, especially Jean and Scott, want to stay in the present, and they make a fairly compelling argument…but then a team of X-Men from the future arrive to ensure the X-Men don’t make a very big mistake.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I loved this issue! For the first time in a long time, one of these Big Event comics is based almost entirely on the characters, and it’s fantastic. The plot is secondary to Bendis writing all the various X-Men bantering, bickering and butting heads. It’s exactly what I want from a comic. And it’s the exact opposite of what we’re seeing in Johnathan Hickman’s Infinity, which is why I’m not really enjoying Infinity all that much.

Part of me wishes that Bendis had taken more time to write out the status quos he created he both Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men. But I have to accept that Marvel doesn’t want the X-Men franchise to sit still for too long. I would have been very, very happy to see All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men just tell the stories they’ve been telling. But if Battle of the Atom really is this good, then I’m all for Bendis pulling the trigger so quickly on everything he’s been building. I loved the team up between the two squads, and how Kitty didn’t simply hate on Cyclops, but instead fell back on their longtime friendship. I loved all the bickering and arguing about the fate of the Young X-Men. I loved all of it.

And the crossover just gets better from here…

All-New X-Men #16

All-New X-Men #16
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

How cool is it that the first two parts of Battle of the Atom were released on the same day? We got a nice, big, juicy bite into what is definitely turning out to be my favorite Big Event of the year. Everything Bendis has been building with his two X-Men titles comes to a head in this event, and I am very, very excited to see where this is going. This isn’t just the X-Men fighting some random, vaguely threatening menace. These are fully realized and entertaining characters dealing with a moral and ethical conundrum. I love it.

The issue opens with the Uncanny X-Men, and Cyclops gives a pep talk to Chris, who is a little freaked out that he might have the power to bring people back from the dead (see Part 1). At the Jean Grey School, the Future X-Men show up and explain they are there to make sure the Young X-Men are returned to the past, because otherwise the future is going to be screwed up. The future X-Men include older versions of Kitty, Beast, Iceman and Deadpool, as well as a grown up Molly Hayes from The Runaways, the telepathic grandson of Charles Xavier and the mysterious Madame Xorn (at least that’s what we’ll call her). Everyone stands around saying their ‘hellos’ and explaining their purpose…until Wolverine suddenly pops his claws and goes berserk. A fight erupts, and when everyone calms down, they realize that the only person who could take over Wolverine like that is Jean Grey – and both she and Young Scott are missing.

The issue then has a hilarious sequence flashing back two minutes. While everyone was talking, Jean telepathically reached out to Young Hank to convince him that they should run. The minds of the future X-Men are all blocked to her telepathy, and it’s put Jean on edge. She doesn’t trust them and she doesn’t want to go back to the past – but Young Beast is fascinated by everything that’s happening. He can think of several reasons why their minds might be blocked, and he wants to see how this plays out. So Jean gives up on Hank and tries the exact same spiel on Scott, and he immediately agrees to run with her, no questions asked. The two take off, hijack a Blackbird and escape. Meanwhile, the Future X-Men explain more of their mission, and Madame Xorn unmasks to reveal an adult Jean Grey!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

What more could you want from an X-Men crossover? It’s got merry mutants galore, time travel, prophecies, dark futures, big twists, and amazing character moments. I loved that Jean went to Hank first, but he was too Hank to do what she wanted, so she tried Scott next and he immediately joined her. That was a fantastic sequence of events. I loved how the X-Men took a visit from their future selves in stride, because they are old hats at this kind of thing. I loved how Cyclops’ team isn’t being used as the villain, and how they remain legitimately cool. It was also kind of adorable how Cyclops took Chris’ powers in stride, whereas Chris himself was freaking out. Cyclops has seen some stuff.

Battle of the Atom is off to a great start. Bendis is at the top of his game with the characters, and the collected artists from both issues so far are turning in top notch talent. This Big Event is wonderfully written and gorgeous to look at. Forget Infinity, forget Forever Evil, the X-Men are going to be the big deal this fall.

Bizarro #1

Bizarro #1 (Superman #23.1)
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Artist: Jeff Johnson

Take a look at that cover. Do you see Bizarro? Do you see his name at the top? From those two clues, you might reasonably expect to see Bizarro in this issue. You might even expect that DC was using their Villains Month stunt to bring us the New 52 origin of Bizarro. But, apparently, you would be wrong. Dead wrong. Bizarro doesn’t appear in this issue, not really. The cover is a lie, a horrible bait and switch to a completely mediocre and uninteresting Lex Luthor story.

Three years ago, using some of Superman’s blood, Lex Luthor developed a serum to combine human and Kryptonian DNA. He injected it into a volunteer test subject, turning the kid into a rampaging, chalk-skinned monster. Luthor managed to kill the thing, then decides to just try cloning a Kryptonian instead of any sort of hybrid. In the present day, the clone in tank B-0 is nearing completion.

Comic Rating: 2/10 – Very Bad.

I am a big fan of Bizarro, and I love the look of him on that cover. I think this issue, with the promised New 52 origin of Bizarro, was the Villains Month comic I was most looking forward to. I wanted to see the new origin of Bizarro. But that cover is a horrible lie! It’s a wicked bait and switch! Bizarro does sort of appear, in that final page cliffhanger, but that’s it! Instead, the issue is just Lex Luthor plotting about the science experiment that will eventually lead to Bizarro. It’s an uninteresting story that doesn’t tell us anything new about Lex Luthor and doens’t do anything with the guy who volunteers for the experiment. At best, this is a very weak prologue to Bizarro’s eventual introduction. At worst, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Especially mine.

Deadshot #1

Deadshot #1 (Justice League of America 7.1)
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Sami Basri and Keith Champagne

I never knew much about Deadshot before he starred in Secret Six, but I quickly became a big fan. However, I didn’t follow him into the New 52 when he starred in Suicide Squad. I’ve read some of the series, but not much. It’s just not the same. Still, I liked him enough to pick up this issue and I was not disappointed – at least not like I was with Bizarro. Grr.

Floyd Lawton came from a lower class family in Gotham City, and his life changed forever when some criminals started shooting in the apartment next to his family’s, and both his parents and his sister were killed by stray bullets that went through the wall. Two hitmen were ordered to kill a couple of thieving junkies, and Lawton’s family paid the price.  After that, Lawton found one of the guns and trained himself to be an expert marksman, his grief and anger somehow causing him to never miss a shot. Then one day he finally tracked down the two hitmen and killed them both with one bullet. The move impressed their boss, who hired him on the spot to be a killer. Now in the present, with the Crime Syndicate ruling the world, that mob boss is some kind of armored super-villain, and Lawton has been hired to kill him. For some reason, this involves jumping out of an airplane, but he pulls off the impossible shot and gets his finale revenge. Then Amanda Waller calls him and pays him $12 million to get the Suicide Squad back together to take on the Crime Syndicate…at least I think that’s what she’s doing.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I would have loved something like this for the Bizarro issue. It’s just a neatly packed together, well-told origin story for Deadshot. Kindt unpacks the story in a clever way, revealing the true identities of the two men the young Lawson killed later in the story. We don’t know who they are in the moment of the shooting, but finding out the truth later makes it a clever little twist. The origin is good too, painting Deadshot as a consummate professional instead of some kind of psychotic murderer. He could be a great anti-hero, especially if the Suicide Squad really does go up against the Crime Syndicate. Kindt’s Deadshot doesn’t have the personality of Gail Simone’s Deadshot, but he could be a very cool character.

Forever Evil #1

Forever Evil #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch

Somehow, for two whole years, DC managed to avoid any Big Event comics for the New 52. They had plenty of crossovers for a lot of their major characters, but this is the first real Big Event, with its own mini-series and everything. And I think the first issue is off to a good start. We don’t get much in terms of plot, but it has the potential to be good.

The Crime Syndicate have arrived from Earth 3 and they travel around the world breaking open all the prisons and releasing all of the super-villains. We see a few of these characters during the breakouts: Amanda Waller is trying to recruit Black Manta onto the Suicide Squad. The Rogues are trying to break the Trickster out of prison. And Nightwing is returning Zsasz to Arkham Asylum. Once all of the super-villains are free, the Syndicate gather them for a press conference, where they hijack every television in the world to announce that the Justice League is dead and they are now the rulers of the Earth. Also, they kidnapped Nightwing and unmask him on national television. Elsewhere, Lex Luthor is watching and wonders what became of Superman.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’m sad for what happened to Nightwing, but as I wrote the other day, it could lead to some good stories. And I’m definitely glad they didn’t just kill him, which is usually what happens in these kinds of events. Remember the death of Martian Manhunter at the start of Final Crisis? Yeah…Anyway, so this issue is all set-up. We get to see a few villains who may or may not be the protagonists of this story. I would absolutely love it if Lex Luthor put together a team of villains to take down the Crime Syndicate. I love stories where the villains act heroically. That’s one of my favorite comic book tropes. In fact, Lex Luthor and Black Manta teaming up to defeat the CSA would be a dream come true.

But I have no idea what’s going to happen. This issue doesn’t reveal anything about the ongoing plot of the series. The Justice League were wiped out off-panel, and some of the teases in this issue (like the Rogues and a quick look at the Teen Titans), are going to be picked up in separate comics. So I have no idea what to expect from Forever Evil, but I think it’s off to a good start – storywise, at least. I keep liking David Finch less and less each time I see his work.

Infinity #2

Infinity #2
Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Artists: Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver

Battle of the Atom is a wonderful exploration of the X-Men as people, balancing the responsibilities of their superhero world with their own personal morals and ethics. Forever Evil is a big, dramatic proclamation that the familiar and popular bad guys have won and the heroes are dead. Infinity is a bunch of new strawmen villains basically just stomping all over the Avengers without build up, personality or anything even remotely interesting about them. We’re only at issue #2, but including tie-ins, I am pretty much checked out of Infinity already.

On the Builder front, everybody retreats to a Shi’ar homeworld, then manage to rally and fight off another Builder fleet. But then the Builders drop some of their Ex Nihilos onto a planet and destroy it with a horrible plague. On the Thanos front, one of the Black Order visits Black Bolt in the Inhuman court, makes a big show about how he’s not afraid of death, and then demands that the Inhumans cut off the heads of every Inhuman between the ages of 16 and 22 in tribute to Thanos. Black Bolt summons the Illuminati and explains that this is just a ploy. Thanos is actually after his son, who is apparently on Earth somewhere.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

This may be the most barren issue of the crossover so far. At least the previous issues featured some personality and character. Infinity #2 has one tiny scene of Captain America and Smasher bantering, and that’s it for the entire Avengers. Smasher also says she’s falling in love with someone, but I don’t know if it’s a joke or something to be taken literally. Have I missed some kind of Smasher romantic subplot? Because if I have, please someone tell me. Any sort of character-based subplot like that would be a welcome escape from the mindless, black drudgery of Hickman’s villains.

The Builders and their minions continue to be nothing more than a wave of generic evil. That they use some kind of plague to kill some alien planet is treated like a horrible tragedy, but who cares? It’s not like we knew any of the aliens on that planet. The Builders may as well be The Nothing from The Neverending Story.

Thanos’ plot moves forward a little in this issue, and I don’t just mean the revelation about his son, which might turn into something good. I mean the big, dramatic standoff between the Inhumans and the preening, annoying representative of the Black Order. I can’t even remember his name. Lordy was that scene preachy and filled to the brim with cliches. At one point, the guy has all of his generic soldier henchmen kill themselves in the Inhuman throne room just to prove that they don’t fear death. Ho hum. We’ve seen that a million times before, and I was shocked that the Inhumans were shocked. They are tougher than that. There is nothing interesting or shocking about the Black Order. They are as generic as villains come, and they will be defeated before too long. I just hope Infinity doesn’t drag out too much before we get there.

Superior Foes #3

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber

Oh look, a comic that doesn’t have anything to do with a big crossover or marketing event. Who knew a comic like this even existed in this day and age? Superior Foes of Spider-Man has reached issue #3 without being cancelled, and for that I am perfectly pleased. It’s another fine issue starring our favorite bad guy, Boomerang.

The issue opens with a flashback revealing the origin of the Head of Silvio Silverman. The old mob boss Silvermane once built himself a cyborg body so that he wouldn’t die. Then in a big mob war, the body got crushed in a junkyard and the head popped off, with enough juice left to keep his head alive. The Owl found the head and now keeps it in a special vault just so he can taunt Silvermane forever. The Sinister Six are going after it, but first they bump Boomerang from the roster now that he’s got Mach VII as a parole officer following his every move. Boomerang meets with Mach VII and attends a Super-Villains Anonymous meeting, where we meet a bunch of sadsack villains, and where Fred can barely keep from rolling his eyes. But he plays up to what Mach VII expects of him, and he tips off the heroic Mach VII as to where he can find the hideout of the Sinister Six. Mach VII calls Luke Cage and Iron Fist to storm the place.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Boomerang continues to be a very fun protagonist, and Spencer has a blast inside his head this issue as he deals with the overly helpful Mach VII. I was a little disappointed at how much of a chump Mach VII seemed to be, but I suppose that’s his role for this story, so that’s fine. But any moron could have seen through Fred’s act. At least Fred remains fun to read. I also didn’t like how the Sinister Six were kicking him out in only the third issue. That seems a little too soon to have Fred off the team. But I’m sure Spencer is going somewhere with this. Superior Foes continues to be everything I hoped it would be.

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 September 7, 2013, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. BotA was great. Some cool action, great characterization, an interesting premise, and just really cool all around. Great kick-off to what looks like it’ll be a great X-over.

    ANXM kept it going well. The way Scott trusts Jean so implicitly was really nice. That reveal at the end was crazy.

    Infinity was meh. Whatever.

    Superior Foes was great. really fun, as usual.

    • I didn’t think it was a matter of Young Scott trusting Jean implicitly. I saw it more like Scott is so love struck that he goes with Jean without a second thought, which is exactly what she was counting on. She went to Hank first, who she kissed last issue, but he totally shut her down. So I saw it as Jean using Scott’s romantic interest in her to get a partner.

      • He trusts her because he loves her. Hank likes her, but he needs proof before he’ll act on something she says. Scott doesn’t need that proof. She says they need to go, they go, and that’s that.

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