Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/14/13

Villains Month continues this week at DC Comics, and I’m enjoying it well enough so far. It’s a marketing stunt, and I’m OK with DC going all out for their marketing stunts. It appears to me like they’re using a few up and coming writers to actually pen the dialogue, so that’s pretty cool. I’m disappointed that Geoff Johns didn’t write out Black Manta #1, but he plotted it, and writer Tony Bedard did well enough.

Speaking of Villains Month, this week was the debut of the new Lobo. Does he live up to the controversy? Read ahead and see.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Mighty Avengers #1. There were some good Villains Month issues, but Mighty Avengers exceeded expectations in ways I did not predict. It might actually turn out to be a pretty good comic. With some pretty fun characters, like this guy…

Comic Reviews: Avengers #19, Black Manta #1, Lobo #1, Mighty Avengers #1, Riddler #1, and X-Men #5.

Avengers #19

Avengers #19
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

I think Infinity and I are going to settle into a nice, calm groove, where nothing much matters, but I generally enjoy following along. On the one hand, it remains a story about vaguely generic alien bad guys threatening to destroy the Earth. Been there, done that, a million times over. There is absolutely nothing interesting about the Builders or their ilk. On the other hand, the Avengers are stepping up to save the world against a massive alien menace. That has some entertainment value.

Captain Marvel and her squad have been captured by the Builders, and one of the lead Builders brings Carol onto the bridge to ask her why they are so special as to count Captain Universe among their rank. Carol doesn’t get the chance to answer before J-Son, king of the Spartax Empire (and father of Star-Lord), sends a messenger ship to secretly negotiate with the Builders. He wants to make a truce, and when they tell him they are out to destroy the planet Earth, J-Son readily agrees to give them Earth in exchange for peace. But the Builders just laugh at him and tell him they’ve traced his signal and have discovered the refugees’ hidden location. Captain America, Thor and Ex Nihilo are in a meeting with the war council, trying to come up with their next plan, when J-Son tries to warn them that the Builders have found them and have launched a new attack.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Unless something changes soon, I have a feeling that all of my reviews are going to be the same way from now on. The Builders prove how unbeatable they are, and the Avengers and their allies run away with their tails between their legs. It’s big, but it’s dull and flat. None of the Avengers have much of a role in this thing, and clearly the only one interested in the Builders is Hickman himself. He’s so damn pleased with all the Ex Nihilos and Starbrands and whatnots that he’s made. But I just don’t care. These aren’t bad comics by any means. They are very well written and well drawn. They just don’t rise above the level of generic space thing. There is no humanity in Infinity.

Black Manta #1

Black Manta #1 (Aquaman #23.1)
Writers: Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard
Artist: Claude St. Aubin

I didn’t realize until reading this issue that a big idea behind Forever Evil is that some of the traditional villains are going to team up to take on the Crime Syndicate, since those bastards kind of want to destroy the world. I love that idea. One of my favorite tropes in all of comic books is when the villains are noble enough to stand up and be heroes when the time comes. It may not be for everybody, but it’s one of my favorite kinds of comic book stories. And if that’s what Forever Evil is going to be about, then I’m in. That’s definitely what Black Manta #1 is about, and I enjoyed the issue all the more for it. Rather than an origin story like several other Villains Month issues, Black Manta #1 is instead a retelling of Forever Evil #1 from Manta’s perspective, and it sets up what should be an excellent tale.

When the Crime Syndicate broke all the villains out of prison, Manta was having a meeting in his cell with Amanda Waller, who wanted him to join the Suicide Squad. She recaps how Aquaman killed Manta’s father in a blind rage, and how that has filled Manta with a thirst for vengeance. She asks him what he’s going to do once he kills Aquaman and still has this thirst. She thinks the Squad can provide an outlet for him. Before they can finish their conversation, the Syndicate smashes through the prison and all the villains escape. Manta grabs his gear from the conveniently placed room where all the villain’s gear is safely stored, then he takes off. Later, at the Crime Syndicate’s big press conference, Manta is listening when they announce that the Justice League is dead and toss some of the team’s artifacts to the crowd. Manta grabs Aquaman’s trident, then hangs his head and quietly walks out of the meeting.

A short time later, he visits his father’s grave and tells him that it’s finally over. Aquaman is dead. But then Ultraman moves the moon out of orbit in order to block the sun, which he did at the end of Forever Evil #1. The shifting moon sends all of the tides out of control, and the seaside graveyard is soon hit by a massive tidal wave. Manta is able to hold on to the trident, keeping him rooted, but the water washes up his father’s grave, and the skeleton is lost in the fray. When everything settles down, Black Manta gathers up his gear. Amanda Waller asked him what he would do with his rage after Aquaman was killed? Black Manta has found a new enemy.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Black Manta is damn cool. After this issue, he might have just become my favorite super-villain in the DC Universe. Because Geoff Johns’ remaking of Aquaman did not start and stop with the hero alone. Johns has improved Aquaman’s entire world, and he’s turned Black Manta into a badass, hardcore warrior of the deep. He’s so cool and collected in this issue, driven by his own personal passions and sense of honor, not by any kind of lunatic villainy. Black Manta is cool enjoy to reject the Crime Syndicate’s offer to take over the world, and smart enough to send Amanda Waller packing with her stupid offers. And seeing him angry on that final page, ready to tear the Crime Syndicate a new one, was just fantastic. If Forever Evil is all about Black Manta being a badass, then sign me up!

Lobo #1

Lobo #1 (Justice League #23.2)
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artists: Ben Oliver and Cliff Richards

So as you may have heard, DC is introducing a new Lobo. He’s trimmer, tougher and has much less personality than the old Lobo, who actually appears on the cover of this issue. I didn’t comment on the big reveal for two reasons: 1.) the original Lobo is still around, DC is just changing his origin a little. 2.) I don’t care about Lobo. But I decided to give this issue a read to see what all the fuss is about. I’m not impressed, and I can’t imagine anyone else is either. Sometimes I think DC does these things just to get a rise out of its fans, because they would rather be hated than ignored.

So just like the original Lobo, the new one is a tough-as-nails bounty hunter. He kills one target, then takes on a smuggling mission transporting some cargo. After a battle with some pirates, Lobo discovers that the cargo is a bunch of slaves, and they are grateful that he freed them. But Lobo shoves them right back into their crate, delivers them to the drop off and gets paid. His payment is information on the whereabouts of classic Lobo, whom he hates for stealing his identity.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

The new Lobo is unremarkable. He’s definitely not the skinny, prissy, Twilight-esque creature from the images posted online. Instead, he’s a generic tough guy space bounty hunter. There is nothing special or unique about this new Lobo, not like the badass biker persona of the original. The new Lobo is as generic as they come, and that’s a big problem. Why go through all the trouble to create him if he’s going to be so boring? Did they really hate the biker Lobo that much? So yeah, unless you love tough guy space bounty hunters with zero personality, the new Lobo is nothing to get worked up over.

Mighty Avengers #1

Mighty Avengers #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Greg Land

While I don’t really care for expanding the Avengers brand so much, I have to say I’m definitely a fan of the basic idea behind Mighty Avengers: scramble together a bunch of streetwise superheroes in an out-of-the-way companion piece to Infinity. This kind of comic should be every writer’s dream. Basically Ewing (or whoever put this team together) gets to create a team from scratch and send them on an adventure together. That kind of thing is just plain neat. And as a team book, I would have to say that Mighty Avengers definitely succeeds. As a tie-in to Infinity? Not so much. But that’s probably because I don’t like Infinity very much.

With the Avengers off in space battling Infinity, Mighty Avengers checks in with a few random street-level heroes still kicking around on Earth. Luke Cage has put the Heroes-for-Hire back together to make some money to support his wife and kid, but they’re not doing so well. After the Superior Spider-Man embarrasses them during a fight with the Plunderer, White Tiger quits out of shame and Power Man quits out of anger. Elsewhere, Monica Rambeau has rechristened herself as Spectrum, and she gets a visit from a mysterious old friend who will remain in the shadows for the time being. Then Proxima Midnight, from the Black Order, decides to attack New York City while the Avengers are away. Luke, Spidey, Spectrum and her mysterious friend (who hides himself behind a chintzy Spider-Man knock-off costume called Spider Hero), show up to stop her.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Mighty Avengers #1 absolutely nails the fun and personality behind these characters. This is exactly what I like from a comic book. There’s a very heavy focus on these characters as people living their lives. Luke has to worry about getting milk and diapers for his baby while also trying to keep Power Man from rage-quitting the team after Spider-Man showed them up. Monica meets with her costume designer and they have a delightful scene about her rebranding. Even the throwaway jobber villains, Plunderer and Blue Streak, are given fun personalities. Kudos to this Al Ewing guy. He’s got potential. But beyond that, Proxima Midnight bores me to tears. And the mystery of Monica’s friend isn’t compelling in the least – unless it’s The Captain. Please, Marvel, make it The Captain.

Riddler #1

Riddler #1 (Batman #23.2)
Writers: Ray Fawkes and Scott Snyder
Artist: Jeremy Haun

Riddle r#1 is a fine example of how Villains Month is just DC spinning its wheels. I’ve never heard of Fawkes before, but he writes a fine, one-issue story about the Riddler. Considering how Snyder is using the Riddler in Zero Year, I thought he would tackle the character himself. But nope. It’s just a standard, mostly pointless Riddler issue. It’s a fine comic, just nothing special.

With the Crime Syndicate having taken over the world, the Riddler has the free time to get a little revenge. Using his supreme intellect and hacking skills, he breaks into Wayne Enterprises right through the main lobby and past the guards. He works his way towards the top of the building, his intentions a mystery, until he’s confronted by the head of security – who happens to be a former Arkham guard who once roughed up the Riddler and took away his playing cards. Riddler reveals he was just there to get revenge against that one guy and promptly blows off his arm. Then Riddler goes up to the roof to finish the card game he started in his cell all those years ago, patiently waiting for Batman to return.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I am legitimately excited to see what Scott Snyder does with the Riddler in Zero Year. I’ve always liked the character, and he’s been kind of special in the New 52. He’s an underestimated Batman villain. And this is a great issue for the Riddler. He’s clever, he’s smart, and he’s sadistic when it counts. But it’s not an origin story, and it doesn’t really tie into either Zero Year or Forever Evil. So it’s just a nice little story about the Riddler. Simple as that.

X-Men #5

X-Men #5
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: David Lopez

What a difference a writer makes. For some reason, Brian Michael Bendis isn’t writing every chapter of Battle of the Atom, and regular X-Men writer Brian Wood steps up for an issue. I’ve liked Wood’s X-Men so far, so I’m not disappointed, but the magic, personality and cleverness from the first two issues is gone. Wood writes a quality comic, and the story moves along nicely, but I definitely miss Brian Michael Bendis.

The Present and Future X-Men head out to grab Young Scott and Young Jean, who are on the run in California. They use the Dove to catch up to them, the new, white-colored version of the Blackbird that Present and Young Hank built together. The groups catch the pair trying to flee by motorcycle on the highway, but Scott and Jean put up one hell of a fight. Meanwhile, after they were ‘ordered’ to stay back at base, Kitty and Rachel decide that they’re going to side with the two youths. They fly out and intercept the retrieval attempt, then use some telepathic trickery to allow Young Jean and Young Scott to escape. The pair head to the remains of Utopia, where they meet up with Present Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men, who Jean reached out to for help. Though why they think the Uncanny team will support them staying in the present is beyond me.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad issue by any means. Wood does a great job carrying the story through the next chapter. But something is definitely missing. Some sense of fun or wit that almost exclusively belongs to Bendis. But that aside, this was a fine issue of Battle of the Atom. The story continues to move along nicely, and the various X-Men are up in arms for personal and moral reasons, rather than some outside villain or plot. This story is based on the characters, and to me, that makes it better than most others.

The story, though, is not without a few wrinkles. I think Young Scott and Young Jean are almost a little too good when up against a real, seasoned X-Men team. And Kitty’s position that the X-Men were bullying the teens was a little too much. Also, where did the Dove come from? The two Hanks have seriously just been building a white Blackbird in the basement this whole time? And why does Future Hank call it his “masterpiece”? I would like to think that the Beast has a lot more masterpieces in store for us than just a new jet with a wimpier name. I’m also not sure why Jean and Scott and turning to the Uncanny X-Men. I’m pretty sure the Uncanny team want to send them to the past as well.

But I suppose we’ll find out what happens in the next issue!

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 14, 2013, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Avengers was meh. Whatever. I just don’t care.

    Mighty Avengers was very well-written. It’s sharp, clever, fun, but with some nice drama. Unfortunately, Greg Land. Ugh. I’m honestly not sure I can keep picking this book up as long as Greg frigging Land is drawing it, because he is a blight on the comic industry. He is a hack, and his art outright offends me.

    X-Men was great. It keeps the X-over going strong, with some great character stuff. I loved seeing Kitty and Rachel hanging out – I loved Excalibur, so I’ll always see those two as best friends. There’s some nice stuff with Scott and Jean, too.

    • I have no problem with Greg Land. And I thought his art style was pretty good for some scenes. His women look incredibly fake, but his Luke Cage in that diner with Power Man was pretty strong.

  2. Are you going to check out The Rogues or Black Hand next week?

    • I haven’t decided yet, but since you’d like me to, then I definitely can and will! I don’t remember which Villain issues I signed up for at my comic shop, but I’m sure they’ll have extras.

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