Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/21/13

I wish I knew the rules for Villains Month when DC started handing out the assignments. There doesn’t seem to be any real point to all these issues, other than just existing to fulfill the marketing gimmick. Some of them have been origin stories. Some of them have been direct tie-ins to Forever Evil #1. And some of them have just be short and sweet villain showcases. Some have been really good, and some have been outright garbage. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason. And I would have really liked to have known that going in.

Fortunately, this week is mostly good issues – if we don’t count Deathstroke #1. Double fortunately, Marvel Comics is still going very strong. There’s another solid chapter of Battle of the Atom, though I found the issue a little…disconcerting. You’ll see why. I also liked Infinity a bit more than usual. So that’s a plus. But Comic of the Week has to go to Thor: God of Thunder #13, for being its usual awesome self! It even finds a fun way to incorporate an obvious movie-tie-in villain without seeming too gratuitous.

Though if I’m being fair, Moment of the Week has to go to Black Hand #1, when Black Hand’s zombie army faces off against a squadron of police officers.

Comic Reviews: Black Hand #1, Cheetah #1, New Avengers #10, Infinity #3, Penguin #1, The Rogues #1, Thor: God of Thunder #13, and Uncanny X-Men #12.

Black Hand #1

Black Hand #1 (Green Lantern #23.3)
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli

Black Hand is another one of those characters who benefited greatly from Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern. He went from a nobody to a truly terrifying and powerful villain. Well he’s back after his latest thwomping, and he’s off to a weak start. Black Hand #1 is one of those short and sweet villain showcases, pretty much just telling a Black Hand story, with a little connection to Forever Evil. If you love the character, this issue would probably be right up your alley.

Black Hand is once again resurrected on the grounds of his old family funeral home. He doesn’t seem to remember anything though, so he stumbles his way into police custody. At the jail, things start coming together, and he starts summoning zombies to break him out. Coast City has gone to hell since Forever Evil, and Black Hand’s zombie army isn’t helping. Eventually he makes his way to the Shady Vale Cemetery, where he communes with Hal Jordan’s dead father to get all of his memories back. Then he resurrects Martin Jordan as a zombie and takes his hand to replace the one he lost all those years ago. Now he wants to kill Hal using his father’s own hand.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I don’t think there are any rules anymore governing the Black Lanterns. They can come and go as they please, it seems. A ring just happens to appear and just happens to resurrect Black Hand. But maybe that’s his MO now. Maybe he’s like Resurrection Man. DC should see about pitting the two of them together. If only they hadn’t cancelled Resurrection Man. Anyway, the issue loses a lot of its strength since Black Hand is mostly a blank, amnesiac slate. And it could have used some stronger art. But otherwise, it’s a pretty solid re-introduction of the villain, with a particularly chilling ending.

Cheetah #1

Cheetah #1 (Wonder Woman #23.1
Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Victor Ibanez

Cheetah has been given a pretty big push so far in the New 52. She may not have appeared in the Wonder Woman series, but Geoff Johns gave her an entire story arc in Justice League. I don’t remember everything from that story – which I liked, if I recall correctly – but it doesn’t much matter. This issue is Cheetah’s origin, and it’s a pretty good one at that. Ostrander mixes flashbacks with a story set in the present day, and it works wonders for Villains Month. I’m really disliking this event so far, but comics like Cheetah give me hope that not every issue will be terrible.

In flashback, we learn that Barbara Minerva was raised in a cult run by her aunt, one that worshiped the Goddess of the Hunt. When she was a kid, she killed her brother in a test of hunting and loyalty, then was tasked with finding the God-Slayer Knife. Barbara went out into the real world, joined ARGUS, had her falling out with Wonder Woman and then eventually brought the knife back to her aunt, who used it to turn Barbara into the Cheetah. In the present day, U.S. Marshal Mark Shaw (one of the Manhunters pre-reboot) is tasked with finding Cheetah after the break-outs of Forever Evil #1. He goes to the cult to warn Barbara’s aunt, but the aunt turns on him and almost kills him – only for Cheetah to inadvertently save the day. Cheetah kills her aunt, wiping out the last tie to Barbara Minerva. Before she can kill Mark, she’s teleported away to join the other villains in Forever Evil.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I hope DC continues to give Cheetah more importance going forward. She’s pretty damn vicious in this issue, with a fantastic origin story. I could have stood to see more of her past with Wonder Woman, but what we got was good enough. I love the use of Mark Shaw in this issue. I don’t think he’s appeared anywhere else in the New 52, so using him here in a cameo role is a fantastic introduction. I think we’ve reached the point in the New 52 where subtle, small character introductions would be a lot of fun. (Maybe have Ralph Dibney show up somewhere as just a private eye.) I look forward to more from Mark Shaw, and I definitely look forward to more from the Cheetah. This was one of the best Villains Month issues so far, and I hope we see more from this villain, this writer and this artist.

New Avengers #10

New Avengers #10
Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Artist: Mike Deodato

Beast is freakin’ huge! I don’t think Deodato got the memo, but Beast’s new transformation does not make him a giant. It’s weird. The rest of the issue was fine, but that giant Beast thing really, really stands out. His hands could crush heads! Anyway, I’m getting off topic. The Infinity storyline continues, and for once, it’s not half bad. Between New Avengers #10 and Infinity #3, I think Hickman actually stepped up his game this week. At least a little bit.

The Illuminati split up to search for Thanos’ son, who is hiding in one of the Lost Inhuman Tribes on Earth, something Hickman created back when he was writing Fantastic Four. There is a bit of friction between the members of the Illuminati, but they split up to get the job done and search for the boy, who is the son of Thanos and an Inhuman woman. Dr. Strange finds the boy living in an Inhuman colony in Greenland, but since he’s possessed by that one psychic member of the Black Order, he doesn’t tell the rest of the team. Instead, the Black Maw erases Strange’s memory and goes to tell Thanos of his discovery. Meanwhile, there’s a new incursion, so the Illuminati drop what they’re doing and head to deal with it in Australia.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

One of the biggest problems with Infinity so far (and there are a lot of problems) is that none of the various conflicts have anything to do with one another. The Builders don’t have anything to do with Thanos and the Black Order, and now Hickman adds the incursions from his New Avengers series to the mix. Do we really need to be dealing with a new incursion right now? They were all the rage when New Avengers started, but what do they have to do with Infinity? That being said, when Hickman does focus on the characters, like he does in this issue, the comic is entertaining. I can’t say the idea of hidden Inhuman colonies around the Earth really fits snuggling into the continuity of the Inhumans, but that’s one of those comic book retcons we’ve just got to accept if we want to maintain our sanity. The idea of a child born from Thanos and an Inhuman woman sounds a little promising. So we’ll see where that goes. But, as always, Hickman’s only real strength is in his characterization. When he actually writes the characters, the comics are fantastic, and New Avengers has always had that going for it.

Infinity #3

Infinity #3
Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Artists: Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver

Does Thanos not know how Black Bolt works? He has this big plan, threatens the Inhumans, acts all high and mighty, but then he forgets the very thing that makes Black Bolt famous. Really, Thanos, this was a rookie mistake. There is only one thing Black Bolt does when he’s backed up against a wall, and he does it in Infinity #3. And, like those other times, it is a glorious sight to behold. Infinity #3, like New Avengers #10, has a little bit more focus on the characters instead of the plot, and for that, I liked it a little bit more.

The Builders attack the refugee planet, and they kill millions upon millions of innocent aliens. All around the galaxy, planets start to accept terms of surrender, except for Captain America and his plucky resistance army. They hatch a clever plan that involves several small strike teams sneaking into the big Builder ships to turn them against their own fleet. Then when the Avengers free Starbrand, he finally steps up and uses his awesome power to wipe out most of the fleet, while the rest of the Builder army retreats. The good guys actually win one!

Meanwhile, on Earth, Thanos arrives in Attilan to see if the Inhumans have accepted his brutal demands. They have not, of course. Instead, Maximus has teleported all of the Inhumans off world, while setting Attilan to blow. Thanos finds only Black Bolt in the throne room, and when he asks if Black Bolt accepts his demands, the Inhuman king stands up and shouts “NO!”. The combined might of Black Bolt’s scream, as well as Maximus’ bomb, destroys not only Attilan, but a good chunk of New York City beneath it (because Attilan has apparently been floating over NYC for awhile now).

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Again, the Builders are a terrible villain. They may be complex, and Hickman is clearly in love with them, but they are so utterly generic. They’re just a vaguely evil and menacing alien force. There’s no drama. Fortunately, it’s exciting when Captain America’s plan succeeds and the heroes actually whip a little Builder butt. After half a dozen issues of depressing losses, it’s nice to see the good guys win a fight. And it was cool to see Starbrand step up and push his powers to the max. I like Starbrand, so that was a cool moment. I also liked Black Bolt’s big play, even if it was obvious from the beginning. I can’t believe Thanos just walked into it like he did. What kind of numbskull is this Mad Titan?

So Infinity got a little bit better this week, but that’s not saying much.

Penguin #1

Penguin #1 (Batman #23.3)
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Christian Duce

I had the pleasure of seeing Frank Tieri at a writers panel at Boston Comic-Con this summer. He was funny, he was smart and he had a lot to say about writing. I’ve always been a fan of his, since he got his start writing Wolverine. So it’s cool to see DC plucking him up for a quick Penguin comic. I’m not sure what they told Tieri, but he wrote a very nice issue. It’s not an origin story. It’s not a tie-in to Forever Evil. Much like Riddler #1, it’s pretty much just a standalone Penguin story. And since I like the Penguin, I decided to give it a read.

The Penguin runs the Iceberg Casino, and when a pair of goth magicians try to hussle him, he takes them out back and kills them personally. When the governor goes on the news and says he’s going to clean up Gotham by shutting down the Casino, Penguin doses him with Venom and video-tapes him killing his assistant, then blackmails the man into supporting the Casino. But then the governor blows his own brains out at a new conference. Either way, everybody learns not to mess with the Penguin.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This was a fine issue. It’s a neat little reminder that the Penguin can be badass. It doesn’t really tell us anything new about the character, nor does it flesh him out as someone with layers. He’s the Penguin, he kills people, he runs a business and he can be pretty cruel. I didn’t mention that the Penguin and the governor used to be friends in grade school, but it doesn’t really matter. The governor character has probably never existed before this issue, so who really cares about this back story? He only exists to show us how ruthlessly vile the Penguin can be. Now we know, so that’s that.

The Rogues #1

The Rogues #1 (Flash #23.3)
Writer: Brian Buccellato
Artist: Patrick Zircher

I don’t read enough Flash. I don’t know why. I’ve always liked the character, but reading his comic has just never appealed to me. I read Flash #1 when the New 52 first started, but I didn’t care for it, so I stopped reading. But I absolutely love the idea behind The Rogues. They’re working class villains with their own code of honor. I bet I would love reading about The Rogues. But there is something wrong with me. That’s the only explanation. Also, I’m already reading The Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Marvel, at least, is smart enough to give a villain team like this their own book.

Once upon a time, the Rogues were just normal, ordinary humans who used gimmicks, costumes and weapons to commit robberies. Then when the Flash showed up and took them to school, Captain Cold, leader of the Rogues, foolishly used to special device to give them all super-powers. The plan succeeded, but at terrible cost. His sister, Glider, was put into a coma, only able to live and communicate in astral form. Mirror Master, her lover, was stuck in the mirrorverse. And Heatwave’s skin was fried, and now he lives a some kind of burnt man. The Rogues hated Cold for what he did, and he was demoted. Glider took over as leader of the team – but then she sacrificed her astral form to pull Mirror Master out of the mirrorverse, freeing him, but trapping her in a coma permanently. Captain Cold was mad that his sister would make such a sacrifice, and he gets into a fight with his teammates before storming off. The Rogues find him, save him from the cops and patch things up, because the Rogues stick together.

The team then break Trickster out of prison and go off to join the Secret Society in Forever Evil #1. They seem to be on board, but then they found out that their beloved Keystone and Central cities have been destroyed, and the Rogues get pretty pissed.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

That write up sounds really complicated, but it makes sense when you read the issue. The Rogues are stand-up guys, and even though there is clearly a TON of backstory to get through, I caught up easily enough. The characters seem nice, and I really do wish I’d read more Flash. Heck, even Mirror Master seems OK, and I thought he was some kind of cokehead scumbag. Is that no longer the case in the New 52? Captain Cold seems pretty damn awesome, and now I definitely want to read the Rogues’ Forever Evil mini-series. I also want that New 52 Captain Cold action figure. This issue was a little too complicated to get a higher grade, and the art wasn’t that great. But the concept and the characters are very strong.

Thor: God of Thunder #13

Thor: God of Thunder #13
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney

Thor has a new movie coming out in November, and as is the routine, Marvel is quick to match up the comics with the movie. Like when Whiplash got a new look in the build-up to Iron Man 2, or when Spider-Man started wearing the black costume ahead of Spider-Man 3, Jason Aaron brings back the villain Malekith in preparation for his appearance in Thor: The Dark World. This is fine. I have nothing against Marvel making some obvious plays for comic/movie synergy. They’d be fools not to.

A band of dark elves break into the Hall of Nastrond, the most feared prison in the universe, in the heart of Hel itself. They free Malekith, who is alive, even though he is imprisoned in the world of the dead. Only one of the dark elves survives to join him, Scumtongue, who was forced to cut out his own tongue to keep from screaming in pain and alerting the guards. Together, Malekith and Scumtongue the Tongueless head to the dark elf homeworld, Svartalfheim, where they start killing their own people. Malekith is kind of pissed that they would move on after he, their former king, was dethroned. Thor and friends show up to stop him, but Malekith pulls a vanishing act, leaving Thor to tend to the wounded. Malekith has managed to put together a sizable legion of dark elves, and he’s decided to launch a Wild Hunt across all nine realms to kill every single dark elf who turned against him.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Scumtongue the Tongueless, I love it! That character name alone wins big points with me. But the rest of the story was good too. Aaron continues to display a poetic hand when dealing with Thor and his world, and I loved the little flourishes of imaginative prose to describe the nine realms and all the beasties and gods living within. Having never read anything involving Malekith before, I have no idea if he’s bad enough to live up to the hype Aaron gives him at the start of this issue, but he seems like a pretty vicious dude.  Aaron continues to do a fantastic job writing Thor, and this time we get to see him interact with Sif and the Warriors Three. I was really, really hoping that Beta Ray Bill would make an appearance, considering the end of Journey Into Mystery, but it was not to be.

Uncanny X-Men #12

Uncanny X-Men #12
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

Reading this issue of Battle of the Atom, I had flashbacks to Avengers vs. X-Men. Anyone who remembers my reviews at the time, I was faced with the weird dichotomy of supporting Cyclops and the X-Men, even though the series was written with the Avengers as the clear heroes. It was frustrating. The X-Men were clearly in the right, but the writers seemed to demand that the X-Men be viewed as the bad guys. The same thing happens in this issue, with everyone in favor of sending the Young X-Men back to the past being painted as arrogant jerks and bullies.

But seriously, how can anyone support allowing the Young X-Men to stay in the present? It’s madness!

So Young Scott and Jean hook up with the Uncanny X-Men, and after some deep contemplation, Cyclops decides to help them. The majority of the issue is a pair of dueling discussions about whether the various X-Men teams should allow the Young X-Men to stay in the present or force them to go home. In the one camp, Kitty wants to let the Young X-Men choose their own path, no matter what it means to the time space continuum. In the other camp, Cyclops wants to help Young Scott and Jean, even though everybody else is against him. But Emma contacts the other X-Men teams and everyone meets up on Utopia, where Old Jean starts using her powers to smack around Young Jean – which, ironically, pisses off Emma, who ends the issue by challenging Jean Grey to psychic combat!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

So I spent the whole issue banging my head against the wall. Why is Kitty Pryde so adamant that the Young X-Men be allowed to stay in the present? And why is she presented as the hero, while everyone else who’s being reasonable is presented as a bully? By Kitty’s logic, why isn’t every iteration of the X-Men from every time period contacted and allowed to choose when they’d like to exist? Why don’t they use the time machine to pluck Young Kitty from the past and let her come live in the present?  Then every move she makes, and every danger she encounters, could result in the deaths of every Kitty Pryde throughout history. Because that’s how time travel works! And that’s why there are rules for time travel! So while I’m definitely still enjoying Battle of the Atom, this issue was tonally awkward. For me, at least.

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 21, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I am really interested to see where Battle of the Atom goes, for many of the reasons you have mentioned. How do the pro-choice side manage to convince themselves this is the right thing to do? Then again, I have a little issue with how the time travel is being handled. Was Scott “dead” dead? If so, then why was everything else exactly the same? It would seem that without him in continuity, there would be no reason for those people to be in that place at that time. Did I miss the point where Wolverine played the “Age of Ultron” card? Seems like someone would be bringing that up by now in relation to breaking timelines. It seems like a foregone conclusion they have to go back at some point, unless they’re going to Flashpoint the Marvel Universe…

    • No mention of the Age of Ultron yet. Frankly, I think only Indestructible Hulk is doing anything with the broken time/space continuum from Age of Ultron. And that thing with Scott shows exactly how wonky time travel can be, especially when you consider the multiverse explanation in the Marvel Universe. Technically, nothing should have happened to Cyclops. Since Beast’s very involvement in plucking those teens from the past shot them off in an alternate reality (like Back to the Future II). But this is one of those times where you just have to look the other way and accept, for the sake of this story, that those are the only past X-Men and those are the only future X-Men. And adding Age of Ultron at this point would just complicate matters. Battle of the Atom should remain its own story.

      And I highly, highly doubt Marvel is going to use all this time travel stuff to reboot their universe. Such a move would be ridiculous at this point, considering how poorly DC’s New 52 is shaping up, and how well Marvel NOW! is seemingly doing.

  2. New Avengers was meh. Whatever, I don’t care.

    Infinity was whatever. I don’t care.

    Thor was cool. Some good stuff.

    UXM was great. I love that present Kitty and present Scott both ended up reaching similar conclusions. They’re my two favourite characters, so it’s nice seeing them thinking similarly. I don’t think the side in favour of sending them back was presented that badly. Their argument is simple enough that they barely even need to make it. The onus is on Kitty and Scott to show why their position is correct, which is why they got the bulk of the dialogue.

    In terms of how time travel works, there’s actually a lot of books dealing with it right now. Superior Spider-Man has its Spider-Man 2099 arc right now, where events in the present are threatening to wipe him out. Indestructible Hulk, obviously, has Hulk going through time to correct some problems. It’s a common thread right now. And what’s interesting is that all the books dealing with time travel are treating it the same way: Changes in one period affect later periods. This is the opposite of how it’s usually handled. And this all seems to tie into time being totally broken at the end of Age of Ultron. So in that sense, any book that’s making use of time travel at all is following up on AU to some degree.

    Also, when Teen Scott died, the art started getting very blurry. I think that was to reflect the world being re-written. If Triage hadn’t saved Scott, the world would’ve been very, very different.

    And no, Marvel won’t be doing a reboot. Marvel doesn’t do reboots. It never has. DC has a history of doing reboots every few years, but Marvel doesn’t bother. Any speculation that Marvel’s going to do a reboot is just silly and wrong.

    • Maybe all these current comics are supposed to take place before Age of Ultron…which would be kind of weird. But I think you might be right. Maybe Marvel’s just shuffling around the rules a bit for the current stories.

      • These are all clearly after Age of Ultron. And the reason time travel in them isn’t working the way it usually does – by simply creating new timelines – is because of time breaking at the end of AU. It seems almost certain that Marvel actually set that out as the new system for writers to use. It’s kinda cool that all the current time travel stories are so consistent in how they depict the effects of it.

      • Ooooooooh. I see what you mean now. Yeah, that might actually work!

  3. I think it is amazing that the New Avengers stop everything they’re doing to go stop an incursion. They never did solve that whole thing before Infinity started up. Honestly, it would make a lot less sense if the Incursions were on hold while Infinity took place.

    Actually, i wish this happened more often. Like if during Battler of the Atom everyone is in each other’s faces, then suddenly Hank get a call from Reed Richards about another incursion and suddenly leaves the fight to go deal with that. That kind of continuity would be impressive and kinda funny.

  4. Re:BOTA, look at it this way:

    Beast cons the O5 into going to the present. Now, just because the _future_ is looking bleak, the O5 are being forced to return. I repeat: the _future_ is looking bleak. The world _didn’t_ implode; a ‘bad future’ just happened because the O5 chose to remain.

    (And it’s also suspicious that the future X-Men aren’t giving the play-by-play while the ‘reasonable’ people are blindly trusting them because of a few familiar faces. Granted, the future X-Men’s refusal to explain can just be the writer’s intent; the premise of this event is so hamfisted that a simple explanation would kill it)

    The logic that dictates the O5 should return to the past because time-travel is a bad idea would then mean that all the other time-travelers _should_ return to their respective times. That means no more Rachel, Cable, and Bishop, to name a few.

    • Ah, but Rachel, Cable and Bishop all come from the future, and they don’t have any links to the present that could result in multiple deaths.

      • But their going to the past has ‘destroyed’ their own future. It’s the same with the Age of Apocalypse storyline.

        From the O5’s perspective, they traveled to the future and saw a ‘bad’ future– and so they want to change it. How is that any different from all the other time-travelers that had the same intentions?

        Whatever these time-travelers do will cause multiple deaths. And putting time-travel aside, a lot of the mutants can potentially cause multiple deaths just by existing. Legion even placed the 616 universe in a box when one of his personalities became too strong. The Scarlet Bitch rewrote reality during her tantrum.

        The argument then boils down to something a lot more fundamental: the existence of these teenagers can result in multiple deaths, so should the X-Men take forceful action, or guide them so they could make their own choices having considered the consequences?

        I’m not trying to defend Bendis. I think his current ideas for the X-Men franchise are utter bullshit best suited for fanfiction.

      • You’re got some very good arguments as to why the O5 should/could stay in the present day. You’re doing a better job of explaining it than Kitty Pryde, at least. But I’m going to have to disagree with you on Bendis’ X-Men. I’m loving it so far.

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