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 (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 (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
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.
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 (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 (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
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
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!
Posted on September 21, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Battle of the Atom, Black Hand, Cheetah, Flash, Forever Evil, Infinity, New Avengers, Penguin, The Rogues, Thor, Thor: God of Thunder, Uncanny X-Men, Villains Month. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.