Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/19/13

It is with great disappointment that we read comics this week, because the final issue of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s Batwoman has come out. These geniuses were building up a battle between Batwoman and Batman himself, and we get one single issue to tease their story before their famous walk out goes into effect. And the issue is damn good. In fact, Batwoman #24 wins Comic Book of the Week for me because of the skill and fun with which they set up this fight. This is going to rank up with J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Thor in terms of comic book runs that ended too soon. Same with Straczynski’s Supreme Power…man, that guy really can’t seem to finish a comic.

Batwoman sadness aside, we’ve got some good issues of Infinity, Lights Out and Battle of the Atom, since Big Event crossovers are all the rage these days. We’ve also got the return of Hawkeye after a long hiatus, so that’s a plus. But for my money, nothing beats Batwoman this week.

Comic Reviews: Avengers #21, New Avengers #11, Batwoman #24, Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1, Green Lantern: New Guardians #24, Hawkeye #13, Uncanny X-Men #13 and Wonder Woman #24. 

Avengers #21

Avengers #21
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

New Avengers #11
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Mike Deodato

I’m reviewing these two issues together to save space, and even though their plots and characters are wildly different, they’re essentially telling the same Infinity story. And if you’re not reading both of these comics alongside the main Infinity mini-series, you are really missing out on the whole story, let me tell you. Both Avengers #21 and New Avengers #11 contain some pretty important plot points going forward. And forward we definitely go. Infinity is packed to the gills with plots, characters, twists and developments, and I’m going to try to cover them all here!

In space, not everybody is super pleased that Thor killed the Builder diplomat, but Ronan and the Accusers (great band name!) betray that Kree giant head thing and join the resistance fighters – but it’s not enough, and the good guys start losing in the various battles around the universe. So, as Captain America puts it in a very cool moment, they “open the gates of Hell” and unleash the new Annihilation Wave on the Builders – only for it to be immediately stopped, because the Builders quickly take control of the hive minded creatures and turn them against each other. So much for that idea. The good guys all talk about how it’s going to take a miracle to save them now – so that’s exactly what all the Ex Nihilos give them. They combine their power and wake Captain Universe from her coma. She immediately teleports to the Builder command and asks why they’re doing this. The Builders explain that the universe is dying and that Earth is the focal point, so they believe that by destroying Earth, they’ll save the universe.

Captain Universe disagrees and wastes them all. The remaining Builders decide that the battle is lost, so they enact a sort of self-destruct program where all of their robots and soldiers in the field go into “Destroy Everything” mode. That doesn’t look good for our heroes.

New Avengers #11

Down on Earth, the Black Order attacks Wakanda and manages to break through the outer wall and into the capital city. Thanos discovers the prison where the Black Swan and Alternate Terrax are being held, but he decides not to release them.

The Illuminati go to that incursion point in Australia, only to be greeted by a Builder from that other universe (where their Ex Nihilos are red, not yellow). The Illuminati are invited over to chat while the Alternate Builders explain that all universes are dying, and that all the Earths are the focal points. So they suggest destroying all of the Earths, and they wonder if the Illuminati have the stones to destroy their own Earth if it means saving all the universes. Also, Doctor Strange is cured of his possession by the Red Ex Nihilos.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty good.

Both comics get the same rating because, as I said, they’re pretty much the same comic. Infinity long ago plateaued in terms of quality and excitement. For me, everything is just kind of…uninteresting. Jonathan Hickman is clearly in love with all of his creatures, but they don’t inspire anything in me. I don’t like or dislike the Builders or the Black Order. They’re all just generic super-villains of varying degrees enacting various villainous schemes, and seemingly operating completely separate from one another even this close to the end. The stakes are suitably high, but Hickman pretty much created these stakes himself. All this talk about incursions and alternate universes and Builders and the Superflow, he pretty much came up with it all from scratch at the start of this story. So who cares if he threatens stuff he created? Sure, the whole Multiverse is in danger, but when isn’t it in danger? I’m fairly confident neither the universe nor the planet Earth are going to be destroyed. So really, Infinity is about the various heroes overcoming all the big bad stuff that Hickman pulls out of his butt and throws at them.

None of these comics have been bad. Hickman is a great writer, and when he focuses on the characters, the scenes are great. And the art has always been top notch. But much like his SHIELD series from a few years ago, he’s just too high concept for my tastes, and not in a good way. He’s not clever about it like Grant Morrison. Hickman just kind of builds and builds and builds and expects all of us to marvel at what he’s built. Sorry Hickman, I’m not buying. You’ve got a well-made comic here, but it has no heart.

Batwoman #24

Batwoman #24
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Trevor McCarthy

And so we have arrived at the final issue for Williams and Blackman, their Batwoman opus coming to an inglorious ending. The series hasn’t always been perfect, but it’s been one of the best, strongest outings in DC’s New 52. And this story arc promised to be one of the best throughout the entire company, with Batwoman finally, at long last, going toe-to-toe with Batman himself. I was excited, and the issue delivers, but upon reaching the end of this issue, all I could do was groan in disappointment.

Of all the aborted comic book runs in publishing history, this may be one of the saddest.

The attack on Batman has begun! Batwoman and her team have unleashed several classic Gotham City rogues on the city, intent on building up enough carnage to lure Batman out. They get a bunch of sidekicks at first, but then Batman finally shows up to put a stop to Bane, while also getting him to talk. Bane reveals that Director Bones put him up to this, so Batman goes off to confront Bones – which is exactly what everyone wants. Batwoman ambushes Batman and the two begin to fight! Meanwhile, Hawkfire breaks into the DEO facility to rescue Beth.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

The fight between Batwoman and Batman was everything I hoped it would be. The double-splash page when she ambushes the Dark Knight is fantastic, and fantastically drawn by McCarthy. This is what the relationship between the two bat-themed vigilantes has been building towards since Batwoman first debuted. This is it! This is Batwoman trying to stand on her own two feet! This is Batman taking her to task! But then the issue ends with the two of them prepared to face off and the teaser that Batwoman #25 is going to be a gorram Zero Year tie-in! ARGH! How can the universe be so cruel?

The new writer is taking over with issue #25, and he’s immediately switching gears to a story that has nothing to do with Batwoman vs. Batman. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the finale of this story, but if we do, it won’t be written by Williams and Blackman, so we’ll never know how they wanted it to end. That is a crying shame. At least this issue was good. LIke I said, the confrontation between the two heroes is very exciting, and it’s supported by Batman’s fight with Bane and Hawkfire’s secret mission. The writing and art on Batwoman is as strong as ever for the creative team’s final issue, so at least they’re going out on top.

Rogues Rebellion #1

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1
Writer: Brian Buccellato
Artists: Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn

I’m not going to be reading every single Forever Evil mini-series, I’m just trying to get more into The Rogues. I picked up this issue on a whim because I like the idea that the traditional villains are going to become heroes to oppose the Crime Syndicate, and I’m very excited to see what the Rogues do with their new heroic streak. I wasn’t disappointed with the result.

Following Forever Evil #1, the Rogues return to Central City to find it destroyed by the Crime Syndicate and Gorilla Grodd. This doesn’t sit well with The Rogues, since they’re more crooks than super-villains, and they actually like their hometown. They find and free a bunch of trapped police officers, then head to the hospital to check on Glider, who’s in a coma. At the hospital, they’re attacked by a squad of super-villains sent by the Syndicate. They plan to destroy the rest of Central City, but The Rogues fight back to protect their turf. Then no sooner do they win the fight than Power Ring and Deathstorm from the Syndicate show up to kill them for their insolence.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I’ve never heard of Brian Buccellato before, but he wrote a nice comic. The voices of the Rogues are strong, and one really understands their predicament. They are not evil men, but they aren’t good guys either. They are men who live by a code, and now they have been pushed up against that code. The fight with the random assortment of super-villains is just a showcase of the various Rogues and their powers, but it’s nothing special. The real draw of this series is in the Rogues themselves, and that part of the issue shines.

New Guardians #24

Green Lantern: New Guardians #24
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Brad Walker

The problem with a crossover like Lights Out is that each issue tries to focus on the actual plot and characters of their own series instead the crossover as a whole. So rather than fully explore the destruction of Oa or the psyche of the Green Lantern Corps, this issue instead gets hijacked by a random plot thread for Kyle Raynor. I’m enjoying Lights Out, but I think it is severely lacking in any sort of emotional connection to anything. Shouldn’t somebody care that Oa has been destroyed?

Oa is destroyed and the Green Lantern Corps regroups around Hal Jordan…who wants to rush them all right back into a fight with Relic. But his friends talk him down. Just then, most of the various emotional light entities show up and jump into Kyle’s body, turning him into an even more awesome rainbow badass. They possess him and fly off, with Hal now telling the GLC to stop them and get their help to fight Relic. But the Entities have their own plan and instead teleport the GLC to Ysmault, where Hal wants to go team up with the Red Lanterns. The Entities continue to fly off to do whatever they have planned, but the New Guardians show up to fight them, and with their help, Kyle is able to gain control of his body once again. He knows what the Entities were planning to do. They don’t want to stop Relic, they want to help him, and Kyle says that he and the New Guardians need to help Relic too.

Elsewhere, Jon Stewart and his smaller band of Green Lanterns arrive on the homeworld of the Indigo Tribe.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

LIke I said, that Kyle Raynor thing came out of nowhere, and it didn’t make Hal Jordan look too good. One moment he wants to send the GLC after Relic again. Then he comes up with a plan to team up with the Red Lanterns. Then he immediately abandons that plan and tells everybody to attack the newly possessed Kyle Raynor. So far, I am very disappointed in Hal Jordan as leader of the Green Lantern Corps. He doesn’t do much leading at all – though that may be the point. He’s still the same hot-headed, maverick GL he’s always been, only now there are a bunch of faceless Corpsmen hovering around in the background of the panels. Am I the only one who would have rather read stories about Hal adjusting to his new leadership role instead of Relic showing up to destroy everything?

The story with the Entities is very, very random. They hijack the comic but don’t really add much to the overall narrative. They simply distract from the destruction of Oa, which should be getting more focus. This should be a huge deal for the Green Lanterns, but instead everyone is taking this all very much in stride and are simply moving on to the next part of the story. I really do think Lights Out is just an excuse to quickly and haphazardly change the franchise however the new writers want without much concern for anything else.

Hawkeye #13

Hawkeye #13
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja

Oh man, I wish this book hadn’t been so late. I can’t even remember the last time we saw an issue of Hawkeye. Usually a wait is fine, but here’s the thing: Hawkeye #13 takes place pretty much simultaneously with the two previous issues. Remember the Pizza Dog issue? And the one that starred Clint’s brother Barney? Yeah, well Hawkeye #13 retells those stories from Clint’s perspective. And the problem is that I don’t really remember the exact details of the earlier issues. So I’m supposed to remember exact scenes and plot points while reading Hawkeye #13, but I simply don’t! So I really feel like I missed a lot of the expected impact from this issue.

So Hawkeye is kinda depressed from stuff that’s been going on in his life, mostly involving women. Even on an Avengers mission, all he gets is grief. Then he finds out that Grills was killed, and he goes to the funeral with Kate Bishop. He meets with Grills’ father. He meets with his brother. Then Kate leaves with Pizza Dog. Then Clint and Barney join Grills’ father up on the roof where the building is throwing another barbecue.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Despite being a very low key issue, and me not fully understanding every part of it, the Fraction/Aja team is still as strong as ever. One really feels for Hawkeye over the course of the issue, and the important scenes, like his meeting with Grills’ dad and a nice talk with Kate, are handled very well. I would definitely say the delay hurt the ongoing story, but the quality of the comic is still very much in tact. And Marvel promises that the next issue will be coming up soon, so we won’t have to wait as long. That’s a definite plus.

Uncanny X-Men #13

Uncanny X-Men #13
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

I find that I’m enjoying Battle of the Atom less now that it’s morphed into an action comic instead of a thoughtful talking heads book. Bendis’ strengths lie in dialogue, not in action, so now that we have clear cut bad guys and everybody’s pretty much just fighting each other, the story had started to go downhill. It’s still good and an entertaining comic, but I just don’t care for it as much. I’m not as invested. It doesn’t help that Bachalo’s action scenes are always confusing as hell to understand. Couple all of that with Bendis whipping out some kind of Reverse Deus ex Machina at the end of this issue, and you’ve got an issue that just isn’t as good as what came before.

Cyclops, the Uncanny X-Men and the Good Future X-Men attack the Jean Grey School, and the Bad Future X-Men know they’re coming, so they’re able to put up quite the fight. Most of the good guys have to deal with Krakoa and Young Xavier, while Magik and Colossus teleport into the school to take on everyone else. The rest of the Bad Future X-Men try to hold them off while putting the Young X-Men into the time machine, and it’s here that Bendis totally pulls a nonsense idea out of thin air in order to save his status quo. The time machine no longer works on the Young X-Men because they have “created such a complicated space/time paradox by coming here and staying here that the normal laws of space and time no longer apply to them.” And to that I say: bullpoopy! If this entire story revolves around whether or not they send the Young X-Men back to the past, you can’t just take that decision out of everyone’s hands with some obviously made-up malarkey.

This just doesn’t make any sense. And while yes, the rules of time travel in a fictional universe are fluid at best, this one just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Since when are characters immune to time travel because they’ve been in a certain time for so long? It’s a garbage idea that removes all drama from the story. The issue ends with Cyclops and his people breaking through and confronting the last of the Bad Future X-Men.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Horrible, nonsensical rule aside, this was still an entertaining issue. The characters remain entertaining and the action was fun, if hard to decipher at some points. But overall, there just wasn’t much to this comic. The bad guys stand revealed, so the good guys go after them. That’s all Battle of the Atom has become. No longer are there deeply important discussions about the morals and ethics of time travel. No longer is anyone forced to deal with people they might not like but have to respect nonetheless. It’s just the various good guys going up against the various bad guys, then Bendis making the entire thing moot. Not a strong issue. I hope the finale has a few surprises in store. Or at the very least, some badass Cyclops scenes.

Wonder Woman #24

Wonder Woman #24
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Goran Sudzuka

Last issue was the big finale of the First Born story, so this issue is mostly aftermath and set up for the next story. We find out where several characters are, get some hints as to where the story is headed and deal with the aftermath of last issue’s big fight. It’s pretty standard stuff, and is told with Azzarello’s usual skill. Nothing too spectacular or exciting happens this issue, but Wonder Woman is as strong as ever.

After killing Ares, Wonder Woman is the new God of War, and she is summoned to a council on Olympus by Apollo. Of course, Diana doesn’t want to be the new God of War and hates all the other gods, so she storms out. Apollo is fine with this, because even though there’s a war coming, he would rather not have a God of War getting in his way. Though he does have the First Born chained up at the foot of his throne. Meanwhile, Diana gets an apartment in London for all her supporting characters to live together, including Zola, Zeke and Hera.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Still no Superman. I wonder if Azzarello has some kind of deal where he never has to acknowledge the Wonder Woman/Superman relationship. That would be kind of hilarious. Though I think adding that relationship or adding Superman would completely ruin the flow and spirit of this book, so I don’t want Superman to come anywhere near this story. Twenty-four issues in and Azzarello clearly still has a plan in place, and I’m definitely enjoying his saga. Wonder Woman is still a strong protagonist, and her emotions and characterization are spot-on. The idea that she bought an apartment for her various supporting characters to live together is a little silly, but a fun kind of silly. I’m definitely eager to see where he takes us next.

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 October 19, 2013, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Avengers was whatever. I don’t care.

    NA was whatever. I don’t care.

    Hawkeye was great. It’s a disjointed narrative style, but that’s fine.

    UXM was OK. A bit of a letdown. I don’t like Bachalo, especially for action, and this was an action issue, so it was going to succeed or fail on the basis of the art.

  2. Gotta love how baby Krakoa can apparently contain Phoenix Quire ‘____’ BotA is shameful.

  3. Have you read any of Hickman’s “The Manhattan Projects” or “East of West?”

    • Nope! I always mean to read more indie stuff, but my local comic book shop isn’t very big on stocking that stuff, and I’m terrible at finding it on my own. Do you recommend them both?

      • Definitely try Manhattan Projects, loads of fun! And Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, fantastic series so far.

      • Lazarus is certainly one to pick up as well. “The Manhattan Projects” is all kinds of kooky faux-historical weirdness that works really well. “East of West” is an alternate Earth rebellion of one of the Four Horsemen styled Old-West-like story. It is going in interesting directions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: