Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/26/13

If you’re reading this, I’m probably neck-deep in Batman: Arkham Origins by this point. I’ll try to have a review and some lists up eventually, but right now, I’m knocking criminal heads together and hopefully kicking Penguin in the crotch! Fortunately, I still found the time to read some comics this week, and most of them are a hoot!

Both Battle of the Atom and Lights Out delivered solid issues this week, and a Justice League tie-in to Forever Evil was equally as strong. I’m pretty much enjoying all of these Big Event comics, though Battle of the Atom is still coming out on top. To try something new, I picked up Velvet #1 from the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. I was…not impressed, but it’s still a fine comic from Image.

Winner of Comic Book of the Week, however, goes to Aquaman! Writer Geoff Johns delivers an origin for the Lost City of Atlantis, and it’s just as good as the rest of his Aquaman series. Go Aquaman!

Though if we’re talking Moment of the Week, that definitely goes to Jason Aaron’s latest chapter of Battle of the Atom. He’s almost as good as Bendis when it comes to writing these merry mutants.

Cyclops’ face is priceless!

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #24, FF #13, Justice League #24, Red Lanterns #24, Velvet #1 and Wolverine and the X-Men #37.

Aquaman #24

Aquaman #24
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier

I can only hope new writer Jeff Parker can manage the same quality of Aquaman stories as Geoff Johns, because this series is still one of the very best produced by DC month in and month out. Johns worked the same magic on Aquaman that he did on Green Lantern, and it’s a shame we’ll be losing him in the new year. Johns’ Aquaman is bold, heroic, confident and a supreme badass. The rich history he’s given to Arthur and his world is second only to maybe Batman in the larger DC landscape these days.

This issue is mostly a historical flashback, but Johns’ imagined history for the Lost City of Atlantis is just as riveting as his present-day Aquaman adventures. At the very least, Johns is going to give Parker one red hot series.

Aquaman has woken up after six months in a coma, and Vulko takes him to the the throne of the Ice King. Once Arthur sits down, the Throne covers him in ice and tells him the origin of Atlantis itself. Centuries ago, the Ice King was King Atlan, one of the greatest men in all the world. He built up Atlantis as a shining nation, one that welcomed all comers into its walls as the nation grew. But his brother Orin did not want outsiders to sully Atlantis, so he led a coup against Atlan and drove the king from Atlantis, killing his family in the process. So Atlan went into hiding, and with the help of some allies, he constructed the artifacts of Atlantis (which we saw wielded by The Others earlier in this series). With those weapons, he eventually returned to Atlantis one day, slew his traitor brother and sank the city into the sea. Atlantis broke apart into several pieces, most of which were lost. The three parts that remained became Atlantis, Xebel and the Trench – meaning all those villainous creatures are Atlanteans who evolved over time.

The history lesson ends and Arthur escapes the throne, returning to Vulko, who then explains that Aquaman is actually descended from the traitor brother Orin, not of Atlan. So Aquaman is not the heir to the throne of Atlantis after all, but simply the descendant of the usurper. Neat twist.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I am very impressed with the rich tapestry of Atlantean history that Johns created. Has anybody ever really given any thought to the history of Atlantis? We’re all mostly concerned with its mermaids. But Johns has created an exciting history filled with heroes, villains, betrayal, revenge and more than a few surprise twists. That the Trench are evolved Atlanteans is something I did not see coming. And I love the idea that Aquaman is descended from villains and usurpers. This issue also gives the villainous Ice King a very compelling backstory, so at least he’s got that going for him as we head to the story’s conclusion. Sounds like another Ice King I know…

FF #13

FF #13
Writers: Matt Fraction and Lee Allred
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred

So Matt Fraction is off FF, providing only general plot guidelines while Lee Allred handles the actual dialogue. The change isn’t very noticeable, though maybe it is a little. It’s hard to tell. The book remains as madcap and adorable as ever in issue #13, so who’s complaining? Though I’ll be sad when this series is cancelled for good.

At the end of the last issue, the various evil plans of Doctor Doom, Caesar and Maximus the Mad were about to strike the FF – but now we learn that Scott Lang was prepared for all of them, and he teleports everyone to a shrunken purple world, where Doom can’t sense them, and where he captures Maximus and Alex Power. He reveals that the shrunken purple world is actually the Impossible Man, who teleports them all to The Watcher’s home on the Blue Area of the Moon. Scott whips out the Ultimate Nullifier to hold the Watcher and his girlfriend hostage while the FF settle in. Scott wanted a safe place to begin their counter-assault against Doom. But in scolding Alex for turning traitor in front of the other kids, who all look up to him, Scott realizes that he can’t kill Doom either because it would set a bad example. So he comes up with a new plan.

While he’s doing that, the kids all run out to play in the Blue Area of the Moon, where they defeat the Red Ghost and his gorilla army in a most adorable fashion.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

There’s some sort of unbreachable wall that exists between me and FF. I love the comic to death and enjoy each and every issue, but I think it exists on a level of madcap wackery that I just can’t grasp. That’s my fault, not the comic’s. The same thing happened in a lot of my philosophy classes in college. But despite those problems, I still very much enjoyed this issue. Scott’s plan is pretty insane so far, but the children playing on the moon and battling the Red Ghost was absolutely adorable. There was some wacky time travel involved that made it even funnier, as well as a machine that produced only bananas in a battle against apes, so win/win!

Justice League #24

Justice League #24
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis

I’ll admit to being a little lost in terms of the Forever Evil tie-ins. I’m pretty sure both Justice League and Justice League of America are tied to the main mini-series, but I don’t think they’re as closely connected as Avengers and New Avengers are to Infinity – wow, how eerily similar are these two set-ups? Anyway, I picked up the new Justice League like I usually do, and was not disappointed to find an issue focusing on Ultraman.

In this issue, we learn the origin of Ultraman on Earth 3, and spend a little time with him hanging out around Earth 1. He’s basically has the same origin as Superman, only everybody is a jerk (including the Kents), and he gets his power from Kryptonite. Then as part of his world conquering on Earth 1, Ultraman visits the Daily Planet and messes with Jimmy Olsen, Lois and the rest, comparing them to the ones he knew back on Earth 3. Then Ultraman gets attacked by Black Adam, who I didn’t know was still alive after the Shazam origin story.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was definitely an entertaining issue. Forever Evil is going to rise or fall on the strength of its villains, so I’m definitely in favor of fleshing out Ultraman. Parts of his backstory where kind of silly in just how evil and twisted his supporting cast were, but it kind of works. He’s Evil Superman, and any issue that turns that into an actual character instead of just a monicker is a winner. Though Johns has to jump through some hoops to explain why Ultraman doesn’t just kill Jimmy and Lois.

Black Adam’s arrival at the end is both exciting and disappointing. Exciting because Black Adam rules, and the idea of him taking on Ultraman is incredibly awesome. But disappointing because the issue ends with Ultraman getting the upper hand. I realize that Forever Evil can’t end here, but I would have loved for it to end with Black Adam kicking Ultraman’s ass.

Red Lanterns #24

Red Lanterns #24
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alessandro Vitti

I both like and dislike the new version of Red Lanterns now that Charles Soule is in charge. I was very excited for Red Lanterns at the start of the New 52, but the original writer drove the book into the ground with a lot of creative missteps that sucked the very soul out of this comic about an army of insane, lava-spewing anger demons. Soule has started to build the Reds back up into something impressive, though he’s done so with Guy Gardner getting all the attention, and with a focus on witty banter between the handful of Reds that remain. This book is kind of like The Office if everyone on that show was a unrepentant psychopath in outer space.

And here comes the Lights Out storyline smashing into Red Lanterns and kind of ruining some of what Soule was trying to build. It’s still a fine chapter in LIghts Out, but here moreso than anywhere else, I think the crossover has messed up the main series.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lanterns head to Ysmault to get the Red Lanterns’ help in defeating Relic. Recently, Hal sent Guy Gardner to the Reds to join them and go undercover, but since then, Guy has decided to go Red full time and screw the Green Lanterns. So when the Greens show up, it’s fight time! But Hal is able to convince Guy of Relic’s threat, and so Guy convinces the Reds to join the Greens. In exchange, the Green Lanterns will give up one whole space sector to Red Lantern control. Meanwhile, Kyle Raynor steals the Butcher entity from Atrocitus to add to his collection, then goes to join Relic at the Source Wall.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

For those of you following along with Red Lanterns, you’ll know that Atrocitus bonding with the Butcher was kind of a big deal. Guy Gardner arrived on Ysmault and immediately slew Atrocitus, taking his ring for himself as the new leader. Then Atroctius and Dex-Starr fled Ysmault and the Big A bonded with the Butcher, turning him into a new, awesome monster. But here we are only one issue later and that Atrocitus/Butcher storyline gets sacrificed for whatever the heck Lights Out is doing with Kyle and the entities. I’m just grateful that they didn’t suck Sinestro and Parallax back into the comic too soon just to make this story happen.

So I’m disappointed that Lights Out derailed Soule’s Atrocitus storyline, but it looks to be OK for the rest of Red Lanterns. Guy seems to have settled in nicely with the Reds, and I like the little group he’s built up around himself. I might have to start reading Red Lanterns again more regularly. I think Guy Gardner could really drive the series to some good places. His fight with Hal in this issue, as well as the deal reached to help fight Relic, is pretty entertaining.

Velvet #1

Velvet #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting

I was a big fan of Brubaker and Epting’s Captain America run – but then, so was everybody. Look no further than the name and plot of Captain America’s next big movie to see just how awesome and influential their work was on the character. So in an effort to expand beyond the Big Two superhero comics, I picked up their new series Velvet for kicks and giggles. I wasn’t disappointed with the issue, but then I wasn’t blown away either.

It’s 1973, and ARC-7 is a top secret spy organization operating out of London. One of their top agents, Jefferson Keller, is murdered in the field after an op, which means someone set him up to be killed. The agency starts investigating, and the whole thing is narrated by Velvet Templeton, the agency director’s secretary, who used to have a thing with Keller (and other agents). The investigation points to an old, retired operative, who Velvet also had a thing with once upon a time. She takes it upon herself to track him down to try and talk to him, since she’s pretty sure he’s being set up as a fall guy – only to find the retired agent murdered as well. Just then, the ARC-7 investigators burst into the room and find Velvet standing over the dead body, and they immediately assume she’s the killer. But they don’t know that Velvet isn’t just a secretary. She used to be a spy too, and she easily fights her way out.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Velvet #1 is, of course, a very well-made comic. Brubaker and Epting are both pros who work well together, so their debut issue is fine. But it wasn’t very exciting or original, and that can be a killer of Indie comics like this. ARC-7 and the agents within are as cliche as these things come. So there’s a traitor within a super secret spy organization? There are always traitors within these super secret spy organizations. They could have gotten some mileage out of the idea that Velvet is only the secretary, yet still gets wrapped up in this caper, but the very existence of the comic, and a picture of her with a gun on the title page, give away the surprise that she’s actually a badass agent herself. So short of the idea of Brubaker and Epting working on a spy comic together, there’s not much I can recommend about Velvet going forward. It seems to be cliche spy stuff, but if that’s your cup of tea, you probably won’t find anyone doing it better.

Wolverine and the X-Men #37

Wolverine and the X-Men #37
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

I trust Jason Aaron with the X-Men. Cut off from his usual shenanigans at the Jean Grey School, if this is Aaron writing X-Men normally, then I’m in. He’s funny, witty, charming and all around well-equipped to tell stories about these eclectic bands of merry mutants. He has almost more fun with the various time-traveling Icemen than Brian Michael Bendis does.

Xorn and the Bad Future X-Men (who we can now call the Brotherhood) escape from Cyclops and his team using mental trickery. Then Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men are confronted by Wolverine and his people, and everyone spends a few moments being mad at each other for the usual drama, while also catching each other up to speed. In the end, they all agree to work together to go after the Brotherhood, who are still holding the Young X-Men hostage. They take the youngsters to Cape Citadel, which is where the original X-Men first fought Magneto back in X-Men #1. There’s a huge fight, and then SHIELD shows up with a ton of helicarriers. Future Jean takes control of all the helicarriers’ weapon systems and has them fire down at the various X-Men to prove her point that the future is going to be violent and horrible.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’m not quite sure I get Xorn’s plan here. Is the climax of this story really going to be turning a bunch of missiles on the X-Men? That’s it? I thought she really had some kind of legitimate Plan B based on the way they talked about it in the build-up to the end of the issue. But nope, it’s bombs. Oh well. I’m sure Bendis has something much bigger and better planned for the Battle of the Atom finale next week. At least I hope so. I’m pretty sure the X-Men can handle a few missiles.

Despite a large chunk of this issue being a fight scene, Aaron handles everything superbly. He’s got all of the characters down pat, and his face-offs between Cyclops and Wolverine were fantastic. He also has a lot of fun with the various time-traveling characters ganging up on themselves, like the one panel where all of the Icemen fight each other. There’s also one fantastic scene where present day Quentin Quire faces off against Future Phoenix-possessed Quentin. That was a hoot.

Battle of the Atom is back in my good graces just in time for the finale. I say bring it on!

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 26, 2013, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. FF was good.

    WatXM was OK. Not great, not bad. OK.

    You should’ve picked up Pretty Deadly. That comic was incredible. Just a beautiful comic through and through.

      • It’s a Western comic. The first issue mostly focuses on a girl named Sissy, who wears a vulture cloak, and her caretaker, Fox, who has a bandage over his eyes. They tell the story of Death Faced Ginny, the daughter of Death. (They girl tells the story through song, and you can hear exactly how the song sounds. Not easy to do in text.) And then other stuff happens. A woman named Big Alice hunts after them. And there’s other things happening.

        It’s by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios. Rios’ art is stunning. Just gorgeous art. And DeConnick’s writing is excellent. The whole book is just really beautiful.

  2. I’m starting to worry for Charles Soule, he does a fine job with his indies so DC gave him Swamp Thing, after he makes a excellent job on it both DC and Marvel gave him their teams books that were underwhelming, he does ok for the first couple of issues trying to slowly built his own status quo while exiting the old one and then before he can do what he wanted to do BOOM, they drop an event on him having to derail his writing to accommodate it, then because he saved two books from the crap bin they decided to give him Superman/Wonder Woman thinking he might fix the mess they got themselves into by having them in a relationship without previous interaction before getting there, then Marvel didn’t want to be left behind so they gave him She-Hulk, I’m actually pretty excited for that one, with his background as a lawyer and the humor he likes to put on his books I think he will do great, and that aside he is also going to publish an indie title soon, thats SIX comics he is working on at the same time, while STILL working as a lawyer on the side, he said on an interview that his lawyer experience teached him how to multi task different projects efficiently but I think he might be taking too much by now.

    • Such is the industry when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, and I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job of that so far. If I was being courted by both Marvel and DC, I’d have a hard time turning down anything they offered me.

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