Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/2/13

I come to you today, my friends, with a heavy heart. This week saw the release of The Sandman Overture #1, a return to that famous character by world-renowned writer Neil Gaiman, with artist J.H. Williams III on pencils. There’s a very good chance, considering the subject matter and the creative team, that The Sandman Overture could be the greatest comic book of the year. Like everyone else in the world, I love Gaiman’s original run on Sandman. But I’m sorry to say that I just couldn’t bring myself to review the new first issue. I bought it. I read it. I enjoyed it, but I am a mere mortal. I have no place bestowing a grade on work such as this. And besides, after reading issue #1, it’s clear to me that this is a ‘read all at once’ kind of story. So maybe at the end I’ll write something

For now, let’s stick with the superhero stuff, shall we?

We’ve got the final chapters of both Lights Out and Battle of the Atom to enjoy, though I found both to be a little underwhelming. Two chapters of Infinity shipped this week, but nothing new there. The only real stand-out – and therefore Comic Book of the Week – was Superior Spider-Man #20, in which writer Dan Slott seems to gleefully start tearing down both the lives of Peter Parker and Otto Octavius. Slott’s overall plotting on Superior Spider-Man has been a master class in comic-bookery. everything he’s set up so far is about to come crashing down, and it’s going to be a real pleasure to read.

As for Moment of the Week, our last visit with the Time Traveling Icemen pulls it off with aplomb.

Comic Reviews: Infinity #5, Avengers #22, Green Lantern Annual #2, Superior Spider-Man #20 and X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2.

Infinity #5

Infinity #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver

Unless Hickman has some kind of big twist planned – and he very well could – it’s looking like the Builders and Thanos never had anything to do with one another. I’m holding out hope that Infinity #6 will contain some kind of ‘Aha!’ moment, where everything comes together in some clever realization. It could happen, and I hope it does, because otherwise Hickman just came up with two completely separate stories and mashed them together for no reason. And that would just be really weird. But as I’ve been saying all along, Infinity remains mildly entertaining and well-made. So at least there’s that.

All of a sudden, the Builders are pushovers. Planet after planet, the various alien races of the galaxy crush the Builder forces and drive them out, all in the name of the heroic Avengers. Captain America has become the universal Patton, it seems, with everybody rallying around his flag. The Builders are pretty much toast, having accomplished nothing. But now that the universe is back in good hands, the Avengers learn that Thanos made a play for Earth and has taken over the planet.

On Earth, the Black Maw meets with the newly empowered Thane, and captures him. Thanos tells some of his other lieutenants to start arming the Illuminati’s bombs, while the Illuminati begin to mount their attack. Thane is presented to Thanos, who seems to only want to kill him because Thanos just didn’t like the idea that he had offspring running around. But Thanos is going to be in trouble soon because Captain America is leading his victorious allied fleet back to Earth.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The same complaints and compliments I’ve had for Infinity remain, just as they always have. Hickman has a fine handle on the characters as individuals, but he rarely focuses on any of them as individuals. Instead, he’s much more concerned with painting in big strokes, talking about the galaxy as a whole instead of focusing on the individual Avengers. Not even Captain America gets much to say while being elevated to Universal Hero.

On Earth, most of the time is spent with Thanos, his Black Order and now Thane. The Black Order remain as pointless and generic as they’ve ever been, so seeing them star in extended scenes just brings down the whole book. Who beyond Hickman himself really cares about Promixa Midnight or Corvus? Or Black Maw, for that matter? Thanos, likewise, has no depth beyond generic evil for evil’s sake. He wants to kill his son, a son we didn’t know about until maybe two or three issues ago. So who really cares? Does Marvel plan to turn Thane into some kind of awesome character now? How long is that going to last? What about all the previous awesome characters they thought they were creating? What about Nu Dracula? Or Vulcan? Or Ares? Or the Sentry? None of these characters last, and neither will Thane.

Infinity is a well-made comic and is relatively entertaining. But what it has in scale it lacks in heart.

Avengers #22

Avengers #22
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Lenil Francis Yu

Infinity is racing towards its big finale, but before we get there, Hickman is going to spend a few issues of Avengers getting to know the players. Maybe? I don’t know what Avengers #23 will hold, but #22 takes a closer look at the Avengers themselves immediately after Infinity #5. If Hickman had given this kind of focus to the characters during all of Infinity – and his run on Avengers as a whole – we would all be better off. As it stands, it’s all a little too late to be very meaningful. I barely know Hickman’s stance on most of these characters, so seeing them talk stuff out isn’t very fulfilling.

Apparently, Cannonball and Smasher are making out these days. I think she mentioned she’d met someone in a single panel a few issues ago, but how am I supposed to remember? Cannonball has been such a non-entity in Hickman’s Avengers, and the same can almost be said for Smasher. Soooo…why should we care that they’re hooking up? Anyway, the good guy fleet takes out Titan, Thanos’ home planet, so Thanos knows they’re coming for him on Earth. Cap has a plan for how they will defeat Thanos, but Hickman isn’t telling the readers yet. Then Cap, Carol and Thor all give words of encouragement to Eden about whether or not someone can be destined for a fight like this.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Again, my complaints are the same. I would probably love a relationship between Cannonball and Smasher if they were in any way a focus of Hickman’s stories. Cannonball especially has been a glorified extra in the grand scheme of things, so who cares that he and Smasher are hooking up? I don’t think Hickman has ever really captured Cannonball’s personality anyway. Cannonball has simply been a blank slate to Hickman. Smasher got that one issue focusing on her origin, but that’s pretty much it in terms of characterization for her. So while I applaud Hickman trying something like this, it utterly fails in the face of his overall work on Avengers. The chats between Eden and Cap and then Eden and Thor work a bit better, since Eden has been used a lot, but it’s still too little too late. None of these character moments will matter to Infinity or Hickman. He’s much more concerned with the big picture and how his big alien fleet is going to stop his big villain, Thanos. Hickman is a writer who thinks big, but I’m a reader who likes things smaller.

GL Annual #2

Green Lantern Annual #2
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Sean Chen

Lights Out comes to an end by defeating Relic and setting up some new status quos for the various books in the GL franchise. As I predicted, this really all seems to be an excuse to remake the GL landscape how Vinditti wants. I’m comfortable with that. I think Vinditti and his team have been strong so far, and I’m eager to see what they can do when they’re not buried in crossovers. Overall, Lights Out was generally good.

Using the power of Star Sapphire (who may be in love with Kyle now), the GLs and the RLs teleport out to confront Relic at the Source Wall, where he, Kyle and the New Guardians are trying to break through to the other side to restore the source of the Emotional Light Spectrum. A big fight ensues – with Jon Stewart and the Indigo Lanterns eventually joining the fray – and Kyle realizes that he is The One, and he is somehow able to drag Relic through the Source Wall to the other side, sacrificing himself in the process. In the end, the Red Lanterns go off to do their thing, the Green Lanterns relocate to their new home planet, Mogo, and Kyle emerges from the Source Wall. He can’t remember what he saw on the other side, but he says the entities all sacrificed themselves to refuel the light reservoir. The New Guardians agree to keep Kyle’s return a secret, and say that his real journey is about to begin.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Lights Out lacks the heroic punch of Geoff Johns’ big GL crossovers. There’s a neat idea or two in the works, but none that really tickle my fancy. The idea that the light powers are not infinite is pretty cool, but the only thing it adds to the GL mythos is the dread of running out, and I’m not a fan of dread. Relic never amounted to very much of a villain, serving only to give the GLs something to punch. I like that the Lanterns have relocated to Mogo. That’s a great idea. I hope Vinditti does something interesting with it. I guess we’ll see where all of this change takes us. I’ll miss the Blue Lantern Corps, and I’m a little disappointed that nobody’s going to follow-up on the possible revelation that Carol Ferris has feelings for Kyle Rayner. That could have been interesting to explore. Whatever happens, I hope Carol doesn’t hang up her ring again. She’s a great wildcard figure in the whole GL landscape. Hopefully now things will settle down and we can actually get some GL stories that don’t involve insane, galaxy-ending crossovers.

Spider-Man #20

Superior Spider-Man #20
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

This issue is heralded by Dan Slott as the beginning of the end, when everything Otto Octavius has built for himself comes crashing down – and he’s definitely right about that. It’s also abundantly clear at this point that Superior Spider-Man has been about tearing down Peter Parker’s life, so that when Peter comes back (and he will), he won’t have anything to come back to. The last storyline destroyed Horizon Labs, and this new storyline seems set to leave even more of Peter Parker’s life in tatters – and I couldn’t be happier!

We start off with Black Cat, whom Spidey finds burglarizing an apartment in Manhattan. But whereas the Cat expects them to fall right back into their usual flirting, Otto instead just punches her right in the face and leaves her webbed up for the cops. She’s not happy. Neither is MJ. After repeatedly ignoring her phone calls, MJ has given up on having Peter Parker in her life and instead starts pursuing that cute firefighter she met after her club was attacked. Speaking of love lives, Otto has an amazing date with Anna Maria. And then he gets Aunt May’s husband to put up the collateral for a big loan to start Parker Industries, his own research and development firm. But not everything is going well in the life of Otto Parker. When he presents his doctoral thesis to the ESU board, it’s immediately picked apart by Professor Lamaze, who recognizes it as the work of Otto Octavius. And elsewhere, 90s villain and former Otto paramour The Stunner returns!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Very Good.

What can I say, I love seeing Dan Slott pull the threads he’s created in Superior Spider-Man.This Otto as Peter scenario has turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined, and I’m excited to see where it’s all going – despite the horrors Peter Parker is going to face when he comes back. I like the Spidey/Black Cat relationship, and now it seems ruined! That’s a sadness, but a good sadness, because Slott is clearly having a lot of fun. I’m also kind of sad that Otto’s doctoral thesis has been crushed, but then I suppose Slott couldn’t make Peter Parker a doctor for real. Comic books have to remain mostly static, after all.

Battle of the Atom #2

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Many

Why didn’t Brian Michael Bendis write the final chapter of his big crossover? Does anybody know? Was it a timing thing? Overscheduling? I wish I knew, because his deft hand could have gone a long way to making the finale better. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as good as what came before. Battle of the Atom started off amazingly. It was a big conundrum of morality, ethics, humanity and team spirit. It made you think.  But then it devolved into a battle against some generic bad guys, with every important decision taken away from the characters that matter. The finale is entertaining, but in the end, what was the point of all of this?

With all of SHIELD’s weapons firing on the various X-Men, they all power-up to defend themselves in glorious fashion. Future Beast is the first to fall when SHIELD’s Sentinels hit the field (because SHIELD does indeed have Sentinels), and he’s followed shortly thereafter by Future Jubilee and Future Colossus. The fight eventually comes down to a battle against Xorn, first as she tears through Cyclops and Wolverine for their arrogance, and then against the Young X-Men, because the story is about them. The fight pushes Xorn over the edge and she explodes, taking nobody with her.

In the various epilogues, some of the Future X-Men return home, though Kymera, daughter of Storm, decides to stay so that she can hunt down the remaining Future Brotherhood members. Cyclops and Wolverine have a showdown in which Wolverine wins because he’s proud of his school, and the best Cyclops can come up with is snickering at the idea of ‘Professor Wolverine’. Jubilee and Future Shogo share a moment. Iceman and Future Iceman talk about what the future is going to be like. Then Kitty Pryde tells everyone that she’s done with the Jean Grey School because they didn’t trust her when she wanted the Young X-Men to stay – an announcement she apparently makes outside in the middle of the night, drawing everyone out in their pajamas. Seriously, I don’t understand the timing or setting of this scene, everyone is clearly in their pajamas outside. But she breaks up with Iceman (lame) and takes all the Young X-Men with her to join Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Kitty’s decision comes out of nowhere. I get that she’s upset that the X-Men didn’t side with her that one time at the beginning of the crossover, but really? That little disagreement is enough to get her to angrily storm out of the school and join Cyclops? I’m all for Kitty joining Cyclops – they had an awesome scene together in the first part of Battle of the Atom – but if this was going to be the only lasting change at the end of Battle of the Atom, Kitty’s story should have had a lot more focus throughout. Also, I’m very bummed at how she and Iceman broke up. Come on! The X-Men need new, worthwhile relationships!

Anyway, the rest of the issue was fine, if a little lackluster. The battle was big, the showdown with Xorn was climactic, and everyone had some strong dialogue, but in the end, what really happened? The decision whether or not to send the Young X-Men back to the past was taken out of their hands by some made-up rule that they could no longer go back. The only characters who died were ones from the Future – though I’m actually very, very grateful that none of the present-day X-Men were offered up as a Big Event sacrifice. That would have been mind-numbingly boring. Cyclops and Wolverine are still as divided as ever, with nothing accomplished in their ongoing Schism storyline. The Young X-Men are still around and nobody really seems to have learned anything from Battle of the Atom, other than it was a dumb idea to have brought them to the present day in the first place. But do we really believe Beast will take that lesson to heart?

Battle of the Atom started off great and really seemed to want to say something about the current status quo of the X-Men. Everything Bendis had been building all year seemed to be coming together for a real dust-up. But halfway through, it turned into just another big fight scene against a bunch of obvious super-villains. The only present-day X-person who seems at all effected or changed is Kitty Pryde, and her desertion of the Jean Grey School came out of way left field. So I’m disappointed in the end of Battle of the Atom, but I still enjoyed the story overall.

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 November 2, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Two of the best moments from the last chapters of BotA were Cyclops’ smug looks of superiority.

    I am really liking what Slott is doing to Peter’s life, but I’m hoping he doesn’t completely tear down everything that has been built up over the last 10 years. I really don’t want to see a Peter Parker Spider-Man working some part-time BS job, trying to make ends meet. Sure, it was par for the course that life was always kicking him in the ass, but his days of constantly having to struggle just to live should be in the past. They have certainly set it up so that everyone loses all their collateral put into the new company. If they take away his work, his friends, and the Avengers, what kind of foundation will Peter have to start rebuilding from…unless they switch him to another city for a fresh start. Spider-Man: Los Angeles maybe? He could use his scientific abilities in the film or tech sectors easily enough.

    Have I missed your last few reviews of Ultimate Spider-Man? They were really going somewhere with the “Spider-Man No More” story, and now it has been dumped entirely for Cataclysm.

    I really liked that Mogo has become the new homeworld. I missed him when he was gone, so I was really happy when he was resurrected.

    I have the very pessimistic feeling that the conclusion to Infinity will actually happen in Inhumanity, and that the finally final conclusion will be in Avengers World.

    • You have not missed my review of the latest issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, I simply haven’t gotten to it yet, and I know I’m more than a week late. But I’ve been busy, and procrastination makes fools of us all. 🙂 Expect to see it within the week!

      And yes, Cyclops’ smug looks were awesome, but I kinda felt they were smug for smug’s sake. Cyclops isn’t a smug asshole. He’s justifiably right in his position.

      I totally agree that Mogo as the home base of the Green Lanterns is a great idea.

      I don’t think I’d want to see Peter Parker move to a new city. DC is trying the same thing with Nightwing, and it’s definitely not amounting to much. I was also excited that Peter had a solid, steady job at Horizon, but I’m confident Slott has some big plans for when Peter returns.

  2. I have to say, I love Jonathan Hickman, but I’m lost on Infinity. I have no idea where he’s going or what this is accomplishing. It’s not anywhere near as bad as Age of Ultron, which was the worst thing I’ve ever read Bendis write. I just don’t understand what the point of it is? It is, definitely, an event where the “crossover” books are not optional. Just the Infinity issues on their own have no cohesion or plot momentum. Maybe they just don’t period, but I swore off buying all tie-ins when Civil War nearly bankrupted me lol so I don’t read them. I let the event stand….and this one isn’t. I feel like the “Avengering” of the MU has gotten so out of control that being an Avenger is the least special thing one can be these days. They’re doing what they did to the mutants in the 1990s and I’m afraid it’s going to end up in the same place….that’s right….Scott Lobdell.

    • I totally agree about your ‘Avengering’ theory. Everybody is an Avenger these days, and I can’t believe it’s still a position of honor to consider yourself one of the Avengers. Anyone can and has been recruited for the team, so it’s not like you need a special position in the superhero world.

      But yeah, infinity definitely does not stand on its own. You need to read both Avengers and New Avengers to have any idea what’s going on. But I don’t think there’s any grand theme or scheme to Infinity – unless Hickman has some big surprise in store for the last issue. I really think it’s just a straight up story about the Avengers leading the charge against an alien menace, and then the Avengers leading the charge against Thanos. It’s just the Avengers being superheroes on a big scale.

  3. I absolutely loved how Ock/Spidey basically beat the crap out of Black Cat, without even a how do you do. I laughed, so used to am I of seeing the usual banter of off again/on again lovers Peter/Felicia. I’m quite interested to see what kind of revenge she is going to undertake, and whether it will be on Ock or poor Peter when he eventually resurfaces. That whole scene with MJ really made her come across as being a bit pathetic to me. Peter doesn’t have time for her so she’s gonna what, just sink her claws into the next most eligible guy? That poor firefighter dude probably has that happen to him regularly. And Ock should have known better than to try and use research and work from his old life to try and better his new one. Serves him right. Each issue i read lately, i think old Ock just can’t possibly destroy Peter’s life any more than he already has, but he keeps surprising me.

    • I’m sure Peter will be the one to face the Black Cat’s wrath. Poor bastard.

      I like this development for MJ. She did come off as really full of herself, but that was the point. That’s why the dog got her all messy, to put her in her place. I like the idea that she’s moving on with her love life.

  4. Infinity was boring. And as soon as the phrase “Avengers world” showed up, I hated the book. I hate that phrase. Hate it. So the quickest way to make me hate a comic is for that phrase to show up in it.

    Avengers was blah. So Cannonball and Smasher have hooked up; whatever. Their relationship will take place over two or three panels every two or three months, so why should I care?

    Superior Spider-Man was great. Very cool.

    BotA was OK. Some problems. It actually probably would’ve been better if it had been done by Bendis and Cho, as the cover said. I’m happy to see Kitty join Scott, though – those two are my favourite comic characters. I’m also glad Kitty dumped Iceman. I never liked that relationship. Kitty can do so much better. (My favourite girlfriend for Iceman was actually Opal – I thought they made a nice couple.)

    • I loved Kitty and Iceman! It was new and interesting! But then I really dislike the Kitty/Colossus relationship for some reason – probably because it was never around when I was reading X-Men comics or watching X-Men cartoons. But the X-Men need some real, meaningful relationships again, like Rogue and Gambit in the 90s. I thought Kitty and Iceman had that potential.

      And yeah, a whole issue by Bendis and Cho would have been amazing.

      • Bendis and Cho did the first part. It would’ve been cool to have that bookending of them doing the last part, too.

        I like Kitty and Colossus under Whedon. He did a good job with that relationship. Kitty and Wisdom were awesome together in Excalibur. In terms of who I’d put Kitty with, I don’t know. Just not Iceman.

        For potential meaningful relationships . . . hmm. I’m a little tempted to say Storm and Psylocke. Except I still hope Psylocke hooks back up with Cluster (aka Femtomex). Actually, I could see Rogue and Iceman. They had a bit of a thing in the ’90s. The question is whether she’d see him as more of a brother. Husk and Chamber could always start their thing back up. Maybe she turns to him as someone to talk to about all she’s gone through, and their feelings for each other spark up again. (After the bullshit way Aaron’s treated Paige, I’d say he owes her some positive attention.) Bendis seems to be throwing around a lot more romantic stuff, though, probably on account of using a lot more teenage characters.

      • I never liked Psylocke and Fantomex, but then I liked Betsy and Warren.

  5. Kitty and Scott are going to be the new power couple! BOOM! I don’t know where he and Emma are, but last I read they were still on bad terms after Phoenixing. And Scitty (which is their new shipper name) would piss Wolverine off so much that it would be just delicious. Oh and pissing off Emma is a nice bonus.

  6. Ugh, BotA. I can’t believe that Bendis didn’t tie up any lingering plot points. I mean, we never actually learn why the future Brotherhood blamed Dazzler’s death on humans. After all, she was killed by fire-breathing dragons. To me, I’m thinking it was Magik, not S.H.I.E.L.D. If it had been Sentinels, it would’ve made sense, based on the revelation at the end of this issue. But, it wasn’t. It was dragons. WTF? I can’t believe they just left that on the table. Second, I’m still not sure why they thought that sending back the original X-Men would make their future more to their liking. What about the original X-Men in the present keeps mutants under the heel of humans? One of them does something horrible, but humans still elect Dazzler president? I need a drink.

    • You’ve got some damn good points there. The motivation of the Brotherhood leaves a lot to be desired. And Magik as the eventual big bad revelation? Now that would definitely be an interesting twist…

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